Social Justice: A very deep and broad issue. But, how do you define BIPOC, especially “People of Color”?

This week a new Biz Oregon Director was announced. Sophorn Cheang is from Cambodia and fair skinned. I assume she is 100% Cambodian nationality. 100% – that’s an easy criteria for defining nationality. Is color also a way of defining black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)? Color and ancestry are very complex criteria but many decisions are being made today to select “people of color”. How do you differentiate BIPOC from the rest of the population?

My ancestry presents an example of the complexity. My mother is 100% Guyanese. According to National Geographic and other media, Guyana is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. I was born in the United States, 10 months after my mother flew to the United States with my father, a US Air Force Officer, to get married in Appleton, Wisconsin. They left there when I was 6 months old, and moved back to Geogetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). My sister and brother were both born there and have dual citizenship. I went to school in BG, to the Ursuline Convent, from ages 3-6, then we moved back to Wisconsin.

My mother was one of 11 children, one of the fairest skinned in the family. Her siblings, my aunts and uncles, represent the whole spectrum of colors. From dark East Indian and indigenous Amerindian and all shades in between. My family have been in BG and the West Indies for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. My Uncle Allie (actually Great-Uncle) has been called the “Ghandi of the West Indies”. He is described as “colored” in his biographies, and self-described as “colored” in articles about and by him.

Am I white because I look fair-skinned? I am half West Indian, with ancestors also from Trinidad, Tobago, and the Amazon Valley. My 6-year old grandson saw a picture of me on my first day of school in the United States. In surprise he said, “Gramma, you used to be a brown person!” He thought that was cool!

So, what is the criteria for labeling and selecting BIPOCs? Is it by color – dark versus light? This is a very multi-colored world and getting more so every decade. Is it by ancestry? These are complex distinctions, unless you use 100%. Let’s not rush to make decisions or changes without having clear criteria! It will get more difficult with every passing decade. Is it by birth? Should the opportunities to right previous wrongs be decided by country of birth? But many people born in South and Central America are 100% Caucasian ancestry.

Every time I fill out an application with a question on “Race”, I pause. In the past, I automatically answered “Caucasian” because I had to make a choice. It was safer to say “Caucasian,” and I can “Pass”. I wasn’t comfortable doing that because I didn’t feel I was being totally honest about my ancestry. And, there wasn’t a box in the past for “Mixed”.

Many of my first cousins, with the same ancestral composition as I, cannot. I have heard some very sad stories from my cousins who tried, with bad results. It isn’t fair; it was just “luck of the draw”. They came out a different color from me. I am of 13 different ancestries, many of them non-“white”.

So should decisions be made on darkness or lightness of appearance? Is that appropriate or fair? I have wondered my entire life, especially when faced with filling out an application. Where is the dividing line? Now I wonder even more with this increasingly ubiquitous question of BIPOC. How do we decide? What is “fair”?

Building Resilience Creates Teams of All First Stringers! University of Oregon’s Football Team Proves It!

The University of Oregon final 2014 football season games against Oregon State and Arizona certainly prove the benefits of working towards resilience! As announcers at the Oregon State vs. University of Oregon game constantly commented: “Oregon is the only team to have gone seven years in a row winning 10 games.” Chip Kelly built the resilient team and started the winning streak.

When Chip left to take over as head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, UofO’s Offensive Coordinator, Mark Helfrich, took over as Head Coach. And the UofO Ducks haven’t skipped a beat since then. They survived the departure of Chip Kelly, the brilliant leader who understood the need for resilience in order to overcome adversity no matter what the situation.

More specifics about Chip Kelly, Phil Knight, and other great leaders who understand the importance of building resilience attributes for their teams are in my Book, The DNA of the Resilient Organization. Two years after Chip Kelly left, the team he built (coaches and players) is a great example of what embedded resilience can do for an organization.

As Jason Quick, sports writer for The Oregonian, said after the UofO/Oregon State game, “No team in college football has been as dominant and destructive in their final seven games than Oregon. But more impressive than the seven consecutive weeks of scoring 40 or more points, and more staggering than the more than 24-point average margin of victory in those games, is how the Ducks did it. Their two most decorated offensive linemen watched from the sidelines [injured]; their best receiver blew his knee out before the season started. One of their spiritual and most respected leaders, who also happens to be one of their most important receivers . . . missed his third game because of injury. And the opening day starter at running back missed the past two games. The setbacks, the gut punches, go on and on. Yet, so have the Ducks’ big wins.”

How have they done it?  “As new Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost said, “…ever since I’ve been at Oregon, we’ve lost somebody we didn’t think we could replace, and somebody else has come in and done a great job.  So I trust coach Helfrich and the rest of the staff to get guys ready to play.”

The DNA of the Resilient Organization

The coaches and recruiters say that the Duck football program attracts a special kind of player – “…one who is selfless, smart and mentally tough …” It is ” . . . a program of excellence that focuses on one thing: Every guy out here realizes he is just one of many in the whole process, the whole system. .  .  we’re a team.  . . And everybody is expected to perform on this team. ”

The Ducks figured out how to build a resilient organization – you build unity: one collective heartbeat. 

It Won’t Happen If People Don’t Want It To

listening2Changes don’t happen successfully unless the people in the organization want them to happen. They may give lip service commitment to new initiatives and they may go along with them for a while, but they won’t stick unless stakeholders believe the changes are good and that they can succeed.

I learned that fact decades ago when I worked on change improvement projects which were very successful in the short term. Years later, I would find that the plan lost momentum or was set aside for another initiative.  It was always because some group hadn’t totally bought-in. Or, there was another perspective on the future that hadn’t surfaced during the change process. That’s when I changed my approach – to go deeper and broader in involving more people in more ways and to improve my own listening and involving skills.

Most consultants, internal and external, fail to have sustainable results because they don’t listen and involve effectively. They may have a good plan and process tools, but that’s not enough. The key to success is in listening deeply, responding proactively to messages heard, and involving stakeholders in the next steps. In other words, let THEM make it happen.

Doing those steps effectively takes great facilitation, coaching, and advance preparation in order to be a very knowledgeable resource. The job of the best consultants is to assist in the best possible ways, not to assess, plan and direct implementation by themselves. It means teaching leaders at every level, including peer, to lead their teams.

NFL General Manager Bobby Beathard (Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers) compared the leadership concepts in my new book to Don Shula, the only one to coach “a perfect season”.  “He did it with teamwork, trust and great leadership, just like you describe in the book”. You don’t accomplish those attributes without superior listening.

Listening is the critical skill to effectively, sustainably facilitate change. Process thinking, analytical ability, and strategic thinking are all very important skills, but strong listening skills are the most important. Without them, successful sustainable change can’t happen!

My First Radio Interview!


BSR LogoI did the first ever in my life radio interview last week!  It was for Jackie B. Peterson’s Better, Smarter, Richer program on Solo Pro Radio. Jackie is a wonderful interviewer. She asked me some great questions about helping companies to embrace change and to be more successful with growth initiatives. She focused on my book, The DNA of the Resilient Organization.

Here are some of the areas she covered in the interview:

1. Strategic planning and organizational restructuring require big picture thinking. What does it take to make such comprehensive change work?

2. What exactly is “resilience”? Why is it important?

3. How do organizations become resilient? How do you recognize when an organization is resilient?

4. Can an organization that is not resilient become resilient? How?

5. What directions do you see as major trends in business? Given those trends, what do organizations need to do to be successful in the future?

To hear my responses to these and other questions, go to the Broadcast page on or to

To buy the book, go to any bookstore or go to To read more about it, go to the Book Page at and to to see all my 5-Star Reviews!

The Major Obstacle to Successful Change – FEAR

The DNA of the Resilient OrganizationFear is a potential problem with any change or new direction. The reaction to fear is what differentiates organizations that consistently succeed with their initiatives. Fear can disable us or spur us to creative action. When people and organizations respond negatively to fear, the fear factor becomes a stronger force in the environment and a more likely reaction for future initiatives. The reverse is also true: The more people and organizations practice positive responses to change, the more innovation and creativity can grow within the organization’s culture.

The fear of moving from the secure known to an exciting but insecure vision inspires and drives those with courage and spirit to create new solutions but immobilizes others. Many people are tied to the status quo, even though they realize it doesn’t work well, because they don’t believe that the change will bring good results. They don’t know enough about the change to understand it and they don’t trust their leaders, so they are afraid. An environment of trust supports the kind of courage and spirit that enable creative responses to fear. The job of leaders is to build an environment in which trust is earned, fostered, and sustained.

The fears of individuals, such as fear of failure and fear of catastrophe, prevent them from performing at their best and from acting independently. Leaders are responsible for replacing individual workplace fears with trust, but leaders have three misplaced fears of their own that halt their ability to self-confidently lead their troops through successful change efforts:

  • Fear that the change process will create more internal tension
  • Fear that the majority are opposed
  • Fear of “troublemakers”

What’s common to all three of these fears, and how do leaders build courage, rather than fear, as a management habit? They prepare well, they communicate significantly, and they MOVE FORWARD confidently.

“Confidence isn’t the absence of fear; it’s how you act in spite of the fear. Confidence isn’t waiting until you feel totally ready to do something. If you’re waiting for that feeling, you’ll never do anything.” — Barbara de Angelis, in Women of Courage  by Katherine Martin

“He who hesitates is lost” is especially true in times of rapid or major change. If leaders don’t move forward expeditiously, dissidents build on the fear of others to promote greater fear, which erodes support within even the most convinced of troops. 

Fear is the villain in change efforts; courage is the champion trait required for success. Courage grows as Trust grows. Relevant information (vs. data) and effective communication are the biggest antidotes to fear, mistrust, and jealousy. They are the best tools to use to combat fear and to build Trust.

How many times do you think that fear has negatively impacted the success of change initiatives you have led or participated in?

 Excerpt from “The DNA of the Resilient Organization – How One Collective Heartbeat Creates Continuous Competitive Advantage”, by Sandra A. Suran, copyright 2014.

The DNA of the Resilient Organization – Selling Across The Country!

The DNA of the Resilient Organization is out and selling across the country – from Bangor, Maine to Corpus Christi, Texas and from Minot, North Dakota to Gainesville, Florida!The DNA of the Resilient Organization

Even more surprising, people are reading about the book on our blog from 36 countries, including Brazil (with 1/3 of the U.S. reader numbers for the last quarter), and including Montenegro, Zimbabwe, Finland, Ukraine, India, Columbia and Sri Lanka.

They were probably attracted by our endorsements on Amazon and on the book website.  Here is a sampling:

“As the President and CEO of a large national NFP organization, I have had the opportunity to read many business oriented books. In The DNA of the Resilient Organization, Sandra Suran has written what I consider to be one of the best and most useful books I have read. Through the use of relevant stories and examples, the guidance and advice is intuitively and clearly conveyed. I recommend this book to anyone associated with an organization, to prepare for, or address, the threat of crisis.”
President, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

“This book really hits the nail on the head. Regardless of what the product may be, without the full buy-in from stakeholders, leadership’s dreams and visions will not be attained. The DNA of the Resilient Organization provides the road map in connecting the dots; sharing the Vision – building and monitoring the structure – pushing the limits. This book should be required reading for all innovative leaders, large and small. The DNA of the Resilient Organization is now my daily reference guide.” President, Pine Crest Fabrics

You can obtain The DNA of the Resilient Organization from Amazon or your local bookstore.



Rajneeshpuram — Leadership Run Amok!

RajneeshpuramI recently saw a documentary film that chronicled the birth, then analyzed the reasons for the rapid death  of this fascinating, idealistic community in Oregon’s spectacular high desert country. Through the film, I relived my exposure to the development of this grand endeavor. “In 1981, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a spiritual leader from India, and thousands of his disciples, set out to build a new city, a utopian community in the desert . . . Thousands of people from around the world gathered here to celebrate life and transform the landscape. But by 1986, they were gone.”

It was an accurate portrayal of the story, from my early knowledge of the Rajneeshees. I didn’t know many of the events of the last three years of their existence. My CPA firm had stopped providing services to them by then. We knew only the glory years, the glorious reclaiming of the land and building of the amazing city in the desert. 

My firm was asked to provide audit services for their corporation. Although skeptical about this commune, after due diligence research we took them on as a client just as they moved to Oregon. I came to trust them; they wanted to disclose everything required by accounting reporting standards and more. They waived our professional confidentiality commitment to them; they wanted everyone to know more about them. They wanted to be trusted and respected by Oregonians.

Rajneeshee leaders hired the best service providers in Oregon  – attorneys, engineers, environmental scientists, agriculture specialists and more  – to help them build something wonderful and good. The Rajneeshees I met (former doctors, attorneys, accountants, religious, business owners, teachers, musicians), educated and smart, had one thing in common. They were searching for “truth”, their purpose in life, their reason for being. 

The implosion was a classic example of leadership run amok. The adage “power corrupts” was true here; they soon became a divided leadership group. The structure of Rajneeshpuram, with absolute power at the top and few others involved in decision-making, enabled the tragedy.

Faced with legal and political challenges from outside and also with internal strife, top leaders became combative rather than collaborative. They chose confrontation over reason and compromise. They chose to protect their own personal positions, without regard for law, morality, or for the good of their own community. The Vision was corrupted.

For the full fascinating story see “Utopia and Bureaucracy: The Fall of Rajneeshpuram, Oregon”  by Carl Abbott, Portland State University.

What’s greater than a Magic Bullet?

Magic Bullet image There is no magic bullet. But, there is a way to improve resilience constantly while making changes more efficiently and sustainably.

Changes don’t stick unless the people in your organization want them to happen. And people don’t want changes to happen unless they truly believe it will be successful and will benefit the organization, their department and their job.

Even great “magic bullet” solutions soon lose their impact.  The best improvements to infrastructure (processes, systems and organization structure) and cutting edge improvment tools don’t necessarily accomplish their intended purpose if they aren’t effectively linked with each other and with all stakeholders.  And none of these changes by themselves will help build resilience for the long haul.

You can improve your organization’s ability to make sustainable changes while also increasing people’s desire to make changes.  That’s the key to success: build ability (with tools, improved infrastructure) and desire (through increased group knowledge and trust) at the same time.   My new book The DNA of the Resilient Organization and the Workshop of the same name will teach you how to embed resilience with every change project you undertake.

Buy The DNA of the Resilient Organization at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s and other great book stores. Ask about Group Presentations and the Workshop: DNA of the Resilient Organization

“Great book for the large or small organization. It has so much content focused on connecting the pieces of the structure, the culture and the thinking of the organization. And then Sandra gives example at each step on how it works and how it doesn’t work when those pieces do not come together. This is a book that pulls together the missing links to help an organization determine what is missing, so they can fix the problems moving toward synthesis and resilience.”

Steve Harpham, Living Water Financial Advisors, Former Controller, UPS

“In this book Sandra Suran does a beautiful job of bringing together all the concepts that make up a resilient organization.  Sandra has worked with our company a number of times over the years and has helped us be the resilient company we are.  My management team is reading it to prepare us for the future.”

Tom Kelly, President, Neil Kelly Company

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Growing in Wisdom and Strength – Why Are We Still So Obsessed with Youth?

TopPerfPicBlogWith all the focus lately on people living and working longer, why are we still focused only on unusually successful young performers? Isn’t it about time we feature and applaud those who are still innovating, creating and achieving at later ages?

There are amazing examples out there, in greater and greater numbers. It’s well known that the fastest growing age bracket is over 100. Examples include wonders like Neville Marriner, the 90 year-old, highly sought after conductor who leads multiple orchestras all over the world each month and is still producing new recordings. There is Warren Buffett, at 83, still successfully orchestrating and winning numerous huge deals each year. And Clint Eastwood, also 83, who regularly and frequently produces, directs, and acts in major award-winning films each year. There are many more examples in every field – sports, medicine, education, research, agriculture.

A recent National Geographic issue has a baby on the cover with the title, “This Baby Will Live to 120”. I heard that prediction over 15 years ago at a gerontology lecture. Researchers have known this statistic for a long time, predicting dire consequences for the health insurance industry and for the national economy. But not much has been done to change the minds of the public about preparing themselves to live and work longer. Recent studies have proven that, in a range of cognitive areas, the brain keeps growing well past 60. In fact, the brain in the age range 45-68, beats out all other age ranges, especially in the growth areas generally associated with Wisdom, including situation assessments, linking/comparing skills, and judgment. Surely those abilities are needed in the workplace more than ever.  The electronic and print media can do much to promote these capabilities and the millions of workers who can continue their productive work rather than living out decades at the public trough.  

Why don’t major magazines, like Forbes, Inc., Zagat, and the Guardian feature more seniors more prominently, as achievers in new or old careers, rather than just the occasional feature story? In addition to annually selecting top performers in groups of 30- or 40-year-olds, why not 80- or 90-year-olds? In the workplace and the marketplace, I think it will sell. And promote stronger, healthier, happier seniors at the same time.

The First Workshop – The DNA of the Resilient Organization

The DNA of the Resilient OrganizationThe first Workshop on The DNA of the Resilient Organization was last week! It was the alpha-test workshop. It included an overview of the road to Resilience and interactive discussions of a few parts of the resilience DNA: the all-important Vision, the Pathway to Improvement/Goal, Increasing Wisdom and Strength = Unity.

The reaction of participants was affirming of the Book’s objective – to improve the workplace for all stakeholders while simultaneously strengthening the organization and making it more sustainable. One participant said his favorite statement of the Book was, “Nothing happens successfully if the rank and file don’t want it to happen.” Another said her favorite part was, “The description of the three parts of achieving organization resilience, “Desire, Ability, Building Unity”.

Two new endorsements of The DNA of the Resilient Organization came from CEO attendees at the Workshop:

“In this book Sandra Suran does a beautiful job of bringing together all the concepts that make up a resilient organization. Sandra has worked with our company a number of times over the years and has helped us be the resilient company we are. It is great that she has put all of her experience into this book. My management team is reading it this month and it will be a huge help as we prepare our company for the next number of years.”

Tom Kelly, President
Neil Kelly Company

  “This book really hits the nail on the head. Regardless of what your product may be, without the full buy-in from all stakeholders, leadership’s dreams and visions will not be fully attained. The DNA of the Resilient Organization provides the road map in connecting the dots, sharing the Vision, building and monitoring the structure – pushing the limits. This book should be required reading for all innovative leaders, large and small. The DNA of the Resilient Organization is now my daily reference guide.”

John Sheils, President
Pine Crest Knits

The next public workshop, for individual attendees, is tentatively planned for May 19.

Watch the Book website for more news.