How to Engage & Retain Millennials

Business and organizational leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about how to retain talented millennial employees, because they know that their organizations will only be sustainable with a cadre of employees committed for the long term.  Here’s a clip of a recent interview I gave to the MEECO Institute that addresses steps managers can take to increase the engagement and retention of millennial employees: 

Successful business people celebrating with a high-five

The Hazards of Mindlessness

I recently experienced the hazards of mindlessness. I was getting ready for a dinner party and couldn’t reach the plates I wanted, so I stood on a counter height chair to reach them. As I was getting the plates down, I was distracted by a news story on T.V. I lost my focus and tumbled to the ground. Fortunately, I was not hurt too badly, but the episode could have easily ended in disaster.

For the past 3 years, Judith Sugg and I have been providing training to organizations that want to integrate mindfulness techniques to improve individual and organizational effectiveness. Through this work and my own experiences integrating mindfulness practices into my own life, I have been able to see how mindfulness can decrease stress, improve communication and enhance productivity.

I am now acutely aware of the continuous attention and effort that is required to truly integrate mindfulness into our lives. My “mindlessness” incident made me think about all the times we create problems because we lack focus and intent. How many car accidents and falls occur because we are distracted?

And, how much miscommunication happens because we are not thinking about the impact of our words on others?

I ask you to consider how you and the people you work with are impacted by mindlessness. And think about how safety and workplace relationships can be improved when people become more mindful.


 Alisa Blum, MSW and Judith Sugg, PhD are principals at AIM for Organizational Health.   Information about their programs can be found at  They can be reached at or (503) 481-7586.

It’s Time to Focus on Respect


As the public has become increasingly aware of the sexual harassment and sexual assault women have been receiving in the workplace, there has been much discussion about what to do to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault at work. The solution to the prevention of the behaviors that lead to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace is quite complex as legal issues, corporate culture and individual behavior change all need to be addressed.

One way to prevent this abhorrent and destructive behavior is to create a culture of respect in the workplace.   So, how do we do this?

First, it is important to develop the capacity to reflect on your own behavior. Are you communicating with others in a way they find demeaning? Do you even know if you are communicating in this manner? Do you have the courage to find out? What would happen if men in executive positions asked female employees what types of behaviors they found disrespectful — And then, changed behaviors that the female employees found to be offensive? If these discussions were modeled and encouraged by executives, would others in the organization feel free to have these discussions?

Creating a safe environment is key to developing a respectful workplace.   One way to create a safe environment is to demonstrate empathy. Whether you agree with the other person’s perspective or not, put yourself in their shoes and show them that you understand their perspective and their feelings.

When developing new strategies to create a respectful workplace, collaborate with others. Our best solutions happen when we ask for input and capitalize on the strengths of those we work with day to day. And finally, when all of these aspects of respect are put in to place, you will create a thriving work environment.

Keep this acronym in mind to help you remember the qualities for creating a respectful workplace:




Perspective taking




Employers can’t afford to wait to take the steps now to create a respectful work environment.

© 2017, Alisa Blum, Alisa Blum & Associates, All Rights Reserved

Alisa Blum & Associates works with businesses and organizations to build relationships that enhance individual and team effectiveness.  Information about our services can be found at

Can You Resolve Conflicts Mindfully?

By Judith Sugg, PhD and Alisa Blum, MSW

AIM for Organizational Health


How much time do you think a typical manager spends dealing with workplace conflicts? Would it surprise you to learn that managers typically spend 25-45% of their time dealing with workplace conflicts? Consider the consequences of unresolved conflict such as distraction from the work that needs to get done, employee turnover and harassment allegations. What are the potential business costs?

Our responses to conflict are hardwired into our brain. Some of us automatically engage (and may get verbally or physically aggressive when provoked) while others automatically withdraw.

Healthier engagement in conflict requires that we choose, rather than react. The seeds for developing a choice are found in self-awareness and mindfulness, both of which ameliorate our brain’s natural alarm response and provide that moment of re-evaluation.

So what is the opposite of destructive conflict? Perhaps it is curiosity and creativity — both products of focusing attention, opening our minds, and staying in the present. The powerful benefit of this shift is a real and true engagement, a real if uncomfortable connection, between two humans. In this engagement, the shift to problem-solving an issue, rather than judging a person is easier. Resolution uses reason and skill, and one can learn and become better at the engagement. The only way to become better at destructive conflict is to have a bigger bomb.

Fortunately, with practice and increased skill, we can all learn to resolve conflicts at work. Imagine how the workplace would change if managers are spending less time dealing with workplace conflicts and more time helping employees become more productive, enhancing innovation and creating a positive atmosphere.

 Tips to resolve conflict mindfully can be found in our book, “Transforming Conflict with Mindfulness: 100 Lessons for More Presence & Skill in Resolving Conflicts”.   Contact us for a free consultation at or (503) 524-3470.


Enhance Leadership Success by Building Trust








Stephen M.R, Covey, in his book, The Speed of Trust, says that when trust is developed and leveraged it is “that one thing that has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity.”  Our experience and research (Interaction Associates, 2013) tell us that teams that trust each other, and workers who trust their leaders, are simply more productive and effective. And probably happier.

Whether we are talking about family, or friends, or the workplace, the trust we feel is about predictability and reliability, as well as respect for the quality of the actions. Think about someone you trust — don’t they show skill in their actions, do what they say, and are consistent? When we feel trust towards someone, especially a leader or boss, we are willing to do more, sometimes risk more, learn something, and make the effort.

Certainly, we bring our individual history, beliefs, and values to a situation. Many of us have people in our past who didn’t deserve the trust we gave them. They didn’t do what they should have done in their position, they let us down, their words didn’t match their actions, and their values weren’t in tune with what we think is important.

It’s really not much different at work. A leader who inspires trust does what he/she says. They communicate clearly and fully. They see the best in their team and are ready for problems. They are open and self-aware. They have commitment to the goals of the team or organization, and they inspire us to commit also. When we are in their presence, they are really there. Some people might experience as safety. We feel known, and while no worker or leader is perfect, feeling trust inspires us to be better.

Trust is a sense or feeling. We have this feeling in our body, and often know whether or not we “should” trust a person. At some point, each of us decides that we have enough information or evidence to trust another person. However, most of us have flawed gauges. Maybe we trust too easily and get stepped on. Maybe we are biased and negatively evaluating someone because of their culture (or race, gender, culture, age, even clothes). Knowing our personal tendencies biases (and confronting them) is a strong step towards calibrating trustworthiness accurately.

If you are a leader, you may not have thought about your presence in terms of whether or not people trust. Now is a good time to reflect:

  • Trust is based on history and consistency: Is my behavior aligned with stated values and consistent?
  • Is there anyone I need to rebuild trust with?
  • Are there situations in which I can build trust and become more transparent by encouraging questions and answering honestly?

A good way to start enhancing trust is to pick one of these questions to discuss with your employees. Let them know you want honest and constructive feedback. See how this changes the relationship.

Judy Sugg, Ph.D. and Alisa Blum, MSW, provide leadership development that incorporates mindfulness techniques and skills to enhance emotional intelligence. We can be reached at (503) 481-7586 or

How Mindfulness Can Prevent Burnout Among Healthcare Providers

The strong desire to help others, along with natural tendencies toward compassion and empathy, serve to enable healthcare providers to develop high quality relationships with their patients. These qualities also put healthcare providers at risk for compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary post-traumatic stress.

Compassion fatigue is the point at which a helping professional or employee no longer is focused on the clients needs as well as before because the emotional “well” (the ability to empathize and manage the relationship) is dry. Burnout denotes a level of incapacitation of the provider/profession, often without acute awareness of the problem. Vicarious trauma often applies to workers who deal with aftermath crisis situations and deeply disturbing situations, such as abuse, war, violence, and, we would add, homelessness, deprivation, and domestic violence. Thus health care professionals start to take on the trauma of clients and feel the effects physically and emotionally, contributing to burnout but also to damage to their own health.

When providers are drained, distracted, overwhelmed, stressed, and unaware, they are unable to fully use their skills.   Not only does patient care suffer but these providers are more likely to lose time from work due to stress related illnesses and some will choose to leave the profession altogether.

In short, to care for others — or even deal with others in stressful situations — we need to take care of ourselves.   We have found that mindfulness practices, self-care techniques and a supportive work environment can greatly reduce the likelihood of burnout. We teach a number of mindfulness practices that can be easily integrated into the workday.   Strategies such as verbal recognition, short breaks and opportunities for support will enhance the ability of healthcare providers to present their best selves at work, thereby providing the highest quality of patient care.

Alisa Blum, MSW & Judy Sugg, PH.D. co-direct AIM for Organizational Health, providing customized training, facilitation and coaching, to raise Awareness, achieve Integration, and enable Mastery of mindfulness tools to improve individual and organizational effectiveness.  Our upcoming public workshop, “Seven Tools for MindfulSelf-care“, will help participants develop skills to prevent burnout & compassion fatigue.  




How to Integrate Mindfulness Practices Into the Work Day

by Judith Sugg, Ph.D.

Mediation, yoga, and breathing practices used to be confined to yoga studios and the like. Now these practices are cropping up everywhere, including big companies like Google and Intel.

But really, do they fit in our workday? The mountain of evidence to support these practices for improving health, training focus in our scattered world, and reducing stress is, well, striking. For the most part, the results of this research is wildly positive.

So why doesn’t everyone adopt these practices? One recent exploratory study* out of a business school looked at a particularly intense environment, health care, using self-selected professionals. Some professionals found they could integrate mindfulness into their workday, and some didn’t. The researchers now wondered: What’s the difference between these two groups? Why do some adopt these practices more readily?

Maybe the question really isn’t about “adopting” these practices. Maybe the word is choosing, in the moment, to use them. This is partly motivation, but mostly about habit. We are, of course, creatures of habit. Our mind chatter is particularly repetitive (and would be pretty boring if we had to read it), and it is difficult to break that habit of chatter.

Even after 30 years of practicing, when I get a grumpy email, my mind goes into a whirlwind. It takes a toned muscle of choice to get myself out of the whirlwind and into a more centered state. This muscle is the same muscle trained in meditation to bring your mind back to your focus (usually your breath). Inevitably, the mind wanders out into the ozone, makes up stories and conversations, gets emotional, and wanders off again. Without the muscle of choice being able to kick in, no fancy technique will get used.

And that is why practice, even a few minutes a day, is important as a simple and powerful reminder. Simple, brief practices for workplaces are a powerful step in the right direction because, ultimately, health in the workplace can mean something as simple as a breath done with great consciousness in a high stress moment.

Learn techniques to reduce stress and enhance productivity at our March 15th workshop.

* Lyddy, Schachter, Reyer, & Julliard. (2016). Transfer of Mindfulness Training to the Work Setting: A Qualitative Study in a Health Care System.

Judith Sugg, Ph.D. is co-director of AIM for Organizational Health, providing customized programs, facilitation, coaching and interactive training to raise Awareness, achieve Integration, and enable Mastery of mindfulness tools to improve individual and organizational effectiveness.  For more information about the programs we offer, please contact us at or (503) 481-7586.


Mindful Listening is THE Best Tool for Conflict Resolution

By Alisa Blum, MSW & Judy Sugg, Ph.D:  AIM for Organizational Health


You may think you can multitask and listen exquisitely. You can’t. The two are incompatible, and when conflict arises, the lack of attention and listening, coupled with high emotion, can easily derail any attempts at resolution.

We advocate not just listening in conflict situations, and not even just listening well. We advocate Mindful Listening as the most effective skill for conflict resolution. Mindful listening requires being highly attuned to both our own emotions and the emotions of others. When we listen mindfully we observe our own emotional state with curiosity. We keep self-talk and judgment at bay. In communicating with others, we listen with as clear a head as possible. We pay exquisite attention in order to really hear what is going on with the other person-in words, tone, emotions and body language.

Try these steps the next time you are faced with communicating with someone you don’t see eye to eye with:

  1. Before engaging with the other person, clear your head with a compassion meditation. This will help you stay calm and be more compassionate toward yourself and the other person.
  2. Stay focused on what you are hearing the other person say as well as what you observe.   Paraphrase with empathy, what you hear and describe the emotions you notice.

You will find that when you stay calm and the other person feels heard, you will be taking significant steps toward de-escalating negativity and resolving your conflict.

More conflict resolution tips can be found in the book, “Transforming Conflict with Mindfulness” by Judy Sugg & Alisa Blum.   For questions about our consulting, training & coaching, you can reach us at (503) 481-7586 or Program information can be found at


Celebrate Your Employees With High Impact Recognition


Portrait Of Business Team In Office Celebrating

Last year I had the opportunity to help a client combine their annual holiday lunch appreciation event with a management development program on the power of recognition.  The nature of this client’s busy business prevented them from being able to get their managers together very often for a training.  This event was an ideal way to combine a management development program with their annual holiday event. The business owner enhanced the motivation of her managers by providing them with recognition and the managers learned strategies for providing high impact recognition to their employees.

Whether you give your employees gifts, cards, bonuses, or have a public forum for letting your employees know how much you appreciate them, make sure each and every employee is aware of the specific ways they contribute to the success of your organization.  And keep in mind that for recognition to be effective, it should be given throughout the year and tied to individual and team performance goals.

When given correctly, the recognition you give will enhance motivation, improve productivity and increase the retention of your top talent.


Alisa Blum & Associates works with businesses & organizations to select, develop and keep a high achieving workforce.  

Resolve Conflict by Taking the Other Person’s Perspective

Young businessman being confronted by his angry female boss. Isolated on white.

In conflict, your perspective is, by definition, different from the other person’s.

Both of you have feelings, desires, and maybe your self-esteem is at stake.  You can be strategic in resolving conflict by being self-aware and also “other aware”.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but knowing where the other person is coming from is valuable and humanizing.

Start with yourself: What causes you to view the situation this way?  How does your culture, personality, or circumstance show up?  Now imagine the other person: What do you know about them?  Their values?  Position?  What’s important to them?  What shows up about their culture, personality, or circumstance?

To understand another person’s perspective we must be willing to suspend our own opinions and look through the world through their eyes.  What are the pressures in their life?  What is driving their behavior and attitude?

When we gain this type of insight, we more easily diffuse the tension.  By small indications of understanding like, “I’m guessing you are under pressure because of the deadline”, we create space to maneuver. Taking the other person’s perspective is a powerful strategy for sidestepping judgements that block effective communication.

This post is an excerpt from “Six Word Lessons for Transforming Conflict at Work” by Judith Sugg & Alisa Blum.  This book can be purchased from here:  Transforming Conflict with Mindfulness.

Contact us to explore how we can help your organization reduce conflict and enhance productivity.