Featured Instigator - Marcella Bremer

This month we are featuring Marcella Bremer, publisher of Leadership & Change Magazine.

Educated at the Rotterdam School of Business, Marcella classifies her career as full of emergent developments. She first went to business school. She liked the diversity of subjects taught so she guessed it would satisfy her curiosity.

Back in the ‘80s, with huge unemployment in the Netherlands, it was also a safe choice for anyone trying to find a job to pay the bills.

Marcella says, "I was surrounded by a majority of male students who had chosen the business school to have successful careers and make as much money as possible. That was never my intention per se – so I felt a bit displaced at times. What was more, the business world looked unsympathetic to me. I hoped that workplaces would be kinder, more collaborative, inclusive and sustainable – but they were not. It was a competitive era of make-money-while-you-can."

Rather soon after graduating, Marcella turned to journalism, writing about improving the world of work. After some years of being employed, she quit her journalism job and became an entrepreneur. From then on, she followed the flow of her energy and of opportunities that aligned with her interests. She started a communication business with her partner, then turned it into a training and coaching firm, while finally it evolved to management consulting. Her firm started working with the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) and obtained the license to provide this validated culture survey online – and all of a sudden their local consulting business became a worldwide culture business.

Marcella wrote a book about her work with the OCAI and then started Leadership and Change Magazine.  She continues, "I could not have planned it and I’m very blessed, as I love my work! I feel that I have finally arrived in a business era that aligns more with my values: a collaborative era of make-a-difference in a positive way. More organizations are trying to contribute to the common good, create a thriving workplace and embrace kindness. I’m looking forward to the 21st century at work."

When asked about one leadership lesson she learned from her first job, she shared: "In my first job I learned that my boss was a human being, too. I remember feeling wonder when he didn’t know what to do and asked me for advice (which I gladly provided). In my own first role as a leader I had to learn patience. People need time to learn. They may have other ideas than I have; they may worry about things that seem pointless to me. I had to learn to sit down with them and listen - and I didn’t find this easy with my own results-oriented style."

Marcella tells us about one of the best moments she has had professionally: "After a long day of work with a very angry group of employees (they were enraged with their employer), a lot of people thanked me in person for my care and attention. Though they started the day being angry with me in addition to their employer, their attitude changed completely when I was open and authentic with them. What really shifted the energy was when I showed my vulnerability and shared how aggressively they treated me - and how that made me feel. So, how would their boss feel when they acted like this? Their boss would probably not listen as I, too, felt the urge to close and defend myself. I’d let them vent their frustrations and listened to them, and next, I’d helped them see it differently and we practiced more effective responses to their frustrating situations."

When asked about the strangest question she's ever been asked in a job interview, Marcella said, "It was whether I had sexual preferences out of the normal range. To be honest, this was not during the actual job interview but during the security screening in the next round when they did a background check and security interview to find out whether I could be blackmailed for having strange sexual hobbies, alcohol or other substance abuse, and so on. I was appalled by the question and questioned the interviewer whether this was really a professional question or that he just got curious. I got the job, by the way."

Marcella found it difficult to identify one book to recommend.  Therefore, it's a two-book recommendation this week! Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly about shame and vulnerability and Geert Hofstede’s Cultures and Organizations which presents his fascinating research about national and organizational cultures.

One of Marcella's favorite quotes is:

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."

If money was no object, Marcella said she would do "the same as I’m doing today: helping people make a difference at work with positive leadership, culture and change. In addition to my projects, I publish the Leadership and Change Blog and I’d still be doing that. I love to learn, to read, and write. Maybe I’d schedule more time to write my next book!"

When considering the important qualities of leaders, Marcella says first of all, they should be authentic. They should have a healthy self-worth so they can really serve others instead of serving their ego and interests. Leaders who are whole and healed don’t need to hurt or hinder others. From authenticity follows transparency, trust, reliability. A leader should care about people and help them reach their true potential. With that come listening, coaching, facilitating team processes to help teams overcome issues and reach their shared goals.

One question we ask our featured Instigators is "What is the one thing that should be taught in schools that isn't already?" Marcella believes children should be taught life skills! She says, "Kids should discover who they are with their strengths and weaknesses, their talents, their dreams. Heal any undermining self-doubts. Get to know their fears, anger, doubt, grief, insecurity. Learn to love who they are. Next, they should find out how different other people can be, and value that diversity of styles, talents, and viewpoints. Plus, they’d have to learn tolerance, respect, and communication skills to work with anyone and ask thoughtful questions. They should practice compassion for themselves and others. Work on self-management, planning, how to live with uncertainty, and learn how to change. That will yield authentic people who can go beyond their ego because they have a healthy self-esteem and self-worth, who can work with others and appreciate them, who are flexible and self-reliant in these changing times."

If she had to hashtag her life, Marcella's would be: #bepositive.

Marcella says the best advice she's ever been given was. "Be you." Thank you, Marcella, for "being you." We agree that's a pretty cool thing to be!!

Editor's Note - You may ask, “How does one get chosen to be a featured Instigator?” The answer is simple. If you are already an Instigator, fill out this form and continue to engage with the Lead Change Group on a regular basis. If you are not yet an Instigator, sign up. There are many benefits to being an Instigator – email us if you want more information.

Previous Featured Instigators:

12/2015: John Stoker

11/2015: Sean Glaze