Seeking the Hidden Messages for 2015


Sometimes we get so busy with life and trying to get our lives into alignment that we neglect the messages that we should be paying the most attention to.

To get your senses activated, we have embedded several messages just for you into the photo above. See how many you can find. 

During the holiday season, it’s a perfect time for reflection and planning. Take time to reflect on where you have been. Take time to plan what you want to accomplish. Sure, you have done this before but this time, here is a way to do it differently that was taught to me by Joshua Seldman who is CEO of Executive Stamina. When you plan, think about it in short periods of time.

Begin with planning your time off. How you will spend your time off is up to you. If you don’t plan your time, then someone else will. Although I am happy to have most of my holiday time planned for me there are certain things I want to ensure that I do such as getting some rest, eating well, working in my yard, and taking a nice reflective walk each day.

Plan your first few weeks of the year. Build into your time off plan a short period to reflect on your holiday time off and to plan the first weeks of the New Year.

  • How do you want them to look?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Who do you want to spend your time with, to learn from and to teach?

The answers to these questions will ensure you get 2015 off to a great start.

Plan your first few months. Building into your plan for the first few weeks, time to reflect on how you are spending your first few week of 2015 and to plan your first few months of the year.

Continue the cycle.

What are the messages you have been missing?
Have you found them in the photo above?
How will you find them in your life?

Happy Holidays
from Pris & Ed at Nelson Cohen Consulting

Wishing you a year filled with insight and wisdom.

And a HUGE thanks to all our clients for your ongoing partnership.

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4 Tips to GAIN ENERGY instead of Weight this Holiday Season

by Ed Cohen


With the holiday season right around the corner, if you’re like me then you are getting excited to be getting together with everyone to celebrate the close of the year and share our hopes for 2015. It’s a time for renewal and unfortunately a time when I usually GAIN weight. But not this year and here’s why.

I have had a successful 30+ year career as a senior learning and leadership development executive. I experienced life and business in more than 40 countries and ran around like the energizer bunny with a never ending battery.

It caught up with me in January 2012 when I was struck down with pneumonia while living in Delhi, India. My body so run down from hard work, travel and stress that it took more than 2 years to recover. By April 2014, with most of my health back but, I was still fatigued, and about 40 pounds overweight.

That’s when I connected with Joshua Seldman who runs Executive Stamina. Joshua used to be a Professional Cyclist and is the co-author of “Executive Stamina: How to Optimize Time, Energy, and Productivity to Achieve Peak Performance.” He and his team coach senior leaders from Disney, Pepsico, Barclays, and many other companies all over the world. I liked what they are doing and signed on for some coaching.

First they had me take their online energy assessment. Up to this point, I thought of energy as something that diminished with age. I had no idea it was something I could actually measure and control. As a mid-50 something, I figured being tired was my reality.

With my assessment results, my coach, Francois, taught me the concept of having small, (they call them minimums) gains. At first, I thought “no way, I want immediate returns”, but he convinced me to give it a go. Four months later those minimums became maximums and those small gains turned to big losses.

I had dropped 25 pounds and the best part was I could actually get through the day without feeling tired. I now realize my life is a marathon rather than a series of sprints.

Executive Stamina is running a series of webinars to help people gain energy instead of gaining weight over the holidays and of course I will be one of the first to sign up.  In case you’re also intereted, here’s the link for the webinar from Executive Stamina:

In the meantime, I developed my own 4 tips and am happy to share them with you.

TIP #1: How you start predicts how you will finish.

Now, I’m not a sports fanatic, but I do like statistics, especially when they work in my favor (smile). In 48 Super Bowls (American football championship games), the team scoring first wins 70% of the time. It’s one of the clearest signs of who wins imaginable. It’s the same with the holidays. The first day IS THE MOST IMPORTANT. On day one, I plan to eat healthy, exercise (probably take a short walk), and rest. Based on what I learned my chances of exercising on day 2 go up by double and by day 3, I should be on a roll. The exponential effect is a scientific fact that my Executive Stamina Coach taught me to make sure I could let go of relying on all those silly tricks.

TIP #2: “No Pain No Gain” is a LIE.

I was always taught, “No Pain, No Gain” and I used that mantra my whole life whenever I could muster the energy to go to the gym. The problem was there were many times I talked myself out of exercising because I was in pain. Well guess what, it’s all one big fat lie. When we have pain we are far less likely to return. You don’t have to endure pain to gain. Ease up and feel good about what you’ve accomplished. Your brain will remember a positive and rewarding experience. Then you will WANT to do it again.

TIP #3: Fake it ‘til you Make it

When I was overweight (I still need to lose 15, OK 20 more pounds but I no longer see myself that way) my coach told me to start thinking of myself as a fit person. It completely changed my perspective, the foods I chose and how I moved throughout the day. How do you see yourself, fit or fat? See yourself as “fit” and you will live that way.

TIP #4: One truly is the Loneliest Number

Why increase your energy, exercise, eat healthy etc. all by yourself? You chances of success are far greater if you do it with someone else. Join a local group or if that doesn’t excite you how about an online group? Maybe you prefer to declare your plan publicly on your social media page. You never have to chat with anyone, just post and know others can see. If you want to be more private, find a friend and share your plan. Maybe your friend will join you. You can each set goals and every few days share them with each other.

Cookies, candies and all those tasty drinks draw me in at the holidays, but now that I am a fit person, how much and when I will consume is going to be quite different. On that note, I think it’s time to energize.

Oh, here’s the link for the webinar from Executive Stamina:

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Indian Outsourcing: When ‘Yes’ is not ‘Yes’  

outsourcing_institute_logo-custom_oi_logoHave you ever asked a question, got an answer that sounded like ‘YES’ and then later discovered it wasn’t?  

Most people working with an Indian outsourcing company can relate to this.  Why does this happen?  The root cause is most likely cultural differences.  These differences impact time orientation, response to authority and ultimately decision making, productivity and deadlines.  More

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Diwali gift from America–
5 days, 5 Leadership Lessons

diwaliBy Ed Cohen & Pris Nelson

During our 7 years in India, we always looked forward to Diwali or Deepavali as most call it. It’s the biggest celebration of the year. Deepavali means “row of lights” hence it is known as the festival of lights.

Weeks before, lights go up, the streets are adorned with decorations and the stores stock up to tempt shoppers with sales as everyone rushes to choose new clothes, sweets to share, and the perfect gifts for each other. During the 5-days of Deepavali, do not not plan to get much sleep because there are fireworks going off constantly…all night long. In fact, that’s our only complaint about this wonderful and amazing festival. The toll those crackers have on the air quality is horrendous. It would be so much better if people would bang pots and pans for the noise and light candles to keep the air breathable. Just a suggestion <smile>.

Diwali dates back to ancient times. Some believe it started as a harvest festival similar to how Thanksgiving is celebrated in America. Others say it was the celebration of the marriage between Lord Krisha and the Goddess Lakshmi. And others say it’s celebrated in remembrance of Lord Ram’s victorious entry into Ayodhya. Whatever its origin, it has evolved into a nationwide celebration across India (and many other parts of the world).

diwali group

In celebration and in honour of our Indian friends who are leaders around the world, we share our Diwali gift– 5 leadership lessons for the 5 days of Diwali.

Lesson #1: Inclusive Leaders Build Trust Faster.

When leaders are truly inclusive, members of their teams feel there is greater equity. They trust the leader, are more engaged and more motivated.

Diwali may have its roots in Hinduism, but where we were, everyone celebrated it. It truly is an inclusive festival.

Lesson 2: Leaders have a Plan to Make each Day Count.

Leaders need a plan if the vision they put forth is actually going to become a reality. This ensures progress, keeps the process moving towards the goals and allows everyone to know what to do and when. Otherwise the vision is really just a dream.

Each day of Diwali has a different meaning and different traditions to follow. That’s its plan.

Lesson #3: Values-based Leaders do the Right Things, Right.

valuesIt’s not enough just to have core values nicely laid out on a poster. Leaders need to be reminded of the meaning of each value and they need to understand the principles behind them. Then they need to be measured on how often others observe them demonstrating those principles and behaviours.

At its core, Diwali reminds everyone to live a life full of moral values and principles.

Lesson #4: Leaders Light the Way.

diwali praLeaders need to show their people the path to success by helping them individually understand their role and how they are measured. Concentrating on developing their people “lights the path” allowing them to develop and achieve mastery. It’s equally important that leaders coach their people on collaborative relationship skills.

During Diwali, the bright lights signify the hope of finding light though darkness, achieving mastering from inexperience, and nurturing relationships.

Lesson #5: Leaders enjoy the Journey.

Leaders who build great teams know that having fun while working and creating an environment where team members enjoy spending time with each other increases productivity and decreases errors. People collaborate more because they truly care about each other when they have fun together. Imagine being on a team where everyone, even the newest members feel welcome.

Diwali brings together families, extended families, friends, and strangers. From the first year we arrived in India, we were invited to Diwali parties and gatherings. Even though we were just acquaintances we were invited and we felt totally welcome. It only took a few minutes before we felt like we were part of the circle. That was an amazing experience.

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5 Leadership Lessons:
Growing up Abused, My reflections

by Ed Cohen


We had just moved from Chicago to Miami and I had recently turned 10. It’s July 21, 1969. I was watching Neil Armstrong on our black & white TV as he stepped on the moon and said his historic words, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” when my father interrupted.

“You’re so fat. Why are you so fat?” My father, drunk as usual yelled at me.

“I don’t know,” I replied softly.

“Well if you don’t know who does?” one of his favorite lines. “Answer me!”

“I don’t know,” I repeated.

“Then I’ll beat you til you do know.”

The first contact of his belt on my bare skin stings, but I hold back not crying or he will spank me more. That was the routine…if I cried too soon, he called me a baby and spanked me more, if I waited too long, he spanked me more because it didn’t hurt enough.

Leadership Lesson #1:

It’s okay to not know the answer. Sometimes we just don’t know or we don’t feel safe saying we know and that’s fine. No one should ever be punished for not knowing or not saying.

+ + + + +

My father was always drunk and could never keep a job.

He was not a happy drunk. He was angry, spewing hateful words and often we endured brutal beatings. One day, when I was around 12, he pinned my mother under him and called my sister and I into the room. “I am going to kill your mother,” he shouted.

We watched in silence not knowing what to say or do. He held her down and pressed the blade into her chest.“My father’s killing my mother and forcing me to watch,”screamed over and over in my head.

“Get me some bandages!” he ordered. He patched her wound, got off her, and left.

We helped her up and begged her to call the police. She refused, “No. That will make him even angrier when he comes back.” When he came back he kept us all locked in the house for the entire weekend, threatening each of us, until he finally calmed down.

On Monday, I returned to school. No one knew what had happened. Everyone thought we were a happy, normal family.

Leadership Lesson #2:

Never assume anything about anyone. When someone reacts to something and that reaction seems to be out of alignment, do not make assumptions. You have no idea what’s happening in their lives. You only know what you see. This is where E.Q. and empathy is necessary that is, if you truly want to be a strong people leader.

+ + + + +

Life with my father continued this way for another year.

My parents divorced when he ran off with his best friend’s wife. I only had to endure being around him for short periods if time. He was still unstable and unpredictable however I never let him lay a hand on me ever again. In 1975, during my senior year of high school, it all ended when he took his own life.

Leadership Lesson #3:

Be the calm in the storm, know that calmly leading through chaos and turbulence is achievable. When you’ve raised in a home where life was unpredictable you learn ways deal with the unknown and find ways to remain calm even during the most turbulent times. This served me well throughout my career.

+ + + + +

When my father left, my mother insisted we all seek therapy.

Leadership Lesson #4:

An Executive Coach can help you to identify your strengths and developmental areas to prepare you to lead through chaos and turbulent times. As leaders, we are expected to be “the calm in the storm” but who takes care of us. That’s where the value of having a coach cannot be underestimated.I am not implying that coaching is therapy or that is should replace what may be the need for it.In addition to the development you gain by working with your coach, he/she can also be a sounding board during turbulent times.

+ + + + +

Leadership Lesson #5:

Know when a relationship is too toxic to stay in it. We have all been in business relationships that just were not working out.  Maybe it was with a boss or someone reporting to you, or it could have been with a customer or supplier. Regardless ending a relationship is not easy to do. It is however, an important part of being a leader. Staying in a relationship that is not a healthy one has a negative effect on everyone. It’s important to recognize no matter how much hope you have that the next interaction will be better, a relationship that is broken (and you know when it is broken) cannot be fixed with hope.

+ + + + +

They say there’s a reason for everything that happens in life.

My lessons have helped me to be a better person and leader. I’m not sharing a window into my past so you will feel sad or sorry for me. It’s quite the opposite. My story is reflecting on the past to decipher realize the lessons that have helped me on my life and leadership journey. If others can learn from my trying times without having to have them then sharing my lessons is worth it.

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Has Learning & Development fallen behind the Times?

Having just returned from the 2014 Fall CLO Symposium, we were struck by some of the conversation around how learning and development has fallen behind the times.

There were plenty of sessions on Mobile Learning which we expected and plenty of sessions of leadership and succession planning, a necessary topic with all the upcoming baby boomer retirements (21M of them over the next 15 years).

So what’s missing?  We think its time to move away from classical instructor-led learning.

Instructor led sessions should be replaced with blended learning that includes bringing people together strategically to synergize, innovate and build relationships. These sessions do not need to be instructor-led, rather they should be facilitator-led to bring about high value dialogues among the people attending.  Mobile learning, games, sims, virtual all have their place…AND we cannot underestimate the value of face to face relationships in a world where technology dominates.

As a CLO Coach, Ed Cohen helps organizations gain traction and momentum as to garner senior leader support, build innovative learning and leadership strategies and position learning as a strategic anchor.  

Ed has led 2 companies to the top in world for learning and development and has helped many more to achieve their goal of gaining a “seat at the table” as they achieve measurable business goals.  See more…

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4 “LIKES” from 2 Baby Boomers to Millennials


We have curiously observed the new generation of millennials as they entered the workforce and taken on their own persona.

We are both baby boomers. When we entered the workforce we were filled with hope and promise. It was a period of accelerated change that included the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, rock music, drug experimentation, and Woodstock. We were not deterred. We would be the generation that changed the world.

Our own careers were marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, Affirmative Action, personal computers, the internet, multiple economic rises and falls, terrorism, and pleas to save the planet. We worked hard and we worked efficiently. Yet, somewhere along the way we, baby boomers, became the exact over-worked establishment that we had wanted to avoid without really shifting anything.

Along came the multitude of corporate scandals and we lost hope. Until now. We believe the millennials with their fresh and less skeptical perspectives are truly going to shift how we live and work.

So, based on that here are 4 things we “LIKE” about Millennials @ Work:

baby to mill

1. YOU align work and life priorities.

You are the first generation we have witnessed that truly “get it” and understand the value of being multidimensional.

2. YOU have ideas that give us hope.

You are changing how business happens. In your businesses, everyone has a voice, everyone is able to make decisions and there is virtually no hierarchy. Of course, we will not see the tipping point until many of the baby boomer generation and possibly the Gen X’ers have retired. Until then we hope you will continue to build communities, spread the word, learn and refine your ways.

3. YOU work with everyone, including us Baby Boomers.

We are about to enter into a 25 year drought (see Manpower 2014 Talent Shortage Survey) where skilled knowledge workers will be scarce. Millennials reach out and work with everyone. You’re inclusive and this will work to your advantage, especially if you keep reaching out and including everyone, especially us baby boomers–who were, after all, the most adaptable generation in history.

4. YOU realize the value of relationships AND technology.

You are the first generation to be born with the technology. You are the digital natives. We were the digital immigrants. It’s great to see how much you also value face to face relationships. As long as you continue to find more ways to connect and be in community, you will achieve a level of health and happiness that leads to strong and loving relationships that we think will be better than any generation before has reached. You know that it’s about “AND” not “OR”… Relationships AND Technology.

Here are three companies we have recently encountered that are being led by Milennials. They are doing interesting work with new business models for “profit and purpose”.

  • Executive Stamina
  • Game Changers 500

What other organization are you aware of that are being led by the new generation, that are implementing new business models, and are in business for both “profit and purpose”?


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Can Integration replace Management?

IntegratorOn 22nd September, we posted an article,“R.I.P. Manager Declared DEAD”. You may want to read that for more background. It has generated a significant amount of debate with responses ranging from “leave it alone” to “spot on” to “we need to do this but how” and everything in between.

Assuming the management layer needs to be recast and the role of manager redefined and reinvented, we set out to listen to what people had to say on the subject and to hear their suggestions. The best suggestion came from who recommended “systems integrator”.

Thinking that may be too technical of a term, we dropped the word “systems” and went with “Integrator”. Those who agree we need to recast the manager role and title began to unify around the idea.

As we enter the era of “Employee Market” it is essential organizations recast roles to retain and attract talent.

Check out “Who will Win the War for Talent?” for more details on this.

The gist:

  • 10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily continuing until 2029.
  • Since 2009, there has been a rapid decline in University enrollments in the West
  • 80% of graduates in parts of the East are still unable to pass an entry level corporate exam.
  • According to the of 38,000 organizations across 42 countries, 36% of all positions are going unfilled.

The Millennial Generation Enters the Workforce

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with or maybe we should say “on” social media. In the world of social media, ALL are equal. Everyone shares their opinion regardless of age, gender, economic status, geographic location, position, etc. Additionally, this generation has primarily been raised on positive reinforcement and appreciative ways of living.

Combine all these factors and the need to reinvent the role of manager becomes apparent.

But, here’s the rub.

Millennials are not in charge yet. Baby Boomers and Geb X’ers are the primary leaders of organizations today.

This leaves us with the question: If we replace the entire management layer with an integration layer, can we achieve an outcome that satisfies those in charge and open the door to the new generation to have a satisfying experience in the corporate world?

Let’s start with the definition from Webster’s Dictionary:


1: the act or process or an instance of integrating: as

a: incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups

b: coordination of mental processes into a normal effective personality or with the environment

It has merit so far.

The organizational layer would be called “Integration”.

The role would be called “Integrator.”

An Integrator would be charged with incorporating people as equals into an organization. The Integrator is responsible for maximizing for the good of the organization and its overall purpose. This would include disparate views, production of products, development and delivery of a service offerings, or whatever the organization’s business model, in a high value, meaningful and sustainable way.

So what do you think?

Could the “Management” layer be recast as “Integration”?Could the role of “Manager” be reinvented as “Integrator”?

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Manager is DEAD

MANAGERToday, September 22, 2014, at 4:38 pm PDT, Manager was declared dead.

Manager was born 1580. Manager was a person who had controlled and directed institutions, businesses, and divisions as well as countless people for over 434 years.  That all came to an end today when its time and usefulness truly came to an end.

In this day or for that matter, in any day, should Manager have been allowed to say that one person should be allowed to have “control or direction” over another? I personally have never believed this to be the basis for a healthy business relationship. So while I honor Manager’s life, I am happy to see us moving on.

Do you believe you can actually control the thoughts and actions of another person?

One person can teach, coach and mentor another person.  One person can then influence the actions of another. However, we do not believe one person can direct the action of another individual.  Why, because, the ultimate decision to do something belongs to the individual who has the task to accomplish.

If you agree with our premise then you’ll also agree that it’s time for the role of “manager of people” to rest in peace after living a long life of over 434 years.

So what are today’s responsibilities for someone who has others reporting into him or her? Here’s a start:

  • Relationship builder
  • Influencer
  • Teacher
  • Mentor
  • Coach
  • People developer
  • Delegator
  • Resource optimizer
  • Innovator
  • Problem solver

What else would you add?

And based on these responsibilities, what should we call this role?

Rest in peace, Manager, who’s time had long past.

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My Starbucks $2 Grande Latte Experience

rahul and ed starbucks (2)I stepped off the airplane from my short flight from Hyderabad to Mumbai, gathered my luggage and walked out into the warm-N-humid day to wait for my friend Rahul who was about 15 minutes away to pick me up. I looked around to see where I could take refuge from the sultry air and the green lady beckoned me.Starbucks! I had lived in India from 2005 to end of 2009, and had been returning many times since doing coaching and leadership consulting. All this time, no Starbucks.

Stepping into the familiar scene, expecting to pay the familiar price for my Grande soy Latte….oh wait, a coffee cup with “India” on it, I spotted out the corner of my eye. Priscilla has a collection of coffee mugs from Starbucks all over the world…China, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine, Hawaii, Alaska, Belize and now India…what a find…a new one to add to her collection. I grabbed the cup and walked to the counter.

“Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your order.” Everywhere in the world, Starbucks people are trained to give great customer service.

“Yes, I would like a Grande, soy latte please.”

The price…RS 120 Rupees which is Two Dollars. I was stunned.

How could they sell the same experience in the Mumbai airport as the rest of the world for only two dollars?

Starbucks had only been in India since October 2012. When they first opened, everyone questioned whether they would make it in this primarily chai (tea) drinking country. I had attended a conference back in 2007 where the speaker polled the audience only to discover that instant coffee was the favorite coffee of India. There were many articles about Starbucks’ challenges including Can Starbucks make it in India?

I looked around and saw most of the filled seats with locals. “I guess they made it.” I thought to myself. And why?

  1. They adapted to the culture. They knew that people in India would not pay $5 for a latte. Even $2 is expensive for a latte in India. However at Starbucks you are not just buying a latte, you are buying an experience…and FREE WiFi!
  2. They have Chai on the menu. Tea drinkers can still enjoy the Starbucks experience without having to buy a cup of coffee.
  3. They partnered locally to be able to meet the price point of the local market. Starbucks and Tata are partnering in India. Tata is the largest in many markets: consulting, cars, and, yes you guessed it, coffee beans.
  4. No matter where you go in the world, people appreciate excellent service.

There are several leadership lessons we can glean:

  1. Embrace the culture to be accepted by the culture.
  2. Adapt to be the leader.
  3. Partnering helps a leader to understand the local culture.
  4. Some things are the same no matter where you go (i.e. how people want to be treated).

Sipping my hot Grande soy latte, in the nice cool Starbucks store at the Mumbai airport was a great experience. Later that evening sharing that experience with my friend Rahul in one of Mumbai’s malls in another Starbucks an even better experience.

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