Interview with Author and Leadership Coach Rosalie Chamberlain
Rosalie ChamberlainToday I'm talking to author and leadership coach Rosalie Chamberlain about her latest book, "Conscious Leadership in the Workplace", as well as the importance of employee development and what makes an effective team.

Rosalie Chamberlain is the Owner of Denver, CO-based Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching. A thirty-six year organizational culture veteran and corporate coach, she specializes in maximizing talent and productivity within organizations. She is a skilled consultant, facilitator, coach and speaker in the areas of diversity and inclusion strategy, multicultural competency, leadership development, and talent management, with expertise in managing and leveraging diverse talent and developing excellence in leadership.

Previously, Chamberlain was a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a national American Lawyer Top 100 law firm. She received her diversity and inclusion credentials from Cornell University’s Institute for Labor & Relations (ILR) and was certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and through the International Coaching Federation.

Hi Rosalie, thanks so much for stopping by our blog. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?

Yes, thank you, for inviting me to contribute. I am a consultant and leadership coach, speaker, and author, and I live in Denver, CO. I started my company Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching after moving to Denver from Atlanta, GA, where I served as the Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a large law firm. I am very passionate about helping organizations become their best and be an employer of choice. I am also committed to helping individuals become their best. I fully believe that success and performance excellence is a partnership between the organization and the individuals. It takes both working toward a common goal. Otherwise, all of the incredible talent and skills of those in the workforce will not be leveraged to the maximum potential.

When did you first become interested in leadership and team dynamics?

I think as long as I have been in the workforce, about 36+ years, I have been aware of the impact leaders have on an organization and teams. My philosophy is that we are all leaders in some form.  Whether we lead an entire organization, a group, a family, a community, a country, or our own careers and lives, we are leaders. The question is how effectively do we lead?

So I started with myself. Determining where I wanted to go and what I wanted to contribute was an important part, and I had to start with a realistic look at where I was and what I needed to do to develop further and become an effective leader.

It is about self-awareness, intention, and commitment.  You may hear me say that more than once. Any time you have more than one person involved, you have a team, and there will be dynamics within that team which will require more self-awareness to know how we are showing up. What messages are we sending to others and ourselves? So, when I began coaching approximately 15 years ago, I was committed to working on my own leadership skills and abilities and helping others with developing and perfecting theirs.

Your first book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace: A Guidebook to Making a Difference One Person at a Time is coming out on the 5th April. Could you tell us a little bit about it and your motivation for writing the book?

Rosalie Chamberlain Conscious Leadership in the WorkplaceYes, I am delighted about the book and have received several endorsements from business experts and colleagues who previewed it for me. As mentioned earlier, I was a diversity and inclusion manager, and I am a leadership coach. I work to help organizations become a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, and I coach others to maximize their influence and potential.

A disconnect can occur between an organization and its workforce when all expectations are placed on the other to make things happen and create satisfaction. It takes both. An organization can have all of the policies and procedures in place that sound great that could provide for a culture that is collaborative, successful and delivers excellence. For some of my clients, that means taking stock of where they are and setting goals for improvement.

Through collecting and analyzing data for attrition rates, implementing town hall sessions and having focus groups for brainstorming and providing feedback, they have a benchmark and can discuss ways to continually improve. It is the continual improvement that makes an organization stay current and innovative. My clients that want to be employers of choice know that this self-assessment on behalf of the organization is crucial to their success.

One of my clients has been on the Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 14 years. That being said, if the individuals involved are not doing their part and taking ownership of their behaviors in order to align with the goals of the organization, those policies and procedures are just words on paper. I have worked with leaders who were not aware of the impact their actions and behaviors were having on the success of the organization and on others’ careers. When someone has an “ah ha” moment of understanding that comes as a result of coaching and building self-awareness, it has a positive impact. It takes more than talking. It takes walking the talk. And, that takes individual responsibility.

I believe that we, as human beings, innately want to contribute and want to have influence and give our best. We are enabled to contribute when the organization has the type of culture that encourages and empowers and invites diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. However, when only a few within the workforce are willing to speak up or are asked to contribute, there is something wrong with the picture. So, my book is about increasing self-awareness to lead in a way that is transformative, empowering, and does make a difference one person at a time.

Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment or do you have any plans for future publications? 

I have some speaking engagements lined up on the topics in the book. I enjoy working with organizations and individuals to put these principles in place.

I am also involved in a dynamic project in the US called the Women Lawyers Hackathon, which is focusing on devising an innovative initiative that solves the challenge of recruiting, retaining and advancing experienced women in law firms to increase gender parity at the highest levels of a firm. I serve as one of the team consultants. There is a significant amount of brainpower involved in this project of my colleague, Caren Ulrich Stacy. These are individuals who are working to make a difference. Large law firms and corporations have challenges with gender parity. It is a critical focus.

I am also working on a few articles, and I have some ideas that could become future publications.  We'll see.

What is your favourite part of being a leadership coach assisting both individuals and teams?

Helping people build self-awareness about where they currently are with respect to their leadership and helping them develop into more effective leaders. We will discover any beliefs, blocks, and behaviors that impede success and work through them in a transformative way.

One of my clients accelerated her leadership abilities through our working on her confidence, recognizing what value she brought to the table and working on skills that empowered her to be a great team leader. In addition to having advocates in her organization who supported her, she became her own advocate and that is not always something that comes easily. Individuals have a lot of untapped talent and potential, and coaching helps it come to the surface where it may be utilized in a way that influences our career and others, as well as the organization.

In your opinion, what makes an effective team?

Collaboration is so important. In today's global marketplace, the most effective teams and organizations are the ones that have diverse talent, skills, backgrounds, styles, perspectives, and so on.  To serve a marketplace, you have to understand that marketplace and it is the collective brain power that brings the team to the best outcome. The environment has to be one that invites and inspires team members to contribute.

Also, studies and reports have been citing that millennials are looking for organizations where this happens – a culture of collaboration for unique perspectives and experiences. The younger generations are the ones that are populating organizations and as the older generations near and reach retirement, it is all the more necessary for recruiting, retaining, developing and advancing members of the workforce.

Rosalie Chamberlain
Why do you think employee development is often neglected in today's business world?

Time, funding and focus are probably the largest constraints. Many organizations are fast-paced and working to do more with less. That can lead to strains on individual time and deadlines. I do believe in the adage that it takes money to make money. Yes, there is a cost to including employee development as part of organizational structure and culture. But what is the price you pay when your organization is less competitive in attracting and keeping top talent?

Having been an employee before being a consultant and coach, I appreciated the opportunity to develop within the firm. Not only did it increase my capabilities, but it also increased my satisfaction and what I was able to contribute to the organization.  If the organization focuses on retaining and developing as critical factors for the workforce, recruiting is going to excel. There is a lot of talent out there, so the question becomes, what makes your organization unique and an employer of choice?

Why is it crucial that leaders take the time to develop the top talent within their organisation?

As noted, development leads to job satisfaction, but it also leads to innovation and better outcomes. I believe we have an innate desire to grow, and professional development is critical to satisfying that need, as well as developing the talent and skills of the individuals.

If your employees do not believe that they have the opportunity to develop and do not feel included in being a contributor to the organization, they will go somewhere else. I have watched it happen, but once someone walks out the door to go somewhere else, it is too late. Leaders need to be proactive and understand what is going on and where improvements need to be made. There are a lot of corporations looking for top talent.

Company culture is extremely important nowadays. What are some of the ways managers can establish and develop a strong office culture to keep employees motivated and engaged? 

You are right; culture is vital. An open environment that inspires and motivates contributes to a culture where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. One of my clients always enlists the suggestions of his team and lets them know that their input is desired and valued.

His team is willing to give their opinions without concern of what other team members might think. This is trust and it has to be built and trust is a tremendous factor for an excellent company culture. When you exhibit the qualities of collaboration, openness, trust, teamwork, collegiality, innovation and inclusion, you are inspiring and support a culture of excellence.

In your view, what are some of the top dysfunctions of the workplace? What are the causes and what should an employee do if things don't get better? 

One of the top dysfunctions in the workplace is the lack of understanding of the impact of unconscious bias. Bias can affect everything and everyone. We all have biases, conscious and unconscious - for or against - and they have an impact. When we know what our biases are, we can make conscious choices with that awareness. I worked with one leader who understood her biases and the consequence of letting those biases drive her decision making process. It took understanding the impact on the decisions and the overall goals that enabled her to choose how to move forward that would be best for the organization and those involved.

It is the unconscious ones that have to come to the surface before we can make those conscious choices. We are not bad for having biases, but it behooves us to know what they are. A bias is a belief or an attitude about someone, something, a group, or an event.  We often think biases are just about others, but we have beliefs (biases) about ourselves, as well. We have to know what those are in order to address what may be holding us back.

Also, leaders need to be aware of their biases about others so they can address how they may be consciously or unconsciously holding others back. I have seen biases show up when innovative ideas are offered and the leader believed “that will never work here.” It is a game changer when you have the recognition that a bias can prevent being open to a possibility that something creative, different and possibly ground-breaking can happen.

Biases do not necessarily disappear overnight. Many of them have been instilled in us for a very long time. They come from family, media, school, etc. – many sources. Accepting that we have biases is a first step, and the next step is to question whether it is true or a habitual response or belief. If nothing changes, there needs to be an avenue within the organization for employees to discuss their concerns.

A safe, confidential discussion is important. There needs to be a source within the organization to determine what falls in the category of discrimination or harassment so something can be done. Many behaviors will not fall in those categories, but they still need to be addressed. It gets back to the culture of the organization. An organization with an excellent culture will not ignore the concerns and will be committed to addressing the dysfunction.

Finally, is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

I do believe that organizational success comes as a result of the partnership between an organization and the individuals. So, whether you are leading the company or a team or your career, take the approach that you are a leader. We are all leaders.

Now, ask the question what can "I" do to contribute my maximum potential for the organization and myself. Then set an intention and commit to continue to develop self-awareness and your potential. Not only is it an investment in yourself, it is an investment in others and the organization. You can make a difference – one person at a time.

Rosalie, thank you for stopping by the Activia blog and taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership and effective teams.

Rosalie's book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace: A Guidebook to Making a Difference One Person at a Time is published today and is now available on Amazon, as well as other online booksellers.