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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care, about how her team responded and evolved in many ways in 2020, and her advice on how leaders in any sector can effectively navigate 2021—and beyond.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Hello everyone. Welcome to our next installment of Conscient Leaders. I’m Hannah Romick, the co-CEO of Conscient Strategies, and I’m here with Emily Barson. We’re so excited to have a conversation today about all fun things leadership in the time of COVID and in 2020 into 2021. Emily, it’s so great to have you with us today. Why don’t you tell the world a little bit about who you are and why you are.

Emily:
Sure. And thanks for having me. I’m Emily Barson, I’m the executive director of United States of Care, which is a non-partisan non-profit organization. We just had our three year birthday, and our mission is to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare, regardless of health status, social need or income.

Hannah:
Such a great mission. Healthcare in America and around the world has been shifting. And I almost see it as like a shape-shifter like over the course of the last few years. So it’d be great to hear how you’ve been managing over the last year. And some of the things your organization has been doing—the list is not small.

Emily:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, um, you know, overall we really do our work in a way that tries to center the needs of people and that’s sort of our touchstone of knowing that the healthcare debate and healthcare reform has become very political and, you know, very focused on, you know, the political ramifications. And what we try to do is really take a step back and look at what all the needs are that unite people, that there are shared needs across people, regardless of their, of their politics. Obviously as COVID hit and we realized what the scale and the scope of the crisis was going to be, we realized that we needed to be part of the solution. And so we really jumped in, in March of 2020, um, almost a year ago now. And were able to step into the response effort, um, developing resources for policy makers, and playbooks to highlight best practices. We were connecting, you know, sort of incoming needs from state leaders to resources. We partnered with COVID exit strategy, which was a group trying to really use the data to drive evidence-based decision-making about reopening. And you know, we really saw this as critical to just surviving and, you know, really helping support the needs during the immediate term. And also looking ahead to, “how can we be part of building a better healthcare system in the wake of this pandemic?”

Hannah:
It almost sounds like you didn’t miss a beat once the pandemic hit, and yet I suspect it probably was not exactly in your plans to undertake all of these initiatives. So I’m curious, “pivot” is one of the big words of the last year. You, I’m sure if you did a Google search, you’d get a bazillion responses. I’m curious how much of that was a pivot and what did it take to create that pivot?

Emily:
Yeah, I mean, it certainly was, especially for the first few months when there was just so much to wrap our arms around just even, um, understanding the needs and what the gaps were that we could be valuable in addressing in ways that might not have been what we thought we had. Certainly weren’t what we thought we were going to be doing when we set our 2020 goals and work plans. But you know, sort of stepped into what we knew we needed to do. And, you know, for the first several months, it really was a pivot where our entire organization shifted gears and was sort of all hands on deck, in a bit of a re-imagining of, uh, of our role, to do this really, in a timely way. And, you know, it has certainly maintained, or, continued to be a priority and really top of mind, now, you know, moving into the next few months, seeing that vaccine education and outreach, and again, just sort of like focusing on people’s needs, bringing science-based information, you know, that’s sort of where our next frontier is. And I think, you know, ultimately we see that there is a lot of agreement that it’s not enough to just go back to normal, you know, go back to the way the healthcare system was before the pandemic. I think the reality is we’ve seen so much of the shortcomings that a lot of us knew were there, but have just really come to light. And so I think it really renews our charge towards our ultimate mission and maybe even opens the door for reforms that politically may have not been possible before.

Hannah:
The other things your organization has been working on over the last year, if not more, is the diversity, equity and inclusion, work internally and in service of the people you’re advocating for. I’d love to hear how events in the last year have, um, really impacted the way your team has been thinking about it and what you’ve been doing to really highlight that aspect of how you’re leading the organization.

Emily:
Yeah. It’s been really an important piece for us, as you said for more than a year we’ve been working through, both the internal, and the external implications. And I will say, you know, certainly the events of last spring and summer, and really this renewed and overdue national conversation around racial justice and around racism. And, in particular in our work, you know, in healthcare, which are really manifesting in the disparate impacts of the pandemic, has I think really just reaffirmed that this was needed to be a priority and certainly lifted it up as, as more of a priority for us and for across the sector. I think, you know, we’ve brought in a health equity fellow to help us, really have a view across the work as to how we can be more intentional and more thoughtful about lifting up equity issues. We’ve developed an equity lens that, you know, really helps us just sort of step back as we’re stepping into projects or different programs and, you know, ask ourselves the key questions to make sure that we are being intentional about infusing that across our work.

Hannah:
One of the last questions I’ll ask is what advice might you have for other leaders out there? As we think about heading into 2021, whether it’s around resiliency or just organizational strength, what are some of the things you’re taking with you and what are some things that you would share with others?

Emily:
I think, you know, really in this space of resiliency, but I would, at least for us really think about it as being nimble and, you know, knowing that we, the best laid plans may not come to be, but that, you know, what we experienced allowed us to sort of see another side of our mission and our strategy and another way that we could be impactful in meeting people’s needs. And, I think that was a great lesson in allowing ourselves to step out of set plans and do the pivot that we needed to do. And while I hope that 2021 won’t encounter another full pivot, you know, obviously we realize that the impacts of COVID are not going anywhere certainly on the immediate impact on our lives this year. But also when you talk about working in the healthcare advocacy space, we know that there is no pre COVID and post COVID that, you know, this is going to impact the work that we do for years. And so, you know, I think it’s been a really important learning period for us to think about the framing and the world in which we work and how we can be sort of moving the message forward of rebuilding stronger in the wake of COVID. And that’s obviously very direct in an organization that works on healthcare access and affordability, but, I think it’s really a lesson that’s transferable to other leaders as well.

Hannah:
That’s great. Thank you so much, Emily, really appreciated your time this morning, and look forward to continuing our conversations with you over time.

Emily:
Likewise, thanks so much. Thank you.

About United States of Care:

The mission of United States of Care is to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care regardless of health status, social need, or income. A non-partisan non-profit, the organization is building and mobilizing a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions to make health care better for everyone. United States of Care will help make it happen by working with Americans from across the country: patients, caregivers, advocates, clinicians, policymakers, and business, civic, and religious leaders. Learn more at unitedstatesofcare.org.

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The Future of Your Work: Part 1

The Future of Your Work: Part 1

COVID-19 sent lasting shockwaves around the world, disrupting everyday life, pushing businesses to pivot for survival, and transforming the way we work.

As a result, we find no shortage of exploratory pieces that muse over what the future of work might look like, and there is no lack of literature reminding leaders to “adapt and pivot” to survive.

But hacking the future of work is more than just figuring out how long your team stays virtual or if you should upgrade your Zoom membership. Today’s leader needs a practical guide to reimagining the future—and the future of work—within and for their organization.

This playbook outlines four steps that any organization can undertake today to begin designing a “future of work” strategy.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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15 + 5 =

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Dana Pauley

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Dana Pauley

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Dana Pauley, Interim Executive Director of Leadership Montgomery, about how she’s leading her organization through change—and making time for her family and herself.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Good afternoon. This is Hannah Romick with Conscient Strategies, and this is another episode of our Conscient Leaders series. I’m joined today by my colleague, Dana Pauley , who is the interim CEO at Leadership Montgomery. And I am super excited to have a really fun conversation about all things leadership in the world today. Dana, I’d love for you to take a minute to just introduce a little bit about yourself and Leadership Montgomery.

Dana:
Yes. Thank you, Hannah, for this opportunity. I’m thrilled to be here, talking with you today. So I’ll start by talking about Leadership Montgomery. We are a community organization that was founded in the eighties in response to a need for more connected, civic minded leaders. We’re, we’re probably most well-known for our leadership programs. And we currently have three of those that kind of run the span of your adult life. So we have an emerging leaders program for mid-level professionals who are on the rise in their career. So those that are, you know, fast track for those C-suite positions. We have our core program, which is for established leaders. And then when we have our senior leadership program, which is the only program we currently have with age focus, and it’s for participants who are 55 and older, and it’s a mix of people who are working and retired. Outside of our leadership programs, we have a corporate volunteer council, which works with companies to either start or grow structured employee volunteer programs. And then we have our newest addition, our body of work in race equity. So we have a long-term program, the real inclusion program, which works with companies to start to think about making an action plan to change their organization so that they’re operating from a race equity lens. And then we have a suite of workshops that kind of meet a person no matter where they’re at in thinking about race and racism, and how they implement some of those changes into their life. Personally, outside of work, I don’t know what that means these days and times, but, I’m a wife, I’m a mom. I’m engaged in the community. I’m happily involved with the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County as their board chair. I try to volunteer as often as possible. I don’t make enough time to do things for myself, but when I do, I like to exercise and I like to be outside.

Hannah:
Here we are, it’s 2020, everybody is remarking about what a year it has been. There has been so much between the pandemic and George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, and the election campaign, not to mention so many other things. One of the great things that’s happened is you’ve just been named the interim director of Leadership Montgomery, and I’d love to talk a little bit and hear how you’re rising to this new position and how you’re taking your team through such turbulent times.

Dana:
Remembering that people, you know, whether they really like to, or not, they bring their whole selves into their work environment. And just checking in with everyone to make sure that they’re handling what’s going on in their personal life. And that they’re, you know, they feel comfortable with their workloads right now. They feel fulfilled in the jobs that they’re doing, because we’ve made a lot of changes this year in response to the pandemic and everybody was wonderful and “I’ll do whatever it takes to get it done.” But you always have to check in with anybody who says, “I’ll do whatever it takes,” because those are the people that might not take the time to take a breath. So I ask people to take a breath. I ask people to remember that the work that we do is wonderful, the community is behind us. But, but we can’t do it if you’re tired, or if you’re not, you know, feeling great about what you have going on in your personal life. So those constant check-ins are important.

Hannah:
That’s great. Do you do them one-on-ones or do you do them in a team setting?

Dana:
A mix of both. I check in with people one-on-one as often as I can, and then we do a weekly staff meeting on Mondays and try to make sure that it’s not just a, “this is what I have coming up this week,” but some of that higher level conversation of “these are the areas of opportunities that I see for us moving forward,” because you want people to understand that it’s a collaboration. Although you might be directly responsible for one thing, you have a greater role within the organization. So making sure that your colleagues understand your vision, because I think every employee should have a vision for their work. That helps speed the success of what’s going on. So if you’re able to communicate that vision, and check in with each other, it just makes it a lot better for collaboration.

Dana:
I like to say we’re all “successfully struggling” and I don’t know that that’s a bad thing right now. You know, we’ve all been dealt some raw hands. You know, part of what the leadership programs accomplish is they’re about stripping away who you have to be at work and allowing you to have a full day to think about yourself, to think about your impact in the community and to expand your network either on a personal level or a professional level. So when you provide an environment where people feel comfortable being vulnerable, they can talk through the challenges that they’re seeing. So we have been doing a great job of keeping people connected and keeping them comfortable talking about what they’re going through.

Hannah:
And would you recommend to leaders around the United States or even the world, that that becomes like the central element of their leadership?

Dana:
I think communication is key. I think that, you know, you want to try and stay as positive as possible, but it’s okay to say, “I’m concerned. These are the things that are weighing on me right now. I’m so glad that I have you here with me in this process, because you know, it makes it a little bit easier to get through things.” I actually just said that to somebody a couple of hours ago on a call with them. I said, “you know, I’m so grateful to have you during this transition period.”

Hannah:
And are you finding time? One of the things that you and I have talked about in the past is the “taking care of self.” Help me, help the world, understand what may or may not be getting in the way of you being able to do that.

Dana:
So I will say that one of the things that I did, not too long ago, was I went and I got a massage for the first time. And it was wonderful. I didn’t realize I had been clenching my teeth while I was sleeping. And, you know, I had my shoulders hunched, just because I had a lot on my mind. I try to make sure I have daily conversation with my husband, which most people don’t think that it’s difficult, but when you’re both really busy and you have children, you realize, “Oh, it’s been the entire day. And we haven’t had the chance to connect.” My motto and my rule for this year is, when I think of somebody, I reach out to them. So keeping those, yeah, thank you. Um, keeping those connections has been pretty important, um, for, for my care. And I think the biggest thing is allowing myself the opportunity to say, “no.””No, I’m not going to do that. And it’s okay that I’m not going to do that.”

Hannah:
One last question for you before we go to close. I’d love to know what’s something you’re doing different in the last few months. Aside from the fact that you have an expanded role, but as a result of COVID and just life in 2020, what’s something that you’ve just shifted and are doing completely different?

Dana:
Trying to make sure that I think about the future in two parts. And let me explain that. So there’s the future of what we would have expected to happen. Those things that we had some control over. And then there’s the future of complete unknown. So I have to constantly think about both paths so that I can plan accordingly. There was conversation of my kids going back to school at one point, and that has kind of quieted. So you have to, you have to wonder, are they ever going back to school? What does that look like? So constantly operating in two lanes, which I realize sounds exhausting, but I think it actually is a little bit more freeing for me because I think more broadly.

Hannah:
Yeah. I could see that. And the like, “okay, here are the things that I have control over and I can make plans accordingly. And here all the other things that I might be able to influence one way or the other, but I have no control over. And so therefore let’s just acknowledge that and move on.” Thank you. This has been really fun. I really appreciat it. There were some great nuggets of wisdom in there that I’m excited for the world to hear, and for us to socialize to the greater good about leadership.

Dana:
Thank you.

 

About Leadership Montgomery:

Leadership Montgomery is advancing Montgomery County through a network of more than 2,500 public, private and nonprofit leaders who share a commitment to making meaningful changes for a thriving community. Celebrating 30 years of excellence, Leadership Montgomery educates, inspires, convenes and connects leaders through programs supported by a hands-on learning curriculum and service-based programs. Our graduates emerge better connected to people, organizations, and volunteer opportunities through improved understanding, services and relationships. To learn more, please visit leadershipmontgomerymd.org.

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8 + 2 =

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

In the mid-1800s every American business owner knew that if you wanted to send an urgent message to someone you used Western Union. Their telegram service set the bar. They operated more than 7,000 offices in the United States, they had laid more than 185,000 miles of telegraph wire, and in the 1860s they even led an effort to connect American telegraph systems to European lines via the Russian–American Telegraph.

Then Alexander Graham Bell called. On a telephone.

The folks at Western Union must have been shocked when everything changed. Sure there were signs of things to come (they famously had the opportunity to buy Bell’s invention; they turned him down), but they were so totally secure in their position. What could challenge them?

Sounds a lot like 2020.

Clearly, a pandemic is not a technological upheaval—but it has redefined the status quo, and it has certainly upended the expected patterns of everyday life. And it has transformed workplaces.

For the business community, 2020 has forced leaders everywhere to navigate a dense thicket of evolving questions. How do we adapt our services? Does our business model need to be rethought? Which virtual platform should we use? How does Zoom work? Should we use Teams instead? Is Skype still a thing?

While we can’t say solving these quandaries has been fun, if we’re honest, there have been some positives. Dramatic challenges have forced businesses everywhere to examine “The Way We Do Things”—and then get creative. We’ve made discoveries about what we really need, about operational inefficiencies, about communication, and of course, about working remotely. And while many feel satisfied with working from home, others are growing frustrated with the increasingly blurred line between work and home.

And now, after months of working remotely and with more cities moving into new phases, there seems to be one (big) question on everyone’s mind: What’s Next?

What’s clear is that however you want to answer that question, the reality is that change has come. Even if the era of COVID has a magical “finish” date, it doesn’t seem like the established routines of everyday life will completely reset—and more than that: a lot of the workforce doesn’t want them to.

So what’s a team leader to do? In the face of such wholesale change, how do you hold onto what has worked for years and also retain what’s working now? Can you maintain your culture? Or does it evolve? How do you satisfy the team members who crave in-person camaraderie? What does hiring look like moving forward?

However you choose to answer these questions, developing a strategic approach is key. You can’t assume that bringing everyone back to the office will result in “business as usual.” After all, some of your team members may enjoy remote work. New hires may expect flexible structures to be the norm. And your service delivery systems may not benefit from returning to “the way things were.”

Let’s go back to the telegraph days for another moment and consider how Western Union responded to the advent of a dial tone. After trying to maintain a semblance of what they were familiar with, they did what all savvy businesses should do: they read the landscape, and they adapted.

Western Union repurposed its assets and infrastructure. They found a new use for their massive network of cables, and soon became the global leader in a new market: money transfers.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a perfect parable, but if there’s a moral to the story, it’s this: instead of bouncing back to the way things were, let’s bounce forward, and use the tools we’ve discovered to evolve and grow.

While the solutions you implemented during the chaos may still feel like “a fix”, they might also be more than that. They might represent a better workflow process, or a better service model, or a better team structure. The temp arrangements you’ve been working through might be part of your future—perhaps a big part.

For businesses everywhere, it’s time to survey the landscape and think strategically on several fronts:

Operations

How do you incorporate the successes of your current set-up with more traditional structures?

Employees

How do you identify emerging trends and deliver on new employee expectations?

Competition

How do you recruit and stay competitive in the reshaped terrain?

Culture

How do you foster a strong culture without daily, in-person interactions?

And perhaps most importantly: how do you become proactive, and prepare for the next COVID-like crisis?

This isn’t necessarily a square one moment. You’re probably not laying a new cornerstone – you’ve got big pieces of your past and present in front of you, and you have to figure out how they fit together to build a structure that works for the future.

Is it challenging? Sure. But it’s also exciting. And, in some ways, the way forward is clear: you can construct a successful outcome by understanding your organization’s singular identity, by collaborating with your team, and by working with (not against) human behavior.

Start getting strategic now. Reach out to employees, leadership, and external stakeholders to initiate the conversations that will push your organization forward. And if there’s anyone who needs a super special invite to the discussion: send a telegram.

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9 + 2 =

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Arun Mohan

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Arun Mohan

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Arun Mohan, CEO of Radix Health, about pivoting a growing organization, evolving as a leader, and building resilience during a time when COVID-19 has changed everything.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Conscient Leadership. We’re excited to have my friend Arun Mohan with us today. He is the CEO of Radix Health. Arun, why don’t you take a minute and tell us a little bit about Radix and why you started.

Arun:
Yeah. Happy to. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. We are a technology company that tries to make it easier for people to see their doctors. So in a lot of places, it could take you weeks to get an appointment. At the same time, there’s a ton of appointment availability that exists. And so we started the company as a way to figure out how do you bridge supply and demand and make it easier, reduce plays in care, make that whole experience more modern than it currently is. And so we work with about 7,000 or so providers around the country, I think last count we’re about 34 States, a lot of medium to large size medical groups, think like big specialty groups, hospitals, health systems, that kind of stuff. And we have about a hundred folks who work for us across two offices, one here in Atlanta, and then one in Pune, India.

Hannah:
One of my questions, as I was thinking about our conversation was what have you done to pivot and or to focus?

Arun:
I think we’re at the stage that we’re in, what happens very naturally is you just kind of do, so you see a problem, you just respond. And I think what we realized as part of all this is that in order to, to move, you know, sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. There’s a difference between strategic speed and operational speed, right? And so I think historically we’ve often confused the two and, you know, especially in a time where you don’t have people together, you don’t have that sort of shared understanding. That sort of sometimes develops naturally when you put people in the same room together, you have to be much more explicit around, Hey, here’s what I want to do. Here’s the plan. Here’s how I’m gonna get there. You actually have to slow down and focus on a few key things. And that means you’re just going to have to let some fires burn. Like some things have to, you know, you can’t go out and tackle 20 different things. Something is not going to be done, right. Or you’re going to lose people along the way. And so, you know, the challenge for me as a leader and for all our team really is, how do you determine, what do you give up? And then as a leader, how do you push your team just to say, “Hey, listen, it’s okay to give these things up. And in fact, you have to give this up. You cannot do this.” Because it’s sometimes to your own detriment.

Hannah:
One of the things that we at Conscient Strategies see a lot with companies of your size is that leadership needs to evolve and continue to shift. And I’m curious how you’re thinking about the next stage of your company’s growth and what that means for you and your own leadership progression.

Arun:
Yeah. That’s a great point around how do you actually scale it? Just like you scale your business. You’ve got to scale leadership. You know, as we think about, as I think about scaling at the end of the day, it’s like, how do you actually empower your team to do their work? And so it’s gone from me doing a lot of the heavy lifting day to day to saying, “Hey, here’s where we want to go.” And then actually just getting out of the way. So I’ll give you one really concrete example is around hiring. So when we first came in, I said, “Hey, all right, I want to interview the first hundred people who come and work for us.” Because I felt like it was important for me to understand who they were and make sure they were good culture fits. And what I realized in the last three months is that actually gets in the way of a lot of stuff. And so my job as a leader is to trust that the folks working around me are moving in the same direction that I am. Uh, they have the same goal and they’re going to be, they might get there a little bit differently, and they should, I should empower them to actually make those decisions themselves. I’m going to trust that the team is as good as I am or probably better in terms of how they think about who they bring on a team.

Hannah:
I often work with organizations and have a conversation that “the people on your team are gonna make a decision every single minute.” So what are the frameworks? What are the rules of the road? So that everybody understands like here are the hard lines and then here’s the like soft dotted line of decision making.

Hannah:
Resilience is certainly a term that’s getting a lot of play these days. Um, and I think people are defining it a little bit differently than others. And I would love, just on a broader, like, what does that word even mean to you? And how are you using that and thinking about that, as you think about the future?

Arun:
As a company, you know, the question has been, there’s so much change happening and people are just exhausted with it. They’ve just been absolutely fatigued by it. And some of that’s good change. Some of it’s not good change. And the question is, how do we make people able to function effectively despite all that? And so what we ended up doing was number one, we said, “Hey, we have to be in a position where we’re just very much over communicating.” And so we started doing weekly virtual town halls. We started doing weekly emails. We started, doing smaller group sessions where we would bring people together and talk about things, sort of small things. But it was just this idea that, “Hey, listen, you’re not alone. And here’s how we’re thinking about it. We’re giving you everything that we know about how the business operates, you’re gonna know. And that way you’ll feel like you’re part of that decision making process. And that you can predict, you can start to predict what you think will happen next.” And I’m one of these extroverts, which is probably, you know, not surprising to many people. And so it has been, you know, I think number one, not being in the office, not having that energy, has been challenging. So you know, I was very intentional about putting together a peer group of other CEOs who I felt would understand some of what I’ve been going through, spent a lot of time exercising and you know physically getting stronger, which makes one more resilient too. So the other thing I started doing was I started doing walking meetings with my core exec team. So COO, my cofounders, we’d do walking meetings. We literally met like three times a week and we’d walk for an hour. So we got a lot of steps in, and that also satisfied some of that need for being around people. And then more recently, what I started doing is I started coming into the office just as a way to get out of the house and have more transition. There are other people who feel very similarly to me, they have to get out of the house, they have to have that transition. They actually have to get dressed up. And it feels good to do that. And it feels normal to do that.

Hannah:
Thank you so much for your time. I know that the people who hang out with us on the internet will really appreciate some of your wisdom. And I look forward to hearing how Radix progresses over the next quarter and over the next few years.

 

About Radix Health:

Radix Health is a technology company that believes that patient experience starts with patient access. Our data-driven solutions align provider supply with patient demand, maximizing existing capacity and reducing delays in care. We help leading medical groups to optimize every step of a patient’s appointment journey – from alerting patients to needed care, helping them find the right provider, scheduling an appointment across multiple channels, and engaging with patients until the day of their visit. We take the busy work out of getting patients in the door so you can focus on the hard work of keeping them healthy. To learn more, please visit www.radixhealth.com.

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Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

It was a match made in heaven. Research showed a healthy company. Financials checked out. Meetings went great. The courtship was a success. But after the transaction, seemingly out of nowhere, things didn’t go as expected.

From Amazon and Whole Foods to HP and Compaq and Marriott and Starwood — there is no shortage of bumpy integrations. Too often we hear, “We couldn’t have predicted this. We couldn’t have prevented this.” But is that true?

The pivotal mistake.

Watching organizations make investment decisions using traditional due-diligence is like watching the protagonist in a horror movie run upstairs from the murderer. WHY do they keep doing that when there are so many other options? Don’t they know the statistics are not in their favor?

Unfortunately, the odds are just as dismal on Wall Street as they are on Elm Street. Over 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to meet their objectives. Why?

To be fair, It’s not that traditional due diligence is missing the mark completely, it’s that it brushes over a critical component—the people. At the end of the day, it’s not just dollars, cents, and strategic plans that make a company successful, it’s the people. People control how dollars are spent. People are in charge of carrying out plans. Peoples’ behavior and decisions define workplace dynamics. People will make or break your investment.

Human beings are behind the numbers that we crunch and the strategies that we analyze when we target investments.

It’s critical to success that investors start looking beyond the numbers to leadership readiness and culture compatibility. That they are clear about strategic goals and weigh them against questions such as:

  • Are executives ready to lead through change?
  • Are your cultures compatible?
  • Is the team ready to scale?
  • Which norms and behaviors might prevent synergy?
  • Will existing dynamics obstruct success and growth?

These predictive insights are quantifiably proven to impact ROI after a transaction, so why is it not a mandatory component of the due diligence process? Perhaps because it’s normal to want to run in the opposite direction of things that seem counterproductive to our immediate objective. Analyzing people seems too subjective, too immeasurable to be an accurate and valuable indicator of ROI. But it’s the missing component that experts predict will be a game-changer in post-COVID mergers & acquisitions.

Flipping the script

The good news? After years of working with leaders to scale teams and build resilient companies, we have found that people are predictable (and coachable), patterns do emerge, and gathering quantitative data on leadership and culture is not only possible, but advantageous to transaction outcomes and ROI. A non-financial evaluation adds depth to due diligence by evaluating factors that are proven to impact an organization’s ability to thrive after a transaction. And incorporating these evaluations into a financial due diligence process is quite seamless.

As the M&A plotline continues to thicken in the wake of a tumultuous year, non-financial due diligence could mean the difference between a blockbuster transaction and another mediocre sequel.

Take your due diligence to the next level. 

Contact us to learn more.

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A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

Because we believe in holistically supporting our clients on their path to success, leadership coaching is an integral part of our approach.

We sat with Amelia Truett, one of our executive coaches, to hear more about what it’s like to coach and be coached.  We spoke about the power of questions, her path to becoming a coach, and the value that coaching generates for clients.

Organizations must change in order to grow, realize their missions, optimize profit… to flourish. And yet humans hate to change. How does coaching connect with that?

As a younger person, I strongly disliked and feared change. Experience changed my perspective. After living through lots of major changes, some of my choosing and others not, I began to see that my relationship with change was definitively not helpful.

Some of those changes were incredibly hard. This is why strength-based coaching resonates with me. I see people as the experts in themselves. Our clients are the experts. They are whole and nuanced individuals. As a coach, I am not here to fix them, but to help them develop and grow towards the goals and intention they have for their work and lives.

Whole doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t even mean always performing well. It does mean that clients have the fundamental tools needed to change and develop available to them.

How has coaching changed your perspective on individual and organizational success?

Coaching has broadened my perspective on what success looks like. There are so many paths to success. This comes back to the idea of wholeness. I am not here to fix my clients. One of my clients was the Executive Director of a nonprofit that was merging her organization into another organization. As a part of our engagement, she made a small mental shift around one belief. That small shift opened so many doors and unlocked her perspective in a way that allowed the merger to be successful.

Personally, I’ve changed tremendously through my experience as a coach. Each time a client learns and connects the dots in new ways, I get to learn with them. Coaching is all about a forward-looking mindset. Timing is important. For change to be sustainable, a client needs to move at his or her own pace.

How can coaching shift mental models?

Coaching uncovers hidden gaps and blind spots. Once an organization or an individual sees the gap, they can take action to close the gap. There is a particular kind of empowerment that is created when a person makes a deeply meaningful connection and articulates a gap aloud to another person. 

Coaching provides a structure for expansive thinking. Coaching is the scaffolding that supports the client as they make changes and create new results. Once clients begin to see one thing differently, it changes how she or he interacts with colleagues, the organization, and the world around them. There is a positive ripple effect.

What tends to hold people back?

Limiting beliefs hold people back. These are the stories that we tell ourselves about what is possible or not. We are in control of the stories we tell ourselves. Coaching conversations can shift the mental models that individuals rely on. Individuals in turn have the power to transform organizations and entire systems.

How do clients turn questions into action?

Coaching encourages ownership and personal accountability for action. Taking action on purpose means knowing why you are taking action. After experiencing coaching, clients have a better understanding not only of how they want to lead or manage, but also why that approach will work for them and their organization. 

How did you end up becoming a coach?

My first experience with coaching was as a client. I was stuck and unable to accomplish goals that were very important to me.

The funny thing is that I distinctly remember wondering why I was paying a coach when I was the one doing all the work. This illustrates how coaching differs from other types of interventions such as mentoring or consulting. With coaching, the coach follows the client’s lead and the client does the work. Initially, I didn’t understand that was how coaching works.

Coaching questions are challenging. There is not an easy answer. But the questions are fruitful. 

Six years later when I considered making a career change, another coach offered an exercise to write about two instances when I felt wildly successful. I saw so many patterns regarding strengths used and actions that I enjoyed taking that aligned with coaching. For example, I love encouraging the growth in others. When I ask a coaching question without an attachment to the outcome of the answer, it opens doors in unexpected ways. I delight in witnessing what emerges. Throughout my experience as a coach, I am continually amazed at what is created by the client.

How is a coaching question different from other types of questions?

Coaching questions are open ended. As a society, our culture often interprets silence and pauses negatively. In coaching, it represents thoughtfulness and an opening for new ideas or a fresh perspective. It is  good when someone takes time to think quietly during a coaching session.

Similarly, American culture and many companies reward us for having the answer. This is how we are socialized in school. Being coached is more about thinking about the right questions, not about having the right answers. Coaching has more in common with disciplines like science and research, which are founded on asking why and testing hypotheses.

Where do you see answers being valued more than questions? Can a coaching culture help shift that and provide value?

This shows up everywhere! I studied accounting as an undergrad and grew up in the business world. It was a black and white world where knowing what to say and how to answer a question was important and rewarded. Many organizations, apps, and products are valued because they offer concrete solutions. You don’t go to a financial planner for the purpose of receiving open-ended questions.

Coaching is counter to the culture of organizations that value formulaic thinking with clear inputs and outputs.

I’ve coached in organizations where people were so conditioned to the answer paradigm, that early attempts to introduce a coaching mindset and use coaching questions drew blank stares.

It often seems easier to coach in mission-driven organizations where the focus is on the mission rather than products.

That’s not to say that coaching isn’t results-oriented. Coaching is very intentional and goal-oriented. Effective coaching works towards well-defined goals.

Amelia Truett holds a certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, an MBA from the George Washington University, and a BS in Accounting & Finance from Virginia Tech. 

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

How do you move your organization from conversation to action? It might look different than you think.

As the national conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion continues to gain momentum, a simple yet powerful truth resonates: depending on their identity, employees experience the workplace in vastly different ways.

With an energized workforce and an intensified spotlight on leadership, the time is ripe for action. But how? How do you move your organization from conversation to action?

For starters, look beyond the happy.

Workplace culture is often misconstrued for happiness—“are my employees happy?” But “happy” is just a bi-product of culture, not the definition of it. 

If you’re serious about promoting a culture that values diversity, equity, and belonging, here are some questions to ask beyond “are my employees happy?”

  1. Do all employees feel heard and feel comfortable being themselves?
  2. Do women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, etc, have higher turnover rates?
  3. Are employees in the same position being paid equally?
  4. Is there true representation at senior levels?
  5. What corporate goals, metrics, and incentive programs align with desired behaviors?

Next, take a look in the mirror.

Ultimately, workplace culture starts with its leadership. A leader’s decisions, what and how they communicate with others, the policies they create—all of this and more—set the foundation for culture. Leaders are the first stewards of an organization’s values and they must lead by example, personally practicing and reinforcing the behaviors and beliefs that they want to define their organizational culture.

Every member of a team has the potential to contribute to the culture of an organization as well. Each brings their own personality, perspectives, and realities to the table. But, it’s up to leaders to create an environment that enables them to do so (both a physical and psychological environment).  

Finally, shift intentionally

Cultures that are left on “autopilot” are likely to stray from an organization’s core values, and worse, allow unacceptable or toxic behaviors to become the norm. This can ripple outward, endangering everything from morale to the bottom line. 

An ideal culture is formed with intention and informed by clearly defined values. Start the shift by:

  1. Talking one-on-one with employees. Remember that as a leader, you do not have a monopoly on “the right way” of doing things. It is important to listen to employees’ ideas and concerns. 
  2. Re-evaluating your organizational value statement. Does it incorporate DEI values?
  3. Infusing your values into process, evaluations, and promotions. 
  4. Establishing D&I working groups and giving them a seat at all key leadership discussions.

Always remember that integrating diversity and inclusion values into your culture is not a linear process with a stationary endpoint. It involves ongoing evaluation, iteration, communication, and growth. Just as the conversation in our nation continues to evolve, so will your organization. It’s important to check in often, and push the cultural narrative forward with humility and intention.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Al Johnson and Broderick Young

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Al Johnson and Broderick Young

We spoke with Broderick Young and Al Johnson, wealth management experts and founders of Reveal Wealth, about what it takes to be a better business leader in today’s world. Three things to focus on, they say: environment, empathy, and equity.

Read the full transcipt below.

Al: 
To leaders out there: I would say that they need to strive to make their environment the most comfortable environment and positive environment that they can. I heard a quote and Brod just brought it to my mind that said, “your environment is more important than your heritage.” As we look at and get a broader, or maybe even a better sense of the disparities, the gaps, the inequality that surrounds individuals in this country, I think it’s vitally important that leaders make sure that the environment that they create is one of exposure, is one of positivity, and one, one of hope for their, for their people. If they really want to make a difference, we can, you know, start there.

Broderick:
In a leadership role, I think it’s important to listen. These are people’s experiences. And recognizing that maybe you don’t know, and the reality that you did not know it, but there’s a segment of America that has had no choice but to know it. Right? They had to know this. This is like, when we talk about, as Al says, heritage and environment, this is not just their heritage, this has structured their environment right now. And not that demonizing anyone to say that, “Oh, it’s your fault that this happened.” But recognizing that, no, this is a person’s reality. This is affecting their current situation. And if you can do something at this point to help make that better, not a handout or, or anything, but can you help position them in a place where they can make that situation better? I think as a leader, that’s something you should consider doing.

Hannah: 
Yeah there’s no question, listening to your people. Everybody’s different, right? As a leader, part of your job is to figure out what makes different people tick and what are the different things that different people need to drive them to help you succeed what you’re trying to succeed as an organization. And it is, it takes a lot of listening. It takes a lot of back and forth, because you’re not necessarily gonna get it right on the first go, and recognize that there are so many people who may have grown up in constructs and structures that didn’t allow them to feel safe, to voice what may be getting in the way. So we’re working real hard to create that listening, and that space for listening and then taking action is one of the best things you can do right now.

Hannah: 
I’d love to hear from your perspective, how does the intersection of wealth management and corporate diversity really come to bear and what are some things that corporations could be doing to really drive that inclusion forward?

Broderick: 
I would, I would challenge people to really think, especially those leaders out there, when we talk about diversity and inclusion, I focus more on equity and productivity. 50 to 60% of employees spend at least three hours a week worried about their finances. 71% of them say that their financial situation worry impacts their daily workday. Right? You have a lot of individuals who are first generation grads, first generation people actually making good money, but don’t really know what to do with it, because of the reality that I don’t have the uncle that I can borrow $10,000 from. My mom, God bless her, but I can’t call her up and say, “Hey mom, I need $25,000 because X, Y, Z happened.” So there’s little room for me to make errors with what it is I’m doing and how I’m planning. Those nuances need to be taken into consideration and the education that employers can help give to their employees to mitigate those stresses would be invaluable.

Al: 
One of the things that leaders and employers can do to help even that playing field, so to speak, to make things equitable as much as they can is make the resources available. Right? So if you know a Broderick or, you know, someone else, like he said in a not as good of situation, did not have the financial knowledge or the financial wellness in order to make the proper decisions to help close said wealth gap or racial wealth gap that we’re, that we’re speaking of as an added benefit to the corporation, to their employees, maybe they could bring in a Reveal Wealth, right? So we can bring about diversity and inclusion through the utilization of financial literacy.

 

About Reveal Wealth:

Reveal Wealth, is a Maryland-based wealth management and financial planning firm. Their mission is to Reveal the strategies and financial tools that have been utilized throughout history to protect, accumulate, and ultimately distribute wealth. Learn more at werevealwealth.com.

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Conscient Strategies welcomes Carole Zawatsky

Conscient Strategies welcomes Carole Zawatsky

We are pleased to welcome Carole R. Zawatsky to the team.

Carole has worked in the arts, culture, and non-profit sector for over 25 years, and is known for facilitating dynamic partnerships between the funding community and the institutions she has directed. Most recently, she served as CEO of the Edlavitch DCJCC, where she raised over $20 million for a complete renovation of the 65,000 square foot historic building. Over the course of her tenure, Carole also expanded programming and brought national recognition to the Center for its world class arts and culture offerings. She stepped down from the position in June 2020 to join the Conscient Strategies team.

Known for building strong leadership teams that drive institutions forward, Carole approaches her work with optimism, enthusiasm, and creativity. She believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to leverage their natural talents builds the self-confidence necessary to grow as professionals. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

Carole’s leadership expertise make her an ideal addition to the Conscient Strategies team, and one that will surely be an asset to our clients.  To learn more about Carole, click here.  And, please join us in welcoming her to our team by sending her an email.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

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