Look… We’re All Human, Right?

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Look, we’re all human. Right?

We all have good and bad personality traits. Right?

We all change and grow as we become more seasoned leaders. Right?

And in this uncertain and complex world, we all need to give each other some slack and help each other become the best we can be. Right?

Okay, so here is my dilemma.

My colleague, let’s call him Tom, is a real jerk.

He is always, and I mean always, arguing that his way is the best way. He talks about all the work he has done with his “expensive and talented executive coach.”

Yet, while he uses the most popular vernacular of today about mindsets, he has not, and I mean never, changed his mindset in the three years I have been working on the same team with him.

He thinks he is a great, compassionate, and inclusive leader.

Then, how come all the executives on his team think he is, as I mentioned earlier, a jerk. A jerk who is always talking about how evolved he is. It’s bull!

Is his a mind-set or mind-trap? 

No one can argue with him. He just tells everyone they need to do work on their negative mindsets, just like he has done with his “expensive and talented executive coach.”

Look, I know there are tons of books on child and adolescent development. What about adult development?

Are we merely the product of how we were raised? Are we doomed to repeat the behaviors of the past, even if we have expensive coaches?

I am not just asking about Tom. I am also asking for myself.

Look, if we are all destined to grow in our early years of adulthood and then start to whither away, not just physically, also emotionally and mentally, I will just accept what is and work around his/my ego limitations.

However, if there is another way, I’m all ears.


Need an expensive coach

Dear Need,

Interestingly, I have been getting tons of emails asking what I think about the study of mind-set as the core of leadership development work. 

Yes, learning about positive and negative mind-sets is crucial for executive development.

HOWEVER, the issue, as I see it, is that it is being parroted in the coaching arena as the only way to be a real leader. Change your mindset like you change your underwear and all will be good.

Big question is, “What does it take to make deep and lasting change?”

There are a few excellent books I can suggest. Maybe give one to your colleague Tom as a holiday gift. And gift yourself with one.

  1. Go Suck a Lemon: Strategies for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence by Michael Cornwall: About the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. 
  2. What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman: Guides values for now and the next generation at work. 
  3. Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman: The secret of success is not what they taught you in school. 
  4. Unlocking Leadership Mind-traps: How to Thrive in Complexity by Jennifer Garvey Berger 
  5. Don’t Bring It To Work by Sylvia Lafair: About how family, culture, and crisis show up at work when stress is high. 

I have a list of maybe 20 books that are really good. Yet, I didn’t want to overwhelm you. 

As you can see, I added my book here since you talked about what a jerk your co-worker Tom can be and, in my book I discuss the 13 most common behavior patterns (you can call each one a jerk!) that come from family and show up at work. 

Examples are the pleaser, the avoider, the persecutor/bully, the super-achiever, the rescuer, etc.

These are deeply ingrained “mind-sets” that can become “mind-traps” if not faced and transformed. 

I suggest you talk with Tom about mind-sets as well as begin the discussion about mind-traps when the ego must win by being right rather than happy.

I also want to acknowledge you NEED for asking questions about what can be done differently, rather than just throwing Tom to the wolves, so to speak.

I believe that we are facing a time to ask ourselves and each other what we can do to make healthy changes while we all face an invisible force in the global pandemic.

Let me know how I can help,


P.S. If you would like a copy of my Pattern Aware Success Guide that is a companion to Don’t Bring It To Work please send me an email and it is my gift to each of yousylvia@ceoptions.com

P.S.S. Here is the link to offer to Tom or whoever,  to get my newsletter every Wednesday.

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Sylvia Lafair