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Deal Makers Interview: The Truth Behind Failed Acquisitions

Deal Makers Interview: The Truth Behind Failed Acquisitions

In the Deal Makers Series, we interview leaders, experts, and innovators in the Merger & Acquisition and the Private Equity space about how they get successful deals done. The series highlights perspectives of investors and buy and sell-side advisors working across industries and geographies.

For the latest installment, we interviewed a confidential source—who’s been on the front lines of both the U.S. military, AND a failed acquisition. 

What were some of the biggest building blocks that helped you achieve your leadership position?

It starts with having the opportunity to lead, discovering what kind of leader you are, leading, failing and/or succeeding and then applying what did and did not work. I think my first encounter was in junior varsity sports. I was captain of the football and wrestling team. It put me in a position where I had to deal with conflict. As a teenager how do you resolve differences among teammates who are the same age and have the same experience as you? This experience helped me discover that my leadership style is to lead by example and by motivating others. Next at the age of 18, I was a Shift Manager for Taco Bell. I made lots of mistakes! One mistake I remember came as a result of me being put in charge of employee schedules. There were these three women who were the backbone of the company—these women worked the day shift, and they were amazing. And because of that, I thought maybe it made more sense for them to be dispersed across the shifts, so I moved one to the night shift—They almost killed me because what I didn’t know was they all commuted together and had the same child care provider. Without asking them I upset their lives beyond the job. Once I was made aware I set things back as they were but that taught me the importance of being an informed leader. I was lucky to have these opportunities to make these mistakes early and not have them negatively impact my career. I was able to try and, in some cases, fail, but that failure wasn’t permanent.

The next and biggest building block was in the Marine Corps. Whatever natural or nurtured leadership ability you have, they make it exponentially better. The first thing you learn about leadership is that to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. In being a good follower, you learn how to help your leaders be better leaders. When you become a leader, it enables you to see who is and isn’t being a good follower and where and who needs more of your leadership attention. From day one of bootcamp they ingrained in us their leadership traits. There are fourteen of them that we memorize with the ACRONYM JJDIDTIEBUCKLE. And now 28 years late I can still name twelve of them.

You’ve worked for a lot of organizations— how do you know good leadership?

When I look at a potential leader above, next to, or below me, there are three things I evaluate:

  1. Command presence
  2. Command voice
  3. Command grip (this is the hardest)

Most people know what command presence and voice are. Command grip is rare and the best way to explain command grip— let’s say someone is five levels above you, but you feel like they gave the direction to you directly. It’s having the feeling of knowing you need to follow their direction even when they aren’t in the room. It’s following the direction even when you know they will never find out you didn’t follow the direction. 

Good leaders come prepared and have a system. They asses the talent against hitting the organizations goals within their system. They also recognize the talent they have may not be the best talent to achieve those goals. Initially they adapt their system to talent, and at every cycle they upgrade the talent to hit the optimal efficiency.

So, they bring the team along with them to meet the vision and goals. I have taken over companies that were a mess. And I knew quickly if the person was not part of the long-term solution, but I might need that person for a little while, with some tradeoffs.

You’ve worked on a variety of deals and acquisitions. What are some of the factors that you think contribute to a successful acquisition?

The successful ones do a lot of due diligence up front—and not just the on paper due diligence. If you are going through an acquisition—it is critical to balance your due diligence with not wanting to get the word out while the deal is fragile and hasn’t been finalized. The good ones figure out how far to go down and across the organization—talking to the right people. And too many of them stop at an executive level and don’t get the relevant information. The good ones understand that and dive in.

And the other key factor to an integration is backing up what you say. Actions speak louder than words. You can say all the words in the world. And typically, the owner is charismatic and a good speaker. And then there is a trust curve that just drops once the transaction occurs.

I recently was part of an organization that was acquired. They had all the strategic communications, change management and used all the buzz words. But when it was time to go and do it, nothing happened.

I distinctly remember that at one presentation they spoke to the top five reasons why acquisitions fail. Number one being that talent leaves. And they talked about how important talent was. But then their actions didn’t back that up. They started making decisions based on behaviors and personalities that everyone knew didn’t have the ability to follow through.

I had the opportunity to stay after the merger but chose not to because of how I watched them continuously make uninformed and what I thought were the wrong decisions. I challenged them on how and where they were getting their information from and why they weren’t verifying the accuracy or truthfulness. There was this unearned and unwarranted blind trust given to people that were misguiding the post-acquisition organization and I wanted no part of that.

I’ve taken over organizations in the past, brought in as CEO or President of a company on a few occasions. Some were on the precipice of bankruptcy. When I come in, the first thing I do is sit down with each and every employee and customer. Those meetings had simple agendas. For the employees its was: 1) What are you good at? 2) What do you like to do? 3) How does that match with the organization’s needs? There were some who were honest and understood the concept—they were the ones that would stay with me forever.

And it was always so intriguing to me when having these meetings, and hearing from people why they are so important, or only speak of themselves in positives because that is what they expect you to want to hear. And why are they talking about others in a negative way? Or why are they giving me unsolicited advice?
A method I would use—I would have a 1:1 with two different people, and if I got conflicting information, I would then bring the two together and then ask both of them the same questions I asked in the 1:1. It was clear based on who changed their story where the conflicting information came from.

You ended up leaving that company—what were the items that led to that decision, and what was the thing that was the final straw for you?

There was a lot of initial excitement in the strategic communications about the combined revenue and goals. They gave big raises immediately. And then a significant retention bonus to stay – but they offered those things before they had all the details. I was very open with leadership. I could see immediately that my decision was centered on whether I wanted to spend a year and a half convincing leadership on the value I would bring to the team.

I knew that their diligence was based on overly optimistic financials and unachievable goals. And that they weren’t going to come within 20% of their growth goal. I am not interested in signing up for something that is built on false premises. And they immediately chose who most of us knew were the wrong people to keep. And I knew I don’t want to stay working side by side with people who were all talk and no action. The phrases that came to mind was not my monkeys, not my zoo or not my clowns, not my circus. Pick your analogy.

What do you think makes mergers and acquisitions in the federal contracting sector unique?

In this sector, there are a lot of contractual and regulatory considerations when undergoing an acquisition. But it is key to understand these elements to ensure that you structure your acquisition to optimize those considerations instead of driving failure on day one. Typically, you buy the company and the next day their name is gone. In the acquisitions I’ve been through, we were very careful to maintain the name and branding to optimize the return on legacy contracts by the date of the last contract. There is some risk, but ensuring you can keep the legacy contracts – often the strategic driver of a transaction- can make or break a deal. I know too many stories of bigs buying a small business, and the contract ends the next day. And, this happens all too often. There are companies with small business classifications, and if they are acquired, that benefit disappears. So do the contracts that are based on those classifications.

As you think about going forward, being part of an organization that has been very acquisitive, how will you try to shape their approach to acquisitions?

I have been lucky in my career and have seen so many experiences from different vantage points and almost every perspective—as the head of the company, as the newcomer doing the turnaround, and as a middle manager of a larger organization among other positions.

Where I am now, the major acquisitions are probably behind us. They were successful in one area, and then acquired a few others. They were then able to use set aside advantages to maximize growth. They are now at that perfect inflection point for rapid growth. So, they have a huge opportunity to leverage the set aside advantages with the capabilities and past performance.

It is very cliché, but—it is all about people. Numbers are important, but what makes numbers better? People.

There are two things to consider once the acquisition is complete. One, make sure to have an integration team. A group of people devoted to ensuring a good transition. Leadership needs to remember that they already have full time jobs and the teams of people they are acquiring also have full-time jobs before the merger. Asking and expecting any of them to also lead the transition is unrealistic. You should make sure to have the resources to handle that. If I am going to acquire, let me beef up HR and increase capabilities of other back-office departments so that the executives can focus on the people side.

And two, if I were buying a company, I would tell my integration team that the most important metric is meeting in person with everyone. And I’ll meet with them too. I’ll ask things like, tell me three to five people and things you are most concerned about. Or the three to five people with the most potential. Then document and triangulate the information. If everyone you spoke with has glowing recommendations about a person then they are most likely true. If 50% of them are positive and 50% are negative, then you need to dive deeper into why. Is there an organizational divide? Are all the positive comments from employees that are concerned about job security? Dive deep into the personnel, organizational and processes and the relationships and other factors that cross all of them.

Teach them through how you ask your questions. That is one of the many elements of command grip—holding you accountable through your words and actions. One can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

One of my operating principles has always been, I know I am doing my job right when I’m not doing anyone else’s job. If I have the right talent, deployed across the right system we will achieve our organizational goals.

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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Jim “Big Red” Wetrich

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Jim “Big Red” Wetrich

For our leadership segment, we interviewed Jim Wetrich, author of Stifled: Where Good Leaders Go Wrong and CEO of The Wetrich Group, a healthcare management consulting firm providing advisory support and guidance—substantive, thorough, strategic, and tactical—to partner clients.

Tell us a little about your current role and how you got to where you are today as a leader and author.

I founded Wetrich Group in 2001. For the last 8 years, I have been coaching, consulting, and mentoring innovative leaders. I am a certified coach and recently joined the Professional Coach’s board of directors for the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Though my career had been mostly focused in healthcare, I am very much a student of business and love working with leaders with businesses from across various industries.

You recently published your first book. What led you to put pen to paper at this stage?

This book has been in the works for many years and something I have been wanting to do since I left my last full-time job at Mölnlycke Health. Stifled: Where Good Leaders Go Wrong is very much a reflection of my own career and experience with leadership. I have always had very strong feelings about certain things involving leadership. Following a 40-year career in the health care space, 10 of which were spent working in hospitals, including hospital administration, and hospital consulting, I also ran two large supply chain organizations. I also spent 22 years in the medical device and pharmaceutical business and worked with three companies – Abbott Laboratories, Reapplix, and Mölnlycke Health Care -part of the Wallenberg family Investor AB portfolio companies. More often than not, leaders don’t completely understand their impact on an organization and how their messages can be deemed inconsistent. Most of the leaders I have met and worked around have generally been well-meaning and well-intended people, but sometimes their actions have consequences, causing firestorms and controversies.

There are many books on different types of leadership like ‘authentic leadership’ and the rest. Still, I thought it would be interesting to point out some of the failures and troubles people get into when leading. I also think, imagine my first years in business in 1981, your boss told you what, how, why, and when to do your tasks; you worked for that boss, and they owned you, and this was the environment. Fast-forward 40yrs that doesn’t work anymore; it probably hasn’t worked for a long time, but a lot of people get away with the ‘command and control’ type leadership style. It is an entirely different world now, and with covid, everything has changed.

As you think of the qualities of a great leader or manager, what are some of those essential qualities?

It is a series of questions, who are you and what do you stand for; what is important to you, and what people need to know about what is important to you. Self-awareness is so critical, and that includes knowing what you do not know. I have been shocked by some of the messages from former GE leaders talking about ‘I wish I said I don’t know’ more often. Today with so much specialization and information, you can’t possibly get close to begin knowing everything about anything; it is not possible. So being cognizant of your limitations is very important.

Also important are humility, authenticity, transparency. There is a considerable gap with leaders not being open and honest with their employees either about the status of the business or their personal situation. I can’t tell you how many people I coach now who have been identified as high potential within their organization but can’t get any clarity on what that means–what is or if there is a success plan and how to continue to develop; this is a transparency issue. Integrity is also important; it surprises me there are still significant lapses with that. The last things on my list are putting other people first and yourself second, audaciousness, and grit.

How do you balance bringing the leadership strengths from the past and incorporate what works now?

Leadership involves a process of continuous development, growth, and improvement. I think some of the problems leaders get into is that they lean on what worked for them in the past and haven’t necessarily adjusted to what is working now or what will be working in the future. This was partly why I went back to grad school to get my MBA. I got my MBA when I was 52 because I felt, in the late 2000s, lots of things had changed. So, I wanted to refresh, retool, and reorient, and I am glad I did. It was a critical time in my life where I could sit and think of where I had been and think about what I would want to look like going forward.

How would you describe your leadership style and approach?

I generally like the servant leadership model and most of its tenets. I try to put people first, and the most important thing for me is that people grow and develop and to provide opportunities to make this happen. It may be that the growth may have to come from outside the organization. A downside for us being a small business is you can’t offer a lot of opportunities for many people. But it is about what is important to the individual. How can I help you grow to do the position you are doing now if you want to stay here or close gaps in your background to help you find opportunities externally if that is the direction you want to take.  Though I understand it, we focus too much on the hard stuff like hitting numbers and targets—profit, sales, market share—and not enough on the softer skills, which is critical.

What would you include if you were to build a leadership starter pack for people leading this ever-changing, multicultural business environment?

It will be having as many case studies as possible on good practices of model organizations, psychological safety, integrity, and diversity. I will also add helping people speak their minds and speak up as leaders often assume that if people don’t speak up, they don’t have anything important to say and tend to minimize those people. It may be very much so that, referenced from an appraisal of my book, “sometimes the biggest or loudest voice in the room isn’t the best voice in the room.” So how are we making sure that we get people to participate; I love the term ‘Lean-in’ as all people need to lean in, need a seat at the table, and voices need to be heard as much as possible.

As you think about your book, the future of your work as a coach and leader, what are you looking forward to?

For me, one of the most exciting things is being able to branch out of healthcare and working with people across industries, differing businesses, and the globe. This is super exciting because I can get a sense of what is happening in diverse companies; surprisingly, is how much they are still operating under ‘command and control.’ When I was in grad school, someone worked in a huge, well-known company where the environment was you couldn’t just go mingling with and talking to people; if you wanted to talk with your bosses’ boss, you needed your boss’s approval. This just blows my mind, and it is still prevalent today; there is still this siloed bureaucracy and chain of command culture. It is so foreign for me going back to my time at Abbott, things were very open, and you could talk to anybody. So, I don’t quite understand that and believe that we must continue to evolve and democratize more employment.

 

 

About The Wetrich Group:

The Wetrich Group is a health care management consulting firm founded in 2001 by James G. Wetrich. They pride themselves on their experience, each of their associates has over 25 years of experience in a variety of senior leadership positions. They offer comprehensive advisory support and consulting resources to their partner clients. Through leveraging their experience, they provide their clients with substantive, thorough strategic and tactical guidance, rooted deep in sound execution. Their consultants focus on creating value for their business and provider clients. Learn more at wetrichgroup.com.

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How to Develop Leadership & Culture to Optimize Value

How to Develop Leadership & Culture to Optimize Value

In acquisitions, both sellers and buyers spend great effort in financial and operational due diligence, yet far too many transactions fail. Why?

Leadership and culture are critical to a successful acquisition, but frequently they’re ignored. For sellers, recognizing that leadership and culture are linked to enterprise value helps them mitigate risk and drive value in preparation for sale. For buyers, leadership and culture play a critical role in ensuring a smooth post-transaction integration.

Key Learnings:

Leverage real-life examples to learn why the evaluation of leadership and culture matter leading up to a transaction.

Understand what a pre-transaction leadership and cultural assessment looks like.

Learn how addressing these types of risks can drive value for sellers and buyers.

About Value Scout:

Value Scout is the first value creation platform. It enables entrepreneurs to pinpoint their business value today, create and drive a plan to create the value they’ll need tomorrow, and exit on their terms. Value Scout enables entrepreneurs to take a deliberate, proactive approach to value creation. Business leaders and their advisors use it to identify, plan for, and drive all their value creation activities – from growing revenue and increasing efficiencies to improving cash flows and strengthening leadership teams. Learn more at getvaluescout.com.

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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Roya Vasseghi

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Roya Vasseghi

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Roya Vasseghi, Owner of Vasseghi Law PLLC, about employment legalities in a post-pandemic workforce.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Hello, everyone. Welcome to our next installment of Conscient Leaders. I’m so excited to be joined today by Roya Vasseghi of Vasseghi Law. Roya, do you want to tell our friends and listeners a little bit about you and about your law firm?

Roya:
My name is Roy Vasseghi. I have my own law firm, Vasseghi Law PLLC in Fairfax. One of the major areas of my practice is employment law. Um, so I work with employers mostly on their compliance with the changing employment laws, training, investigations, if they need it.

Hannah:
We have so many clients who are really struggling with some of the return to work and, um, and just managing the ebb and flow of the pandemic that I thought it would be great to talk to you a little bit about some of the things you’re seeing in your practice and some of the legal perspective on how corporations take themselves forward in this fairly murky environment. When you’re in an office setting, people have the ability for the informal mentorship in informal discussions with superiors and the people who are on video and who have chosen to stay home for safety reasons don’t have that informal or more like on the go get to know people, um, that luxury, I guess you could call it. Um, and so then when it comes to promotions and salary increases, how do you compare the two people who presumably are both up for the same promotion, but one hasn’t been necessarily been afforded the same opportunities just by nature of being in the office or not being in the office?

Roya:
From the company standpoint, they’re going to have to try to keep, you know, they can’t just say out of sight, out of mind and then wait for the performance evaluation to say, well, I haven’t seen insert name, you know, so-and-so, um, Jane we’ll say Jane, I haven’t seen Jane for the past six months. I don’t know if she’s doing her job. Uh, we’re going to give the promotion to her next door neighbor who comes into the office everyday. Like I think that would be, um, pretty clear discrimination and preferential treatment, assuming, everything, assuming all else is equal or, you know, just as you’ve said that they’re getting the opportunity, the other ones, their coworkers getting the opportunity because they’re in the office. Um, in an ideal world, you have managers that are, that are good managers and they’re giving just as much attention to their in-person colleagues as they are to the people that are on zoom.

They’ve got regular check-ins, they’ve got ways of communicating with their remote employees. I mean, like by phone, good old fashioned phones so that they’re making sure to keep those, um, those employees that are working at home in the loop and making sure that they’re still getting projects, assignments and things like that that are preferable. I mean, the, a lot of it is also gonna, you know, that’s from the employer standpoint. Unfortunately, you’re going to have really great people that can work from home and are really good at saying engaged, and you’re going to have the people that just kind of put their head down and do their work, and they don’t know how to be engaged, and it’s really on the company and the managers to make sure that they’re keeping those people engaged and not indirectly or inadvertently discriminating against them or treating them differently because of whatever conditions kept them at home.

Hannah:
I’m curious, um, it’s not illegal to require vaccinations of your employees. However, it is not necessarily recommended as it could be seen as discriminatory?

Roya:
It can, it can be illegal. You can, you can have a mandatory vaccine policy, but you have to do it recognizing that there will be, um, exemptions, medical exemptions to that mandatory vaccine policy, and you’ve got to make sure to get that information, um, you know, make, put that information out with your policy so that your employees understand that they are not obligated if, if there are certain conditions that prevent them from getting a vaccine that they’re not going to lose their job, that they don’t have to get the vaccine. There is an exemption, and then there are religious exemptions as well. Um, that also has to be clearly communicated with the policy I have been recommending. Um, and some people, some companies have been doing mandatory vaccines. I have just been recommending to strongly encourage the employees to get it and not make it mandatory, to avoid kind of having to solicit, you know, accidentally solicit medical information that you shouldn’t have as an employer that you shouldn’t have had access to and then now you’re, you know. People are very casual about the vaccine thing, right. Um, have you been vaccinated? Like I ask that question all the time in my circles, but as an employer, I would think twice before I just, you know, jump into that conversation or divide my employees based on who’s been vaccinated and who’s not been vaccinated. There are ways to do the mandatory policy, but employers just have to be really careful, um, about how they administer it and the information that they’re getting back.

Hannah:
What else might business leaders want to take into account as they’re thinking through considerations for a hybrid work environment or a total virtual work environment.

Roya:
If the employers are requiring everybody to come back into the office and people want to stay behind and have remote work as an accommodation because they’ve been able to do it for the past 12, 14 months, um, there is guidance that says just because there’s been remote work in a pandemic, it doesn’t mean that that needs to be a permanent accommodation. I think a lot of those questions are going to be coming up. So why, why do you need the accommodation? Um, I think it’s going to be really hard for employers to say if the accommodation is actually necessary. I think it’s going to be hard for employers who have been remote working and providing remote work opportunity to go back and say, we can’t do that because we’re not equipped because it happened, and we were all just fine. Uh, but I think there’s going to be a lot of requests like that, a lot of issues that employers are working through, as far as the, you know, when they want to bring people back in the office, having the request to stay permanently working from home.

Hannah:
Roya, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Um, this was fascinating to hear some of the things that you’re running into in your practice and I do love how the things you work on and the things we work on overlap, so, so nicely. Um, thank you everybody for tuning in, and we look forward to talking with other Conscient Leaders in the next few months.

 

About Vasseghi Law:

Vasseghi Law PLLC is a business and employment law firm located in Fairfax, Virginia. Roya Vasseghi founded Vasseghi Law after honing her advocacy skills working for several prominent Northern Virginia and national firms. Vasseghi Law’s services range from civil litigation to employment counseling. Roya represents individuals and companies in a wide range of civil disputes including employment-related claims, contract disputes, and partnership disputes. Roya also works with her clients to stay on top of changing employment laws and regulations with an eye toward avoiding costly litigation. Learn more at vasseghilaw.com.

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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Michelle Hairston

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Michelle Hairston

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Michelle Hairston, CHRO of one of the largest home builders in the country, to get insight on how organizations can navigate the ups and downs of turbulent times.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Hi everybody, welcome to our next edition of Conscient Leaders. I’m so excited to be joined here with my friend, Michelle Hairston. For those of you who are just getting up to speed, Conscient Leaders is our Conscient Strategies fun conversations—we love talking with leaders around the country and the world about what is going on in their neck of the woods and what they’re learning on a day-to-day basis about their own leadership and their organization’s growth. So today I’m super excited to introduce you to Michelle Hairston. She is the CHRO at Pulte Homes. Michelle, do you want to tell us a little bit about Pulte and your position?

Michelle:
Sure, thanks Hannah, nice to see you. I work with PulteGroup, we’re one of the nation’s largest home builders. We are the oldest home builder, founded in 1950, and we’ve built over 750,000 homes. And I’m the CHRO, so I lead our HR team and our talent strategy and how we bring in great talent, develop great talent, plan for succession, and many other things in that space.

Hannah:
Everybody talks about, “2020 was the bumpy ride.” I always love to look at, what was one of the things you were most proud of as you kind of went through the turbulence of 2020?

Michelle:
Yeah. You know, 2020, and I dare say 2021 will be very similar in this regard and you know, what I think I’m most proud of for myself, but also with the leaders I work with at Pulte is there was no playbook for anything we experienced in 2020. Market condition changes, pandemic, the civil rights movement kind of re-emerging and social injustice coming into the workplace like it never has before. I mean, any one of those things I think would have been a major event. And all three of those—and then some—in a year, that there’s really no play for [that]. I’m most proud of how we leaned into our guiding principles, stayed true to kind of our North Star of what we put in…important in our values in our company, how we want people to make decisions, and how we really leaned in to empathy, to communication, to transparency. When sometimes I think it’s really hard to say, “I don’t know.” And we didn’t back off of the fact that we didn’t have the answers to a lot of things. But that we were engaged in trying to figure out the best solutions, keeping safety first, our employees first, and really working through our guiding principles as our North Stars for our decision-making.

Hannah:
I would imagine that really fostering culture within your organization over the last year has been one of the other challenges. What have you guys been doing to do that, as you have teams all over, and helping everybody else align to your values?

Michelle:
I think this has been one of the biggest challenges and will remain one of the biggest challenges as I think people’s expectation around what work looks like will be forever changed post-pandemic. And I think for us, what we really focused on was connection and communication. So, constant communication with our leadership teams, daily calls, weekly calls, individual check-ins, just saying, “Hey, I know we’re struggling. What do we need to do to, what are you hearing from people?”, you know, is what we did. Is it landing the way we wanted it to land and get really active two-way communication on what’s happening with the priorities of the organization or how we’re trying to move things forward. I think the second piece on an individual basis is ensuring there’s connection. How are managers connecting with our employees, how are employees connecting with each other? So much of our culture has been based on Bill Pulte and how he founded the company, and it being really family first and employee first. And so making sure that in the pace of play and the hecticness of navigating through the pandemic and the market environment, that really just took off in home building, that we stayed true to making the time to check in with each other.

Hannah:
As we look to 2021, we know that in as much as we’re all hoping for a bit of a calmer year, we can expect that it won’t be—it just won’t be. So what is a piece of advice you would leave with people today?

Michelle:
I think my big word for the year last year was “empathy.” And I think it holds true for 2021. I think we all need to have empathy and patience with ourselves. I think we need to have empathy and patience with what our team members are experiencing. And I think we need to lead with empathy every day, to appreciate that whether people are struggling with pandemic, health concerns, whether they’re struggling with childcare concerns, managing virtual schooling—which is an unbelievable feat—or struggling with coming to terms with some of the racial injustices and systematic, social unrest and different things that have kind of come to the forefront. And I think helped people see things differently last year, that it’s important to keep empathy front and center and to really ensure that you’re listening, that you’re open to hearing different perspectives, and that you’re making the time to connect.

Hannah:
That’s great. Thank you so much, Michelle. We truly appreciate all the genius that you’ve brought to the table today.

Hannah:
Thank you. Nice to see you Hannah.

 

About Pulte Homes:

PulteGroup, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in more than 40 markets throughout the country. Through its brand portfolio that includes Centex, Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta Homes, American West and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, the company is one of the industry’s most versatile homebuilders able to meet the needs of multiple buyer groups and respond to changing consumer demand. PulteGroup’s purpose is building incredible places where people can live their dreams. Learn more at pulte.com.

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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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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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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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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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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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