New Website

“Leadership in Wonderland” is available on Kindle. And, with that milestone we decided that a new website was called for; one that would reflect how far Alice has come and we have come since she first called to us as the muse for our book. That new website should be up and active within a few weeks. Meanwhile, you can visit us on our facebook page, “Leadership in Wonderland”, on our twitter account @LIWAlice, and you can read about the book and see its reviews on Amazon

Thanks for visiting!

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It’s Available

After all the blogging about our book, it’s now ready to order on Amazon.  Want to be in on what the whole crew has been so excited about?

White rabbit pink ears final

Categories: Alice Liddell, Goals, Imposter Syndrome, Leadership, leadership development, personal development, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maxine Clark: The Heart of the Teddy Bear

Maxine Clark resized

I was privileged to interview Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop, recently. She is someone I hold in high esteem because she built a fabulous, multi-national company in just a few short years, and because her dynasty is so good for the soul. After all, the world truly needs more cuddly teddy bears.

However, after meeting Maxine, my view of her change dramatically. Let me back up a minute: it actually began to change when I read her book, “The Bear Necessities of Business: Building  a Company with Heart.” Unlike so many business books, hers was like having a chat with an old friend and mentor. I began to see that Maxine is a true example of a servant leader. How many books do you know of where the author invites you to send a personal email if you have any questions? Not only does she make that offer, she answers all those emails herself.

My opinion of her changed further upon meeting her in person. She is everything you would hope that the mastermind behind Build-a-Bear would be: kind, brilliant, generous, forthright, funny and creative.

So, while I previously held her in high esteem, I now can say, not only do I admire her accomplishments, I truly like and appreciate her.

I wondered what could our readers learn from her in just a few paragraphs, and there are three areas of our conversation I would like to share with you. They are: believing in your brand, play, and giving of yourself.

Maxine says, “The difference of making an idea go from A to B is passion. Do you really believe in the brand?” She helps start-up companies, and says the ones that stand the best opportunity for success are those with a passion for the product. All of us in business and creative endeavors know it takes passion to keep going when the road is bumpy, and it’s full of bumps, potholes, and other hazards. So, even though it’s common wisdom, it bears repeating: passion is critical. If what you want to do (for example starting a business, going back to school, or writing a book) isn’t worth missing a bunch of sleep over, don’t try it.

Developing an idea for a business is often organic to women, because, as Maxine explains, “Most women start real businesses, meaning they had an idea for a new pacifier or a new baby blanket or a new childproof something or other because their ideas come from their life. And they find a way to get them to market, like in the movie Joy.”

Yet, a lot of great ideas never see the light of day. “I think we talk ourselves out of it: Oh, I can’t do it…The kids come first…I have to be home to make dinner for my husband…yada, yada, yada. You are what you think you are and you can be what you want to be if you are willing to take all the necessary steps to get there,” says Maxine. Thus, having a game plan of how you are going to handle these emotions is critical.

The second area of Maxine’s wisdom I wanted to share with you is play. Yep, play. Being playful is a very important element of Maxine’s leadership style. What else would you expect from the Queen of Teddy Bears?

“Who wants to be serious all the time? The best work is done when people can enjoy their work. And enjoyment means rigor, but also, ‘Let’s brainstorm; let’s play a game, asking how did you get at that; how can we take that to the next level?’ I think that’s playful to people. It’s not always about throwing a ball – it’s about playing with an idea in your mind…noodling it around and talking about how we can make it bigger and better or should we change the color.”

Note: Susan and I obviously agree that play is a great way to learn and make improvements. That is why we wrote Leadership in Wonderland and not 100 Leadership Bullet Points Guaranteed to Put You to Sleep.

So, let me ask you: how can you introduce more play into your work and home life? What difference could it make?

The third area I wanted to share is generosity. While this is not something she specifically mentioned during our interview, it’s an integral part of who Maxine is. For example, she invites questions from her readers; she coaches entrepreneurs; she has a charitable foundation; and she started a program to recognize young people who started non-profits. She is clearly willing and excited to share the bounty with which she has been blessed.

Some might say, “Sure, it’s easy for her to do. She’s successful. I’m not.” But it isn’t about having money to donate. It is about sharing time, knowledge and kindness. Those are gifts we can all share. How hard would that be? And think of the difference it could make in the world.

Looking at Build-a-Bear, I clearly see each of these three pieces of Maxine. Those little bears are adorable symbols of her passion, playfulness and generosity.

To read more about my interview with Maxine, please see my column in Women’s Voices Magazine. To learn more about her book, click here.



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What’s Happened to “Alice”?


“How’s the book about Alice in Wonderland”? “What’s new with your book?”

Ask the many readers who fall into our targeted audience, the Millennials, the Creatives, and the Clergy, and they will tell you, “We’re reading it and filling out the workbook as fast as we can!”

Rebecca and I thought it would be brilliant (and worthwhile) to gather immediate feedback from our potential market of individual readers.  We want to see if the thoughts we had about learning your own style of leadership through “Alice”‘s transformation, were the same as our test group’s thoughts.

“Was it a fun read?  Were you lured to go through and finish the workbook?  Which characters could you put names and faces to that you encountered in your own life?  Did your reactions towards the “villains” change? And biggest thing on our minds, “What did you learn about yourself that will you think you can use to your benefit from now on?”

So….everyone, the investigation has started, the mystery will be solved.  Meanwhile, keep those cards, letters and curiosity coming. Lewis Carroll would want you to become , “curiouser and curiouser”?

Categories: Alice Liddell, change, childern's stories, leadership development, Millennial workforce, personal development, Team Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alice = Creativity

Au pay d'Alice

Au pay d’Alice…

Multi-talented musician and composer Ibrahim Maalouf says he has always loved the story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ because it’s all about the freedom to imagine. To prove his point, he collaborated with artist Oxmo Puccino to re-imagine the story as a hip-hop opera set in modern France*.

That’s the beauty of Alice – she’s as relevant today as she was 150 years ago – continuing to spark the imagination of people all over the world.

Creativity was a major factor in choosing Alice when we decided to write a leadership book. When your mind has the opportunity to be creative and play, it is easier to learn and apply what you learn. Thus, Leadership in Wonderland.

When I was in grad school, I never really liked learning the ‘prescriptions’ – do this now do that – which so many text books offered. What I liked was learning the principles and having a case study in which to apply what I had learned, coupled with my own knowledge and insights. It was much more beneficial to my learning experience than an exam!

It is that same concept we offer in Leadership in Wonderland: We provide some principles, cunningly disguised as a fun story, then offer an opportunity for the reader to use her creativity to insert what she has learned into her own situation. What you learn most likely will be different from the next person.

Does this appeal to you?

*After you leave us a comment to tell us what you think of our concept, be sure to listen to the concert ‘Au pay d’Alice.’

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The “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” I Never Knew


Having written about business tips I learned from reading “Alice in Wonderland” in March 2010 and having read “Alice..”, “Alice I Have Been”, background on Charles Dodgson aka his nom de plume: Lewis Carroll, viewing photos of Alice Liddell in the newspaper and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn’t think there was too much I didn’t know about Carroll’s release of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.  After visiting the Morgan Library exhibit, “Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland”, I realized I was wrong.  Here are some of the things I didn’t know, and maybe you didn’t know either.

  • Dodgson, a professor of Mathematics and Logic at Oxford loved clocks, watches, logic, word games and riddles and therefore Carroll’s book is rife with them. Some riddles in the book aren’t meant to make sense, but many are solvable.
  • Carroll kept a 13 volume diary for most of his life. His first mention of his telling of the Alice fable to the Liddell girls took place on July 4, 1862.
  • The three sisters names were: Lorina, Alice and Edith.  Alice was the middle child who was the main character in the book.  However, Lorina and Edith were also represented as the Lory and the Eaglet in “Mouse’s Tale” within the book.
  • Each time Carroll told the story to the three girls, it would expand. When he wrote it down, he expanded it to twice its original length for publication purposes.
  • The two Alice books did not end with a moral, which was unusual for children’s literature in the Victorian era and a breakthrough. The stories were meant to amuse and inspire not to be instructive.
  • The original title of the book was “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”. Carroll wound up using “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” because it sounded sensational to him and not like a lesson book.
  • For producing and distributing the book, Macmillan publishing received 10% of the profits. Carroll financed the book and Macmillan for publishing the book.  Because he financed the publishing expenses, he also was able to control the design of the book.
  • The first printing of the book was sold to a New York publisher in 1866 because it was not deemed to be up to British standards. Unauthorized versions quickly appeared in American publications (international authors were not protected by US copyright law).  Carroll thought the presentation of the unauthorized copies were so inferior to the original that it didn’t worry him.  
  • In the original manuscript, Carroll gave to Alice, he had drawn all the illustrations himself. However, unsatisfied with them, when considering publishing, he paid John Tenniel to reillustrate the book.


  • Tenniel’s Alice was indeed an “it” girl of the time. Tenniel made significant changes to her dress to reflect the changes in fashion.  By the 1880’s and 1890”s her dress became a structured, pleated skirt and a ruffled apron for the “The Nursery “Alice”.


  • The phrase to “grin like a Cheshire Cat” was from the previous century and meant to smile mischievously.
  • In the original story, Alice was seven years old. “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” took place six months later, after Alice awakens from the Wonderland dream, when Alice was seven and a half years old.
  • The Daiziel brothers engraved Tenniel’s illustrations for both books.
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Do You Work With a Bunch of Characters?


By Guest Blogger

Magpie, Director HR, Leaves-of-Wonderland

Some people want to work with folks just like themselves. I say how boring! Boring! For most of you, that would mean that you are working in a ‘humans only’ environment. What a terrible waste not to include the rest of us. Most everyone can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the table if we are given an opportunity. However, people tend to think it’s safe to surround themselves with others who are like themselves. While Alice may have her share of issues, the one thing I can say about her is that she isn’t afraid to include a cast of diverse characters in her business.

I’ve listed a few things that make Alice so successful in this area:

  • Most people just talk about diversity and inclusion. Alice has walked the talk. In fact, she has filled Leaves-of-Wonderland with an array of characters – some are human, but most are not – most are not. I, for example, am a bird. Never does she allow a single joke about bird brains.
  • She knows many of us have baggage and she helps us work through it. Why it wasn’t so long ago that I repeated everything that I said because I didn’t feel as though anyone was listening to me. I still repeat on occasion, but not nearly so often – so often, and that’s because Alice truly listens to me and cares about my ideas and opinions.
  • Alice knows that she isn’t perfect either. It helps to have a boss who knows that she has her own issues. She looks for others who can help her strengthen her weak areas to create the strongest team no matter if it takes a repeating bird, a pushy Duchess or a messy Puppy.
  • She helps to identify and hone others’ strengths. Why it seems like yesterday that she got to know us, and then she soon came to ask us to help her. She didn’t hold us back even though we each had areas in which we needed to improve. Her trust in us helped us to believe in ourselves, and that means a lot.
  • Most people like to hire others who are a lot like themselves. I call that ‘hiring in one’s own image.’ Alice certainly didn’t do that! Why she even has Penguin for her assistant and Beaver for her mentor and Caterpillar for her consultant. Talk about diversity!

So you can see, if you want diversity and inclusion, it isn’t that difficult. If you want to surround yourself with an interesting cast of characters, you can do it just like Alice has.

Categories: Diversity, flexibility, Human Resources, Inclusion, Leadership, Organizational planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Working with, Hiring and Retaining Millennials



If you speak with many Baby Boomers, they will often unapologetically complain about Millennials.  But in business situations, they become even more vocal: they don’t know how to work with them, nor how to keep them happy so they will stay.   Meanwhile, the Millennials don’t understand why the Baby Boomers won’t take the time to understand them and their needs.   And they have no patience waiting for the understanding to take place.

We had a lively discussion that offered suggestions of how to solve some of those people challenges in media, entertainment and technology companies.  The program and panel were developed by Susan Goldberg, Principal and Owner of SGES, a specialist in culture and employment who had experienced the push and pull of the discussion in working with her clients and colleagues, and had co-written a leadership book targeting non-traditional business minds (like Millennials) called “Leadership in Wonderland”.

Our panel, hosted by Gavin McElroy,  Chair of the Executive Compensation and Employment Group at Frankfurt Kurnit, and  held at the Frankfurt Kurnit offices consisted of Gavin, Susan, and two Millennials with executive titles and roles at media companies, Amy Wu, COO and CFO of Newscred and Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director for the Financial Times. What follows is a brief summary of what we discussed.

Issues with Millennials stem from the way they view the world which is on the spot and in front of them.  This is due not only to technological influences, and navigating through sensory overload, but to influences in culture, families, education, and political and business views which are all short term in and immediate in nature.  This causes this age group to have a lack of understanding of long term thinking, which impacts reputation, consequences, patience, and perspective in general.

What Millennials can bring, however, is intelligence, technology savviness, digital dexterity, ability to follow directions closely and concentrate undeterred by outside disturbances,  a desire to solve problems, dedication to social causes, an appreciation for constant communication, and an understanding of the resources and environment they need to make their best efforts at work.

The best ways that companies can hire and retain Millennials is to understand who they are and not try to change them.  That means understanding their high turnover in employment and what causes that.  And because of that turnover, make use of what the Millennials have to offer before they move on.

Two different ways to retain Millennials at your company:  establish a vesting schedule in compensation which locks in your employees for a specific period of time or give Millennials projects which are interesting to them, offer them continuous feedback and communication, and also autonomy and  flexibility in their lifestyle.

Overall, there needs to be a long term talent or people management plan for every company which should plan for expected high rate of turnover in this age group. Along with that comes an appreciation and an understanding of those who are not typical Millennials and where they fit in an organization.  There needs to be a mix of talent if a company is to create a legacy and survive in the long term.

Millennials bring a different energy, and different views towards balancing life, work and happiness.  Perhaps they can also teach the rest of us to bring more happiness to our lives, better transparency, feedback and communication, more flexibility and that an organization needs more than Millennial talent to thrive.

Categories: flexibility, Human Resources, Inclusion, Leadership, Millennial workforce, Millennials in media, Organizational planning, talent management, turnover in employment, Working with Millennials | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Much is a “Thank you” Worth?

100 dollar bill

We talk with many businesses concerned about improving sales and revenue. They often invest in expensive products and services thinking that they hold the magic ticket to success. Yet, sometimes it is something very small – seemingly insignificant – that can make all the difference.

In out last blog we told the story of a retail clerk who didn’t know how to respond when a customer said she hadn’t found everything she was looking for. A lost opportunity for customer service.

Shortly after that incidence, a friend recounted a story that was really baffling. It seems that on a Monday he put a $100 bill in his pocket with the intention of giving it to the first cashier who said thank you to him. He went about his business, visiting numerous stores over the next few day. Amazingly, as of Thursday of that week, the $100 was still in his pocket.

“The closest anyone anyone has come to saying ‘thank you’ is to say ‘Have a nice day,'”he reported, pulling the prize money out of his pocket.


How important is it to you to be thanked for your business? Are those serving the public using different means to show their appreciation? Or is it more of a case that they don’t really care?

What are your thoughts on this?

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Customer Service Pitfalls

confused emoticon

Once I visited a business where the employees had been trained in customer service. One of their tricks was to say “my pleasure” in response when someone thanked them. The only problem was they really didn’t look like it was their pleasure. In fact, they often looked as though they had eaten something sour.Consequently, I couldn’t help toying with them, thanking them as often as possible in order to elicit a robotic ‘thank you’. The owner had good intentions when he trained his employees. What he didn’t realize is that the words alone didn’t create a culture of customer care.

Another example of employees using rote phrases as instructed, without having any understanding of how they apply to customer service showed itself a couple weeks ago at a large chain store. I was looking for several items, one of which I couldn’t find. When I was checking out, the cashier asked if I had found everything. When I said I hadn’t, she simply said, “Oh.” A lost opportunity for customer service – for achieving customer satisfaction that was lost forever.

What is the point of teaching employees to ask the question if you don’t teach them how to respond to the answer? And what about the person waiting on that customer? I’ve worked in retail, and even co-owned a store, so I have a good understanding of all that workers have to put up with. With that said, isn’t the employer doing them a disservice by only providing part of the training? Perhaps they ASSUME that if the answer to “Did you find everything you were looking for?” is no, that the employee would have the common sense to ask a follow up question. That, obviously, is a big assumption.

We would love to hear your input on this topic.

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