Q&A with Laura L. Ciel, CEO & Co-Founder NineQ LLC

Laura L. Ciel
April 5, 2022

Meet Laura L. Ciel and 9Q

Laura L. Ciel is CEO and Co-Founder of 9Q Solutions, a company that provides scalable training and leadership solutions to organizations who want measurable positive change in their people and in their bottom line. With degrees in business (BA, MBA PKE) and psychology (MA, PsyD) and training as an executive leadership coach, as well as 30 years of experience with leaders and teams in a variety of industries, Laura is an expert in human growth, health and performance.

She is passionate about honoring the uniqueness of every person and supporting individuals and teams to feel good while doing good in the world. For inspiration, she loves to play in nature, laugh with friends and family, and to travel and explore around the world. 

9Q Solutions (NineQ LLC) is a woman-owned company that provides scalable training, development and leadership solutions to organizations that want measurable positive change in their people and in their bottom line. 9Q makes investing in people simple and profitable by driving down losses caused by inefficient, low performing teams, toxic cultures and high turnover.

What inspired you to start 9Q? 

Ever since I was young, I wanted to alleviate unnecessary suffering. Over the years, I began to realize that most of us talk about problems, but how we address them is more challenging. Most of our waking hours are spent “at work” and the old ways of working have not typically addressed or supported the growth and health of individuals and teams. My co-founder and I saw a need to train leaders and their teams to improve HOW they work so that people can feel better and do better. And we wanted a way to provide measurable value to the entire organization, not just the top leadership team.

In a nutshell, 9Q means Energetic Intelligence, which is the power of activating and aligning energy to create, serve and impact at your highest level, individually and collectively.

What are the six 9Q High-Performance Habits and how did you develop them? 

The basis of all of our training starts with the 9Q High-Performance Habits which have been developed over 30 years of training in and studying human behavior and performance. They were crystallized by myself and my co-founder when we recognized the importance of having a simple, consistent framework for helping people approach their day in a more positive and empowered way. Practiced by everyone on a team or in a company, they provide the basis for HOW we move from toxic cultures to more positive cultures, from negative communication to positive as well as the more advanced leadership and performance training 9Q offers.

The six 9Q Habits are: Ready, Check, Set, Go, Reboot, Upgrade. Here is an overview of some of what these habits address:

What is the tipping point between a “good” and “great” company culture? 

I believe the tipping point between a good and a great company culture is the depth and breadth of positive, engaging, clear and aligned actions and interactions. Reserving training for only your high level employees will not get you to the tipping point. A few excellent leaders or one high performing team will only get your company so far, especially if the company is growing or changing significantly. The power is in the majority of the employees feeling good, positive, engaged and aligned with the mission and a strong leadership team that models behaviors that support great company culture. This is less about what it “looks like” and more about what it “feels like.” People need more than great words. They need to know that they matter, that they belong and that their contribution is a valuable part of the company’s growth. These days, if they don’t “feel” that, they will leave. 

What is your definition of a high performing team? 

A high-performing team is one where team members 1. feel good (this isn’t about perfection, it’s about feeling connected to self and others, feeling a sense of belonging and a sense of being valued for who they are and what they offer the team), 2. have clarity around intention, 3. are focused on the highest value actions (those actions that are most aligned with the intended outcome) and 4. consistently hit or exceed their targets.

Do you have any advice for individuals who have negative emotions around talking about “feelings” at work? 

Toxic corporate culture is the number one predictor (by far) of attrition during the Great Resignation (MITSloan, 2022). If you don’t think this has anything to do with feelings, you are wrong and your company will lose people and lose money. It’s no longer an option to ignore your employees’ feelings, it’s a necessity for doing good business. Find a training company that simplifies and directs the training to HOW you can improve your culture and your business. Talking about feelings with no clarity around how to improve things, is a recipe for disaster.

Love this because I have been in so many scenarios where people get nervous about “feelings” at work. It feels scary for many people AND that is why we have created  straightforward, clear frameworks and language to help everyone train for improvement. The truth is that we can try to ignore feelings (and I believe this is what has been most common up until more recently), but those feelings have a direct impact on many layers at work, from how we feel about ourselves, how we communicate with others, how well we perform, how efficient we are, how well we grow our leaderships skills, how good we feel and ultimately on our overall work performance. My advice is to ask yourself if you are willing to give up a powerful strategic advantage just because it’s out of your comfort zone, individually or collectively.

Recognize that you will never perform at your highest level if you ignore your feelings. Recognize that you have wisdom in both your head and your heart. Learning to connect the two not only feels better, but lets you work and serve at higher levels. Customers have said that 9Q is the bridge between the head and the heart of an organization. Find your bridge.

In your opinion, how can companies demonstrate they are truly investing in the professional development of their team?

  1. On a team level, leaders need to be having conversations with people asking what matters to them, how they want to learn and grow, what their future goals are, how they want to contribute and who they are as individuals.Throwing random training at them will NOT lead to the most optimal outcomes. Have your team co-create what would be the most powerful professional development options (meaning ask employees to contribute ideas and offer feedback) and provide training that offers real value for everyone.
  2. Professional development is not a one time or yearly offering. For a company to demonstrate that they are truly investing in the professional development of their people, the training needs to be ongoing, applicable, engaging, interactive and people need to see the benefits quickly.
  3. Everyone wants to learn and grow. Provide training in the basics so that additional programs become more valuable. There is power in simplicity, clarity and tangible application. Most companies skip this part and offer the topic that is most popular at the moment with no clear expectation of impact and often it falls flat.
  4. Close the access gap by providing professional development to everyone in the company. Reserving for top level leaders only does NOT get you to the tipping point if you want to create and nurture a great culture.
  5. By providing asynchronous, interactive, micro-learning that is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime and on any device you increase the value of the training and the adoption by a diverse group of employees.
  6. Make sure the professional development you offer is training, not just an information dump. We all know things we “should” or “could” be doing or not doing that would improve our overall well-being… Learning HOW to apply the knowledge is where you gain traction.

When was your last “Ah-ha” moment? 

The first one to come to mind was after an experience I had last year where I had a life-threatening situation. The medicine they wanted to give me was what had led to my mom’s death 20 years ago so there was a chance of me dying with it and a chance of me dying without it. To say my fear was off the charts is an understatement. The Ah-ha insight was to shift my focus on what I could control. For me, that meant asking for a second and third opinion, asking my beloved to stay with me, focusing on everything I had appreciation for and letting myself be afraid without beating myself up. We all face dark moments, but we all get to choose HOW we move through them.

On a professional side, my last ah-ha moment was when one of our highest level executive leadership customers answered our question about the most powerful part of her years long training with 9Q and she answered the 9Q Habit “Reboot.” It was a powerful reminder that no matter how experienced and accomplished one is in work and life, consistent practice of simple habits can have a powerful impact.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

First of all, thank you so much for this Q&A and for the work AllVoices is doing in the world. At the core, I believe our purpose is very aligned about helping people feel better and do better in the world. I feel so honored that I get to help leaders and their companies improve performance while improving so many aspects of the employee experience. 

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