Passion-Driven, Authentic Leadership. Empathetic listening. Trust instilled. The greatest leaders are driven by purpose, and they serve something much more than themselves in the organizations they represent. Providing empathetic listening and understanding to employees’ standards and understanding their motivators will empower them to go above and beyond, enforcing comradery in their team to drive the mission of the organization even further. When a leader genuinely cares about their employees, it further drives the success for the organization. This can be inspiring others to take charge and be leaders as well. The best organizations will allow creative space for innovation for each person to take an active role in their leadership and lives.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Michele Lee Occhipinti.

Founder of Ack Professional, Michele is a premier peak performance leadership & life strategist, empowering individuals worldwide to follow their integrity, raising the standards in their performance and that of the individuals they lead to be the best version of themselves. Michele brings along over two and half decades of experience working alongside executives, some at the most prestigious of Fortune 500 companies. Passionate to empower people to succeed professionally & personally. Michele is no stranger to the Great Resignation even before it originated, she resigned from her corporate position to follow her integrity and heartfelt passion that aligned with her true values and beliefs. Her contributions allowed her to join the ranks of the nation’s best and to be here speaking with us today.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Absolutely. It is my pleasure to share my experience with you.

After working over two and a half decades in the corporate world, I reached a significant time in my life where status and fortune were no longer a priority. I took the power back, focusing on what was essential, incorporating my extensive experience in the banking, healthcare, legal, and pharmaceutical industries and intwining my heartfelt passion with the inner confidence within me. This helped me to focus on what I wanted to contribute to the world, following my own integrity.

Today, I continue the momentum and am focused on making a difference in the world on my own terms. It’s important that I am making life happen for me and not waiting for it to happen to me. When you are providing a service that you are passionate about, it’s not work but, rather, a labor of love.

The finest leaders I have had the privilege to work alongside are empathetic and authentic in understanding their workforce and are passionate about what they bring to the organization. Their values are in line with what the organization represents and brought out the best in the people that they were leading, gaining trust in their leadership while driving the workforce passionately and creatively towards completing the mission. They are change leaders, building efficiency, creating new ways to improve and are resilient in achieving the best results. Holding high standards and leading with integrity are critical factors in performance for executives.

The individuals I work with are passionate about their lives, seeking clarity and a clear direction for a level of higher achievement within their integrity, both professionally and personally. Together, we outline strategies to navigate changes to redefine their success.

Our decisions shape the path to who we are in life. Forming the right path is essential for you to reach the destiny you seek and is important to overall satisfaction in life. There are many essentials needed in life for fulfillment. The biggest mistake people face when reaching their destiny in life is they believe they have more time. Life is short. Time is fast.

Continuously improving the way we see success within us is essential to being successful in life and leadership. Our constant growth helps us learn what we seek to understand, learning from the experiences and providing greater opportunity in the world to achieve the success we see for ourselves.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Throughout the pandemic, the Great Resignation allowed people to focus on what is truly essential in their lives. It gave them the opportunity to re-evaluate where they were in their lives and careers. Now, it is no longer about fortune and status, but about their own unique way of living the life they envision. Where they want. When they want. Contributing in ways they seek to make the changes they see in the world.

Between now and 2032, technology and healthcare will continue evolving with more advancements on maintaining our health and well-being. Through technology and artificial intelligence, for instance, we may be able to detect that someone is feeling burnt out or ill before they even recognize the symptoms. This will help them to get back on track within the next few hours, so as not to lose productivity because of their health.

Hybrid work environments will continue. Standard workhours will be a thing of the past and people will work hours that accommodate their lifestyle. This will provide more work/life balance.

Organizations will change and make themselves more attractive by offering employees the incentives they need to maintain their well-being. It will give them the opportunity to have a socially meaningful impact through their work, building authentic collaborations within the community.

The entrepreneurial world will grow substantially. Collaborations will be frequent and used for strong, authentic community building. Businesses will be resilient moving forward when disrupted by world events, such as the pandemic, and will be supported strongly by their community. Connection is an essential part of the success everyone hopes to achieve.

Executives will work effectively, providing empathetic listening and understanding that their employees need. This will allow them to understand what they need to motivate and drive the workforce, building the organization based on its integrity and enforcing each employee’s work/life balance. This will be a big piece moving forward through the Great Resignation in order to retain the best talent.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Organizations need to take a proactive approach in future-proofing their organizations, focusing in on the overall well-being of their employees. When an employer truly cares about their employee’s success and well-being, it shows in the bottom line. Leaders should take a more proactive approach in understanding their employee’s motivation and to connect them with the company’s mission by using authentic, empathetic listening. Utilizing their career, personal aspirations, and well-being to achieve the success they crave so that they operate at peak performance.

We know the pandemic has allowed us to concentrate on what is essential to us and the Great Resignation has opened the opportunity for many to move forward in the life they envision. We also know that mental health and addiction is an area that needs substantial improvement. Over 100,000 people passed away from overdoses throughout the pandemic alone, which outlines a significant decrease in mental health and had many seeking alternative ways to cope through the uncertainty.

Invest in the people that serve the organization because they are the future of the organization’s success.

When people are satisfied with their careers, they feel they are making a significant difference. Organizations need to establish systems that prioritize the needs of individuals to proactively take control in mental health and self-care within the organization. This will allow each employee to easily access resources when facing stress and challenges in their life, both professionally and personally.

Nothing is future-proof. We need to be resilient in creating opportunities that are in line with the organization’s success. This means constantly innovating in our life and our leadership. The only constant will be change in life and we need to embrace being open through that change.

The greatest leaders benefit from mentoring and/or coaching as one of the best ways to navigate the changes that are ahead. Many outstanding athletes and leaders value a phenomenal coach to reach the next level of success.

Overall, the best organizations want their employees to be happy. To do this, it’s important to invest in the employees by providing the essentials needed to align their lives with their career for continued success. That will make an ordinary organization become an extraordinary one and retain the best talent.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

The healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical companies need to collaborate. The biggest gaps remain between healthcare coverage and what organizations contribute towards what the employee pays out of pocket for coverage. We need consistency in our contributions and little cost for the employee, so everyone has the appropriate coverage in today’s world. People should not have to worry about if they are covered when a serious illness arises, nor should they lose all that they worked for in life due to this discrepancy in coverage. Employers should prioritize their employees’ well-being and health and deem it as essential to the world’s success and individuals’ peak performance.

Changes to in-network providers and coverage is needed. All should be in the same network. These factors create increased, unanticipated out-of-pocket responsibilities, that can impact people’s ability to access the care that they need with the physician they require and trust.

There is debate that the employers should let go of providing healthcare coverage directly to their employees. Employers should contribute the cost for coverage and the carriers need to provide consistency and determine a plan for all at a cost that is reasonable. Most of a person’s life is placed in their career and all should have proper coverage for their well-being.

The healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance carriers need to come to better terms in costs that outline a coverage program that protects us all. This should include those that seek homeopathic and natural healthcare alternatives. As the cost of healthcare rises, so has the employee’s share of costs. As employees enroll in benefits each year, they are left feeling that they are spending a significant part of their income on insurance that does not provide as much value as it has in the past. That can have a negative impact on employee job satisfaction.

Employees expect to have appropriate coverage and incentives provided by their employers that will allow them to live an exceptional life and take control of their well-being. Not only is it essential to preventing diseases, it will also show appreciation for the employees’ hard work and the company’s dedication to their health.

Coaching will be an added, covered benefit through insurance for all employees in the upcoming years. There will be higher standards to follow to be an exceptional coach. As psychologists are a covered mental health service that helps the client work through their past, coaches provide the opportunity for the client’s overall well-being in life and their future. Invest in the future with a phenomenal coach.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Coming from a Fortune 500 company prior to Ack Professional, I was well-versed in the working from home lifestyle. Many companies are well-equipped to make this transition with current technology trends. Those that were not equipped had to pivot and make it happen to the best of their abilities. Not all industries are flexible to the work from home model, as seen in the hospitality industry, and may resort to artificial intelligence automating their kitchens in the near future.

A hybrid model should also be an option, so the employees have advantages of being in the office while still having more flexibility for work/ life balance. Technology and artificial intelligence will enhance the productivity and efficiency of the organizations. Although, with the speed of current technology trends, those that drive into the office may experience a robotic valet tenant to park their new Tesla.

In the U.S., employees expect flexibility as much as they expect benefits in their retirement. Employers that are capable, but do not offer flexibility will see increased turnover rates as employees move to roles that better align with their desires professionally and personally.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Our workforce is more culturally diverse and is expanding its expectations for job satisfaction. Employee retention rates will stay and rise in organizations that are building a culture of integrity and understanding. These companies will support the employees for personal and professional growth, rather than monetary and incentive compensation.

Businesses should strive to be an environment that is promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. People want to be appreciated for the work they provide to the organization and feel their hard work and dedication is an important part of the mission. Outline the strategy your organization needs.

As individuals focus more on their own unique strengths to create a path and incorporate their life experience and passion into their goals to follow a vision for success — whether that be in an organization or in entrepreneurial opportunities — the employer needs to provide support to retain the best talent for their organization. Life provides many opportunities. Stand out from the rest and be resilient.

Support your employees by creating a happier and healthier work environment that encourages the unique strengths of each individual and drives creativity for innovation with resilience in your industry.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

The fact that many individuals are transitioning from the corporate hustle to entrepreneurship. Organizations will have created a more productive, innovative, and empowering workforce. They will be resilient change, allowing them to be committed in the face of uncertainty effectively and without any social or economic interruptions.

As organizations focus more on the well-being of their employees, the future of work will be the result of a happier, healthier, more conscientious and passion driven workforce. A workforce that is in line for its greatest success for productivity and effectiveness.

Our collective mental health and well-being are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and well-being?

Organizations with proactive, innovative strategies tend to have a strong advantage and tend to be the leader in their market.

Leaders need to be empathetic in their listening and understanding to build the trust necessary for employees to confide what is needed to be their best and increase productivity. It’s essential to give the employee control over their health and life at work.

Opportunities to allow the employee to focus on healthier alternatives to relieve stress will give them strategies necessary to be a productive workforce and gain personal success.

Providing healthier incentives that are cost effective and easily accessible for the employee is essential. Offer healthy resources, ranging from psychologists, exercise, healthier lifestyles, addiction recovery, mindset techniques, and coaching with a personalized approach. There is no one size fits all in today’s world.

The more we understand mental illness and addiction, the more we can take action to build a better workforce. Reduce the stigma and provide effective options. When the employee feels uncomfortable, and trust is not gained, it effects the ability for the employee to want to seek help and treatment. This can cause a detrimental spiral effect in productivity for the organization.

Conduct an organization-wide mental health day or retreat that focuses on the essentials needed to build on health, well-being, mental strength, and success.

Employers expect mentally healthy individuals in their workplaces. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or gadgets and talk about well-being. Employers must act and connect the values of what they want in their workforce to what they are giving to their employees.

Build a culture based on integrity and diversity, equity and inclusion will follow. Allow employees to communicate openly to build trust. When you communicate the expectations effectively and believe in your employees, supporting them and instilling trust, they will reciprocate by going above and beyond the call of duty.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation.’ ‘The Great Reconfiguration.’ And now the ‘Great Reevaluation.’ What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

Organizations will need to constantly evolve around anticipated changes and provide greater opportunities for the employees to achieve success. Leaders will need to support their employees, understanding their needs with empathetic listening, motivating to impact the overall mission to provide outstanding results.

Organizations that are based on integrity will retain top talent. They should be driven by the values they represent and incorporate a high level of commitment to its diverse culture and be vigilant against negative factors that may impact the well-being of the employees. This includes a commitment to work together without judgement or bias. It is important to facilitate effective strategies to allow employees to voice their opinions openly and establish confidence that organizations will take the appropriate actions. Holding all employees accountable to the high standards of integrity for the organization they represent is a must. Provide value for each employee to feel that they are making a significant difference in the organization.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

The top 5 trends to watch out for in the future of work are:

  1. Organizations lead by Integrity. Values-based leadership.

Continue to uphold to the high standards of ethical company behavior. Be values driven for both consumer and authentic social and community impact. More than any other time in history, organizations need to integrate ethics, social integrity, genuine connection and impact into their mission.

Organizations that are based off integrity, driven by leaders that hold the same values they represent, will instill a high level of commitment to its diverse culture and retain top talent.

2. Passion-Driven, Authentic Leadership. Empathetic listening. Trust instilled. The greatest leaders are driven by purpose, and they serve something much more than themselves in the organizations they represent. Providing empathetic listening and understanding to employees’ standards and understanding their motivators will empower them to go above and beyond, enforcing comradery in their team to drive the mission of the organization even further. When a leader genuinely cares about their employees, it further drives the success for the organization. This can be inspiring others to take charge and be leaders as well. The best organizations will allow creative space for innovation for each person to take an active role in their leadership and lives.

3. Entrepreneurial Enthusiasts: Employees following their true passions and not just the paycheck will find fulfillment in their lives. They can be following their values and beliefs to achieve what they truly want to bring to the world. The pandemic provided the opportunity for people to focus and reevaluate their lives and where they want to be in their careers. Igniting a spark, many people sought to open the window of opportunity to pivot towards the success they see within themselves. Not everyone is entrepreneurial, and many individuals are happier with the certainty provided in a stable career, paycheck and benefits, utilizing their leadership.

4. Flexible Work Environments. Work/Life Balance. Embracing hybrid and flexible work schedules and locations, replacing formality with authenticity, and normalizing the need for self-care and personal goals to be established and fulfilled. These have risen to the top of the employment hierarchy and remain to be accounted for competitively.

5. Increased Healthcare, Well-being Incentives.

Employers expect mentally healthy individuals in their workplaces. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or gadgets and talk about well-being. Employers must act and connect the values of what they want in their workforce to what they are giving to their employees.

Investing in their employees by offering additional incentives for their health and well-being will allow the company to retain the best talent and drive the culture to its peak performance.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

I believe in my own language, using words to be true and authentic to me. The language we use is what we focus on. Connecting to ourselves.

My own quote is “Be the best version of YOU!”

One that has often resonated with me throughout my life is “We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

Take control of what you have control of in this life. In your leadership. Adjust the sails and grow in the opportunities you need to achieve success. Providing better opportunities. Focus on what is essential. No one is promised tomorrow. We are only promised today. Be the best version of YOU!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

I admire all individuals that overcome the challenges within their lives and in their leadership and are authentically living life on their terms following their integrity. One that has inspired me in life that comes to mind:

Actress, Lynn-Holly Johnson from Ice Castles. The resiliency she played on and off camera in the movie and in her personal life, setting standards and following her integrity by not letting anything hold her back, has always been an inspiration for me ever since I first viewed the movie when I was a child.

I have always had a passion for figure skating. Recently, I have taken on the opportunity of professional figure skating lessons to follow this heartfelt passion. I have ice skated throughout the years outside of my home. After running my first full marathon in Boston last year, I decided to level up this year to follow my dream in figure skating and raising my own performance in hopes of competing in the upcoming years.

Be the best version of you!

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.

My pleasure, I greatly appreciated and thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Great Resignation to Authority Magazine. Have an amazing day. Be the best version of you!