Reinventing Yourself and Pursuing Your Passion!

By Judith W. Umlas 
Sr. Vice President, Author, and Trainer – IIL

Originally published on www.joanlunden.comjudy-1

Quite a few years ago, when I was a full-time professional in the television industry, I wrote an article called “How NOT to Talk to a Pregnant Businesswoman.” The urge to write it came from my intense frustration at the way my colleagues, who had previously shown me respect, began to make unwelcome comments like calling me “Fatso” while I was pregnant! The article, published by Working Woman Magazine, led to a coveted interview by Joan Lunden on Good Morning America!

As a result of that appearance, I kept being told how it had made a difference for pregnant businesswomen everywhere. This taught me a major lesson: words have the power to change undesirable behavior!

So when at the ripe “young” age of 58, I became equally, if not MORE frustrated about people’s responses when I frequently acknowledged them (“Thank you for thanking me – no one ever does that!” or “I only hear complaints; I never hear compliments!”), I decided once again to do something about it. This time I wrote a whole book, The Power of Acknowledgment!  The book was published by the company I worked at (and still do), International Institute for Learning (IIL). This led to two other books on this subject because we discovered that people everywhere were hungry for the message. So IIL sent me around the world to train leaders in this critical skill and I’m still going strong, yes…at age 68! And traveling this path, I have discovered my true passion – to make a difference in the world; to change it for the better.

judy-2Here are some highlights from my original difference making article “How NOT to Talk to a Pregnant Businesswoman” that are still so relevant today, and which through Joan’s interview, got me started on the path of changing behavior that I found intolerable – and just through powerfully expressed words.

What’s YOUR passion – and can you “reinvent” yourself by fervently pursuing it? See how I continue to pursue mine in future blog posts.


Interview With Joan On Good Morning America

Illustrations by Mimi Pond
Interview from Good Morning America


Judith W. Umlas is Sr. Vice President and trainer at International Institute for Learning, Inc. She is the author of the ground-breaking book, The Power of Acknowledgment  and two other books which have been credited with changing workplaces and lives.

Judith delivers inspiring, motivational and transformational keynote addresses, course and webinars on Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment all over the world. Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment are Judith’s passion, mission and her purpose!

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

By Judith W. Umlas
Author, Trainer, and Senior Vice President, IIL

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 IIL’s International Project Management Day – 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

By Lori Milhaven

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. You can register here.

How One Company is Using Project Based Learning to Educate the Next Generation of Project Leaders

By Anne Foley, MBB, CSSBB, PMP
Director of Lean Six Sigma, IIL

When SmartRoots Global CEO Zac Ziebarth visited an impoverished village in Africa, he met an impressive sixteen year-old named Asi. While walking through the scenic countryside with Asi, Zac noticed a significant amount of garbage on the ground.

“Why is there so much pollution?” Zac asked. Asi explained that most people in that area lacked knowledge of pollution, the damage it could bring to their environment and even more importantly, what they could do about it. Zac assumed that perhaps the topic was not covered thoroughly in the local schools and made a commitment to Asi that he would return within the year and provide the knowledge they needed, to solve problems and make some fundamental changes that would reap big rewards for their future.

“At that point, zacI wasn’t completely clear on what I was committing to, but I was sure I could help,” Zac said. “The opportunity energized me and I initially thought that I’d put together some curriculum around pollution, health, and water. I figured that I could talk to school administrators in the area and set up some project based learning so the kids could apply what they were learning to the community and see real-time results from that knowledge. I figured that I would even return at some future point to celebrate the successful completion of those projects.”

Zac’s desire to help that impoverished village has since become the genesis of a for purpose non-profit business that is grabbing the attention of educators and business leaders around the globe. “When I returned from my trip, I assembled a group of well educated, forward thinking volunteers that wanted to help me keep my commitment to Asi.”

Zac and his team worked hard to develop a three week curriculum with an emphasis on solutions-based thinking in seven core areas called the Smart Roots 7:

  • People
  • Health
  • Water
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Climate

His team concluded that kids need to learn how to collaborate in a project environment, and use some of the problem solving techniques within Lean Six Sigma to help define and solve problems in these areas.

“Even as we were working through the details, we were getting the sense that we had the foundation of something pretty big. Our program would add relevancy to learning by focusing on real world problems that these kids could help to solve through project based application, in their local community. It also provides them some real world experience using concepts and techniques that future employers will expect them to use. It’s a win-win.”

Wanting to pilot the program before taking it back to Africa, Zac reached out to his friend George Helfenstine, who was teaching 7th grade science in an American school. They piloted the program in October of 2014 and the results were so significant that George told Zac that he wanted to be a part of SmartRoots Global in whatever way that could happen. “The SmartRoots program has changed the way my students see the world around them and the way they view themselves. They now see themselves as part of the solution.”

The Chief Operating Officer at Wayside Schools in Austin, Texas, Teresa Elliott, agrees. “The constraints of increased science standards combined with decreased school funding necessitate an innovative approach to education. SmartRoots Global brings a value proposition to the table; project-based learning that creates the desire for scientific knowledge and simultaneously allows students to address problems in their communities, creating problem-solving citizens. Our world cares about children being able to pass a different test – we need responsible civic leaders. Our students must be compelled to know that as a member of their community, they have a responsibility to work with others to keep it functioning and to make it better. SRG’s programming helps them learn how.”

The need for this type of learning is much bigger than Zac ever imagined. “I had no idea that a conversation in Africa about pollution, and my commitment to help, would uncover such a worldwide need in the area of education. It has completely changed my career path.” With a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, Zac had planned to attend Law School but those plans are now on hold as he builds up the “For Purpose Company” he hopes will play a significant role in developing the next generation of project leaders and problem solvers. As for his promise to Asi, be sure attend Zac’s International Project Management Day presentation, “Sustainability Through Project-Based Education,” to see how the SmartRoots Approach to learning is transforming education around the world.

For more information on SmartRoots Global or to join the movement, please go to

A Random Act Of Acknowledgment

By Judith W. Umlas
IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership

It’s always so inspiring when I come upon what I would call “Random Acts of Acknowledgement” in my everyday life. I was staying at a hotel while on a business trip, and overheard the delightful exchange you can see in the video below… well almost! In actuality, I just happened to be sitting there having a quick bite, when I witnessed it. I was practically moved to tears — it was something that could have been a “how to” right out of any of the books I have written. In fact it was so wonderful that I acknowledged both the giver and the receiver in this exchange, told them about The Power of Acknowledgment in 10 brief seconds, and then (I know you won’t believe this…) I had the audacity to ask them to “reenact” the exchange that had just taken place, so that I could shoot a cell phone video of it!!! I requested that they do it just the way I originally saw it. Please click the link to see what I’m so excited about!

A Random Act of Acknowledgment

My heartfelt appreciation goes to Chris, the magnificent acknowledgment bestower, and to Julieta, the lovely waitress and grateful recipient. I later learned that Chris had sought her out again in order to introduce her personally to the owner of the hotel, whom he had spent some time getting to know. He wanted to make sure that her service could be further acknowledged, in a way that would truly make a difference for her! I was told that the owner, in turn, gave her a huge hug and let her know how proud he was of her.

I was also proud to be a witness to the “reenacted,” yet equally moving exchange! It was truly a Random Act of Acknowledgment! Please send us descriptions of yours!

Learn more about Grateful Leadership at