Inclusive Environments

Most often found at the end of D, E&I, or the middle of DIB (Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging), inclusion 4 Ways To Improve Your Company’s Inclusion, Diversity And Equity Strategy ( is a well-worn word these days.  While Diversity is quantitative in nature, fairly easy to measure, and lends itself to granular analytics, Inclusion is more qualitative and so while we all agree it is important, many have struggled with how it should be assessed.  You have worked hard to create a diverse workforce but retaining them requires that you work equally as hard at providing an environment where everyone feels included.  

Inclusion What is Inclusion? – Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – LibGuides at Austin Community College ( providing a work environment where all people feel respected, accepted, supported, and valued, allowing all employees to fully participate in decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization, and is a challenge to measure.

Gartner proposed the following holistic questions which accurately assess the organization’s feelings around inclusion.  They can be asked individually in quick pulse surveys to certain teams or on an annual basis across the whole organization.

  1. Fair treatment: Employees at my organization who help the organization achieve its strategic objectives are rewarded and recognized fairly.
  2. Integrating differences: Employees at my organization respect and value each other’s opinions.
  3. Decision making: Members of my team fairly consider ideas and suggestions offered by other team members
  4. Psychological safety: What Is Psychological Safety at Work? | CCL  I feel welcome to express my true feelings at work
  5. Trust: Communication we receive from the organization is honest and open.
  6. Belonging: People in my organization care about me
  7. Diversity: Managers at my organization are as diverse as the broader workforce.

While many of the above questions seem qualitative and anecdotal in nature there are clear actions, we can take to ensure successful outcomes.

  1. Conduct pay equity analyses at least annually to ensure all employees at paid equitably in relation to each other 
  2. Create clear job descriptions and clear guidelines around who is eligible for and who ultimately receives promotions
  3. Train people leaders to listen more than they speak and to draw those who may be quieter into the conversation
  4. Enable small acts of kindness- Random Acts of Kindness | Welcome a handwritten note, flowers, a sincere thank you
  5. Create mentorship and reverse mentorship programs where a person can apply to be mentored or to be a mentor to a senior-level executive.  Many white males cannot possibly understand what it is like to be a woman or a Black male or female in corporate America.  Allow them the opportunity to begin to understand.  

This is not a check the box exercise, it is a journey and likely a long one, but each step along the way will provide its own rewards!

Why Do We Blame Others?

Blame Blaming Others: 6 Reasons Why People Play the Blame Game ( an excellent defense mechanism. Whether you call it projection, denial, or displacement, blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem Self-Esteem | Psychology Today by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings.  While this may seem like an excellent strategy in the short term (kind of like eating ice cream or a piece of cake when we are feeling down) it wreaks all sorts of havoc long term.  Without an awareness of our own flaws and failings we cheat ourselves of the opportunity for growth and remain stuck, dysfunctionally, where we are today, never realizing that we actually had a choice to acknowledge our part in the misunderstanding or to accept responsibility for the mistake.

Although it may seem otherwise, people who routinely blame others for their failings or flaws are usually those who suffer, even if unconsciously, from a lack of self-esteem.  They have never matured to the point where they can accept that they are not perfect and still love themselves and others unconditionally.  They feel the need to blame others and to point out flaws, wherever they believe that they exist, in some kind of winner takes all power game.  Only then can they allow themselves to sit back and revel in their righteousness. Constantly pointing out deficiencies in others is an abusive power play that masquerades as genuine concern. But it’s actually about shifting the focus and with it the responsibility for problems.    These are frequently the same people that if you pose the question “Would you rather be right or rather be happy?”  will not miss a beat in answering “Right”, because they cannot imagine allowing something wrong, no matter how minor, to be blamed on them rather than someone else.  Their egos will not hold up.

Most of the time, we’re not very good at figuring out the causes of our own behavior, let alone someone else’s. The attributions we make can be distorted by our tendency to make illogical judgments. Just because the puzzle pieces fit together in the corners of our mind, does not necessarily mean that they create the picture that was intended.  We’re just as bad at making judgments involving the blameworthiness of actions in terms of intent vs. outcome.  We frequently concoct stories in our mind where all the pieces fit together perfectly and convince ourselves that we should blame the other person because we “know” their intent.  In reality, only one person in the whole world knows what their intent was, and that is the person who took the action.

It’s easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility. Do You Accept Responsibility For Your Actions? – Good Choices Good Life There’s less effort involved in being upset with the other person than in recognizing your contributions to a bad situation or accepting the fact that you’re actually at fault and then changing your behavior and thought patterns, so you don’t do it again.  Perhaps you have been rewarded in the past for blaming others and creating a victim role for yourself. Victim Mentality: Causes, Symptoms, and More ( In the end, you need to realize that that the only person who is suffering, is you.


Tesla’s recent announcement that you can now buy one of their cars with Bitcoin has dramatically furthered the legitimacy of cryptocurrency and comes on the heels of other announcements from retailers like  Tesla’s move to back the cryptocurrency is “a potentially game-changing move for the use of bitcoin” to make retail purchases,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said in a report to investors. “We expect less than 5% of transactions to be through Bitcoin over the next 12 to 18 months however this could move higher over time as crypto acceptance starts to ramp over the coming years.

What exactly is cryptocurrency? 

Cryptocurrency is decentralized digital money, based on blockchain technology. You may be familiar with the most popular versions, Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are more than 5,000 different cryptocurrencies in circulation. A cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange that is digital, encrypted, and decentralized. Unlike the U.S. Dollar, there is no central authority that manages and maintains the value of a cryptocurrency. Instead, these tasks are broadly distributed among cryptocurrency users via the internet. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, first outlined in principle by Satoshi Nakamoto in a 2008 paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Nakamoto described the project as “an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust.”  That cryptographic proof comes in the form of transactions that are verified and recorded in a form of a program called a blockchain.

What is a Blockchain?

A blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that records transactions in code. In practice, it’s a little like a checkbook that’s distributed across countless computers around the world. Transactions are recorded in “blocks” that are then linked together on a “chain” of previous cryptocurrency transactions. “Imagine a book where you write down everything you spend money on each day,” says Buchi Okoro, CEO and co-founder of the African cryptocurrency exchange Quidax. “Each page is similar to a block, and the entire book, a group of pages, is a blockchain.” With a blockchain, everyone who uses a cryptocurrency has their own copy of this book to create a unified transaction record. The software logs each new transaction as it happens, and every copy of the blockchain is updated simultaneously with the new information, keeping all records identical and accurate. 

How is Bitcoin Mined?

The role of miners is to secure the network and to process every Bitcoin transaction. Miners achieve this by solving a computational problem that allows them to chain together blocks of transactions (hence Bitcoin’s famous “blockchain”). For this service, miners are rewarded with newly-created Bitcoins and transaction fees.

Although cryptocurrencies have seen a recent meteoric rise in value, ensure that you fully understand this volatile commodity before you invest. 

Listen to the Silence

sherrie-suski-emptyEach day we surround ourselves with noise from podcasts and social media alerts to incessant Zoom meetings with colleagues, to radio and TV.  Our world has conditioned people to crave noise.  When we aren’t listening to input, our minds are just as noisy with thoughts that are swirling about often hopping from one topic to the next as we convince ourselves that this is what is necessary to gain as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time.

How often do we stop to think that the most insightful learning sometimes comes from listening to the silence?  We have been conditioned to be silence avoidant.  If someone is not speaking for too long, we have a general feeling of malaise where we will jump in to fill the void.  Sometimes, however, the silence truly does speak louder than the words. And sometimes, the words that follow a long silence are more sincere than those that tumble out of our mouths so effortlessly.  

According to experts who spoke to the sound insulation company, Acoustical Surfaces, the fear of silence, or “sedatephobia,” is becoming more and more common, causing people to feel uneasy in quiet places or situations (think the library and awkward pauses in conversation). Interestingly enough, leading hypnotherapist, Dominic Knight, said the phobia has only surfaced within the last 50 years or so, which could suggest we live in a “much noisier world” than, say, the environment our parents and grandparents grew up in.

There’s no one root cause of a fear of silence, according to doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC. However, she tells Elite Daily, “silence generally stimulates us to be able to notice our automatic thoughts,” aka uncontrollable, and often-uncomfortable thoughts that occur when triggered by something else. Because these thoughts often cause stressful emotions to ensue, she says, “most prefer to not sit and notice their thoughts, and sound provides that relief.”

Imagine the infamous employee reference check.  You ask the prior manager if they would rehire the applicant and there is a pause that you did not expect.  You have two choices: 1) gloss over it and repeat the question or move on to something else or I have even seen recruiters answer their own question just so that the silence does not hang in the air like an early morning fog or 2) allow the pause to hang in the air and then listen very closely to what the person has to say after that pause.  There is a reason it happened.  

Being comfortable with another’s silence requires that we become comfortable with our own silence first.  Practicing mindfulness can be one way to become more comfortable.  Engaging in a daily meditation practice, whether it be for a quick five minutes in the morning or a lengthier hour in the evening, does incredible things for the human mind, such as relieving built up anxiety, quieting mental chatter, improving focus, and increasing self-esteem and feelings of confidence.

So the next time you find yourself avoiding the silence, take time to explore what is triggering your need for constant noise distraction. Appreciate the learnings that can come from silence.  

High Trust Cultures

Why spend valuable time and other resources espousing, creating and building a high trust culture?  The answer is relatively simple, it’s that high trust sustains high performance.  Consider the following statistics from Great Places to Work

  • Employees who are committed and engaged at work are 87% less likely to leave their current company.
  • Organizations with engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%.
  • The GPTW 100 Best companies have outperformed the overall market by a factor of nearly 3X.
  • Companies with engaged workforces have 5 times higher shareholder returns over 5 years.

sherrie suski high trust

In the chart above, it is clear that the Low Trust/ Low Performance cultures are in danger of closing their doors.   They will likely experience difficulty in attracting and retaining employees and those that do remain will be operating at a third of what their highly engaged counterparts are giving.  No company can sustain this environment for long.

A High Performance/ Low Trust culture may seem like it isn’t that bad, until you look closely.  The high performance is being given not out of a desire to achieve meaningful results, but out of a desire to avoid negative repercussions.  High performance cultures may attract employees, but the retention suffers.  Employees quickly realize that it is an eat what you kill environment where no one has their back.  These cultures have often times not spent the requisite time to develop and articulate a “Why” or a “Purpose”.  Employees may work exceptionally hard for a period of time, but without feeling like they are working toward something, will quickly burn out and move on to more meaningful opportunities.

A High Trust/ Low Performance culture may seem attractive from an employee point of view and likely will not have too much difficulty attracting employees, but the employees who are comfortable in these cultures are not of the driven to succeed mentality.  Fairly soon, they whole company falls into a state of mediocrity because there is no one willing to push the boundaries, no one is driving the business forward and everything remains status quo, a recipe for a painful organizational death in a world where technology has moved at warp speed.

The ideal culture is one that is founded on High Trust and High Performance. Neuroscientific research shows that trust reduces social frictions and promotes cooperative behavior among colleagues — and that managers can create high-trust, high-performance teams. Research has revealed organizational trust as a key part of culture that directly influences how willing your employees are to go above and beyond in their roles. Frictions naturally occur when humans collaborate, but at the same time, our brains are built to work in teams so there is a tension between wanting to be a team member and seeking to avoid conflicts with others by avoiding other humans. Research on the neuroscience of trust has shown that trust acts as a social lubricant, reducing social frictions so working with others is easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. And when people work more effectively together, productivity and innovation levels rise.

Building a high trust environment is not only good for your employees, but also for your business!

Preparing and Selling a Business Use Case

sherrie-suski-businessimageThe Business Use Case 

is a reference point before, during, and after a project. As the project begins the Business Use Case establishes the ultimate goal of the project for all stakeholders—including the project manager and sponsor. There are invariably concepts in the minds of the key project participants of what they expect the project to accomplish.  The vast majority of unsuccessful projects fail not because of poor project management, but because of poor decisions with respect to the choice of projects. A good business case helps to make right decisions and avoid a waste of time and resources. 

A Business Use Case should include the following categories:

Executive Summary

An Executive Summary should speak to the overarching goals of the project.  What is it, how does it benefit your company and what type of evaluation process have you gone through to narrow down the field to the top 2-3 vendors.

Vendor Recommendation

Here it is key to speak to differentiation amongst the top vendor selections.  What does each offer and why does your selection stand out as the right choice

Overview of Business Case

This is the meat of your presentation.  Talk about the purpose and scope of your projects, what the key deliverables are, who the stakeholders are and key team members that will participate in this implementation.  You can also include a brief financial summary here if warranted.

Cost Analysis

Here you can begin to break down the costs of both the software licensing and the implementation fees.  These are likely best served by breaking them into two sections as the software licensing fees are on-going where the implementation fees should be one-time costs.  It may also be helpful to add the number of hours required of the vendor and of team members in this section. 

Implementation Phases

Especially for large projects, you should break them down into phases.  Usually you will see somewhere between 3-6 phases depending on the length of time necessary for the implementation.  If various modules have been purchases, it’s a good way to showcase which modules will be implemented when.

Anticipated Benefits

This is your opportunity to sell!  Think about not only direct savings in terms of cost, time or headcount, but also costs savings that might result from decreased turnover, automation of processes, lack of errors, speed and efficiency.

What Disappointment Says about You

sherrie-suski-disappointmentWhile I know some of you will disagree, your feelings of disappointment in another person generally have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with you.  Saying “YOU disappointed ME” is not only a morale-killer, but it backfires and reveals more about you than anyone else. Whether in a personal or professional setting these words speak to how you handle life when things invariably don’t go the way you had hoped.

Avoid accountability

First, and actually the most important — as the manager, you own the work of people who report to you. Their work is your achievement or lack thereof. If they have not delivered a quality product, it is your responsibility to help them figure out why. It is not your job to point fingers, deflect blame, and pronounce that the failure was somehow an inherent part of their being.

Show disrespect

You do not see your employees as colleagues working together toward a shared goal, and you are not showing appreciation for their effort. Your words reveal an out of place parent-child dynamic, in which the focus has become your approval rather than the work itself.

Ignore learning

These words have such a sense of finality that they would bring anyone to a crushing halt. You essentially show a lack of faith that the other person can change and grow from the experience

You also make them question their own competence in the job.

Condemn quickly

You think that you are maintaining high standards, but you show that you are a harsh judge of people who are simply trying their best. Disappointment should be a last resort and should be reserved only for people who do not, repeatedly, give their full effort.

Display insecurity

You think you are calling out the other person’s shortcomings, but if you dig deep, you will find you are mainly disappointed in your own effort

Your expectation did not match up with the reality of the situation, and in frustration, you blamed someone else.

Reserve the word “Disappointed” for situations where it is no one’s fault.  “I am disappointed that the Company picnic got rained out” or “I am disappointed that the flight got delayed and we missed the presentation” In these situations, everyone is empathic and agrees.  It puts into words what many people are feeling and can unite a team.

Internal Corporate communication Strategy


When we think about the terms branding and communication, we often think about external efforts targeted at consumers of products or services which are normally the purview of marketing agencies or internal marketing teams.  However, internal corporate communications to our employee base is critically important in determining our ability to align our teams around one united purpose or mission and to effectively launch programs in support.

Developing an internal communication strategy necessitates that we consider the following:

Audience –  Who is our audience and what do we want them to hear?  Are we speaking to senior executives, investors or to our employee base?  If to the employee base, t what level should the communication be written?  Speaking to a group of data scientists may be different than speaking to a group of retail employees.

Channel/Format which channel(s) will be most effective when delivering this message?  IS this a message that can be communicated in writing or is the intent likely to be lost?  Should a live feed be followed up with video available to all who may not have been able to attend?  Is the expectation for all people leaders to waterfall the communication down through their teams?

Goals/Objectives this can be further broken down into the following categories:

Decision Making where the goal of the communication is to listen, understand all viewpoints and come to a consensus in order to be able to move forward

Information Sharing where the priority is around getting the information out and disseminated quickly, efficiently and accurately

Status Update meant to connect employees to areas of focus

Team Building crat alignment around short and long term goals and foster personal relationships on your team

Problem Solving often linked to a discussion focused on deliverables and how you as a manager, can remove roadblocks to allow your team to progress

Innovation brainstorming sessions that can focus on how to drive the company forward and gain a competitive edge

Schedule – decide how often and when this type of communication needs to occur.  There is a fine balance between over and under communicating

Responsibility – who should have the responsibility for crafting the communication and who should have the responsibility for delivering the communication.  Inherent in everyone’s responsibility is the need to follow up to ensure that the message you wanted to deliver was indeed received.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that communication plans and channels will take care of themselves.  A well-orchestrated plan with all of the above components will help to ensure that your company is both aligned and informed!


The Only Constant is Change

sherrie-suski-officeChange is inevitable in our personal lives and in our organizational lives.  Growth, without it, is impossible. Yet, instead of embracing change, most employees, and people in general, find it unsettling and approach it with trepidation.  That is the very reason that you should have a well thought out plan when it comes to introducing change to your organization.  Change Management can be thought of in three steps: 1) Preparing for the Change, 2) Managing the Change and 3) Reinforcing the Change.  

Preparing for the Change

There are a number of questions to ask as you start to prepare for change across an organization and the larger the company, the further in advance you need to start.  It is not unusual in a very large organization to see a change management effort span 2-3 years.  Be ready to:

  • Establish Organizational objectives- determine what you are trying to achieve or what problem you are trying to solve
  • Identify Groups Impacts- determine who the change might impact
  • Identify individuals impacted- note if any salary adjustments are warranted
  • Readiness assessments- conduct assessments to determine if your organization is ready to make a change and how much, if any, resistance you will face
  • Identify risks, potential resistance- talk openly about risks and how you would mitigate those.  Would people leave? Would they become less engaged?
  • Document Strategy- document everything in a project planning tool like Asana, so everyone can add to it
  • Build team structure- contemplate a team structure and decide who will be responsible for which initiatives
  • Create a sponsor model- where do you need your sponsors and at what levels of the organization
  • Prepare sponsors- meet with your sponsors.  The questions they have are likely the ones your workforce will have

Managing the Change

Once you are ready to roll it out, think through the following:

  • What needs to be communicated – what and how should you communicate.  What channels will you use and who is responsible for drafting and then communicating?
  • What Coaching do we need- should you engage a coach or firm whose primary objective it is to run these types of change initiatives
  • What training is needed- who needs to be trained and on what and how will they receive the training
  • How will we manage resistance- where do you expect resistance to come from and can you get ahead of it
  • What does success look like- imagine that everything went smoothly, which it won’t, but it’s important to have a vision for the goal

Reinforcing the Change

Once you have rolled it out, you will need to reinforce it through multiple channels and multiple times.  You will feel like the communication is overkill, but I guarantee, someone will say “ I was never notified of this”.  Some of the ways you can reinforce the change are:

  • Collect individual feedback- whether in person or through surveys, it’s good to know how people are reacting
  • LISTEN to impacted employees
  • sometimes employees just want to vent and that should be OK
  • Audit for compliance- since you went to all the trouble to make the change, you do want to ensure that it actually stuck, so figure out how you will audit
  • Measure that change has taken place- contemplate up front what measures of success look like.  Is time to market faster? Is there less turnover?
  • Identify gaps and develop appropriate responses- no matter how much time you spend, something will always be overlooked.  Figure out what it is and course correct.
  • Celebrate Success- don’t forget to celebrate and thank the people that made this all possible!

The time you spend up front detailing a well thought out change management plan will pay huge dividends upon execution.

Employee Experience Platforms – Improving the Moments that Matter

sherrie-suski-workerEmployees today expect to have the same quality digital experience at work as they do as a consumer/customer outside of work. Companies are responding by shifting their focus to address the full employee experience and those that figure out how to make their employees’ experience as wonderful as their customers’ experience will certainly have a competitive advantage.

It’s also about ensuring that in today’s often-fragmented organizations, employees feel connected to their work and their colleagues, understand the organization’s purpose and their place in it and can easily find the information they need for tasks ranging from making benefits choices to furthering their education and development. They are looking for that true omnichannel experience.

Employee experience platforms allow HR leaders to build employee journeys, develop apps, create and monitor workflows, and add chatbots and other forms of conversational interfaces to the mix. They can be used to facilitate communication of major events, such as a transformation the organization is undergoing or M&A activity with broad reaching impact.  It can also be used to help employees address, with self-serve capability, major life events, such as getting married or going on a leave of absence.

For example, ServiceNow,  is an HR service delivery portal that can be integrated with Workday.

While Workday is the system of record for transactions, ServiceNow is the system of action for services. It is used for on-boarding, self-directed benefits open enrollment, LOA’s, payroll changes and offers search capability for HR questions through a portal.  The two highly renowned platforms are integrated through synchronization of employee profile information in the HR application with your organization’s current Workday solution.

A positive employee experience is more than just a nice to have.  It is directly correlated to better customer service, improved sales, and top-line revenue growth and reduced costs. It’s much more than, say, just providing a good experience via a smooth payroll transaction.

An exceptional employee experience requires things like showcasing employee opportunities for growth, encouraging them to make important decisions, take prudent risks and innovate and demonstrate that they are a part of a winning team!

These platforms can be used to create and deliver “rich content,” including images and videos, that are branded to the company.  For example, the platform can deliver personalized push notifications to employees based on their roles. Cleaning staff, for example, will see regular reminders of how their job helps prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses during flu season.

Changing behavior takes time—it’s about messaging, measuring and iterating and having the technology platform that makes it possible.