We Are Rebels Out to Humanize Workplaces

Who We Are

Our firm, Leaders for Good LLC, is a purpose-driven leadership development and work culture design firm based in Washington, DC.

We are a dynamic duo with global experience in our second careers. We equip change-makers with ways to shift out of an industrialized way of being/leading (seeing people as titles, functions, jobs, workers) to a human-centric way that puts people at the center of decisions.

We are ideas-people who bring in new perspectives to teams that facilitate transformation. We have honed our ability to facilitate change-makers to be more creative and implement innovative strategies that generate impressive outcomes with traction.

We merge consulting and coaching insights and skills into human-centric leading, a mindset and approach to change that reinforces resourceful and generative ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. We have worked in every continent except Africa, so please invite us there!

We value honesty, transparency, partnership and transformation and bring our Mediterranean passion and flair to everything we do. 

Eleni Pallas

Eleni PallasLinkedIn logo

Executive Coach, PCC

My vision for the future: we treat all humans and Mother Nature with profound respect.

My life's raison d'être: to help people free themselves from mental and emotional limits.

Shadi AbouzeidLinkedIn logo

Human-Centric Leading Amplifier

My vision for the future: create a better world for our children.

My life's raison d'être: enable individuals and teams to unleash their hidden potential.

Our Story

During 30 years of global work, we have repeatedly seen projects fail during the implementation phase because people were not aligned with the new processes or directives. As a result, we decided to create what we call the next-generation consulting firm that merges traditional consulting with leadership coaching.

What we learned throughout the years is that the work context creates a lot of the team-related problems. For instance, in organizations where people are treated like costs, there tends to be more miscommunication, conflict, talent turnover and low levels of engagement, cross-functional ideation and fantastic responses to client/customer needs or market disruption. Such organizations also tend to allow the use of criticism, judgment and blame (CJB) to varying degrees, which derails the same behavior that everyone craves such as creativity, collaboration and innovation.

We are on a journey to help leaders and change-makers make workplaces creative, fun, engaging and response in face of a fast-paced world mired in uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. 

Join us to help yourself and your team start your journey of humanizing your workplace and experience joy at work and achieve outcomes that you'd never thought possible.

Read How These Leaders Use Human-Centric Leading Across Industries

Our Ambassadors are former students or clients who use human-centric leading (HCL) at home and work. Their experiences offer a variety of case studies showing how they use HCL to affect change and improve team cohesion and their leadership impact.

You can become an Ambassador if you partake in one of our programs and use HCL on an on-going basis. If you would like to be included here, please contact us. We are delighted to document wonderful HCL change-makers everywhere.

[expand title="Tuan Vu, Humanizing the Tech World"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?


There was a deep conflict between what’s taught and referenced in society/media/television and HCL. I felt conflicted about what was expected of me; all that brainwashing from the old model as if there’s only one approach - being directive. Because work is so busy, there is no time to think or question what we’re taught, so you just absorb what you’re told about what it means to be a leader.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

The beauty of it was that I had a dialogue with the constant internal conflict inside me. I was thinking that I could stick to what I knew and stay safe - or open to another perspective that’s completely natural, yet new. I developed a different idea of leadership and cultivated my own emotions and sense of self. I started evaluating every decision I was making and asking myself, what is that decision based on? Then I started making decisions on values and it was different; it felt better.

As I reconciled using another approach to leading, to collaborating within a team, it allowed me to be more flexible. And I’m still practicing. Sometimes it feels like a struggle due to self-judgement; I still haven’t mastered being judgement-free with myself, yet.

As an engineer, I was taught how to work with predictable processes and working with people isn’t always predictable. It really requires open thinking. You’re dealing with people, not computers or processes, so it requires constant attention to what people need.

How do you use HCL today?

I use it all the time.

When I’m in a situation, instead of watching myself react fast with emotion — anger or resentment, I take control of myself. I’m the only person I need to control. I now recognize that in various circumstances, I can ask where people are coming from and understand their perspective. I use that to have a talk with that person and discuss how to do the project work in a way that creates long-term benefits, not just patching things up for the short-term. I have the skill set to identify what’s beneath the obvious and connect with people to identify what they need.

What’s different? I empathize with people — everyone, not just the people I like or agree with, but even with people who have very different perspectives. I try to understand what is going on, deliberately getting to the core issues, not just reacting to the next thing that needs to get done. It’s easy to tell someone what to do, but it could be the wrong thing to do, or just a band-aid approach and not getting to the core of what’s needed. When you seek to understand, it gives you a different perspective and you can solve the problems at the core level.

What do you get? Clarity in understanding someone’s motivation and their needs. Understanding their fears and figuring out what to do. As a leader, I’m in the business of offering a service — the service of leadership and I need to understand the requirements. What’s required by people? What do they need to do the job well, for longer-term benefits and not just to get by?

I’m really good at it now. I’m good at inquiring and learning what people need without assumptions, without judgements. I always ask — how can we work together? It’s the best form of collaboration.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

It’s a lifestyle (not a trend or fad) and that’s the beauty of it. It’s like getting in good physical shape vs merely getting buff. HCL is not something you do and then drop, you keep investing in it and continually get better and more powerful

HCL is a process. Lots of people expect a directive style from a leader, when they’re told what to do. Even when they know (what they’re told) doesn’t make sense, they do it because they want to avoid responsibility or to be able to blame. When they get HCL (vs a directive style), they sometimes wonder if there’s an agenda. They expect to be told what to do and they sometimes get scared when they’re treated with respect — they don’t trust it, at first. You can band-aid the problems but that goes on forever. You’re just reacting and not dealing with core issues to create something worth doing.

HCL gives you a sense of power — because it’s natural — it flows; it’s easy if you don’t judge yourself. It does require energy and that makes it difficult because it’s easier to do the same thing and just tell your team what to do. What helps to stay with HCL is to find other people in the same boat.[/expand]

[expand title="Elise Boivin, Bridging Local Art Lovers with Local Artists"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

Yes. From the practical element of it. I was embroiled in a corporate environment where I saw how leaders chose to lead and thought it could be difficult for them to apply HCL. Now that I’ve started my own entrepreneurial venture, it’s another matter.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

I noticed that I was personally caught up in the legacy industrial model and that I needed to learn more about myself — and appreciate myself. I also learned that I wanted and needed to be more confident in my approach, especially to use HCL, which looks at other people as humans and how they can add to the team and what the team wants to accomplish.

How do you use HCL today?

It’s definitely changed my approach. I apply it in the way I run my company — seeing people as individuals not cogs in a wheel, plus for resolving problems:

I focus on creating a positive environment for doing great work. For example with someone on my team — I respect her as a person and I respect her time. I accept the tasks at hand and ask if she wants to take them on, instead of viewing her as someone who should pick things up automatically whether she wants to or not. I don’t view her as interchangeable -- I hired her with her unique skills and inherent capabilities; I value her a lot.
I also use HCL for issue resolution. I focus on getting to the core of an issue vs surface level problems — by taking a step back, being aware of my feelings, wondering why I feel that way; being open to what other people feel and wondering if it’s surface or deeper. I use emotions as a signal that something is going on — that I should start paying attention to it and explore vs remain out of tune with emotions when I’m busy or things are moving fast. It ties into intuition; when I start to feel frustration or agitation, that’s a sign that I do not ignore; I dig deeper and wonder what's going on and always find what’s behind an issue and various ways to solve it.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

1)  Use emotions as data - a key component of HCL. It’s important from a personal and interpersonal standpoint. Instead of rejecting emotions, value them and use them as signals to explore what’s going on. Treat people with humanity and try to understand what’s happening vs just repel them or the situation.

(2)  Stop seeing people as cogs in a wheel, which hasn’t been successful at work. We need to stop that and treat people as humans, who bring a ton of unique value, in order to be able to harness it and tap each one’s full potential. We’re already moving toward that — today, machines do a lot of boring things that people used to do, so there are fewer jobs for humans and now, we humans can do other things.

From a corporate perspective, in order to progress and create value, you need to give people the free space to actually create and innovate and that takes respect — respecting their time, their energy, giving them space to explore. You can no longer have a rigid structure and expect the level of creativity that companies need to boost them to the next level.

From a personal standpoint, putting people in a box creates stress within and between them and this doesn’t work well for collaboration. When you have to prove that you’re more valuable than someone else, it’s counterproductive. There is plenty of space for each person to be considered uniquely valuable and work together well, it doesn’t have to be an either or situation.[/expand]

[expand title="Shweta Rao, Really Loves Food R&D"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

No. HCL resonated with the path I was already on with self-reflection, the practice of non-judgement and being present.

When I took this mindset to the work context, I had an “aha” moment that my attempts to understand myself in the world (in general) is the same as understanding myself as a leader in the working world.

In the past, I had demarcations in my mind: that people should behave one way in private life and another way at work. In the working world, we’re measured on a scale that doesn’t allow us to express our entire humanity, rather merely meeting specific criteria.

By the time I came to HCL class, I was already noticing that those demarcations weren’t working anymore and they were disappearing due to zen work and finding a way to “come home” to myself. We are who we are and we bring all of ourselves to work — personal life and all, regardless of the perceived demarcations.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

There was a sense of familiarity with the subject matter because of my existing inner work and partly an anticipation of how to do this in the working world. Not so much overwhelm, but I had my work cut out for me. Dealing with relationships at work, brings with it a sense of “everyday is a work day.” There is no getting “there” and being done. Previously, I could “get” somewhere and be done (success, etc.) and now, there’s no end to my learning as a leader. Everyday is different, everyday is an opportunity to grow.

Now, I consciously take on the responsibility to be at my highest self in my entirety, not merely for what’s measured at work. My leadership growth is not someone else’s job, nor is it something I take lightly. The process of being/becoming my best self is a life long journey.

How do you use HCL today?

I continue to learn who I am, understand my motivations and practice non-judgmental awareness with myself and others. In doing that, I get to show more of my human self and as a result, I approach others at work from that self — being empathic, acknowledging that everyone is doing his/her best, seeing everyone on an equal platform (as equally valuable), seeing people as people and not objects within a hierarchy.

That perspective brings respect and empathy and the ability to lead without taking things personally. It has made a huge difference — relating to people without pre-conceived notions of what they should be at certain hierarchical levels — seeing things how they are and leading from there. It has helped me relate to people better; my relationships are smoother and I am more flexible in identifying many ways to get things done.

I also find it easy now to see people’s behavior as a function of their own skill sets, not a reflection of me and who I am (when people blame or criticize, for instance). It takes the sting away from any negative things people may say, such as “nobody likes you” or “nobody likes working with you” or “nobody respects you” (HR statements). I can understand now that people who say such things are doing their best to “fix” problems with the only ways they know how; without knowing how to relate to a person on a human level to create good solutions. So, there’s no need to take things personally; we can question other people’s comments and accept that everyone has his/her own skills set and his/her own truth.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

Have the courage to face yourself with complete honesty because the more you get to know yourself, the more you can influence others positively. If you don’t know yourself, you won’t know what works for you and you’ll constantly look for external validation.

HCL is simple, but not always easy.[/expand]

[expand title="Paula Sieron, Empowering Teams in Banking"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

No. It was more of an encouragement and calming effect that this exists, it’s named HCL and it matches what I’m already doing. It resonates with what I believe in.

However, when I told my boss and colleagues about HCL, they were resistant. They said it was a waste of time; they want to be directive. They think that if you’re not being directive, then you’re wasting your time. My boss was telling me to punish my team for not doing what they were told. Carrots and sticks. BUT, when I created great results with HCL, my boss let it go.

My team members were surprised that I was spending time with them — asking about THEM, their goals, interests and needs. They felt respected, energized and eager to do their best.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

Taking the HCL class with Eleni was a life changing experience. I always knew I had a different approach to working with my team, yet actually learning about HCL allowed me to become a better leader, while remaining true to myself.

In the past, I thought that I wasn’t “leadership material” because of being too “soft,” so I didn’t think that I could take on increasingly senior positions. Now, after learning about HCL, I can lead effectively and create great outcomes, without being directive, tough or nasty. I’d never seen a leader be otherwise, but I learned that my natural approach is the best way — to be calm, generous, empathic, clear about goals and work quality -- and it works.

HCL allows me to be more confident about my leadership. I love to meet human-centric leaders and when I intuitively find them, I see who is still leading in the legacy industrial model (being directive, harsh with punishments). HCL also helps me deal with people in the old model without taking their (nasty) comments literally — I can see through their emotional reactions or drama and focus on the core issue. When I meet someone who uses the same human approach, I can collaborate quickly with them and do things well together and have fun. Now, I choose people on my teams who work in a human way and avoid people who are still in the legacy industrial model and rude or arrogant.

How do you use HCL today?

When my boss would talk AT us, rather than WITH us; blaming people and making them (literally) sick. That’s not leadership. Listen to the message people are telling you and think of things from their perspectives.

I took a deep breath and implemented HCL against the company's management model — and it worked! I witnessed changes in front of my eyes — partnerships and relationships deepened and results started to be more permanent. People felt excited and collaborated with people across teams like never before. Trust increased, so nobody sent nasty emails anymore. We exceeded our sales goals, my team was happy and motivated and I felt in my element, leading with kindness, understating, empathy and coaching rather then punishing.

HCL has been effortless for me.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

I recommend everyone to be open-minded and use the perspective of how their team members like their workplace to be, rather than what’s dictated by the management’s usual directive style. Think about the possibilities of developing the human-centric approach for everyday — really being open to see people as people and perceive it as a great opportunity to be more productive, effective and enjoy the work.

Sit on the Acropolis, which helps you go to someone’s perspective and needs and lead from there.[/expand]

[expand title="Jayanta Mukherjee, Loves Creating 'Killer Apps'"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

At first, I was skeptical. Eleni started the first session describing the human-centric leadership versus industrial model. She challenged every single principle I was taught on how to work and get things done. I was always taught that “Work is Worship” and hence, delivering the work in time with highest quality is the most important thing. Eleni encouraged us to spend more time addressing the problems of the people with whom we work. I have always been a high achiever, so why should I listen to her? My model worked. I kept feeling that I should just leave the class, but I stayed and kept listening as I had promised my wife.

At the end of first session, a lot of members in the class was sharing their experiences. For the first time in a long time, I felt that I am not the only one facing issues. In class, we had executives, directors, senior managers and other experienced professionals from different fields in banking, insurance, advertising, education and pharmaceuticals facing the very same problems that were bothering me and costing me many sleepless nights and high blood pressure.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

Through HCL, Eleni helped me identify the root causes of the issues I was having at work. To my surprise, it was not my teammates’ shortcomings, but my own thought process that kept me ”in the box” with delusions and self-deceptions. I was blaming others when the problem was entirely mine! I was not treating people as human beings, but as machines and that includes the way I treated myself. HCL forced me to look inside me to find what makes me happy and to understand my goals in life and how I can understand others’ pain and try to work with it. Eleni changed my life by making me understand that it is all inside me. The key to my happiness and success as an influential leader does not lie in others approval or denial, but on my own willingness to do a better job while understanding others’ opinions and respect everyone’s input.

I started understanding that every person is trying to do his best and whenever there is a disconnect, it is mostly due to a lack of communication. I learned how to accept others’ mistakes, as well as my own. Also, I learned not to depend on external recognition and keep doing every project in a selfless manner with sincerity and dedication.

How do you use HCL today?

A few years back, I joined Electronic Arts after leaving Windows Azure. I was excited to join one of the top video gaming companies and get the opportunity to work on Hadoop. I was focused and dedicated to my work. I got a lot of projects delivered on time with high quality. Fortunately, my work was appreciated as more and more customers started using my software. I felt more important and more passionate than ever before. I keep delivering high-end products and services and the usage of my tools and software were growing even faster. But, the sky fell on me when my manager told me during a performance review that my coworkers are not happy with me. My peer reviews were worse from my own immediate colleagues, while better from other people such as program and product managers. I was frustrated, shocked and overwhelmed with anxiety. The following questions started bothering me, but I had no satisfactory answers:

  • Why would my colleagues give such horrendous reviews while I delivered so much?
  • What did I do wrong with them?
  • Why can’t they see the quality of my work?
  • How can I change their minds?

I had one simple explanation for first three of the above questions, they were jealous as I got much appreciation from upper management. But, I had no answer to my fourth question on how to improve. Advisors had told me to get closer to people to earn their faith and to focus my energy on influencing them. But, the trouble I faced was how to influence people who hated me? Back to square one, where I need to find the answer on how to fix that.

Learning about HCL, I started seeing people as people instead of machines who had to follow my ideas or else things weren’t going well. I learned that there is not only one way of doing things — my way. I learned that when I changed my mindset, people responded to me differently. With all this awareness, I felt myself a changed man. I stopped judging people. I became less self-critical but more self-aware. Slowly people around me changed their tone towards me. For the first time in two years, I started getting more review requests from my peers. They started sharing their problems with me. I was sharing more input with them, without expecting that they will always follow my ideas. I become more open-minded to others’ ideas and feedback. My listening skills and patience improved. I now feel more accepted in my team than ever before. I started feeling more satisfied because of HCL. Recently, just few months from my last performance review, quite unexpectedly I was promoted to a senior position with a significant pay hike and was told that my impact on team had increased.

HCL revolutionized my world of thought and made me feel more accomplished from the inside.[/expand]

[expand title="Kristina Ellis, in Creative Advertising"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

No resistance at all.

It seemed so natural. I learned that I didn’t have to struggle to be a leader. Everyone is so responsive to HCL because it’s easy and rational; why haven’t we been doing this all along?

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

I left the first class excited and inspired, that I could do anything and the world was opening up. There was so much potential that I wasn’t even aware of. HCL made sense and was new to me, my own exuberance was taking shape.

How do you use HCL today?

I use it all the time with everything I do. I ask people how they feel, what they want, what’s going on in their heads, what they assume, what they can do to change the situation at hand. People are sometimes surprised by these questions, but they go along with it and it works and they like it.

I remember that people are people; they are ends in themselves and when you tap into them, they feel grateful that you care about them and things go better. People can feel when you don’t care about them. Tapping into what they care about, who they want to work with, what they want to learn, take away barriers and they light up. Let’s them shine, stretch their creative muscles. When I own HCL and reach out to other people, it expands to others.

I teach HCL at work because I found it so fantastic that I wanted my company to be more like that. My company wasn’t like that, but it had lots of room to be more human and more conscious of how we treat each other. Everyone gets caught up in their own world and forgets to think of others. My perspective is valid but it’s not the only perspective.

As a leader, I’m responsible for helping people find their own answers — remembering that everyone is human. It’s easy to forget people have their own ideas inside their heads and they’re not just pawns on a board to be moved around.

How are you experiences or results different using HCL?

I always hired great people, but I used to be heavy-handed and that limited their potential. There was some resistance to the way I used to lead; I had a bit of difficulty with people, occasionally getting frustrated and angry, saying “I don’t have time for this…” I used to think that I had to solve all the problems or else everything would go south. It put a lot of pressure on me and I’d get angry often and lash out.

Then I realized that I didn’t have to solve all the problems on my own. Everyone wants to contribute and I could trust them to do things without trying to control what they were doing. That takes the pressure off of me to figure everything out on my own. It makes my job a lot easier and I have free time to do other things. It also made me less anxious, more easy-going and calm. I don’t get angry at the office anymore or use a directive style, but I find new ways to solve problems vs lashing out in the moment.

How do I let go of control and trust people? I hire great people and put faith in them. Everyone wants to do a great things and love their work — I assume they want to do a great job. People will make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world and everyone learns and gets stronger.

As a leader, I’m responsible to bring out people’s good ideas and ownership of their own work and help solve problems.

The result is that people are happy, there’s a great team vibe, energy and the relationships are so much better. Trust is a huge foundation for relationships; it breeds openness and willingness to talk about things directly and if there’s an issue, we talk about it without anger, frustration or blame. We no longer hide things — we talk about them and find solutions. Everyone takes ownership of their work and they’re highly motivated from being autonomous. There are no complaints about my team or their work, ever.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

Think about how you like to be led — what motivates you and assume others would like that, too. We’re all human, so it’s not alien to us to understand what others want.

Also, try one or two aspects of HCL and see what seems true for you and then branch out from there. The more you dabble in it and exercise the principles and see how effective they instantly are, the more you’ll see these principles are surfacing everywhere. See articles on leadership media and you’ll see this is where everyone is evolving to — so you’re part of the new way of leading and see why it’s so powerful.

Once you start to tap people’s human potential, you’re more appreciated as a leader and people want to give you more. You’re tapping into the potential of humanity instead of just getting out a job out of people. You’ll see your credibility and influence increase as a function of HCL and people are attracted to you and want to be with you, hire you, and you become more valuable within the current legacy industrial model, as HCL actually changes the current model for the better.[/expand]

[expand title="Jonathan Del Mundo, Humanizing Health Care"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

Yes. I thought that to get results, you have to be tough and being human shows weakness in a competitive world. No one wants to be weak in a competitive world. When we redefined strength, after we explored HCL, it’s easy to ascribe to because it’s strong to be human.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

I got in touch with my emotions and started to accept that they’re part of being human and that everyone has emotions. Instead of alienating them which I used to do (I would feel them, but suppress them), I noticed what I was feeling and demonstrated that from a calm space, for instance saying “I’m angry about this or that” without saying that with an emotional charge. Due to awareness and knowing that people have feelings and seek to fill their basic needs, then I’m able to talk about emotions and what triggered those emotions instead of criticizing or disciplining. Now, I talk about problems and emotions without the threat of criticisms or punishments. My staff used to be afraid of me, now they're not.

How do you use HCL today?

In many ways. I ask my staff to write weekly reflection papers on what happened and how we could do things differently. This helps staff look at things from the Acropolis and they always come up with better ways of doing things. We’re nurses, so our work is often a matter of life and death and so, improvements are always immediately useful.

I also ask people what led them to their emotions such as overwhelm or frustration to find the triggers. Then, I work with the trigger points to solve problems. For instance, if someone takes sick days whenever they’re assigned to patients who are known as “difficult patients,” we talk about that. Maybe being flustered, inexperienced, unsure of how to help the patient feel better or other reasons triggered that nurse from avoiding a situation (because they wanted to avoid feeling badly or frustrated). When we talk about how to approach the patient and help fill his/her needs, the nurse feels better, the patient feels better and the problem is solved. Another example is how someone wants to feel throughout the day or week. We cut the day into 2 hour-increments and discuss emotions, achievements and obstacles that might come up. This helps team members feel in-control of their work lives, even when they’re constantly faced with unpredictable issues that arise with patient care.

Often times, people are unaware of their emotions and they intellectualize their emotions, then avoid them and that’s how work progress and schedules become off-kilter. When I see that, I invite people to talk about what’s going on and what’s the source of the issue, which is always behind the feelings.

I also talk about emotions without an emotional charge. I can be angry or frustrated, but not speak from that state of being angry or frustrated. When we uncover what triggers emotions, we always find the source of the problems that we couldn’t find before using HCL. I tell my staff, this success is not about me (as the head of the department), it’s about us and we need each other to create positive outcomes with our work, patients and the hospital.

When I manage upwards in the hierarchy, I let my boss vent or scream, even when she speaks very disrespectfully. I sit at the Acropolis to understand what she needs. I acknowledge her frustration and realize that she usually seeks to fill her basic needs of certainty, so I give her the information she needs to have a full picture of the situation. I stay calm and don’t take what she says as true, just true to her at the moment and stay out of a Street fight (where there’s a fight between who is right and who is wrong).

When I manage downwards in the hierarchy, I talk to my staff without blame or judgement, just facts. For instance, “Can I talk to you about a patient complaint?” I stay calm an just look for what happened from the nurse’s perspective. I talk to the patient and encourage him/her that I’ll get the problem solved; the patient has needs and is trying to fill them by pressing the call button many times, every few minutes. When you aren’t blaming anyone and just talking about the situation, people are open and will also focus on the problem to get it solved.

I stay out of gossip and encourage people to talk to each other directly. Now, when I go around the hospital floor, people congregate around me because they know I won’t criticize or blame anymore. In the past, they’d spread out and I wouldn’t be able to find anyone!

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

Get in touch with emotions because they’re the same as what others feel. For instance, feel into how it feels to be angry and then share your emotions without emotional charge — “I’m angry about….” in a calm way. This way, you’ll also know what it looks like to be angry and you’ll be able to empathize with others. When in touch with emotions, then trace back to see what triggers them. Then you can use your logic to solve the problems. You can identify and acknowledge your emotions by being still and quiet and noticing what’s happening inside you, for instance asking yourself, “Why do I feel threatened?”[/expand]

[expand title="Poonam Khurana, in Tech Services"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

While I did not experience resistance, I did have a lot of skepticism. In today's world where more and more, everything (including the leadership and management courses) is all about how to make more money, quicker and faster. HCL was different. I was not sure how the concepts of HCL, while sounding good, would and could be used in the real world.

When I first heard the term, HCL, I thought, “Sure, that’s what we all do every time anyway, right?” Turns out, I had a lot to learn.

I’d like to describe some examples from my life, where I used HCL successfully:

  • Team - When I started looking my team as irreplaceable people, I could find solutions to all the issues that would work for them as well as the organization. I had a situation in my team where as per the existing policies, one of our consultants would have had to make an unnecessary and deeply uncomfortable trip to India. Working with the legacy industrial model would have been a simple decision to ask him to do it and not complain. However, HCL enabled me to understand his problem, work the company’s issues in conjunction with his and then think of a creative solution that would not need him to travel while ensuring that the company did not incur any losses. Everyone wins!
  • Leadership of the organization – Dealing with the leadership within a company, for most people, is a time of either nerves or defensiveness and rebellion, depending on the issue being discussed. However, if we use some of the HCL principals and think about the situation from the Acropolis view rather than the Street view, then there is no judgement and no apprehension. Recently, while negotiating a new contract, I had a chance to be part of intense internal discussions on the various points. While earlier, I would either have not spoken up or presented my point in a defensive manner -- after having learned HCL, it helped me work past the heated discussions, identify the core challenges and then present a solution that helped both me and the organization.
  • Job interviews – Looking for a new job and giving job interviews is another time when a person tends to waiver between moments of confidence and uncertainty. I have recently gone through this experience and realized that (post learning about the HCL), I was able to go into an interview in a much more calm, non-judgmental and confident manner. If you think of everyone as a person with the same emotions and needs as you and realize that both the parties are going to do their best (after all, taking an interview and evaluating a person in 30-60 minutes is not an easy job either!), then you will treat the interview in a far more rational manner and come out as neither over- nor under-confident.
  • Personal – I have one teenager and another soon-to-be teenager in my home, and as many in my situation know, it has all the makings of an interesting household. However, as we learn with HCL, everyone has the same needs of wanting to feel significant, be loved and wariness of uncertainty. Everyone also wants to have hope and want to achieve a sense of contribution. A non-judgmental attitude, keeping these basic needs in mind, has helped me immensely in communicating and working through challenges with my children. We have a far more open channel of communication that I hope will help them through their teenage years, by accepting our support when needed.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

I felt myself getting more and more calm during high-stress situations. It helped to look at the assumptions that I was making and the frames I was using and change them to something that was more conducive and less stressful while giving the same or better results.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

My advice would be to approach and absorb HCL for your internal self that can then manifest externally to the environment around you. This is a course for you to learn and grow. Be selfish enough to accept that this is something you are doing for yourself and hence, in turn, for the world around you. It will not solve problems, what it will do is help you to analyze the problems in more ways than you were doing earlier. This way, you will see that you will be able to think of creative solutions for all problems.[/expand]

[expand title="Michelle Powers, In People Development"]

Did you initially experience resistance when learning about HCL?

Not at all, actually. With a background in psychology and a career in the nonprofit sector serving clients and communities, it was a natural fit for me. HCL is a rational, accessible way of thinking about leadership. What I appreciate most is that it rewards personality traits and characteristics that stray from the typical definition of what constitutes a leader - it is not about being loud, aggressive and directive. It is about responding to those around me in a mindful, non-judgmental way.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

Taking the class with Eleni was a very powerful and moving experience. We were asked to challenge our perceptions of leadership and leaders, while simultaneously finding ways to approach our lives from a completely different viewpoint. I've always been dissatisfied with the "carrot and stick" approach because humans are simply more complex than a simple behavioral response to stimulus. The old-fashioned punishment and reward system is tired, outdated and ineffective. We are talking about people - not pigeons!

As I continued to learn about HCL, I became more confident that many of the approaches and techniques that I have used as a leader were right for me all along, even when others told me otherwise. A natural capacity for empathy and the ability to stand in someone else's shoes is an incredible asset - not a deficit. As people become more stressed and overworked, the ability to connect is more crucial.

How do you use HCL today?

I use HCL in all of my interactions. It’s easy and natural to react immediately with emotion, but HCL has helped me refine how I respond and the ways I respond. It’s easy to become stressed, angry or frustrated when confronted with unexpected situations, especially if those are habitual reactions in the organizations we work. We control how we respond and our responses impact those around us. HCL is a practice and I am in constant pursuit of perfecting this practice.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

HCL goes beyond just a different leadership "style" - it truly is a different approach to life itself. It is a change in your respective consciousness that you model for others.

One of the most powerful takeaways about HCL is the notion of no longer treating those around me like cogs in a wheel, as we are taught to do through more traditional approaches to leadership. HCL is an opportunity to learn how to lead with empathy, respect and a non-judgmental approach. It takes time and practice to shift your thinking, yet you transform the way you lead. You learn a great deal about yourself in the process, too. The more you learn, the more informed you become and the more deeply you absorb the HCL approach. Eventually, HCL becomes a part of you and your ethos as a leader.[/expand]

[expand title="Sid Elbaz, The HCL Journey in Manufacturing"]

Did you initially face resistance when learning about HCL?

Yes, initially, I felt it was very hard to apply the human-centric model in an outdated industrial legacy setting. The organizational infrastructure, the common operating system, the HR policies, procedures, processes, and management behaviors must be changed to accommodate this new and emerging model. This model is well-suited to agile or learning organizations that are adopting the VUCA world that we are living in. HCL felt like a grass-roots revolution that would upend management, yet turned out to be like Leadership 4.0.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

I felt a natural inclination to human-centric leading since it's foundational to human interaction. I noticed that it was my preferred approach in dealing with people and that I thrive in workplaces where people feel seen, heard, recognized and appreciated for what they are. I noticed that I highly value workplaces that prioritize seeking the truth and insist on being open and honest about emotions in the workplace. I noticed that the best environments for me are working with other leaders who invest the time to know me well and appreciate my personal assets (in terms of talents, time, commitment, network, etc.) and whose values are aligned with mine. I noticed that the times I was most effective as a leader where the times I put people first. I noticed that if I am in a tricky situation, HCL helps me find a clear way forward.

How do you use HCL today?

I take an inventory of myself, baseline my current skills and competencies and set iterative goals for my leadership development. I develop a penetrating understanding of what my customers value — to understand their real needs, even if unspoken. I gain knowledge of my team’s talents, time, attention span, interests and networks to come up with work streams that leverage all of that. In identifying the best distribution of work, I strive to attain mutual understanding and clarity on what success means and what it takes to get from Point A to Point B. I seek the truth about the reality of the leadership situation that I am in (be it the level of collaboration, accountability issues, resources, capabilities, etc.) including taking the pulse and temperature of the emotions involved. I set iterative goals with my team to advance toward and encourage honest feedback whether on failures or successes, hence promoting excellence rather than perfection.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

Seek resilience instead of strength, which means that you stretch yourself and allow for mistakes and then bounce back instead of avoiding or resisting failure. Seek excellence, not perfection, through constant feedback. Focus on the system, the big picture, and take advantage of whichever opportunities there are to be agile or progressive. Use every opportunity to hold yourself and your leaders accountable for the values, targets and behaviors professed through corporate directives. Give honest feedback to those in more senior positions regarding the state of the organizational culture and where you want support in your human-centric approach. Be easy on yourself, your team, your colleagues, but tough on the systemic problems, solving them from their most significant roots. Focus on taking responsibility for learning from everyone and everything instead of expecting someone else to provide you with direct training. Set iterative goals for yourself to develop more human-centric leadership skills -- becoming an effective, humane leader takes time and effort, so be self-compassionate with yourself, as well.[/expand]

[expand title="Stacy Koire, Bodhisattva Warrior"]

Did you initially face resistance when learning about HCL?

Absolutely not. It totally felt right and true to me — aligned with a culmination of deeper thoughts, feelings and needs that had been developing within me as I experienced a myriad of leadership styles throughout the years that never seemed to be quite that effective nor efficient.

What did you feel or notice about yourself as you learned about HCL?

It was like discovering an oasis amidst a vast desert that I had been traveling through my whole life. It was refreshing because it made sense to me. It gave me a name for what was once nameless. And, most importantly, it gave me a framework that was simple, understandable, yet useful in a wide range of situations.

How do you use HCL today?

This journey called ‘life’ is never-ending. Along the way I have come to realize that it is natural for many people to get caught up in not seeing the big picture, or as some like to say: looking at the sky through a small straw. The sky is a metaphor for our lives. The straw is a metaphor for the outdated narratives that surround our lives and keep us addicted to the emotional states and behaviors that no longer serve our higher purpose.

HCL has given me the tools I need to breakdown old narratives so that I have the space to create new ones that allow me to see the whole sky instead of just a tiny dot through a narrow, plastic straw. It gives me the ability to get curious about people instead of just criticizing, blaming or judging them. When I get curious, then I start caring. When I let go of blame, I claim my own power. And when I step out of judgment, I step into a new freedom - one that allows me to experience the true essence of each human being as an individual.

What do you recommend to others about HCL?

As with any paradigm shift, try your best to be open to HCL and understand that it is different than anything you have experienced up until this point. It is not a usual quick fix that’s expected in our culture; it’s more like a muscle that one must build over time in order to bring about positive, progressive change.  With that being said, problems and conflict are inextricably linked to life -- they are going to exist no matter what we do to avoid them. There’s no way around it, but there is a better way through it and that’s utilizing the HCL model -- a human way of working through problems and conflict effectively and efficiently.[/expand]