Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Author and CEO Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler. Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler is founder and CEO of Alignment Strategies Group, the New York-based consulting firm that helps CEOs and their executive teams optimize organizational health and growth. She is the author of OPTIMAL OUTCOMES: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life (HarperBusiness, 2020), which was selected as a Financial Times Book of the Month. She is a keynote speaker at Fortune 500 companies, public institutions and leading startups, including Google, Harvard Law School and the United Nations. A former counterterrorism fellow with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she earned her Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and has taught conflict freedom at Columbia for a decade.
The places where people can find her work (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!) are:
I asked Jennifer how we can follow her work and share her awesomeness, and her response was this:
You can follow and share my work at:
My author website: www.jengoldmanwetzler.com
My book website: www.optimaloutcomesbook.com
My company website: www.alignmentstrategiesgroup.com
My Psychology Today column: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/achieving-conflict-freedom
What was the inspiration for Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home and in Life? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
In 1973, one of my mentors, Dr. Morton Deutsch, widely considered the father of conflict resolution, wrote up his research in a book called the Resolution of Conflict. His research showed that conflict typically led to more conflict, and cooperation led to more cooperation. He called these the “conflict loop” and the “cooperation loop.” When I learned about these loops, all I could think was, “How can we break free from the conflict loop? And how can we get from one loop to the other?” Then I spent the next 13 years answering those questions, and the answers lie in the book I recently wrote, Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home and in Life.
My research began with a fellowship from the US Department of Homeland Security in 2002, and since then, in my work as an instructor at Columbia, and as CEO of the consulting firm I founded, Alignment Strategies Group, I’ve used the Optimal Outcomes practices to help graduate students and leaders at Fortune 500 companies, fast-growing, innovative startups, global non-profits, and universities turn around some of the most challenging situations they’ve faced in their personal and professional lives. I hope that my book helps set you on a path to do the same.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
In your book, Optimal Outcomes, you place a priority on conflict freedom over conflict resolution. Would you clarify the difference?
Conflict resolution says that conflicts can be resolved by meeting your own and others’ interests in ways that allow all parties to win. But some attempts to resolve conflict have failed so many times, trying to “solve” them becomes futile. Conflict freedom helps us stop trying to resolve something that has shown itself to be unresolvable. Instead, it shows us how to methodically free ourselves from the mindsets, emotions and behaviors that have gotten us stuck. It helps us achieve optimal outcomes, which take into account the reality of the constraints we face, as well as our imagined best-case scenario. Optimal Outcomes are often different from what we thought we wanted, but more satisfying than we ever imagined possible.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I love to go hiking and backpacking. With a backpack on my back, walking through the mountains, I’m often at my happiest. Luckily, this kind of activity can support the writing life quite well. In fact, while writing Optimal Outcomes, I went on a multi-day solo backpacking excursion into the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the main purpose of listening to my emotions—noticing as they arose and fell away and sometimes asking what messages they had for me. This experience helped me write the chapter in Optimal Outcomes about the role of emotions in conflict and how we can use our emotions as catalysts for constructive action.
Thank you for answering these questions for us, Jennifer!