Understanding How Prejudice Impacts Leadership and Followership

Mike Hardy DiversityThis blog is a companion to an interview with Professor Mike Hardy on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 27, 2016 focusing on the importance of understanding how we address vulnerability and build trust when interacting with people who appear different.

Mike was an academic economist before changing course and working for the foreign service in the UK. He was interested in the Islamic world and the global issues facing us in that part of the world and our part of the world. He is now the Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. It is the largest peace studies center in Europe with a focus on mobilizing scholarship and academic work to help policy makers understand the issues of vulnerability and the importance of trust in creating peace.

We began by discussing how the study of peace is a leadership issue. Leadership changes the world, and presently we are in a mess in part because the quality of our leaders is, in many cases, lacking. By helping leaders understand their own views and behaviors when facing diversity, we enhance our leadership capacity. When we eliminate segments of the population because they appear different, we remove valuable insights and perspectives.

The ILA is interested in mobilizing leaders at all levels, and it empowers everyone to be leaders who address the compelling challenges we face in our families, communities and organizations. Mike is a true leader and role model in his field demonstrating leadership evolution and impact through his action. All of us, whether you consider yourself to be a leader, need to take stock of how we follow as well as how we lead.

The power of leaders is limited by how worthy they are of following and by whether their followers follow. The best leaders create other leaders and give them the space to lead. The expectation of leaders and followers is also dependent on the culture and systems in organizations. We recognize, as an example, government organizations often differ vastly from academics therefore the expectations of leaders and followers is different.

The twenty-first century is a relationship age and the inner-connectedness of everything. We discussed the forces of prejudice versus the forces of pluralism—Mike wants to promote living peacefully in complex diverse communities. If people are not comfortable living and working among diverse people, then leaders need to spend their time policing and setting rules and guidelines to keep us safe. The alternative is a scenario in which the group creates norms and finds ways to move through situations based on its agreements without the boss intervening. If we learn to be comfortable in the space difference creates, we discover opportunity for everyone and diversity becomes a true differentiator in solving the greatest problems. When we limit diversity, we limit perspectives and are at a disadvantage.

Now let’s shift from diversity to the crisis of migration and again how we manage the flood of people into Europe and the US who look and act differently than the prevailing culture. Millions of people are fleeing the conflict in Syria and other parts of the world in which appalling atrocities are taking place. The consequences of this flood of people who are different and without resources create a dilemma. How do countries deal with this when there is such a strong reaction of prejudice and fear? So, the real crisis is: How do countries and communities cope, finding a path forward to accommodate people yet maintaining social norms and function, when flooded with people who are different in significant ways? Are the refugees coming as migrants who are choosing to stay, or staying because they can’t go home? How do we as citizens and compassionate people deal with the drivers of the movement rather than the movement itself? The real driver of the threat is not the refugees, but the plight of refugees. How do we as a global community deal with this underlying problem?

Mike is researching identity. People present themselves in the way they want to be seen. His campaign asks: Can people move from a focus on who I am to how I behave? The literature suggests that identity creates problems for us. We see immigrants as different from those living in the communities they are joining. If we need to belong and if we need also to be different, how do we integrate these two drivers into peaceful relationships?

If my identity conflicts with your identity, does this mean we will be at odds because our groups are at odds? As humans, we see ourselves as a group of identities (soccer fans, Gen X, work focus, partner/family, nationality), how do we hold that complex set of identities? Our identities are like the many ingredients in a good stew; really tasty stew is comprised of many ingredients, including spices cooked over an extended time. In some cases, however, we behave as if people with different identities (or a few different ingredients in the stew) are wrong or distasteful. Because we focus on identity, we are conditioned to look at the barriers and differences rather than commonalities. This programming can create a significant challenge in how we interact with people who appear different. How can we shift from this focus on identity to a focus on behavior irrespective of identity?

Mike has built a university center to focus on how we deal with identity and cultural difference. He believes that after issues of poverty and climate change, this is the biggest issue facing us as global citizens. Learning to deal with differences may be the single biggest driver to reduce global and local conflict. Over the course of history, conflict was often about resources. Now we are finding that conflict is about changing people to be like us. If, in a global world, we are to live with increased levels of peace and prosperity, we need to change our mindset and behaviors.

What can we do in behavioral terms to change our current trajectory?

  1. We need to step up and be inclusive rather than exclusive wherever and whenever we can.
  2. Where we are excluding others, and how do we embrace differences in ways that make us feel safe?
  3. Ask the questions: How am I excluding others? Why am I excluding?
  4. We need to accept differences and learn to respect others (we don’t need to assimilate or change them, but rather respect their rights and differences).

About the Author

Professor Hardy was appointed as Executive Director of the Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations in 2014. From 1995, Mike was a senior leader with the British Council responsible for the Council’s global programme for Intercultural Dialogue, youth engagement, and global strategic partnerships.

Mike is an applied economist by training and was Head of Economics and Public Policy at Leeds Metropolitan University before moving to a Chair in International Business at the University of Central Lancashire. His policy and research work in economics focused on local jobs plans and skills for development in local labour markets. In 1995, following work with the UK Government, British Council, and European Commission, Mike moved full time to British Council to develop international work in intercultural relations.

Following overseas postings in the Arab world and Asia, he was appointed to frame and lead British Council’s global programme in intercultural dialogue.

Are You Updating Your Mental Operating System?

garyweberos1quote-cityThis post, written by Gary Weber, is a companion to the November 15 VoiceAmerica interview with Gary Weber,
Are You Updating Your Mental Operating System? Gary talks about our personal mental operating systems and specific steps about how to update your mind.

This interview is based on a conversation about our species’ current operating system (OS 1), which evolved about 75,000 years ago.  Symbolic consciousness developed to support our need for coordination and organization of large groups as our population grew rapidly and agriculture manifested. When problems changed from “lions and tigers and bears” to “where do I fit in this massively-interconnected hierarchy”, many shortcomings appeared in OS 1 as discussed in “we need a new mental operating system…now“. The never-ending, self-referential, problematic, internal narrative (SRIN) in OS 1 generates/aggravates our desires, depression, fears, craving, suffering, etc. Investigating SRIN, you find that it is all “past and future” and “I/me/my”. This post breaks down the steps that manifested in “my” process of removing OS 1, monitoring the “uninstall”, uploading OS 2, and then having “support” manifest to ensure OS 2’s successful operation in a metaphorical software format which may make things a little clearer.

Removing OS 1 

How do we remove, or de-energize the ongoing focus on I/me/my to modify OS 1?  What “I” functions that are useful and not problematic can be retained? What we discovered were some “removal tools” that met these criteria:

  • Information only from contemporary sources.
  • Source verification from movies/videos, photos, direct transcripts, and direct/1-off meetings.
  • English fluency to avoid translational inaccuracies.
  • Process DIY feedback from SRIN.
  • Retention/enhancement of “real world” functionality.
  • Happiness increased as suffering and attachments decreased.
  • A “life change”, not experiences.
  • Scientifically verifiable and empirical, not philosophical or intellectual.

The simple uninstall process was using these “removal tools” and measuring progress against the NS check list and SRIN. After many hours of practice, the SRIN did STOP, as advertised, along with self-referential desires, fears and suffering.  The satisfactory completion of the process was verified by my two very different Rinzai Zen masters. Success in removal of OS 1 and uploading of OS 2 was again verified by the absence of problematic SRIN. However, useful core elements of OS – 1 were retained in OS – 2 for problem solving, communication and planning tasks, when the problematic SRIN-causing I/me/my elements were removed.  This was a huge (and welcome) surprise…

Uploading the new OS

With the validated uninstall of the problematic parts of OS 1, the question was “What, if anything, would be uploaded to replace it?” There was a strong feeling that some new “logic” structure was needed.   When cognitive neuroscience manifested, it was discovered that different neural circuits were used for these different functions.  This made an almost surgical removal of the SRIN-causing elements possible, without disturbing the desirable problem solving and planning functions as discussed in “Three neural networks dancing…’blah, blah’, tasking and control”. We recommend starting with three basic practices to shift from OS 1 to OS 2:

  1. Set a timer and 7x/day ask a simple question to help you return focus to yourself such as: Where am I? When am I? Who Hears? What has these thoughts? Who am I? Note and track the impact. The overall objective of this practice is to help you drop the thoughts that take you away from your life and into your head and return you to be present with what is happening.
  2. When you notice thoughts that are emotionally-charged (ex: I am 5 minutes late – I might get fired for being late) ask yourself if they are true and whether they are useful. If not true or useful, drop them and return to something that requires your focus, perhaps your breath. The ability to drop or de-escalate problematic thoughts reduces the stress on our bodies and allows us to shift focus to our current situation – without the overweighting of not useful thoughts predicting unlikely negative outcomes.
  3. Be present with those around you – turn off your devices when with others.

Ongoing OS 2 support

As with all new software, there are FAQs on implementation, procedures, learning problems, etc.  The basic manual for the identification, removal and upgrading of the OS software are described in “Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening”.

There are also over 60 instructional videos on all aspects of OS 2, entitled “Dialogues on Awakening Beyond Thought” in which my colleague Rich Doyle and I dialog, in some detail, the FAQs. A new manual/book documenting these FAQs, entitled “Into the Stillness: Dialogues on Awakening Beyond Thought”, is now available from New Harbinger Press.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Gary Weber, PhD, is a subject/collaborator in neuroscience studies at Yale, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the Baumann Foundation, the Center for Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, at Johns Hopkins, and at Penn State.

From 2000 to 2004 he was an associate vice president of research for Penn State responsible for all technology transfer operations of the University, including angel investing, venture capital, licensing, patenting and start-up support. He was also responsible for external industrial R&D contracts and interfaces with the University.

In the late 1990s, Gary was senior vice president of science and technology for PPG responsible for all corporate R&D with four research laboratories, approximately 1000 engineers, scientists, and technical folk, and a $260MM budget. He was also a member of the Executive Committee.

Since then he has been researching and writing about happiness beyond thought. He is applying his extensive research skills to helping leaders.

Star Trek & Leadership – What Do They Have in Common?


In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, my co-author Dan Mushalko and I wanted to explore answers to this question: What traits from this iconic series apply to current leadership? That question probably seems particularly odd coming from me—the person who continually talks about the future of leadership.

Some background. In an interview with Dan Mushalko, General Manager of public radio station WCBE and a former NASA geek, and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Harvard researcher and CEO of the Institute for Strategic Clarity vibrancy became a topic. And an interesting correlation emerged—the connection between the vibrancy theory, the vibrant performance of the radio station, and Star Trek. I wasn’t surprised given what I know about my colleagues, but I was delighted to share this in an interview. I have the good fortune of having these conversations regularly and find them quite fun.

As a foundation for this discussion, let’s start with what I think about innovating ourselves as leaders.

There are a few different tactics for effective leaders, but all include these:

  • Build on your past successes (should be about 80 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to change because it is getting in your way (should be about 20 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to stop doing even if it got you where you are—because the question is, will it get you to the next step on your journey(what you save here will add to your available energy)?

So, this blog post started based on a conversation about the similarity between the transporters on the starship Enterprise and transforming organizations. When the captain and crew use a transporter, their molecules are momentarily disassembled, beamed away as particles (hence the phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty!”), then rearranged whole again at their destination.

Implementing major organizational transformation feels much the same way, as though our molecules have been rearranged. For many of us, we find that we need to fundamentally change how we see ourselves as leaders; we rearrange our thinking, self-image, and mind-set. There are times I would truly prefer to have my molecules rearranged than spend time changing who I am as a leader. Yet this is the foundation of innovating how we lead: We innovate ourselves!

The parallels with Star Trek go even further. For example, there are enormous similarities between highly-effective leaders and the leadership modeled “on the bridge.” As we think about what we build on during our own pasts, looking at what has been true and effective for fifty years of Star Trek’s captains is a good place to start:

  • be aware of the new environment, and welcome changes as opportunities
  • there is infinite diversity through infinite combinations—everyone and everything creates opportunity
  • the more uniqueness you find, the higher potential you have
  • the Federation of Planets leverages collaboration; teams and departments do the same
  • everyone is seen and appreciated for their contribution—there is infinite potential in the world.

As you look at this list, how would you rate yourself on each item. If you used a 1-5 scale where 1 is low and 5 is high, where would you score over a 4? Does this list inspire you to ask questions about your mindset?

During the interview, we also talked with Jim Ritchie-Dunham about the idea of organizational vibrancy. One of the core principles is that our world is abundant. This is far from a wishful statement that evokes the image of wishful thinking or worse, it is based on the concept that there is infinite possibility in the universe to innovate out of our current challenges. It is through our diversity and uniqueness that we, as people, can welcome change and create opportunities to change our circumstances to improve our trajectory along with improving the trajectory of others. We create a vibrant world when we join together to create innovative solutions rather than when we discount people and their thinking and consequently forego opportunities.

As a leader, it is important to continually update mindset, skills, and behaviors. It is also important to recognize the foundational truths about how we work with other people that remain as effective today as they did in our past. What are your personal foundations which hold true for you? If you are a Trekker, what did you learn from Star Trek that you have taken into your own leadership roles?

To listen to the full Voice America interview with Dan Mushalko and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, click the following link, Creating Vibrant Departments in Large Complex Organizations.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Dan Mushalko, General Manager, Operations & Program Director at WCBE-FM and Owner, Mushalko’s Radiophonic Lab. A bizarre, convoluted professional life has taken Dan everywhere from a short stint at NASA to a long ride in radio…with experiences often overlapping. The thread through it all? A mix of creativity and leadership. So call the culmination of the cyber-man you read before you a Creative Leader. That’s his current incarnation.  Specialties: Station management, creative concepts in audio (ads, news, and drama), implementing new communications technology, listener analytics, creativity fostering and consulting, “teaching” writing and science.

Build Your Leadership Team – Put Skills to Them To Work


This is a guest post by Christopher and Sheila Cooke of 5 Deep. They are the featured guests in a four-part interview series aired on Voice America show Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations. Their series is called Leaders Building Self-Awareness by Stepping Through the Worldview Membrane talking to two accomplished leaders who took the LeaderView Assessment about their results and how to interpret them to build on their success. The shows are designed to give leaders the opportunity to experience the full assessment process and if they are interested, participate by taking the assessment for a discounted rate.

There’s more to success than improving your skills just so you can score more points. As the pace of change in business accelerates, building your own personal team is what it really takes to outperform.

Listen and learn from two executives, Jim and Carla, who are in “the fishbowl” over a series of four podcasts. Hear about their journey as they work through their leadership dilemmas with the help of some very affordable tools.

In Episode 1, they begin by taking a self-assessment to find out about their leadership styles. Jim said, “The self-assessment helped me to understand myself deeply and be comfortable in my own skin.” Carla observed, “Sense of worth is really important to me, and I can see it’s evolving. I no longer need external validation in the same way as before.”

In Episode 2, they invite peer feedback to find out, “Who’s on my team?” and, “How can I engage more effectively with them?” Their peers take a survey called, LeaderView 360, to give the leader feedback on:

  • The work culture the leader creates.
  • Their preferred work culture.
  • A quality rating on 25 attributes of leadership.
  • The hot buttons that motivate or demotivate them.

In Episode 3, they learn to interpret their peers’ feedback, and prepare for a conversation with each peer. Carla said, “Looking at my peer’s data side-by-side with my self-assessment, I saw a massive opportunity to unlock potential in the relationship. The data gave me the opportunity to dive into the unspoken, and take a fresh look at somebody I had pegged for years.”

Jim said, “It’s a potential life-changer for leaders who are willing to take the time to prepare for a conversation. It’s a relationship-builder. I could clearly see the disparities between us, especially the differences in what triggers us. My peer has a need for safety — yes, that’s her!”

Carla said of her experience so far, “it’s a liberating process that frees you from the shackles that bind you.”

We look forward to recording Episode 4, after Jim and Carla have conducted their peer conversations.

Listen to all four podcasts:

Episode 1: Leaders Building Self-Awareness: Personal Freedom and Flow – Part 1 of 4

Episode 2: Leaders Building Self-Awareness: Spotting the Patterns – Part 2 of 4

Episode 3: Leaders Building Self-Awareness: Hidden Insights the Flow in the Gap – part 3 of 4

Episode 4: Leaders Building Self-Awareness: Stepping Through the Worldview Membrane: Learning to Engage the Organization – part 4 of 4

Enhance your relationships at work and build your own personal team by using the LeaderView instruments yourself. Receive a 20% discount off the LeaderView Bundle. This bundle gives you everything you need to do your own LeaderView 360 assessment.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Stepping Into The Smoke: Developing Emotional Intelligence- Empathy

This post is written by Kara Rising, associate and Emerging Leader Coach at Innovative Leadership Institute.


I want to start off this blog entry with two statements about empathy I believe to be true:

  1. Empathy is absolutely the most important skill to have if you are ever going to interact with people at work
  2. Even those of us who are not “warm and fuzzy” can become good at developing empathy.

I believe I am living proof of number two. Besides sharing my journey to developing empathy, I will share the five simple tips I’ve used to develop empathic responding, so you use them too.

I’ve received this feedback in the past:

  • Your personality is like a punch in the face.
  •  People either absolutely love you or they absolutely hate you.
  •  You’re kind of an intense and direct person.
  •  You have a short fuse.

These are not qualities you would want in a therapist or coach, so it’s interesting I even went into coaching in the first place! However, through education and experience in working with people, I have  effectively beat the insensitivity out of me – for the most part! Now, instead of challenging people, my first response is to empathize. This has changed how I view myself, and the comments I hear from others. So, even if you are known as a gruff manager who scares people, you too can learn to empathize and to be more effective. You just have to overcome your aversion to emotions.

Most of us are born with a capacity for empathy, some more than others, but it is also a skill that can be developed. Empathy is simply the ability for us to experience and understand the emotions of another person (although to a lesser degree). Empathy is the foundation of relationships. It is what allows us to connect with others, and is our greatest asset in communicating with co-workers, supervisors and subordinates.

No matter what type of a leader you are, if you can’t develop your empathy capacity you will not be able to develop your leadership capacity. Before I go on to explain some tips on empathy, I want to share an analogy my father once shared that has been one of the most helpful description of empathy.

You and your spouse are standing around a campfire. Suddenly the wind changes directions and the smoke begins to blow directly into your spouse’s face. He or she starts coughing, sputtering and commenting on how awful it is. (Now, at this point of the analogy I usually ask my clients, “What would you do in this situation?” And almost 100% of the time I get the same answer: “I’d tell my spouse to move!” Keeping in mind that this is an analogy to prove a point so therefore a bit exaggerated, I would then tell them that in terms of empathy that would not be considered the best response. Ok, now back to the analogy.) As you are watching your spouse cough in the direct line of smoke, you decide to step into the smoke and begin coughing, sputtering, and remark, “Gosh, this DOES suck. Why don’t we move to the other side of the fire?” The two of you move from the smoke and continue to have an enjoyable evening.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is a bit over the top for teaching’s sake, but it demonstrates an excellent point about empathy: you can’t help a person to move without first getting into the smoke too. People desire to feel understood and to feel there is someone who can relate to them. Without such it feels condescending and isolating.

Here are some practical tips on how to respond empathically:

    1. Don’t interrupt

Allow the person to express emotions fully before responding. I know it’s hard sometimes to bite your tongue and keep quiet- but it’s a must if the person is to feel understood and heard (and then be open to listening to you).

    2. Keep appropriate eye contact

Everyone knows when someone isn’t paying attention and thinking of other things. Keep your attention and focus on them while they speak, i. It shows you respect them and what they have to say.

     3. Do NOT give advice

Nothing shuts someone down faster than getting unsolicited advice when he or she he or she did not ask for it and just wanted to connect. After you feel you have empathized appropriately and the person was able to fully express himself or herself him or herself, you can then ask if you can offer advice- but understand the person is allowed to say no.

     4. Respond by acknowledging the emotion expressed, or if you are really good, unexpressed.

A simple formula to follow when you are just practicing is this: “You feel ______ because ______”. Be careful how you use this, it could easily be interpreted as mocking if not done well. Try practicing this at home or with a friend first before attempting this in more difficult situations. If you have average empathy skills, you can “read between the lines” and also begin to pull out emotions that haven’t been said and empathize with those.

      5. Resist the urge to help.

This is a hard one- we want to reduce the other’s suffering but also want to reduce our own internal emotional reaction to the other person’s emotions. However, as helpful as you may think you are being, you are not. Resist the urge and just listen and respond with empathy statements.


Practice this at home periodically. Be a scientist and observe how the dynamics change within your relationships when you practice more empathic responding. Once you have a firmer handle on how to appropriately respond with empathy, you can then translate that into your working environment. Developing this skill in the workplace will help you grow and connect with your employees while simultaneously engaging them. I hope that you can use these tips to be even better leaders than you were yesterday.


Build Your Team & Communicate, Part One – Eric’s Story

Everyone teachesI’m Eric Philippou, and I’m writing this blog as part of my college internship at Metcalf & Associates. In this step, you will create a strong support group to provide insight and feedback as you pursue short-term and/or long-term goals. In this post (part of the overall step), we will review selection criteria for your support team and do a worksheet to help connect goals with potential support team members.

Support Team Selection Criteria

 When establishing selection criteria, consider that each goal may call for a different type of team member. You might use someone with lots of experience as a mentorship, or you might use someone with equal experience with whom you work together in a partnership role. Before getting into specific criteria, it is important to keep in mind that some seemingly great candidates are people who always tell you what you want to hear, and are afraid to offer constructive criticism because they think they might offend you somehow. Either avoid choosing them, or, if possible, tell them that you will need constructive criticism to grow, and that you will not be offended if they communicate feedback/criticism in a respectful way. Also consider this list of factors as a starting point to developing your support team:

  • Performance: Consider selecting people who have mastery in concepts, skills or behaviors that you would like to develop. These people may have expertise in your field or a field you would like to explore. On the other hand, these people may have strong internal abilities (EQ/resilience, motivation, etc.) or external abilities (“hard skills” such as health, fitness, productivity, time management skills, etc.). They may also be just overall good, caring and respected people.
  • Friends, Family and Roommates: People very close to you in your personal life are effective candidates because they already know about you and your past, and you have a firmly established sense of trust. You may see them on a fairly regular basis, so communication would not be an issue. They might also help you balance your goal with other commitments, such as academic, professional and family commitments, since they might already have an understanding of these aspects of your life.
  • Professors, Advisors, Consultants or Therapists: These people are independent experts in the processes of development and providing helpful feedback. They lack natural biases that some friends, family and roommates may have. These people exist in any personal and professional field that you can imagine.
  • Willingness and Ability to Commit Time to Your Development: It’s critical to understand the mutual needs of you and your support team members. Consider how a candidate can benefit from helping you and to make time for them to provide the feedback you desire. Prepare to be flexible when making plans with support team candidates. Consider volunteering in an organization that your candidate is in to establish the mutual benefit, or helping them with some task in order to expedite its completion, giving them time to provide the feedback you desire. A good example of this is an internship – you help an experienced professional with some work, and in return you get feedback and knowledge.

Support Team Worksheet

Considering the factors listed above, and your plans and goals from the previous innovative leadership steps, replicate the Support Team Worksheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheet, and then fill in your answers. Save it on a cloud storage program for more convenience. My answers are in italics.

Eric Support Worksheet

Now you have an idea of what type of support you need based on your goals, and criteria to help you select the ideal support team. The next part in the Build Your Team & Communicate process is the communication part. Communication is vital to effective leadership. In the next post, you’ll learn how to effectively communicate with each support team member, no matter how diverse your support team is.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving Eric’s ongoing blog series or our other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: Celestine Chua

Leader as Team Member in Effective Mergers and Acquisitions

Team EffectivenessImplementing a project when in a role other than leader is challenging, yet it is critical for organizations to leverage the skills of a broad range of people (not all in formal leadership roles) to successfully implement complex change. This post, co-authored by a team of successful Corporate Development mergers and acquisitions (M&A) leaders, is the second in a series and looks at the mindset of a high-influence leader in M&A.

But it’s a team sport, right? There are several key roles in an acquisition. The following list conceptually covers them, though each company and deal may be slightly different.

  1. Deal Lead – takes a holistic view of the transaction, synthesizing all relevant perspectives and ensuring the acquiring team thinks and acts as a cohesive unit. This role may be combined with the project manager and/or relationship builder.
  2. Acquiring Manager – is responsible for the asset’s P&L performance after Close. S/he must be intimately familiar with the target’s details and have a clear plan for post-Close activities. This role may be combined with the relationship builder.
  3. Functional Leads – evaluate the target to understand the current state and trajectory of key functional areas. Their goal is to understand the organization and its market in detail and identify important elements to be addressed during integration based on whether the approach is to fully integrate all functions or leave the acquired organization “alone.”
  4. Legal Counsel and Investment Banker – attend to deal structure and financing to ensure the deal generates value (financial or otherwise) for the parties.
  5. Project Manager – coordinates among the various roles and ensures activities are completed in a timely manner.
  6. Relationship Builder – while not a formal role, is an important part of a successful transaction. Trust relationships built with key individuals during due diligence smooth all aspects of the deal, from negotiation, diligence and announcement, to integration planning and execution.

How the roles are filled varies greatly. A single individual may play multiple roles – the important factor is that all roles are filled.

It is expected that leaders in M&A transactions demonstrate strong leadership qualities, but it is almost more important that team members be high-influence leaders in their own right. As outlined in the first installment of this series, the mindset of a high-influence leader involves being:

  1. Professionally humble – Cares about getting it right ahead of being right
  2. Dogmatically committed to right action – Is unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission
  3. A 360-degree thinker – Has a “balcony view” of the business; is able to step back and observe the overall organization and the interconnected impacts
  4. Intellectually versatile – Has developed interests, expertise, and curiosity beyond the job and organization
  5. Highly authentic and reflective – Is not constrained by personal appearance but is highly focused on personal behavior
  6. Able to inspire followership – Has a special ability to connect with people at all levels of the organization to create a shared vision
  7. Innately Collaborative – Welcomes collaboration in a quest for novel solutions that serve the highest outcome for all involved 

One transaction that leveraged high-influence leaders involved a large company making a sizeable acquisition. The target spanned several continents and employed many hundreds of people. The acquiring general manager wanted the asset, but was not interested in day-to-day details or in reporting progress to his executive management. His personality and role as head of the acquisition was a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, his M&A team contained several high-influence leaders who ultimately executed a successful integration that was positively viewed by all.

Among other things, the integration required relocating large labs and offices, reorganizing staff and decoupling from business-critical systems. Though the separation period, the typical challenge required empathy, diplomacy and creativity – attributes the acquiring GM did not exhibit, but members of the M&A team did. Innately collaborative, they relied on each other as sounding boards and approached problem solving in an unconstrained way. Their solutions were often quite creative, borne of an ability to step back from the problem and view the transaction as a system. This 360-degree perspective allowed them to see options where others found barriers.

Though they frequently had to go up against strong personalities and tackle difficult issues, they were professionally humble, more concerned with arriving at the best solution than their own. It didn’t matter if someone who yelled or threw his ego around had a better idea – what mattered was the better outcome. They also were dogmatically committed to right action, patiently bearing the brunt of someone’s displeasure (including the acquiring GM) when the better solution wasn’t desirable to one side or another.

These individuals earned the respect of everyone, from their own CEO to newly-acquired staff.  And though the acquisition didn’t meet all its financial targets, the CEO acknowledged that he would make the same purchase again, given how well the target integrated into the existing business – something he would not have felt had the bull-in-a-china-shop acquiring GM been left to handle the transaction.

Hear insights from Maureen and other highly experienced corporate development leaders on deal-related leadership and ask your questions on June 11 during the third webinar in ē•know’s Art of M&A series, Leadership in M&A – Deal Maker or Deal Breaker?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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Coaching to Solve Structural Problems = Fail

As a leadership coach, I see great value in the impact that coaching provides—when the problem is accurately identified and coaching is the right solution. Just like any other business problem, it is important that the leader receiving coaching understands the issue, agrees with the issue, and agrees to engage in the coaching process. The caveat is, however, that it may not always be only the individual who needs to evolve, and that the solution must fit the issue!

I worked with a very talented leader who was encouraged to get coaching because of some challenges in his organization. While he certainly benefited from an outside perspective and additional tools to enhance his leadership, coaching was not a solution to the organization’s key issues because the problems were structural in nature. So, regardless of how long and to what extent the leader was coached, the issue was systemic. He was affected by it, but wasn’t the root of the issue.

Employees circumvented the leader when they did not like what he said or did, and complained about his effectiveness. When the leader’s boss allowed this to happen on a regular basis, he undermined the leader’s authority with the staff. When staff later failed to deliver results, the leader was seen as a failed leader.

Had the leader’s boss been willing to work with the leader to address employee issues and had both of them worked with the coach to stop staff from going around the leader, the organization would have produced much higher results. By labeling the leader as a low performer, the organization lost a great deal of productivity from the leader and staff—yet the core issues still remain unresolved.

How do you avoid this and other energy-wasting pitfalls?

  1. Engage the leader and his boss in the coaching process
  2. Diagnose the “bigger” issues—both individual and organizational
  3. Remain curious about how to improve overall organizational effectiveness
  4. Look for other symptoms of structural issues. Is this leader the first to show signs that have the potential to become pervasive?
  5. Treat leaders who have the courage to improve themselves and their organizations with the respect they deserve—it’s hard work!

As our organizations feel ongoing pressure from tightened budgets, the necessity of staying current with technology, and increased competition, we will see more signs of breakdown.

These often look like “leadership problems.” Upon deeper examination, they may be a combination of a need for the leader to grow and the organization to change to meet evolving demands. Coaching and transformation is most effective when both the leader and the organization change concurrently.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


Jack Welch at World Business Forum 2010 – CEO Number 1 Job is Leadership

Jack Welsh, World Business Forum 2010Jack Welch former CEO of GE and top selling author of Winning spoke at the World Business Forum 2010 hitting the topic of Management Fundamentals and success.  Key points of his message were very close to the themes from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  Collins is primarily a researcher and Welch is primarily a CEO.  They both focus heavily on the importance of leadership, growing your people, creating a vision, establishing clear process and accountability to move the business forward consistently.

1.  My main job as CEO is fielding the best talent.   Most managers are not getting this!  There is no where enough attention to leadership development.  What keeps people from doing this?  Insecurity.   Boards not paying enough attention and allowing this to continue.

2.  Rank and build talent.   We are not spending enough time focused on those doing a great job because we are focused on improving the bottom 10%.  We need to celebrate the winners and helping others understand how to be top performers.  Those who are not winners here will likely become winners when they find where they best fit.  Teams perform better when we build on the talent and cut those not meeting the performance standards.

3.  You Must add value beyond what is there. When asked a question from the audience about a new product – his response was clear – we must all be focusing on adding value.  Do not invest resources unless there is a real need.

4.  Technology creates opportunities to gain efficiencies and improve customer intimacy. His reference to technology is as an enabler to make large businesses more effective and efficient and thus more competitive.  With growing competition we need to leverage technology.  For most companies it is not our business, it improves our business and must be seen through that lens.

5.  Fear is dead as a management tool.  You better have a vision and be able to communicate what is in it for others if you want them to follow you.  Transparency – everyone knows everything now.  As a Leader, you better have real logic behind the decisions rather than just your title.

6.  I see a different world going forward.  People have changed habits.  People are doing more with less.  As an economy, we are moving to a 2-3% growth rate.  People are buying fewer services, using less labor, and using fewer materials.  Technology is on exponential growth path changing how work is done.  The combination of these 2 factors:  lower demand and more technology mandates we change how we do business.   It calls for real innovation to improve efficiency.

By putting the right leaders in place and maintaining consistent focus on their continued growth – even when they are the best in class – you will WIN as a business and we will win as a country.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Jim Collins from World Business Forum 2010

Mr. Collins spoke at the World Business Forum 2010 about the syntheses of Good to Great, Built to Last, and how the Mighty Fall. Sustaining Great Results What does a Level 5 Leaders do?

1.  Combat Hubris through ruthless self examination.  Level 5 Leaders are committed to the truth over the image they have of themselves and their companies.  They understand that only through rigor and discipline in thinking and action will the success continue long term.  They have the courage to ask the tough questions about their companies and themselves that enable them to face changing times.

2.   Combat the desire for too much too quickly. Level 5 Leaders understand the “right pace” for long term sustainable growth.  If a leader is building an organization that will last for 25 years and even 100 years, what does he/she need to do today to move forward 1 step today?  Great leaders build the team who can execute on goals and values impeccably then expand.  They regroup and recharge and plan before each next step to ensure successful implementation.

3.   Face the Brutal Facts and Act – Level 5 Leaders are willing to face the brutal facts and take the difficult action.  With a 25 year vision, clear values and principles, they make the tough decisions that will produce long term sustainable progress because it is what needs to be done.  This can mean making major changes to projects or products they value and may have created.

4.  Commit to Discipline and Rigor – Level 5 Leaders know that there are no quick fixes or short cuts to greatness.  Daily discipline and right action from all employees creates great results.  These results are not immediately visible.  Success is a combination of quick wins and long term daily actions aligned with the organizations’ goals and principles.

5.  Commit to Creating Value – Level 5 Leaders meet a need in the community that is not being filled by others.  They are driven by passion and commitment to improve the world – not for fame. They do what they do because at their core they are doing what they are called to do.   By responding to a larger purpose, the leader is able to make the tough calls at times with high personal cost.  They are able to make the toughest of calls.

Level 5 Leaders create long term value for their companies, employees, communities and the world by taking these actions.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.