Mandy Diamond creates a balanced work culture

Mandy Diamond
Mandy Diamond (Photo by Mandy Diamond)

By Lindsay VanAsdalan

Mandy Diamond challenges the idea of what it means to be productive in a fast-paced work culture.

Diamond, 41, is the founder and CEO of Blue Zone Thinking, a Baltimore consulting firm that works with organizations on leadership and team development.

The firm is marked by her innovative practices such as “Lego Serious Play” and an effort to steer away from the culture of overwork into one of balance that allows employees to recharge and improve productivity.

“I think that it’s important for people to experience not only growth and learning but also fun,” she said, adding that the Lego sessions are always really popular. Legos are used to strategize, plan scenarios and help people tap into their creativity.

Diamond, a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, draws from her background and her family for these ideas.

Born in South Africa, she immigrated with her family to Australia at 14 years old. She found the culture there to have a much better work-life balance than the U.S.

“Sometimes working hard does not necessarily mean working smart,” she said. “As soon as we lose creativity and innovation, we’re kind of just utilizing old ideas to try and figure out new things. A lot of the time it’s just not really productive.”

Diamond said she hopes to help organizations realize that giving employees time off rather than expecting a 50-hour work week might actually produce better results.

“That’s something that I feel quite passionately about,” she said.

Her leadership methods stem from work she did with her father for his business consulting practice in Sydney. They wrote a book together called “Leaders Developing Leaders,” and she wanted to bring those ideas to the American community.

“When I moved here, I really wanted to continue a lot of the work I did,” she said. “I just couldn’t imagine working for someone else after working so closely with my dad for so long.”

Diamond has always had strong links to her family. One way she was deeply influenced was through the service she saw her parents do in the community.

“I was very lucky to go to Jewish day school both in South Africa and Australia,” she said, noting that her mother was actively involved on shul committees.

She hopes her children see her as an active volunteer in the community.

In Baltimore, she is heavily involved in Na’aleh, which provides leadership development for professional and lay leaders of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and its partners — an extension of the type of leadership mentoring she provides through Blue Zone.

She sits on its curriculum and advisory boards and works with a mid-career-level women’s cohort that focuses on lining up core values with work.

Any leadership services she provides for the community are done at a discounted rate.

She is also an active volunteer with the Beth Tfiloh Parent Association. In addition to belonging to the synagogue, her children attend the school.

In the wake of her mother’s death in 2018 and the need to feel connected during a time in which people could not meet as often because of COVID-19, she saw her school and shul communities as an extension of family.

Diamond’s Jewish upbringing was also a big part of her life. Both in Australia and South Africa, it helped her stay grounded amid change because she always knew she could find a community.

The South African Jewish community is all over the world, but “we all tend to find each other,” she said.

She met her husband — whose South African family immigrated to Baltimore when he was 10 — when his cousin, who lived in Australia, got married and he came to the wedding.

Her Jewish community in Pikesville also helped her feel at home when she moved to Baltimore six years ago. She lives there with her husband, Gary, and their three children, Jesse, who turns 10 on Friday, Frankie, 7, and Lev, 2.

“Something that’s so special about the Jewish community is that it really doesn’t matter where you live, there’s such a sense of familiarity anywhere you go,” she said.

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