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Getting Excited for Convention: A Conversation with Keynote Speaker Ellen Burton

Updated: May 8, 2023

Introduction to Ellen Burton by CWBA Member Victoria Kosobucki

Members of CWBA, meet Ellen Burton, a renowned Executive Coach and our Keynote Speaker for our upcoming Convention on May 19 through 21, 2023. In anticipation of her presentation, Ellen graciously spoke with me to tell me more about herself, her experience as an Executive Coach, and her upcoming presentation.

Ellen discovered her calling as an Executive Coach shortly after her successful careers as an Executive Sales Consultant and Corporate Trainer. Through both of these previous positions, Ellen found there was ample room for growth in terms of workplace culture. In Ellen’s own words, she was determined to be “a part of the solution” in the workplace. As an Executive Coach, she draws from her own experiences from her two prior careers, and trains others on how to create and sustain healthy and inclusive places of employment.

Today, Ellen has been an Executive Coach for over 27 years, owns her own executive coaching business, and is an author of the Amazon Best Seller The Civility Project: How to build a culture of reverence to improve wellness, productivity and profit. Ellen’s clientele includes members of management and employees, alike, from places such as John Hancock, AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University (just to name a few!). When Ellen is not working as an Executive Coach, she enjoys golfing and is also very active in her church.

Ellen kindly provided a little sneak peek for her upcoming presentation: The Women of CWBA: Uniquely Qualified Inclusive Leaders, an excellent fit for this year’s convention theme—Leading Together Uniquely United. This sneak peek perfectly illustrates Ellen’s captivating narrative and presence. Enjoy!

CWBA Convention Sneak Peeks by Keynote Speaker Ellen Burton

Sneak Peek #1: The Parallel between Golf and Women in the Law

As I golfed on a beautiful spring morning with a few attorney friends, it occurred to us that there are interesting parallels between golf and the practice of the law. I think we were all surprised how both began but are no longer elitist old boys’ clubs. Another similarity, hundreds of years ago, both established rules and etiquette that have stood the test of time and while I appreciate that these rules were designed to protect the integrity of the “game,” I became fascinated with the “spirit” of the law and the spirit of the game of golf. I think of this entity between rules and etiquette as kindness.

Even if you’re not a golfer, since the phenomenon of Tiger Woods, most people have observed at least one golf match and can appreciate how dedicated the practice must be, the roles of honor and integrity. This is why since its inception in 1764, golf has been referred to as a “gentlemen’s game.” Thank goodness for the Caucasian European males who insisted on a respect for nature, rules that make allowance for different skill levels to compete, and etiquette.

Coincidently, historically, the practice of law looks very similar. In the United States the legal profession also began in the 1700s, also the purview of white males who established a respect for rules and etiquette in service of developing the American system of law for citizen safety and growth of this nation.

Gratefully, slowly, things have changed!

Programs like Black Girls Golf and First Tee empower kids and teens through golf, regardless of race and ethnicity. The exclusion of elitist golf is over! Today a round of 9 or 18 holes of golf can be played for as little as $15/round. Whether 9 or 90 years old, playing at a country club or urban course, the rules and etiquette are the same: Be quiet while others are golfing, don’t offer unsolicited advice, keep your head down, concentrate on your own game, attire matters, keep pace, respect others’ skill level, and play safely. Rules to practice law by?

My team and I use this parallel with golf skills as a metaphor for working with organizations whose desire is to cultivate an emotional and psychologically safe workplace. The good news is that an inclusive workplace must begin with leadership: Not with “them,” with you!

In the words of the great Stephen Covey, let’s begin with the end in mind.

Working in a firm where everyone is treated with respect and dignity by their co-workers, regardless of rank, is essential to the bottom line. When an employee leaves because of bullying or chronic disrespect, it costs the firm 3 to 5 times that position’s salary. The loss of production during the time the position is unfilled, the effort of position posting, interview time, and onboarding cost an estimated $75,000-$300,000 before the new employee generates any revenue. Bullying makes people depressed and literally makes employees sick by depressing their immune systems. And it’s not just the people being bullied who get sick, but the co-workers who witness the bullying get sick as well. Many times, employees either begin to sabotage the work, or begin quiet quitting. And don’t get me started on the financial impact of a damaged brand because a firm has little or no diverse employees, partners, and doesn’t reflect the demographic of your current or potential clientele."

Sneak Peek # 2: Women as Uniquely Qualified Inclusive Leaders

CWBA members, women specifically, are uniquely qualified to be Inclusive Leaders for three reasons:

  1. Women are uniquely intuitive. Perhaps because of the tides, lunar cycles, menstrual cycles, or things we haven’t discovered yet, we tend to be much more in touch with our bodies where our intuition often signals. Gut instinct informs, as well as tight shoulders or a feeling of nausea when we witness an injustice. That injustice may be another woman being spoken over, disrespected by a male colleague during a team meeting. Or perhaps a co-worker comes to you for support about the way someone in a superior position humiliated or disregarded them. Your gut signal: This is not the way you want co-workers to feel or to treat one another and not the culture you’d be proud to work in. You may also wonder if there is a connection between turnover rates and these behaviors? You may worry that this type of behavior spills out into client interactions.

  2. Women of CWBA are inclusive leaders. You are leaders in your homes, in your communities, volunteer jobs, managing your children if not your entire family’s activities and if you have elderly parents, in managing their aging/health care process. Your leadership takes the shape of making sure goal setting is in alignment with your values; prioritization, collaboration, and strategic design to accomplish those goals; acknowledging and managing different personalities; then motivating your people to feel ownership, if not pride, in accomplishing said goals.

  3. Women have a unique ability to access empathy. For over 15 years social scientists have studied the impact of emotional intelligence (EI) on career success. EI can be equal to intelligence in predicting professional success. Of the five professional skills of Emotional Intelligence (Empathy, Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Social Skills, and Motivation) the most important is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand how others feel. Many working women have experienced something between disregard and discrimination, so we intuitively know/feel it when we hear it. We understand the feelings of shock, hurt or disappointment when we hear or witness incivility. You don’t have to be a partner or have an official company policy to show empathy. Your show of emotion is a show of strength, leadership strength. Your expressing empathy in no way equals disloyalty to your leaders when a co-worker confides how they’ve been made to feel inadequate or that they don’t belong.

Sneak Peek # 3: The Benefits of Becoming an Inclusive Leader

You’ll find that more authentic conversations begin to happen once you define and communicate acceptable behaviors. Training tools for managing conflict in a timely manner helps co-workers keep the workplace productive. Your co-workers will begin to know that they belong and feel a sense of ownership for maintaining an emotionally and psychologically safe workplace. Retention will improve, employee engagement scores will improve, creative solutions and innovation may flourish.

How perfect that the women of the CWBA can naturally support the “spirit” of a healthy law firm, that place between rules and etiquette: kindness! To encourage and model civil behavior while reminding others of the spirit of kindness is leadership. The unique ability to shift the culture and impact revenue in their firms by being an Inclusive Leader is easily accessible once women own and practice their natural talents of Inclusive Leadership, Empathy, Intuition.


Plan now to attend our 46th Annual Convention to be held May 19-21, 2023, at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa! Registration is now open!


Victoria Kosobucki is an associate attorney at Bloch & Chapleau, Cates, Ongert, where she practices family law, personal injury, and estate planning. Victoria attended Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated in May of 2021. When she is not volunteering for the CWBA or working, she enjoys skiing and exploring the beautiful state of Colorado.

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