Tag: Catamentum Leadership Coaching

Authentic Leadership – The Key to Sustainable Success 

Authentic leadership based on relationship-building, trust and integrity can sustain long-term success for leaders and their teams.

Leaders navigate constant change, including new technologies, dynamic markets, generational shifts, and an uncertain geopolitical landscape, just to name a few. People want strong, authentic leaders to set the vision and create a path to success. But what is authentic leadership? 

“Authentic” is defined as “real, genuine, not false or copied.” Below you’ll see sources talk about how authentic leaders develop trust, demonstrate integrity, and build relationships. These are all important leadership behaviors that help to energize teams and organizations. However, I have a caveat for you to consider as you read this post. Do these qualities represent the authentic, real, genuine self of all leaders? The answer is, “No.” Some leaders are authentic jerks. In fact, most of us can act like jerks from time to time. We’re all a mix of good, bad, and ugly, and encouraging us to express our authentic selves does not give us license to inflict the worst of who we are on others in the name of authenticity. So, I believe it’s important to clarify the message. When leaders (and all people, really) tap into the best of their authentic core, that’s when they bring the true power of their leadership to the success of their teams, customers, and organizations. That is what we want from authentic leadership. 

Now that we’ve got that straightened out, let’s dive in. This article will examine the best elements of leadership and how leaders can develop and improve their authentic leadership skills.  

What is authentic leadership?

Authentic leadership has the power to create an environment where employees “flourish” in their roles, according to Frontiers in Psychology.  Authentic leaders build connections, empower their teams, demonstrate emotional intelligence, and build trust. In fact, a study in the Leadership and Organization Development Journal found that the strongest predictor of job satisfaction is when people perceive their leaders to be authentic. This authenticity positively impacts work-related attitudes and happiness. 

Integrity and ethics.  Leaders who hold themselves to the same (or higher) standards than they expect of others inspire trust and show a commitment to integrity.  By putting values, ethics, and people first, “purpose driven” organizations earn employee loyalty and engagement. 

Self-awareness and connection.  Beyond tasks and transactions, authentic leaders seek to build relationships, show empathy, and forge deeper connections with people. They demonstrate vulnerability, and show that they’re human. They don’t need to project an air of perfection, and they ask for help when they need it. To be authentic, leaders develop their skills to build self-awareness, and then consciously work to leverage their strengths and overcome or mitigate their weaknesses.  

Empowering others.  Authentic leaders know their success depends on supporting and developing their teams today, as well as developing emerging leaders for the future. Authentic leaders listen to others’ ideas, and they seek and integrate feedback to support a learning environment and collaboration. By focusing on growth, development, and empowerment, authentic leaders create the conditions for long-term success. 

Developing Our Authentic Leadership

Developing our authentic leadership may feel daunting. We don’t all naturally bring our best authentic selves to work (or life) every day. We need to develop our skills and create an environment that will help bring out the best in us. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Establish your values and vision.  First, decide what you stand for.  What’s your purpose?  What are the values that guide your choices?  What are the boundaries you won’t cross?  Each person will have their own set of guidelines. When we choose to work in an organization that’s aligned with our values, it’s far easier for us to be authentic in our leadership.

Next, inspire your team with a clear, compelling vision, and create a roadmap that lets people know where you want to go, and how you’ll work together to get there. Gaining people’s alignment is key. You’re only a leader if people want to follow you. 

Develop your EQ.  Authentic leadership requires emotional intelligence (EQ) – understanding ourselves, others, and how we work together. To develop our EQ, we have to develop our “soft skills,” or what I call the “critical intangibles,” like communication, teamwork, and managing our emotions (so they don’t manage us). These skills are essential for authentic leadership. 

Empathy is a big EQ skill, and an essential part of authentic leadership according to Forbes.  Like it or not, emotions play a huge role in our success. We may think we can leave our emotions at the door, but we don’t, we can’t, and we really wouldn’t want to. I could go into all the ins and outs of why that’s true, but let’s cut to the chase. Emotions are data, and empathy helps us decipher that data so we understand how people feel (whether that’s positive, negative, or something else), and how that might influence their reactions, alignment, and commitment to decisions and change.  

Create an authentic culture.  Authentic leaders create an authentic culture which in turn supports their authentic leadership. There’s a synergy between authenticities that reinforce one another. Together, they create an environment where teams and leaders operate at their best and thrive.  

Psychological safety is necessary for authenticity. It has come to my attention lately that some people may not like the label “psychological safety.” Let’s not get caught up on labels. Instead, let’s talk about what we mean. People need to feel safe to speak up, share their opinions, disagree, try new things, and take risks. When people don’t feel safe, they shut down and stay quiet. As a result, everyone loses out on the wealth of knowledge, skills, expertise, and perspectives that are buried in the quiet.  Without psychological safety and a sense of belonging, people avoid making waves, quit quietly, or quit not so quietly as they post scathing reviews on Glass Door.

Authentic leadership means tapping into the best of who we are to unleash the best in others. With all of us operating at our best, there’s no telling what we can achieve.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

How to Recognize and Avoid Groupthink Psychology

Groupthink psychology happens when close-knit groups ignore or suppress opposing views and inconvenient facts.  It can lead to catastrophic failures in organizations large and small.  Know the signs and adopt solutions to avoid groupthink psychology.

“How could we have been so stupid?” That striking John F. Kennedy’s quotation opens Irving Janis’ Psychology Today article entitled “Groupthink” which coined the phrase in 1971.  Kennedy was reflecting on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, which Janis examined as an example of the newly named phenomenon. (A pdf version of Janis’ original article can be found at this link.)

Groupthink psychology happens when group members seek consensus while ignoring or suppressing opposing views and contrary facts. The results of groupthink can be found in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the collapse of Enron, and the 2008 financial crisis, among many other examples.

Groupthink psychology robs group members of their judgment and independence, whether in the White House or the conference room down the hall. This article will examine the causes of groupthink and consider solutions for organizations large and small.

Causes of groupthink psychology

Groupthink psychology grows from the desire of individuals to conform and show loyalty to their group. It is more likely to take hold when a group becomes cohesive and the members feel accepted. In that situation, group members are less willing to challenge each other, or “rock the boat.”  

These are some of the contributors to groupthink psychology:

  1. Sense of invulnerability: Groups with an inflated sense of importance (like Enron’s “smartest guys in the room”) are willing to take exceptional risks while ignoring obvious dangers.  
  1. Rationalizing: Group members rationalize away objections, including their own, to justify the group’s course of action. The group avoids examining assumptions or taking criticism seriously.
  1. Belief in the group: Group members believe in the “rightness” of the group and its mission. Belief in the group causes members to lose sight of their own ethics and morality.
  1. Stereotyping: Group members see competitors in simplistic ways. The group sees itself as the best, the smartest, the most moral, while seeing the competition as weak, immoral, or untrustworthy.
  1. Pressure to conform:  Group members put pressure on those who express doubts about the group’s decision. Pressure adds personal cost to dissent and reinforces the need to support the group.
  1. Self-censorship:  Group members defer to what they believe is the group consensus. They keep silent about, or minimize, their own doubts. 
  1. Illusion of consensus: Group members feel an illusion of consensus – that everyone supports the decision. The illusion is the result of pressure to conform and the failure to consider consequences and alternatives.
  1. Gatekeepers: Group members appoint themselves gatekeepers to “protect” others from receiving information that could cast doubt on the group’s decision.  

The results of groupthink psychology are often disastrous – and yet the same mistakes happen again and again: Groups limit discussion to a few options – often just two, according to Irving Janis. They fail to re-examine decisions in light of new facts, or to consider ways of improving rejected options.  They fall into confirmation bias – only seeking out information that supports their decision.  

Strategies to avoid groupthink psychology

The most important takeaway is that groupthink psychology can happen to anyone, even the best and brightest. The desire to fit in is a powerful force. The best way to overcome it is to ensure there are safeguards in place. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Play devil’s advocate:  Assign one or more group members to play “devil’s advocate” and critique the solutions proposed. Requiring objections will make it safer for members to speak up.
  1. Challenge the status quo: Give every idea a hearing, even if it seems wrong or is ultimately rejected.  A good way to hear different points of view is to include people of different ages and backgrounds. Rewarding risk-taking is another way to encourage thinking differently or “outside of the box.”
  1. Divide into teams: Have members of the group work separately to analyze the issues. Teams can either propose competing solutions or work independently on different pieces of the puzzle.  
  1. Keep leadership impartial:  Members are more likely to “go with the flow” when leaders express a preference for one solution. To avoid bias, make the leader a facilitator who encourages discussion.
  1. Adopt placeholder solutions:  An approach reported in the Harvard Business Review saw the team adopt a “placeholder” to revisit and examine. Agreeing to explore the idea relieved pressure to find the “best” solution prematurely. It also allowed members to agree on broad principles while disagreeing about details.  

Groupthink psychology can derail the decision-making process. To make sure your organization doesn’t fall into its trap, be aware of the causes and make a plan of action. If you would like to learn more about groupthink psychology, leadership, and team dynamics, please contact us.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Future Proof your Organization by Focusing on its Purpose

To prepare your organization for the future, begin by finding your purpose and values.  Then put your vision into practice by developing a purpose-driven culture. These are the building blocks that will connect the dots towards a future proof organization for the long term, beyond technological trends.

There is no way to “future proof” our organizations any more than we can “future proof” our lives. It can’t be done. “Future proof” sounds like we need to create an impenetrable force field, and then change will bounce right off. That’s not how it works, and if we think it does, we won’t be ready when change hits us. What we CAN do is to be clear about who we are and what’s important to us, and then build on that solid foundation. Then, when change happens, we’re ready, and even if it knocks us off balance, it won’t knock us down. And when it does knock us down, we’ll learn, get back up, and grow stronger. So, rather than delude ourselves about being “future proof,” let’s look at making ourselves “future-ready.”

The future isn’t coming, it’s happening now. Every moment is different. Every day. Every year. The question is, How do we prepare ourselves to meet those challenges head-on?  It may be tempting to plunge into the latest trends in technology, management, or business development. There is always something new, and some of it is truly revolutionary. However, when we’re chasing the “next best thing,” how do we know it’s a thing that’s right for us? A better way to future-ready your organization is to start at your core and make meaningful decisions about what best serves your unique purpose and the culture that puts that purpose into practice. 

Answering the question, “Why are we here?” is a good place to start. What is our purpose that will help us define a compelling vision? What are the values and motivations that make our organization unique?  Those qualities are powerful tools to engage employees, inspire customers and stakeholders, and prepare us to be future-ready.  

Find your purpose to unlock potential

Purpose “embodies everything the organization stands for from a historical, emotional, social, and practical point of view.”  Finding purpose has the power to unlock “greater focus, more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and better financial performance,” according to a study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  

“Why are we here?” leads to, “What do we stand for?” and “What makes us different?” These seem like straightforward questions on the surface, but to really answer them, we need to dig deep into our core. When answers come from generic words tossed around a conference room, a company will never be able to communicate what makes them truly unique. All companies want to be “nimble,” “customer-focused,” “collaborative,” etc. Duh!  Dig deeper. What does “nimble” look like in your organization? What does it mean? Why is it important? For example, “We are [what nimble looks like in our organization], so that [how that benefits our customers, employees, the world, etc.].  A future-ready organization will be able to clearly state what it stands for and why it exists.  

Do companies need to make money? Of course! But the P&L statement is not a compelling vision, and net revenue is not a lever we pull. Success metrics are the results of creating a compelling vision, aligning that with strategy, and executing on our goals. AND all of that is guided by a purpose and through a culture that either supports results or hinders them. So, do you want a compelling vision? You bet your sweet $$ you do. 

To create a compelling vision, we need to inspire people. We need to inspire our employees (people), our customers (also people), and our shareholders (yup, more people). What is a compelling vision? A compelling vision paints the picture of who we are (purpose and meaning), where we’re going (future destination), why that’s important (values), the impact we’ll have (results), and what we (people) will do to get there. When we create that level of clarity from our core, our organization is not just “ready” for the future, we create it.   

Future-ready your organization with a purpose-driven culture

When an organization puts its values into action, a purpose-driven culture is the result.  While many organizations believe they act in accordance with their values and purpose, objective data shows a gap between the ideal and reality.  For example:

  • Only 40% of employees feel strongly that their organization’s purpose makes their job important;
  • Just 39% of employees agree that actions are aligned with the organization’s values and direction; and,
  • A slim 20% of employees feel strongly connected to their organization’s culture.

When our organization’s actions and values are not aligned, people (employees, customers, shareholders) see it, feel it, smell it, taste it. This disconnect not only undermines a culture, it defines the culture, through which we drive our results. We may say we have values X, Y, and Z, but behaviors express our values far more than words. From our daily tasks to large scale change and everything in between. Our behaviors not only identify “how we do things” but “who we are,” and if our behaviors do not support who we want to be, we need to change those behaviors to change our culture

Communicate vision.  Aligning purpose and culture begins at the top.  Leaders must define a purpose that will inspire employees, customers, and stakeholders.  The vision should be the result of asking hard questions about what the organization values and what it stands for.  

Set the tone.  Leaders are advocates for the organization’s culture.  They need to communicate the organization’s purpose and values to inspire others, and they must define behaviors that will make the vision a reality. 

Prepare the people.   The first step to future-ready an organization is to help people continually update their skills (e.g., upskilling and reskilling) to be not only “relevant” but ready for change.  Upskilling refers to people keeping their skills up to date, while reskilling refers to moving people into positions that meet growth needs, both for the person and the organization. Developing future-ready skills goes beyond tangible technical skills to also building “critical intangible” people skills we need to successfully navigate change together.

Connect performance with purpose. We connect performance with purpose by showing people how their day-to-day work aligns with organizational purpose.  Leaders (also people) must not only talk about these connections, but model the attitudes and behaviors they promote to fulfill the organization’s vision.  

Empower people.  A future-ready organization must provide employees with guidelines and context for making decisions in line with the values and purpose.  Once in place, give people latitude to develop solutions.  Empowering decision-making connects people and their work to the guiding purpose to achieve the best results.  

In summary, when we identify our company’s unique purpose and clarify our values, we create a strong foundation on which to build a future-ready organization. From this foundation, we then create a compelling vision that aligns our purpose and values, and empowers the actions we all need to take to be ready for the changes to come and create the future we want to live.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

AI Fears and AI Opportunities

The AI revolution will transform business and work in unforeseeable ways.  Organizations can prepare for the coming changes, and address workers’ concerns, by emphasizing learning and development.  Both technical skills and “human” skills will need to be updated to make the most of the coming opportunities.

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) has been dominating tech industry headlines lately.  Many commentators emphasize “doom and gloom,” but there is plenty of room for optimism. Change is inevitable, and the rate of change will continue to accelerate. We cannot know or control exactly how change will impact the future. The only thing we can control is how we choose to adapt today, and we can adapt.

While AI fears will need to be addressed, the coming technological revolution and AI transformation offers brand new opportunities for growth. AI can be a catalyst to inspire and motivate how and where we choose to invest in those opportunities. This article will review AI in the workplace and ways to alleviate AI fears and inspire growth.

The AI revolution, old and new

At first glance, AI seems to have burst on the scene fully formed with the release of ChatGPT in November, 2022. Its Large Language Models are able to generate text on a wide range of topics, even if not expertly. In the months since, the AI revolution has gathered pace, with AI generated art and AI generated video coming online.

Of course, this isn’t the first time AI has grabbed the headlines. In 1997, for example, IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, to general dismay. And in 2011, IBM’s Watson computer won a Jeopardy quiz show tournament against human competitors. The victory prompted contestant Ken Jennings to welcome “our new computer overlords.” AI fears have been with us for some time now.

One big difference between earlier AI advances and the current ones is access.  IBM’s computers, Deep Blue and Watson, were far removed from the general public. But ChatGPT and its rivals have opened the doors to mass adoption of AI technology. The AI future is here, bringing with it both AI fears and hopes.

The AI economy and AI fears

In the quarter century since Deep Blue, AI has developed from a technical curiosity to a major economic force. In a 2023 report, Goldman Sachs estimated that generative AI could drive a 7% increase in global GDP (worth $7 trillion) and a 1.5% boost in productivity over ten years. That’s good news, but there are challenges, too.

The report states that 300 million jobs will be “exposed” to AI, including two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. Workloads in those jobs could be reduced substantially. However, the report concludes that “most jobs and industries are . . . more likely to be complemented than substituted by AI.”  (Emphasis added.)

As support, the Goldman report points out that 60% of occupations today did not exist in 1940. They were made possible by advances in technology. According to Goldman, that suggests 85% of all employment growth since 1940 has been due to technology. And most of the growth has come in new fields and new businesses that were not anticipated. While AI can be expected to “disrupt” the business world, it is likely to create new opportunities and industries that we can’t yet imagine. 

Overcoming AI fears by emphasizing individual development

While the situation is far from gloomy, AI fears are real. They are reflected in a 2024 Gallup report finding that 22% of workers worry about their jobs becoming obsolete due to AI. That figure is up from 15% in 2021. There are silver linings, though. 

Gallup points out that workers are eager for learning and development. Some 48% of workers said they would switch jobs for better training opportunities – while only 47% feel they have the skills to excel in their current positions. 

In short, there is a large, unmet desire for training and development. At the same time, new AI technologies will require more training and development, with an AI strategy

To make the most of the situation, leaders and organizations should prioritize upskilling, the process of updating job skills to meet new requirements, and reskilling, the process of moving employees from outdated positions into needed ones.

Leaders should consider two complementary paths. 

Teach technical skills.  The first path is to teach workers to use AI tools to improve their work product and increase productivity. AI is best suited to automate tasks that require less human judgment and interpretation. By giving employees the tools to use AI’s labor saving qualities, organizations will be able to maximize their human strengths.

Teach “human” skills.  That brings us to the second development path: Going where AI cannot go by emphasizing so-called “Soft Skills” (or “Critical Intangibles”) like communication, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork. These are the human qualities AI does not have – and won’t develop for the foreseeable future. 

By leveraging Critical Intangibles, organizations can maximize their “human assets” – the people who bring passion and creativity to their tasks. Unlike technical skills, these Critical Intangibles are durable, providing a long term boost to productivity.  By showing employees that they will have the skills to adapt as their careers evolve, organizations can make great strides toward alleviating AI fears. 

The path to adopting AI technologies won’t always be smooth. Change never is. But organizations can prepare by emphasizing learning, development, and growth to help people embrace change and adapt as the future unfurls. 

If you would like to learn more about preparing your organization for technological change, please contact us. 


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Simple Steps to Reduce Quiet Quitting

To reduce quiet quitting at workplace, provide clear performance expectations, encourage autonomy, have fewer meetings, communicate, connect, and engage your workforce.

Quiet quitting is not new. It’s just gotten more press in the past few years. More than a decade ago, I recommended that a leader invest in the development of his team to improve engagement and collaboration to achieve better results. 

“But what if I develop them and they leave?” he asked.

“What if you don’t develop them and they stay?” I replied. Which of course I said in my most supportive coaching voice. (I used my “inside-the-head” voice for the eye roll.)

Below, you’re going to read a number of statistics, causes, and ideas to reduce quiet quitting. All of it is good information, and all of it is stuff you already know. So, if we already know all this, why does quiet quitting continue to stay on our Top 10 list of people concerns? Really, I’m asking. Why?

If I had to guess, I’d say that we often look for tactical solutions but forget how to engage the “people” at the center of those concerns. We talk about employees, managers, and leaders, but all of them are people. What would it mean for each of us, every day, to engage with every individual we encounter as a person? This may sound fluffy, but it’s not. What does each person need to be their best and to do their best work? 

Let’s flip the question on its head for a moment. Instead of a person, let’s talk about a car. (Humor me.) What does a car need to operate at its best and to do its best work? The car needs gas, oil, and regular maintenance. Unless it’s an electric car, then it has other needs (just like different people do). Let’s assume our car is gas-powered. It’s a great car with a great engine and great potential. Which is all great. But what if I decide I don’t have time to fill the car with gas or change the brake pads, and I don’t understand why I need to change the oil, so I don’t? I’ve also ignored the “Check Engine” light burning brightly on my dashboard for months. Who cares? It’s just light, right? But eventually, my lack of attention and investment in my car are going to cause problems. However, my car is not going to quit quietly. Instead, I run out of gas, my battery dies, my brakes fail, and my engine seizes. All of which leave me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the desert with only vultures for company.

It’s much easier to pay attention when quitting is loud and obvious, rather than quiet. What does a person need to be their best and to do their best work? There’s no manual for how people operate, but we have some good ideas, many of which you’ll find below. So, let’s review what we already know.

The Stats

Did you know that only one in three workers is fully engaged at work today?  Quiet quitters still make up half of the workforce, as they have for several years.  

A pair of Gallup reports, released in 2022 and 2024, summarize the situation:  

In its 2022 report, Gallup found that 32% of employees were “actively engaged” at work, while 18% were “actively disengaged,” (so-called “loud quitters”), and 50% were simply “not engaged” (the “quiet quitters”).

In the most recent report, released in January 2024, the results were very similar, with 33% of employees “actively engaged,” 16% “actively disengaged,” and at least 50% “not engaged.”

What is Quiet Quitting?

“Quiet quitting” refers to making the minimum effort to stay employed.  Broadly speaking, “quiet quitters” are employees who aren’t engaged at work, but aren’t actively looking for a new job. 

As a post-pandemic phenomenon rooted in lack of engagement, quiet quitting arose in tandem with the Great Resignation.  It increased sharply in the second half of 2021, according to Gallup. It remains a challenge today, but organizations can take simple, practical steps to reduce it.

Causes of quiet quitting

Workplace disruptions

Quiet quitting can be broadly traced to the effects of the pandemic.  Here are some contributing factors:

The Great Resignation was a major contributor to quiet quitting, according to a study reported in Forbes. The Great Resignation placed extra burdens on most of the employees who stayed. It caused organizations to restructure, breaking up teams and putting people in unfamiliar environments.  Not surprisingly, engagement suffered and quiet quitting rose.

Another pandemic-related disruption has been the rise of remote and hybrid work. Many organizations have yet to adapt.  According to Gallup, most managers reported having no formal training to lead a hybrid team. 

Without adequate management, the “new normal” of hybrid work has led to lower levels of engagement and more quiet quitting.

Unclear workplace expectations 

Many employees simply don’t know what they should be working on.  They report a lack of guidance on priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  Remote and hybrid workers are twice as likely as in-house workers to say they don’t receive enough guidance. Unclear expectations have been another cause of quiet quitting, according to both Gallup and Forbes.  

Lack of personal connection

 According to Gallup, employees are less likely than before the pandemic to say that “someone cares about them as a person” at work.  This lack of personal connection to the workplace leads to quiet quitting. 

Taking steps to reduce quiet quitting

The good news is that, although “quiet quitters” are not engaged, they are not beyond reach.  

Here are a few simple steps organizations can take to motivate quiet quitters to be more engaged at work.  

Have one conversation per week

This surprisingly simple suggestion comes from the 2024 Gallup report.  It is cited as the single most important step leaders can take to combat quiet quitting.  Spending 15 to 30 minutes per week speaking with each team member has several benefits: 

  • Making sure employees know what is expected of them, including clear priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  
  • Checking in with employees who may be struggling or showing signs of becoming disengaged. 
  • Making personal connections to reduce the feeling that “no one cares.”  

Avoid unnecessary meetings

This should be a no-brainer, but reporting in Forbes shows otherwise.  Too many organizations are scheduling ever more meetings to cope with post-pandemic changes. The results have been predictably negative.  

Employees feel micromanaged.  They report lower productivity, with some losing one-quarter to one-half of the workday to meetings.  And despite the time spent, employees feel no more informed about workplace expectations. 

The simple solution is to schedule fewer meetings, with fewer participants.  Avoid “all hands” meetings unless absolutely necessary.  Have conversations instead!

Encourage Autonomy

Encouraging autonomy and showing flexibility is another way to reduce quiet quitting, according to Psychology Today. Increased autonomy promotes feelings of being trusted and valued, rather than being micromanaged. 

Once the organization has made its expectations clear, let individuals decide how they will achieve their goals, as much as possible.  Be flexible in accommodating different working styles so each individual can realize his or her full potential.

The above steps are simple on paper, but harder to implement, especially if we approach fixing our culture and engagement like we would a car, rather than interacting with people. We need to invest time and attention in our people to understand what will help them to be at their best to do their best work. Quiet quitting is our Check Engine light. It’s a good indication that something’s not working, and the light has been flashing on our dashboard for decades. So, what are we going to do about it?

If you would like more information about employee engagement and quiet quitting, please contact us. 


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Developing Soft Skills to Future-proof Organizations

Soft skills go beyond “people skills” and provide a solid foundation for organizational growth.  Improving soft skills through coaching and training is key for any organization facing changes in technology and the future of work.

I hate the term “soft skills.” Let’s just put our cards on the table. “Soft” is a terrible descriptor. According to Thesaurus.com, synonyms for “soft” include comfortable, easy, mushy, and fluffy. “Soft” sounds like a fluffy cushion for “hard” skills to rest on. 

We may think debating what to call “soft” skills is silly, but language influences how we think. When we label skills as “soft,” we label them as “easy” and imply they aren’t important. Yet when I coach executives and other leaders, “soft” skills are often the hardest skills for them to master.

So, why do we call them “soft” skills? To understand the “soft,” let’s start with the “hard.” Traditionally, organizations have focused on “hard” skills, such as technical skills and competencies. “Hard” skills tend to be easier to define, teach, and assess. In other words, hard skills are more tangible. By comparison, “soft” skills seem more intangible. We struggle to clearly define “soft” skills. For example, what are the specific skills required to be an expert in “interpersonal communication”? How do we teach someone “resilience”? As a result, it can be more difficult to understand “soft” skills and how to develop them.

So, before we dive into a discussion about “soft” skills, I want to plant a seed. I vote to rename “soft” skills as “Critical Intangible Skills,” or “Critical Intangibles,” for short. I may not yet have swayed the rest of the world, but throughout the rest of this blog post, I challenge you to think “Critical Intangible” when you read “soft,” and see how this change affects your thinking.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are sometimes equated with “people skills,” but that isn’t the whole story.  Soft skills include mental qualities like persistence, resilience, problem solving, emotional regulation, and creativity.  They also encompass practical skills of self-regulation through time management, organization, and the ability to prioritize tasks.  Finally, soft skills include “people skills” like communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Soft skills apply broadly and can be transferred easily between jobs and industries.  They have been called “durable”, because, unlike technical requirements, they remain constant.

Twelve of the top 15 skills needed globally are soft skills, as reported in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.

Soft skills are the “secret sauce” for long term organizational success in a changing world.

Teaching critical intangible skills in the workplace

Contrary to a common misperception, soft skills are not hard-wired or unchangeable. According to research conducted by McKinsey, Deloitte, PwC, the Harvard Business School, and Forbes, organizations can help people improve their soft skills through coaching, mentoring, and training. When people improve these skills, they are better prepared to adapt to changes in technology and the workplace.   

Teaching soft skills requires planning, execution, employee buy in, and assessing success. 

Survey the organization’s needs.  The first step is to determine which soft skills are most in need of development.  

Look at both gaps in performance and high performance. What skill gaps may have contributed to negative customer feedback? What skills contributed to rave reviews? What skills are bubbling up most often in employee performance reviews? What skills are leveraged most by the highest performing teams? What are the skills on which you want to focus, and how can people best develop these skills?  

Develop teaching strategies.  With clear development priorities, the organization is ready to create an action plan. HR Partners and People Partners may find it useful to leverage consultants to help deliver programs and coaching to support development efforts.

Use a mix of approaches. Different skills and personal learning styles will require different learning strategies. Developing skills requires acquiring knowledge and putting that knowledge into practice. Here are some examples of learning approaches to help people develop their skills:

  • Skills workshops that include role plays focused on real work scenarios with self-reflection and feedback.
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Other learning methods that people can then put into practice, such as online courses, webinars, podcasts, etc. to build knowledge and insights, upskill or reskill.

Continuing efforts, as opposed to a “one and done” approach, will be needed.  After all, we don’t expect people to master skills in a single session.  

Get employees to buy in.  To invest in people development, employees need to understand the importance of soft skills and how coaching and training will help them develop these skills. Organizations can further emphasize the importance of soft skills through recognition, performance reviews, and requiring soft skills as criteria for promotion.  

Measure progress.  One mistake to avoid when assessing teaching programs is simply measuring “inputs,” such as the number of training sessions offered, “butts in seats,” or the number of hours completed.  It’s more useful to design ways to measure outcomes. Metrics will vary by organization but may include assessments of individual performance, employee engagement, team dynamics, customer satisfaction, sales volume, and similar data points. The goal is to be as objective as possible, and to keep the workforce informed.

As the world of work changes, soft skills (or “Critical Intangible Skills”) will only become more important, and strengthening these skills will provide an enduring foundation for success.

Please contact us if you would like more information about soft skills and employee development.  


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential, through coaching soft skills, among many other areas.

Reskilling:  Changing Roles for a Changing World

Reskilling is the process of preparing an existing workforce for new and different roles as the result of market changes and technology. Profound changes in the future of work, combined with a labor shortage, make reskilling a strategic imperative for large and small organizations alike.

Reskilling and upskilling are critical in a changing world

Upskilling and reskilling are more than trendy buzzwords.  They describe efforts to develop workforce skills in an era of technological transformation and demographic change.

In the previous blog, we looked at “upskilling,” the process of continuously upgrading employee skills in existing positions.  In this blog, we’ll consider “reskilling,” the process of preparing employees for different roles within an organization.

The world of work is changing

The World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation predict that 1.1 billion jobs will be “radically transformed by technology” by the year 2030. The change will require intensive upskilling and reskilling to keep pace.  Despite the challenge, the WEF predicts that the combined effects of upskilling, reskilling, and improvements in early education could add $9 trillion to global GDP in this decade. 

The labor market is changing

The labor market is also forcing organizations to take reskilling and upskilling seriously. 

The U.S. unemployment rate was just 3.7% in November 2023, near historic lows.  According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, even if every unemployed person in the U.S. found work, the economy would still face a shortfall of 3 million workers. 

Long term demographic trends reveal an aging U.S. workforce whose growth has been slowing for decades.  In parts of Europe and East Asia, population decline has already begun.  The workforce of the future is likely to be smaller, in other words.  

Organizations can no longer expect to “hire” their way to success.  Instead, they must take steps to retain, upskill, and reskill the existing workforce.

Let’s next consider some of the steps to be taken in any successful reskilling effort. 

Identify Outmoded Positions and Skills Gaps to be Addressed

As was true of upskilling, the first step to a successful reskilling effort is to survey the organization’s needs. 

Identify the positions.  As a first step, the organization must look for positions becoming obsolete due to marketplace changes or advances in technology.  The organization should then look for areas where it wants to grow or where it has identified skills gaps. 

Identify the skills.  The next step is to identify the skills needed for success in the new positions.  The World Economic Forum and others have developed skills taxonomies to make the process more systematic.  Using such systems can help identify employees with related skills who may be a good fit for new positions.  

Identify the employees.  One under-appreciated challenge is to convince employees to undertake reskilling at all.  Organizations should recognize that reskilling can disrupt the lives of employees.  Resistance to change should be expected.

Organizations can manage that resistance by being open and transparent. Presenting clear career paths and training goals is key to improving results.

Design the reskilling effort to maximize success

Another key to success is giving proper attention to the process of reskilling.  

Choose appropriate reskilling methods.  For example, many adult learners prefer a “hands-on,” experiential approach to learning.  Practical training in the form of mentoring, internal apprenticeships, and “job shadowing” is often the most effective.

In other cases, online courses or webinars may be appropriate.  These should be easily digestible in short segments, typically an hour or less.  Lunchtime seminars are another way to fit learning into the workday.

Finally, some technical specialties may require certifications or the completion of degrees.  Some organizations, including Amazon, have programs to pre-pay or reimburse tuition and other educational expenses. They also provide time off for study and exam periods.

Involve all levels of management in the reskilling effort.  Having the support of C-suite leaders and upper level management is critical to success.  But still more is needed. 

The benefits of reskilling should be made clear to the middle managers and first line supervisors who implement it.  Too often these individuals bear the burdens of reskilling without reaping the benefits.  

One solution is to make employee development a part of the performance goals of all managers and supervisors.  Done properly, such goals can help instill a culture of development and provide incentives for participation. 

Meeting the future

The future of work is changing and so is the workforce.  Organizations need to adapt to the transformational changes already underway if they are to survive and thrive.  That means making the most of the existing workforce through upskilling and reskilling, to ensure that people have the tools they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about reskilling, upskilling, and employee development.  


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Upskilling:  A Program of Continuous Development to Meet Changing Needs

Upskilling is an ongoing process of learning and development designed to meet current and future workplace requirements.  It leverages the talents of the existing workforce to improve business outcomes and increase employee retention. 

What is Upskilling?

The simple answer is that upskilling is the current buzzword for a program of continuous and long-term employee development.  Upskilling is distinct from the equally buzzy term “reskilling,” which is the process of moving employees from redundant or outmoded positions into new roles. 

Upskilling seeks to provide learning opportunities to an organization’s existing workforce in their current positions, not merely to fill gaps but to keep pace with the increasing rate of change in the world today.

What Are the Benefits of Upskilling?

Keeping ahead of the innovation curve is one of the main challenges for organizations large and small.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has predicted that technology will transform over 1 billion jobs in the next decade, while the World Economic Forum anticipates that upskilling will add $6 trillion to global GDP by 2030. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of the approach. 

Upskilling increases employee engagement and retention.  In today’s tight labor market employee retention is more important than ever.  Employees are looking for more than a paycheck.  They want to know that the organization is committed to helping them reach their full potential. 

Providing training and development opportunities is a tangible investment in their future careers.  When employees see a path to career growth, they are more likely to stay than look elsewhere. 

Upskilling is a cost-effective use of resources.  Training and development can be costly, but it should be thought of as an investment.  The alternative is new recruitment. 

There are drawbacks to recruiting people to bring skills to an organization. One is the labor market.  People who already have the latest, most in-demand skills are a scarce resource. They will be highly sought after and may command a premium. 

Another drawback is the time and expense of recruiting and integrating new hires into the existing workforce.  While training and development have costs, the cost of recruitment is greater. 

Upskilling improves business outcomes.  A final benefit is to improve the organization’s ability to achieve its business goals.  That applies regardless of industry. 

In one case, that may mean more effective customer outreach.  In another, it may mean completing transactions more efficiently. Wise organizations set business goals into the framework of their development efforts, providing a metric for effectiveness.

What Goes Into A Successful Upskilling Program?

Here are some guidelines for developing an effective program.

Survey the organization’s needs.  The first step is to identify existing skills’ gaps and future needs. The organization should review its business plans and the challenges it faces in achieving its goals.

It is equally important to ask:  What training and development opportunities do employees want?  That may not have an obvious answer.  Many employees will not know what particular skills they would like to develop. 

A better way of getting the information may be by asking, “Where would you like to take your career in the next year?  In five years?”  By framing the question more holistically, the employee and the organization can begin to take steps towards the desired goal. 

Develop individualized programs.  Having considered both the organization’s needs and the employees’ goals, the next step is to develop individualized plans. 

The survey process is likely to have uncovered recurring themes – both in terms of business needs and employee desires.  These themes can be subjects for broader training efforts across teams or departments.

Individuals should also be encouraged to explore subjects that interest them.  That may mean pursuing a software certification or other credential.  It may mean an introduction to another functional area or mentoring by an expert within the organization. 

Develop metrics to measure progress toward goals.  Finally, the organization needs to measure progress, both individually and as an organization. 

Individuals will want to know how they’re progressing – and how much farther they have to go to reach specific goals.  

The same applies to the organization as a whole. The more specific business goals can be measured, the more likely for upskilling to be seen as an investment in the future. 

If you would like to know more about upskilling, please contact us. 


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

People Development:  Closing the Skills Gap With a Culture of Learning

People development is the process of identifying the skills needed to achieve organizational goals, and designing learning, coaching, mentoring programs to meet those goals.

People development has become a critical need for organizations big and small.  The tight labor market means that vacant roles involving critical skills are harder to fill, while business and technological changes mean that existing roles will need constant updating. 

According to McKinsey & Company, the great majority of organizations will face a “meaningful skills gap” in the coming years.  The causes are both technological and demographic.  The upshot is that organizations wanting to “future proof” their business success need to make consistent, ongoing people development a priority.

Organizations need to not only develop their existing talent pool, but to “think outside the box” in terms of attraction and recruitment.  That will include:

·         Hiring for Potential:  Finding candidates with the ability to master new skills will be as important as finding candidates with existing skill sets.  

·         Considering Non-Traditional Candidates:  People with more circuitous career paths may be more adept at learning new skills and thriving in different environments.

·         Looking for a Growth MindsetOrganizations will benefit from candidates who view personal development with a positive, open attitude.

People development will be key both in advancing the skills of an organization’s existing workforce and in bringing in new employees.  This blog will examine several aspects of the process.

Creating a Culture of Learning to Spark People Development

Whatever development model an organization chooses, creating an environment in which learning and development are priorities – a “culture of learning” – is fundamental. 

·         Having top leadership and management on board is the first condition needed to create a culture of learning.  Without advocacy at the top, learning and development is unlikely to gain traction. 

·         Setting organizational goals for people development is another way to cultivate a culture of learning.  According to McKinsey, “best-in-class” organizations provide an average of 75 hours of training per employee annually.  Some set “aspirational” goals well above that figure.  Hours dedicated to development is a critical first step.  More important, however, is assessing the impact of development on people and the business goals. Measuring the number of hours is easy. Measuring the impact is far more difficult, but also more critical. 

·         Setting aside a dedicated time and place for people development is another useful step towards creating a culture of learning, and making organizational follow-through more likely.

Organizational support and advocacy are the foundations for creating a culture of learning.  By taking specific, practical actions, like those mentioned above, the organization demonstrates its commitment to people development. 

Choosing Effective People Development Methods

The methods of providing learning and development opportunities include everything from online self-study, to formal classroom work, to on-the-job training and mentoring.  Circumstances may dictate which methods are practical, but the organization will have choices to make in every case.

In Person v. Online Study:  Studies show that in person learning is more effective than online or virtual courses, leading to better outcomes and greater retention.  It is also the most costly training method, but may be appropriate to develop highly technical skills where the extra expense is more cost effective. 

In many cases, due to the number of people to be trained or geographic challenges, online learning or self-study courses are the only practical solutions.  Even in this situation, the organization has a choice in how to present the material.

“Segment of One” v. “Cohort-Based” Courses:  Debate continues whether group (“cohort-based”) or individual (“segment-of-one”) courses are more effective.

According to the Academy to Innovate HR, employees prefer to study on demand, at their own pace, and show positive outcomes from that approach.  The Harvard Business Review disagrees.  According to the HBR, “cohort-based” group learning, with set schedules and milestones, produces better outcomes – partly as the result of group support and reinforcement.

Each organization will have to make its own decisions based on its unique circumstances.  A combined approach may be best, but knowing the options available is the first step.

Practical and Experiential Methods:  People development often comes through on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching.  Some other, less frequently mentioned development tools include:

·         Job Rotation:  A temporary assignment in a different functional area or business division to gain experience and perspective.  Job rotation may be particularly helpful before a promotion to a senior management position. 

·         Peer CoachingA process in which two or more colleagues work together to build new skills, or to consider solutions to problems in the workplace.  Peer coaching is a special-purpose hybrid of the “cohort-based” and “segment-of-one” approaches.

·         Targeted Training and Micro-Mentoring:  Both of these are short duration, high effort approaches to solve specific problems or fill specific knowledge gaps.  They require a short time commitment and can be an effective stopgap remedy where needed.

Designing an Effective People Development Program

Organizations have unique circumstances and needs.  Each will benefit from different approaches to people development.  In some cases, the organization may have a dedicated learning and development team to facilitate the process.  In other cases, the organization may seek outside help to design a people development program. 

However the process proceeds, each organization should regularly assess its business goals.  The organization should then consider the skills needed to reach those goals, and the best way to close any “skills gaps” it finds. 

Once the organization has decided on a course of action, the key to any people development program is regular monitoring and assessment, to find out what’s working, and to improve or discard things that aren’t working.  Conducting follow-up assessments 30 to 60 days after the conclusion of a course or training session is especially useful in making that determination. 

Developing an effective people development program with an overall people strategy will only become more critical as time passes.  To “future proof” their business goals, organizations need to ensure they are taking specific, practical steps toward creating a culture of learning. 

If you would like to learn more about people development, please contact us.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Using Organizational Development to Create Effective Change

Organizational development goes through these phases: identify a specific problem, solve the problem with change, assess progress, and reset organizational culture, says Rachel Burr, Catamentum leadership Coaching.

Organizational Development is a systematic method of creating effective institutional change.  It relies on open communication with stakeholders (which can include managers and employees, suppliers and clients) and effective feedback to:

  • Identify a specific problem;
  • Effect changes to address the problem; 
  • Assess progress; and,
  • Reset organizational culture to the “new normal.”

Impetus for organizational change comes from changes in strategy by top leaders, when leaders need to steer the organization in a particular direction, they will need active involvement by stakeholders at different levels. Individuals who are active in the process of change are more likely to adopt it. 

Change Agents Lead the Way

Organization Development operates through “change agents” – Change agents can be leaders within an organization. Other times, leaders partner with OD consultants who bring their expertise to help leaders create and sustain change. They work with individuals and teams to identify both the problems and possible solutions, and make change happen.

Once the desired outcomes for changes are identified, change agents often begin the process through structured activities, such as workshops, surveys, or interviews, which are designed to gather information and collect feedback as the process unfolds.  Another big part of the change agent’s role is to coordinate communication so the reasons for change, and the benefits of change, are well understood. 

The communication itself needs to come from leaders. An OD consultant can help leaders design a plan for communication, including timing and messaging to different stakeholders. They may even help draft communications for the leader, but it is important the leaders themselves communicate to ensure these communications have the necessary weight and importance.

The Change Management Model – Three Steps to Change

A clear and concise way of viewing organization development is through the Change Management Model originated by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field.  According to Lewin, successful change occurs in three phases , which he labeled:

  • Unfreezing;
  • Transition; and,
  • Refreezing.

Let’s explore the three steps individually, keeping in mind that there will be overlap among them. 

Unfreezing – Preparing for Change

Unfreezing is the planning stage, in which leaders and those assisting leaders with organizational changes gather information to identify the problem and its cause.  As noted above, the process may include structured activities or workshops, as well as surveys and interviews, to get stakeholders actively involved. 

The objective is to help people understand why the changes are happening, how these changes will impact the work, what the challenges might be, and how to navigate those challenges.

The leader is the owner for the change(s), even though some of the implementation work can be delegated to others, the leader owns both the responsibility and the results. 

Transition – Making the Change

Once the organization is “unfrozen” and ready for change, it’s time for action.  The organization undertakes the planned course of action, often called interventions

Interventions can take any number of forms, and may impact individuals, groups, or the organization as a whole.  

An individual intervention may call for training or coaching, either due to a new role or a performance issue.  A group intervention may involve team building exercises or workshops to develop new ways of collaborating.  Finally, an organization intervention may involve restructuring or strategic changes that affect everyone.  Such major changes will be unique to each organization. 

Transition is the most difficult stage.  Even with maximum involvement and understanding, some individuals will resist adopting new ways of working.  Leaders must communicate – clearly and consistently – the need for, and benefits of, change, and they must be prepared to help the organization navigate the resistance. 

The change agent has a dual role at this stage:  Supporting leaders in their communications, while also monitoring the impact of change.  The second part of that role reflects the need to continue getting feedback, assessing effectiveness, and making adjustments if needed. 

Refreezing – Establishing a “New Normal”

Once the hurdles of the transition stage have been overcome and the results assessed, the organization needs to reset its culture around the new ways of working.  The refreezing stage is intended to reinforce and ground changes in the organization to avoid falling back into old patterns. 

Leaders must set the tone and lead by example, becoming role models for change.  Leaders must understand where flexibility will be necessary: giving individuals time to adapt, preparing for the inevitable resistance, and providing other support as needed.  The goal is to ensure the organization successfully embraces change as a new way of doing business. 

If you would like to learn more about organizational development, or if you want to leverage Catamentum’s OD expertise, please contact us.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.