Acknowledging the “Unseen” for their Contributions!

Before the holidays, I asked IIL VP of Worldwide Distribution Steve Osborn for the home address of someone in our company who had truly gone above and beyond for the Grateful Leadership initiative, and to whom I was extremely grateful. I thought that a gift would be the best way to express my gratitude. Instead, Steve “gently” admonished me and asked me to consider all of the “unseen” people who worked tirelessly to make the Grateful Leadership courses, eLearning programs, materials, the gift packages available for people in order to help make the difference it has been our intention to make. These people, he said, are unseen, but their work is absolutely necessary to the success of this effort! And what was I going to do about this “condition”?

Hmmm…I wondered.  What would I do about it in the context of “walking the walk” and not just talking the talk? This was becoming a familiar theme for me by now, but one I hadn’t recognized as taking place in our own company. In a wonderful book called The Book of Awakening, author Mark Nepo wrote this in one of the passages: “I See You! …I Am Here!” was the title of it.  “For centuries,” he wrote, “African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the bush, he exclaims, ‘I See You!’ and then the one approaching rejoices, ‘I Am Here!’ This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound… for with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence to say, ‘I Am Here.’” When I read this beautiful passage, it spoke of the critical nature of seeing people – of acknowledging their value, their gifts and their talents. But how was I to acknowledge those I could not see?

Another example of this occurred when I led a Grateful Leadership webinar for a Scandinavian company recently, and a participant named Knut shared that there is a Norwegian expression: “Det er viktig å bli sett” eller “Viktigheten av å bli sett,” which means “the importance of being seen.” Knut said, “Everyone needs to see and be seen…recognition, appreciation and feedback are important for each and everyone to maintain a sense of humanity, personal worth and the feeling of being part of the surrounding social groups.” I thought this was totally correct, but had missed it where it trully mattered – at home, in my own company!

But how was I going to be able to see…and acknowledge the unseen supporters of this important work in a place as remote (forgive me) as Monett, Missouri? At the suggestion of the VP, I spoke with Melina Africa, Production and Adminstrative Support Manager at IIL Worldwide Distribution there. “Who are the unseen supporters of Grateful Leadership?” I asked. I now wanted to acknowledge each and every one of them, even though I hadn’t really thought about them (shame on me) a lot previously. Here’s what Melina had to say:

“I think I am a Grateful Leader,” she said a bit tentatively at first. “I know absolutely I couldn’t get the major projects we do at a moment’s notice for IIL companies and customers around the world, without all of our people. Just this week we got an order for IIL Printing on Friday afternoon that had to be completed and shipped and delivered by Monday morning, so people stayed until 3:00 am, loaded everything into boxes and just worked until the job got done. I know they would do anything for this company and no one really even knows they do it.” I started getting a guilt attack, but encouraged her to say more. “If even one of them were gone, I would be dead in the water. The team starts answering my emails and fielding phone calls when they know I can’t come up for air. The administrative group drops everything to come help out on IIL Printing jobs whenever needed. The virtual team was here all weekend to help support a pilot for a new client. The sales team tirelessly makes phone calls and helps our customers with their educational needs. The FedEx driver, Eddy, waits as long as he possibly can for our packages so that we don’t have to drive them hours away to St. Louis. They are all just amazing people, and almost no one ever sees or knows of their existence.”

I was shocked by my own lack of appreciation of all of these tireless, committed, loyal and happy workers. So I decided to express it tangibly, and sent a whole bunch of chocolate covered strawberries, which, I am told, were gobbled up in about 60 seconds! I included a heartfelt note that expressed my gratitude and appreciation to the IIL Monett team for all their hard work that goes unnoticed.

So here are some of the wonderful people who work night and day – sometimes without a break – to support all of us who benefit from IIL’s transformational Grateful Leadership initiative, and all the other wonderful courses and products that IIL offers.

Join me, please in thanking and appreciating and expressing our gratitude to all of these wonderful, selfless people, even those whose photos are not here. And do seek the unseen in your organization, family or community…and acknowledge them for what they contribute to your life and work!

Monett Team Final


Why Did It Require Four Takes?

Why Did it Require Four “Takes” for me to Successfully Read the Ending of the Grateful Leadership On Demand Course in the TV Studio?

Screenshot 2016-01-06 10 31 35

Let me begin the New Year with an ending. It was the ending of the Grateful Leadership Video Interactive On Demand 6-Hour Course. I had worked on the course for months in order to get it ready to offer as a “giveaway” to all attendees of IIL’s International Project Management Day 2015 Conference. 15,000 people had registered for the Conference, and of these 3,878 people (by the latest count), had signed up for my course. I was thrilled and nervous. We were working feverishly to complete the all-video, highly interactive course in time for the launch date of the conference, November 5th. I had been in the studio for three consecutive days, and there was still a lot of editing, video inserts to put in, etc. to follow, in order for it to be up and running.

It all went amazingly smoothly, and I in spite of my highly self-critical nature, I was pretty happy with the results. And then I got to the end of the taping session: the conclusion of the course. The words were simple, and came directly from my heart. They read:

“So we conclude this presentation by telling you to GO GRATEFUL! Have the courage to learn, the vision to lead, and the passion to grow.  

As you bring this initiative to your teams, to your management, to your janitors and washroom attendants, your customers, your suppliers, to your families, your friends, your governments and to your communities, you will make a huge difference. And the world will be better for it. Thanks for being with us for Grateful Leadership! I’m grateful to you for being here. I’m Judy Umlas.” 

During Take 1, I started sniffling in the middle of the last paragraph. “Cut!” yelled the normally very patient and supportive producer. And we started Take 2. Same deal. I couldn’t get through the words without weeping. Why, I asked myself, was this happening? And then I realized what it was: these words encompassed my vision for the world – how I truly wanted it to be. How IIL had so generously supported this mission for the past decade! How I saw that it actually COULD be, and I was moved – yes, moved to tears by the possibility I was putting into language. It was my intention to have this initiative change the world!

Take three– same deal. And finally the cameraman with a huge heart said, when I finished that take, tears and all: “Why don’t we go with that one? It’s real, it’s honest, and it’s you!” I agreed… and I didn’t. I summoned up my strength and said, “Let’s keep those takes but also get one that is just as heartfelt, but less emotional. Some people might be put off by what they consider to be too great a display of feelings.” And since my ultimate goal was to expose and promulgate this message to the world, I did not want to take the chance of turning anyone away. So I did it again, this time with the help of a no-nonsense production manager who firmly said I needed to get this version done, and that was it! Once completed, it was decided that we would go with this less emotional version, but I always kind of wondered which one was the right one.

Well, judging from the response we got, I know the ending we went with worked just fine. So on Day 1 (the launch) of the conference, which started at 9:00 am in North America, I was anxiously waiting to see if anyone would even sign up for this course. At 8:57 am I got this message:

“I just sent a note (actually before you go to the point where you asked for one) to a person who mans the front desk at our IT facility.  This woman is amazing and so positive. And she is the first face everyone sees when they arrive at the building. I have known her for years, but always took for granted what she provided for every individual entering the building. 

This course is amazing as it brings to our consciousness what we really ought to do every day.  Interestingly enough, I have a person who I find it more difficult to give this type of acknowledgment too, and I think I am going to try to send it to that person as well.”

I nearly jumped for joy! The IPMDay conference had not even officially yet begun in North America, and here was a woman writing to me from a huge company from Israel, who was already on Module 4 of the 5 module course. And that was just the beginning.

I am so incredibly grateful to all of the close to 4,000 people who have actively participated in the course, who have done the exercises and sent them to my email address – an option that was offered. And over the holidays, when I was sitting at my desk crying and my husband walked in, he asked with concern what was wrong. I sniffled and then explained about the slew of emails saying how great the course was, and how people were already putting it to use.

So now here’s a message for all of you who have taken the course (the rest of you can still sign up for IPMDay, and have access to this Grateful Leadership course as well as all of the presentations until the access period ends on February 3rd). So many of you have written, and I tried at first to send a note to each one of you, but couldn’t keep up. The outpouring tells me that the world is truly ready for this message, and is wanting to put it into action.

So as a result of your incredibly active participation in this course, I am now working on a proposal to have IIL develop a whole community for the Grateful Leadership initiative (the preliminary feedback is positive) and for the people who are embracing this powerful message. I welcome your ideas and suggestions for making it as active and transformational a community as we can.

So now I will admit, even though we went with the less “emotional” version of the ending to my course, that you all both deeply move me and inspire me every day with your actions and your courage! I will be sharing some of the stories you have shared with me (with permission, of course) with our newly emerging “Grateful Leadership Community.” And I am incredibly grateful for all of your active participation.

May it be a great New Year for all!

PMI Buffalo Chapter Inspired Contest and…(drumroll): The Winners!

You might remember our post in early October about the unusual Appreciation Award that Judy received from the PMI Buffalo chapter for speaking about Grateful Leadership at its Fall Professional Development Day. This is what we posted:

The first ever Judith W. Umlas Gratitude Gift goes to the PMI Buffalo Chapter, for bestowing upon her the “Most Adorable and Heaviest Appreciation Memento” she ever received in her decade of speaking engagements. As this is a new prize, she would like your suggestions as to what to give the Chapter! There will also be a prize for the commenter who comes closest to guessing the weight of the PMI Buffalo Chapter Award – it was too heavy for Judy to carry home!

As a result of these contests, we are actually going to give out multiple awards! First, we will also be sending the PMI Buffalo chapter a Grateful Leadership Gift Bundle to thank them for such an honor. What they gave Judy is a real piece of art and is most definitely appreciated and treasured!

DSC_0660 (Medium)


Next, we want to acknowledge Yves Jordan, PMP for this creative suggestion: “An option would be to send an autographed photo of you dressed like “Buffalo Bill” :-) The best gift would certainly be a sincere acknowledgement regarding the kind gesture and the warm welcome.” We loved both of his ideas, and present this slight modification: Judy dressed up as “Buffalo Jill”! Because we enjoyed your creative idea so much, Yves, we are pleased to award you First Prize, which is a free IPMDay 2015 registration. This includes a complimentary Grateful Leadership On Demand course and Judy’s Keynote Address, which you said you wanted to view: From Cowardly Lion to Lion-Hearted Leader.


The Buffalo Chapter will also receive a framed version of this photo, with IIL’s sincere thanks and appreciation.

The Buffalo Chapter will also receive a framed version of this photo, with IIL’s sincere thanks and appreciation.



Next, we would like to congratulate DeAnna Burghart, Product Manager and “Content Shepherd” for her guess being the farthest away from the actual weight of the Buffalo award! DeAnna guessed this: “Too heavy to carry, clearly solid bronze… I’m going to go with 45 pounds. :)” DeAnna will also receive a free IPM Day registration and Grateful Leadership On Demand course access.

And now, for the results: Drumroll please…. The Buffalo award actually weighed 5.2 pounds (I thought it weighed a lot more)!! Yves guessed 9 pounds, which is pretty close, but the person whose guess came the closest was actually Roxi Nevin, who estimated 7 pounds.


Roxi is an IIL employee, and our social media manager, so she wasn’t officially in the contest, but we would like to present her with autographed copies of Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment – both of which she requested!

Our thanks to all for your creative participation, and for your wonderful comments that led to this fun endeavor! So what’s our next contest?


How Not to Talk To a Pregnant Business Woman

Starting the Journey to Making a Difference…  

It was the following article that I wrote back in 1986 … that led to Working Woman magazine publishing it … that led to an interview (See the original interview and a guest blog I wrote on here!) with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America … that led to people telling me for years (and still telling me) the difference this piece, written out of total frustration, was to them in their workplaces… that led to the expression of my frustration about people not acknowledging each other in the workplace… that led to my writing three books on the subject… that led to my training leaders all over the world…. that led me to you! 

Here’s to the power of the powerfully expressed written word to change the world! And of course, here’s to you – the 25,000+ people around the globe who have participated in some way in this work and continue to spread… (of course) the word!

The following article was first published September of 1986 in Working Woman magazine. 

How Not to Talk to a Pregnant Business Woman

She’s just having a baby. Why do her co-workers act like they’ve just had a lobotomy? Here’s how one expectant exec learned to deal with 1,001 cutesy comments. -by Judith M. Umlas 


Illustrations by Mimi Pond

When I was two months pregnant, I made the big announcement at work. At a meeting soon after I was told, “Sit down, take it easy. We reserved a chair for you — you need it.“ I was startled and a bit put off. I didn`t even look pregnant at the time and certainly hadn`t yet come to terms with what was happening to me. At three months I was greeted with, “Hi, Puffy, howya doin` ?“ At four months, “Hey, Fatty, you look great!“ At five and six months, “Have you been stealing basketballs?“ and “Did you swallow a pumpkin seed?“ At seven and eight months, “You`re getting bigger and bigger every day!“ And throughout I answered questions such as, “When is your due date?“ and “When are you leaving?“ anywhere from five to 15 times a day.

As thrilled, excited and awed as I was by pregnancy, these comments from co-workers with whom I’d shared ideas, projects and sandwiches, in the cafeteria during my 12 years in communications were irritating. I thought I knew these people! Perhaps I was a little sensitive about the subject. Frankly, I wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of having children. I had been married for 15 years and thought of myself as a career woman. For years I would not risk combining work with motherhood. But age 35 was the turning point. I realized that I had to take the plunge or spend the rest of my life wondering, ‘What if?’. Pregnancy was an emotionally charged subject for me, and I knew it. But thinking about getting pregnant isn’t the same as dealing with being pregnant. I wasn’t prepared for the reactions I received. Once the congratulations were over, I’d naively expected to settle back into my routine and work up to my due date.

Don’t Say That Scary Word

I did feel great for most of the pregnancy. Often I forgot about being pregnant until someone reminded me. And I found the reminder jarring. I was trying hard to retain the comfortable old identity I had known for so many years: career woman. “Mother” was such an unknown. What would it do to my ambitions? To my routine? To my marriage after so many years? While I was trying to go about business as usual, my colleagues were having a ball with my new role. On one hand, I liked this. I’d always had a reputation of being a rather “starched” manager. I had been accused of not letting my hair down enough, of maintaining my stiff air of professional to executives, of whom I’d always been a bit in awe, start chatting with me about birth. As he described what the arrival of his own children had meant to him, both of us got misty eyes. His comments about the miracle of the process allowed me to see him as a complete person. Suddenly we shared an experience that connected us on a profound level.

My former boss of eight years also described his great joy at the birth of his child and talked about the “miracle”–that word kept surfacing–of children in general. I learned more about him during that one talk than in all the years of our warm, supportive professional relationship. But for better or worse, people don’t spend a lot of time talking about miracles at work. Although I loved the new level of communication my condition inspired, I still resented the lighthearted–but to me, thoughtless–remarks it evoked. 4

One “Hi, Fatty” too many

One day I decided enough was enough. After being greeted yet again with “Hi, Fatty!“ this time by a female executive whom I like very much, I stopped her, looked her boldly in the eye and said, “I don`t appreciate it when you call me that. Why are you being so tactless?“ After her first look of shock she became introspective. “I don`t know!“ she said. “How stupid of me!“

She apologized and then it seemed the proverbial light bulb went on. “I think I know why I said that,“ she stammered. “I`ve had so little contact with pregnant businesswomen. I guess I felt uncomfortable seeing you pregnant. I didn`t know what to say, so that`s what I said. How dumb!“ I could have kissed her for her honesty. Was this true of others in the workplace as well? Were they uncomfortable with the novelty of pregnancy in business? For even thought it’s fairly common for pregnant women to work right up until their babies are born and then return to their jobs, it is still new enough in some companies to cause confusion. I kept noticing that while many people asked me when I was leaving work, few asked when I would return. It was almost assumed that I would not come back, and I found myself lamely adding unsolicited comments like “It’s going to be a short leave; I will be back…”

I think she’s bigger. Do you think she’s bigger?

I knew that people weren’t deliberately trying to upset me. Obviously my insecurity about my changing role was making me oversensitive. In self-defense I began talking to other business women who were either pregnant or new mothers, and I discovered I was not alone. They all had cringed at insensitive comments made by previously normal associates who shifted in attitude toward them. One experienced professional who worked at a weekly newspaper discovered that as soon as she donned maternity clothes, her associates addressed all remarks, business or personal, to her tummy. She was rattled to find that it was not a passing phase–her colleagues continued this strange form of communication throughout her pregnancy. Another mother-to-be businesswoman was horrified to find that men who had always shown professional respect toward her thought nothing of rubbing her belly, as if an invisible wall had crumbled and she as now public property. “They wouldn’t have dared touch me before I was pregnant” she fumed. “Why should they feel it’s OK now?” An executive in the publishing industry found it got on her nerves when her co-workers, male and female, continuously made comments on her size and shape as if she were an animal at the county fair.

5I began to wonder if co-workers of pregnant women would appreciate a few pointers on how to deal with the situation. And perhaps pregnant businesswomen themselves could benefit from things I learned the hard way. After all, women who work late into pregnancy frequently have been called pioneers; there are not too many trails blazed for them yet.


For the co-workers of pregnant businesswomen: Once the announcement is made, of course you should congratulate, celebrate and share the excitement. After that, hold the gory stories about childbirth, though positive tips or information are welcome. (“I have a friend who got a fantastic housekeeper through an agency. When you’re ready to think about such things, I’ll get you the agency’s number”).

Be aware, though, that the pregnancy is still new to her, too, and she may not be ready to deal with nitty-gritty details for months yet. I absolutely refused to learn the difference between a “kimona” and a “stretchie” until the baby was born.  Each time I looked at layette lists I felt overwhelmed and just couldn’t take it all in. And that was just one example of my unwillingness to plunge into the new world. I wanted to hold on a bit longer to due dates for reports rather than for babies. So be sensitive to the fact that your co-worker may not want to discuss bottle vs. breast-feeding immediately.

Another crucial point: While at work, most pregnant women are trying to do their jobs. Yes, the pregnancy is a major event, and for you to pretend it does not exist would be weird. But daily comments on her proportions can become a nuisance. And given our social conditioning, expressions such as “fatty“ or “puffy“ are out.

When a Manager Turns Green

What do you do if your pregnant co-worker has physical problems at work? Not all pregnant women experience symptoms such as fatigue, nausea or severe back pain. If she does, let her guide your response. In my third month I had to disappear every afternoon for a brief nap in the company nurse’s office. My absences were explained to those few who needed to know, and I deeply appreciated the understanding of colleagues who didn’t make a big deal of it. When I returned a half hour later, I usually got a warm smile and we just got on with business.  If there are serious health problems that cause many days` absence, this will affect the work schedule. Face the situation head-on. Subordinates and superiors may need to be involved in the solution. One woman in my company was violently ill with morning sickness for a month and a half and had to ask her subordinate to take on some extra work (with her boss`s OK).




If you manage a pregnant woman you obviously don`t want her to think you expect problems. But if they do arise, let her know you are aware of the situation and will try to back her up as best you can. In an extreme case, suggest that she start maternity leave early, but only as a last resort. Naturally, you will both have to discuss projects whose due dates coincide with hers and come up with contingency plans to make sure they get done. If you find yourself feeling awkward around a “burgeoning belly” or acting overly helpful, admit it. It takes courage to be this honest, and she may be relieved to air any tension. Say that you want to correct the behavior. “I know I’m being old-fashioned, but I keep wanting to do things for you instead of letting you do them yourself. Will you tell me when you need help?” That will make it clear you are considerate but won’t burden her with your ideas about pregnancy. It might be the start of a needed, honest discussion on a touchy subject.


It’s Been Nice Knowing You, Dear

Whether and when a woman will return to work is emotionally charged on both sides and needs to be faced, especially if you are her boss. My irritation at being asked, “When are you leaving?“ and not, “When are you coming back?“ probably had something to do with my realization that in my heart of hearts I didn`t know the answer to the last question. Could I swear on a stack of annual reports that I would return no matter what? Having a baby was such a tremendous unknown that all I could go by was how I felt now.

Many women do return to full-time jobs after maternity leaves ranging from two weeks to six months. Therefore, there is an excellent chance that if she says she will be back, she will. Accept this. Not blindly, of course, especially if important projects are riding on her return. A discussion is definitely in order. Do not dispute what she says with comments such as, “Oh, once you see that adorable baby you`ll change your mind.“ But do ask if she will need a transition period such as coming to work two or three days a week, if this is possible. Evaluate crucial tasks and decide whether or not she could do some of them from home in the beginning. That is a form of enlightened management I appreciated after the birth of my baby. As for touching a pregnant woman’s belly, be careful. A thoughtful friend explained the instinctive urge to touch as a wish to “warm your hands at the fire of humanity.” A noble thought, but if you have never had physical contact with her before, such an unexpected pat may be offensive. The simple solution is to ask. I was charmed and moved when someone would ask to touch my belly, and I invariably answered yes.


Now for the other side of the story. What can a woman do to make her pregnancy easier on co-workers and herself? First, think carefully about when to make the announcement. Some experts believe it is best to wait until it is obvious, so that the woman has time to make the emotional adjustment before the world adds its two cents worth. I did not. I think that my announcement at two months was a couple of months too early. But my husband was eager to tell everyone immediately, and since we work in the same industry, I thought I would get nervous wondering who already knew. And I had waited so long to get pregnant that my own exuberance was pretty hard to contain. But you should know yourself and evaluate how difficult the adjustment will be once the word is out.

In any event, the first to know at work should be your boss. When you are face-to-face making the announcement, you will be able to see the mental machinery whirring: Will she really come back? Will the work get done? Who will replace her during her maternity leave? These are normal questions, and you should be prepared to answer them. Deal with as many as you can in that initial discussion.

Remember, pregnant professionals are still unusual, and there may be awkwardness on both sides. Be as direct as you can. Say, “My due date is Aug. 15. I`m planning to work until late July, but I hope we can be a little flexible, since I`d like to work longer but will have to see how I feel.“ Share ideas for finishing major, looming assignments. Don`t say you will work until the day before the baby is due, even though you may want to! It is increasingly common for women to work until close to their due dates, but by that time you may need to relax and get ready for the big event. And you may need sick days. It is OK — even non-pregnant people take these from time to time! I felt like I had to be Superwoman and prove something for all of womankind. Looking back, I probably should have left work several weeks earlier than I did instead of waiting until my doctor told me “Stop, or else.” A week before the baby was born I developed the first signs of toxemia; it was over 100 degrees on several working days in July, and yet I felt compelled to keep going. I should have realized that no one, not even the pregnant superwoman, is irreplaceable.


And now strategies for coping with thoughtless remarks. First and most important, maintain your sense of humor. Ninety percent of the people who make silly comments mean well and simply do not know any better. If the person is a peer, you may feel comfortable enough to let him know that the remark rubs you the wrong way. If the wisecracker is a superior, you may have to grin and bear it, hypocritical or not. Be sensitive to the rank and communication level of that person. You cannot reform a lover of one-liners in nine months. A few people may just be plain hostile. One woman at work made remarks about pregnancy and motherhood that drove me up the wall throughout. Yet I tried to be as tolerant as I could, since I knew she had lost two children and deserved more compassion than anger.

If people are uncomfortable about your pregnancy, you’ll get the vibes. If you feel fairly secure with the person, bring up the subject. For example: “I think some people feel awkward around pregnant women at work–it’s still pretty new to see us leading meetings. How do you feel? It would help me if you could let me know.” Tell your boss how you want to be treated: “Ill be happy to continue traveling until my seventh month; after that I don’t think I should fly.” Or say lightly, “I’m really not fragile, so don’t be afraid to give me new assignments, especially tough ones. You know I love a challenge!” Or, just as valid: “I’ll be winding down next month for my maternity leave, so I should try to tie up all loose ends. It would probably be better if I didn’t take on new assignments then.”

In short, pregnant businesswomen and co-workers alike should try to keep office life much as it was before. When the initial ecstasy wears off, everyone will be happy to go on working with the same efficient person they knew before she, uh, swallowed a basketball. (See how far I’ve come?)

Judith M. Umlas did return to her career in communications after the birth of her daughter, Stephanie.

An Awesome Example of a Team Acknowledgment… and a “Behind the Scenes” Look at IPMDay!

Teamwork and team spirit - Hands piled on top of one another .

I want to acknowledge my inspired and inspiring, inventive and creative colleague, Lori Milhaven, Executive VP Marketing, for one of the best examples of acknowledging a team I have ever seen (except when she does this every year following IPMDay – a contribution we on the team have come to expect, and look forward to). We can all be inspired by her example! So with her permission, and my “seconding” of her acknowledgments of every member of our awesome team, I share her Team Acknowledgment with all of you:

ODE to IPMDAY 2015


We have never been so nervous
and were hoping for the best.
We needed beyond amazing service
as we continued to test and test.

The event went live the night before
as we watched and waited for any news.
Each hour that passed we knew the score
YEAH! No need to sing the blues.

A team is needed to make it through
and together we achieved great success.
I need this time to call out a few
as focused they stayed under tremendous stress.

IIL Media the speaker videos were great
the best so far from any year.
Clients loved them and could not wait
to tell the world and give a cheer.

A social dynamo was on our hands
tweeting, liking, and posting nonstop.
Richard/Samantha we are forever your fans
your efforts really made us pop.

ShaunMara managed more than you know
her overall skills did us very proud.
Nolan/Kaylin each a seasoned pro
by design and pen they brought the crowd.
Judy worked on tasks non-stop
up to the very last minute she could.
This year she really came out on top
like we always knew she would.

Kate and Roy super job this year
you came through big and made it work.
IT supported us without any fear
and helped us all that were going berserk.

Joyce and Katherine what can we say
we are so grateful for your support.
I know the craziness that was your day
and you never once came up short.

Olga joined and was on the run
she learned quick and managed her team.
Bekah/Sarah/Barry got the jobs done
each day planning a new scheme.

Presenters we honor you for making the time
to put out your message and forever guide.
Around the world your words will chime
to make positive change far and wide.

Sales teams we have to say job well done
your successes and stories on daily alert.
Our hope is new clients are easily won
by your skill and will to quickly convert.

Please know I personally thank you all
and for your time on this you spent.
Working as one we will never fall
and will always be ready to represent.

LaVerne’s message was to do our part
and help make a difference where we can.
Her passion for world change she did impart
so I invite you to think of your personal plan.

We are thinking of next year as we close
bigger, better, bolder are words that we say.
No rest for the weary as everyone knows
but please I need just one more day :)

A sincere thanks to EVERYONE that supported, promoted, managed or played any role in our success achieved with IPMDAY 2015: Ensuring a Sustainable Future.

And by the way, the viewer access period goes on until February 3rd, so if you haven’t yet registered, it isn’t too late. You will LOVE it! Registering also gives you free access to IIL’s six hour On Demand course on Grateful Leadership, along with two other courses. So check out and join us!



Permission to Acknowledge Myself…Please!

adfadf   I teach tens of thousands of people the value and importance of acknowledgment. Numerous participants in my courses have requested that I even add an 8th Principle to the 7 Principles of Acknowledgment, one about the importance of self-acknowledgment, but I haven’t done that yet. So I will just ask your tolerance and your permission to step out of my usual role of acknowledging others, and to let you know what I’m proud of that I have recently accomplished.
This October I celebrated — truly celebrated, with joy and a sense of accomplishment — having had Type 1 Diabetes for (count them) 60 years! At the time I was first diagnosed, this was felt to be a terrible fate. My dear mother used to rip pages out of a diabetes magazine that came to our house, which related in grisly detail the complications of this dread disease. But I found out on my own anyway, as I grew older and others filled me in, some with pity, some with sadness. So I became a bit of a rebel, not even imagining I could outwit my “fate.” But eventually the kindness and caring of some awesome medical practitioners helped turn me around. This led me to convert to taking amazing care of myself, and it’s not an easy job. For years now, I have been testing my blood glucose about a dozen times a day, I have an insulin pump and a glucose continuous monitor and sensor that I wear and carry the remote devices for at all times. If this is more information than you would like, I apologize. But it is this constant monitoring that has made me a bit of a “poster child” for what good control can do — to achieve 60 years with the disease and without the complications of it. When I had reached the 50 year mark, the Joslin Diabetes Center gave me an actual medal which reads “For 50 courageous years with diabetes.” There is no special medal for getting to 60, but I am aiming to collect the one for 75 years that they bestow.
And yes, it does take courage. It does take commitment. It does take a constant awareness of what is going on in my body. But it is truly worth it, as all of my loved ones and certainly my Grateful Leadership “fans” would say. I wrote my first book, The Power of Acknowledgment just as I was getting my 50 year medal! And the other two books came after that…so having this time in a totally healthy state has made a difference, and not just for me.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and I want to acknowledge all of the diabetics out there who are doing their best to get or to remain healthy. I am available for coaching, or support for anyone who wants to take on this important work and major challenge. And I am a cheerleader for the work being worthwhile. Thanks for “listening” and for your ongoing and great support.
Now I want to ask you this: what are YOU proud of YOURSELF for? Please share this with us! It is important to be able to acknowledge ourselves, isn’t it?!
Until the next time…. Judy Umlas



Truck Sample Flat

I was riding with my daughter, an account manager for a cosmetics company, to a shopping center in Pennsylvania where her product line was carried. She was doing the driving, and we were engaged in good mother/daughter conversation. All of a sudden Stefanie yelled, “Mom! Did you see the back of that truck?” “No,” I responded, wondering why she would be calling my attention to the back of a truck! “You’ve got to read their sign on the back,” she yelled even more loudly. “It’s what you say in all of your books!” Now she had my full attention, but the truck was exiting the highway, and we were falling farther and farther behind. I couldn’t make out the signage and felt devastated. So I shouted to her, “FOLLOW THAT TRUCK!!!” My daughter heard the urgency in my voice, so she put the pedal to the medal and we caught up within reading distance pretty quickly. And when I saw the signage, I could hardly believe my eyes: “A company that CARES for you; more HOME time; CULTURE OF APPRECIATION” (I use those words so often, I thought I had made them up! Was I dreaming? I quickly jotted down the phone number for truck drivers to call to join the A&S Kinard FAMILY (as this was too good to be true).

The moment we got to the shopping center, I made the call. “I’m not a truck driver,” I began somewhat apologetically when someone answered the phone, “but I need to talk to someone about the sign on the back of your truck!” I’m sure the nice person there thought I was a bit out of my mind, but she could hear that this was urgent! I was put in touch with Corporate Recruiter Thomas Ghoerig, who seemed to think I was not only NOT out of my mind, but really on to something. He told me that while throughout the trucking industry, driver turnover rates were extremely high (over 100%), in their company, the average was much, much lower (28%). He attributed this difference to their very successful employee engagement and retention policies, focusing on having and demonstrating a true culture of appreciation! This was awesome, and I knew I had met up with a kindred spirit and company. So I asked for the visionary of the company — the person responsible for making this a reality.
I was directed to A&S Services Group CEO Ken Buck, who had this to say about how and why they created this culture:
“Our Management Team is made up of people that have spent their entire careers in trucking,” Mr. Buck told me. “They are the on the front line with our customers and are the backbone upon which all of our successes rest. They deliver the goods that our culture relies upon each and every day. Without them, our economy would fail. We therefore embrace them and their hard work at every step. Most of what we do to create the “family feel” for drivers in our company, is about culture. As part of this culture, we create a “driver manager to driver” relationship that addresses each individual’s schedules, work assignments, family requirements and earnings requirements in order to try to match all expectations and to go beyond the normal employer/employee relationship. Ours is a very challenging work environment, and we need to remember that and act on it at all times!”

This really rang true for me when I thought about what it takes to establish that “culture of appreciation” referred to on the back of the A&S Kinard trucks. This is true for any organization, anywhere and everywhere, but particularly in a challenging work environment, it is even more necessary. Think of police officers, fire station personnel, hospital emergency room doctors and nurses, soldiers, and countless other industry examples.

In further explaining A&S Services Group’s excellent track record in employee retention and engagement, Ken Buck continued with his own personal pride, “When either professional or personal accomplishments are made known to us, a driver’s name is published and he or she is included in our group that is branded with “A&S Kinard Pride” and they receive a shirt and companywide notoriety. We are more successful than our peers in hiring and retaining drivers because we offer primarily short haul, local opportunities where drivers can live at home, be active with their families and not have forced hours on weekends and holidays. There is a high degree of variability in the types of jobs our drivers can elect to do. This is all because we care about them as people,”

And that certainly shows! We can all help create that culture of appreciation, and I think we are coming close to reaching that “tipping point” in making this a reality.

A Treatise on Grateful Leadership and How it Complements Organizational Transformation




 If I hadn’t…  by Judy Umlas

If I hadn’t gone to my local post office to mail a copy of the newly published Grateful Leadership book…

If postal worker Diana Rodriguez hadn’t then taken a keen interest in the book as she was preparing it for mailing to my Executive Coach in the UK (I didn’t just slip it in an envelope for a US mailing).…

If she hadn’t been taking a course in Leadership in her Organizational Management program at Nyack College…

If she hadn’t taken my business card and then contacted me immediately for the e-File of the book I had offered to her (I do this often but rarely get taken up on it)…

If she hadn’t asked my permission to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class about Grateful Leadership (see linked blog post below which contains that presentation)…

If she hadn’t offered to connect Professor Hundley with me, which she did …

If he and I hadn’t enjoyed a lively conversation over a delicious breakfast in Nyack, NY…… then Professor Alfred A. Hundley, one of whose major academic interests is the comparative study of most effective Leadership Models, might not have learned about Grateful Leadership until much later on, and might not have written the very positive and insightful article about it that you see below!

Sometimes, seemingly inconsequential things just happen — in order to make great things happen! And I am truly grateful!


Guest Blog

A Treatise on Grateful Leadership and How it Complements Organizational Transformation by Alfred L. Hundley (September, 2015) 


Before we come to the conclusion that grateful leadership complements the transformative nature in organizations, we must look at the two leadership behaviors that grateful leadership builds on.

Transformational Leadership

According to Bass (1999), transformational leadership refers to moving the follower beyond immediate self-interests through idealized influence (charisma), inspiration, intellectual stimulation or individualized consideration. It elevates the followers’ level of maturity and ideals as well as concerns for achievement, self-actualization, and the well-being of others, organization, and society (Bass, 1999, p.11).

Servant Leadership

According to Laub (1999), “servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader” (p.81).This definition was further expanded by adding the following descriptive framework. “Servant leadership promotes the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for the good of those led and the sharing of power and status for the common good of each individual, the total organization, and those served by the organization” (Laub,1999 p.81).

Grateful Leadership

Grateful leadership builds on both transformational and servant leadership behaviors by using the dimensions of transformational and servant leadership, and emphasizing authenticity in employing the essence of acknowledgement and gratitude. The notion here is to use authenticity to foster courage to make decisions; the willingness to take initiatives; the trust in the organization and fellow employees; and motivation to strive for continuous improvement (Umlas, 2013). The potential for grateful leadership to become a high order construct is the conceptualization of acknowledgement, in the context of organizational change, individual gratitude, and institutional gratitude which will help to foster organizational transformation.


So, grateful leadership appears to have the important hallmarks that help to complement the processes of organizational transformation. The defining elements to this argument are that organizational transformation is driven by a vibrant organizational culture; and that a vibrant organizational culture is sustained through an interaction with a leadership behavior that manifests authenticity to foster (1) the courage to make decisions;(2) the willingness to take initiatives (3); the trust in the organization and fellow employees; and (4) the motivation to strive for continuous improvement.

What remains for the future of grateful leadership is its validation as a theoretical construct and the development of a scale to measure its effect on organizational transformation (change), productivity, organizational effectiveness or any variable of interest to be studied.


Bass, B.M. (1999): Two decades of research and development on transformational leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8, 9-32 

Laub, J.A (1999): Assessing the servant organization: Development of an Organizational leadership Assessment (OLA) instrument. Dissertation Abstracts International, 60(02), 308A (UMI No. 999219220 

Umlas, J.W. (2013). Grateful leadership: Using the power of acknowledgement to engage all your people and achieve superior results (1st Edition). McGraw Hill: New York


Alfred L. Hundley has over 15 years corporate experience in both public and private sector organizations, and has held senior and executive level managerial positions as well as serving as a corporate trainer, before transitioning to the world of academia. Hundley is a Professor of Business and Leadership at Nyack College. He has been teaching in higher education for over 14 years. His scholarly interests are in leadership and organizational studies, specifically studying organizational development and change issues. 

(Professor Hundley plans to write a future article titled: “How Do Grateful Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Coalesce to Impact on an Organization’s Transformation?”)  


Read more about how Judy and Professor Hundley began their relationship here!


Taking the Opportunity to Acknowledge the Person Who Set Me on My Path: Joan Lunden!

Judy with Joan Lunden

Joan and Judy at Books and Greetings in Northvale, NJ


Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to acknowledge someone who truly made a difference in the path I took in life, and the fantastic career that has come about as a result of it! That was Joan Lunden, Host of the network television show Good Morning America. Those of you who have read the Grateful Leadership book know the story, but for the rest of you, I will cite the very first thing I wrote in the book:

From: Grateful Leadership, Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results, co-published by McGraw-Hill and IIL © 2013

Excerpt from Chapter 1  “I’m Mad as Hell!” to Acknowledgment Activist:

Years ago I was troubled by the way people spoke to me or acted

toward me at my job at CBS Television while I was pregnant. So I

wrote an article for Working Woman magazine entitled “How NOT to

Talk to a Pregnant Businesswoman.”1 Overnight, I became the authority

on this subject, appearing on Good Morning America and a multitude

of radio stations.

I achieved this notoriety simply because no one else was talking

about this phenomenon publicly. I had only opened my mouth (or

poised my pen) and offered some commonsense, no-brainer (at least

to me) “rules” of communication to create a more respectful environment

in the workplace.” 

Once I saw the power not only of the written word to describe a negative condition, but the phenomenal way that getting the word out can actually change that condition, I knew the power of this combination (for years people told me they took that article once they heard about it and passed it around at work, creating real change in their environments). And this was thanks to the fabulous interview the host of Good Morning America, Joan Lunden, conducted with me on the daily show that seemed to reach the entire world! So when I heard that Joan Lunden herself was coming to a bookstore near me to do a signing on her inspirational new book Had I Known, A Memoir Of Survival (Harper Collins ©2015), I  knew I had to go and personally acknowledge her for the huge opportunity she created for me. And, when you think about it, she created it also for the rest of the people in the world who have benefitted from the messages of my books on The Power of Acknowledgment and Grateful Leadership. If I HADN’T KNOWN that writing about something and then speaking about it and creating tools for change could make a huge difference in a condition in the world, I would never have written these three books on a subject that started out being as painful to me as the improper communications and gestures by colleagues when I was pregnant at work. The subject was the LACK of acknowledgment of people at work, in families, in communities and throughout the world. I saw examples of this all the time, and it hurt me on a deep and personal level. But I knew from my experience with Joan Lunden that I could actually CHANGE THE WORLD!!! And when I see the results of the work that I do with and through IIL and its many platforms for transformation, I celebrate this and the fact that Joan and the staff of Good Morning America, who originally approved me as a guest, really gave me my chance!

So to Joan Lunden, and on behalf of all of the people who have benefitted from my work over the years, my heartfelt, deepest appreciation and gratitude for showing me the way!

Check out Books and Greetings Book store here!

See more about Joan’s book by clicking here:



My Unexpected Connection to 9/11/01 in a New Found Land

My holiday trip to Newfoundland, located in Canada, was the direct result of the pronouncement of a new friend, Chris Norman (Click Here for A Random Act of Acknowledgment), after spending three months there, that the people of this area were the friendliest in the world. So when I told him we were going to go and check this out for ourselves, he sent a mass email to all of his “newfound” friends, and told them to open their hearts and their homes to his friend, Judy, and her husband Bob, who were planning a trip as a result of his recommendation. And they did, but that’s another story…

During our travels, we found our way to the town of Gander. This was at the suggestion of other friends who assumed that we knew of the vital role the residents of Gander and surrounding communities had played when thousands of travelers from Europe (including many Americans) became stranded there after New York airspace was closed on 9/11/01. I didn’t know the details of the story, so as soon as we arrived, I decided to do my research. We went right to the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander, where we saw evidence of the amazing account of the 6,700 passengers, a number almost equal to the total population of Gander (10,000), who were stuck in the Gander International Airport as their mandatory “stopover.” No one was allowed to leave the planes, because they and their baggage had to be carefully checked to make sure there were no additional dangerous people or items aboard. But finally, they were allowed to disembark, and here’s what happened, according to the report of the office of the Mayor at the time, Claude Elliott, who is still the current Mayor:

As word of the arriving aircraft spread throughout the community, donations of bedding and food began pouring in, even before arrangements could be made for collection and distribution. The still-new Gander Community Centre quickly became the main staging point.

Businesses were equally quick to step up. The local Canadian Tire store filled a truck with whatever stock they imagined stranded travelers might need, and Wal-Mart management ordered its cashiers to ring up purchases as usual, but to accept no payment from the “plane people”, as they would become known. Two local pharmacies would spend much of the next week verifying and filling prescriptions for the stranded passengers, again at no charge.

What amazed me the most, though, was the way in which the residents of Gander opened their homes, their hearths — and most importantly — their hearts to the stranded people.

“It truly was a community effort in every sense,” Mayor Elliott insists. “What the terrorists accomplished on September 11 only brought us closer together and gave us the opportunity to show the world how easy it is to bring care and comfort and how hard it is to break our spirit.”

Click Here for the Report

When I saw the television news reports in the museum, and heard what Mayor Elliott had to say about this effort, I knew I had a job to do! I then had the audacity to go directly to the Mayor’s office. There, with the able assistance of his Media Coordinator Greg Seaward, I gave him both a copy of The Power of Acknowledgment and my profound appreciation of and acknowledgment for the people of Gander and surrounding communities for the role they played during that incredibly challenging time.

Below is the video my husband took of this presentation to the Mayor, while we stood together before a piece of steel from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, widely considered the most sacred symbol of the 9/11 experience.


Mayor Elliott summarized the power of this incredible generosity and caring displayed by all of the people of this area:

“One woman told me when she was leaving that September 11 showed us the very worst of mankind, but that her time in Gander restored her faith in humanity and that here she saw the very best of mankind,” he relates. “I can think of no better legacy from those events than the message to the world that hope and compassion will always triumph over hatred and violence.”

For all of this, I am truly grateful! Again, my belated, but deeply personal thanks and acknowledgment to all who participated in this effort!

One more very important acknowledgment! On this day, the anniversary, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all those who were lost on this tragic day along with my thanks and deepest appreciation to everyone out there that did their part to help all those in need.