50 Women Experience The Value of Collaboration, New Jersey

Women's Collaboration Summit

It was such a joy to co-facilitate New Jersey's first Women's Collaboration Summit.  The joy, started several months earlier, when my collaboration began with two local business women:  Marybeth Gregg and Roe Couture Desaro.  We wanted to design an experience that would bring a variety of talented local women together to share stories and learn from each other and find ways to support each other.

Our design was framed in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) with the ambition to achieve the following

  • bring out the capabilities that exist in the room;  individual and collective strengths;  
  • unleash what else is possible – the positive potential of every person and potential synergies of the collective
  • provide uplifting experiences that energize us all to do more of what we do best

Collaborating for High Performance

The summit started with a discovery interview on the topic of Collaborating for High Performance with the following lead in statement to set the tone of the interviews, table conversations and whole plenary discussion

Collaboration refers to people coming together to produce something they all contribute to in a variety of ways. Because of the increased complexities and pressures in our world today at home, in the community and our workplaces, productive and meaningful collaboration is a huge topic of interest. Collaborations are often loose and voluntary, while teams are usually designed for specific purposes, such as sports teams, department teams, sales teams etc.

Whether it’s a voluntary collaboration or a designated team, we come together with different skill sets, personalities, and motivations, so it’s always dynamic. Effectiveness is enhanced when people know their strengths, their values, their purpose and can be real with each other.

So what is it that makes a truly high-performing collaboration?

We have all been part of a high-performing team or collaboration at some point, even a team of two! Let’s access those high point experiences of high collaborative performance. Let’s identify the strengths of our contributions and the contributions of others and, together, we can co-create ways forward, building on our existing strengths – our positive core – to design ways we can further strengthen collaborations.

We followed the classic AI interview design with the one-on-one personal interviews.  Next, we introduced  the table conversations, when the interviewees  shared what they had learnt from their interview partners. Then we engaged in a whole room discussion when we synthesized some of the common themes from across the table groups.

The Value of Collaboration

When we invited the participants to identify some of the themes that came out of all the high points stories of experiencing collaboration at its best, here is what was shared:

When we are collaborating at our best, we experience

  • Grace under pressure

    Value in Collaborations

    Images – Thanks to Kathleen Edinger of Teascapes

  • Being present in relationships
  • Passion
  • Embracing other's visions
  • Stepping out of our comfort zones
  • Being a leader and a follower
  • Willingness to be truthful
  • Personal Growth – reinvent ourselves
  • Entrepreneurial and resourceful
  • Change agents
  • Pioneers
  • Support self, others and community
  • Courageous, aggressive and assertive
  • Mentor and mentee
  • Sense of fulfillment
  • Inspiration

What is evident is that it's about “we” vs “me”.  It's putting the good of the collaboration ahead of personal ambitions.  A bit like a marriage in a way, when you put the good of the marriage ahead of the individual needs of the partners.  And the words in the above list that best capture that sense are:

being present in relationships; embracing each other's visions; being a leader and a follower; mentor and mentee – meaning we are there for each other to serve the whole.

I am privileged to be able to do this work –  to design and facilitate with the Appreciative Inquiry framework, I am always struck by the vitality and energy that is unleashed within the first minutes, and I am not surprised, because the foundational principles of Appreciative Inquiry guide the process.

  • The way we ask the question determines what we find
  • Words create our worlds
  • Whatever we focus on grows
  • Positive images create positive futures
  • Positivity: It's good to feel good

We have the capacity within us to influence ourselves and others everyday just by the way we speak and act.   As we increasingly pay attention to the value of collaboration, we inspire ourselves and others, just as 50 women experienced wholeheartedly during this recent summit.

Women Network – Strategies and Tips With Gloria Cirulli – PS035

Episode Overview

In this conversation, Gloria Cirulli tells her story of how she started the Central NJ Chapter of eWomenNetwork and has become its award winning Managing Director.  The conversation covers topics of networking, confidence, building a supportive tribe and the practices that truly facilitate generous sharing and collaboration. The focus is on women, but the content is applicable to all.

Women Network, Strategies and Tips With Gloria Cirulli – Episode Introduction

women network with Gloria CirulliGloria Cirulli is the award winning Managing Director of the Central NJ Chapter of eWomenNetwork, one of the largest business organizations in North America.  And that’s how we met.  I’ve attended a number of the eWomenNetwork Central NJ Chapter and very much enjoyed them and the women I’ve met there.

Gloria is a Multi-preneur©, having owned multiple businesses simultaneously throughout the years. Gloria’s core business is “Taking You to Your Next Level- as a Confidence Mentor!” For Gloria, mentor is synonymous with coach or strategist. She focuses mainly in three main areas to help women grow their businesses: networking, presentation and public speaking.

Knowing Your Strengths – What You are Good At

Gaining clarity about strengths and what you can and can’t do is a big part of success. Gloria has built a number of businesses, and knows what she’s really good and what she isn’t good at.  Having successfully lost over 100 pounds, 18 years ago and having raised as a single mother 2 fine sons, Gloria understands what it takes to face difficulties in life yet stay motivated and succeed!

She turned her struggle with weight loss into a business for her, helping other women with weight loss issues and finding their own confidence.  She has broadened that offering, using her extensive experience and knowledge to help women go to the next level.

Philosophy of eWomenNework

Through the eWomenNetwork, Gloria exemplifies the philosophy as expressed in these three core tenants.:

  • Teamwork makes the dream work.
  • Give first, share always.
  • Lift as you climb.

This philosophy highlights the value of support groups, networks and collaboration.  You are not alone.  When you find your tribe, it’s truly liberating, enlivening and energizing. You do go to a whole new level.

Are You Interested or Interesting – Know the Difference

When asked what Gloria values about herself, she shows her humility, saying that she’s warm and genuine.  She's interested in people and provides us some tips on how to stay truly present in conversation at networking events.  We both agree you can pick up the vibes when someone is only going through the motions and is not interested in you in that moment.  They look around you, above you, behind themselves and everywhere else but you.

One great tip Gloria shares is to not dismiss anyone too soon, thinking they are not going to be “useful” to you or your business.  I shared with Gloria one of my favorite quotes of Dewitt Jones:

“When you publish in your life, you never know where it will show up.”

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Women Network to Grow Capacity

In this episode, we talk about the importance of not only knowing your own strengths, but also knowing where you need help, because you can’t do it all.  There are skills, markets, subject matter that are not in your bag of goodies.  To hold the belief that you have to do it all, is truly not helpful to you, your family or your customers!  It’s smart to identify the kinds of supports you require to move your business forward.  Being in a state of overwhelm is a situation too often faced by women and can hold you back.

In her monthly column, entitled “Taking Women to the Next Level”, Gloria addresses pertinent issues women in business are facing, such as developing your tribe, finding resources and mentors who can help you. Her articles are featured in print in the Home News Tribune, the Courier News and on-line at

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Gloria’s News Articles

Taking You to Your Next Level: Building Your Tribe

Taking You to Your Next Level: Mentors, “Femtors” Can Help You Rise



Resilient Leadership And The FABULOUS Principle, With Barbara Rubel – PS028

Resilient Leadership And The FABULOUS Principle – Episode Overview

It is often a past loss that propels women to become innovative trailblazers, mentors, and leaders. If they are able to find solutions to deal with their losses then they can problem solve anything. To build a business, leaders have to build their resilience. Guest, Barbara Rubel shares her FABULOUS Principle, an acronym for eight core competencies that influence women entrepreneurs to grow from their experience of loss into resilient leaders.


Resilient Leadership with Barbara RubelBarbara Rubel talks about her FABULOUS Principle, and her work with women entrepreneurs and leaders to help them build their resilience.  What excites me very much about Barbara and her work is that, despite our different professional backgrounds, we are aligned  – the objectives and outcomes of what we offer are similar:  to facilitate positive change.

Barbara has a BS in psychology and a Master’s degree in thanatology, which is the study of the field of grief counselling and loss.  So from that perspective Barbara shows how we can come out stronger and triumph over adversity or loss to become more resilient.

Barbara Rubel is a keynote speaker, bestselling author and coach.

As a Leader, Know Yourself First

In a nutshell, Barbara’s approach to leadership is to focus first on yourself – start with your inner leadership.  It’s about knowing yourself, your strengths and paying attention to self-development before attempting to influence others. Self awareness comes first.

Growing From Loss, Self Compassion

From her experience as a grief counselor, Barbara teaches us that trauma and loss can be catalysts for growth. The most difficult situations facilitate opportunities for meaning making and building resilience. Loss and grief can transform the way we look at challenges.

Out of her own story of grief, bereavement and mourning, Barbara changed her life to help her overcome personal loss and tragedy.  In seeking to understand and make sense of her own grief, she proactively pursued a course of study that set her off on a career in which she has been flourishing for over 20 years.

The FABULOUS Principle

FABULOUS is an acronym that spells out the empowering capacity we have to become resilient leaders.

The key to Barbara's discovery of the FABULOUS Principle was the identification of eight core competencies that influence women entrepreneurs to grow from their experience of loss.

Listen in to hear how wonderfully Barbara explains each of these eight competencies.  She also describes her process of tapping into each of these eight core competencies. Through carefully crafted language and purposefully designed questions, you can identify how you can work with each of the eight competencies to grow in your leadership and build resilience.




UUnderstanding Job Satisfaction

L Laughter




By seeking to understand how we can build on our past successes, the FABULOUS framework allows leaders to reflect on what worked in the past to deal with adversity and positively apply that wisdom to current stressors.

Self Compassion

It seems to me that to overcome trauma, self-compassion and being kind and gentle to ourselves was the place to start (even though it's the last competency in the FABULOUS principle.)  Barbara explains how important it is to be kind to ourselves in difficult times and to win over the voices in our own heads. She mentions a number of positivity practices such as kindness, gratitude, persistence to help reconnect to our self compassion.

The framing and the questions Barbara poses to help us focus on what was helpful and productive in the past resonates with the Appreciative Inquiry world view.  It's far more resourceful to focus on how we have overcome past challenges versus dwelling on the circumstances and people that may have contributed to our grief or stuckness or loss.

Empowering Questions for Self Compassion

  • Describe a time when you showed compassion (i.e. empathetic caring awareness of another person’s difficulties along with the desire to lessen it.)
  • Summarize a time when rather than negatively appraising your situation, you focused on what you did that was productive and helpful.
  • Appraise how you generously extended loving kindness to yourself (Barbara cited her own example of  savoring a meal).
  • Thinking back on a past loss, tell a story about your self-soothing activities that helped alleviate your past personal distress.

Palette of Grief™

From her own experience, learning of her father’s suicide while she was in hospital giving birth to triplets, Barbara, a water colorist, experienced the entire turmoil and mess of her life as a swirling blend of colors.  Her insights were that grief did not present itself neatly as a series of steps, a process, or sequence of events, but as a palette of swirling emotions, thoughts, beliefs and behaviors co-mingling as water colors bleed into each other in a painting when water is spilled across the surface of the painting and the colors blend and bleed into each other.

Burnout in Professional life

In her work with professional grief workers, Barbara became aware that the grief workers themselves were burnt out; they were experiencing compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.  Barbara began to refocus her efforts to support the professional carers to keep them healthy and happy.  So she moved from working with those who were grieving to creating a space for the grief workers, like herself, to deal with stress.  She saw the value in shifting the focus from experiencing the de-energizing effects of stress in grief workers to being energized by the stress they were experiencing.  She switched to reframe stress so the grief workers could continue doing the work they loved before they were burnt out.

Do The Work That You Love

Barbara’s shift from a bereavement counselor to a speaker, specializing in overcoming stress led her to create tools and strategies that help people and leaders thrive and stay healthy so we can all do the work we love.  This is her mission today.  It’s about staying resilient in our work.

Listen to Barbara explain each of the other core competencies of FABULOUS in some detail. She provides helpful questions, stories and pearls of wisdom taken from her own story of transition.

In our conversation, we emphasize the importance of language, positive inquiry and sharing personal stories to help us find our inner strengths. True wisdom is gained in sharing our stories.  We triumph over struggles when we talk openly and make meaning together.

Questions to Build Resilience

  1. What positive themes do you continue to see woven through your story?
  2. What’s the constructive takeaway and how do you talk to yourself about your story?
  3. How does finding meaning in your narrative provide purpose in your life?
  4. What strengths kept you positive during the struggle?
  5. How can you apply what you learned during those difficulties and challenges to confident self-leadership?

As Barbara talks in detail about each of the eight core competencies of the FABULOUS Principle, you will be energized by her generous sharing and great wisdom.  When we get clarity around each one, we will experience that stress can be a great energizer.

POSITIVITY LENS for this EpisodePositivity Lens Notebook

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Links Mentioned In This Episode

Barbara's Articles/Blog posts

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

If you are seeking to receive CEUs, please purchase your copy of Death, Dying, and Bereavement from Western Schools.

The NICE Reboot – Entrepreneurial Know-How, with Penina Rybak – PS013

Penina Rybak Image

The NICE Reboot – Episode Summary

Women, entrepreneurs, passion, courage, mentors, positivity are topics covered in this episode with Penina Rybak, speaker and author of “The NICE Reboot.”  This digital age is such a gift to women who live true to the feminine values of transparency, collaboration, and care. Access to thought leaders who can be virtual mentors and whose experiences and expertise is readily available on-line opens up unprecedented opportunities.  Penina outlines how, despite personal health issues and the tragic loss of her own mentor and best friend, rebooted her life to be the bootstrapped entrepreneur she is today.

Entrepreneurial Know-How

What it takes to be a female entrepreneur is the topic of my conversation with Penina Rybak. Penina is a speaker, author, speech therapist and entrepreneur.  She is CEO of Socially Speaking LLC and Director of The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship.

My observation is that Penina is tirelessly committed to her mission:

“To embed social entrepreneurship into the DNA of all entrepreneurship and to provide strategies, forums, seminars, coaching, and opportunities, to help more women successfully partake of both the Entrepreneurial and Tech Revolutions in the iEra which have intersected.”

I met Penina at a eWomensNetworking lunch recently.  We found resonance in our shared passion for spreading awareness about all the opportunities that exist in the world today in this social age especially for women in business. We’re both speakers, authors, workshop facilitators, have a good presence on all the social networks, and enjoy engaging in this space; we’re both app developers and mission-driven.  No wonder we clicked!

Personal Setbacks and a Reboot

Penina switched careers from a speech therapist to an entrepreneur in two short years.  Her story comes from her unraveling,  understanding and acting on the patterns that precipitated big changes in her life.

A series of personal setbacks, including her own near death experience and losing her best friend and mentor to cancer had Penina rebooting her life and renewing herself through a deep search into her own inner and outer worlds in order to re-engage with the world.

Change is like fireworks

Penina beautifully describes how change happens like fireworks, a series of events firing one after another, propelling us into and lining up new directions.  She promised her dying friend, she would step out onto the bigger stage to share what she herself was learning, launching Socially Speaking LLC to be a beacon in her profession as a speech therapist.

Then a few years later, she realized there was an even bigger stage. Her message was to be expanded. She founded The NICE Reboot and NICE initiative to be a guide for those who are embarking on their own change journey.

The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur
In preparation for the bigger stage and stepping into the role of entrepreneur, Penina did was she does best. She read; and read; and researched; and networked; and connected.  As a result, within six months she turned this highly productive effort into a highly practical book to help all women reboot their lives.

All her learnings are now published as a resource she herself would have valued – a guidebook to entrepreneurship. The book: The NICE Reboot: A guide to becoming a better female entrepreneur.

NICE works for women & there’s so much more

Penina chose the acronym N.I.C.E. because of the play on words.

N – is for being NICE

Women especially are socialized to be nice; and it is a positive attribute:  it’s an acknowledgment of the strength of women’s soft skills and our nurture gene.  We are expected to be nice and most of us are.

I – is for being INFORMED

In this digital age, it’s essential we stay informed and all the tools and technologies are there to help us and make it far easier than ever before.

C – is for being COMPETENT

Today, if we can read and have access to the internet, we have no excuse.  We can become entrepreneurs, should we desire that road,  more readily with all the resources available than at any other time.

E – is for being ENTREPRENEURIAL

To have an entrepreneurial mindset is to think globally and appreciate the impact we can have.  The growth in social entrepreneurship is especially exciting and calling to many of us who have a desire to leave a positive imprint on the world.

Highlights of Penina’s episode

  • A painful time can become a most productive time
  • Women are extremely versatile and can reboot and are ready to reboot
  • Tools are so readily available; we are globally connected in unprecedented ways
  • The patterns can be found all around us.  Pay attention. Nothing is random.
  • Learn from those who cross our path to discover things about ourselves.
  • Live in the moment and worry less about outcomes.
  • Pay attention and find the connections.
  • Avail yourself of all the thought leadership and virtual mentors out there writing on blogs and engaging in social networks.
  • Go for diversity of experiences; meet and develop relationships with people different from you.
  • Pay attention to who crosses your path, as they inform the trajectory of your life.

The attributes of the woman entrepreneur

Listen to how Penina addresses the issues of how much, and how little we know, and the relevance of demographics.  She also talks about her attributes as a woman and what she values about herself and her most teachable moments.

The role of culture, generational values and capital

The millennials are doing their part expecting cultures of transparency, collaboration, participation, authenticity and teamwork in workplaces.  Many are more turned on by mission driven organizations and social entrepreneurship than big bucks.  They are here to serve. Reverse mentorship in some organizations is providing great value where young people bring seniors up to date with technology and leadership is shared.

Humor and Positivity

A sense of humor and a positive attitude can take you a long way.  Being optimistic to say “Yes” is to open up possibilities, opportunities, and diverse experiences.  Focusing on what will be your legacy and how you want to be remembered expands your horizons, provides a sense of purpose, offers clarity and helps you find your peace.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Penina's Social Media Profiles

Books Mentioned In This Episode: