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June 25, 2018 bstrathman
Learning from Challenges: Harvesting Lessons from the Underworld

underworld, initiation, self-awarenessInitiations are cycles of physical or psychological separation, ordeal, and return that we encounter throughout our lives. When we fully integrate the lessons from these experiences, we develop as people and leaders. (See a previous article on initiations) However, if during or upon returning from an initiation cycle, you fail to reflect on the ordeal, you are likely to repeat similar fact patterns with similar people. As a leader, it’s imperative that you learn from these initiatory cycles to become the best person/ leader you can be. In the story of Persephone’s abduction into the Underworld, she starts the story as a young maiden, known as Kore/Persephone (Kore meaning “young girl”). During her time in the Underworld while separated from her mother Demeter, she knows that if she eats anything there, she will be stuck in the Underworld for eternity. She refused to eat anything while she’s there until Hermes brokers her release. It’s not until she knows she’s going back to her mother that she eats a few pomegranate seeds. When she sets foot back on earth, the world bursts into bloom, and from there on, Persephone is known as the Queen of the Underworld (no longer Kore). Additionally, Homer wrote that Hecate, known for her wisdom, walked before and after her. This can be interpreted to mean that Persephone had wisdom upon her return that she hadn’t had before her abduction/descent. Upon her return, Persephone admits to Demeter that she did indeed eat a few pomegranate seeds. This ties her to the Underworld for eternity. Thereafter, she must return for a few months each year.

Self-Awareness from Initiations
Like Persephone, when you return from an underworld initiation, you will have ingested and digested “seeds” of new learning and realization that tie you to the experience. With new insights and wisdom from the experience, you can incorporate that wisdom to become a renewed and better leader. For each initiatory experience, you can choose to accept, ingest, and digest these “seeds” of insight and wisdom to further your return/reintegration from the circumstance by asking yourself the following questions:
  • What role did I play in that situation?
  • How did I contribute to the difficulty?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What was that situation trying to tell me about myself?
  • What is the opportunity for me now?
  • What can I practice or do differently when similar situations happen?
There will be more challenges ahead, more initiations, as if each were designed to help you grow as a leader. But if you don't take time to reflect on the “seeds” you can take away from each initiatory experience, you may stay stuck in the underworld, repeating the same unpleasant pattern. WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

June 25, 2018 bstrathman
Learning from Challenges: Initiation as a Leadership Tool

self-awareness, intitiation, self-reflectionHave you worked for companies with similar undesirable corporate cultures? Have you tended to work with the same type of people who have characteristics that drive you crazy? It might be time to look at these patterns more closely to learn more about yourself. Timeless principles as highlighted in ancient mythologies can help put your experiences into a larger psychological and cosmological context. Doing so, allows you to make sense of your personal experiences and patterns and further your development as a leader.

The Abduction of Persephone
One timeless principle or idea is Underworld initiation. For the ancient Greeks, the Underworld was the domain of the god Hades, who ruled over the souls of the dead. In 6th grade, you probably heard the story of Hades abducting the youthful maiden, Persephone, causing her mother goddess Demeter to stop the plants from growing. Persephone remained with Hades in the Underworld until the god Hermes brokered a deal for her return. But before she left to go back to her mother, Persephone ate a few pomegranate seeds. This meant she had to return to the Underworld from then on for a few months of each year. This accounted for the reason for the seasons. The psychological interpretation of Persephone’s experience in the Underworld by Carl Jung and others gives a broad framework to use as a leadership self-reflection tool: initiation. You might think of initiation as a ceremony that marks entrance into a life stage or a group, like baptism or joining a sorority. However, you go through many initiations throughout your life, large and small, whether or not you celebrate them. In fact, you undergo psychological initiations throughout your life during challenging or difficult incidents and new life phases that test or stretch your limits.
Phases of Initiation
As with the ceremonial initiations you celebrate, these psychological “underworld” initiations have 3 main phases: departure, ordeal, and return/reintegration. During departure, you either willingly or unwillingly find yourself in a situation where you experience a change in yourself or your circumstances. Next, you go through an “ordeal” within this new situation that differs from what has been “normal” for you thus far. The ordeal can be anywhere from mildly irritating to downright awful. Eventually, things return to normal or get “better”, giving you the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been, reintegrate yourself using lessons from the “ordeal”. As an example, you may have worked with someone who was challenging. Your interactions with this challenging person represent a separation from what you usually experience (getting along with most people) and an entrance into a different “world” (of bad relationship). Next, with this challenging person, there is probably at least one aspect that makes the relationship hard, or an ordeal, so your usual ways of relating don’t work. You might feel frustrated or irritated or some other negative emotion while in the ordeal. At some point, the ordeal of this relationship ends, and you return to a more “normal” circumstance, whether or not that person remains part of your experience. The beauty of these “underworld” initiations is that they offer you an opportunity for self-reflection. Through this opportunity, you can examine and learn more about yourself, and use that to decide who you really want to be as a leader. What recent or notable “initiations” have you experienced? Read a related article for ways to gain insights from such experiences.   WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

June 18, 2018 bstrathman
By the Numbers – Capturing Lessons Learned

Much institutional knowledge in companies is lost through turnover and poor communication. Such institutional information is often critical to successful operations and execution of company goals. One way to preserve and share knowledge and expertise is to actively capture, store and share “lessons learned”. However, for most, it’s easier said than done. This infographic compiles the numbers related to capturing, retaining, and sharing lessons learned: lessons learned    

May 16, 2018 bstrathman
If You’re Not Weird, You’re Not Doing It Right

unique, weirdIn today’s world, few people embrace being known for being “weird”. Originally, however, being weird simply meant you were uniquely yourself. Our modern word, “weird”, has its roots in Norse mythology and which evolved into the Old English word, “wyrd”, referring to what one would grow into or become. In the ancient world, the Norse had the idea that the Norns (akin to the 3 Fates from Ancient Greece), determined each human’s fate and destiny at birth. In other words, each person had their own “wyrd” or fate – the qualities, characteristics, perspective, and conditions of life that made them unique. (See my previous posts on “fate” and “destiny”.) A related idea is that of “genius”. Originally, Latin word “genius”, referred to a guardian spirit. The Greeks and Romans believed each person had such a “spirit” or energy inside. In fact, the tradition of celebrating birthdays came from Ancient Rome and was really a celebration of the person’s inner spirit/genius. Thus, you can think of yourself as though you have a special spirit or guidance inside that encourages you to be you -- with a fate or wyrd  like no other. This timeless perspective teaches that you are meant to be uniquely yourself and only you really know who that is. However, in  modern times, it’s tough to listen to and give credence to your inner wyrd and genius. With well-meaning friends and families and a modern culture that continually telegraphs all the ways you should be or ought to be, it can be a lonely job connecting and listening to your inner wyrd and genius. But to feel that sense of fulfillment that most people seek, make it your main job to connect with what’s inside you -- that inner wyrd-ness -- that makes you more of who you really are. For, there is the idea, that if you don’t express the uniqueness you add to the world, you will never become yourself and the world will be deprived of your wyrd genius. So, as you set out to be the best and most authentic leader you can be, it's a good thing to improve your basic leadership skills. But at the center of it all, you can only become the leader you’re meant to be, when you bring your unique genius and your wyrd-ness to the forefront. I say, "Go forth and be weird!" WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

January 24, 2018 bstrathman
4 Tweaks to Fine Tune Your Response to Employee Issues

employee issue   It takes so much energy to address an employee issue. If you’re doing it at all, you are on your way to creating clearer expectations and a better working environment for everyone. You can fine tune your repertoire with these tweaks:

Be Timely.
When finding the right time to broach an employee issue, you may fall into one of two extremes: taking immediate action when your emotions (usually anger) are high or ignoring or avoiding the issue in hopes that it goes away on its own. Neither is usually preferable. Instead, use the 24-7 guideline. If you tend to get angry or really frustrated, take 24 hours to calm down before you meet with the employee. Alternatively, if you’re an “avoider”, give yourself up to 7 calendar days to address the issue. If you don’t, then fine. Let it go. But you don’t get to bring up the situation again in the future because you chose not to address it timely the first go-round.
Assume Good Intentions.
People screw up, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t intend something good underneath. By assuming and looking for the positive the employee was trying to accomplish, you keep yourself on the employee’s “side” and will avoid making them defensive.
Reinforce Their Autonomy and Accountability.
During your conversation, ask them to state what they are committed to doing differently going forward – whether that’s following the relevant policy or procedure, interacting with co-workers in a different way, or correcting a bad work habit. It’s just more powerful when the employee says what they will do differently next time, instead of you telling them what to do.
Underscore Your Expectations.
The point of addressing employee issues is to set or re-set an expectation, so they do better in the future. In addition to stating your expectations during a timely conversation with the employee, send a follow-up email that summarizes the basics of the conversation, including how you expect them to act going forward and any new commitments they made. This has the added benefit of creating something written and dated for future reference if needed. To foster the kind of talent and mutual respect that makes a top team takes continual growth as a leader. Hone your leadership skills the next time you need to address an employee issue by trying just one of these tweaks.   WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com. Connect with Beth: Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting LinkedIn: /bethstrathman or /firebrand-consulting-llc YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC

December 19, 2017 bstrathman
Set Your Ego Aside to Admit a Bad Hire

Have you ever hired an employee who behaves badly soon after starting work and found yourself flummoxed with disappointment, disbelief, and maybe even shame? When one of your recent hires displays inappropriate conduct, creates dissension, or proves to be a poor performer, don’t wait for things to get better or try to “save face”. Here are 3 tips for getting over it and admitting the mistake:

1. Don’t ignore the problem.
You teach people how to treat you. So, if you ignore the poor conduct or performance, you’ll send the message that you’re OK with it even if you’re not. It will not stop on its own. Additionally, you run the risk of losing the respect of the rest of your team. The problem will not correct itself. Bring the problem to the employee’s attention.
2. Take Responsibility.
If after talking to the employee about the issue(s), things don’t improve satisfactorily, chalk it up to the imprecision of your selection process then cut bait if warranted. Most hiring processes are no better than the flip of coin, and even applying all the best hiring practices, it’s still not a perfect science. There is no nobility in trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Take responsibility for hiring someone who wasn’t a fit.
3. Get Advice and Assistance.
When it’s evident that the new hire isn’t going to work out, don’t think you have to go it alone. Work with HR or your company attorney to ensure you’ve been fair and followed your company’s policies and applicable law. The reality is that most people at least attempt to put their best feet forward in the first months on the job. If someone is a jerk or a poor performer within the first 6 months, that is a red flag. Things are not likely to improve. Hiring people is time-consuming, and it’s frustrating when your selection doesn’t work out. Admit the mistake and take appropriate action, so you can find a better fit sooner rather than later. WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.