EXPERT INTERVIEW – Patterns that could be impacting your success w/ Sylvia LaFair, CEO of Creative Energy Options

Sylvia LaFair, CEO of Creative Energy Options provides high impact leadership coaching to optimize workplace relationships, change management, and skills that moves conflict to collaboration.

I wanted to know from her what she sees in the leaders she works with, and what is working or working against those professionals.

Question 1: What are the most effective qualities you find in your clients as leaders?

Answer 1: In today’s vernacular, the ability to pivot. Those who are less defensive and more willing to observe their own behavior with a degree of humor and acceptance and then make changes. These clients make the most differences the fastest. I love to help clients find the sweet spot of communication, which means using just the right words at the right time in the right amount. Those who are willing to explore and see life as a large research project are the ones who are ultra- effective.

Question 2: What are their top challenges or destructive/disruptive patterns as leaders in their performance?

Answer 2: The top challenge is within the relationship realm. My model is an interactive one and everyone I work with must, and I want to underline must, have a creative, curious and constructive conversation with someone as they move past their outdated, ingrained behavior patterns. That’s the biggest challenge. Often there is a desire to “think about” or “meditate on” what we discuss, and I gently or with some force then lead them to the conversation with a colleague, family member or someone in the community. Our process, called a PEP talk, is about how to observe your specific pattern (there are 13 key patterns to consider) and then be accountable for your part in the relationship. PEP Talk stands for “Pattern Encounter Process” and takes real courage to look at yourself without defending, explaining or justifying behavior, yours or theirs.

Question 3: How do these challenges differ between female and male leaders.

Answer 3: There are some behavior patterns that have been culturally deepened in all of us over eons. While right now we are in the process of real change with women and men rethinking basic roles in society even though so much of our behavior already hard wired. Women tend to be pleasers, martyrs, and rescuers and end up twisting themselves into pretzels to take care of others. I have a saying when women are having a tough time giving up these patterns “Remember a hungry waitress makes a very poor server!” Men, on the other hand, are often super achievers who are the “me-me-me” individuals who will roll over anyone in their way of success. Also, men have a strong tendency to be avoiders who would rather stick a pen in their eye than hang around for an emotional-based dialogue.

Question 4: What impact do these challenges have on their teams, company and themselves?

Answer 4: The saying that water runs downhill is as accurate for a business as is it for a weather forecast. When leaders stay stuck in the negative patterns they run havoc in an organization. It creates cultures of extremes. Companies that are too polite, filled with pleasers eventually lose business because they have never learned the important point I teach all pleasers, that “NO is a complete sentence!” If the work culture has an underlying thread of martyrs who come into the office at the crack of dawn and stay far into the night, it creates burnout and the rescuers sadly get in the way of others becoming strong enough in their own right. Then, there is the culture of the super achiever where team collaboration is impossible. People stab each other in the back to get ahead. If the leader is an avoider it sets the tone for conflict to be swept under the rug and new, creative possibilities lay dormant and good ideas die.

Question 5: What results or benefits do your clients achieve as they push through, shift or abolish those challenges and patterns?

Answer 5: In our leadership model, we did not want to give the idea that once a pattern always a pattern. Each of the 13 patterns has a healthy and positive opposite. That’s the beauty of learning to become Pattern Aware. My personal example is that I had been a notorious drama queen (note: there are also plenty of drama kings out there). When I was finally able to observe my destructive Oscar willing hissy fits I was at first aghast at the wasted time that came with this pattern. The benefit, a real business benefit of transforming the pattern, is that when I turned to its healthy opposite, the story teller, I began to find I could make a remarkable difference at work. As I stated, each pattern has its bright side and with a little elbow grease the changes are spectacular.

Question 6: What are 1-3 tips you would have specifically for female executives who are looking to up their game, take on greater roles and be sought out by your clients?

Answer 5: I know it’s worth it to take a deep dive into becoming more self -aware, one of the basic tenants of emotional intelligence. I take it a step further to help leaders become Pattern Aware and look at the underlying patterns from family and culture that are often so hidden they hinder even looking inside yourself. Once you can connect the dots of repetitious behavior you can see which of the 13 patterns has “your name on it” and then you can begin to move more quickly and effectively.

Tips are:

  • Pay attention to where you judge, blame and attack others, that’s where your patterns run the deepest.

  • Being Pattern Aware helps you learn to tell the truth without spilling your guts. Truth telling is a disciplined art form.

  • Today’s women leaders are taking more risks, becoming more daring; this leaves room for the men at work to become more caring. The new model for workplace relationships is: daring + caring = sharing.


Creative Energy Options provides executives and entrepreneurs coaching and programs that build strong interpersonal communication skills, increase team effectiveness and achieve rapid growth. We partner with over 5000+ small, medium and large organizations in healthcare, government and technology who value people along with profits and create life learning cultures including Novartis, Microsoft, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, and Capgemini.

By working globally for over 30 years we have developed a unique method, a GPS tracking system, that offers guidelines to uncover the invisible communication patterns that create conflict and derail relationships. Our coaching and programs are award winners that limit absenteeism, avoid legal hassles, and help individuals and teams flourish.

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