Where a growing circle of business leaders comes to share, learn, and inspire organizations to put people first

Whirling Chief


Sesil Pir

Sesil Pir

The True Power of ‘Being’

There is so much discussion in the world today around the use and misuse of power – both in our workplaces and by the individuals we consider ‘leaders’ of our very own businesses, societies, and institutions, it should come as no surprise that our comprehension, acknowledgment and practice of the concept seems obviously and greatly lacking in its essence.

In our dictionaries, power is broadly defined as “a person or thing that possesses or exercises authority or influence”.  This generally accepted definition suggests ‘power’ is more about ‘doing’ and when we engage in use of power; we’re utilising our authority to get at something or someone.

In this thought of line, and probably in line with our experiences, there seems to be many ways we perceive and arguably exercise power in our workplaces.

Coercive power is associated with those who are in an authoritative relationship with others. Connection power is associated with those who know some people considered influential. Expert power is associated with those who have expert knowledge on a given topic. Information power is associated with those who have access to information considered to be of certain importance. Legitimate power is perceived of a particular position one holds. Recognition or reward power is associated with people being consistently recognized for the results/ outcomes of their doing.

But what if power was more about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’?

What if we defined power as “a skill allowing an individual to empower another with decisions” as we do in medicine or as “energy required to effectively drive change” as we do in physics? What if the concept of power was more about our ‘being’ than ‘doing’ in business; would our way of exercise evolve?

We, human beings, by the virtue of being a living organism, interpret and modify our agencies through our very own conception of ourselves. It is only when we are unaware of the fact that everyone is granted the same degree of power by birth, we start to develop a false belief /sense of isolation. We deeply fear the unknown inside of our being, lack emotional agility to navigate our ocean of ‘wholeness’ and deny ourselves the very use of our most precious latent powers.

“Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process, we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the “integrity that comes from being what you are”.”

-Parker Palmer

Every time we engage in an organisational transformation project, we take time to have deep discussions with higher executive(s) on their individual and collective abilities present and lacking; and it becomes quickly clear that it’s often the notion of self-separation, which creates misalignment between work and meaning, self and other, power and service, strategy and execution or product and customer.

We mistakenly equate wholeness to perfection; where in reality, “life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility”.

Alain de Botton shared in his 2009 Ted Talk, most of us live our lives by definitions of others, completely disconnected from our true selves and inner wishes. “One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means” he said, “A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etc.”

What does our self-perception have anything to do with power?

See.. When we are separated from our true selves, we start to grow an external perception on ourselves. We design and build a ‘persona’ of ourselves that may or may not have authentic elements of our true beings. Think of it as living in a body of a particular profile, a character self-grown. That character often has more than a few “well-recognized” qualities and because any recognition feeds our egos, we unconsciously and willingly nourish these “well-recognized” qualities to excess until they actually dominate and dictate us and everything/everyone else around. Further, to approve our very own self-creations, we tend to form narratives, stories, and start making choices according to patterns these personas exercise and along with our imagined experiences.

This is exactly why sometimes we look at a particular person or a leader and wonder how in the world they’re rationalising this or that behavior or a given decision… They seem completely ‘disconnected’ to us because they actually are… We all are disconnected from self from time to time and especially during certain life situations; some of us just stay there longer.

And so, because we often lack an understanding of our ‘whole’  being and we strive for perfection at the same time, we genuinely struggle to trust and make space for our imperfect sides, dark corners, unintentionally stripping ourselves away from inner capacity to make choices.

The results?

What we actually see in the real world: increased egocentricity and decreased empathy.

It is true. When we become disconnected from self, we eventually become disconnected from others.

In a 2006 study, for example, Adam Galinsky and colleagues of Northwestern University primed power or powerlessness in participants and asked them to draw a capital E on their forehead with a washable marker. Those who had thought about a time they had power over someone tended to draw an E on their forehead which was correct from their point of view, but appeared mirror reversed from the point of view of someone standing opposite them. One consequence of lack of empathy and egocentricity is that it inclines us to see people as a means to our ends – more as instruments of our own goals. In another study, Deborah Gruenfeld and colleagues at Stanford University also have found evidence that if we arouse power feelings in otherwise ordinary people, they begin to see others as objects.

What now?

Talking about language, we are proposing a different definition to power.

We are ALL granted power AND equally. It is without choice and discrimination. We do have a choice, however, as to how we want to work with that gift of power. We can choose to embrace it and grow authenticity or we can choose to deny our common ground and walk away.

A critical tip for those of us having the fortune to be placed in critical positions: We are much safer to eliminate pride from our proud circumstances. Those exceptional business leaders driving impact and profit, they commit to grow consciousness and work extra hard to stay as close to self as possible despite their prestigious circumstances. They do so in service of self-empowerment and organisational growth.

Our human minds are powerful tools. Our human bodies are powerful tools. Our human emotions are powerful tools. The way in which we choose to expose, direct and focus our wholistic selves becomes a determining factor as to what we are choosing to BE, which determines what we draw and receive from the infinite wisdom inside and around us.

The true power – power of ‘being’ is what determines the kind, the quality and the quantity of what we receive and offer back in life, which is a direct reflection of our choices.

Join the conversation


  • 12 February 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development

Nº 165

The “Greatest Transformation” and Leadership


In our ‘Dispatch From Davos‘ write up last week, we shared about the Fourth Industrial Revolution being referred to as “the greatest transformation” human civilisation has ever experienced. The reasons?

  1. The Reach. Unlike any other industrial evolutions we have experienced, this time, with current technological advancements, we are able to go way beyond simple dimensions of ‘doing.’ In other words, technology is not just evolving the way we do business. For example, how we manufacture and produce things; it is actually evolving the way we consider and use our planet’s resources, the way we bond,  the way we learn, and the way we work and govern ourselves. Its scope, speed, and reach are unprecedented.
  2. The Impact. The current technologies are running on knowledge, meaning we have access and availability to collect, merge, and interpret immense amounts of data. Many states, businesses, and institutions already run on data. Further, with advanced algorithmic technologies like artificial intelligence, they are able to analyse the large chunks of data they have access to, to understand how we, human beings, function physically, psychologically, and spiritually. For the first time in human history it may be so that a company or an entity knows more about us individually and collectively than we know about ourselves.
  3. The Gap. Though we have advanced tremendously as a society over decades, we continue to struggle with immense gaps in equality, access, free-will, environment resources, and inclusion.

If humanity is going through a transition, will our businesses, too? You bet.

One study suggests that 75% of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next 15 years. Another says that one in three companies will delist in the next five years. A third shows that the “topple rate” of industry leaders falling from their perch has doubled in a generation.

It is all about value creation through experience in 21st century.

What will transform in organisations then?

There is often two kinds of transformation efforts in organisations: Strategic and operational. We think there will be a third and a very important category to 21st century transformations around culture. In an increasingly digital world, where transparency is on demand and employees, customers have greater influence, we all expect a meaningful, productive, engaging work experience. Therefore, organisations will be positively challenged to recreate innovative, integrated, inclusive experiences.

Further, we believe (business & hr) leadership needs to be in the heart of these transformation.

On Change… Back to Basics.

‘Change’ refers to a process of becoming different. It can also refer to turning one thing into something different, or even replacing, transferring, or evolving it.

The emotion of change is the biggest catalyst to change itself. Not knowledge, or the ‘what’ of the change. And not the content, or the ‘how’ of the change. It’s the emotion – the ‘why’ of the change. People don’t buy what we do, they buy WHY we do it.

In our consulting work, one of the most frequently asked questions we hear from prospects is, “Is it truly possible to reinvent an organisation – to a new model of productivity, fulfilment, meaning, and joy?”

“The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Alice Walker

It absolutely IS.

To invite and manage change effectively into an organization, however, requires a comprehensive understanding of human development and organizational psychology.

In his book, Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux describes so eloquently how humanity has evolved from the earliest forms of human consciousness into the complex consciousness of modern times. He explains how humanity evolves in stages and how there is an ongoing evolvement, a growth that defines our values and paradigms we work under.

Organizations are no different. When we think of changing a process in an organization or the organization itself, we need to think of a continuum. The level of consciousness an organization goes through from the initial introduction of a ‘change’ to consumption of that ‘change’ is a timeline. That timeline will differ, depending on a set of variables, but for any mid-to-large size change in an organization we would be looking at about 1 to 3 years of evolvement. That doesn’t mean operations have to stop and everyone focuses on the change during that period of time. No, the show must go on! The organization needs to run. It does mean, however, that the change needs to be planned, scoped, scaled, and maintained right next to day-to-day priorities to complement one another, not hinder. It needs to offer a level of flexibility for our basic needs and emotional cycles. And you will undoubtedly start seeing positive impacts of the change in those first three months.

Human Focus… People Leadership.

Getting people matters right is essential for any sustainable lean-management effort, for ultimately much of the point of a transformation is to help people achieve more—build their capabilities, increase their capacity, intensify their engagement, and develop deeper connections between purpose and meaning.

There are clear expectations when it comes to our joint opportunity to rethink our experiences. Below is a summary from 2017 Deloitte Insights on factors contributing to a positive employee experience, for example. Much to consider…

One of the very core reasons as to why organisational transformation efforts fail is because leaders tend to start driving immediately without creating the right channels to gather data and feedback from key stakeholders.

Despite what’s at stake for change, we recommend people leaders to start their process by focusing on understanding their business needs first, actively seeking for inout from their employees and customers, and then, working their way backwards to an appropriate transformation or people strategy. The same goes for HR leadership.  (If you are unsure about how to build your HR strategy, you can download our free quick tool here.)

The great transformation is not only about digitalisation and automation does not make a leaders’ role redundant. If anything, it amplifies the role of leadership in as it allows for better data gathering and mastery of renewal energy.

The essence of 21st century transformation requires more active leadership in the process than ever before…

Let us step up to it!

Join the conversation


  • 7 February 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development, Video

Nº 164

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage


Almost two years ago now, I read two books that changed my life for ever. So far, I have only talked about one from Dr. James Doty.

The second book (and I have been waiting on purpose to announce) is called Emotional Agility by Susan David of Harvard Medical School. In her book, Dr. David so eloquently reveals the unspoken about the power of our emotions and profoundly describes how by turning inwards and through deeper understanding of all our being, we can gain strength to become a better version of ourselves.

When one reflects on what’s lacking in our leadership profiles today and causing further suffering in our workplaces, it is hard to miss emotional agility as a key matter!

How many times have we come across leaders who say one thing and do another? How many times have we seen colleagues become a different version of themselves when they are promoted? How many times have we seen friends, loved ones hit the wall due to stress while trying to manage it all?

I remember not too long ago flying my self to my mom for a weekend because of deep exhaustion and telling her in tears “Everything I have worked for seems to have lost its meaning. I lost the meaning of ‘success’ “; which, in return she replied to “It seems to me that you may rather have just found out about the true meaning of ‘success’.”

That IS the paradox itself.

In my 20 years in the field, I have never come across or consulted with a single leader, who is not well-intended. I also have not come across a single colleague, who doesn’t want to do well in their jobs. I don’t have an acquaintance, a friend or a family member, who doesn’t try to cope. We all want to do our best, but that doesn’t mean we always know how… Intention can be separate from the outcome.

Majority of us don’t know what it means to be connected to self or how to relate to others. We don’t comprehend our nature as human beings. We don’t understand our roles, nor we are taught how to lead in an authentic, compassionate and unifying fashion…  Not to mention in our consumption centric cultures, we are often credited for ‘making by’; for managing through and/or for pulling off despite the odds. And it is NOT sustainable.

Let me give you a personal secret: I am not as put together as I used to be as a corporate executive 3 years ago. I forget things more often now; I am slower, more thoughtful in my responses and I ask for help more. It is an uncomfortable feeling for me because I always used to be on ‘top’. I liked being the highest performer and being respected for that. Of course, I did, it fed my ego. But, what I couldn’t admit to anyone was that I didn’t like my life. I didn’t like how I ended up relating to others as a result of my way of being. I felt totally disconnected from my authentic self.

We are human beings. We are programmed and ever learning. Those of us in leading positions (i.e people managers) are human beings, too. Our organizations are actual living organisms and can only thrive as much as its constituents thrive. As long as we deny those facts, we are going to amplify our individual and collective suffering.

In this wonderful, short and emotional talk, Dr. Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. I am incredibly thankful for having leaders like her to speak to these important matters and bringing light onto our paths.

Remember we are the artists of our lives! Only by choice, we get involved in the creation of our bright (and shared) futures.

Join the conversation


  • 5 February 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development

Nº 163

My Dispatch from Davos


Last week, I had the honor of being one of 600 women taking part in sessions at the World Economic Forum. As much as I loved joining the important conversations (and having no bathroom lines – a first!), I have to admit I found it impossible to take in all the information and digest at once. Nevertheless, if you were to ask about my biggest takeaway, I’d say that we humans are far more complex than we give ourselves (and each other) credit for and, if we want to fully embrace the changes ahead, we first need to go back to the basics. 

Before I try to summarize my notes from two memorable conversations I had, I’d like to share some general statistics (which presenters frequently referred to) you may find interesting:

  • It is calculated that in 2017, the world’s 8 richest people held the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the global population!
  • Eighty-two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw NO increase in their wealth.
  • At the current rates of change, it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.
  • The number of women in national parliaments worldwide is 23%, while in the US only 6% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Notably, WEF was co-chaired by 8 women this year, and no men!
  • 4 million jobs are projected to be displaced in the US by 2026, and those who undergo retraining to make a job transition could see an average wage increase of $15,000.
  • According to happiness guru Dan Buettner, only 40% of our emotional state is dictated by our genes and fifteen percent by our circumstances. (He urges us to pick a job we love, socialize 7 to 8 hours each day, be happily in love, own a dog, and live in the right place. Woof, good luck with all that!)
  • Worldwide more than 320 million of us suffer from depression and 25% feel we have NO one to share our stress with. According to topic expert, Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, the numbers are a reflection of a complex interaction between our environments, brain chemistry, and culture, where the majority lack self-awareness and dealing with emotions is still considered taboo.

Secondly, I’d love to share some my most favorite quotes (and there were plenty to choose from!):

“Trust must be the highest value in your company or you’re in trouble!”

CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff

“Have we actually learned the lessons of history? We haven’t really!”

 Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel

“To gain success, a person will need a high EQ; if you don’t want to lose quickly, you will need a high IQ, and if you want to be respected, you need a high LQ – the IQ of love.”

CEO of Ali Baba, Jack Ma

“… Perhaps we should ask scientists and experts and poets – especially poets! – how we should govern ownership of data…”

Historian, Yuval Noah Harari

Onto the more ‘serious’ topics:

On Digital Economy & Society…

Although we are at the very early stages of the 21st century, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is being referred to as “the greatest transformation” human civilization has ever experienced. Why? Three main reasons:

  1. Unlike any other industrial evolutions we have experienced, this time, with current technological advancements, we are able to go way beyond simple dimensions of ‘doing.’ In other words, technology is not just evolving the way we do business. For example, how we manufacture and produce things; it is actually evolving the way we consider and use our planet’s resources, the way we bond,  the way we learn, and the way we work and govern ourselves. Its scope, speed, and reach are unprecedented.
  2. The current technologies are running on knowledge, meaning we have access and availability to collect, merge, and interpret immense amounts of data. Many states, businesses, and institutions already run on data. Further, with advanced algorithmic technologies like artificial intelligence, they are able to analyze the large chunks of data they have access to, to understand how we, human beings, function physically, psychologically, and spiritually. For the first time in human history it may be so that a company or an entity knows more about us individually and collectively than we know about ourselves.
  3. Though we have advanced tremendously as a society over decades, we continue to struggle with immense gaps in equality, access, free-will, environment resources, and inclusion.

It is also interesting to note that productivity around the world has declined despite exponential increases in technological progress and investment in innovation. For example, in the US, labour productivity measured in output per hour reportedly grew an annual average of 2.4% between 1948 and 1983, then rose to 2.7% between 2000 and 2007, and later fell to 1.3% between 2007 and 2015.

Picture from the streets of Tehran by Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo, who reveals how art can transform.


So, why should we care?

Well, there are a lot of things we don’t quite know yet about this ‘great transformation,’ and many topics deserve truly targeted attention. The conversation about the future of business and our work experiences seems to have just begun. Perhaps the most important thing for us is to give ourselves and each other the necessary space to care about our humanity first, because we’ll likely have a growing need for it. Being conscious about choices we make, from how we spend our time to what we expose ourselves to, seems to be most critical at this particular time. AND, we must continue to build bridges through our voice in the conversation.

On Education, Gender, Work…

On our Whirling Chief platform, we have been discussing for over a year now how digitalization, globalization, and democratization are transforming the ways we work and learn, and disrupting some of the intake systems that have remained static for several decades. It should come as no surprise to our readers to hear it is clear we need to rethink the way we work individually, with technology, with each other, and collectively.

Across all sessions that touched on education, gender, and work, these common key issues were discussed:

  • Care & careers at the intersection of leisure and non-leisure activities, paid and unpaid jobs – especially for women and minority groups: It may be surprising for some to hear gender gaps in terms of paid work are partly a reflection of gender gaps in unpaid work. I guess the issue speaks for itself but as an example, on average, women work 50 minutes more per day than men, in terms of both paid and unpaid work combined, according to the data. The question remains: How do we drive equality across all participating groups?
  • Job creation: In many countries we need economies to keep pace with demographic dynamics and employment investments.  Also, young people seems to be disproportionately affected by global unemployment; the unemployment rate for youth is nearly three times higher than it is for the adult population. Further, with the rise of robotics now, we have a number of colleagues at risk of losing their jobs. We must ask: How do we assure equal employment opportunities for all?
  • Gender parity and dynamics: My biggest takeaway was that, in order to unlock new possibilities, we need more business leaders to drive towards equity and inclusion, and not shy away from tackling individual and organizational barriers. We do have a choice in the matter. Please do not remain silent when it comes to equity and equality!
  • Specialized education and the 21st century curriculum: I think it is fair to say there was a consensus that no single skill set or area of expertise is likely to be able to sustain a long-term career in the economies of 21st century. Our educational institutions need to reshape ways of operating and teaching to provide both in-depth subject expertise and help develop an ability for people to make inter-disciplinary connections. The question remains how do we support re-skilling and curriculum changes during the transition period?
  • New work models: Though the contingent workforce is increasing across the globe, we seem to have governments lagging behind in support. In many countries, there are no legitimate contractual agreements, benefits, or protections to accommodate some of the creative ways individuals are collaborating with corporations. So the, how do we provide equal access to all of our workforce?

For me, there was an unfortunate lack of opportunity to discuss two topics – perhaps it was discussed behind closed doors:

  1. The concept of leadership and a leaders’ role in relation to all these economic, technological, and societal advancements. Though it is very obvious that the idea of leadership evolving, just as business and society themselves evolve, it is becoming clearer (at least to me) that what we need to fear is not how technologies like artificial intelligence will ‘outsmart’ us, but how the people in power will use these technologies… Will our ‘leaders’ choose to leverage data/technology to control and manipulate us, or serve and improve the qualities of our lives? And the concept of leadership needs to evolve from having power, status, and title to serving the community.
  2. Our ways of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ as humans. Again, it is very obvious we are effected by all the change surrounding us; however, there is not enough emphasis on the relationships we have with ourselves, each other, and our environments. As an example, our relationship to technology is two-sided. We build technology to gain efficiencies and yet, at the same time, we overwhelm ourselves and each other by the pace we are co-creating. Our relationship to economy is also two-sided. As a consumer, we want to buy faster, cheaper, and better and yet, by doing so, we are contributing to the inequality and health issues. There were really no sessions focused on how we can gain better self-awareness and teach others to live more in tune with our ‘factory settings.’

What does it all mean for me as a business leader?

  • Recognize the pace of change is overwhelming for the majority of us and don’t try to brush it off.
  • Choose your words thoughtfully. For a long time now, we have adopted terminology from economists to run our businesses which, in return, moved us away from the core purpose of business itself. Challenge your brain and yourself by re-introducing an unknown: a more compassionate vocabulary.
  • Focus on the ‘whole’ self. Many of us have arrived at our executive seats through the power of doing. To our credit, that was what was needed for a long time; we needed to grow our economies. But what the world needs now from us is something slightly different. What will keep us in our seats is who we are (our WHY), NOT what we do; therefore, invest in knowing your ‘whole’ self to grow awareness and authenticity.
  • Build lasting connections. Whether a state head or a business leader, what we are seeking from one another is safety and security. Trust has been a major part of our growingly shared economies and it will be more so going into 21st century. Look for differentiated ways to connect to people.
  • Strive for simplicity. The worlds we live and work in require too much of us. Grow a love relationship with technology, data, and optimization. Whatever fails to introduce ease into the system, rethink it twice.
  • Finally, inject hope. Practice patience, active listening, and engage in joy creation. It is not our legacies that make people walk the extra mile, but the hope we insert in their hearts.

In terms of final notes, I think Pope Francis said it very well:

“The theme chosen for this year’s Forum – Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World – is very timely. I trust that it will assist in guiding your deliberations as you seek better foundations for building inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world.”

Let’s hope it does. And for the record, I have a whole new level of admiration for Jack Ma, the CEO of Ali Baba. He was the star of this show for me; not the mention I am totally and 200% in with Trudeau on happy socks. I am a firm believer that the world needs more duckies – especially in our business environments.




Join the conversation


  • 31 January 2018
Whirling Chief

HR Management

Nº 161

A Job For All: Making Our Work Experience Better…


Following our post ‘Forget Diversity, Are We Ready to Talk Inclusion‘ on Monday, I was approached by a dear colleague and was asked whether I, a “credited business person” naturally interested in further growing her business should speak/ share on topics we do via Whirling Chief. I loved the question so much, I wanted to share some of our exchange unedited because it opens such an exquisite window into the future and our mission… Special thanks to our colleague who graciously agreed for me to share their portion.

Colleague: “Are you not scared that people would take you as a, you know, getting ‘softer’?”

Me: “Oh my God, I am scared everyday. Not so much for being taken as a ‘softy’ as for giving into temptation to walk away from our mission.”

C: “Some of the language seem too flowery for business…”

Me: “I appreciate that we are approaching business from another angle now…”

C: “But, what do you expect to achieve? You certainly can’t change people’s minds on some of these topics? Business is all about bottom-line!”

Me: “Personally, I’d never want to aim to ‘change’ anyone or their thoughts. I think our team members and collaborators would agree. What we want to accomplish as a team is to provide a safe place, where business people can discuss some of the unspoken and of what’s deeply needed,  a turn around on cynical and yet sadly true perception of the dominant business culture in the world today. The old clichés about business – it being a dog-eat-dog world, only those speaking loudly win, being kind has no place at work – and I say, unfortunately, still rings true for the majority. Business has become de-humanized and impersonal. Human beings are being treated as functions or objects and often, unconsciously. ‘Change’ has lost its true meaning because it is a way of operating. We’ve advanced in our processes and technologies and yet, employee engagement levels have not moved up in the past 20 years, according to Gallup. The vast majority of people are dispirited and uninspired at work. They feel disrespected, not listened to, and devalued.” 

C: “Help me understand then how does your consulting business relate to this Whirling Chief?”

Me: “SESIL PIR Consulting GmbH continues to be the sole investor/ funds provider for our platform, but we do hope to have other sponsors in time. Currently, we have three paid team members and eleven non-paid contributors, including myself. That said, we are in the process of developing a new leadership program in collaborations with CCARE of Stanford University & a technology firm I can’t yet announce in developing new applications, which makes us very proud.”

For those who know me, have worked me, it should come as no surprise if I announce after years in people practice, traveling the world, supporting R&D, sales and manufacturing across multiple industries and having the honour to work with some of world’s most recognized leaders, I have come to realization that the way we do business and the way we lead is no longer complimentary to the demands of our modern lives nor to our way of being as human species.

There is a real suffering in our workplaces. I appreciate suffering is a heavy word; yet, there is intense inequity, impracticality, aggression, exhaustion and depression. We are being pulled from a thousand different directions all at once. We feel disconnected and lonely. There is information, sound and light everywhere. Suggestions, meetings, phone calls, new applications fly in the air: “Buy this, sell that!”, “Have you tried this app?”, “Top 10 of X you must read!”, “Did you see so and so published 5 ways to do Y?”… Oh my God, are we swooning in data? Interestingly, scientists and humanists would tell us what we need is not more confirmation or data, rather the courage to show up to our own reality.

We need to reground ourselves on the WHY of business and leadership, we need to push ourselves to learn a new vocabulary, introduce new ways of being, new ways of doing and inject hope in our precious hearts.

But it doesn’t stop there…

Technology is leading us.

IBM Research recently published a study, 5 on 5, predicting what inventions may merge into our lives in the next 5 years. When you look in detail, every one of the predictions support our case of bringing humanity back into workplace. How so?

One of the predictions IMB Research published, for example, is that with the advancement in artificial intelligence technologies, our words will be a window into our mental health: Yes, they will be! Not only we need a new vocabulary to reprogram our brains to think and feel differently, our choice of words will be used as an indicator of our well being. Another example is in the area of cognitive computing, which will introduce a whole another layer of depth and clarity into our ability to see, hopefully changing the nature of many jobs, including HR.

Our lives are much different today than they were ten, twenty, fifty years ago.

Our environment, socio-economic ecosystems are different.

Unless we take time to re-invent the way we do business and invest in the way we work, we are going to become contributors of separation, alienation, depreciation we so readily criticize. It is a fact: Those organizations that invest in employee experience out-do their competitions by four times in profit. We have a choice.

Colleague: “Are you actually able to help companies save $ by leading transformations? I won’t tell anyone. Grin.”

Me: “… Look… If a leader or a business wants to hear the typical on strategy execution or change mgmt., there is literally hundreds of consulting firms they can turn to. I have hired and worked with very best of them as an executive for many years.

We are proposing a completely different way of being. We are solving problems from inside out. We are inquiring leaders to go deep-er. To pull on the courage of being a better version of themselves and of their organizations. And yes, we are driving profit EVERY TIME!”

I will finish with a quote from Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett, one of my personal role models in life:

“In our lives, every vision must begin & end in an economic argument in order to be heard… We know in our hearts and minds that we are bigger, wilder, more precious than numbers and more complex than any economic outcome can describe…”

We believe in our mission of making work places better wholeheartedly. The question just may be: Do you?

Join the conversation


  • 24 January 2018
Whirling Chief

HR Management, Video

Nº 160

Forget Diversity, Are We Ready to Talk About Inclusion?


Good morning everyone!

Talking about a new taxonomy for leadership and people management practices, we are onto another taboo subject today: Diversity.

The definition of diversity is simple – it means having variety of a kind. The way the word is used in the industry we find, however, problematic. We say, for example, that we want diversity in the workplace. What does that mean exactly, though? Do we want different kinds of opinions in the system? Different looking people? People of different race, gender, and ethnicity to be present? Do we want different sexes?

What is it that we seek through ‘diversity’? And what happens if we have it all? What do we achieve from having so many kinds of people at work? Do we cherish having different opinions? Do we approach conversations and opportunities equally and fairly with those who look different than us? Do we show acceptance for people of different races, genders, and ethnicities than us? Do we make ‘friends’ with them? And what’s the benefit we look to have in the workplace as a result of these answers? Can you see the path of this logic?

The word ‘diversity’ is certainly more powerful when accompanied with ‘inclusion.’ However, it still does not approach the level of depth we may need to reach to overcome certain challenges in the changing global workforce. For years, in business, we have been talking about diversity as if having it in numbers would enable us to come closer together as species. It has proven untrue and not surprisingly so…

Here are a few simple facts on our changing demographics in the workplace:

  • Currently, the global workforce is made up of 51% women (49% for USA).
  • By 2030, 54% of new workers in the US will be people of color.
  • 10% of the world’s work population operates on disability.

The question remaining unanswered is: Do we find the numbers move the dial on our individual and collective experiences?

It certainly doesn’t seem so…

Aside from the recent movements (of #MeToo and #TimesUp) and a handful of organizational discoveries – thanks to a few courageous leaders and rising evidence based approach to people management, majority of companies are continuing to invest on the same approaches we’ve used since Industrial Revolution. We have long relied on diversity training to reduce bias, hiring tests, quotas, policies to increase selection.

It is time we acknowledge having numbers alone does NOT work. It is time we consider the term ‘diversity’ by definition being divisive. What do we mean?

Well, years of psychological studies would tell us when we introduce one group – any group – over another, it creates isolation for remaining groups. Isolation leads to reunification of ‘groups’ by design. Especially as we grow economically, socially and psychologically, we have more freedom to make choices. When isolated, we default to ‘fear’ mode and choose (pick) to group we feel most ‘safe’ with, whom usually are a lot similar to us. In other words, when we highlight diversity, we lead to more purification. Whether we like it or not diversity has to be managed and without inclusion, it is just a numbers game!

We need to evolve the conversation to so much more than just differences in opinion, looks, etc. We need connection, collaboration; we need to overcome our individual and group biases and increase our ability to embrace differences fully. And, yes, we need to take a step forward – an uncomfortable one for Corporate America – and love one another unconditionally.

That requires us to strip ourselves of our masks and meet at a level of humanity and acceptance.

All living beings – humans, in particular, as species – have equal right to dignity and respect.

“I accept who you are and what you bring as a valuable being to this world because we are all in one.”

That’s the level of acknowledgement we need to meet at. So, yes, we disagree with the way we have been interpreting the word ‘diversity’.

May we suggest next time you want to embrace diversity, consider things you can do to highlight similarities instead? Try starting on the basis of commonality and by building a sense of community. Remember we each preserve different values, we are pieces of a beautiful puzzle. Help us see and accept one another for what we are.

As one of my colleagues would say “There is only one way to inclusion, that’s inclusion!” Amen!!

Join the conversation


  • 22 January 2018
Whirling Chief

Leadership & Team Development

Nº 159

Escaping the Prison of Life


When was the last time you took time to educate yourself to the contrary view?

Majority of us grow up with liberal ideas (by the way of our education systems) and consider ourselves ‘enlightened’ when we reach what we consider an acceptable level of education or experience.

None at any time – unless we come across a spiritual leader or a person of wisdom we care to listen – tells us that idealism holds standards of perceived reality, which is limited to our mental qualities. Or that true evolution comes from intersections of diverse views because physically, at a hormonal level, it is very freeing for us, human beings, to grow an understanding of each other.

To make matters worse, as we excel in our professional lives, we become convicted that our ways of working is what leads us to creation and to success. The science would tell us, how ever, it is the intersections of life; interfaces that leads us to creation and potentially to success, dependent of its definition.

In Buddhist tradition, which none of us in our team belong to and yet share a ton of common values with, there is a concept called ‘Prison of Life’. Among with many other teachings, it states you can’t escape the prison of life until you know you are in one.

Our lives no longer need be prisons. We are not bound to live by fear. We live in an era of abundance. We have developed a lot. We have more safety, security, resource reach than ever.

Wise Bill Gates put it nicely as the guest editor of a new special issue of TIME aptly called “The Optimists”, saying:

“In 1990, more than a third of the global population lived in extreme poverty; today only about a tenth do. A century ago, it was legal to be gay in about 20 countries; today it’s legal in over 100 countries. Women are gaining political power and now make up more than a fifth of members of national parliaments—and the world is finally starting to listen when women speak up about sexual assault. More than 90% of all children in the world attend primary school. In the U.S., you are far less likely to die on the job or in a car than your grandparents were. And so on.”

We have so much to share gratitude and build new bridges on.

Do not look for new answers to traditional questions in a board room. Give yourself permission to experience displacement time to time.

Travel to an unknown land, watch a TV channel you don’t respect, read a book of contrary views… Do it with an open mind and an open heart… Make room to consciously wonder into a world of unknown… Consciously connect yourself to those you have an immediate reaction to… You may just surprise yourself with a way of learning… and find out there is not only room to grow, but whole a lot we share in common…

Join the conversation


  • 17 January 2018
Whirling Chief

Organizational Development

Nº 158

Collaboration over Competition


In our first blog of 2018, we re-emphasized our commitment in making work experience better for more of us. In that, we listed five ways we can improve our conditions, the first being ‘vocabulary’.

We believe deeply that we need a whole new vocabulary in business, in leadership and for our management practices. Today, we want to talk about one of those words we feel needs to drop from our dictionary.

It is called ‘competition’.

People will tell you there is ‘healthy competition’ and ‘unhealthy competition’. We find all forms of competition to be hostile. They may seem friendly on the surface but the prime motivation of any competition is often to be ‘better than someone else’, which is against our core purpose of ‘being’ as human species. It is true duality leads to better performance, meaning human beings tend to do better at cognitive tasks when they operate in a tension between comfort and pressure. This is not same as honoring the word ‘competition’ though…

Nature has a ton to teach us about collaboration. The principles of ecology and many other sciences would show us all elements at a molecular level is in collaboration with one another. It seems we may have misunderstood the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. We have not been able to grasp the richness of evolution and natural selection. Because when we look closely, we see the sophistication of how nature uses cooperation as much or more than competition to keep a balance in whole. There is no necessity for aggressive or ruthless behavior.

As an example, if we look at a group of plants, we see each plant has a need to use the resource of soil for nutrients. When researchers dig up and study the roots systems of adjacent plants, they consistently find a mix of some that were shallow, others that were deep and some in the middle. The plants along themselves have a way of developing a cooperative system for all to access the same resource (depending on their need). Healthy diverse ecosystems repeat this pattern for other resources such as, sunlight or pollination services, reducing stress on its constituents.

Not to mention Darwin, in his very own book (later published) Descent of Man and in Relation to Sex in 1871, wrote “those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best…” 

The issue is we are not trained to think this way. We are trained to think linearly and with a fixed mindset, which in simplest terms says ‘for me to gain something, someone has to lose something’. In reality, most of the time, there is enough space, resources and of the capital pie for us all to share as long as we are willing to cultivate trust, which brings another issue.

We don’t have confidence in self, in one another, nor in the system. When we hear words like compassion, kindness, heart, soul or love in the workplace, we think we are going ‘soft’. We start to fear the unknown… We make ourselves believe these virtues have no place in business because we are hear to ‘win’ and to win, we have to be tough. What we are ultimately saying is that we have more confidence in anger, in aggression, in inequity, and in hate. What we are implying is that we actually believe anger is more powerful tool than say, love. And because we subconsciously believe this, we (often subconsciously) choose to lead from a place of fear rather than love.

We need a whole new philosophy to the way we do business, to the way we lead people. But first, we need a whole new vocabulary and a whole new mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck, author of the book ‘Mindset’ shared in a HBR article in 2014 “inside those organizations where a growth mindset could be exercised, supervisors expressed significantly more positive views about their employees than their peers in fixed-mindset companies, rating them as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing”, over time leading to more collaborative and profitable environments.

Further, in the recently published, Handbook of Compassion by Oxford University, Dr. James Doty states “it has become evident that acts of collaboration, nurturing of one another and care is critical to the health and long term survival of human species.” 

Whether we accept it or not, we are connected. We need to acknowledge it, take time to understand it.

We believe it’s time for us, as business leaders and people managers to eliminate the word ‘competition’ from our dictionary. We are programmed to belong. It is our relationships that make us thrive. It is time for us to evolve our thinking to recognize people for their contribution rather than praising or pushing each other into a competition. As much as we all love praise, it is really the recognition that motivates us, human beings – the factual observation of effort rather than a compliment or a value judgement!

Learning is a human act and it is fueled by a sense of wonder. Connection is a way of being. Only if we feel safe, we will allow ourselves the space to connect, reflect and learn.

Let us help each other explore into areas of growth without a fear of ‘failure’ then. Let us choose collaboration over competition.

There is so much more cooperation happening at a cellular level in our bodies and around us in nature; let us cultivate it more actively. Now!

Join the conversation


  • 15 January 2018
Whirling Chief

From Us

Nº 156

…Let Them Become the Leaders…


First day in the office and may I say with a full, well-rested, highly energized, loving heart?

I couldn’t stop agonizing over Oprah’s Golden Globes speech from last night over today.

 “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again” she said.

What kept ringing in my ears was… 

“Make sure that they become the leaders…”

In a world of ‘modern’ we created so eloquently, our very own operating (and managing) standards no longer serve us. Did you know 48% of women report having been sexually, verbally and physically harassed at work? And let alone a sensitive topic as sexual harassment, did you know the top 3 OSHA violations in 2017 were fall protection, hazard communication, scaffolding? Seriously? We can barely provide physical protection to our people, let alone a psychological one?!

It may be true, we may be handed down a broken system, but remember progress is possible… 

We are not prisoners to our dramatic experiences or history. I/ we refuse to be a part of any community that don’t serve or care for our core being. Morality is not just about being nice to one another; it is about being a deserving group member, serving a greater purpose than itself. What we grew up with was a system of illness and yet what we need desperately is a system of wellness. 

In the world of work and in our mission to champion humanity into the workplace, that translates for us as following:

1) different words (a whole new terminology to work & leadership concepts),

2) different ways of being (serving our whole, not only cerebral parts),

3) different ways of relating (compassion, inclusion, care?!),

4) different ways of doing (integration, technology, science and date), and,

5) hope.

I remain committed to helping myself first and each and every client after – both individually and organizationally – to become the future leaders who can take us to that time… And we remain committed to our cause…

For future updates on our work and business cases, please make sure to subscribe with us at whirlingchief.com.

As always, we look forward to serving you in 2018!

Sesil Pir (on behalf of SESIL PIR Consulting GmbH and Whirling Chief teams)

Join the conversation



  • 8 January 2018
Whirling Chief

From Us

Nº 155

Business 2020


Have you found yourself having difficulty getting out of bed lately? Have you caught yourself resenting your job, your team? How about your boss? Have you felt guilty or even shame about how you feel inside and not knowing how to change it? Or perhaps you are out there yawning, unaware of how you feel?

No matter which of these experiences you may be going through, the truth of the matter is that you are not alone…

We live in a world of changes occurring at unprecedented speed and impacting with unprecedented scope.

At the beginning of the 21st century, more and more organizations are approaching the limits of the previous ways of defining, organizing, managing and governing work. Leadership, workforce, businesses and societies as a whole are facing real tensions – losing meaning and trustworthiness of their relationship. Their orientation, functionality, and adaptive capacity in an ever dynamic, complex and unpredictable world are faltering. Most businesses still rely on a way of working designed over 100 years ago for the challenges and opportunities of the industrial age where the reality was routine and static jobs in silos. These businesses are filled with struggle to adapt to the demand of innovation and evolution. Their employees are more and more disillusioned and disengaged. Many of us although with a secure work arrangement with righteous compensation and an attractive title, experience each day the struggle to find the energy to get out of bed.

Across industries and variety of sectors, about 32% of people around the world describe themselves as committed to their organization and only about 46% satisfied with their jobs.1 Some report struggling or even suffering2 as they face their work experience into each day ahead.

So… What do we do to stay hopeful? How do we find our inner purpose and a job that aligns to our mission? What do we invest in to support the renewal of our individual and collective future work experiences? What individual or organizational strategies do we build? Which leadership competencies do we develop?

My colleague Fateme Banishoeib, author of book, The Whisper  and Founder of Renew Business  and I are exploring these questions in length in our new book, name to be announced.

We are discussing the effects of globalization, digitalization and democratization while drawing on the urge to acknowledge our interconnectedness, interdependency, shared need for inclusiveness and how the evolution of our collective mindset may be supported by our individual self-consciousness.

We are inviting our colleagues, peers, leaders to go on a nature walk with us and breathe… To re-imagine what a different experience of work could be like…

To stay informed of our progress and book pre-launch events, please feel free to subscribe with us.

[1] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/phwa/workplace-survey.pdf

[2] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2016-Employee-Job-Satisfaction-and-Engagement-Report.pdf 


Join the conversation



  • 1 January 2018