linkedin facebook view our videos contact brainard become a brainiac

Blog & Events

Sign Up for EXCELerate FORUM FALL 2022 now

Sep 9th, 2022Comments Off on Sign Up for EXCELerate FORUM FALL 2022 now

EXCELerate is a 5 hybrid (virtual or in person) instructor-led modules, assessments, networking with leaders from various industries and executive coaching.

Enroll for EXCELerate Now

Coaches Corner: Kathleen Woodhouse

Aug 7th, 2017Comments Off on Coaches Corner: Kathleen Woodhouse

We sat down with one of our beloved coaches, Kathleen Woodhouse, to learn more about her deep experience with coaching – from both sides of the table! Kathleen has over two decades of global HR leadership experience with Fortune 500 executives in 15+ countries and is a recent contributor to Forbes. We discussed how coaching has changed her client’s life, her life, and where she thinks coaching is going in the future.

Check out Kathleen Woodhouse’s impressive credentials on her bio page.


For the last 10-15 years in the corporate world, my role became more and more about helping leaders lead. My ability to work with leaders to build individual and organizational capability was impactful for them, and rewarding for me. Coaching seemed like the logical culmination of my work experience, education, and passion. This intersection is one that I often coach people to seek out in their own careers!


I love to see the “lightbulb” go off for people as they get new insights. Sometimes, this is a small tweak in their one-on-one communication or interaction style. Sometimes, it is a more fundamental shift. One of the things that has been great about watching Michael facilitate the Unconscious Bias workshops is to see senior level, seasoned, successful executives have that “lightbulb moment”. In a recent workshop in Houston, a burly, quiet leader in the back of the room, who started the day with the skeptical, arms crossed, “I’m here because my company is making me be here” stance, had a complete transformation. Once he realized how his own unconscious biases impact his work and personal interactions, he became an active participant and, I would guess, an advocate for the work. It is helping people make that shift that makes our work as coaches rewarding, because the ripple effect of a great leader is tremendous.


There have been a number of proud moments, and they are each examples of those lightbulb moments turning into action. Our role as coaches is, of course, not to provide answers, but to help people access their innate wisdom. One proud moment in particular is when a client told me, “I could hear your voice in my head, urging me on,” as he took on a BIG stretch assignment. What made me even prouder is that he shared this with me months after we had wrapped up our formal coaching engagement. When people come back to me weeks, months, or years later to tell me the conversations we had, the questions I asked, or the enlightenment they gained as a result of our work still resonates, that is a proud moment!


Get out of your own way. I remind myself of this, and share it with my clients as well. We all have stories and tapes in our heads – some are valid, some are not, and some are outdated and need to be replaced. I was working with a client and shared a challenge that I was anticipating – and he turned the tables to coach ME! He suggested I listen to my own counsel and get the heck out of my own way. I had the capability and the platform to be successful, I was letting my own outdated story get in the way. He was right. I had my own lightbulb moment, and the event was quite a success.


If I knew, then we would all be getting really rich! When I started my career, coaching was a last-ditch effort. It was often the last step before an executive was exited from the company. Then, companies went to developmental coaching for executives, to coaching high potential leaders, and now, it is an accepted developmental benefit for so many companies. One of the things I love about Brainard is our partnership with the internal HR leaders. This inside/outside collaboration really makes the coaching work, and I expect this to continue to develop and get stronger in the future. I would love to move to a place where coaching is the rule, not the exception, in executive development. I think we are not too far from that with more enlightened clients.

Talking Unconscious Bias in the Client Corner: Asuragen

Aug 7th, 2017Comments Off on Talking Unconscious Bias in the Client Corner: Asuragen

Asuragen is a fully integrated diagnostics company developing mRNA-based solutions for molecular oncology and early detection of cancer.

Recently, we spoke with Debra Thompson, VP of HR, to discuss her experience in partnering with Brainard Strategy to conduct Unconscious Bias training with the leaders at Asuragen and, more importantly, why she believed now was the time to provide the training.


I first heard of unconscious bias 2-3 years ago when I was doing research at Thermo Fisher Scientific and Life Technologies. We were working on culture, particularly across the globe on how people interact, and teaching some of my team members to be less US centric.


A couple of things:

  1. Bringing it back up to my conscious level through getting involved with Michael Brainard and Brainard Strategy again by sending our Head of Operations (at the time, he was Head of Development) through the EXCELerate Forum. When I realized there was an Unconscious Bias program, that is what triggered the training. I thought, “This sounds interesting, somebody I know is delivering a program on Uncovering Unconscious Bias.”
  2. We do not live in a vacuum. We have a little microcosm of the world in little Austin, Texas. There has been a lot of conversation due to the political climate and all the things that have been happening. We could see it in terms of what I would call divisive. Not the behavior by our employees, rather, a divisive rhetoric in that we were all trying to think about how we are different regarding our culture. As we refreshed our core values, there was an opportunity to deliver a high-value program that would benefit all our leaders.


They have responded well. We have people who want to dissect the delivery from, “That was very TED talk-y,” to, “Oh, I am really glad that it was scientific-based since we are a scientific-based organization.” Overall, our executives have responded very positively. I think because we are a very data driven organization, we ask ourselves if we are going to get a return on investment. Are we going to leverage some of the topics and nomenclature into future trainings that we are doing around servant leadership? One of the things that continues to percolate around our company is the ‘spiky’ moment. We are using the language, “Oh, I think this is a spiky moment.” Using the terms we all learned is exactly what I was hoping would be an outcome. You can send people to a lot of different trainings. There are a lot of different seminars out there, and a lot of things that you can do. If you try to bring it back to the organization when no one else went through the same training, that is an additional hurdle and it eventually dies. Uncovering Unconscious Bias builds a common vocabulary that we can tie back to our organization as we are continuing to have difficult discussions.


More than anything, there is more awareness. There are more discussions and people are being more thoughtful. In terms of how people make decisions, they are using the term, ‘spiky’ moments. People are thinking about the nuanced ways they communicate when, unless someone put a mirror in front of them, they would have never otherwise thought about this. Really, what is more important, and what I have seen changing, is openness. For example, if I am telling you something, there is more accepting at face value and benefit of the doubt, “I am telling you because I want you to be better.” It is not necessarily changing the behavior or action, it is more around how people receive information and remain open to different points of view in a way that there is appreciation. It is, “I want you to be better and that is why I am telling you this.” It is more about openness.


No change, more just a reaffirmation of the direction in which I wanted to take the organization, which is a strengths-based model. We are not doing score card work. We are saying, “What is it that you do really well, and how can you continue to do well?” Then, again that kind of awareness. I will say, in the 5 to 6 weeks since we have had the training, there has been more awareness around interview panels in making sure we are putting those panels together with cross-functional and diverse team members.  We are making sure we invite the right people in order to ensure we make the right decisions.


More than anything, my hope is that we build tolerance. I think individuals are so polarized in this society, especially when we politicize every single comment. Dissecting things in terms of intent is so damaging. I would like to see more professional tolerance. What I mean by that is, I hope we continue to talk about Unconscious Bias and that it does not continue to be a black/white, male/female issue.


The only thing I would say is, I thought it was very helpful to learn something to try to be better versus judging other people.

BRAINIACS: Listen to Michael Brainard on Critical Mass Radio

Oct 26th, 2016Comments Off on BRAINIACS: Listen to Michael Brainard on Critical Mass Radio


On October 25, 2016, Michael Brainard joined Ric Franzi on his 951st(!!!) episode of the Critical Mass for Business radio program, part of the OCTalkRadio network.

In a 20-minute conversation, the two shared stories and insight on many pertinent and important topics in today’s leadership landscape, including emerging new metrics in leadership development, full-lifecycle career insight, unconscious bias and more. Here’s a snippet of the exchange, to give you a sense of the candor and quality of the discussion. This starts around 3:45:

FRANZI: It’s hard to get people to change their behavior, isn’t it?

BRAINARD: Particularly mid-career moderately successful executives.

FRANZI: Right. “What got me here worked.”

Michael then goes on to explain that it’s important to tie learning to new and urgent events or business challenges that are pertinent to that particular leader or industry. 

BRAINARD: The second thing we try to do is create a learning gap. It’s very, very important that we don’t develop people to be “nice.” We don’t develop people to be “caring.” We have to realize that successful adults are usually pretty righteous. They might not say it that way. We create a learning gap by using assessments, by using feedback, by using objective third parties intervention, 360s, things like this. I believe that without creating a learning gap, the uptake on any behavior change goes down.

FRANZI: When you say “learning gap,” that is in the eyes of the person that you’re looking to help and improve and change their behavior? So they have to realize, “I have a gap.” Uh… Paul, can you hit the gong please?

We hear the sound effect of a gong, or maybe an actual gong.

FRANZI: I think Michael Brainard just gave us a teachable moment here at Critical Mass. I think that’s true across the spectrum. People have to feel comfortable with the fact that we’ve identified a gap and we’re here to help you cross that gap.

BRAINARD: Without that gap, where’s the urgency or the need to change?

10/25: Michael Brainard Live on

Oct 19th, 2016Comments Off on 10/25: Michael Brainard Live on


Tune in live at

Michael Brainard, CEO of Brainard Stratetgy, will be talking live online with host Richard Franzi, MBA. Tune in from 4:25-4:50 on October 25, 2016!

If you can’t catch the conversation live, it will be available for streaming here!

Austin! EXCELerate Forum is Coming Your Way

Oct 18th, 2016Comments Off on Austin! EXCELerate Forum is Coming Your Way


What is EXCELerate?

We know leaders because we are leaders.

We designed EXCELerateSM to meet the needs of seasoned executives. We offer “Leaders of Leaders” a curriculum that combines the latest thinking and technology in executive development with applied-learning projects aligned to your company’s organizational objectives.Six one-day modules over six months of deep executive development

Our peer-to-peer cohorts consist of executives from other organizations, connecting executives across different industries and regional locations.


10/11 Bias Trifecta at San Antonio HRMA

Oct 5th, 2016Comments Off on 10/11 Bias Trifecta at San Antonio HRMA

 Photo via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License, Boston Public Library via Flickr

Tuesday, October 11 from 11:20am to 1:15pm

Hilton San Antonio Airport, 611 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78216

The bias trifecta refers to three specific biases that the human brain lens causes us to possess. These biases occur at three distinct areas in our brain. They are largely a part of the human condition and have little to do with being an affliction of the majority class. This talk explores how these biases interact to systemically affect leadership decision-making in many ways, including hiring, performance management, succession planning, team formation, innovation and change. It is important to acknowledge the fact that these biases exist within all of us and that, with appropriate training and operating mechanisms, we can effectively mitigate the impact of this bias trifecta from driving our thinking and behaviors.

1) Understand how the human brain works
2) Gain clarity on how the brain tricks us into making decisions – often unconsciously
3) Gain insight into how unconscious bias can be mitigated through adjustment in individual leader behavior and organizational systems and practices.

This program is Approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward PHR/SPHR/GPHR recertification through HR Certification Institute and Approved for Professional Development Credit (PDC) toward SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification from SHRM

Michael Brainard (MA, MS, PhD) brings over 20 years experience as a management consultant, senior executive, executive coach, entrepreneur and researcher. Michael has worked with many executives and organizations across industries blending a strategic, behavioral, and experiential learning approach. His somewhat edgy, humorous presentation style challenges participants to view traditional HR issues through a new lens. He has contributed to publications and presented his research findings on leadership development, change management and unconscious bias at a variety of professional organizations and corporations across the country.

Michael received a BA in Psychology at the University of Delaware, an MS and his Ph.D. in Industrial Psychology at Alliant International University.

For more information, click here.

10/5 at LMU: HR Professionals Mixer

Oct 4th, 2016Comments Off on 10/5 at LMU: HR Professionals Mixer

Photo via Creative Commons 3.0 License, User:Mishigaki at English Wikipedia Photo via Creative Commons 3.0 License, User:Mishigaki at English Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 5 at 6:00pm to 8:30pm

UH – University Hall, McIntosh Center 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Michael Brainard, founder & CEO of Brainard Strategy, will present “Unconscious Bias: Impact on Talent and Business Performance.” Unconscious bias can have adverse effects on hiring, performance management, succession planning and diversity initiatives. This presentation will cover the origins and meaning of unconscious bias, consider its implications and discuss ways to manage your biases.

Free for students! RSVP here
$25 for alumni and HR professionals. RSVP here

Sponsored by the HR Society, LM-UMatch and CBA.

For more information, click here.

8/30-9/1: Our Masters Series at the AZ SHRM Conference

Aug 26th, 2016Comments Off on 8/30-9/1: Our Masters Series at the AZ SHRM Conference

We are excited to announce our curated Master’s Series

Brainard is hosting a Master’s Series Lounge with a complimentary coffee bar and a free gift for Master’s Series participants.

Mindi Cox

Mindi Cox

Cultural Strategist, MKC Consulting

Tuesday, Aug. 30th
7:30 am – 9:15 am

Work Environments that Work:
The connection between strategy, results and workspace

Jose Cong

Jose Cong

Founder, Start-up in Stealth Mode

Tuesday, Aug. 30th
1:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Culture & Effective Engaging Feedback

Jim Link

Jim Link

Founder, Start-up in Stealth Mode

Wednesday, Aug. 31st
10:30 am – 11:30 am

Engaging the Workforce of the Future: the Emergence of Generation Z

Nancy Lyons

Nancy Lyons

CEO, Clockwork

Wednesday, Aug. 31st
1:45 pm – 5:00 pm

 Culture = Business Strategy

Dotcy Isom

Dotcy Isom

VP Human Resources, T-Mobile

Thursday, Sept. 1st
10:00 am – 11:15 am

Revolutionizing HR: How T-Mobile’s HR Team Transformed How It Supports Its Business

Tamara Christensen

Tamara Christensen

Founder, Idea Farm

Thursday, Sept. 1st
1:45 pm – 5:00 pm

Meeting in the Middle: Transform Tension into Innovation

San Francisco! Here’s Your Key to Uncovering Unconscous Bias

Jun 20th, 2016Comments Off on San Francisco! Here’s Your Key to Uncovering Unconscous Bias

July 20, 2016 • 8:00-11:00 AM
JW Marriott • San Francisco Union Square
500 Post Street • San Francisco • CA • 94102 (MAP)

For any last-minute questions about the event, please contact Jason Lopez
at 408-607-8000 or

Unconscious Bias in San Franciscox

Phoenix! We’re Coming for Unconscious Bias on 5/19!

Apr 8th, 2016Comments Off on Phoenix! We’re Coming for Unconscious Bias on 5/19!


May 19, 2016 • 8:30-11:30 AM
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
7575 East Princess Drive (MAP)


NEW VIDEO: Why Develop Leaders?

Mar 9th, 2016Comments Off on NEW VIDEO: Why Develop Leaders?

Executive Performance is a simple equation. Productivity and Engagement aren’t just buzz words, it comes down to inspiring a workforce that is driven by a culture of cooperation and teamwork.

Lead your industry with innovation in every sphere with strategies from Brainard Strategy!

Silicon Valley: Fight Your Unconscious Bias on February 17th

Feb 9th, 2016Comments Off on Silicon Valley: Fight Your Unconscious Bias on February 17th

Event Details for Unlocking Unconscious Bias

February 17, 2016 • 8-11 AM
Silicon Valley Capitol Club
50 West Fernando, Suite 1700 (MAP)


Unconscious Bias is a neurobiological mechanism that is a form of social categorization which occurs outside of one’s awareness. This talk will discuss the origins and implications of unconscious bias and its impact on hiring, performance management and succession planning.

New Video: Why Interviews Are a HUGE Waste of Time

Oct 20th, 2015Comments Off on New Video: Why Interviews Are a HUGE Waste of Time

What if, instead of wasting nine or more hours of your candidate and your organization’s time, you could find a better way?

Lead your industry with innovation in every sphere with strategies from Brainard.

Join us at PIHRA 2015 and WIN BIG

Aug 25th, 2015Comments Off on Join us at PIHRA 2015 and WIN BIG

Southern California Brainiacs please join us at the PIHRA conference at the Anaheim Convention Center 8/31 to 9/1. We will be raffling GREAT prizes!!

Business Card Drawing

Free Webinar on 8/21 with People Talent Solutions, our New Partner in Talent Management

Aug 1st, 2012Comments Off on Free Webinar on 8/21 with People Talent Solutions, our New Partner in Talent Management

Here at Brainard Strategy, we know that value for your company comes in the form of solutions that are uniquely scalable and customizable to your business needs. Succession planning enters the 21st century with Talent Blueprint, our newly recommended software solution.

As your talent pool grows, so does the need for an agile, dedicated piece of software that simply and intuitively outperforms Excel or Word-based succession and leadership identification platforms. Developed by Southern California-based People Talent Solutions, Talent Blueprint is an easy-to-configure application built on a Microsoft interface. It works right from your desktop.  Talent Blueprint is an alternative to the complex web-based/SaaS/Cloud platforms that require large investments and long-term contracts. Talent Blueprint allows your team to efficiently:

  • Search employee data on over 50 different criteria
  • Instantly answer executives’ questions about the state of talent in your organization
  • Create extensive talent pools for multiple jobs Identify internal candidates for critical jobs in seconds – not hours, days, or months
  • View and interact with enterprise level dashboards
  • Display employee profile reports
  • Compare talent side-by-side
  • Track retirement of critical talent
  • Instantly identify retention risks
  • Track and understand skill gap issues between employees and jobs
  • Track and understand readiness issues between employees and jobs
  • Get critical information in one click
  • Create multiple reports and export reports to Excel
This fully supported, one-time license is available as a 30-day free trial and is continuing to be built and administered by career-long talent management experts.

What next?

Check out the video introduction, visit Talent Blueprint’s product page on LinkedIn to read reviews.

Brainard Strategy Celebrates San Diego’s Healthiest Companies

May 16th, 2012Comments Off on Brainard Strategy Celebrates San Diego’s Healthiest Companies

With its year-round enjoyable weather, proximity to beaches, deserts and mountains, and a high concentration of military and ex-military personnel, San Diego provides a unique environment for businesses to encourage a healthy living and working environment. This rich culture of recreation and fitness is set to be celebrated in a survey conducted by the San Diego Business Journal for its third annual Healthiest Companies Awards. This wide-ranging survey and ceremony is designed specifically to highlight employers who not only set a high-standard, but raise the bar for providing safe, healthy and productive work environments.

A confluence of many trends has led to industry-leading companies improving working conditions across the board. Though it can be difficult to measure the direct return on investment of Wellness and Health Benefits programs, conclusions from the National Institute for Health Care Reform highlight “the effects that wellness [programs] have on employee loyalty and satisfaction and on enhancing the firm’s reputation and brand.” Employees operating under safe conditions and provided adequate access to breaks, healthcare and other essential services, perform at higher productivity and can provide significant long-term savings for employers. As social media has improved access to information and lapses in protocol, the cost of unsafe working environs has the potential to significantly impact profits, public opinion and investor relations.

As such, the San Diego Business Journal’s 2012 Healthiest Companies Awards is a celebration of advances and successes in the realm of employee satisfaction. For the second year, the newspaper has turned to Carlsbad-based Brainard Strategy, a full-service business leadership and strategy consultation firm, to develop, administer and analyze a wide-ranging survey of local businesses to determine benchmarks and achievement in this discipline.

Through coverage in the San Diego Business Journal, businesses were asked to opt-in and answer questions such as “Is employee health part of the company’s written mission, vision and values?” and “Does your company have an annual wellness budget?” The survey also collected open-ended answers that were judged by a panel of experts in the field. This survey is a unique way to consider the many factors that make up the success of a Wellness Program, including the level of services provided, communication frequency, involvement and responsibility taken by upper-level management and budgetary considerations.

One unique trend to note is the way businesses of different sizes monitor employee health, create initiatives and measure success. A smaller firm might seek to implement more organic programs, such as a communal salad bar for lunch or physical activity options during breaks. Larger companies may devote resources to providing a company gym or healthy meals in their cafeterias. By recognizing firms with clear goals and leadership in this field, it is possible to determine industry-leading best practices and for companies without a wellness and benefits initiative to find inspiration and ideas in this fast-emerging field.

Welcome to the new and improved

Aug 9th, 2011Comments Off on Welcome to the new and improved

Welcome to the new and improved corporate website. My objective is to create an interactive medium in which to share fresh ideas from thought leaders and practical solutions to Organizational Development and Strategic Business challenges that we’ve developed in our practice over the years. I look forward to the intellectual discourse I intend to inspire. Michael Brainard