Jenai Wu Steinkeller, Ph.D. 2017-04-28T10:28:31+00:00

I am a highly experienced Harvard-trained psychologist-consultant and executive coach based in Boston. As a psychologist and psychoanalyst. consultant and coach. I bring 20+ years of experience helping people move from one point to another, while approaching the collaboration with respect and professionalism. I am also a writer, teacher, and researcher. I have been on the Harvard Medical School Faculty for 25 years and have also served on the adjunct faculty at Harvard Law School. Emerson College of Media Arts, and Tufts University Medical School.

Background

I began the study of psychology and the human condition early in life, as a survivor and witness to my family’s trauma and resilience through war, dislocations, and the collision of cultures. I learned to see the common humanity in the vulnerability of every person. I came to see conflict as the passionate need of every living thing to want to support their own interests. I studied the ubiquitous quest for power, control and mastery — impulses that begin in the first months of life and which can resolve throughout life in the ability to form relationships of mutual respect, or fail to resolve in conflict and frustration. I saw the power of culture, including how cultural norms and values could dictate how people could feel good or bad about themselves — and how to treat each other.

Aside from my own personal observations and experiences, reading, thinking, being psychoanalyzed and getting degrees, I was greatly influenced through my strong and lifelong interest in the wisdom teachings. In early adulthood I was drawn to the spirituality of Western mystics, and flirted with life as a Catholic religious. This led me to an interest in Buddhist meditation and for over two decades I immersed myself in mindfulness training, eventually qualifying to teach it. Through yoga and other Ayurvedic healing arts, I became interested in Hindu spirituality and wisdom. Existentialism put its stamp on my thinking through my attraction to the writings of Holocaust writers Frankl & Arendt when I had not yet started college. Each of these and other influences brought me to the point of viewing the value of compassionate, non-judgmental awareness and the value of the practice of cultivating profound respect for self and for others as the main agent of change amidst a vast array of other tools and techniques.

My Approach: The Paradox of Change

Over the years I have discovered that respect and honesty helps my clients connect to their own, authentic motivation and optimism for change. The paradox is that outside behaviors are most effectively changed through inside work. Slowing down and stepping back gets people out of ruts and helps them to move forward. Though many are afraid of losing ground in the race to success, the deeper you go to move the levers of your own growth, the more exhilaration, positive energy, life force, and sustainable happiness you can source.

My Approach: Moving the Needle Where It Counts

I am informal and even playful in engaging clients to have conversations that matter. I help clients make connections between their cerebral and behavioral habits to body- and emotion- embodied understanding. I use metaphors, images, and stories to help clients connect to, and find those levers of change within.

I am most interested in understanding what specific and concrete problems clients are trying to solve.

My Approach: Befriending Presence as the Common Element in Change

I call upon a lifetime of personal work and professional training in helping clients on the path to positive growth. I used to view my interest in fitness, yoga and mindfulness as separate realms from my profession – – as part of my personal and spiritual life respectively. Now I see these as interchangeable. Each involves cultivating the capacity for presence, and the value of nurturing and respecting the body. Each cultivates curiosity, listening, and the willingness to appreciate and enjoy whatever is going on right now.

The quality and skill of befriending is the key activity whether you are talking about perspective-taking in successful negotiations, or summoning poise to look at fast-moving forces in the chaos of life. It is befriending, as opposed to antagonizing, tensing up, or resisting, that guarantees success.

Training & Education

My formal training is in clinical psychology, psychoanalysis, behavioral science and cultural anthropology. My major degrees and certifications came from Northwestern University’s School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute. After completing training in group dynamics as a fellow at Harvard, I also trained to be a consultant specializing in leadership, teams, negotiation, and culture. I received my certificate in executive coaching at the I Coach New York program of the Zicklin School of Business. My interest in business, strategy, leadership & negotiation led me to undertake extensive coursework in part-time non-degree programs or classes at Harvard Business School, Sloan School of Management, U. Mass. Boston, and Broad College of Business. I also certified to teach mindfulness and meditation through the 3-year, by invitation. Community Dharma Leadership training program based at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin. California.

Work History

In addition to a 20+ year private practice of consulting & clinical psychology, I worked as a Senior Consultant for the culture- and strategy-focused consulting firm Trompenaars-Hampden Turner, where I worked mainly with C-suite executives and senior management of Fortune 500 companies in Europe and the U.S. My client work has included coaching global leadership teams; post-integration (M&A) culture training and consulting; coaching cross-cultural negotiations; acting as a sounding board to senior leaders seeking neutral help on a variety of issues such as succession; and facilitating diversity conversations in organizations. I taught as an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation (PON), and collaborated closely with the Conflict Management Group, founded by Roger Fisher (Author of Getting to Yes). I have collaborated with other experts in negotiation, strategy & leadership, and organization with senior management in Fortune 500 clients, as well as the World Health Organization, governments, and NGOs. I was on the Faculty at Harvard Medical School for 25 years, half of that time as an Assistant Professor. I also served on the Adjunct Faculty atTufts University School of Medicine, Harvard Law School, and Emerson College. I have taught psychiatry residents to practice psychotherapy and sociocultural subjects, negotiation, and at Emerson College I taught a course on Gender, Race, and Ethnicity.

My Specialties: Culture, Conflict, and Connection

Culture, Conflict & Connection capture my main areas of expertise. This encompasses culture and global management, global teams, multinational organizations, diversity, negotiation and conflict management, and mindfulness, mindful leadership, spirituality, positive psychology, and stress management.

Coaching/Consulting Examples

Coaching for Development

  • An executive who was being considered for succession to head his company was facing disqualification because he downplayed the importance of building rapport with others.
  • An entrepreneur who had recently moved her company to the US wanted a sounding board away from her office to discuss cultural assimilation and its impact on her leadership with a mainly US team.
  • A new manager needed help with his customary style of avoiding conflict.
  • An executive in the biotech sector sought career-related coaching to work through whether she was hitting a glass (organizational) ceiling or a development (personal) ceiling after not getting an expected promotion more than once.
  • A client whose job involved mainly creative output was increasingly running into blocks as the stakes became greater.

Aligning a Global Team

  • Worked with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to bring his senior leadership team, dispersed globally, to alignment around disparate cultural styles and values; as well as to help them operate as a team versus independent fiefdoms, which was easy to do given geographic dispersion. A secondary job was to provide the CEO confidential and neutral space for him to discuss concerns and insights relevant to his own succession.

Cross-cultural Negotiation

  • Helped the head of a company re-establish a positive connection with one of the company’s major clients who was of a different culture after he felt that a cultural faux-pas must have occurred to create alienation. The 4-month engagement involved listening carefully to the story for an in-depth understanding of what may have caused misunderstanding and mistrust to arise, separate what was interpersonal and what was due to different cultural expectations, then craft a strategy to re-engage the client and convey respect. This engagement also involved identifying key representatives for the delegation and coaching them around cross-cultural communication strategies and potential cultural pitfalls.

Diversity

  • Facilitated a dialogue and tolerance workshop following complaints of blatant sexist and racist slurs being propagated in a workplace.

Organizational Integration and Cross-cultural Team-building in Mergers & Acquisitions

  • Interviewed the Board and senior leadership of two retail companies of different primary nationalities post-acquisition. Helped to surface tensions around the perception that each side wasn’t trying hard enough to meet them half-way around cultural differences. Conducted further interviews and an anonymous survey to gather data for a day-long retreat with the top 30 leaders from both sides, to share these tensions openly and facilitate new ways of relating. A lot of laughter during the meeting ensued from recognizing that “differences” were more like commonalities.
  • Worked 18 months with a mixed industries HR leader, to help her company post-acquisition to integrate leadership teams from 2 different countries (formerly operating as silos); to identify talent from both legacy companies to lead the new, global company; and to craft new systems and processes that could leverage cultural diversity, promote integration and reduce nation- and culture- based splits. Additionally worked with the CEO of the company to help him emerge from his own habits of relating to his legacy leadership team to evolve into an expanded global identity. This consulting process involved helping both sides recognize deep loyalties that were based in culture and tradition, and which were surfaced in part by interviewing line and middle managers along with senior leadership.

My Affiliations and Publications

My active memberships include the Society of Consulting Psychology (SCP), I Coach NY, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), International Positive Psychology Association, Academy of Management, and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society.

Most of my academic publications are on topics such as cross-cultural negotiation and enemy psychology, or the intersection between culture, gender, and power. Trust and Other Anxiety in Negotiations: Dynamics across Boundaries of Self and Culture, co-authored with David Laws, is an article in Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Journal comprised of a micro-analysis of an email exchange between Argentine and Russian representatives of joint venture companies, whose interaction enters a vicious cycle of mistrust, due in part to cultural misunderstanding and in part to universal psychodynamics.

Languages

Learning languages is a hobby. English is my native language. Korean is my mother tongue but I am less than fluent in it. I am conversant, if rusty, in French. I studied basic German. I am learning Chinese.