Conscious Leadership

By: Suzanne Qualia - Published on July 30th, 2022

We credit Einstein with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Even if he didn’t originally say it, many others have and we know that it’s true based on our own experiences as well!

How often do we as leaders do the same things over and over in our battles with employee retention and engagement, but somehow expect different results? And are we getting those different results? Current research says we’re not.

Obviously, it’s time for a change! Let’s fix these problems in a new, unique and better way for everyone!

The case for change

In case you are dubious about this, let’s look at the facts. Gallup, a global research firm, has been measuring engagement levels for almost 20 years. Those of us who study employee engagement read the summary reports, including “tips” on what to do about it every year, yet the needle hasn’t moved significantly into the “engaged” category. Yes, HR teams and companies have done many great things in an attempt to move that needle – increased pay, better benefits, instituting “flex time” options and offering social perks. These things are necessary and a great foundation upon which to build. But obviously, still not enough given the persistent low engagement scores.

As a hiring manager and/or HR professional responsible for recruitment and retention, you know the woes of this and the level of it for your company! What would happen if you could cut your turnover rate in half?

Costs of not changing

What is the cost of the engagement gap for your organization? Sparing the details here, research backs up this simple formula: # of employees in your organization * 17 percent (level of disengagement)* 34 percent median salary (Gallup’s researched “cost of disengagement”).

The numbers will be pretty shocking. This is what disengagement is costing your company each year. These costs show up in various forms, including: safety incidents, quality problems, mistakes, errors, productivity issues, missed deadlines, customer service problems and more. Some of these are sometimes hard to measure, but we all know there is a cost. This formula captures those overt as well as “hidden” costs!

Regarding the retention issue, what is that costing organizations today? Studies by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) predicted that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 month’s salary on average. Again, the math is pretty simple – turnover rate * # of employees * 6 to 9 months of median salary of that group!

Leadership development holds the key

Engagement and retention are both resolved with more effective leadership. Again, tons of research backs this up. It all indicates clear and similar reasons for turnover – don’t like the boss, lack of empowerment, internal politics, and lack of recognition. All of this can be grouped into one main category: poor leadership.

As Mike Prokopeak, vice president and editor in chief at Chief Learning Officer magazine, points out in his research (published less than a year ago) that companies realize this. 94% of organizations surveyed indicated they planned to keep their investment in leadership development the same or increase it, citing that the scarcity of in-demand talent and the high cost of attracting talent makes focusing on and developing their next generation of leaders the top priority. You can read his full summary here.

His research says that the focus of that training will be around emotional intelligence and “people focused” training. But that’s not new either! What shift is necessary in order to finally hit the “sweet spot” on those two topics? And how do you get the most bang for your buck on those leadership development spends?

The needed shift in leadership development

The change needed in leadership development training requires a shift from focusing not only on WHAT you do as a leader, but also on HOW you do it and the effect and the impact you have on others!

My belief is that all leaders INTEND to be inspiring, motivating and engaging as a leader, but their IMPACT misses the mark. How do we fix that?

The short answer is shifting the focus from what you are DOING as a leader, to who you are BEING as a leader.

This is what “conscious leadership” is all about.

Click here schedule a 30 minute complimentary strategy session with Suzanne to learn more about what “conscious leadership” is and what it can mean for your team and organization! Check out the link here if you want to learn more about the journey to unleash your “conscious leader” within.


Suzanne Qualia is an Executive Coach and Team Facilitator who is passionate about helping leaders step into leading from a space of “consciousness” that inspires, motivates, improves engagement and shifts cultures within teams and organizations; AND improves bottom line results. To talk to Suzanne directly, please call 608-354-5392.

In the initial blog post in this series on trust entitled, “Trust: Nature or Nurture?,” the important question of how trust originates was raised. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? While it’s admittedly a combination effect (nature + nurture), the innate view of how we see the world, others in the world, and ourselves within the world has a profound initial impact on our ability to trust.

This series of blog posts related to TRUST will begin to help you understand and uncover this topic from a leadership perspective and, likewise, identify guideposts to watch out for and actions to take to build trust where it might be lacking today.

Why does the level of trust I have in others matter as a leader?

It matters, because our leadership effectiveness lies in direct proportion to the level of innate (‘nature’) trust we have in others. You might say, “YES, BUT if you trust too much, people walk all over you, take advantage of you, not produce results, and then things go off the rails.”

I’d like to propose that the more successful approach is a “YES, AND” approach. Yes, you trust others to a high degree AND you have the right balance of structure, measurements, milestones, and follow-up to know that things are on track, which will keep you from crossing the line into ‘distrust’ activities and actions. A “YES, AND” approach enables teams to flourish and be at their best, effecting the best bottom line results!

Why is crossing the line into ‘distrust’ activities and actions so dangerous?

When a leader starts out believing that the team isn’t capable, isn’t motivated, isn’t engaged, and isn’t able to achieve established goals, then these very thoughts precipitate choices that lead to behaviors that bring about the exact results you fear. Leaders who harbor these conscious or unconscious beliefs, and then lead from that space, send strong and wrong signals to their team to become dis-engagers, de-railers, and de-motivators for the team.

What are some of these leadership behaviors that arise from these known or unknown beliefs of distrust?

  1. Measuring the wrong end of the equation. Measuring outputs exclusively instead of focusing on the health of the inputs that create success.
  2. Mis-aligning focus: Focus shifts to CYA activities and behaviors vs. those that are destined to create success. Instead of focusing on the quality of inputs, decision-making, and the processes and tools to foster success, the team is instead focused on backtracking, explaining, justifying and defending behaviors – all of which are extremely time consuming and non-value added. Worse than both of those already negative effects is the extreme de-motivation of the team.
  3. DOING vs. BEING imbalance: Low trust, by definition, is a focus on outcomes, on things (DOING) vs. people (BEING) and losing the genius that comes from superpowers that the team might possess in order to get to right solutions and better outcomes. Leaders who over-focus on ‘doing’ and forget about ‘being’ are sending a strong signal to the team that people really don’t matter and that their input doesn’t count.

Who wants to work for a leader or an organization that employs these behaviors? Organizational leaders who are questioning low levels of employee engagement might take a step back and determine whether there are mixed signals being sent.

The values statement on the wall might say, “people are our most valuable asset,” but then daily actions focus on minutiae and outcomes vs. creativity, ideation, passion, and zeal that employees willingly want to bring to the table in order to solve bigger, more important problems. This double or mixed message is a sure engagement buster for your team and organization. It won’t take long. This is why these beliefs and resultant behaviors are so dangerous for your team and for your organization.

I might be exhibiting some of these behaviors as part of my leadership style – now what?

  1. Become aware – become the observer of your actions.
  2. Accept that you have exhibited these behaviors.
  3. Examine your innate beliefs about yourself and about others that could be eliciting these behaviors. Write them down in a brain dump session over a cup of coffee in a quiet space. What beliefs exhibit trust? Which beliefs exhibit distrust? What would change if you were to give up/replace those limiting beliefs with more expanding and possibility-thinking beliefs?
  4. Ask yourself this question; “What support and assistance do I need to help me in this process of belief busting?” Leadership coaching is a great choice. Your coach, by training and innate passion, believes in your innate abilities to lead and empower your team and is able to journey with you toward that goal.
  5. Ask yourself the question; “What support does my team need to transform their thinking as a result of some of these demotivating and unhelpful behaviors and elevate them into higher levels of thinking, doing, and BEING – increasing engagement, productivity and creativity for my team and organization?” Neuroscience offers a perfect solution, as it teaches people the power of their brain and how to replace old habits with new habits of thinking, doing, and BEING!

Here’s to eliminating conscious or subconscious limiting beliefs around this topic of TRUST and exhibiting new behaviors that create new outcomes for you and your team, elevating trust, and effecting greater engagement, productivity, and bottom line results!

Namaste, until we meet again.

Trust is one of those interesting concepts that often fall into the chicken/egg syndrome. Which came first, trust or distrust? Do you distrust someone until they earn your trust, or do you trust them first until their actions and impacts cause you to distrust them? Which is it? Which approach is more successful?

What is trust?

Before attempting to answer this, let’s all agree on this concept of trust and what it means. Quite simply, as Stephen R. Covey defined in his best-selling book, “The Speed of Trust,” trust simply means confidence in someone, or something. Distrust means that confidence is lacking.

Is it ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’?

Where does confidence come from before it’s earned or demonstrated? The ‘nature’ standpoint would imply that it’s innate, or, that one possesses a naturally high level of confidence in the human spirit, the human soul. There is the belief that we all intend to do the right thing and create the right impact, but we miss the mark due to becoming temporarily unconscious (i.e., not being aware of the effect of our actions on others and those around us). To the degree that one has a strong positive core belief in the basic desire of people to focus their actions in a positive manner, we would say they naturally have a high level of trust.

From a ‘nurture’ standpoint, creating or building trust would imply that positive and successful actions over time creates and builds confidence and predictability in future outcomes so that a high level of trust is established.

One could conclude that high levels of trust would be created from a combination of both. However, the reality is that you can’t build complete trust in someone unless there is a high dose/preponderance of ‘nature’ (i.e., innate trust in the human soul, positive intentions, etc.).

Why is this? Neuroscience concepts and principles explain it well. Neuroscience would say that what we think about and focus on is what we create. So if we think and focus on the potential for people to do the right thing, make the right choices, then we are energetically providing the pathway for that to happen.

Likewise, the opposite is also true. If we are constantly searching for and thinking about the missteps and mistakes of others, that nothing will go well, that life is hard, and people are stupid, then these things, too, will become our reality.

The value of trust in great leadership

How does this apply to leadership, and why does it matter? High trust, coming from a ‘nature’ viewpoint forms the core and basis of great leadership, and it completely differentiates a strong leader from a weak one.

There is a long list of negative and disempowering leadership behaviors that ensue without a strong innate/natural sense of trust in the team. The next several blog posts will be dedicated to this topic of trust, along with the positive results from high trust and negative results from a low trust standpoint. We will examine some of these behaviors and self-reflect – where are these showing up in your leadership style? What would open up for you as a leader if they didn’t?

Then the next logical question becomes, “How can I ‘rewire’ my brain for different thought patterns, choices, and outcomes for myself and for my team?” We’ll cover that important piece as well.

Namaste, until we meet again.

What is ‘culture’ as it relates to the business world, your team, and your organization?

It doesn’t have anything to do with the ethnicity, geographic location, or physical characteristics of a group. The essence of ‘culture,’ as I’m identifying it here, strictly has to do with behavior patterns of organizations that have become the norm and which now influence the thoughts, choices, actions and outcomes of the organization. It’s the elusive meaning of the word ‘culture’ that most teams and organizations talk about changing but most really don’t know how to go about doing so.

What is a ‘conscious culture?’

‘Conscious,’ as used in connection with ‘culture,’ means two things. First, ‘conscious’ means the standpoint of increased awareness. Next, the term ‘conscious’ is used to describe the following behaviors that are elevated vs. contracted or limiting beliefs or behaviors.

As examples: leadership that nurtures, grows, and develops ideas and results vs. dictates; that connects vs. separates; that leads with compassion and empathy vs. relies on positions of power and hierarchy; that leads from a space of “YES…AND” vs. “EITHER…OR;” and that leads from a space where there is balance between ego, relationships, and results vs. an over-focus on only one of those areas.

These are only a few examples of what best describes ‘conscious leadership’ – the type of leadership that can grow and enable your “conscious culture.”

Why is moving toward growing your ‘conscious culture’ important for you, your team, and your organization?

Because the work world is weary and tired of the ‘old school’ command and control, militaristic hierarchy, and the “do as I say and not as I do” leadership style. Employees are tired of the hyper focus on RESULTS at the expense of relationships, along with the health and wellbeing of employees.

How do I know this?

I’ve worked in this environment for 25+ years and experienced it myself. But if anecdotal evidence is not enough (or even your own experiences!), just look at the data/research [hyperlink to study]. Gallup has been studying employee engagement since 2001, and the needle hasn’t moved yet on the levels of only slightly engaged or completely disengaged workers.

The data is quite compelling. Each disengaged worker costs an organization about $25,000 annually, and 30% of those employees in your company are disengaged. Additionally, these results come after many, many years of discussion, leadership development and training, and focus around this topic. It’s ironic.

Why hasn’t the needle moved?

Because we are relying on the same old methods of thinking, doing, and BEING that have evolved teams, groups, and organizations to this point in the past.

What is required?

New ways of thinking, doing, and BEING! It sounds simple, but if it were that simple, why don’t we all just do it? Ahhh…that’s where the brain comes in.

We are creatures of habit and creatures of our past emotional experiences, which subconsciously dictates our thoughts, choices, behaviors, and, therefore, the outcomes. It’s what causes our impacts to be out of alignment with our intentions.

How can you overcome these old habits and subconscious patterns?

The most important thing is simply to become aware, and then by applying our process, models, and tools for change to achieve new results in new ways.

Join me on October 26 to learn more about this topic with some ideas and tools that you can start applying right away.

How to Successfully Navigate Your Business and Teams

How would you like to strengthen your “leadership rudder?”

A rudder is a control mechanism that literally helps you to ‘steer your ship.’ Would you like to create balance, align your impact with your intentions, and achieve your goals and dreams for you, your team, and your organization?

Welcome to my inaugural post, which officially launches my newsletter, The Leadership Rudder.

A rudder is needed to help guide and navigate in the direction of and toward a vessel’s ultimate destination. Missing or misaligned, one ends up in the wrong location, taking longer to reach your goals, and often traveling in circles and wasted patterns.

How does this apply to leadership?

Quite simply, in the exact same way.

When we are directionless and misaligned in our thoughts, choices, and feelings with what matters most to us as leaders, we end up creating unintended consequences and messages. This results in misaligned intent and impact. The net effect of that is that we end up achieving different results than expected, having a less-than-positive impact than we hoped, and not leading from our strong leader self.

What is this concept of “leadership rudder?” Where it is located?

Our leadership rudder is deep within us; it’s the core of who we really are, the core of our being – it spans the centers of our intuition, power, empathy, and compassion. These centers are the seat of our wisdom and strength. They are always present, always available.

How do we lose contact and connection with these centers?

It happens through the “busy-ness” of life, through the many stressors we face every day, through the barrage of decisions, challenges, and problems that arise daily. Our ability to navigate the day-to-day waters, aligning intention and impact and moving the needle forward in a positive way for our teams, and ourselves, depends on our ability to strengthen and deepen our leadership rudder.

Learn more

Join me on this journey. Let’s explore together those key stressors you face each day in your leadership journey. Let’s re-discover how to tap into those connection centers to lead in a different way to create uncommon and positive results.

  1. Enjoy a complimentary seat to attend one (or more!) of my monthly leadership breakfast roundtable discussions. The first event will be held on October 26 on the topic of “Creating a Conscious Culture Where All Can Thrive.” Get free access to this powerful information on my home page via the orange ‘Leadership Breakfast Series’ box for complete details.
  2. If you would like to receive my news and updates, including monthly reminders, exploration, and learning around this metaphor of the ‘leadership rudder,’ click here and scroll to the blue box to ‘Subscribe to Receive Updates.’ I can help you achieve your goals and dreams for you, your team, and your organization.

I look forward to connecting with you!