Izolda Trakhtenberg believes innovation isn’t just about the latest fad, it’s about creating and collaborating mindfully. This refreshing approach has made her a sought-after speaker, educator, and coach for creatives and business leaders.
For years, Izolda traveled the world as a NASA Master Trainer transforming people’s perspectives on our planet through creative and innovative techniques. She’s released four books on communication, collaboration, and self-improvement. Nowadays you’ll find her speaking at conferences, looking for the next great ocean beach, or singing for hundreds of people — all while interviewing peak performers on creative leadership, innovation, and mindfulness on her hit podcast, The Innovative Mindset.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: Born in the former Soviet Union, my family immigrated to the USA when I was seven. The process took over a year, and I survived seven months of living in a literal war zone. In order to survive these challenges, plus an abusive father, I learned many lessons about communication, compassion, and empathy at that young age. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I moved to the Washington DC area and became involved in causes and work for those who have no voice. I volunteered on behalf of animals, and I spent many years working and traveling worldwide as an environmental educator in Earth Science education at NASA.
I began speaking on mindful innovation via my 4 Cs (creativity, curiosity, compassion, and collaboration) at schools and universities and then transitioned to companies and organizations. I help people and organizations develop group cultures that support creative thinking and innovation. That starts with fostering a supportive culture, to begin with. Without it, the rest will disintegrate or will never get off the ground.
In my spare time, I sing. I lead and manage, The Philosopher’s Tones, one of the premier holiday caroling groups in the USA. My husband and I make our home base in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: My primary goal in starting my business was to help others find their unique creative and innovative genius so they could pursue their goals of changing the world for the better. As a species, we survive in a small range of parameters. We are dangerously close to falling outside of those parameters on various levels. Companies and organizations can innovate on the social impact, environmental, and policy fronts to keep us within survivable ranges socially, climatically, and environmentally. I began my podcast, the Innovative Mindset, to elevate the work being done by peak performers in the creative, social impact, and environmental fields for these reasons.
I hope the work I do on the podcast as well as the work I do with companies and organizations will bring forth more innovators within companies. That will happen if companies support their people to feel safe, valued, and valuable in their attempts.
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Izolda Trakhtenberg: I like the following about my industry.
- Companies and organizations that actively want to listen to, encourage, and highlight the work of their people.
- The incredible relationships I’ve been lucky enough to develop with thought leaders and changemakers
I am disheartened about the reticence some feel about embracing a more compassionate, supportive, and engaged culture in the office.
I would like to see more companies and organizations develop concrete methods of soliciting, listening to, and developing the innovative ideas of their people. The more we listen to those who are actually doing the jobs about what can be improved the more both the jobs and the people will flow better to change the way we do business all over the world.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: I actively seek out a diverse population of work partners. I do the same with my podcast. We need to have a wider array of voices in the mix so we can get multiple perspectives on how we can improve how we work and how we live across the entire planet.
I will continue to seek out diverse voices for my collaborations and as guests for my podcast. Collaboration and communication will remain key in my business model. I live and work by a proverb from Africa (actual citation known). “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: My business is a little different than some of the others on this list. I work with companies and organizations to help them flourish. I encourage my clients to develop a culture of compassion and collaboration. If the decision-makers make themselves available to their people, the lines of communication remain open. When those are open, incredible innovation can take place. Employees feel supported and empowered to come up with great ideas that stick.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: Obviously, we can all agree that a great organizational culture is one that helps the company and the employees thrive. You create a great organizational culture when you encourage your people to think, imagine, and access their unique ideas. You further foster it when you develop systems that supercharge their curiosity. You cement it when you invite your people to support each other and collaborate. That only happens if they feel valued and valuable by leadership.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: Again, since I work with companies on how to develop sustainable innovative cultures, I help them develop ideas and processes that encourage employee collaboration. At the same time, a work/life balance must include time to think and imagine at work as well as time to recharge away from work. One of the goals I have with every client company is to help them develop mindfulness and breath practices for all their people. Whether it’s a meditation space set aside in an unused office or a group yoga class taught at lunch, or team getaway hikes where people can laugh and recharge together, we can all offer our employees a chance to relax and be even in the most challenging of circumstances.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Izolda Trakhtenberg: In my work as a leader and manager, I believe my role is to support my people as they thrive. I do this with my clients, my podcast guests, and my singers in the Philosopher’s Tones.
I provide them with the tools they need. I develop processes that will help them access necessary documents and logistical pieces in an easy way long after I am gone. The better I support their work and development, the more they have what they need to shine and thrive.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: My values are simple. Be bold. Be creative. Be kind. Leave everything better than you find it.
As much as possible, I strive to make that a part of every interaction with one of my contractors, clients, or podcasts. If they feel enriched by the experience of having worked with me, that feeling will extend into other areas of their work and lives.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: My management style is to have an open-door policy where I listen to the ideas, thoughts, and challenges of everyone I work with. I then try to address them to the best of my ability. My job, as I see it, is to support the people in my sphere to thrive. If I do that, then I am being a valuable leader.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: To me, communication and collaboration are key. When conflicts arise, I work with the various team members to resolve them through active listening, communication, and compassion. Often, people have conflicts because their needs are not being met. Once we discover the root needs, we can address them in an empathetic and collaborative way.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: I am a woman so I am cognizant of this on a deep level. I actively encourage women’s participation in all aspects of my business whether it’s working with clients or inviting changemakers to be on my podcast, women make up a large proportion of the people I work with.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: My vision and mission of mindful creativity and collaboration drive everything I do. I lead with compassion in all of my business relationships and collaboration. I check in with trusted colleagues and mentors to ensure that I move forward as free from bias as I possibly can.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: I would keep encouraging everyone I work with to dig deeper into their curiosity and to leap higher into their own ideas.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Izolda Trakhtenberg: I would fly. I always talk about having a bird’s eye view of things. I love to see the big picture. So, the ability to fly would give me a real opportunity to see the lay of the land literally. Additionally, I have gone skydiving, which I consider to be the closest thing to flying. It was a freeing, thrilling, and meditative experience. It clarified some key ideas that I have about perspective, service, and imagination. I am grateful for the opportunity and would love a chance to fly for real.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Izolda Trakhtenberg for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Izolda Trakhtenberg or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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