Biz consultant Cooper rattles cages to open doors for positive change

BY John Stearns

HBJ Photo | John Stearns
HBJ Photo | John Stearns
Dr. Bridget Cooper of Glastonbury helps companies, organizations, leaders and individuals make positive transformations, calling herself a cage rattler, thought shifter and change strategist.

Dr. Bridget Cooper

Owner, Dr. B., Glastonbury.

Highest education: Doctorate in educational leadership, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 2005

Executive insights: "If we don’t understand who we are and we don’t understand how to interact with other people, then we are going to have limited effectiveness and power."

It's clear looking at Dr. Bridget Cooper's website that she's not a bland business consultant. The whip in her hand gives it away.

"I call myself a cage rattler," said Glastonbury-based Cooper, whose mission is to create leader, team and personal transformations.

Cooper, who has a doctorate in educational leadership and has written five books, got into the business 14 years ago, first under the name Pieces in Place Consulting, which morphed about three years ago into Dr. B, as she's known by friends and colleagues. She also has a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, or systems theory; and bachelor's degree in human resource management.

"A cage rattler has to be powerful and so the whip was to say I am going to rattle your cage and I am going to get you out of the stuck place you're in," said Cooper, 46, who effuses energy, dynamism and friendly directness.

She admits she's edgy and not for everyone.

"From a professional perspective, if I don't call it like I see it, I'm not earning the money they're paying me," she said of clients. "If they want someone to 'yes' them, I'm sure they have a cadre of options. I'm not that option."

Cooper mostly works with companies, organizations and executives in New England, but travels nationwide doing everything from leadership change and assimilation projects to seminars, retreats and keynotes.

She was among 12 presenters at a TEDx event, themed "Capsized," in Newport, Rhode Island, on March 10, where listeners heard her personal story of transformation. Her talk, "The Secret to Making Life Hurt Less," included strategies for ridding pain.

"When you are overwhelmed by pain," no matter the source, "you have less power because you are less capable of being able to be authentic, to be clear, to be intentional because your judgment, your perceptions are clouded by that pain," she said.

Cooper knows pain. Raised in what she called an addicted, abusive family, she tried committing suicide three times by age 16.

"Knowing first-hand the depths of sorrow and hopelessness people can reach gave me profound and instrumental empathy and put me on a mission to show people where their power is, and it isn't at the bottom of a bottle or down the barrel of a gun," Cooper said.

After hitting rock bottom, she began a slow transformation in college to turn pain into promise. She later worked in HR, addiction therapy and university administration and teaching, launching Pieces in Place on the side when her youngest of two daughters, now 14, was born. Six months pregnant, Cooper, then 32, had a stroke, threatening her and the baby, who proved OK. Cooper lost some peripheral vision.

Never great at parallel parking, Cooper jokes she's awful now.

The stroke focused her life, which had been fine, but Cooper felt she had more to give, to share more of the perspectives she learned to help others. She focused on her consulting and her passion blossomed.

"I am one of the luckiest people on the planet to do all the time what it is that I love — and there's no BS in that," Cooper said. "I absolutely am invigorated by the work that I do with people."

Getting out of the box

Personal power is at the core of her message.

The more people who stand firmly in their personal power — not power over others, but power that comes from within — the better every office, company, community and household is, she said.

"We all have more power than we ever exercise," Cooper said.

Everyone's guilty of occasionally or always holding themselves in a box of how they define a situation, themselves or others, which limits their success, she said.

She wakes people to other ways to see and address situations and with choice comes power, she said.

Lloyd Stern, vice president of product management for patient monitoring at Dräger in Andover, Mass., has had Cooper work with him and his sales team three times, saying she nailed every objective.

"She's unafraid to tackle difficult subjects, to ask the tough questions and to boil down the complex into something simplified, and while that may sound easy, I know it's not at all, it's a very difficult thing to do," he said. "It's a very important skill and Bridget has that better than almost anyone I've ever seen."

Cooper is especially proud of a project with an unnamed international manufacturing company that had a product line that was tanking and threatening the broader company. Departments were pointing fingers at each other, she said.

She was asked to step in the middle and facilitate a taskforce that included board members and representatives from departments under fire.

"I called myself Switzerland with a flak jacket," she said

She set strict rules, forbade blaming and told them conditions wouldn't improve until everyone took personal responsibility for their part in the company's woes and corrective path.

Within six months, sales of the product in question rose 60 percent and the company was doing well, she said. The power of politics were removed and replaced with personal power, and everything shifted, she said.

"It wasn't me, it was their willingness to trust that I could see clearly what was going on," Cooper said.

Check out a video clip of Dr. Bridget Cooper's interview in the left-hand column.