Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

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, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.


The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

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

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.


Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to same.






































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

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory

At C-Level #18: Three Successful Transformations – Evolving Leadership Perspectives

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach with the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovative Leadership, Co-creating Our Future interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

This is the wrap-up of a 9-blog series on real-life organizational transformations, At C-Level #10-18.

In At C-Level #10-17, I wrote about three successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, using a seven-step transformation model closely aligned with the Innovative Leadership Institute’s Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.





Prior to this series, in At C-Level #9, I wrote about leadership for an increasingly complex world. I believe the exponentially increasing rate of change and complexity in technologies, our organizations, and the world in general – today and for the foreseeable future – will increasingly require the application of the Level 5 and Strategist leadership competencies discussed in that blog for long term organizational and personal leadership success.


As a reminder, the competencies of Level 5 or Strategist leaders include:

  1. Being professionally humble and focused on organizational, not personal, success
  2. Having an unwavering commitment to right action
  3. Being a 360-degree thinker who takes a balcony view of the organization
  4. Being intellectually versatile with deep interests outside of the organization
  5. Being highly authentic and reflective
  6. Inspiring followership
  7. Being innately collaborative


Now, let’s look at how these competencies were applied in the three transformations discussed in this series, resulting in the organizational successes previously discussed, as well as personal career success. Being focused on organizational success does not mean you have no interest in personal success!


  • Large Manufacturing Company. Here the focus was on the transformation of basic accounting and financial reporting controllers into financial business partners for the leadership teams in business units across a $2B corporation.

In this large manufacturing company, focusing on the organization’s mission, recognizing my own shortcomings in company history and experience, pulling in people who could make up for my shortcomings and collaborating with them to figure out the best ways to achieve our vision, resulted in

  • our ability to gain approval and successfully implement our transformation initiatives for the benefit of the company, and
  • an accelerated education process and a couple of significant personal promotions for me in just a few short years.

Some believe that to get ahead in a large organization you must be very competitive and aggressive at the expense of others. The challenge I had with a previous organization. However, I believe that paradigm is, by necessity, dying a slow death. I also believe that if you focus on getting done what is in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders, and are aggressive in your own self-development and ability to lead and get positive results benefiting your organization, the opportunities will present themselves, even if they sometimes end up with you being in a new organization.

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. In a $75M publicly-held electronics manufacturing services company, I led cultural, operational, and financial transformations, and an international expansion, as that company’s CEO.

In this, my first, CEO role, I came to realize the importance of understanding the needs of all of our stakeholders (a 360-degree or “balcony” view of our business). They were all taking significant risks in supporting the company. Investors and bankers were putting in their hard-earned money; customers were risking the quality and delivery of their products by putting our products went into theirs; our employees were betting their livelihood and family’s health on our success; suppliers were spending their capacity and resources to fulfill our needs; and the communities in which we operated were depending on our economic success and good citizenship. In any major decision, and even in some minor ones, the team and I had to keep these dependencies in mind and do our best to maximize the success of all five stakeholder groups the best we could. We all carried a small card spelling it all out, and we referred to that card all the time.

In addition, the company culture had not kept up with the company’s early commercial success and was challenging, at best, when it came to supporting all of our stakeholders and growing the company. So we also codified our values on the back of that small card, referred to them all the time, and, more importantly, were unwavering in upholding those values, even in the most difficult situations.

Similar to the large manufacturing company story, focusing on the company’s success and collaborating with the rest of the experts on the team, as well as the combination of 360-degree thinking and our unwavering commitment to take the right actions based on our vision and values, totally transformed this organization, resulting in an eventual sale to a global industry leader who realized the value in the organization we had created.

From a personal standpoint, I was first the company’s CFO, doing whatever I thought best for the company, before being asked to become its CEO.

  • Global Internet Payments Company. As a consultant, I was brought in to fix a particular control issue that had resulted in some erroneous money transfers. To save the financial team the time to try to figure “the new guy” out, I handed them a list of my values and how I work, and, more importantly, I reflected on and authentically lived that list every day.


While working through the transfer issue, plus several other issues that came up during the engagement, that values list was given by the finance team to others in the company. I also started attending the weekly leadership meetings working on other challenges around the company, and just trying to make the company better. My intellectual versatility is in my interest in learning about different businesses, business models and people’s perspectives in varying industries – it’s curiosity. Learning gives me energy, and the capability of developing new ways of thinking about old and new challenges in different situations.


As several months passed, I was asked to join the company as its President & COO and help the team build more value in the company for its owner. By then, my 360-degree view of the business revealed a highly evolving organization and operating environment, in constant change, suffering from instability, inconsistency, operational silos, and distrust – resulting from a distinct lack of consistent and clear communications. Common challenges in growing businesses.


In my view, the people in the organization needed shared goals and incentives to give them more reasons to communicate and collaborate. So, I implemented a profit sharing plan for all employees, as well as a plan for the leadership team to personally benefit from that value creation, so everyone would gain from our collective successes.


I was a little off in thinking that money would be a strong motivator for this group. But I was still going in the right direction. More than the potential for additional pay and bonuses, these plans created a whole new level of transparency about the company’s financials. Trust continued to build, our Agile implementation resulted in more cross-functional collaboration, we made major improvements in our performance, we coalesced as a team, we had great success in turning the business around, and we had fun!


The company’s value increased 3X in less than two years. In the process, I advanced from consultant to President & COO, thoroughly enjoyed my time with the company, and benefitted from an eventual majority interest sale of the company with rest of the leadership team.


From a Strategist leadership perspective in these transformations, it is important to understand that while I started and/or led these transformations, the bulk of the real work was done by the teams I worked with. More than anything, in all three transformations, people just needed

  • high level direction (agreed to purpose, mission, and/or vision),
  • agreed to operating parameters around how we work together as a team, that also gave them autonomy to make more decisions on their own, and work their own magic,
  • constant communication and reinforcement around the purpose, mission, vision and values (“talking and walking the talk”),
  • early assistance and support in “walking the talk,” until they were comfortable doing it on their own,
  • positive reinforcement on the bad days and celebrations on the good days,
  • understanding, honesty, and fairness when difficult compensation and personnel decisions had to be made,
  • that when things weren’t going well, to be part of the plan to turn it around, with the specific knowledge of what they personally could do to help, and the empowerment to do that,
  • goals and timetables they helped set, and
  • regularly scheduled and adhered-to progress meetings (no longer than absolutely needed) to discuss status and give everyone the opportunity to connect with their needs from the other team members to keep things moving.


I hope you have enjoyed the transformation part of this series.  Just writing about these transformations has brought back many great memories. But, more importantly, taking the time to reflect back and write about them has been another great learning experience for me as well.


Thanks for following us!  Please look for new At C-Level blogs over the next several weeks!

How to Create a Culture of Innovation and Learning

This post is from a Forbes article I wrote in 2017. It is the companion to a Voice America interview with Guru Vasudeva, CIO Nationwide Insurance on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 18, 2017 Nationwide’s Journey to Build a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Learning.

When it comes to innovation, companies need to deliver results much more quickly than they did just a few years ago in order to keep pace with the range of pressures they face from competition as well as customer expectations. In addition to the range of product change and customer expectations, companies are looking at a baby boomer retirement rate of 10,000 per day, which is only accelerating technological change and a volatile geopolitical environment.

With this as the backdrop, leaders must create organizational environments that weave innovation and change into their fabric.

There are several different terms we hear when we talk about companies that do this well: agile businesses, “learning” organizations, and innovative cultures are just a few. These environments adhere to five key cultural and structural strategies.

1. Delight Customers

Organizations should seek out customer recommendations and develop a process to evaluate and prioritize ones that have the highest probability of meeting customer objectives and staying ahead of the competition.

This recommendation is drawn from my early work with Malcolm Baldrige Quality Assessments. Though this has been an enduring practice for years, how companies implement it has changed. How are you seeking ongoing feedback on priorities and customer satisfaction first and foremost? Are you creating a relationship with customers that could be most accurately described as a partnership? Have an open exchange with clients on a regular basis. In addition, solicit formal feedback on a periodic basis.

2. Actively Collaborate

Organizations must shift from step-by-step processing to working cross-functionally. All involved departments should remain informed and work simultaneously as a normal course of business. Collaborative organizations create higher-quality prototypes — and they do it more quickly.

In addition to a collaborative structure, it’s important to create an environment where every team member feels safe and encouraged to contribute. They should also feel that they are expected to contribute their best work at all times. This collaboration contrasts with organizations where “special people” contribute more often than others.

My client structures projects to ensure all team members or subject matter experts are included. The teams also conduct vibrancy assessments to ensure they are continually creating an environment where everyone feels included and supported. What are you doing to measure your culture and agreements to ensure all members participate and feel safe to share their insights?

3. Rigorously Experiment

Teams must study problems and put forward well-developed solutions. However, these shouldn’t come in the form of long studies, as many of these can take a year or longer.

By shifting to a focus on the scientific method, teams learn to formulate a hypothesis, test that hypothesis, and learn and refine solutions rapidly.

Note the word “rigorous.” I realize that the idea of experimentation is very countercultural, and if done poorly, can be costly. When teams develop skills in rigorous experimentation, they shift how they look at experiments. One example is a group that structured the work using rapid prototyping. They provided mentors and coaches to ensure people had the support they required while learning the new process.

This mentoring ensures team members contribute quickly and develop both skills and comfort with new behaviors quickly. Do you have challenges and opportunities that could be solved more quickly by taking a more scientific approach, perhaps by shortening the analysis and beginning experimentation?

4. Accelerate Decisions And Learning

In this environment, nimble decision-making is a companion to rigorous experimentation. Team members must make the best decisions possible as quickly as required. These decisions must be open to re-examination as new information surfaces.

This means that decisions should be refined on an ongoing basis. The need to be “right” must be set aside in favor of continual learning. What was once called “flip flopping” will now be called “learning.”

An example of nimble decision-making is an organization that offers training to help participants combine data-based decision-making with intuitive decision making to leverage the power of both. They make decisions at the appropriate point to support the process of experimentation. When experiments are run, participants learn, and prior decisions will be revisited when appropriate and updated. 

5. Build Adaptability And Resilience

Leaders and their employees must value adaptability, flexibility, and curiosity. All of these skills and aptitudes support an individual’s ability to navigate rapid change. Employees must remain flexible and focused in the face of ongoing change. They need the capacity to feel comfortable and supported by their colleagues so that they can adapt to planned and unplanned change with creativity and focus.

It is not enough to tell people to be more resilient, then expect them to answer emails for 20 hours a week. I once worked with an organization that conducted training on individual resilience, then had work groups conduct multiple discussions about what they needed to do to support individual resilience.

Does your organization make explicit agreements about topics like expected response time for email, including during non-work hours? Agreements are a great way to examine organizational factors driving and inhibiting resilience.

Evolving your organization to become more innovative and change-friendly requires a structured effort to update your culture and the systems and agreements that support its functions. By clarifying how your organization promotes these five elements, you will make great progress in becoming an innovative organization.

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, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen 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 a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovating Leaders, Co-creating Our Future interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”


In At C-Level #10-18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Innovative Leadership Institute’s Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.


Implement and Measure


Preliminary planning is communicated to the organization and transformation initiatives are ready to kick off. Those initiatives have metrics and goals for success that will naturally drive improvement in your overarching transformation metric(s), showing progress toward the mission and vision for the overall organization.


So, now it is time to start executing and your team is ready to go.


But, what about you? As a leader, your visibility, support, and participation are key to the implementation of these initiatives and how your transformation progresses. Your absence would show a lack of resolve and support for the transformation that YOU kicked off! I hope you’ve done some planning for this as well.


The level of your involvement will vary depending the needs of your team and the organization. Your vision, mission and values should drive a lot of decision making at the functional level, so you should not be needed to micro-manage the process. Let your team work their magic, grow, and develop during the transformation.


However, your visible support is critical. Be present, generally aware of happenings at the functional level, and, most importantly, be the main reporter of the major challenges and overall progress to the organization’s stakeholders on a regular basis.


Here is how we implemented and measured progress and achievement throughout the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:


  • Large Manufacturing Company. In our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we had two major initiatives:
    • implementing new automated accounting and financial reporting systems, and
    • creating a “controller-in-training” program to prepare up-and-coming and new controllers to be true financial business partners helping to grow the business.


To implement the new systems, we created a formal project team of current controllers serving as project managers and subject matter experts, accountants and clerical people with significant tenure in their jobs, and an internal auditor, using a well-known project management software. The make-up and experience in this team was key to the success of the initiative. The project re-energized team members who were ready to move on in their careers and were excited to contribute their company and functional expertise to making the implementation successful. They were among the most trusted professionals in the organization, maximizing the acceptance and the benefits of the new systems. The implementations were well managed, tracked, reported on, and successful, although they did take 30 to 40 percent longer to implement than originally expected. We opted for quality over speed – not an unusual tradeoff in these types of projects.


The controller-in-training program was modeled after comparable sales and operations training programs and consisted of potential controller candidates spending three months rotating through all the sales and operational departments in their facility, then spending three months in accounting and three months in activity-based costing and financial analysis roles. A team of senior financial people selected and hired the participants and I tracked their progress, but the facility people really made the training happen. About 25 percent of the participants landed their first controller jobs backfilling for turnover or being placed in the large new facilities the company was building at the time.


We were pretty good at implementing these projects and programs. However, I think we could’ve done better in terms of having more definition around what achievement of the vision would look like, as well as the metrics and goals that would validate our progress in transforming our controller group into “true financial business partners.” Our success on vision achievement would probably get mixed reviews depending on who you talked to in the organization.


In your own transformation journey, how will you measure ultimate success in achieving your mission and vision?

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. In our transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” and improve the lives all our five stakeholder groups, we had three major initiatives:
    • implementing lean manufacturing,
    • putting electronics repair operations in Europe and Asia, and
    • developing and implementing a strategy to better leverage our engineering and manufacturing capabilities and earn higher margin work.


Having the right people in the right seats on the bus was key to our execution.


In a conversation with our quality manager about his wanting to leave the company, I discovered he was a Lean Manufacturing expert! He agreed to stay and took on the role of leading that initiative. We also hired an operations vice president with significant Lean experience. Their execution on the implementation, including ongoing measurement and reporting was incredible!


The executive team leveraged the work of our global sales manager in identifying the right acquisitions and partners for us to expand our operations in Europe and Asia.


We also implemented lean in our new facilities.


Not planned, but totally in line with our mission, our first Agile software development resulted in a company-wide repair tracking system across all our facilities and lauded by our global customers.


We hired a new sales vice president with an engineering background who had significant experience growing companies in the embedded computer industry, which leveraged our engineering talent and commanded the much higher margins we sought.


Everything we did had measurement and reporting systems, and our execution was great.


Did we achieve our vision? We decided early on that we would have to hear that directly from our stakeholders – the ones we named in our five-stakeholder mission statement.


Eventually, we did start hearing from them. You can read more about this in At C-Level #4.


Do you have the right people in the right seats on your bus? Is there any unknown or underutilized talent in your organization that could help lead your transformation?


  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, improve the operational and financial performance of the company, and increase the company’s value, we had three major initiatives:
    • a company culture change driven by a stated mission and operating guidelines, and a change in leadership mindset, communications, and actions,
    • the implementation of Agile software development in our company – which requires the involvement of all major functional areas of the company – and
    • new strategy development and implementation in marketing and sales.


The culture change was all about leadership communications and “walking the talk.” See more about that execution in “At C-Level #15 – Transformation Communications.”


We measured culture change in the success of the Agile implementation. Agile requires so much cross-functional collaboration and communication that if the culture did not change, that implementation could not succeed.


We measured the success of the Agile implementation,

  • quantitatively, by the 40 percent increase in our software development productivity, and
  • qualitatively, by the increase in the usability and functionality of our product.


Our software was easier to use, looked more professional, helped our sales efforts, and benefited from the input of all the major functional groups in the company.


And, we measured marketing and sales success and the achievement of our mission to help sellers sell more by increases in customers and transaction volume.


But were we achieving our vision of increasing the value of the company for its owners? We were. The company realized a 300 percent increase in value through a major financial transaction within two years of the start of our transformation.


Do you have regular reporting and review cycles for all your initiatives and the achievement of your vision?


Key takeaways from these transformations


Discipline and focus are key, as is building repeatable processes that become a way of life.


Metrics and goals were either developed in planning or were built into the implementation processes of lean and Agile. Follow-up reporting, reviewing and analysis for progress and completion were part these processes as well. And where we did not use Agile or lean, we still had regular reporting and progress reviews.


There was so much going on in each transformation, I couldn’t manage it all…so I directed it and left the management to the functional experts and leaders on the team. I constantly and consistently pushed the vision and mission and lived our values to the best of my ability, trusting the team to give them life by making decisions that were similarly aligned. If they were not, we stopped, discussed them, and did the right thing. This is typical of Strategist or Level 5 leadership. See “At C-Level #9: Evolving Leadership for an Evolving World.”


To see more about the results of these transformations, please see my LinkedIn profile at


In “At C-Level #17: Embedding Transformations,” we’ll look at what I’ve found to be the most challenging part of transformation work and the key takeaways that you may need to think about in your own organization’s transformative journey.


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At C-Level #14: Transformation Planning

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”


In At C-Level #10–18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.


Plan Journey


Now that you have your vision, situation, strengths, team, and resources for this journey, it’s time to do some planning!


Any real transformation is going to take a significant amount of time – at least a year or more.


Your first plan will likely get you off in the right direction. However, the further in the journey you get, the more likely you will have to deviate from it, especially if it is a very detailed plan. I mention this so that you will not:


  • over-plan at the expense of getting started, or
  • stress out when the plan must change, which it undoubtedly will.


Most consultants I’ve used start with a high-level current/future state model. Then, they break that down into functional current/future state models to distribute planning, execution, responsibility, and accountability across the team.


It’s also the time to plan how functional initiatives and overall transformation progress will be measured and reported. Each functional initiative must have its own metrics and goals that will contribute toward the achievement of the transformation goals. All metrics and goals must be well-thought out and clearly represent the transformation’s positive impact on the organization.

What does your organization look like today? What will it look like years from now? What metric(s) would indicate the progress of the entire organization toward its vision?

Here is how we approached planning in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:


  • Large Manufacturing Company. After our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we believed the future state would include:
    • an updated accounting and financial reporting system freeing up controller time for additional analysis of the periodic financials, trends, forecast comparisons, capital investment justification and progress reporting, financial consulting within the business, and people development;
    • controllers with the skills to use new systems and perform the analysis and business partnering functions as we envisioned them;
    • a pipeline of controllers for new plants and businesses with these skills; and
    • bottom-line results to show for it all.


The current state included:

  • a main-frame computer-generated trial balance manually input into spreadsheets for financials with a lot of detailed information and limited analysis;
  • some controllers with the skills to perform financial analysis and some with the business knowledge to also be a financial business partner, but few with skills in newer automated accounting and financial reporting systems;
  • some accountants/assistant controllers capable of being controllers with little to no development provided to get them there; and
  • a bottom-line that could be improved by this transformation to the future state.

The project team was formalized and began reconciling what had to be done to move from the current to the future state on automating the systems. Simultaneously, as the lead controller in the largest business group, I began working with the general managers and the rest of the controllers on controller development programs.


Later I realized that only planning out milestones for the completion of our initiatives in the transformation and not having any metrics or goals for the overall transformation created longer term challenges with sustainability. You’ll see how that played out in future “At C-Level” blogs.


If you have a transformation you are contemplating, how will you measure and report progress and success in the initiatives for the transformation and for the achievement of the vision?


  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. As you can imagine, leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do” left a lot of room for interpretation, but so did our future state:
    • a perpetual earnings per share growth engine for our shareholders;
    • a work environment our associates embrace each day with opportunities to grow in their careers;
    • the status of “Most Valued Partner” to our customers;
    • providing opportunities for our suppliers to grow and prosper with us; and
    • giving back to the communities in which we live.


The current state:

  • fast growing sales, yet little to no improvement in profitability;
  • high-potential employees in a work environment that was difficult to embrace with little apparent opportunity;
  • customers upset with quality and delivery;
  • suppliers growing and prospering while we were not; and
  • only occasionally giving back to the community.


We were not serving four of our five stakeholders very well. Several company-wide strategic areas quickly needed to be addressed, with the highest priorities given to initiatives that would have the greatest positive impact to current customers, whose purchases were required to fund our transformation to the future state.


Given that, our top priorities were customer service improvement, employee engagement, and profitability. Focusing on those would better serve our suppliers and communities as well.


We decided that a lean manufacturing implementation would quickly start to improve customer service, engage our people in what they viewed as a worthwhile effort, and result in service improvements and cost savings for current customers that also could improve our profitability—while we figured out what to do about our top line value and margin challenges. Lean requires the identification of key metrics, the ongoing monitoring and reporting of those metrics, and rigorous continuous improvement processes focused on metric improvement.


Our overarching metric was growing profitability. We already had a quarterly gain-sharing plan for all associates and it became a great measurement of our progress and how we were all working together as a team.


What are the priority areas in the transformation you are contemplating? Have you considered how you will fund your transformation? How would you measure the overall success in your transformation with a metric that the whole organization could relate to personally?


  • Global Internet Payments Company. The desired future state:
    • helping our sellers sell more (measurably);
    • providing a collaborative and fun work environment with great career opportunities for our best associates;
    • facilitating cross-border transactions and e-commerce globally, and creating more jobs;
    • providing software as a service (SaaS) and back-end payments processing to simplify the entire process for our sellers, while adhering to the underwriting requirements of the industry and governments;
    • building a platform company that could acquire other processors and their seller customer bases; and
    • building value for an eventual financial exit for the owner.


The then current state:

  • A $200M transaction volume processor still trying to run in start-up mode, highly siloed, not collaborative, lacking in product development, with flat top-line and declining bottom-line performance.


With our SaaS model and software development driving so much of our desired future state— and that development stifled by the functional siloes in the organization—we decided to implement an Agile product development environment that required constant communication, collaboration, and coordination across all functional areas of the company. Like Lean, Agile puts your organization into a more structured continuous improvement/development environment, and its implementation requires a level of rigor that becomes a new way of life within the organization.


We had many detailed metrics as you might imagine for a SaaS payments company, but we also implemented a profit-sharing program—both a measurement and reward system for how we were coming out of silo-mode and performing as one team.


Lean and Agile concepts have much broader applicability than just in manufacturing and software development, as well as across different industries, with similar benefits. Have you ever considered either program? What about profit-sharing as an overall metric of success to increase cross-functional collaboration?


Key takeaways from these transformations


Planning for transformations can be highly dependent on organization size, maturity, current state, desired future state, and available funding.


There was much more up-front planning in the $2B global Large Manufacturing Company and it was a well-defined functional transformation. The company also had significant resources to contribute to its transformation project.


The other two transformations were in comparatively smaller companies, requiring major strategic, cultural, and operational change across the company. Their businesses were technology-based and their business environments were quickly changing. The people transforming these companies had to do it while concurrently accomplishing their ongoing business objectives. We had to figure out how to reallocate resources and squeeze more profit out of both companies to finance our transformation efforts. In both cases, sharing those profits was a nice perk, but it was also a great measurement of team progress and a source of team pride.


The increasing pace of change in our world will likely require these kinds of ingrained continuous improvement processes in most organizations to simply survive, let alone thrive. Think perpetual innovation, evolution, and change going forward!


In “At C-Level #15: Transformation Communications,” we’ll look at the communications frameworks in these three organizations and what you may need to think about in preparing for your own organization’s transformative journey.


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Preparing Aspiring C-Level Leaders for Key Roles

This post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. 

Transformation is in demand. Building leaders and organizations of the future is now a requirement! A key responsibility of all leaders is to train successors. It promotes business continuity and key employee engagement, and helps manage business risk. While many organizations understand the importance, many have not found suitable programs to address this important activity, especially at higher levels in the organization.

The Columbus CIO Forum recently initiated the creation of a program to train CIO successors across the Central Ohio Region. Business and community sponsors joined to ensure the training and development had sufficient direction and resources to succeed, and that it addresses the CIO succession opportunities and challenges facing the community as a whole. This initiative is not a one off, it is part of how Columbus identifies challenges and creates cross sector solutions. According to a Harvard Business School case study focusing on the Columbus Partnership in May of 2015, “Cooperation and collaboration is the Columbus way,”

This community approach to succession planning for a particular profession is a novel approach to building a cadre of well-prepared business and technology successors for the community and deepen the leadership talent pool available across all sectors. This development is imperative for our organizations to thrive and for our leaders to continue to be successful. It also illustrates progressive thinking towards economic development and sustainability in our region and is attractive to organizations evaluating relocation of headquarters and/or business units to Central Ohio.

This program is designed as a year long program with six leadership development classes, four round tables with key business leaders and two social events to support network building. The in-person program sessions held at the Ohio University campus in Dublin include a forward-leaning leadership development curriculum augmented with a robust online offering of assessments, text and video study materials, and interviews with global and local thought leaders and faculty to illustrate the effectiveness of these concepts in action. The academic level of rigor equates to an MBA leadership class.

The model for creating this succession planning program:

  1. Define what success looks like – define a high-level model of the knowledge, skills, abilities and mindsets required to succeed in top level leadership roles now and well into the future. The Strategist leadership model developed by Metcalf & Associates was selected for the program. The CIO community also identified key development areas that they see as a priority for the program to focus on.
  2. Create a leadership program that builds leadership skills based on proven frameworks – offer class room training and self-study modules to build knowledge, skills and abilities, and provide opportunities to practice and integrate those into ongoing work. The program is drawn from an MBA leadership development program and leverages the Innovative Leadership program and book series by Maureen Metcalf that has earned international recognition. Metcalf takes an active role in the International Leadership Association, allowing her to bring world-leading frameworks to local programs.
  3. Balance skill building with tools and activities to build self-awareness and integrate skills into practice – in addition to developing skills required for leadership, creative tools, exercises and reflection activities help each leader build the self-awareness and leadership presence required in senior level roles. Practice exercises are provided in both the in-person and online portions of the program, and immediately applicable in the work environment. The program also makes extensive use of polling software to give the session facilitators feedback about session effectiveness and areas for additional focus.
  4. Learn from thought leaders and experts – provide a library of resources that support aspiring executives in building skills and learning from the perspective of a broad range of leadership experts and thought leaders across multiple fields, ranging from senior executives and government officials to leading academics. The online modules offer participants the opportunity to customize their learning experience to help them develop in areas they find most valuable. The Metcalf interview library covers key topics ranging from implementing analytics programs to major organizational transformations to building resilience in global organizations.
  5. Learn from successful executives – create opportunities for the participants to engage with senior leaders, leadership experts and thought leaders through round tables and discussions after the round tables to help participants translate what others do into what they will do when they return to work. The panel discussions allow leaders to engage with local thought leaders from the local community in robust discussion.
  6. Build a strong network of support within the field – create opportunities for participants to engage with one another during the learning process as thought partners and accountability partners. Additionally, offer networking opportunities for this peer group of aspiring CIOs within the CIO community. A key element of this program is building the senior IT community in central Ohio. The networking component gives leaders an opportunity to build those networks in a manner that is curated to accelerate relationship development and community building.

During times of significant change, leaders and organizations that continue to thrive will be those that perpetually innovate and evolve both the organization and the leaders responsible for running the organization. This level of innovation and evolution requires leaders to continually train successors as part of the ongoing effort to ensure organizations are prepared for the ongoing challenges they face. This program offers a model within Central Ohio that recognizes the need for a strong leadership advancement program across the IT profession and provides a robust solution.

The CIO Forum identified the need for this group and initiated the program by identifying business partners and sponsors to successfully deliver it. Metcalf & Associates and Expedient are key partners in creating and delivering this program. Check the link to learn more about the IT Leaders program.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf is founder, CEO, and board chair of Metcalf & Associates; and is an executive advisor, consultant, speaker and author.


The 4 Key Insights of Holistic Frameworks – An Intelligence For Planetary Survival

This blog is a companion to the interview with Christopher and Sheila Cooke on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017, Navigating Through The Holistic Worldview Membrane to offer further insights into the deeper application of the science of Human Emergence. This post was written by Christopher Cooke.

The term, Human Emergence, defines a new understanding that explains how and why civilizations have shifted through 8 dominant paradigms over the past 120,000 years. Each shift can be shown to have been triggered by the inability of a given worldview to cope with increasingly complex problems. Such problems may be caused by nature, or more recently in the last 10,000 years mankind’s mismanagement of resources.

The most recent stage, the eighth stage, has become known as ‘a holistic worldview’. This worldview is an ‘intelligence for planetary survival’. It is minimalistic and seems set to ensure the recovery and regeneration of all life-forms on Earth. Compared to the conventional thinking of today this is a radical shift and whilst some individuals are increasingly able to think through problems from a holistic stance, the full utilization of this worldview is being resisted; it’s like pushing against a membrane.

One way in which this worldview is becoming visible is through the development and utilization of holistically-informed frameworks. Think of a holistic-framework as a basic structure that when applied stimulates holistically informed thinking. When such a stance is adopted it appears that decisions are made that can handle the ‘wicked problems’. This interview offered the Holistic Management Framework developed by Allan Savory as an example of a holistically-informed framework. This has been successfully applied since 1985, across contexts that range from national governance to agriculture. We also discussed how our work itself is supported by a holistically informed, Human Emergence Framework, that they have developed.

All holistically informed frameworks share the same 4 key insights. These are summarized as:

  • Key Insight 1: The Universe functions in wholes.
  • Key Insight 2: The primary principles and processes of Universe show through in all environments and life-forms, including the human body and mind.
  • Key Insight 3: There are biological and psychological life cycles.
  • Key Insight 4: Behavioral freedom varies according to stage of development.

For leadership and management today these 4 insights mean that:

  • Holism is a necessary awareness;
  • Decision making needs to consider the biological-psychological-cultural and social systems dynamics of the people and local habitat,
  • Timing is everything;
  • Solutions work when the appropriate level of thinking is applied.

One example is, using a diagnostic method from The Holistic Management Framework to help a farmer discover why a certain field had been overtaken by rushes in recent years. He had previously used the small paddock along a riverbank to graze a few sheep, and had tried a variety of different technologies to get rid of the rushes. He dug drainage ditches, cut the reeds with grass cutters, taken the animals away for long periods, and even applied herbicides.

Part way through the process that included his consideration of the health of his ecosystem, his previous decision making, the local cultural norms, and the typical technologies used in this locality, he had a big realization. He clapped his hand to his forehead and burst out laughing saying, “every technology I used naturally leads to rushes!” After further thought he said, “and you know, if you looked up on the Internet how to get rid of rushes, you would find a list of everything I tried!”

His final solution was to learn to use the animals as tools, to stimulate the growth of grass based upon a new awareness of the dynamic inter-relationship between the two species.

His discovery required the adoption of a holistic awareness; an understanding of the complex relationship between, climate, soil, plants, animals and humans; an awareness of the times of biological weakness of the grasses, rushes and animals; and the use of solutions that worked with natures flows, rather than using technologies that interfered.

Holistic thinking literally reframes everything we believe to be true!

If you wonder about your thinking and world view, we recommend you take the assessments created by 5Deep, click on shop and select Personal Emergence Bundle Assessments and Guides. This package is a great deal and Christopher and Sheila guide you through assessment use in their prior interview series with participants who took the assessments.

About the author

Christopher Cooke, (MSc. B.A. FellowRSA) is the founder and a lead consultant for 5 Deep. He is an international senior manager, consultant, coach, confidante, counsellor, therapist, trainer and qualified engineer, with over 28 years’ experience in pioneering and supporting personal and organizational change. He is focused on the release of latent human capacities to navigate gracefully through complexity, innovation and change. Christopher has become a leading figure in the practical demonstration of The Graves Technology, Spiral Dynamics, and Integral Theory since 1997. His commitment and focus has seen application in as many contexts as possible. To listen to other shows by Christopher and Sheila Cooke, check out their Voice America guest page for additional information.

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.

What Do Leaders DO to build “Level 5” Organizations?

This blog is a companion to the interview with Geoff Fitch and Terri O’Fallon on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on Sept 19, 2017, Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Level 5’/Teal Organization -Part 2. This post was written by Geoff Fitch, MA.

As a Level 5 leader, we know our own personal development is key to our ability to meet the complex challenges we face in today’s world. In our last post, Terri O’Fallon noted that working with individual and organizational shadow is one of the most challenging parts of the life and development of a Level 5 (Strategist) Leader. An important part of this process is to understand our own personal shadow – the projections and assumptions we are unaware of that often set the limits of the solutions we imagine.

But what is Organizational Shadow and how can we work with it? You can think of shadow as the ways we push things out of our awareness that we don’t want to or can’t handle. Level 5 leaders understand that the organizational field of play doesn’t just include what we see, it also includes the unconscious territory, and that it is our obligation to work to uncover what’s hidden in it. You can think of shadow as a form of self-deception. As an individual, we blame others without looking at our own projections we put on them, and miss how we may be just as at fault.

At an Organizational level, you can think of shadow as one step beyond what is undiscussable. Organizational Shadow is what is unthinkable. When there is something that an organization or team is not dealing with, often what happens is that it “projects” that issue on one of its staff member or departments. Someone or some group in the organization will compensate for the lack of attention to the issue at an organizational level. But because the need is unconscious, instead of being appreciated for the initiative, they will often be vilified for it. Why are they paying attention to something that is obviously not an organizational priority or perhaps even one of their responsibilities?

In our interview, we discussed just such a case in which a healthcare executive had taken on action to address some compliance problems the organization was facing. These problems were an organizational issue that was not being dealt with effectively by leadership at all levels. So, she stepped in and took the issue on, even though it was outside her responsibility. The result was she became a source of conflict and eventually became ill from the stress. Once the executive team identified the Organizational Shadow, clarified the cultural blocks to effectively dealing with compliance issues and took this on as a core organizational imperative, owned by the whole team, the conflict disappeared and the executive’s health recovered. It was a striking example of Organizational Shadow at work.

In hindsight, it might seem like an obvious challenge to address, but when we are caught in shadow, it can be very difficult to see. What is unseen in your organization? What persistent challenges might point to a core truth you are not willing, as an organization, to face?

These four approaches are helpful in exploring and resolving organizational shadow issues. Each of these four strategies also point to capacities that Level 5 (Strategist) leaders bring to their organizations.

  1. Identify the conflict.

Organizational shadow produces conflict. Usually there is personal, role or strategic conflict surrounding the issue as the unidentified organizational need creates tension in the system. Yet how we see that conflict often misleads us from the underlying issue. Often there is a person or group that gets the need “projected” on them and consequently becomes scapegoated or marginalized. This happened in our example, when the executive tried to get others to face a problem and was consequently seen as problem in the organization. When looking at an area of struggle, ask yourself – might someone be getting scapegoated here? This takes us out of the blame mindset and helps us begin to see the problem more systemically – a key Level 5 move.

  1. Turn the problem into an organizational need.

Looking at the issue systemically, you can notice often that we ascribe negative qualities to the potentially scapegoated person or group and ask, do these qualities actually represent something we need to have more of, not less of? The executive in our case had turned into a kind of enforcer, which directly conflicted with the collegial reciprocity at the core of the organizational culture. It was a friendly place, and her behavior was clashing. Asking the turnaround question, we could clearly see ways in which the organization needed more of what she was bringing. In its open friendly culture, the team avoided effectively dealing with the black and white issues that required them to confront themselves. Because of this, she had become the ‘cop’ and alienated herself from everyone on the team. Now, her ‘difficult behavior’ was seen as a needed organizational capacity. Level 5 Leaders bring this capacity to identify and integrate organizational polarities that otherwise may seem in conflict.

  1. Determine how and why the organizational need has been disowned.

In this example, we can see that the organizational need was disowned because it seemed to come in conflict with their culture, which they highly valued. There was an implicit assumption that there was no way to deal with compliance consistent with their culture. Level 5 leaders see these organizational assumptions as the key drivers of thinking, behavior and results. They also see them as discussable and changeable. Uncovering organizational shadow allows us to see exactly how these hidden drivers of organizational performance have been operating. After identifying the conflict, scapegoating dynamic, and underlying organizational need, it is important to discover the way this process has functioned – what mindsets, thinking, decisions and behaviors have held it in place.

  1. Take collective ownership of the organizational need.

In our case, solutions to this contradiction became obvious, once the team surfaced out of the shadow. The first step to implementing a solution is to collectively take ownership for the need. Organizational Shadow often points to systemic shifts that need to take place in values, priorities, and behaviors. In the healthcare case, once the problem was identified, the executive team made a commitment to own the problem across the organization. This action immediately relieves the scapegoat of excessive responsibility for the issue and is a critical step in resolving the shadow and ensuring it does not persist. From there, specific strategies and tactics to address the need can be implemented.

In our interview, we also talk about how the very organizational capacities Level 5 leaders foster, particularly social safety and adaptability, are essential for uncovering Organizational Shadow. What makes these issues unlike other organizational challenges is that they are unseen because we are actively, and often unconsciously, avoiding them. In order for teams to be willing to explore these hidden assumptions and areas of conflict, leaders need to bring a culture of trust, safety, and curiosity. We find that, when this is in place, most teams are more than willing, and are often relieved, to bring light to what is in the shadow.


About Geoff Fitch

Geoff Fitch is a coach, trainer, and facilitator of change in individuals and organizations, and a creator of transformative leadership education programs worldwide. He is a founder of Pacific Integral with Terri O’Fallon PhD, where he was instrumental in the development of the internationally-acclaimed Generating Transformative Change program, now offered three continents and in it’s 24th cohort. Through these programs, he has researched and developed novel approaches to transformative change in individuals and human systems. Geoff brings over 30 years experience in business, management and organizational leadership, including 18 years in in management in the computer industry and 15 years as a consultant, coach and trainer in leadership. He has been exploring diverse approaches to cultivating higher human potentials for over 25 years. He holds a master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University and B.S. in Computer Science, magna cum laude, from Boston University.

Learn more about Geoff’s work at

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.