header blog

A Spotlight on Talent: Featuring Gen X Artist Michael Ross

A Spotlight on Talent is a new feature we are trying out this year.  In partnership with my favorite Millennial, Lexie Ermi, we will be looking across generations, industries, sectors, and regions.  We have a nose for talent, and we want to do our part to support and celebrate them.  We hope you enjoy this edition of A Spotlight on Talent.

 Little Paintings M Ross

It was a snowy, windy morning shortly after the holidays and my new friend Michael Ross agreed to give Lexie and me a personal tour through his art exhibit, currently showing at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street in Bethesda.  Michael is an artist pursuing his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Georgia. The exhibit spans several years' worth of his work, and listening to him tell his story made for a refreshing forenoon. 

Ross is open and candid about his work, pleasingly articulate in his explanation of the pieces on the wall. Water, wetlands, primal creation scenes, and landscapes figure repeatedly in his art. When examining one of his pieces, he explains his attraction to the wetlands: "It's the marketplace of biology, the borderline between two ecological zones." Birds flying high above the water in his art can demonstrate a dichotomy between elemental forces, air and water. 

Two of his pieces, side by side in the gallery separated only by a picture of a bird flying above a body of water which acts as a bridge between the paintings, are titled "Adam" and "Eve." Both are figures, unclothed, emerging from the water. Reminiscent of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, the pieces, Ross comments, speak to both an evolutionary mindset and a fundamental religious belief.

           Adam 54x35 2007         Tern 24x30 2011          

Another grouping of paintings, as featured above, "little paintings," as Ross terms them, "smaller, meditative" allows Ross to further explain another consistent theme in his work. Some pieces have a sharp, specific edge which allows them to appear defined and finished, whereas others have a more diffuse edge. These are two different ways to portray images. Leaving things unfinished, Ross says, can make a painting work even better. Everything doesn't have to be completely in focus and "finished." Man in Niamey MKR 12x16 2008

His notion of unfinished work speaks to his somewhat free spirited and adventurous childhood and youth. Born in Norway, he spent his life living in different places that included Bethesda, Norway, and Finland, and he speaks Norwegian and Swedish. Through various study abroad programs and artistic programs, he managed to spend more time in different parts of Scandinavia, Iceland, Switzerland, and Africa. A degree in anthropology led him to have an interest in human cultures, particularly pre-western and even tribal cultures. This is particularly evident in the fact that none of his work showcases city scenes or many people, but rather focuses on nature, figures in nature, and the relation of man to his primordial past. 

Ross Runner Another of his paintings, titled "The Runner," represents the figure in nature again. There is a sense of speed, focus, an emphasis on the physical act of running and the physical act of breathing in and out. "It's a story," Ross explains, "he's in the middle of a run.  There was a beginning to the run, and there will be an end. Running makes you feel happy to be alive, and that's what I wanted to portray through this work." It's clear from Ross's comments and the way he pauses in front of this new work that he particularly enjoys and connects with it.

Ross's nomadic lifestyle has informed his work to a significant degree, giving him the capacity to create beautiful pictures ranging in subject matter from a harsh, bleak, wild seascape reminiscent of his time in Norway to warmly colored portraits of women with brown braids and deep eyes from his time in various parts of Africa. DSC 0178 His art and the themes within his works speak to the experiences he has had and the things that are important to him. Even the scarf around his neck, which, he informs us after we have complimented the soft blue fabric, is actually a turban from Mali which he cut in half, demonstrates the searching, explorative spirit so evident in his work. The scarf, casually thrown about his neck yet bearing such an intriguing story, well sums up the talented artist.


Please visit Michael's collection displayed at The Writer's Center in Bethesda.  Call ahead 301.654.8664 for exhibit hours.  Check out more of Michael's work on his website


2014 Milestones and Reflections


January always is an interesting time for me.  The hustle bustle of the holidays behind me, and the promise of renewal and challenges ahead.  On January 10, 2008, I declared, after 23 years in corporate roles, to start The Ermi Group.  I was having lunch with a former boss and colleague, and he really inspired me to give being on my own a try.  If it wasn't for that lunch, and that informal networking moment, I am not sure if I'd be writing this blog right now.  Of course, if you have read any of my posts before, you have surmised I am a very spiritual person, and faith is a critical factor to my mindset, and success, to-date.  I am convinced nothing is a coincidence, so I feel enormous gratitude that I am able to support my family, be involved in my daughters' lives,  and do work I am passionate about.  

December 31 usually marks the completion of many government contracts.  This past year was no exception.  What changed is that due to the budget crisis, two of what had become a reliable source of clients and income are no longer participating in an external coaching program.  I learned so very much from being a government sub-contractor/coach, and the 100+ clients I was able to support and be a part of their development journey, was a privilege.  

A belief I maintain is the notion of when a door closes, another opens.  This is the phenomenon I experience in January.  

  • Reflecting on what went well
  • What didn't 
  • What could I do differently in the future  
  • Acknowledgement of situations I could have handled differently
  • Celebration of seeing a client reach their potential
  • Joy of what a high performing team can accomplish if they invest in themselves
  • Transformation that can occur when authentic conversations lead to trusting relationships.

I am passionate about Millennials.  And I plan to continue my research in how to bridge the generation gaps, and support organizations in creating an engaging culture where their goals are surpassed, and their employees are fulfilled.  They are our future, and I am committed to be a part of making sure they are successful, and prepared to meet those unknown challenges ahead.  

Here's to at least 6 more years of The Ermi Group. Grateful.



New Stories


It is 6 days before Christmas and on my desk does appear

Many client notes and training materials

That wrap up my year.

Five years in business and gratefully

Working with diverse leaders

And providing for my family.

I love what I do, full of variety and wonder

For each day is unique

Breakthroughs like thunder.

Year end usually means,

Saying 'goodbye' to a few.

They worked so hard 

To create a 'new you.'

How many of us get to be so connected?

To the people we work with

Or those that are elected.

Never could there be

A better career for me.

I get to partner with the best 

And watch them crest.

I am constantly learning

As I hold the space of their yearning,

While being a place

They can feel safe.

What a privilege it is 

To have a career

That enables others to grow,

No matter where I go.

I dream each year of new paths to cross

While knowing I can be there for someone at a loss.

Emotions and language and mind and spirit

My clients know I am willing to hear it.

Life and work are really all one.

We get to go to many places before they are done.

Health, wealth, passion and purpose

Non-profits, corporate and even the famous.

So Merry Christmas to all

And Happy New Year as well. 

May 2014

Bring you new stories to tell.



Keeping it Simple


Thanks for my colleague Melissa Hebert and her Domestic Putterings that puts this in perspective.



Thankful and the American Landscape

Thankful and the American Landscape

There is an energy that abounds this time of year. Typically the turkeys are being ordered or purchased, the trimmings are stocked on the pantry shelves, and the fall décor gets its last few days of life. It seems that Christmas decorations make it out earlier with each passing annum. Even my six year old said, “Look mommy, Christmas is here before Thanksgiving is even over.” And with Thanksgiving falling on the last possible day it ever can, I hear everyone talking about the angst. Facebook friends are posting getting their holly out 2 weeks ago, putting up the trees now, and the Menorahs get lit on Thanksgiving this year. Debates about stores being open on Thanksgiving and boycotts to support families being home on Thanksgiving are everywhere. Facebook pages are trying to gain momentum.

In an attempt to tie life to leadership, what this reminds me of is the ever-changing landscape of diversity. Some of us make assumptions that everyone celebrates Thanksgiving with a big turkey and pumpkin pie. Personally, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s about family, gratitude, and quality time. It’s the quintessential American holiday – like the Fourth of July. I am always reminded that not everyone in our workforce resonates with American traditions. Our Native American brothers and sisters certainly have some thoughts on this for sure.

I read that 20% of the DC metro population are immigrants, and we can make some assumptions that a percentage of the workforce do not indentify as American. Land of the free and home of the brave sentiment aside, the reality is our workforce is a plethora of cultural dogma, and if someone wants to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas because these holidays are neutral to them, and people want to go out and shop because they are alone anyway, then who am I to protest this? As a leadership coach, I embrace diversity of style. It’s what makes GOOD-GREAT as Jim Collins professes. It’s why I always request the views of my Board of Trustees when faced with opportunities. I know I do not have all the answers and my beliefs are just that.

I read daily on Social Media and heard in conversations how angered people are about our country’s lenient immigrant practices. Some are the vehemently opposed to these stores being open on Thanksgiving. The truth is, our nation is not the same as it was even ten years ago. Yet, many want to stay the same. I love tradition yet am flexible. I try to see others point of view. I prefer to be as accepting as I am because, seriously, who am I? Not the ultimate judge, that’s certain.

I personally live my life with gratitude. I won’t be in the stores on Thanksgiving, and will avoid the masses on Black Friday. And that is my choice.  One recent blogger in HuffPost made the distinction between capitalism and consumerism. I really enjoyed reading this. And I wish those who want to go out there well. My hope for our future is less hostility. Life is increasingly shorter, and my goal is to use my energy for good.

Be thankful, seek to understand, subscribe to random acts of kindness, broaden your life lens. It might confuse someone, and be fun!

Embrace our diverse human topography. 



facebook icon   Facebook

twitter icon   Twitter

linked in icon   LinkedIn

Sign up

free tools



The Ermi Group, LLC is a Woman Owned Small Business.


Copyright © The Ermi Group. All rights reserved. Designed by Pinix Design Studio.

Back to top