June 2012 – Laura Berger

Fear became my friend and I used it as a spring board to jump. Sounds ironic, but when I realized I was scared, I became more motivated to push through it. Fear can be a wonderful catalyst for forward progress. You just need to learn how to use fear to your advantage, says Laura Berger, Pink Ladders Woman of Focus for June 2012.

“The more I leaned into my fears, the more I was able to conquer them.  Now when I am fearful, I know I am moving in the right direction; and I know historically I have successfully conquered previous fears.  I acknowledge my fear by literally having a conversation in my head or writing my fears on paper – and then recognizing that 90% of what I am feeling is unlikely to happen. It has actually become a compass in a way because I think to myself, ah, yes I am uncomfortable stepping outside of my comfort zone.  This is going to be great!  Do it because you have never been disappointed!”

Laura took a “life leap” from a six figure income to a year in Costa Rica.  Now she is living her dream working as an executive coach and authoring books.  She can now work remotely with flexibility to take months for travel and time for her family.

I help clients to achieve clarity and weigh alternatives, seeing and owning obstacles and opportunities by looking from the outside in.

Laura is now a coach through her company Bordeo Group, where she acts as a confidant of CEOs and senior executives.   Her clients list includes: JP Morgan, Leo Burnett Worldwide, American Hospital Association, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, World Business Chicago, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

I did not wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll become a coach.”

My involvement and influence at the top levels is what made this shift possible, says Laura.  “Over the years my career evolved from consulting to coaching after stints in merger and acquisition strategy, brand and business strategy, and global project management.  It was my work facilitating strategic planning sessions with senior leaders that led me to coaching.  My project sponsors and leaders in companies for whom I worked began reaching out for 1:1 counsel and advice. Shortly after that, I pursued my degree from Fielding Graduate University in Evidence Based Coaching. “

Laura has also co-authored two books with her husband Glen Tibaldeo:  Fall in Love Again, Every Day: 3 Steps to True Connection for Any Couple; and Aw, Chuck It!:The Reality and Hilarity of A Radical Sabbatical which has been described as a couple’s Eat, Pray, Love meets The Hangover.  She has been featured by WPLG ABC-TV, Self Magazine, Redbook Magazine, The Miami Herald, numerous radio shows, and listed as one of 100 Truly Amazing Women.

My career has been about taking risk and seizing opportunities.  It takes courage to walk away from something you are good at and make good money doing.

Laura took a “life leap” leaving a six figure salary for a “radical sabbatical” to the remote jungles of Costa Rica for a year with her husband. “I had a yearning desire to explore what else life has to offer.”

She took her first “life leap” after graduating from high school in Hawaii.  “Growing up in Hawaii, I had rock fever and needed to get off the island after high school—something very few Hawaiian teenagers did. My parents were the only ones in their families to attend college, and education was priceless in our household. I applied for colleges on the mainland. After receiving an ample scholarship and opportunity to live abroad for a year in Italy, I packed up and moved, site unseen, to the Midwest to attend St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana.  It was there that I spent three years freezing and one year in absolute awe as I traveled all over Europe soaking up different cultures and languages and new perspectives on people.  I found the cultures magnetic.”

Armed with a degree in psychology, Laura moved to Chicago seeking a career.  “I house sat for the summer and looked for work and a place to live.  My first job was as a director of a 30 bed Alzheimer Unit for a large assisted living company.  I was the youngest director and had a staff of 12 (the majority older than me).  I stayed for two years, and upon being promoted, I left to pursue a healthcare consulting career with a (then) big six consulting group.  I worked in various practices and moved up the ranks quickly to manager.  After 5 years of heavy travel, I decided to leave to be closer to Chicago.”

Laura attributes her successes in part to mantras, mentors and networking.

I develop a mantra every year. This mantra is one word which becomes my focus throughout the year.

Once I identify my word, I pick up something that reminds me of my mantra, says Laura.  Symbols are powerful vessels giving shape and form to the aspiration.  Choose a symbol that weaves your objective into your everyday life to supply repetition.  “One year my word was savor.  I am a devout tea drinker.  So I bought a sturdy tea cup as a symbol of savoring every drop and every relaxing moment while having a cup of tea.  This savor mug (that I used daily) has reminded me several times a day for eight years to savor the moments in life…I am reminded to relish in my current surroundings.”

My mentor is like an avatar.

This is a combination of traits I admire in others and/or have been blessed by the wisdom of different people.  Many of these people in some way, shape or form encouraged me to pick myself up when I felt defeated; believed in me when I doubted myself; and expressed their unconditional love, says Laura.

Networking makes the world go round.  Networking produces friendships, business partners, mergers, promotions, advocates, opportunities, and the list is endless.

I have met and built my career through networking, says Laura.  The purpose of networking is twofold: building and nurturing relationships, and creating opportunity for you.  “If you are great at building relationships but never seek opportunity for yourself, you are missing out on the magic of creating opportunity.  Likewise, you can always point out the person in the room who is collecting business cards for their newsletter.  It feels impersonal and like an invasion of personal space.  Many women are good at building and nurturing the relationship but not so good at making clear and concise requests to move business forward. Practice both and choose wisely where and how you network. You could spend your entire life running from networking event to networking event and produce little results.”

Support other women throughout your climb. Do not let people pit you against one another because we all lose in the end.

Laura also attributes her success to the five Ps: Passion, Proven Progress, Premeditated Risk, Persistence and People.

Passion:  When I am on fire, the heat intrinsically motivates me to move beyond my comfort zone.  This fuel not only helps me achieve my potential, it drowns the noise of others’ opinions so that I can hear my own inner voice.  Driven by my passion, I was able to create the vision for my future—the one that became my reality.

Proven Progress:  Know and take ownership of your value.  It is not enough to celebrate behind closed doors. When I was in big consulting firms, I would walk into my compensation reviews with a spreadsheet of my accomplishments.  This has given leaders an irrefutable reason to promote me.  When I map out the progress I am making for myself it motivates me to keep moving forward despite setbacks.

Premeditated Risk:  I remember reaching out to the CIO of a company where I worked and suggested a parallel business strategy.  I knew the value I was bringing to the table and took ownership of it.   My immediate boss got upset with me and suggested I was tarnishing my personal brand for reaching out to the CIO.  In the end, he was just upset the CIO felt I had something very valuable to add to the project.  I created a buzz for myself at the highest of levels.  I also chose to walk away from a six figure salary in pursuit of a new and different life.

Persistence:  If you do not succeed, try and try again.

People:  I have a lot of inner strength but when I am defeated or exhausted I find strength in my friends and family.  I make a point to keep the naysayers at bay.

I have never been one to state my goals because goals seem inflexible.

Intentions relate to my overall vision, says Laura.  The positive psychological approach of setting intentions empowers me to adjust when needed as opposed to failing to meet my goals.

When you believe in yourself, promoting yourself becomes easy, says Laura.  In order to believe in yourself, deep self-reflection is necessary to understand who you are as a person both inside and outside of your career.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal assists in this process and in remaining positive when belief in yourself falters.

Two separate and very stressful times in my career are related to sexual harassment in the workplace.

“One took place while I was attempting a company transfer. A battle of the egos ensued at the senior level, and I was accused of having inappropriate relations with the senior leader who was my advocate in making the transfer.  It got so out of control that an opposing senior leader had another female leader give me a bad review to thwart the transfer request.  As this was taking place, yet another leader offered me to have the bad review be erased if I met him for a drink at his hotel.  I played the private voicemail he left me to my advocate leader. He responded by saying that he would happily join us for a drink to discuss how to have this evaluation erased.  In the end my transfer was a very fulfilling career step,” says Laura.

“The second stressful period involved my boss who … would try to pry into my personal life.  My strategy was to ignore him and not react to what he was saying.  There were times where I was completely uncomfortable because I was the token woman in the room, and he would ask me about the particulars of what I preferred in the bedroom. Other men in the room were uncomfortable, and some would apologize for his behavior.  I was not the only one with whom he crossed the line, and in the end a lawsuit was filed.  I was pulled in as someone who was being harassed. I told them everything that had been said to me and in the end, their answer was ‘this type of thing is accepted in this industry’.  The occurrence was swept under the rug, says Laura.

To center, Laura enjoys snuggling with her kitties and a sitting on the sofa or on the deck with a hot cup of tea. 

I love adventurous travel.  I have traveled to Africa on safari, camping in the white deserts of Egypt, climbing Mt. Sinai, exploring India, Thailand, Japan, Costa Rica, Brazil, all of Europe, and many more places, says Laura.

Laura is most proud of living abroad in Italy not knowing anyone, and buying a house at 26 years old.  Her inspirations are both her mom and dad for working tirelessly and being the first in their families to attend college; and for setting an example to their children of optimism, perseverance, and culture.

Life is very malleable; and like water we must be adaptable and gracefully move around the obstacles that may be in our way.


1 Comment

  1. I would love to piggyback on this article for The Heroic Journal (you may see copies of this at my website http://www.theomnibuscenter.com about flipping antagonists into catalysts. What a great story!

    Can Laura Berger be forwarded this Angela? Great work!!

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