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Whirling Chief


Sesil Pir

Sesil Pir

Evolutionary Culture Transformation: The Greatest Dream We Never Realized

There is an ancient wisdom that says at any given time, there are three fundamental processes at work in the universe: creation, preservation, and transformation.

Transformation is a dream we all share and majority of us struggle to realize. There is a number of reasons for this and acknowledgement of the struggle may be a realistic way forward towards freedom.

Evolutionary culture transformation is heavily influenced by design. Where there is a true intent, the paradigm eventually starts to shift, but never without a genuine and consistent participation of its main designers.

You may read more today via our second article on Forbes ‘Evolutionary Culture Transformation: The Greatest Dream We Never Realized‘!

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  • 8 November 2018
Whirling Chief

HR Management

Nº 207

Business is No Longer an Island


Earlier this month, we were featured on Forbes.com as a new contributor.

We are proud to share our very first article ”Business Is No Longer An Island: Four Trends Affecting The Future Workforce” with our readers at large.

Feedback and thoughts are welcome as always!

We thank you for your continued support.

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  • 1 November 2018
Whirling Chief

Featured Video, Leadership & Team Development, Video

Nº 206

How to Build Trust as a Leader


Trust… What a big word it is!

Whether in business or in life, trust defines how we show up, how we approach our work and take up our relationships.

More and more business leaders are starting to understand the critical need to build trust. Where hierarchies are being dismantled, structures are being distributed, demographics shift and work opportunities become endless in today’s digital and global business environment, a people leader can no longer rely on his/her role to assure respect and trust. We are obligated to reciprocate.

In PwC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey more than half (55%) of CEOs reported being concerned about the lack of trust in business today – compared with 37% just three years ago.

If that’s the case, how are we going to build trust?

A few weeks back, we shared with you, evidence-based practices around how anyone can build trust inside a given team. Today, we are focusing on benefits and specific behaviors for people leaders on how to build trust!

When in doubt, please remember, it is possible to purposefully work on building trust and remain authentic.

It is an art and a science together. The key is in practice!

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  • 17 October 2018
Whirling Chief

Featured Video, Video

Nº 205

Trust as a Foundation of 21st Century Organizations


One of the most frequent questions I get regarding our mission and statements we are making about the future of work and workplace is why the 21st century organizations need be built on trust (and integrity, which we will discuss another time).

When we think of ‘business’ today, we imagine huge, complex, multi-layer, multi-geographical and cross-functional organizations.

True. Today’s businesses – in some – have become massive in scale and form. True. The focus has shifted towards ‘mass production’ vs. ‘quality’. Also true that business leadership became an elite profession, dominated by those nominated at ranks, working hard to manage (or rule) their enterprises from the top down; but it hasn’t always been this way…

We started very small with our house economies. Business was originally focused on serving humanity. If you think about it, the concept of ‘money’ (as it relates to our economical development) is still a fairly new concept. Similarly, leadership used to live in every one of us. We were all creators and consumers at once for a very very long time. And contrary to today’s common belief, human beings have spent majority of their evolutionary time in smaller communities. While in the past those communities were defined by geographies and other limiting factors; today, technology has made interconnection an unforeseen possibility for majority of us.

We have to remind ourselves that internet was not developed by one company under one leaders’ direction. It was rather built by hundreds and thousands of freelance developers sitting in their home, never needing to meet one another.

With the forces of digitalization, globalization, and democratization in the workplace, the landscape has changed vastly and now hierarchical models no longer work for businesses.

In the 21st century, business is expected to drive performance by aligning people around purpose and through empowerment of leaders at all levels throughout the organization.

In the foundation of that empowerment journey lays our ability to build trust with one another.

The “new world order” is asking of us not only a complete mindset shift but also a few new resource management models over what we seem to have adopted in recent years.

It is a disheartening fact that the art of honorary human relationships has long been swept away by the industrialist of our capitalist system. That doesn’t mean, however, we can’t change our reality. We CAN!

Each one of us has power inside to ‘be’ different and to build a reality we can all enjoy to be a part of. As Maya Angelou once said, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place”!

We can make work, a place where we all belong and feel respected for our humanity.

Understanding affection and caring require a stronger foundation than sympathy, and recognizing only a few of us have it as a principle of action sufficiently stable to be a compassionate companion, together with our science partners, we looked at evidence to build a new video on ‘How to Build Trust within Teams’.

Remember whomever we come under the influence at work, we become bound to their way of being and vice versa.

Love in the workplace refers to our ability to see self in other; trust refers to our ability to act as self as if we are never vulnerable.

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  • 27 September 2018
Whirling Chief

From Us

Nº 204

Changing the Status Quo of Work!


In today’s business environment, all organizations – for and non-for-profit – want to stay in the “game”; all business leaders want to achieve higher productivity and profit; all employees want to create greatness that leads to higher results and innovation.

The question is who is willing to challenge the status quo?!

At the speed of continued digitalization, globalization and democratization of workplaces, we all have to change our ways of ‘being’, ‘doing’, ‘relating’, but majority of us are afraid of the challenge because it would mean we have to denounce our power and find alternate, unknown methods of ‘being’, ‘doing’ and ‘relating’.

Yet, just because something looks mystical, it shouldn’t mean we don’t try it, right? You would rarely see a child sitting in front of legos to not play…

And guess what? We are NOT alone!

For over a year now, with the support of our platform, we have been building a wonderful community of leaders, who are willing to put self out there and try new, different, evidence-based people practices – to make the world of work better for more.

Today, we share a Whirling Chief Q3 Newsletter update.

Please don’t forget to subscribe with us and feel free to connect for collaboration and/or sponsorship opportunities.

Thank you as always for your continued support.

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  • 25 September 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development

Nº 203

Transcendence: Leading for the Highest Good of All


Last week, following a challenging conversation, someone asked me if I should consider “raising my voice” more often.

Communicating in a more aggressive tone may lead to results sooner in situations and it may certainly lead to a temporary emotional relief – yet, as a psychologist and organizational effectiveness expert, I happen to know sustainable results (and modeling) is in capsulation of self transcendence.

Back in 2007, ‘transcendent leadership‘ was introduced as a global initiative at the World Economic Forum. I was living in the US and working for a technology giant as a HR professional then and I remember being ‘struck’ by the thought of ‘self-transcendence’. I was familiar with the concept in terms of personal development (thanks to my sufi parents), I had no idea how to place in the business context.

Today, I feel privileged to not only study the concept, also to have the opportunity to share with my colleagues.

If we were to put very simply, there are two key threads to leadership:

  1. is about ‘doing’ relates to resource management, profit making, etc.,
  2. is about ‘being’ relates to growth from our natural state to higher potential.

Unfortunately, the associations we make of everyday leadership is not coherent with these two threads always. We tend to rely more heavily on one over other. For example, we have a perception that leadership is a concept limited to a select few… Yet, the perception is simply that… It is a perception because we witness most people being cast out of “leadership” roles as a result of the specific talent management systems we have…

Staying with this example, you may be surprised to hear that the best individual performers are not even always the best people leaders either. For example, in a recent research “Promotions and the Peter Principle”, my colleagues Alan Benson, Danielle Li and Kelly Shue studied over 50,000 sales reps to find sales performance was negatively associated with managerial success. They reported each increase in sales rank correlated with a 7.5% decline in the performance of each new manager subordinates. Surprising? It really should not be…

Because leadership is really not only about ‘doing’ something, it is equally, if not more, about ‘being’ a particular way.

Tying it all back to our example, it may be time we start evaluating the cost of moving our best individual contributors (ICs) into people leadership positions – especially without proper training. We need to understand for any one of us to be an effective people influencer, there is a requirement to develop self first.


We may need to find new development and recognition paths of our high performing ICs, so they are not pushed out of something they do beautifully into something they falter…

It is a fact that even as business leaders, our “smaller” self operates from a limiting exclusive focus on scarcity. It is driven by self-interest, just like our current world systems.  It wants to be successful, drive results, get recognition. It is all very human. Yet, we need to recognize we have a choice to operate from a “higher” self, precipitating an unbounded, inclusive focus on abundance. We can choose to remain whole and bring our higher versions forward in search of different life experiences. We can choose to accept the people, the situations for what they are in front of us. That doesn’t  always mean we agree with what’s in front of us necessarily, it means we value the differences without holding judgment.

I want to remind myself and invite other colleagues to recognize we are not always accountable to how people react to our orders or situations play before us, but we are always – always – accountable to the values we want to guide our organizations with.

I want to invite us to believe we are not here to prove our worth, we are simply here to share our uniqueness and abundance…

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  • 19 September 2018
Whirling Chief

Organizational Development

Nº 202

Re-Imagining the Way We Work!


As the world is at the cusp of re-visioning self with the power of digitalization, globalization and democratization, there are two major trends humanity is dealing with on a day to day basis:

  • Organization’s immense effort to stay relevant,
  • Human beings’ immense desire to find meaning.

Across industries, sectors and geographies, and regardless of scale and maturity levels, all organizations and their leaders share similar questions regarding the future: What will we refer to as ‘work’ tomorrow? Who will make up our workforce? What skills and capabilities will be needed? How will we integrate AI, robotics, infotech and biotech? Who will lead our organizations? Who will follow? Which educations will be preliminary to support pipeline growth?

While we witness dismantling of business models, reforming of organizational structures and introduction of technological advancements in front of our eyes, let’s make sure to not overlook one key fact: “the most common person feel(ing) increasingly irrelevant” in the current dynamic.

In the 21st century, not only more and more of us are looking for meaningful experiences in life, we are especially seeking for more meaning, inspiration, safety and joy in the workplace.

The success of businesses hoping to take advantage of this new revolution depends, paradoxically, on their capacity to awaken the humanity in their organizations.

While as a community we are committed to supporting this transition, we really want to engage new age leaders in a regenerative process towards re-envisioning future. We want to build constructive energy towards the kind of work experiences we want to create and live in.

Therefore, last week, the Employee Engagement Zone published a e-Book compiling many interviews of expert professionals specializing in employee engagement and culture matters, many of whom will serve as a panel judge for 2018 Employee Engagement awards, including our Founder, Sesil Pir.

When it comes to leadership (which we are all a part of), it is not always easy to distinguish between ‘doing’ what we are called to do and ‘being’ what we want to do. The most prestigious position can be an expression of obedience to our “call”, as well as a sign of our refusal to hear it.

We invite you to listen and share the magic of hope… Hope of becoming…

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  • 10 September 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development

Nº 201

‘Awakening Humanity at Work’: Leadership in the New Age


“It’s not personal, it’s business.”

How many of us have heard this statement in the workplace and/or have cited it ourselves? Well, I not only have heard it, personally used it many times earlier in my career.

If you find yourself saying “What’s the matter with you, Sesil? Of course, business is business, it has nothing to do with who I am at home!”, here is a set of statistics for you to contemplate on:

  • According to OECD, in the last 50 years, productivity has not inclined over 1% in EU and has been ~2% in the US – No matter which new technology we inject into the system, our bodies can only take in so much…
  • Stress induced long term illness is causing organizations more than 500B USD per year in the US alone – WHO predicts the number one epidemic of the world to be depression, triggered by work-related stress…
  • According to Global Leadership Forecast, only 26% of HR leaders and 38% of business leaders report having provided quality work experiences – Imagine if those in “leading” positions pointing fingers to a system, who may “save” us from our reality?

Now, close your eyes, think of what picture we may have held of our professional experiences in our minds when we had enrolled ourselves in education. Next, come back and connect to today’s workplace reality and ask yourself: How big of a gap?

Evolution is often seen as a process of “survival of the fittest,” implying that egoism and selfishness are embedded in our genetic code. This is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – dogma of our Western societies: Self-interest.

The term “survival of the fittest,” often attributed to Charles Darwin, was actually coined by Herbert Spencer and the Social Darwinists who wished to justify class and race superiority. Darwin’s message was, however, quite to the contrary. He argued that evolutionary success was more dependent on fellow feeling than exclusive self interest: “Communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring” (Darwin, 1871, Chapter 4, “Sociability,” para. 11).

There is more to our being as living species than self-interest. We have a need to care/connect and we have a need to have meaningful experiences in life.

In fact, when we observe nature, we find the most resilient, the longest living creatures (like trees or moss) are built on the promise of true collaboration and connection. Trees, for example, will literally scan their eco-system for wellbeing and if there is a “weak” colleague close by, they will collectively pull off on their resource consumption to channel some into the one in need.

There is a whole new body of evidence spanning psychology, neuroscience, and even economics today revealing that as a species our default mode is not one of self-centeredness but that we are wired to connect and when we connect our physiology improves for the better. For example, a study that subjected volunteers to the common cold virus on purpose as part of the experiment found that when those volunteers rated the doctor who interacted with them as very kind, they were less likely to develop a full-blown cold, their symptoms were less severe, and the illness cleared up faster.

Let us remind ourselves then, the key to human well-being lies at least as much in our ability to connect with and care for others as in beating the competition.

A New Way of Being is Possible!

This is probably why we already started receiving amazing reviews on our Awakening Humanity at Work program in collaboration with Stanford University’s CCARE. The scientific research is really intriguing for people. Many of us are unaware of the productivity loss across sectors and the shift in mindset required to rejuvenate resilience and growth in the 21st century.

Our conversations around how to re-awaken our human side despite the transformative states our businesses are in, has been the most rewarding.

Therefore, we are introducing a new pilot class to be held in October, in the US for those who couldn’t sign up for September session. If your schedules allow, please come and join us in our last discounted session.

I have been studying, participating in, leading change efforts for over two decades and I can tell you with confidence that change is relational.

In business, in societies, at home.  Before we can initiate change, we need one person, who is willing to put self out there. The driving force may rise from a self-need, a heart-driven mission, it may be a dream, a vision, but there has to be at least one to go “crazy” with a purpose. Then, comes the need to create a ‘critical mass’, becoming the yeast, the glue holding it together.

We are playing the role of “crazies” and we need your support to build a “critical mass”. We need a group of leaders, who have a clear purpose and quality in their offering. We need a small yet mighty community willing to take the task to create a reaction.

Because only then, with that sort of connection, curiosity and compassion, it will be possible to reimagine business and it will be possible to invite beauty in. Join us!

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  • 5 September 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development, Video

Nº 200

21st Century Leadership Calls for our Wisdom


At Whirling Chief, we are keen to get our broader business community acknowledge that the current work experiences we reside in is neither well suited for our human nature nor complimentary to the 21st century life experiences we want to be a part of, and, engage new age leaders in a regenerative process towards re-envisioning future and building the kind of work experiences we want to be a part of.

  • We seek inspiration, a spark, a purposeful task that makes us jump out of bed.
  • We seek meaning, knowledge and comfort to know our work effort makes a difference somewhere.
  • We seek psychological and physical safety, not wanting to leave our hearts or souls at home or hide parts of our ‘being’.
  • We seek joy in our environments, we want to cherish collaborative relationships and fluid engagements, free of asymmetry and fear.

How do we create such environments? We are trying to find out with a community of thought leaders in their areas. We are indulging ourselves in a mountain of research and summarize evidence-based management practices that can serve both or individual and collective needs.

Today’s post is a philosophical conversation around ‘wisdom’ with Dr. Barry Schwartz, whom we adore deeply. We know he is controversial but controversy doesn’t scare us in search of truth.

Why wisdom?

Wisdom is one of the eight core human capabilities (and future leadership attributes) in our Awakening Humanity at Work model we aim to introduce in our collaboration with Stanford’s CCARE soon. A colleague recently asked me “What if a leader doesn’t care about being ‘wise’?” A fine questions with very complex answers… See, all the way back, Aristotle told us:

“Practical wisdom is a combination of moral will and moral skill.”

A wise person (a leader) has (a) core technical skill, (b) has experience through “failures” , (c) embraced learning and grown, (d) is confident, (e) has permission to improvise and most importantly, (f) understands the importance of connecting, caring and cultivating people.

In the 21st century, brilliance is not going to be enough for us to influence people effectively. As Dr. Schwartz claims in this video, ain’t no organizational systems “smart” enough to do the right thing on behalf of us.

Between that moral will and moral skill lies the opportunity for our leadership.

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  • 29 August 2018
Whirling Chief

Organizational Development

Nº 199

Creating a Climate of Understanding (for Humanity & Profitability)


We, human beings, have a strong conviction that we are rational. We believe once we have formed an opinion through learning and have had an opportunity to put that learning to use regularly, it must be true.

In psychological terms, rationality is really about two things: what we know of to be ‘true’ and what to do (Manktelow, 2004).  In order for our beliefs to be rational then, they must be in agreement with evidence. In order for our actions to be rational they must be conducive to obtaining our goals. Human brain works on comparison and to master our day to day, we have to make reasonable assumptions amongst possibilities – like going to the bus stop to go to work, assuming there will come a bus to take us to work. We have to “fill in” blanks to have a structure, to make it through life.

So far, it all makes sense, right?

Yet, being ‘rational’ in our way of thought or action does not always make our belief or behavior right, does it? Not only this is a key area we find many leaders need to focus on; in the new context of business, having strong conviction about our rationalism may lead to missing critical business opportunities.

Let’s start at an individual level.

Did you know for example, when measured, we find out that human beings are not able to identify or select out our own voice cognitively, yet, some how, we are able to notice it through our skin conductance? In other words, did you know that our bodies can know something (hold information) that our minds don’t? Or, that we are very capable of making judgment connections that do not exist in reality? No joke! If, for example, we hear a random name (say randomly picked out of a phone book) and we have never seen it before in some irrelevant context and a few days after some one asks us about the name and whether the name belongs to someone famous, we say ‘yes’ – without even knowing!

Whether rational or irrational and despite all the good intentions we may have, we ALL have personal biases that often get in our way of perceiving reality.

So, What? 

If we are interested in creating environments that offer meaning, inspiration, safety and joy to people; then, we need to think about the consequences of having personal bias play into our corporate experiences. And, there may be something in it for the business as well!

When I started working, for example, over a decade ago, my very first boss, Trish at (then) Deloitte & Touche told me “If you can observe well from one project to another, you’ll find the issues are pretty consistent from one organization to another.” The difference is today I find myself telling our consultants, “No matter what, do not make any assumptions”! Why? Because our world, our jobs, our experiences are no longer predictable in that way.  All the theories of ‘work’ we used to have don’t serve us well anymore. For years, we operated with this demand based view of ‘having the right people, in the right place at the right time.’ We have said to ourselves if we know our requirements, fulfill them with good talent, keep people occupied, compensate well, etc., it will just work… In the 21st century, that sort of linear demand based view no longer works. Just think about it… It used to be okay to weed out resumes based on looks, age, origin, school, etc. back in 90s. Today, most of us would acknowledge those elements are completely irrelevant and the only reliable predictor we have for someone’s potential performance is their past accomplishments.

The world around is evolving faster than ever. If we take a step back and analyze human evolution, we see our cognition is evolving, too. Yet, some how, the pace of workplace evolution is unforgiving for many of us. In this transitionary period, we need more understanding to support one another.

It is a fact that we have people in the workplace, who feel at ‘odd’ about hiring people of different looks. It is a fact that we have people, who feel uncomfortable being managed by someone, who is younger. It is a fact that we have business leaders, who don’t want to outsource their most complex and innovation-seeking problems to people, who may not have had the opportunity to go to a ivy league school. The shift in demographics and the need to evolve our corporate cultures feel unnatural to many of us. Of course, it does…

It is an enormous task to put all that years of cognitive processing we collected aside. Yet, when we don’t invest in training of our minds and challenging our organizational processes that may lead to prejudice, we, as leaders of 21st century, become engaged in a moral dilemma as well as responsible for missing out on productivity and profitability.

Here is a great example of a study on AirBnB: Professors Benjamin Edelman and Michael Luca of Harvard Business School studied AirBnB to find out there is racial discrimination in the process of customer selection.  They found that on Airbnb, requests from guests with black-sounding names were 16% less likely to be accepted than those from guests with white-sounding names.

What’s even more interesting for me to read and understand is that many of the home owners were not even always consciously prejudiced; rather, they were associating names and pictures of applicants with some recent stories they gathered through the media. YET, despite the intent the outcome of their behavior (in business terms) was that they were only 35% likely to fill the spot in comparison to a peer apartment. This is what was happening: One wants to rent an apartment but their unconscious bias got in the way and led one to lose money as an en result.

Airbnb, of course, isn’t the only platform touched by discrimination; the problem affects many digital platforms designed to offer service around freelance work, ride sharing, and even dog walking, etc.

Surely, you could say, well, it is legal for anyone to not accept someone in particular to their rental apartment. Everyone has a God given right to ‘be’ a particular way or to ‘act’ a particular way, that’s true. I’d then ask you to just recognize that attitude gives anyone one of us the right to say then “I don’t like your nose and therefore I don’t work with you.”

Alienation doesn’t seem bothersome until the alienating factor becomes something that innately belongs to one of us and/or on something we had no choice over – like our eye color, the place of birth, etc.

Another example: A 2004 Journal of System and Software paper by Magne Jorgensen and Karl Halvor Teigen and Kjetil Molokken examined the preferences of bosses for accurate versus overconfident project leaders and they concluded majority of managers appear to interpret accurate estimates as a signal of incompetence. Interestingly though, overconfidence not only leads to inaccurate results most of the time, it is considered a ‘social signaling bias‘ by many of us, psychologists.

I mentor many young colleagues, who are often very early in careers or just of our school and seeking early job opportunities. I can say with great confidence, in 99% of cases in Switzerland, where I currently reside, there is no response to their applications. None. Nada. Not even to say “We have not picked you.” This is not to pick on a specific country, instead, to highlight the brokenness of a global system.

We need to acknowledge the interconnected between the individual and organizational experience. The eye we turn away from corporate practices strip the dignity and joy out of people and steals opportunity away from our businesses.

I once heard another Harvard Business School professor I respect deeply, Mahzarin Banaji say “I am very forgiving of people, who make mistakes, but not of those, who turn a blind eye to process biases.” I strongly share her sentiment.

If you are a corporate leader or an HR professional finding yourself engage in conversations around 21st century talent management practices, here is my challenge to you:

Next time you are planning for a critical recruitment opportunity or a succession planning activity, try ‘blinding‘. Ask a group of random team mates to create blind biographies (of applicants or of potential next generation leaders) stripping the irrelevant information out. Review them with one group, make a final list of ‘selection’. Then, go back to your traditional way of decision making. Go through the exercise one more time and make a final list of ‘selection’. I guarantee majority of you will discover the names that come out of blinding exercise is not going to be the same as the traditional one. And if you discover the names are not overlapping, ask yourself why and what you can do about it, recognizing we are capable of change.

As we march into 21st century world of work, we need to work actively to create an environment of ‘understanding’ – first for ourselves, then for others and for our organizations.

No one is going to do it for us.

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  • 27 August 2018