Building Highly Successful Companies – INC Magazine

Building Highly Successful Companies – INC Magazine 1800 600 The Awakened Company

Inc Magazine – The 10 most Innovative CEOs Revamping The Future 2022 – Cover Feature Story | Published Aug 30, 2022. (Catherine Bell: Building Highly Successful Companies (

Catherine Bell: Building Highly Successful Companies

Thanks to the dissatisfaction with the status quo, Catherine Bell, a successful serial entrepreneur, business leader, and best-selling business author, founded The Awakened Company. This firm works to solve the planet’s greatest challenges by bringing humanity back to organizations. Its inception was fueled by Catherine’s award-winning and best-selling book, The Awakened Company.

She also founded BluEra, a Profit 500 executive search firm. As a top 200 growing company in Canada and top 10 in Alberta, and the best workplace, BluEra was the prime example of the Awakened Company System in action. Now with the sale of BluEra to DHR, Catherine entirely focuses on awakening the fire within organizations as the Founder of The Awakened Company.

As the leader of her organization, Catherine consults on creating Awakened Companies. She and her team’s aim is to ignite organizations with purpose, passion, and playfulness. Under her leadership, the Awakened Company loves bringing innovation and connection to people’s lives; the firm also merges wisdom traditions, business research, and practical know-how for better results. It helps leaders discover their inner castles and lead more effectively by cultivating and actualizing strategies with soul. It also has an experienced coaching team who are always ready to help with personal and professional development.

Award-Winning Leader

As the author of her revolutionary business book ‘The Awakened Company’ Catherine was awarded the Nautilus Book Awards in business and leadership. It became a bestseller within a week after its release; and was recognized as one of the top books combining business and mindfulness. Catherine has already been published in Fortune, HBR, etc. She has worked around the planet with many organizations from Fortune 500 companies to serial entrepreneurs. She has completed her MBA from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and holds a sociology degree from Western University, as well as her certification as a yoga instructor. She is currently teaching The Awakened Company Process to people in 23 countries.

Empowering Women

Even after representing over half of the working population, women are severely underrepresented as entrepreneurs in Canada. They lack the needed access to the capital to grow their businesses. The International Finance Corporation of The World Bank estimates as much as 70% of women-owned small and medium-sized businesses are unserved by the financial institution, resulting in a credit gap of $285 billion globally.

Catherine feels angry about the under-representation of females in leadership positions. She often notices that she is the only woman in the boardroom and wants to change that.

So, Catherine partnered up with Shakti Jewelry by Sarah Bowker and Emma May of Sophie Grace, and Catherine soon created an Awakened Project collection where half of the profits go to a fund to help women launch their businesses and get out of poverty.

The firm has partnered with Momentum to manage the fund. The Awakened Project’s fund goes towards the Momentum Micro Business Loans program, specifically designed for women within the loan’s portfolio.

Catherine has also been a Board Member of The Distress Center and Open to Grow. Currently, she serves as an advisor to the Impact Society and Telus Spark. Additionally, she has completed the Institute of Corporate Directors Not for Profit Essentials program.

Picture of the Future

Intending to develop and improve corporate culture, The Awakened Company wants to inspire and enhance 1,000,000 lives in the next 5 years. It is also looking to expand its Executive Coaching offerings and continue with Enneagram and leadership webinars as a platform to inspire growth. Lastly, The Awakened Company is spreading their message through podcasts and creating an Awakened Company Certification; stay tuned.

What Would It Take for Your Employees to Love Coming to Work?

What Would It Take for Your Employees to Love Coming to Work? 2240 1260 The Awakened Company

This article “What Would It Take for Your Employees to Love Coming to Work?” was written by Indigo Ocean Dutton for HuffPost.

An Interview with Catherine Bell.

The Awakened Company gives full credit to the author.

You wake at 7am with a smile on your face and no need for an alarm clock. Your first thought is, “Mmm, nice. Today is Tuesday. I’ve got some cool stuff to do today.”

You take an extra couple minutes to just lie there in bed, savoring how cozy it is, and how good it feels to simply be alive. Then your thoughts turn to some of the projects you’re working on and the awesome people you’re working with. You practically leap out of the bed, eager to get on with what is sure to be a deeply fulfilling and creatively expressive day. Let the fun begin!

Does this describe a typical Tuesday morning for you? How about your employees? Would you like for it to?

For most North Americans, whether they are the boss or an entry level worker, a typical morning goes more like this….

The alarm rings. Everything in you immediately rebels against the idea of leaving the sweetness of sleep for the harsh realities of the day ahead. You hit snooze. You try to fall back into the sweetness, but you can’t quite let go of the dread of what comes after you inevitably must get out of bed. You start debating just how long you can put it off.

The alarm rings again. Sometimes you hit snooze a second time. Other times you remember the disapproving looks greeting you as you walk into the office 5 minutes late, so you brace yourself and get on with it.

Who in their right mind would choose the second scenario over the first one? Who would choose it for themselves or for the people who work for them?

Wouldn’t everyone rather live in a world in which the people you encounter throughout your day are actually happy to be there? The people who provide you with services, happy to be doing whatever they are doing for you?

You may be asking yourself if it could really be the norm for things to be this bad for most people.

According to Catherine Bell of BluEra consulting, who interviewed thousands of employees across North American companies for her recent book The Awakened Company, the situation is even more extreme than I’ve described.

“It’s important for us to consider the data, and the majority of people at work are disengaged. Then you couple that with that the majority of people would rank taking out the trash and doing household chores as more enjoyable than spending time with their boss….”

And it isn’t only the employee having a rough ride. Catherine continues, “And then a whole other layer, is that the majority of business, over 80% of businesses, fail within the first decade. So from both the perspective of the leader and the person who is kind of leading upwards, we can do better.”

What do we do to get from where we are to where we want to be as a work culture?

Catherine sees the key to creating the kind of workplace we all would choose for ourselves as being a company culture that makes team self-awareness a primary objective for the work being done. In fact, she recommends selecting people to be hired by vetting candidates for self-awareness ahead of even job skills.

“The majority of people don’t even know, or aren’t willing to admit, what their blind spots are.

I interviewed thousands of people and asked, ‘What are your greatest gifts?’ And people could clearly explain what their greatest gifts were. And when I asked, ‘What are your work-ons? or ‘Why wouldn’t you be a fit for this role?’ The majority of people say, ‘Well there’s no reason.’

So there’s a self-awareness gap that we really need to be genuine about when talking about performance, when talking about hiring….

In interviews, when people say they don’t have anything to work on, I say, ‘Well I have pages and pages of weaknesses that I need to work on. And there’s a direct correlation between self-awareness and performance, so what’s going on here?’

Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Seth Godin, and Tony Robbins are agreeing with her. Not only have they endorsed her book, but they are also supporting the approach to creating a company culture that sees the self-awareness, personal fulfillment, and development of each worker as just as essential to the bottom line as any financial profit-seeking objective..

Patagonia has such a complete commitment to creating a values-aligned company culture that when a major company that didn’t align with Patagonia’s values approached them about buying Patagonia-ware they could put their logo on, Patagonia refused to make the sale.

You may balk at the idea of putting values ahead of revenue, but Catherine’s research has definitively shown that by increasing self-awareness and related personal responsibility, business profitability actually increases!

“What’s interesting is that when [corporations] are two-thirds about culture and one-third about profit, they’re more profitable.”

If you want to help build a happier, healthier, more profitable work environment at your company, then there are a few very simple things you can do:

  1. Accept responsibility for managing your own self-awareness and personal integrity, whether you are officially a manager or not.
  2. Start building your self-awareness skills, whether by meditating or using a resource like Calm or Headspace (originally written as “the free Stop, Breathe & Think app.” – this app no longer exists.)
  3. Take responsibility for your moods. Don’t demand that your external situation change before you are willing to contribute a positive mood to your workplace. Combine a joyful mentality now with a commitment to creating structural changes that will be conducive of well-being for all.
  4. Get real about where you’re in need of growth, and be willing to admit fallibility without shame, blame, or defensiveness.

What are you ready to do differently to create the workplace you want?

Curious about what else Catherine might have to say? Check out our Youtube for more free content : The Awakened Company

Interested in learning more about how we are changing the way organizations treat their employees? Follow along : The Awakened Company Instagram

“People Doing Cool Shit”

“People Doing Cool Shit” 1800 600 The Awakened Company

This article “People Doing Cool Shit” was written by Cailynn Klingbeil on January 14, 2021 for SophieGrace Shop

The Awakened Company is posting this to support the amazing SophieGrace shop and gives full credit to the author.

This year, we’re going to start regularly profiling our customers. Yes — you! You’re all up to incredible work, and we want to support our SophieGrace community by sharing what you’re doing and why. 

First up is Catherine Bell, founder of The Awakened Company and best-selling author of a business book by the same name. Bell is a serial entrepreneur (she previously co-founded BlueEra) and also serves as an expert panelist with the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of The Corporation and an advisor with IMPACT Society

As if that weren’t enough, she’s also behind The Awakened Project, providing funding to women entrepreneurs. Bell partnered with artist Shakti on a jewelry line, with 50% of profits going towards Momentum’s Micro Loans for Businesses program.

We chatted with Bell about her work, her values, and her favourite SophieGrace piece. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I really believe that business needs to be done in a new way: in a more feminine way, in a way that puts culture first, culture over profits, in a way that brings humanity back into organizations. And so I felt that the best way to do that was to start my own organizations. 

What does The Awakened Company do?

We help organizations to ignite the fire within, and we do that via playfulness, passion, and purposefulness. We do strategy with soul, we do culture creation, and we host Enneagram workshops.

What drives you to support other women entrepreneurs, through The Awakened Project? 

Basically it’s about turning my anger with male patriarchy into love. I was so angry about how women are treated in organizations. Often in boardrooms, I’d be the only woman, and I really wanted it to be different. I grew up with sisters, I love working with women. I wondered, what can I do, how can I take this anger and morph it into love and morph it into support for other females? It’s been great to work with Shakti, and I love working with Momentum, because they help funnel the funds to women getting out of poverty. They’re awesome.

You sound pretty busy… what does work life balance look like for you?

Things aren’t always in balance. For me, it’s about when we think of our lives, how do we create a masterpiece of music, with different notes at different times? So, for example, my sons are getting ready to leave for university probably next year. I could easily be an empty nester and then I’ll have a ton more time. I really see it as more like a piece of music, and finding how we can just be present in the moments that we’re here.

What drew you to SophieGrace and do you have a favourite piece?

I’ve known Emma since high school and I’ve always loved her style. I have a number of SophieGrace pieces; I’ll wear them on my YouTube channel, I wear them a lot for my webinars, and now on a lot of Zoom calls. What I love about them is they’re classically elegant, and yet they’re super sexy on; they seem to fit all my curves. I find them very practical. I don’t have to worry when I put the black Ashley dress on; I can wear it anywhere. The Ashley dress is a favourite, and I’ll often wear it with the Emma vest/dress over it. 

We have to ask, what was Emma’s high school style?

I would always admire her black leather mini skirts. She’s always had this je ne sais quoi when it came to her fashion sense, always admirable. She’s definitely always had a flair. 

Want to see the Ashley dress in action? Find Catherine wearing it on our Youtube : The Awakened Company

Interested in learning more about The Awakened Project? Follow along on Instagram : The Awakened Project

Purple Flowers

Catherine R. Bell Website Launch

Catherine R. Bell Website Launch 1800 600 The Awakened Company

We have some exciting news…

We are thrilled to introduce you to Our Awakened Company Founder, Catherine Bell’s new website.

Catherine is the visionary behind The Awakened Company, she is also a successful serial entrepreneur, business leader, best-selling author, poet and is passionate about giving back. We encourage you to check it out for inspiration and content designed to awaken. 

While you’re there, sign up for her personal newsletter to get exclusive sneak peaks at how she is shining her light to inspire others.

An Interview with Conscious Company Media’s Vanessa Childers

An Interview with Conscious Company Media’s Vanessa Childers 1000 267 Catherine Bell

Conscious CompanyConscious Company Magazine

An Interview with Conscious Company’s, Vanessa Childers

I recently had the opportunity to interview the Editorial Director of Conscious Company Media’s, Vanessa Childers. Here is what she had to say about what gets her up in the morning, on awakening leadership and why she joined Conscious Company.

What would cause you to rise at 3 am (other than a trip)?

The most likely cause would be my puppy Harper Lee—but I wouldn’t groan at the thought of a 3 am wakeup call if I’d gotten a good amount of sleep the night before and if I had a good book and a hot cup of coffee to enjoy for an hour or two before starting my day.

What 3 practical tips would you give to leaders on how to awaken?

  1. Do the things that scare you, like confronting your deep-seated issues with a therapist or learning that skill you know you’ll be terrible at initially. The more emotional discomfort you go through (ideally voluntarily!) the more quickly awakening will happen, if you let it.
  2. Talk with your staff (or anyone you have a relationship with). Get to know them and what matters to them. Put your ego aside and listen to what they need and how you can serve them.
  3. Practice being accountable. This combines tips 1 and 2. Being accountable is a scary thing; it involves facing some ugly truths (which typically come to the surface when you earn your employees’ trust and learn about their challenges) and then choosing not to be defensive when you realize you’re responsible for causing (and fixing) those challenges.

Why did you join Conscious Company Media?

I previously was the Digital Editor for two home design and architecture magazines, and I loved working with such beautiful and creative content. After almost four years, I realized I wanted to challenge myself in new ways and become a part of positive impact on a grander scale. I also wanted to be part of a company that was fully aligned with conscious-business values. Conscious Company’s mission—and its incredible team—made the decision a no-brainer.


Tell Us!

What would cause you to rise at 3 am? Leave us a reply below!

About Conscious Company Media

Conscious Company Media is a community dedicated to doing business better. They believe that companies and business leaders have a crucial role to play in creating an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually meaningful human presence on this planet. Through their print magazine, stories, education, events, and membership community, they inspire and enable you to redefine success in business and create a better life for yourself and future generations.

About The Awakened Company

For more articles on building better leaders, relationships, teams and organizations, visit our ideas on our website.

The Awakened Company is a global consulting firm focused on igniting passion, purpose and engagement, so your organization can flourish.

leadership lessons

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle 600 358 Catherine Bell

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle

leadership lessons

Leadership Lessons


Shawnee Harle has a Masters Degree in Coaching Studies and is a former two-time olympian as Assistant Coach for the Canadian Women’s Basketball Team. She brings her extensive leadership experience to her work as a corporate coach, leadership coach, life coach, mental toughness coach and motivational speaker with Winning Matters. Recently, she shared some of her leadership lessons with me.


1. How would you define an awakened leader?

Look in and Lead Yourself before you look out and Lead Others.  An awakened leader pays attention to what’s going on with her, what affect she has on the people around her and then makes course corrections where necessary.  When she is awake and paying attention, it allows her to make decisions that take her toward her Best Self. Decisions Decide Destiny.

2. What 3 practical tips would you give to a leader on how to awaken?

First, you must realize you are asleep and that’s the tricky part.  For me, when I am asleep, I am in Unconscious Incompetence, which means I am not conscious, not present, not paying attention.  When I’m not paying attention, it’s difficult to remember to pay attention.

Second, I set a reminder on my phone or my computer that wakes me up!  The reminder pokes me and helps get out of Unconscious Incompetence and into Conscious Competence.  It reminds me to be present and pay attention.

Third, I find myself moving in and out of awake and asleep throughout the day.  When I get busy, focused on a work project, over-tired, or over-stressed, it’s easier to be asleep and stay asleep. I set frequent reminders to poke me to wake up and I also put a sticky note on my computer and my bathroom mirror.  Staying awake isn’t as simple as it sounds.

3. You are a two time Olympian as an assistant coach – what is a better motivator love or fear or both?   Why?

Love, hands down. I understand that research shows motivation can be positive or negative. However, I have never worked with anyone, in sport or business, where fear has been a healthy motivator.  Fear might work in the short term, but I believe that fear as a motivator is disempowering.  Fear leads to avoidance behaviours and I don’t believe those are ever healthy.  Your Best Self can never shine under a blanket of fear.

4. Describe the mindset of some of the best athletes you have worked with and how can we transfer that over to the business world?

The best athletes I have ever worked with are not afraid to fail, not afraid to take a risk, not afraid to grow and stretch.  In fact, they understand that failure is the pre-requisite to growth.  Fail, fix, grow, learn, stretch, repeat.  Actually, I need to rephrase that.  They feel fear, but they do not let fear dictate their actions.  They acknowledge the fear rather than avoid it or try and fake it with false confidence.  They have a high tolerance for emotional discomfort and they understand that fear is proof they are in the Jungle, managing the spider and snakes.  No fear, no risk, no growth can only happen in the Zoo where it’s safe, comfortable and cozy.  “Without fear, there can be no courage.”

The best athletes I have ever worked with are people of outstanding character and they are winners, both on and off the court.  They understand that basketball, in and of itself, is shallow and empty and at the end of the day, nobody really cares how many points you scored or how many trophies you won. It’s connections with people that add depth and richness to their basketball experience. Basketball is simply a context for them to evolve and grow. These athletes do not let sport define them.  Basketball is what they do but it’s not who they are.  I guess you could say the best athletes I have ever worked with are awakened.

5. What does “winning” mean to you?

Winning means I am paying attention to being the best version of myself – my Best Self. Days when I am awake more than asleep are days I feel like I’m winning.  When I am challenging myself, tolerating emotional discomfort by stretching and trying something new or doing something differently than I’ve done it before, are days I feel like I am winning.  When I accept that feelings are not menu, I can’t pick and choose and the negative feelings have as much to teach me as the positive ones, on those days I feel like I am winning.  Best of all, when I get to share my knowledge and experiences with clients, teams, friends and family so we can all become more awakened, on those days, I feel like I’m standing on top of the podium.

For more articles on building better leaders, relationships, teams and organizations, visit our ideas on our website.

The Awakened Company is a global consulting firm focused on igniting passion, purpose and engagement, so your organization can flourish.


Three Keys to Awakening Well-Being in Organizations

Three Keys to Awakening Well-Being in Organizations 603 266 Catherine Bell



Well-being in the workplace.

The worst decisions and actions have been made when I’ve been tired.  I’ve spent the last decade starting and selling a Profit 500 company while being a mother, a wife, a friend, a community member, and an author.  I know what it is like to try to “balance” everything.  I now prefer the word harmony over balance.  Over the last decade I’ve worked with leaders, on executive relationships, and organizations incorporating self care and organizational cultural health into their mantras.

What is self care, relationship care, and organizational health?  I will now define what each one of these means and how to promote well-being in organizations with some practical tips to sew into your work day.

1. Awakening Self Care

At the root of self care is your relationship and connection to your awakened self.  I am not just meaning physical health. I am intending your personal relationship with your thoughts, your emotions and feelings, and your body.  Self care is not about beating yourself up when you are already too busy.  It is also about engagement.  Over 70% of people are not engaged at work. This is heart-breaking. That is over 70% of people not engaging in self care.

Self care emerges from an intention to stay connected to your heart, mind, and body.  Self care flows from understanding your inner compass and north star.  Specifically, knowing what you are in service to and what is the contribution you hope to make to the world.

Once you are in touch with your inner compass and aim, you can make positive decisions toward the world you want to create. Self care is highly personal and not one size fits all. We all know when we are coming from an Awakened or Asleep place. We will know our Awake/Asleep line. The asleep state represents when we are acting out of fear, anxiety, anger, or  a sense of scarity. The awake state represents when we are acting out of authenticity, love, peace, compassion, and a sense of abundance.

Here are some other brief (not exhaustive) self care tips:

• Develop your self awareness. This includes knowing your gifts, your work ons, and how to silence your inner critic (that voice in your head can take up way too much space and time).

• First thing in the morning, write down the three most important things for you to do that day. Stay focused on those.

• Celebrate the things you have accomplished in a journal or with a colleague or friend over lunch.

• Be aware of the context you are in. Workspace can have a significant impact on how you feel.

• Develop a centering or mindfulness practice. Your presence is your power. And the power of the pause cultivates better leadership.

• Ask for help when you need it, whether it be with cleaning the house or with database entry to keep you focused on your north star.

• Get enough sleep for you.

By awakening self care in a competitive world, we will operate from abundance. Anxiety, fear, control will no longer be in the driver’s seat. By incorporating self care, and relying on it more in times of stress, we can all become our most awakened selves.

2. Awakening Relationships

According to research, the majority of people rate the worst time of the day as the time with their bosses; how long someone stays and how productive they are is determined by the relationship with their immediate supervisor. Yet, the majority of leaders would prefer to spend time independently or in a group than one on one with someone. We need to cultivate the ability to go deep with our relationships where we establish genuine connection with someone.

Relationships are a key element of a life that is meaningful. Everyone needs to be regarded as a human being with dignitiy. We need to cultivate relatedness through mindfulness, spaciousness, and heartfulness in our organizations. Being a colleague is a structure, a role. Beyond structure lies the possibility of real connection which involves an awareness of the field of us.  We need to be mindful (open, thoughtful), spacious (the sense that we are independent and respect this), and heartful (kindness and caring) in relationships.

Here are some brief relationship tips:

• Make deliberate times for one on one meetings.

• The key in Awakened Relationships is to focus on improving yourself and being present to the experience.

• Be aware of how your body is speaking for you. Note your body language and what signals it is sending and correct to open posture if appropriate.

• Be aware of triangulation, and know that having a no gossip policy is almost impossible. We are social animals.

• Use ‘I’ language and speak from your three centres:  I am feeling, I am thinking, I am doing, and my request for action from you is.

• Listen. Listen. Listen. You can listen by writing down the exact words the person is saying, you can listen by repeating what the person has said in your head.

• Surrender. Instead of expressing your opinion…solicit others’ opinions and really listen. Surrender to what is really happening.

• Acknowledge other people’s greatness. Notice what they are doing right…and tell them, in person and write lots of thank you cards!

• Be vulnerable and be willing to be touched emotionally.

• Be open with your heart and mind.

• Allow what people are saying to you to be digested.

• Make it a practice to put away technology before engaging.  Focus on doing one thing at a time, giving the person or task your full attention.

• Be non-reactive.

• Cultivate your ABC’s.  What awakened attitude you want to bring to the relationship, what boundary, and what sense of connection.

Healthy connected relationships are a secret key to cultivating an environment of well being.

3. Awakening Organizations

The majority of organizations do not survive past nine years. Research has shown that organizations that focus on both cultural and financial metrics perform the best. Most organizations measure only their financial bottom line. How does one create and measure the health of their organizational culture?

How do you create the context of a healthy culture? The journey is an individual company one. One where groups of people decide on their collective fates by intentionally and collectively determining their vision, values, road maps, and committing to living daily from those places. For example, does everyone know the vision of your organization?  Are people hired who believe in the corporate values?  Are performance evaluations based on how you contributed to the vision and values of the firm? Is the context awakening for all?  For example, in the company I co-founded, there was unlimited vacation because one of our core values was trust. We trusted people to do their jobs.

Here are some brief tips to awaken well-being in organizations:

• Develop clear embodied sense of where the organization is headed, a unified vision, that informs meaning in people, in relationships, in transactions, in the choice of suppliers, in choosing employees, in social media strategy, for example.

• Develop a clear understanding of the organization’s values.

• Develop a clear sense of how the organization creates value for its employees, its customers, its competitors, its suppliers, its environment and its owners.

• At a very minimum, ensure that facilities are safe, and ideally have facilities where people can care for themselves and are in the best context to do their jobs (e.g. access to natural light, plants).

• Develop practices that help ensure there is psychological safety for everyone.

• Develop cultural metrics (based on vision and values) that are measured quarterly and reported to the board – for example, measure quality of relationships in the organization, tracking turnover contribution to the community, contribution to the environment, employee happiness, etc.

One of my mentors told me to focus on what is the smallest thing I can do daily.  While this may seem like a big list to awaken well-being in organizations, take a moment to choose what is the smallest thing you can do to awaken self care in yourself, relationships, and organizations.

The keys to awaken well-being in organizations lie within ourselves, our relationships, and the organizational context.


Article originally appeared in The Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education.

three keys to awakening well-being


For more articles on building better leaders, relationships, teams and organizations, visit our ideas on our website.

The Awakened Company is a global consulting firm focused on igniting passion, purpose and engagement, so your organization can flourish.

one-on-one relationships

One-On-One Relationships at Work: Why They Matter, And How To Get Them

One-On-One Relationships at Work: Why They Matter, And How To Get Them 1518 1000 Catherine Bell

How productive employees are and how long they stay at a company is directly determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisors. But people rate time with their bosses as the worst part of their day, even compared to doing chores.

It turns out it’s not just our bosses we’re avoiding at work. The Awakened Company, a management consulting firm based in Calgary, Canada, asked people how they like to interact in the workplace. The majority want to work alone or in groups, and only 6 percent prefer one-on-one time. Catherine Bell, founder of the Awakened Company and author of the best-selling book by the same name, was surprised by the findings and set out to learn more about how strong one-on-one relationships influence company performance.

“A colleague once told me, ‘Not having trust is like imposing a tax on an organization. It just makes everything slower,’” Bell tells Conscious Company. “Cultivating one-on-one relationships builds trust within the company. You’ll get things done faster, and work is more fun when you know each other. We get so caught up in our titles, when really we’re all related.”

If the idea of striking up a conversation with someone in another department or lingering in a co-worker’s office for small talk gives you hives, you’re certainly not alone. “Cultivating one-on-one relationships is a blind spot for a lot of people,” Bell says. “It can be very, very, very uncomfortable for some, and that’s okay. We need to lean into our discomfort.” Still nervous? Try these three mental tricks to ease the awkwardness and build genuine workplace relationships that last.

Be mindful.

Okay, so you want to spend one-on-one time with an employee or co-worker. How do you go about doing it? If the idea is uncomfortable for you, take a moment to consider why you feel this way, Bell advises, and begin dismantling your mental roadblocks.

Are you nervous the two of you won’t have anything in common? Think of questions you can ask to get the conversation going. Are you worried your colleague won’t reciprocate? Studies continue to show that relationships make people happy, even more so than money or fame, and our craving for connectedness means people naturally respond to genuine gestures of friendship. It’s all about getting the ball rolling, and don’t feel pressure to connect with everyone. Set a goal that feels attainable — such as booking lunch with a co-worker or subordinate once a month — and be deliberate about sticking with it.

“Building these relationships takes time,” Bell says. “Start with those closest to you, such as your teammates or your direct reports, and spiral outward.”


Time with colleagues, whether it’s lunch or a few minutes at the water cooler, is an opportunity to check in on their well being, so make the most of it. “When you’re with them, be present and truly listen to their responses with loving kindness,” Bell advises.

Experts agree that good listeners make good leaders, and research shows that good listening skills come down to active engagement in a conversation, rather than silent head-nodding. “Take the time to connect with them,” Bell says. “Look them in the eye. Ask how they are doing, and listen to their response.”

Let people be themselves.

Research shows that diverse teams feel less comfortable — and that’s why they’re so successful. While we all look for similarities when interacting with new people, it’s equally important to let people be themselves, Bell says. Your colleagues may have opinions that differ from yours, and that’s perfectly fine. You can still have a genuine relationship that leaves both of you feeling respected and fulfilled.

The bottom line

Nearly 70 percent of people say having friends at work makes their job more enjoyable, so taking the plunge into one-on-one relationships comes with a big payoff. “We need to build on the concept of the working relationship,” Bell says. “To me, it’s a missing piece. Through our relationships, we bring humanity back to our organizations. We replace the robotic sense of, ‘I’m here to work,’ with the sense of creating something awesome.”

 Article originally appeared in Conscious Company Magazine on February 14, 2018.

one-on-one relationships

Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni is an environmental journalist and editor based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in print and online, including TriplePundit, AlterNet, Yahoo Travel and multiple Philadelphia publications including the Philadelphia Daily News. She is available for freelance and you can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.

Rachel Zurer

Rachel is Conscious Company’s resident words wrangler, in charge of all editorial content. Before joining the CCM in April 2016, Rachel spent nearly 5 years as a print and digital editor on the award-winning team at BACKPACKER magazine. Her freelance writing and radio reporting has appeared in a variety of national publications, including Issues in Science & Technology, Yoga Journal, Paste Magazine, Pacifica Radio, and Wired, where she was a fellow in 2011. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing from Goucher College, studied linguistics and computer science at Duke University, and is a certified yoga teacher.


8 Ways for Women to be More Successful Entrepreneurs

8 Ways for Women to be More Successful Entrepreneurs 759 500 Catherine Bell

The world needs more women entrepreneurs, says Catherine Bell, founder of the Awakened Company, a management consultancy in Calgary, Canada. But women face a unique set of challenges as new business owners. “Women carry the lion’s share of responsibilities at home and at work, so we need all the help we can get,” Bell tells Conscious Company. “The question is: How can we make it a little bit easier for women entrepreneurs to succeed?”

Bell started her first business, an executive search firm called BluEra, as a new mom with two young sons. The early days were a challenge, she says, but she grew the boutique venture into a Profit 500 company (the Canadian equivalent of the Fortune 500) and ultimately bootstrapped it to an acquisition by DHR International. “I want women to learn from my life experiences,” she says. “I’ve lived, and I’ve made mistakes that I wouldn’t want anyone to repeat.” Read on for Bell’s top tips for women entrepreneurs.

1. Be clear about how the business represents you, and stay true to it.

“Lead, or you’re going to be led,” Bell says. “If you have clarity of your purpose and your micro-purposes, you will take deliberate action. If you don’t, you will be at the will of others.”

Evidence continues to show that, on average, women are less self-assured than men when it comes to business and are more likely to doubt their abilities. But as a new business owner, you are in the driver’s seat. The buck stops with you when it comes to the vision of your company, so it’s up to you to make sure that vision aligns with your values and is maintained over time.

“For women, it’s especially important to be clear about your internal alignment,” Bell says. “What are your values? What’s your responsibility to your community? To the environment?” Once you define what is most important to you, set specific cultural and financial metrics for your business that reflect those values, and stick to them.

2. Ask for feedback . . . and then ask for more.

As Margaret Wheatley observes in her 10 principles for healthy communities: People support what they create. “When you start a business, focus on the problem you are trying to solve, and get your team involved in setting your vision,” Bell advises. “Solicit feedback from the team you’re building, from your clients, and from your community. People will buy in and feel like they’re a part of what you’re creating.”

3. Set priorities for your day.

We all know the struggle of spending so much time staring at a massive to-do list that we become distracted from the tasks at hand. Fight back against scatterbrain and overextension by setting attainable priorities that allow you to chip away at your list over time, Bell suggests.

“Ultimately great companies are built on a series of small things,” she says. “Every day, ask yourself: What’s the smallest thing I can accomplish, and what are the top three things I need to do? I often felt overwhelmed. ‘How are we going to do this?’ But we did it one small thing at a time.”

4. Be true to the leader within.


“Often in our more patriarchal and male-dominated world, the focus becomes solely financial results,” Bell says of the pressures new business owners face. “But there is a movement afoot within the private equity realm to start measuring cultural and social responsibilities. For many women, this will come quite naturally, so it’s important to stay true to who you are.”

Of course, embracing corporate culture alongside a push for greater profit is not a characteristic that’s unique to women. But the fact that women are still relatively underrepresented in the business and entrepreneurial worlds presents an opportunity to think outside the box, Bell says. “We’re doing it our own way, and we can help to create a new reality for ourselves and our brothers and sisters by doing it a different way. We don’t have to buy into what has traditionally been done.”

5. Grow stronger through diversity. 

“The more diverse and inclusive we can make our teams, the stronger we’ll be,” Bell says. This is true of all businesses, but Bell insists a balanced team is even more important for women entrepreneurs, who tend to try to wear all hats in their new ventures. “You have to have the self-awareness to recognize your gifts and your blind spots and get help where you need it.” That means surrounding yourself with people who look and think differently than you do.

6. Connect with other women. 

“Women need to form strong professional relationships with other women and mentors,” Bell advises. Navigating male-dominated fields is tricky, and the support of fellow female leaders may come in handy in ways you don’t expect.

“When I walked into boardrooms, the other members were usually all men, and I often felt incredibly alone,” Bell explains. “But I felt I had the support of many women who were standing with me, which allowed me to be more courageous than I would be otherwise.”

7. Be intentional about self-care.

Self-care is absolutely huge for women in particular,” Bell says. “Women often have more trouble asking for help than men do. We take it all on.”

Burning the candle at both ends may work for a while, but it’s simply not sustainable in the long term and will ultimately impede your success. If you are intentional about taking care of yourself, you’ll be better prepared for the long haul: Get some sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Don’t be afraid to hire a housekeeping service once a week or ask a neighbor to pick your child up from school.

“Find creative ways to support yourself. Make sure you take time — it can be five minutes a day — to sit quietly and be on your own,” Bell advises. “One of the biggest mistakes I made was not getting enough sleep. My performance went down, and I made terrible mistakes in my business as a result of being tired.”

8. Let go of the guilt.

Women are under extra pressure to “do it all,” so they often beat themselves up when they can’t. “Let go of the guilt,” Bell tells women entrepreneurs. “When I got started, I felt guilty a lot of the time, and there was no need for that. In retrospect, it didn’t help me, my kids, or my relationships.”

That sounds easier said than done, but Bell offers three tricks to help women leaders be kinder to themselves:

  • Prioritize: Prioritizing your day is equally helpful outside the workplace, Bell insists. Since you know you can’t do everything, focus on the three most important things you feel you can accomplish in a day — no matter how small.
  • Be present: As a new business owner, you can’t always give your loved ones the quantity of time that you’d like, so focus on the quality of the time you spend with them. Stay off your cell phone, don’t think about the project you need to finish tomorrow, and enjoy every moment. “The practices of meditation and being present are incredibly helpful,” Bell says.
  • Say stop: Even with the best intentions, the shadow of guilt can easily creep back in. “Women have a tendency to magnify the negative,” Bell says. “When I catch my inner critic in the act, I intentionally tell myself to ‘stop,’ and redirect toward something more soul-filling and constructive.”

The bottom line

“I want women to know that it all comes down to being deliberate and conscious about your choices,” Bell says. “There is this saying, ‘You can’t have it all.’ I say that you have what you create. We are blessed with being able to create our own realities, so figure out where you find meaning, and put your attention there.”

 Article originally appeared in Conscious Company Magazine on February 2, 2018.


Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni is an environmental journalist and editor based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in print and online, including TriplePundit, AlterNet, Yahoo Travel and multiple Philadelphia publications including the Philadelphia Daily News. She is available for freelance and you can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.

Rachel Zurer

Rachel is Conscious Company’s resident words wrangler, in charge of all editorial content. Before joining the CCM in April 2016, Rachel spent nearly 5 years as a print and digital editor on the award-winning team at BACKPACKER magazine. Her freelance writing and radio reporting has appeared in a variety of national publications, including Issues in Science & Technology, Yoga Journal, Paste Magazine, Pacifica Radio, and Wired, where she was a fellow in 2011. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing from Goucher College, studied linguistics and computer science at Duke University, and is a certified yoga teacher.

5 Tips for Checking References in a Conscious, Awakened Way

5 Tips for Checking References in a Conscious, Awakened Way 2560 1514 The Awakened Company

Checking references might seem like a boring or unpleasant part of filling a position at a conscious company. But as a values-driven leader, your actions matter as much here as they do in all others areas of creating a purpose-driven workplace.

To illustrate the point, imagine this scenario: A private equity firm is about to hire a new CEO for one of their investee companies. Let’s call this person Sarah. Everything looks great, until someone from the private equity firm decides to find their own references, not the references Sarah provided. Sarah hears from friends and former colleagues that the organization is doing back-door reference checks and decides she can’t work for an organization that invades her privacy and fails to ask permission to check these references. The firm’s top candidate turns down their offer, which leaves a sour taste in many people’s mouths.

Checking references deserves attention and care. Here are five tips to do it in a better way.

1. Know what you want out of your conscious job candidate.

Before you begin referencing and interviewing, it’s important to be clear about what you’re searching for. Make sure you define:

  • candidate success factors for the role
  • the education and experiences required to fulfill these success factors
  • and, most importantly, the personal characteristics needed to carry out the job.

2. Check A LOT of references.

After the search profile has been defined and your reference framework prepared, ask the candidate furnish a list of six to eight references. People often think I’m crazy to ask for so many, but given that hiring the right person is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your organization, it’s vital to take the time to acquire as much empirical evidence as you can on candidates. Asking for so many references also sends a message to the candidates that you care.

3. Respect the candidate’s privacy.

If you want to reach out to potential references that aren’t on their list, ask each candidate for permission before you do so. If they say you can’t contact them, this is worthy of a conversation in and of itself.

4. Ask good questions.

While you should customize your set of reference questions to each search, here is a general template that I like to use:

  • How do you know the candidate?
  • How many years have you known them?
  • What are their principal gifts?
  • We are all human. What would you say they have to work on?
  • What have their significant accomplishments been, along with their failures? [If they don’t have any failures, there’s a problem, because who hasn’t failed and gotten back up on occasion?]
  • [List all the success factors and experiences that suit the role.] How would you rate the candidate on each one of these, and why?
  • [Most important, list all the personal characteristics desirable for the role.] How would you rate the candidate on each, and why?
  • What advice you would give me on how I can best work with the incumbent? [This is one of my favorite questions]
  • What are the candidate’s values?
  • What motivates the candidate?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s personality?
  • Do you have any concerns about the candidate’s ability to fill the role?
  • Is there anything else I need to know?

5. Actually listen.

It’s vital to be really present when listening to a referee, not in any way treating the task as perfunctory. As you consider the responses to each question, feel free to dig a little deeper into what’s being said. The role needs to be a fit for the candidate as much as the candidate is for the organization. Take time to really care about the candidate and how they might function in your organization.

Remember, we are all learning together. So take a breath with me and keep in mind that being awakened and functioning consciously involves adding humanity, kindness, and joy into the equation. This is true in daily work life, and also true for all stages of the hiring process.

Article originally appeared in Conscious Company Magazine by Catherine Bell.

reference checks