As the latest WikiLeaks controversy rages, I think an important point is being overlooked. Regardless of your politics or position on the decision to force transparency by disclosing confidential information obtained anonymously, what the exercise really highlights the deficit of trust we have in our leaders and institutions.

While we are starved for leadership—people who are not only competent but courageous enough to make the tough decisions—we make it virtually impossible for them to exist. We set leaders up and then look for ways to tear them down. We are making it difficult for leaders to do the right thing.

I believe most of our country in the “sensible center” but that doesn’t make for a good story. Extremism, conspiracies and dramatic action are most compelling. That’s just not how most institutions work. Let’s face it day-to-day life is not that exciting—which is probably why we ask our media to jazz it up for us.

It takes time to change what’s not working, particularly if we want the changes made to last. And if we are to have any hope of reducing corporate suffering, clearly changes must be made by all of us.

If we continue to view everything as a zero sum game (if you win, I lose) then we stay stuck in strategies that are defensive in nature. That game is all about minimizing your losses and protecting what you have. There is no room for compromise or cooperation. Our leaders are not leading in this scenario, they reacting and that’s not good for anyone.

For us to have what most of us want—transparency, choice, and control—in our public and private institutions, we are going to have to make changes ourselves. To discourage bad behavior we need to acknowledge it without celebrating it. We are going to have to applaud those that are making a positive difference now—and not hold them to impossible standards of behavior. Who among us hasn’t said something we’ve regretted in the past? Does it mean our intentions should be called into question or all of our accomplishments denigrated? No.

We need to make it attractive for people to want to lead so that we have real choice. Leaders need to demonstrate that they deserve our trust but unless we are willing to give them a chance we’re going to get what we deserve.

Listening to the responses of Medal of Honor winner Salvatore Giunta as he made the media rounds last week was a refreshing experience. One interviewer said what most were thinking, “if it were me, I’d be saying ‘look at me’. Yet you don’t want to make this all about you, why not?”

His answer?

“Honestly it’s not about me. Out of all the times I have seen combat in Afghanistan, I have never been alone. I’ve never been shot at alone. I’ve never been alone since I’ve been in the Army. And this is for everyone that I have served with…all the people who are out there every single day, giving everything they have for this country that don’t wear this [Medal of Honor] around their neck. Because there are amazing acts of bravery that just aren’t documented well enough to receive this award but it doesn’t change what they did.”

Thanksgiving is the holiday where we express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation. I’m thankful Army Staff Sgt. Giunta reminded me that no one person ever achieves alone. An excellent reminder in a society that so celebrates the individual.

Thanks Team!

One of the basics of business is that what we measure determines where we focus our attention. Last year, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for countries to adopt new ways of measuring well-being because he considered gross domestic product (GDP) to be obsolete, he initiated an interesting discussion. The idea of revisiting GDP (the measure of the worth of all the goods/services a country produces in a year) is not new. But the idea that GDP should include things like personal well-being and sustainability is.

Measuring a country’s fiscal health using more than just productivity has interesting implications for business and could provide a point of leverage for those of us seeking to reduce corporate suffering. While I doubt the US will adopt Bhutan’s measure of Gross National Happiness anytime soon, just the fact that these discussions are taking place at the highest levels of government and business is a hopeful sign for all of us.

Historically American workers have worked longer hours than any other industrialized nation; however our productivity levels do not reflect that commitment. It makes sense—work too long you burn out, becoming less productive, not more. Not to mention the cost of long work hours on your health, your relationships and your community. If we measured things like maintaining a sustainable living standard, life/work balance and the psychological well-being of our citizens—as many other countries are doing—we would have to make substantive changes in our business practices to compete.

If it’s in nation’s best interest to broaden the definition of economic health, our corporations will follow along. And that would serve everyone’s best interests.

One of the most harmful long-term impacts of the current barrage of negative economic information is that people are putting artificial limits on themselves and their dreams. After all, if we’re all going to hell in a hand basket, why bother trying to go after what you really want in life?

Not only is this waste of human potential a personal tragedy, it has serious consequences for our economy, our society and our world. Innovation drives businesses and ultimately profitability—whether expressed as an incremental improvement or a wholesale change. Look around you. Everything you see came from someone’s imagination and willingness to create. If we buy into the idea that most things aren’t possible, we aren’t even going to allow ourselves to have dreams, much less go after them.

I would argue that this is the best time to go after what you want. You’ve got to admit, you don’t have much competition.

Most people are so psyched out that they’re holding on to their jobs for dear life—whether they want them or not. And those that are currently searching have been so demoralized that they’re approaching opportunities as a lifeline, not a strategic decision.

At the end of the day, the only thing you can control is how you perceive and react to events around you. If we want to end corporate suffering once and for all we have to believe that we have the ability to change our situation and the business world for the better.

Hang on to your dreams. Believe it is possible. Why settle for the Great American Outline when the Great American Novel is within your reach?

You remember him, don’t you? Eeyore is the gloomy, old stuffed donkey who has a poor opinion of all the other animals in the Forest and pals around with Winnie the Pooh. If you have a lot of Eeyores in your life not only are you negatively impacting your daily happiness, you’re impacting the economic recovery too. Yes, you’re that powerful.

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote attributed to Jim Rohn “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” meaning their world view directly impacts yours. If they see the glass as half empty, chances are you will too. Your brain actually helps you prove your point by filtering out information contradictory to your beliefs.

How does this impact the economy—and more importantly the economic recovery?

Consumer confidence impacts consumer spending which accounts for over 70% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of a country’s overall economy. Improvements in consumer spending will almost certainly result in an improved economy. But if you’re convinced nothing will ever get better chances are slim you’re going to part with your hard earned cash—much less go after that job you really want. Today, we are all much more value conscious—and that’s a really good thing in my opinion. However, to get ourselves out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves, I believe we all need to bring more balance and rigor to our thinking about what is actually going on so that our actions help stimulate the economy.

Michigan has the highest unemployment of any state. Why? Because it is overly reliant on the automotive business and manufacturing has not been a source of growth for years. Closing manufacturing plants would have happened regardless of whether the economy was doing well or not—and its impact would naturally cascade across ancillary businesses that service these companies. Unfortunate, yes. Predictable, absolutely.

Be careful about confusing economic impact related to the recession with job losses that are a result of strategic business decisions like moving manufacturing offshore or out-of-state. Remember 10% unemployment means 90% are employed. Is that optimal? Of course not. But we have a strong economic base with the ability to retrench. There is always opportunity in tough times.

Challenge the conclusions people are making about the economy and by extension your career prospects. Consciously cultivate people who see the world differently than you to help round out your worldview. Make sure the Eeyores in your life are not negatively impacting your thinking—it will make it that much harder for you to see the opportunities you actually do have.

Last night I watched “Unemployment and the 99ers” on 60 Minutes, a story about those who are still job hunting as their extended unemployment benefits (99 weeks) are about to end. I’m sure they got great ratings—and even better pass along viewership–because this kind of story allows everyone to bond together in the “it isn’t fair” camp.

The story featured people in Silicon Valley “the high tech capital many hoped would be creating jobs” and characterized the group as “those who thought they had done everything right” eg got a college degree, saved for retirement and are now unable to find work in their ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.

While there is certainly no disputing that we are in a difficult economic period not only in our country but the world, this story reinforced the idea that employees are being victimized without providing any context. Are these people in dire economic straits because they were over-extended before they lost their jobs? Were they good performers for their former employers? Was it the right business decision to let them go?

When statements like “she has only had 4 interviews in 2 years” are made, I wonder how many jobs she has applied for. Is she qualified for those jobs? Are her expectations realistic? Is she willing to be flexible? How much time is she dedicating to job hunting, networking, etc? In other words, what control has she exerted over her situation? Only then can we draw any rational conclusions about this woman’s situation.

I’m not saying there isn’t real suffering occurring for many qualified, hard-working people who are actively job hunting and unable to find comparable work in a timely manner. However, job loss is at least partly a reaction to consumer behavior. We have made doing business more expensive and are now having to deal with the consequences whether we like it or not.

Rather than ratchet up worker’s fears about what might happen to them or provide “evidence” that they’ll never find another job, why aren’t we hearing stories from companies who are innovating in this economy? What about the successes and growth areas in the economy? How about the fact that many of the most successful companies are created in a down economy—and they need skilled workers?

Wouldn’t it be more helpful to hear how others have managed successfully through a job loss than to hear that “Silicon Valley, the capital of American innovation, has a new creation: revival meetings for the unemployed”?

How to learn the difference between good career news and scary job moves

NEW YORK – October 25, 2010 — You got a promotion – that’s a good thing, right?

Could be, but then again, is your salary moving up as well? This could be a career ‘trick,’ and given the Halloween season, it may be a good time to learn how to avoid scary career moves.

“Charlie Brown isn’t the only one finding rocks in his candy bag,” says Corporate Navigator Amanda Mitchell of Our Corporate Life (ourcorporatelife.com). “Given the scary economy and our fears about keeping our jobs, don’t get spooked by what’s going on in the workplace.”

Mitchell offers the following list of career hits-and-misses:

You get a promotion with less than expected raise.

Treat Current economic realities have businesses focused on normalizing pay scales to reflect marketplace value. Ultimately, your increased skill set and title will provide more opportunities for growth and financial gain in the long term.

You’re head of an important new project that senior management is very involved with which is funded out of another group’s P&L.

Trick You have responsibility without authority. You don’t have control of all of the variables and no matter how hard you work you can’t control the outcome. Also with that much management involvement, if it goes well, you’re invisible—everyone takes credit. If it goes badly, you are left holding the bag.

Your boss leaves unexpectedly. You are given interim responsibility for the department while the “official” search is conducted (you’re in the candidate pool).

Treat If you weren’t given responsibility immediately it says you’ve not positioned yourself as a natural successor. You are being given a chance to change perceptions and position yourself for the job—while you decide if you’d actually want it.

Management voids lead to you being promoted up two levels.

Trick You’ll inevitably run into difficulty as you try to manage two levels beyond your current expertise and with limited management talent available to mentor you missteps are extremely likely. Ultimately as the company hires management talent your competitive set will be filled with those who have had more training/experience than you. Use outside resources to fill in your learning gaps. Pay attention to politics and work hard to make the best of the opportunity.

You need resources for a short-term project so the company redeploys those who are available regardless of their skill set.

Trick Management feels they’ve solved the problem by providing you with “hands” regardless of whether they are attached to viable brains and you are held accountable for any failure to deliver. With a short-term need it’s probably better to renegotiate deadlines for specific team projects and use current staff than to try to train and motivate those deployed on a short-term assignment for a group they don’t normally report into.

You are asked to bring your expertise to help a troubled department–but the department doesn’t see themselves as “troubled”.

Trick or Treat It depends how you play it. If you charge in and try to solve a problem people don’t know they have you will encounter resistance and they will do everything possible to make you fail. If you approach the group with an open mind and work with them to solve their pressing business issues you can build a cohesive functioning team.

The CEO asks you to lead a team to solve a business problem outside of your normal scope of responsibility/knowledge.

Trick or Treat If you focus on developing and leveraging the strengths of others to create a team focused on solving the problem and not the politics of the situation you will be able to lead through influencing others. That’s a big win and a lot of visibility for you. If you get caught up in being directive and managing the politics likely you will alienate others and create strong, potentially negative perceptions of yourself regardless of whether the business problem gets solved. Big loss.

Amanda Mitchell is the founder of Our Corporate Life LLC (www.ourcorporatelife.com), a company that offers a new system for reducing unnecessary workplace suffering caused by the organizational, interpersonal, and ethical issues of our time. Our Corporate Life (OCL) is founded on the belief that adhering to core human values and achieving business success are always compatible. A belief crystallized for Amanda during her corporate career each time she witnessed a company sacrifice profitability by wasting human capital.

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As I’ve watched the media footage these past few days of respected journalists practically climbing over each other bodily to get the “untold” story of the Chilean miners, I am struck by the hypocrisy of it all. We’ve created an environment where it’s perfectly alright to encourage others to invade the privacy of those we’re interested in and yet we go crazy railing against potential privacy invasions ourselves every time we hear of a company collecting data on us.

We’re not talking about celebrities here—these are blue collar working people who survived an incredible ordeal. It’s a great human interest story and it’s natural to be curious. I know I am. And I was heartened to hear that they’d decided to share potential proceeds equally. Now it appears that with all the money being thrown at these men, this agreement may not be enforced. That would be a shame but let’s face it, we all expected it…the real story will be if they can keep their word and all benefit equally.

There certainly aren’t many role models for them. Everywhere you look there’s another story of someone selling information, access, and secrets as they try to capitalize on our seemingly insatiable desire to get the “inside” scoop.

Businesses respond to market needs. The media wouldn’t be acting the way they have been with the miners if there wasn’t an audience for their work. And you can’t blame the men for putting themselves first when ungodly amounts of money are being waved in their faces–particularly when the owners of the mine have begun bankruptcy proceedings. They have to do what’s right for them and their families.

But if we’re going to encourage this type of marketplace, one that will seemingly go to any length to get the stories we’re interested in, how can we in good conscience be so outraged when companies develop technologies to uncover information about our media habits, our buying behavior and interests that will allow them to target their offerings more specifically? Can we really blame businesses when we’ve created such a market for this type of information?

Aren’t we at the very root of the problem?

The collapse of the mine in Chile has provided an interesting example of teamwork under the direst circumstances. When the news came out that the 33 trapped miners had been reached and rescue was imminent, I was struck by the conversations I heard when reporters indicated that there had been arguments about the order in which the miners would be rescued. The assumption was that the miners were arguing over who would get out first—now it appears, they were arguing about who would come out last.

How likely would that scenario be if the miners were Americans? Unfortunately, I believe, highly unlikely.

Forbes Blogger Lacey Rose wrote on Tuesday about the intense pressure these miners and their families will face as journalists jockey for position hoping to be the first to get an interview. The amounts of money being bandied about as potential fees for movie rights to their story—up to $500K—must be staggering for men who have made their living doing difficult, manual labor.

With the prospect of what must seem like unimaginable wealth dangling in front of them, what will happen to their team solidarity?

There, too, they surprise us. According to Fiona Govan of the Telegraph Media Group, the Chilean miners have drawn up a legally binding contract to stop any one individual from profiting at the expense of the group. All proceeds will be shared equally.

Well, you could argue that being in a life-or-death circumstance naturally results in a strong sense of team. Certainly it highlights the risks/benefits of interdependence.

However, it has been reported that in the early days there was a schism between the majority and a breakaway group of subcontractors who were treated as second class citizens. Somehow they were able to overcome that division, keep anyone from being marginalized and develop into a cohesive unit able to make strategic decisions about very emotional things—like who will be the first one rescued. According to their wives, the men have vowed never to talk about exactly what went on during those first few weeks before they were found.

Too bad, that’s a story that would benefit us all.

Welcome to my blog. I’m Amanda Mitchell, founder of Our Corporate Life™ and this is my first post, so right now this is a one-way conversation. I’m hoping you’ll change that and be moved to comment when something strikes a chord.

We have a big mission here at Our Corporate Life™—encouraging companies and individuals to view the world through a non-traditional lens—one where we focus not on blame but on addressing the core issues that create workplace suffering regardless of who/what caused it. Hey, if you’re going to have a mission, why not go big?

My goal for this blog is to have a constructive dialogue about what’s really happening in the workplace so that we all have a much better understanding of the corporate experience. So much of what passes for dialogue these days seems more like people talking at each other, not toeach other. It is as if everyone is more concerned with scoring points than understanding the other person’s point-of-view. There’s an awful lot of yelling going on.

We can’t create practical solutions without a good grasp of not only the immediate issues but how solving one issue cascades throughout an entire organization. If we solve your issue but create a whole lot more for other people, we’ve really not accomplished much—other than kept ourselves in business. Don’t get me wrong, we want to work…but we want to use our brainpower against the tough problems, not ones that can easily be avoided in the first place.

Through this blog, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what’s happening in the business world, those companies, associations and people that are making real headway to create a better corporate environment and those that are doing things that really get me steamed. Probably more the former than the latter because there are an awful lot of really exciting, positive developments in the work world, regardless of what you may have heard on the news.

All thoughts and comments—agree, disagree, provide hot tips—anything that helps move the conversation forward in a productive way is welcomed here. I look forward to getting to know you.

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Taking Control of Your Career® Bootcamp Content Overview

Our Bootcamp is designed to get you back to feeling like yourself fast. To avoid overwhelm, we cover critical topics sequentially so you can make small changes quickly and experience immediate results.

1. New Beginnings

We start by creating a clear picture of your desired outcome and showing how feeling stuck can benefit you. You’ll also learn how to increase your physical and mental energy and a quick (less than 5 minutes!), easy way to improve your mood.

2. Setting Yourself Up For Success

It’s easier to succeed when your environment completely supports you. You’ll learn how to easily analyze yours and bring it into alignment. We’ll also cover techniques for viewing your work situation in a neutral, productive way–allowing you to move within it effortlessly.

3. Values & Standards

Values impact your behaviors, decisions, relationships and direction in life. Yet your values are often not aligned with your workplace. Standards are what we honor because we believe they will lead us to our goals. Logically you’d think high standards would result in a superior result but just the opposite often occurs. In this session we’ll cover how to maintain your standards when they’re not shared and how to stay true to yourself without making it an issue for others.

4. How Your Best Intentions Work Against You

If you’re like most achievers, you welcome and thrive on responsibility. Sometimes, however, your life can feel like one long “to do” list leaving little time to figure out what is working – or not – in your life. We’ll cover how to retrain your teammates, how to redefine your role and the concept of “responsibility without authority” – having one without the other makes success impossible.

5. Core Beliefs

Understanding how personal beliefs drive behavior is critical to freeing you from feeling trapped. This is a deeply personal and important aspect necessary to move into action. You’ll learn how to uncover the core belief that is out of alignment and the 5 step process you can use to replace it.

6. Who is in Control of Your Life?

Control is like catnip to high achievers – we all want it. But surprisingly few exercise control in the one area where they actually have it. This cycle of relentlessly trying to get control over an uncontrollable situation is exhausting and self–defeating. Resetting expectations so you can focus on fulfilling activities will provide the energy you need to regain your perspective and take action.

7. Setting Boundaries

If you’re surrounded by those who constantly violate your boundaries it will create conflict, drama and drain your energy. When you set and maintain appropriate boundaries you will experience an almost immediate reduction of stress. We will review the 5–step boundary setting process; discuss how to hold the line without alienating others or compromising your standards, and the implications of not being able to say “no”.

8. The Path Forward

Your work each session will have helped you uncover your personal traps and provided strategies for overcoming them. We’ll do a quick review and focus on how to use your strategic plan so you’ll never get in this situation again. We’ll also review how to appropriately take responsibility, how to manage workplace expectations and perceptions and the best habits for self–management when “overwhelm” strikes again – as it inevitably will.

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