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Warning: Assumptions Ahead

Warning: Assumptions Ahead

We make assumptions all the time—especially when we assume that everyone else is just like us.

For example…

  • If you’re excited about an opportunity, you might assume that others ought to be enthusiastic as well.
  • If you feel left out in a particular situation, you might assume that everyone else would also feel left out.

When we remember that not everyone is like us, we enter a scenario with a more open mind. What if you approached a situation with curiosity rather than assumptions? How would that reframe what you expected? How would that shift your original approach?

 When we set our assumptions aside and bring forward our curiosity about others, we create a safe space for meaningful dialogue.

Making assumptions limits your thinking.
Being curious and asking questions expands your own perspective and creates space for a more open conversation. It invites others involved in the conversation to shape your understanding. As a leader, understanding others is critical to effectiveness.

Staying curious and open-minded is critical to effective meetings.
Have you ever attended a meeting thinking, “oh, I know exactly how she’s going to react to this” or “I need to get my ideas out there before he starts in again.” Have you ever discovered later that you had misinterpreted a coworker’s tone or the intention behind something they shared during a meeting? How does making these types of assumptions in meetings affect how you act and react? Instead, try entering a meeting space with curiosity. Rather than making assumptions based on what you think you know about your coworkers, try asking open-ended questions to advance the conversation.

There is one exception to the rule of suspending assumptions—the need to assume positive intent.
When we assume that everyone comes to the conversation with good intentions, we will be less likely to make additional assumptions about what others think or mean throughout the conversation or in subsequent interactions. When we set our assumptions aside and bring forward our curiosity about a subject or about how others are showing up, we create space for meaningful dialogue. Oftentimes, this then leads to increased collaboration and innovation across teams and organizations.

 As a leader, understanding others is critical to effectiveness.

By questioning your own assumptions, you open your mind to alternate possibilities.
This reminds you that you’re seeing the situation through your lens, while the other person’s experience is filtered through their particular—and different—lens. #SNOITPMUSSA

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.

You may also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

“One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table…Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.” For the most recent installment of our Deal Makers series, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm.

read more
Connection before Correction

Connection before Correction

Connection before correction is imperative for leaders. When people feel connected to you, they will be more likely to support you and receive your feedback. This concept is easy to understand, yet so easy to overlook.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

4 + 7 =

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

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 our most recent installment, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm. Jack holds a degree from NYU Stern School of Business and founded Net Worth Solutions in 1999.

CS: What is your current role, and can you tell us a little about how you got there?

I am the CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm. I have the pleasure and honor of heading up the Merger and Acquisition division of the firm. I started the Net Worth Solutions part of the company back in 1999 and then merged with Avalon Securities probably eight or nine years ago. I met the owner and CEO of Avalon 25 years ago on a transaction where we were representing clients on opposite sides. Over the years, we developed a great relationship and decided to merge our companies, becoming Avalon Net Worth. At the time of the merger, Net Worth was an M&A company; joining forces with Avalon allowed us to expand our impact as Broker-Dealers. Our clients represent a mix of private and public companies.

CS: Tell us about your experience in M&A, as an investment banker and having done it yourself.

Prior to merging with Avalon, I had started and sold two companies and I was looking for the third leg of the stool—my third opportunity in life. We operate in the M&A business with “middle-market” companies who have enterprise values of $25 million to $500 million. I wanted to change the client experience. I believed I could make an impact by helping someone recognize their company had value, understand what that value is, and choose the best financial venue for selling their company.

So I started Net Worth Solutions and now, it is 24 years later, and I am still having a good time. I have a passion for working with financially troubled companies, helping them find solutions, and easing the stress in their lives.

CS: Help us understand what you do for the companies you work for.

It starts with a personal meeting—obviously in the last two years with COVID, it has been more difficult. But whether it is on Zoom or an in-person meeting, I believe it is critical to connect with the client, to discover what motivates them to seek our support. We get a clear picture of the client’s needs both emotionally and practically.

Whether clients want to sell their business, acquire another business, or need growth capital for their existing business, we are one of the few investment banks who help companies who are financially stressed.

Not all companies need the same solutions. One company may need to sell, another should be making acquisitions to round out their businesses. And yet another may not be large enough in volume or profitability to bring to market. If the company has stress, we look at what created the stress and what the value of the company would be in somebody else’s infrastructure.

By taking the time and interest in the beginning, we can be flexible and creative with options.

CS: How do support your clients in preparing themselves and their company to sell? Specifically, do you address operations, financials, or culture?

For this portion of the transaction, we look to professionals like yourselves to address culture, organizational strategy, and prepare the company for the transition in leadership.

As far as the financials, perhaps we would have a CFO get their books ready for an examination. Since we are experts in marketing the company to the right buyer for maximum purchase price, we put our focus there.

CS: You’ve worked on a variety of deals and acquisitions from both sides of the table. What are some of the factors that you think contribute to a successful merger or acquisition?

Getting the seller clear about their choices and prepared for what they can anticipate is the first step.

Additionally, we have implemented presenting a Quality of Earning Report. When a potential buyer is looking at the company specs, they will notice an independent auditor has completed a financial assessment and has identified any relevant issues. When it comes to evaluating an ROI and completing the actual purchase and sale agreement, the buyer can feel confident they have the information necessary to support their decisions.

Along the lines of supporting the seller and buyer in their transaction, we have become known for including a Working Capital Assessment. We discuss the working capital that is necessary for the company and evaluate what is available. We help determine how excess working capital should be handled. Completing the Working Capital Assessment has saved us from the retrenching or renegotiation that occurs in many sales.

Our experiences have taught us that the attention we give to the Quality of Earning Report and the Working Capital Assessment supports our successful closing rate, which is over 90%.

CS: From your perspective, what are the factors that really drive the success of the acquisition?

One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table. It is important for the buyer to really understand the philosophy of the business they are acquiring and hopefully, it mirrors the philosophy of their existing business. Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.

When we have recognized a cultural difference between the two companies, we acknowledge the different operating styles, different philosophies, or different structures, and suggest they receive support from professionals who will help them integrate and merge properly. We make it clear and ensure they understand the complexities and the need for professional support. We can see where there are potential issues, and we highlight the need to be proactive in addressing these issues for the sale and acquisition to be successful.

CS: How do you go about identifying those cultural differences?

Interestingly, they begin to show up in the conversations and due diligence efforts by both parties; either the questions they ask or the way they answer questions. Since we are actively involved in those conversations, we are attuned to potential risk factors and listen intently for expectations or conflicting perspectives.

In general, we want to explore whether the selling company will stay intact, which—if any—current managers will remain in place, will there be a transition of power, or the magnitude of the infrastructure transition. These answers help us determine if the companies are parallel in their thought processes and what kind of support they may need moving forward after the acquisition is complete.

CS: How do you evaluate the leaders who will be moving forward for their fit in the organization?

At the onset, we look to understand the principal’s role and history with the company; did they start the company, did they inherit the company, what generation of inheritance is there, what portion of the company are they involved in, do they meet with clients, do they take care of financial aspects? We want a clear picture of their strengths and potential areas of weakness.

Additionally, in our conversations we are evaluating the fit for leadership by observing their overall attitude, how they handle stress, the respect they show during meetings, how they make decisions, the depth of their company awareness, do their day-to-day activities match their title, and their presence. Presence—or lack thereof—is very telling.

CS: Have you ever seen a situation where the leadership or the culture negatively impacts the success after the transaction closes?

Yes, I have seen it happen. Adjusting to a new leadership dynamic is often more difficult than anticipated, and surprises do happen. We may have overestimated synergies, the buyer may have mis-aligned expectations, and/or unexpected cultural or leadership issues may arise.

CS: How about on the flip side? Where have you seen strong leadership or cultures drive growth?

Absolutely! When a buyer can enhance productivity or the management team could save costs or drive the company in a positive direction, subsequently it puts the seller at ease. If the acquiring company brings an asset the selling company is currently missing, it becomes something we can leverage. When we recognize how to best match the seller and the buyer, everyone is happy.

CS: Not only have you helped other companies, but you have merged companies yourself. When you merged, what was the most difficult part?

That first morning after closing the deal… I parked my car in the same Manhattan garage I had parked in for years. I walked to the corner, and I became very emotional. I felt lost and did not know where I belonged. I had lost my “place” and did not know what was next. It took some time to find my balance, re-group, and discover what was next; ultimately, Net Worth Solutions was born.

CS: When Net Worth and Avalon came together, were there difficulties after that transaction?

Yeah, a bit. Avalon’s owner and I were relatively successful running our own businesses, and when we worked on a transaction together it was a positive experience. I was attracted to their strengths and attitudes about business and running their firm. Over the years, I had developed a great deal of respect for them and saw the potential in joining forces. I knew our personalities were a bit different, as were our philosophies. It was those differences that I believed would benefit our merger.

However, adjusting to the differences was more difficult for me than I expected. It was the very differences I admired so much that were the most difficult aspects for me to integrate. What attracted me most to my business partner was exactly what I needed to adjust to. I discovered that as I became more flexible, I was able to step back and allow the differences to coexist. Our differences have made us stronger as leaders and our company more successful.

CS: As you think about the next few years, what are you most excited about?

We are one of the few investment banks that support people who are under financial stress. I have met past clients on the street, and I nearly did not recognize them. They no longer carry the weight of stress and anxiety. They give me a hug and say, “thank you for helping me save my company, thank you for helping me save my home and my mortgage.” I look forward to meeting and supporting new clients, helping them see what is possible, and ultimately resolving their struggle.

We’re so grateful to Jack for sharing his expertise and insights on M&A. Check back here for more future installments of the Deal Makers Series!

Learn more about Leadership & Culture Due Diligence »

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.

You may also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Scott Taylor

Deal Makers Interview Series: Scott Taylor

We interviewed Scott Taylor, attorney and principal at SmolenPlevy—a practice primarily focused on general corporate and business law, mergers and acquisitions, transactional planning and structuring, and business succession and exit planning.

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

14 + 14 =

Decoding Body Language and Energy Shifts

Decoding Body Language and Energy Shifts

Have you ever observed what is not being said in a conversation?

For instance: you walk into a meeting and notice an immediate, intense silence, as though all the air has been sucked out of the room.

Or you’re in a conversation with someone, and you feel there is a disconnect between what the person is saying and how they are acting. “I’m excited to tackle this new project,” says a colleague, but they avoid eye contact, shift nervously from side-to-side, repeatedly rub their brow.

Body language and energy shifts can provide clues that something is being left unsaid. Is the energy and body language aligned with the words being spoken? If not, there’s a good chance something else is happening under the surface. If you really want to know what the other person is thinking, you need to ask about the disconnect between what you are hearing and what you are seeing or feeling.

Body Language

A disconnect between what is being said and what you are seeing in the other person’s body language can indicate a feeling that is not being expressed. Interpretations of body language may vary across cultures and individuals. A few popular interpretations include:

 Signs of negative feelings (such as frustration or disappointment) can include folded arms, tension in the face, or little eye contact.

Signs of boredom or disengagement are often shown by slumped posture, staring into space, fidgeting, or doodling.

Smiling is nearly universally considered an indication of openness and positive feelings, as is an open posture.

Energy Shifts

An energy shift can be subtle or dramatic, and it is usually a clue to a change in thinking or feeling about what is under discussion. The energy is often not verbalized right away, but you can prompt a verbalization of the thought or feeling by vocalizing an observation about the energy shift, asking with curiosity what the person is thinking or feeling differently.

For example, to highlight the disconnect in what you observe and what you are hearing, you may ask:

  • I notice that you don’t look very comfortable right now—is there something I can help clarify?
  • I just said a lot, what does this bring up for you?
  • You seem distracted, would you like to reschedule this for another time?

Getting curious about the other person’s body language and energy shifts can be a way to understand their thinking and feelings on a deeper level. Asking about a disconnect can be a way to show empathy and care or concern. When you pay attention to what is not being said, you ensure that the whole person is being heard and seen.

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.

You may also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

“One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table…Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.” For the most recent installment of our Deal Makers series, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm.

read more
Connection before Correction

Connection before Correction

Connection before correction is imperative for leaders. When people feel connected to you, they will be more likely to support you and receive your feedback. This concept is easy to understand, yet so easy to overlook.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

7 + 11 =

Connection before Correction

Connection before Correction

When I was working on my master’s in education, we were taught that if you can’t control the behavior of your students in the classroom then you can’t teach. At this point, I had been working with children for many years and knew this to be true. I was fortunate to be trained by an amazing professor that leaned into positive (vs. punitive) techniques that would show the students you cared about them yet pushed them to be their best. I remember this professor even saying… these tips work outside of the classroom too! As a Leadership Coach 20 years later, I still use these skills to help leaders with their team.

Connection before correction is imperative to lead people. When people feel connected to you, they will support you, they will listen to you. Good examples of this are in politics, religion, and even fast food. Why do you support a certain candidate? Why do you go that particular place of worship? Why do you go to your favorite spot for coffee or fast food? The answer is quite simple. You feel connected to them, so in turn you support them. The opposite is also true, if you do not feel connected, you will spend your time and money somewhere else. This concept is easy to understand yet so easy to overlook.

Deadlines, chaos, and disruption typically puts leadership in fix-it mode. This mode can start the hamster wheel effect of get it done and lose sight of the ones doing the work. This may have short term wins, but the long-term effects will take its toll. I have watched countless leaders lean into the job and not their people all with negative effects. Once a team member realizes that leadership is only interested in the outcome, they will eventually feel undervalued and frustrated.

So how do you connect with your team? Here are 3 tips that are simple and effective:
  1. Observation – Watch your team. Take time to see what is going right and make sure to tell them the good stuff!
  2. Communication – As Brene Brown states in her Dare to Lead book, clear is kind and unclear is unkind. Use clear and concise words to let your team know what you need from them.
  3. Care – Do you genuinely care about your team? Take 5 minutes before or after a meeting to connect with your teammates. Find areas where you share common ground and connect through whatever is that links you.

Now that you are connected with your team, let’s talk about correction. Using one the examples above let’s go back to your favorite coffee shop. You are greeted warmly by your barista, you place your order, and then proceed to talk the news of the day – one of which was their flat tire this a.m. on the way to work. You begin to leave when you realize that you received the wrong order. You have two options – walk out and let it go or return to the counter and have the barista fix the order. What do you choose? At work, you get to decide what issues you want to tackle and which ones you do not. Because you have connected with your team, you will know the right time to extend grace and the right time to tackle the issue at hand. Because you have a relationship with the team member you will know how to best talk to the team member to be understood and heard.

Now take the same 3 tips above and apply it when correction is needed – but only after connection has happened:
  1. Observation – Take time to understand the whole picture of the correction needed. Is your teammate just having a bad day? Is this a repetitive problem? Is this problem within their control? Getting a clear picture will help you hone in on what really needs to be corrected.
  2. Communication – Ask as many clarifying questions as possible to understand the situation. Use the clear is kind principle mentioned above. State what is expected and make sure your teammate understands what is expected of them.
  3. Care – Take actions that reflect the needs the person in front of you. One size does not fit all, so make sure that the correction is attainable for that person. Always make time to reconnect to the goal and support the person in the best way you can.

Correction is necessary, but connection will make it much easier to continue to build your team.

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.

You may also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

“One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table…Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.” For the most recent installment of our Deal Makers series, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm.

read more
Connection before Correction

Connection before Correction

Connection before correction is imperative for leaders. When people feel connected to you, they will be more likely to support you and receive your feedback. This concept is easy to understand, yet so easy to overlook.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

9 + 3 =

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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Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

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The Future of Work

The Future of Work

We started the Future of Work series at the peak of global, COVID-catalyzed workforce disruption. Over two years later, the disruption remains, and in many ways, the future of work is no longer in the future at all… 

The future is now, and in this new and unfamiliar context, leadership is more important than ever. In this comprehensive collection of our Future of Work series, we provide a leadership guide for the ever-changing future.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

You may also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

“One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table…Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.” For the most recent installment of our Deal Makers series, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm.

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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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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“One of the main reasons we have success is we bring the appropriate buyer to the table…Sharing the philosophical perspective supports the transition, ultimately decreasing potential unintended roadblocks.” For the most recent installment of our Deal Makers series, we interviewed Jack Hendler, CEO of Avalon Net Worth, an independent investment banking firm.

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Giving the Gift of Well-Being in the Workplace

Giving the Gift of Well-Being in the Workplace

Does your organization have a wellness program? Is it meeting your employees needs? What are you—as a leader—doing to foster well-being for yourself and those with whom you work? There are several simple practices that you could incorporate into your organizational rhythm that would make a difference for you and your team.  

Why Well-Being Matters
According to SHRM, “research shows that employee health status directly influences work behavior, attendance, and on-the-job performance,” (Chenoweth, 2011). Incorporating well-being practices into the daily life of work is a way to demonstrate care for your teammates and their whole selves, not just what they accomplish on a task or project. Well-being practices can provide opportunities for team building when participation is high, and they have the potential to be a positive influence on interpersonal dynamics
.

Ways of Well-Being at Work
Well-being in the workplace can take many forms. Here are a few examples from my own practices:

A Gratitude Practice
A simple way to start incorporating well-being into the workplace is to begin a gratitude practice. Did you know that expressing gratitude is often as beneficial to the sender as it is to the receiver? There are many ways you could begin a gratitude practice, so reflect on what might work best for you. Here are few suggestions:

  • Send gratitude texts, emails, calls, or cards. Take time to reflect on what and whom you are grateful for and create the time to send each person a note of thanks, whether it’s in the moment, at the end of the day, or the end of the week. Don’t get hung up on the method, just do it. Research shows that there isn’t a significant difference in feelings of happiness based on the method of expression of gratitude.
  • Start meetings with a round robin of gratitude. Ask teammates to share thanks for coworkers to start your meetings on a positive note.
  • Write a letter of gratitude to one of your mentors or a close colleague who supports you. Even if you don’t send it, it will still have a positive impact on you, but of course sending it will positively impact the other person too.

Walking Meetings
Walking meetings are an alternative to sit-down meetings for one-on-ones or small group meetings. Being in motion changes the energy level in positive ways and can help get those creative juices flowing. (Think about all those great ideas you’ve had when you’ve been engaged in movement!) Keep in mind that team members have different physical abilities and those who choose the walking option will move at different paces.

Mindfulness Moments
Can you spare five minutes? Then you can take a mindful break and you can invite your team to join you. In a previous position, when my team returned to the office in June 2020, it was amidst a lot of uncertainty and stress. As we prepared for a new academic year with continued unknowns and constant change, I wanted a way to foster resilience in the team. I had begun a personal daily meditation on my own and found it helpful. I decided to offer a voluntary “mindfulness moment” during the workday when we could come together and pause. Every team member participated, even the ones who had to continue working remotely, and it was a great way to bring us together when we were working in different locations. We experimented with different times of day and different kinds of meditation. I used several different apps to make it easy to run. Without fail and without any prompting at the end of every session, someone expressed gratitude for the time to pause together.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Well-being at work can be the gift that keeps on giving all year long. Better than the jelly of the month club, it shows your team that you really care, and it costs you nothing but time and attention. As a bonus, it’s a gift that gives back to you! As you navigate the busy holiday season, take some time for well-being for yourself and consider giving the gift of well-being to your team.

Works Cited
Chenoweth, D. (2011). Promoting Employee Well-Being: Wellness Strategies to Improve Health, Performance and the Bottom Line. https://www.shrm.org/foundation/ourwork/initiatives/the-aging-workforce/Documents/Promoting%20Employee%20Well-Being.pdf

Hopper, E. (2021). What is the best way to deliver a thank-you? Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_the_best_way_to_deliver_a_thank_you?utm_source=pocket&&utm_medium=email&&utm_campaign=pockethits

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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Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Have you ever thought about the connection between well-being and belonging? The idea of well-being as a workplace matter has been gaining ground well before the pandemic even began.  

 More recently, the idea of well-being has moved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” as we have all adjusted to develop strategies for managing the challenges of working from home, hybrid work, and working onsite under new conditions. Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean?

There are numerous definitions of well-being, and a common understanding is that it embodies a sense that things are going well in life—it encompasses an attention to the connections between mind, body, heart, and spirit. Well-being practices include fostering resilience and work-life balance, as well as physical and mental health. Leading a life of purpose and meaning has been shown to increase well-being.

What does well-being look like for someone who doesn’t have a sense of belonging in an organization? If a person feels that they cannot bring their whole self to work, both their sense of belonging and their well-being are at risk. These things go hand in hand. The emotional labor of carefully crafting a work persona that is different from one’s true self is exhausting.

As your organization works to support equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging, consider the role of well-being and how it intersects with each of these practices, particularly belonging.

Inclusion is an invitation to the table, belonging involves working to remove any barriers and champion participation. Well-being is the resulting positive moods and emotions that come from feeling like you belong.

Everyone in an organization has a part to play in supporting well-being and belonging. To explore how you are experiencing and supporting well-being and belonging in the workplace, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How am I ensuring that my colleagues’ voices are heard?
  • Who isn’t at the table to voice their opinion and why are they excluded?
  • What assumptions might I be making about my colleagues? About their identity? About their feelings? About their priorities?
  • Am I able to bring my whole self to work, or is there a part of my identity that I feel I need to hide?
  • How am I showing respect for my colleagues?
  • How am I demonstrating to my co-workers that I support their bringing their full selves to work?
  • What social support does my organization offer to support the well-being of employees?

What will you do today to support your own well-being and belonging at work, as well as those around you?

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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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

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6 + 4 =

The Future of Your Work Part 3: The Future is Now

The Future of Your Work Part 3: The Future is Now

We started the Future of Work series at the peak of global, COVID-catalyzed workforce disruption. Over a year later, the disruption remains, and in many ways, the future of work is no longer in the future at all… 

The future is now, and in this new and unfamiliar context, leadership is more important than ever. It is the responsive leader and their high-performing teams that will thrive today and propel their organization into the future. 

But what is a responsive leader?  

In part 3 of our series, we unpack the concept of nuanced, human-centered leadership, and reveal the five qualities that all responsive leaders share.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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