Archive for Thinking

Meaningful Conversations

By · March 29, 2010 · Comments (0)

Meaningful conversations change lives, and even a single dialogue can sometimes lead to a lifelong quest. So it was for my student, years ago in the African savannah, but also for me, as we shifted back and forth from learner to teacher, and back yet again, as both of us searched to understand what lay at the heart of leadership, if in fact leadership was the key to making a difference in the world.

Leadership, it turns out, can be best defined as influencing change through a vision. It is ensuring the realization of an envisioned future. Much has been written about leadership in the annals of academia, by great historians, politicians, entrepreneurs, and by those whose leadership practices we truly aspire to. I have been working on summarizing the essentials for transformational leadership, a daunting task. It is coming together as a convergence of cognition and competencies, thinking and acting, and is ultimately about doing.

After my personal quest into leadership began so many years ago, it continually begged expression. Time and again in my life, I felt the challenge arise to paint a current picture of effective leadership through the lens of thoughts, why thoughts matter, and how they impact our lives. It has taken me decades of searching to understand leadership with some depth, and find the courage to write it down.

A single, meaningful conversation changed my life because it set me on the path of deciphering leadership, and simultaneously finding my passion.

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Happy New Year! Don’t get caught in old patterns of thought at the beginning of a fresh decade. This is the time that calls for creative thinking.

Creativity initiates a shift to a new approach. This is so much more than taking information, analyzing and building on it, and instead is based on creating transformational thinking. Creativity opens up possibilities and potential more fully. It can be seen as the difference between renovating a house and building one. It breaks down limitations and finds new approaches. Open minded creativity creates new perspectives, reduces limitations and provides a freedom for the future.

True creativity goes further than merely ideas. It is also putting ideas into practice. Picture creative ideas around you in never ending swirls, waiting to be grasped and secured into material being. Just as you can’t harness the wind without tools for physical capture and energy conversion, ideas will dissipate into nothingness unless a relationship is made to turn the ideas into reality. An environment or community that cultivates and cherishes the creative spirit is how true imaginative creativity and innovation come into being.

New ideas and novel solutions can be stimulated with expressive thinking, resourcefulness, and originality. Put yourself into places, situations, and with people that stimulate your imagination. Creative thinking can be used to meet many of your objectives. It might be doing or thinking about situations in a slightly different way, or from a new perspective. The ability to build something from nothing, is what distinguishes a creator from those who do not create. The brilliant feeling you get when a truly creative idea strikes, is often followed by an intense desire to make it real.

In his extensive research on the creative process and its related environment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi summarized that ‘creativity leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future’. In his book, Creativity, he ventures well beyond the discussion of mere change, to recommend that readers work to find an emotional response that is stimulating and invigorating as they work to increase creativity. When you recognize your emotions, you provoke and stir creative thought by adding a dimension to your thinking. It is key to recognize feelings for interpretation in order to broaden, not narrow your thinking.

Find your passion, and build on it with ideas you can manifest into reality through the creative process. Csikszentmihalyi noted that individuals are motivated by the challenge of the unfinished, and not necessarily drawn to complete and final resolutions. The unfinished are the more interesting problems of intrigue that appeal to your senses. In addition, you would rather work on, and think about something that you resonate with, and awakening a passion inside you. Your zeal is more likely to draw solutions for you, than an area you are somewhat apathetic about.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the renowned literary figure, utilized creativity throughout his writing endeavors. As an acclaimed American essayist and poet, noted for thinking differently and having broad insights, he wrote Self-Reliance. He stated the importance of following one’s own instincts and ideas, breaking away from conformity and utilizing one’s creativity. Emerson focused on the individual, and famously said ‘The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.’ Make a start, a fresh start and one idea will lead you onward.

Now is you chance to join Maria Berdusco, as she interviews authors, speakers and inspirational thinkers on the Leadership International Talk Show. You can join the conversation live, just listen in, or download previous episodes to your ipod or mp3 player, or another device.

Capturing conversations with remarkable people is what the Leadership International Talk Show is all about. It’s the first and third Wednesday of every month at noon. Mark you calendar for upcoming episodes, subscribe to the rss feed, or download your favorite episodes here. It’s a show, it’s a recording, and a podcast and it’s personal, created just for you.

Best selling authors will inspire you, coaches will lift you and great thinkers and teachers will take you to new levels.

Listen on iTunes: Listen now, or download from

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David Cooperrider Inquires Appreciatively

By · November 8, 2009 · Comments (0)

Are you familiar with Appreciative Inquiry? It is a term coined by David Cooperrider, Ph.D, a professor in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Appreciative inquiry is a revolutionary methodology for achieving sustainable, desired, strength-based change. Cooperrider emphasizes that anyone who wants to make a difference in the world has to aim higher and one way to achieve achieve this is for each of us as individuals to support the building of positive institutions. He discussed the importance of the positive human experience, which includes what is good, has hope, joy and inspiration, and applying it to whole systems.

Cooperrider challenges businesses to be agents of world benefit and teaches that applied positive change has four major components, each with important questions -

  1. Discovery and asking what gives life for the best of what is: Appreciating
  2. Dreaming and asking what might be: Envisioning Results
  3. Design and asking what should be: Co-constructing
  4. Destiny and asking how to empower: Sustaining

Learn all about this innovative approach to change at

Categories : Gratitude, Optimism, Thinking
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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Features Executive Coaching in DemandAn article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday outlined an increased demand for coaches as executives work to stay on track, hone their skills, and explore possibilities during the recession.

We each especially need to demonstrate resilience, optimism, optimal communications and collaborative initiative during today’s specific and unprecedented challenges. We still need to take action on what is most important and not languish in the waiting game. The wait and see approach that so many people have taken support neither global recovery nor expand personal opportunity. This is the time to build relationships, explore creative innovation, solidify strategic planning and move forward.

On a recent trip to Europe there was significant discussion on waiting it out, and watching to see what people in the US were dong, letting Americans take the lead on recovery and using US action as a yardstick to gage timing on activity. An important interpretation of this response is that taking action on initiatives is even more critical for global recovery than has been recognized, and indicates that action can not wait.

But having someone to champion that process for individuals is equally important, having someone to act as a trusted sounding board, and provide objective feedback is critical.  An executive coach supports the prioritization process and provides accountability for the implementation of plans in a systematic and manageable way, within the framework of what is possible.

Finding clarity and taking action is vital when a sense of overwhelm threatens to overshadow initiatives.

The Wall Street Journal article indicates ‘Coaches say many companies still use their services to retain top talent and support senior leaders while coping with smaller staffs and recession-starved budgets. Amber Romine, director in global human capital at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC’s Washington, D.C., office, said she fields a steady stream of requests from clients looking for referrals to executive coaches.’

Many executives in a coaching partnership talk about how their companies and careers would be different if they had access to coaching decades ago. From personal skills and interpersonal relationship effectiveness, strategic planning and execution, and through to change management, leadership development through coaching is widely recognized as an indispensible tool for today’s time and beyond, as we shift into economic recovery.

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 Attend this years Pittsburgh Human Resources Association (PHRA) Annual Conference at Heinz Field on September 29 and 30th. This event is not to be missed!

Register  for the Conference here! Join me as I speak about the essentials for transformational leadership and my book, ‘How to Think Like a Leader’.


Categories : Leadership, Skills, Thinking
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Herbert Kelman

 Another chance meeting. I love chance meetings.

Conflict prevention has been very much on my mind for the past year or so, as it has been for many of us around the globe concerned about violence near and far.

I have appreciated the writing of Herbert Kelman and studied some of his work for a conflict resolution course I recently undertook.

Then low and behold, he walked into a small gathering of psycholgists for social responsibility I was attending.

There he was stanidng next to me, a chief global mediator who stands for peace. Read his answers to ten questions on peace.

Here is an excerpt:

‘I would describe myself as a strategic optimist, and I am distinguishing it from being a naïve optimist, who would say that everything and the world is good. I see optimism rather as a strategy; and if you maintain this sense of possibility, then you keep looking for where the points of entry are, where there are things you can do in order to move forward. And while doing it, you create positive self-fulfilling prophecies.’

Kelman on Peace Mediation

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De-Stress During Difficult Times

By · August 12, 2009 · Comments (0)

When hard times hit, managing your stress level is more important than ever. With issues and difficulties of many types coming at you from a multitude of directions, your overall stress level can increase significantly, and finding ways to counter the stress you feel is an important priority.

The American Psychological Association just released their annual Stress in America Survey, and no one is surprised that stress levels have increased in the last year in the US. People reported more fatigue, anger and irritability and more than fifty per cent of respondents said they lay awake at night, unable to sleep because of stress.

Combined exhaustion, irritability and anger can result in different behaviors by different people and understanding the effects of stress in yourself, your family and your community is critical. People who otherwise manage their feelings and keep their stress in check may find it hard to do so.

Here are five simple ways to prevent and manage stress. Practice these techniques for yourself, but also share them with others, as you support those around you who are also feeling significant stress:

1. When some things are not working, take time to recognize what is working, and going right. Focus on the good things in your life, and what you appreciate.

2. Understand that many difficult situations are temporary and not permanent, to help keep perspective. Choose your response to events to keep things in balance.

3. Keep news and television watching in check, to prevent specific details from taking over your thinking.

4. Engage in calming activities, such as finding pockets of quiet time to read, or talk with someone you respect and who is supportive of you.

5. Become resilient by accepting what is, and cannot be changed. Try to take away a learning and move on.

The best way to manage your personal stress level is to not allow yourself to become overcome by negatives, but take on an approach that is continually hopeful, in spite of difficult times. Be resilient.

Carefully manage the thoughts you have to keep your stress in check.

Maria Berdusco supports others through challenges and can be reached at 412-221-3376. Visit Maria’s website.

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APA Past Presidents

Seligman, Farley & Zimbardo

The club of past presidents in almost any organization, community or country represents not only significant brain power for the individuals who have achieved the role, but also the synergistic strength of their collective knowledge and experience.

Zero in on not just any organization, but the American Psychological Association (APA), founded in 1892, and now with 150,000 members, who gather annually to celebrate new data on the human mind.

When I listened to Marty Seligman, Frank Farley and Philip Zimbardo, all APA past presidents have a conversation this morning about the state of things, it felt as though the collective truths they shared was not their just their own. They represented the progressive and cumulative learning of the previous presidents of the APA.  There was a sense that it was not just three of them on stage, but also William James, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Albert Bandura, and over a hundred contributors who have filled this role to take psychology to where it is today.

The conversation flowed like that of old school chums, or even brothers; comfortable, trusting and willing to dialogue openly, knowing they were on call to teach the past, present and future of psychology, but humbled by the responsibility and determined to represent the best of what psychology has to offer. There is great learning to be gleaned from listening to a clever conversation.

They talked about undoing the constructions of the past, overrating of the past and childhood, and imagining a future different from the past to live optimally. They discussed creating alternate futures, and that much is determined by how one interprets the past, present orientation and future perspective.

Thankfully, psychology is no longer based on the medical model of what is wrong, but instead on what is right and building on it. They talked about strengths, time perspective, Mount Everest, and sex on Sunday, bantering until they summarized with, ‘Start your life today, create your future’. They concluded that the key is to instill hope and dispel fear because future gazing is at the heart of being human. Seek hope and have positive expectancy, they said.

Not bad for a trio of leaders who have authored thousands of peer-reviewed papers.

It was unscripted, reflective, fully supportive and so natural that one could not help but acknowledge the great wisdom of this band of brothers. They  represented learned, highly credentialed researchers who’s common bond is that each have served a lifetime of studying human behavior.

One could not help but think that Seligman, Farley and Zimbardo modeled human behavior optimally. They created amongst each other a perception of the closest achievable bond among us, that of family.

What a pleasure to experience the conversation and somehow with 10,000 APA conference attendees, I felt as though I was attending a family reunion, even in the midst of academia, with the family being one of those who deeply care about humankind.

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stephen-covey-7-habits-pittsburgh-july-29-09The first time I recall having a front row seat at a major event was at a production of le Miserable. The event was especially memorable because I watched in rapture as a feather dislodged from a dancers costume and wafted slowly down from the stage and landed right in my lap.

Ever since, securing a front row at any event has been a delight and an honor, coveted, and hard work, but well worth it, because it puts you right up close with the action.

I have found over the years that obtaining a seat in the front row requires lots of extra effort and even then happens only occasionally. It means arriving very early, reserving far in advance, paying more for the privilege, knowing someone special, or even by helping the planners out. I didn’t expect though, that my profound feather experience would ever be repeated, and yet it happened again just this morning. 

It was uncanny, serendipitous and synchronous, when a feather dropped from Stephen Covey’s ‘Indian Talking Stick’  as he waved it to the audience, emphasizing its strength. I have read Covey’s books many times over the decades and hearing him speak live at 77 years old meant a lot to me.

There I was somehow ready for the unexpected, front and center, and  managed to catch a photo of Stephen Covey and his stick. A shiver went down my spine as I recognized the beauty of the moment, it’s wonderful alignment and congruency and I knew that I was in the right place.

Covey reminded us with the warmth and wisdom of a sage of the timeless ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’:

Dependence to Independence

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Choice 
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution

Independence to Interdependence

  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Mutual Understanding
  • Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation

Continual Improvement

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was published 20 years ago and is still a best seller in business and leadership. Five years ago, Covey followed with The 8th Habit, which is finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs. When we asked him how he came to develop the extra habit Covey said he sensed a lack of emotional commitment to what people represent, and felt compelled to teach personal significance and passion.  Covey delivers his message with a quiet, knowing conviction, and I felt drawn to his personal passion.

You may be wondering what the ‘Indian Talking Stick’ is all about? Ask someone to hold a talking stick, and then ask them to talk until they feel that you completely understand what they are thinking and feeling. ‘I am serious, try it,’ Covey said. The talking stick is a tool for conflict resolution, empathy and improving relationships.

A marvelous message from a feather.


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Leading with Love and Dispelling Fear

By · July 13, 2009 · Comments (0)

loveA chapter on courage in my book, ‘How to Think Like a Leader’ looks at using love in the workplace to drive away fear. At a recent workshop on leadership, I asked participants what they replace fear with, when they create anew space, where it used to be. Answers included hope, optimism, happiness, joy, sincerity, and because they knew what I was after, love.

Love in the workplace should not be a foreign concept. It has many synonyms to help find and support its presence. I have decided to talk about love in the workplace more, and in the context of leadership because leadership includes service and change, and if leadership is inspirational and being ones best then all of that can only occur in love.

What a wonderful way to fill the space that opens up when fear is dispelled.

Categories : Leadership, Love, Thinking
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How to Think Like a Leader Workshop

By · July 10, 2009 · Comments (0)

Thanks to all  attended the How to Think Like a Leader workshop today!

Workshop 3  Workshop 2

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London Leadership Challenge

By · June 29, 2009 · Comments (0)

St Pauls CathedralLove versus fear is a fascinating leadership topic. Today I am reminded of what fear really feels like.

Heart stopping, weak in the knees, nerve wracking fear, in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, of all places. It is Christopher Wren’s architectural bridge between earth and heaven. I was sitting quite contentedly in the whispering chamber, surveying the checkerboard floor far below the base of the great dome, and remembering the old women feeding birds for a tuppence on the steps of St. Paul’s in Mary Poppins. It is a grand cathedral, steeped in history, and as magnificent as any.

My daughter, a 15 year old runner, and my husband, also an athlete had just sprinted to the very top of the dome and down again, and insisted I do the same. They said that the view from the top is like no other, so off I went up the next set of steps. When I reached the chamber of gold, the next set of stairs somehow appeared rickety and unsafe, and when I asked the guard about them, she admitted that this upper section of the dome had reopened only this morning after a year of repairs. What should have made me feel better, made me feel worse. I felt less safe than I ever recall. ‘You can’t be afraid mom, you jumped out of an airplane’ my daughter said, but it did little to diminish my rising fear. My knees were pure gelatin, palms were dripping and my heartbeats had become a deafening thump, thump, thump, exploding in my chest.

This was new. I am not afraid of heights. I am not afraid of small spaces. And yet I felt terror at ascending a small flight of steps. Hours later my entire body flushes in the recollection. Clearly, I did make it to the top and back down again.

Focus and breath. Focus and breath. This is how to move you through your worst fears, an inch, a step, a piece at a time. As with someone afraid of snakes, show it to them, have them touch it and soon they will be holding it, after a series of successive and successful approximations.

Move across fear to the other side, or above the fear to the very top, for the spectacular view, and well worth the climb.

Fear is very real, but move across the chasm of the unexpected and unexplained, through the fear to the other side.

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nhl-stanley-cup-final-pittsburgh-penguins-vs-detroit-red-wingsEven though I am sitting in a little cabin in the woods, overlooking Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and watching a historic event on a tiny television, this moment is as precious as it could possibly be, whether here, or live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Igloo Arena in the city of three rivers.

Memories are created by emotions. When a powerful feeling overcomes you; when strong emotion occurs, it creates its own neural circuit in your brain, ripe for retrieval.

A first kiss, a wedding dance, a babies birth, and for Pittsburgh, winning the 2009 Stanley Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize, represents moments of such ecstasy that the brain connection we create is fully etched and imprinted, forever accessible to each of us who participated.

Hockey’s Stanley Cup and football’s Super Bowl, at home in Pittsburgh in the same year. Congratulations Pittsburgh Penguins 2009!

The moment is now. The memory is forever.

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We Love Birthdays…

By · June 8, 2009 · Comments (0)

albert_einsteinAnd we love celebrations! Celebrate successes as you achieve them. Celebrate summer on its way after a long, cold winter. Get outside and breathe deeply into the new day.

Albert Einstein said that there are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle. This is the ‘half-full or half-empty’ approach to looking at a glass of water, and at the world. This may remind you of the power of your choices, and your imperative to manage your thoughts, not having thoughts manage you. Einstein understood the influence of gratitude. He had a full appreciation of the scholars that had previously laid the groundwork and set the stage for his own discoveries and breakthroughs, when he noted:

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

Gratitude can help you to have appreciation for all that you are, do, have, and perceive. Like Einstein, it may spur you to a response of action, but it can also make obstacles in your path much less difficult. By having a sense of appreciating what is working, you are less likely to be pulled down by that which isn’t. By focusing on gratefulness for how far you have come, and what you have accomplished, it becomes easier to take steps and embark on the remaining portions of your journey and tasks. This allows you to take necessary initiatives for achieving your goals. Being grateful also serves to immediately make you feel a charge of goodwill and confidence.

Another birthday, another year, and another reason celebrate life.

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