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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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3 + 15 =

Getting the “Golden Eggs”

Getting the “Golden Eggs”

All leaders are charged to accomplish two things:

        1) Bring out the best in their people.

        2) Get results (accomplish the mission).

The truth is that most leaders naturally focus their attention on only one of these domains at the expense of the other. Highly effective leaders are able to strike a balance between their task orientation and their relationship orientation.

Think about The Golden Goose fairy tale. The reason you have the goose is to get the golden eggs to support your family and to pursue your dreams. But if you don’t take good care of the goose and keep it happy, it will stop laying the golden eggs. So, the real moral of the story when it comes to leadership, is that members of your team are golden geese, and it’s up to you to treat them in such a way that they want to lay golden eggs for you. 

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? 

When I was a young Army officer deployed to Bosnia in the early 90s, there was a period of time before my unit started going out on missions where we were comfortably settled in our operating base with all the creature comforts.  I figured morale should be high under these circumstances but instead, soldiers were anxious and getting into trouble.  

My commander coached me to realize that high morale does not come from being comfortable, but from accomplishing challenging missions.  

Years later, popular neuroscience revealed that our brain releases dopamine (the feel-good reward chemical) each time we accomplish something rewarding. In turn, we learn to crave that feeling and want to do more of the reward-producing behavior, reinforcing the lesson I learned in Bosnia.

Similarly, I worked as a Field Supervisor for the Census.  I had twelve canvassers who walked all over the land encountering barking dogs, irate property owners with guns, heat so intense that their handheld computers would malfunction, and general exhaustion.  But these folks LOVED what they were doing and couldn’t get enough of it.  The work was challenging, and it was anything but comfortable.  At the end of each day, we celebrated their victories and shared “war stories.”  They were singularly focused on accomplishing the mission. I did everything I could to support them, help them troubleshoot challenges, overcome barriers, encourage them, and recognize them for their ingenuity and dedication to the mission. 

So, how do you bring out the best in your team while also driving results? Consider the following three areas of focus: 

Be Genuine.

If you naturally focus on tasks, do your people know that you genuinely care about them as human beings and want what’s best for them?  Or deep down inside do they feel like you are just using them for your own needs?  If they know you want the very best for them by offering them real challenges to develop their abilities, while backing it up with genuine support, they will go the extra distance to lay the golden eggs.

Challenge Those Around You.

Maybe you make the mistake that I did as a young officer, thinking that if you just make everyone comfortable, they will perform well and be happy?  In this case, remember that people need to feel challenged to feel good.  If we are not helping our employees grow and develop by coaching them to step just outside their comfort zone, then work will feel boring and they may disengage.

Be Available, Attentive, and Responsive.

Finally, when interacting with your team (or friends and family for that matter), there is an acronym which can help you prepare yourself— AAR.  This stands for Attentive, Available, and Responsive.* If you can bring your full attention to the other person, really be available and curious about what is on their mind, and then respond with compassion and skilled leadership, your team and organization will be vastly more productive, engaged, and satisfied.

*Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach. His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

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Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

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12 + 8 =

Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road

by Conscient Strategies | April 9, 2021

Last year, we launched an interview series called “Conscient Leaders.” We wanted to have candid conversations with leaders across the country about how they’re navigating their organizations through the pandemic. One of the resounding themes has been encouraging for us: “share your vision with your employees, and then get out of the way.”

Get out of the way. In a time when we are already working apart from one another physically, it would seem these leaders are saying that they are stepping out of the picture logistically as well. In a way, they are. But it’s not quite that simple. What they are more or less describing is the practice of outcome-based leadership, and the pandemic has inadvertently provided fertile ground for this aspect of leadership to flourish.

The concept of outcome-based leadership is simple—communicate an end goal (an outcome) to your team, then allow them a certain amount of autonomy in determining the best path to achieve it. (The opposite would be something akin to “micro-managing,” focusing on tasks, giving assignments and overseeing exactly how they are executed.) 

In theory, outcome-based leadership sounds great, right? Or maybe a little too good to be true? After all, how can you be sure things will get done if you’re not there to check in on them? Could such a laissez faire approach ever work? 

The fact is it’s not a hands-off approach at all. Leadership’s involvement is still critical, it just looks different. When we talk about outcome-based leadership at Conscient Strategies, we like to compare it to establishing “The Rules of the Road.” 

Just like on the road, there are some rules that everyone needs to know and follow. For example, the stop signs—where it’s necessary to stop and ask questions before continuing. Or the solid lines—where it’s necessary to stay in your lane, the boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. 

But there are also many aspects on the road that are left to the discretion of the individual. Some may choose to go a little faster or slower. Some may take a slightly different route. Their decisions in these cases are based on their own strengths and skillsets. 

In our interview with Arun Mohan, CEO of Radix Health, he gave the example of hiring new employees. Originally intent on being part of the hiring process for each candidate, Arun quickly found that his involvement often caused a bottleneck or simply was not necessary. When he communicated his vision for the company and the people who work there, he found that his team was just as good at vetting candidates without him. “Or maybe even better,” he admitted.

While how they get there may be a little different, the most important part is that every team member understands and shares the same goal—to get from point A to point B. And the more clearly they understand where “Point B” is and why it’s important to get there, the better they can fill in the moves between the stop signs and solid lines. Knowing the destination—the outcome—from the start, is key. If you’ve ever had your nav go on the fritz in the middle of a trip and found yourself suddenly left to your own devices, you know what we mean. Without knowing where you’re headed, you’re lost.

The Rules of the Road don’t dictate every aspect of your team’s work, they provide guidance in the right places to keep everyone headed in the right direction.

Have you ever noticed that you remember how you got somewhere better when you were the one driving? Don’t make your team members passengers. Establish the rules of the road, communicate the destination, and put them behind the wheel. You won’t regret it.

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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10 + 6 =

The Future of Your Work Part 2: From Survival to Strategy

The Future of Your Work Part 2: From Survival to Strategy

There’s no going back. It is abundantly clear that the global pandemic fueled an unprecedented level of workforce disruption.

The reality is that change is constant, but last year reminded the world that change is also often unpredictable, rapid, and able to irreversibly disrupt the way we work.

Whether leaders recognize it or not, your organization has changed, your workforce has been disrupted, and your team has adopted a culture that may or may not serve the organization going forward.

This playbook outlines four steps leaders can take to move their organization forward from survival to strategy.

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15 + 12 =

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

Large organizations by definition require a certain level of bureaucracy with the intent of generating consistency and predictability for employees and outcomes alike. As an executive coach working with leaders in federal organizations, I have noticed that federal leaders often face challenges specific to the public sector. One of these challenges being how to implement positive change in traditional “command and control” style bureaucracies.

Federal bureaucracies have very prescribed systems for managing people. They also often have unusually burdensome regulatory structures, and heavy regulatory structures often result in a “zero-defect” mentality. What is the result? Leaders have little incentive to – and are afraid to – innovate and try new things. Worse than that, the fear leaders feel permeates down to their teams and stifles creativity. Also, leaders often end up micromanaging several levels down in order to avoid having to answer tough questions from their superiors up the chain.

For example, a leader that I work with in the federal sector tried to empower his team by adopting a coach approach. He asked more questions of his team members in an attempt to get them to take additional responsibility and develop their problem-solving skills. When he attempted to implement this new leadership style, he began to detect strong feelings of discomfort as his direct reports pushed back on this non-standard approach. Even his bosses began asking him questions indicating their skepticism of his leadership style. As a result of the discomfort and the pressure from above, he abandoned the new approach before it ever had a chance to succeed.

What can leaders do to effect positive cultural change in these types of organizations? First, they can start by facing their own vulnerability with open eyes. Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, defines vulnerability as showing up and taking action even when we can’t control or predict the outcome. Vulnerability is exactly what leaders in the federal sector need to learn. By definition, there is no innovation, creativity, or positive cultural  change possible without the willingness of leaders to be vulnerable.

In the example described above, the leader needed to make himself vulnerable long enough to see positive results. Like this leader, most of us are unwilling to try new things when the outcomes are uncertain and we face resistance. Yet, the dirty little secret of change means that any leader will have to lean into vulnerability, discomfort, and personal development to generate real change.

The next step in shifting cultures in hierarchical organizations is to recognize that we are going to have to tolerate the feeling of discomfort. If we know that the discomfort is coming, we can be ready for it.

We can also communicate, to our teams and to our bosses, our intention to try something new in order to get buy-in. We can set the expectation that there will be discomfort and normalize the discomfort ahead of time. In that way, we have a chance of generating curiosity and reducing resistance.  

A final key to creating change in a system is to realize change must happen on the personal level first. Growing innovation and achieving new outcomes cannot occur if leaders are not also doing their own personal development work. Leaders have to become aware of and attend to their own subconscious coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms, while developed keep us comfortable, tend to in fact keep us stuck in old mindsets and behaviors.

We encourage leaders to explore and uncover the beliefs behind their coping mechanisms. We also work hand in hand to begin the process of replacing these self limiting beliefs with a mindset that supports success through change. We work to move leaders, and thus their organizations, from seeing change as a threat to embracing the constancy of change and opportunities it brings. Once leaders evolve their mindset through greater self-awareness, they are in a position to withstand the discomfort of trying out new actions and behaviors and achieving more impactful organizational outcomes. 

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

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15 + 11 =

Moral Leadership

Moral Leadership

Our organizations can be microcosms of the communities we all hope to live in. They can set a tone for a model of civility and cooperation. As CEOs we have the opportunity to demonstrate what trustworthy leadership looks like and how to build respect in our organizations. We do this by acting as moral leaders with a focus on creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, heard and respected.

One of the most critical aspects of leadership is moral leadership. It is not enough to lead with an eye toward the bottom line, we are charged with creating a culture of cooperation and belonging. This is what ultimately makes our institutions thrive and become the places people feel an affinity toward and want to be a part of. When we lead with the intention of creating a safe, trusting workplace and creating a culture of caring it will come back to us and ultimately be reflected in our bottom line.

As leaders we establish the tone and the culture for our institutions. The decisions we make and priorities we set say a lot about the ethos of our organization. Our own success is intrinsically linked to the team we build around us. What are some of the questions, the gut check we need to be engaging in to assure we are on track in our role as moral leaders? Do we look past the support staff on our way through the door, or do we stop and greet each person in a manner that lets them know that they matter? Do we know the names of each and every person in our organization and do we remember to celebrate their joys and share in their personal sorrows? Have we created personnel guidelines and practices that embrace individuals and assure for an emotionally safe workplace environment? It is important to be able to ask and answer these questions with honesty.

The external benchmarks for success may be about fiscal growth, communal impact, or product innovation, however if we are not running a healthy organization sustaining our goals will prove to be difficult. The entire team is an integral part of our success.

As leaders we are often tasked with making tough decisions, choices that may impact people’s livelihood, may impact our constituents and the services we can offer and may upset financial stakeholders.

The more included our entire team feels, the more support you will have when and if you have to make tough choices. The mark of leadership is making the hard call when no one else wants to, it is the ability to stand up and do what we know is right. However, we do not have to do it in isolation, we have the support of the people around us if we have earned their trust.

When we lead with a focus on moral leadership, we can play a key role in bringing forward a society of respect. Our workplace can be a model of what we hope our communities will become.

Carole Zawatsky believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to work toward their natural talents builds the self-confidence needed to grow as a professional. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

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12 + 1 =

Leadership in Dark Times

Leadership in Dark Times

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
– Anne Frank

It is undeniable that we are all in a shared space that none of us have ever visited before. We are new to this space defined by isolation, fear of illness and the unknown. We are all working to find new ways to connect digitally and remain engaged in the world around us. Human beings are by nature social creatures, we thrive by being together.

Our institutions likewise thrive when there is human interaction. Our organizations thrive on collaboration, and the synchronicity of shared ideas that happen when we are in proximity to one another. For the past many months, we were able to approximate this with outdoor dining, picnics, visits to our families, friends and colleagues in parks and backyards. As the winter begins to close in around us and the days have grown shorter, we will need to find new ways to illuminate our shared experiences and bring some light into this dark time.

It is no surprise that so many cultures have traditions that bring light into our lives at the darkest time of the year. It is what we do, we find ways to fill the void through our own actions. A single act of a leader bringing their team together in new and unexpected ways can be that light. Your team is looking toward you to lift them up when the days are short, and the light is dim. As we all live in this new world of the prolonged liminal space between isolation and the hope of a vaccine, we leaders can make the difference between light and darkness. Some of the most successful leaders are those who acknowledge the reality of difficult situations and continue to keep their teams optimistic. They are able to continue to inspire creativity most especially in difficult times.

This is the moment for leaders to act as a catalyst for creativity and change in order to inspire our organizations to do more than survive, but to actually flourish.

Let’s ring in the New Year with lightness and hope.

Carole Zawatsky believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to work toward their natural talents builds the self-confidence needed to grow as a professional. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

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15 + 1 =

The Future of Your Work: Part 1

The Future of Your Work: Part 1

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

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

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

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

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7 + 15 =

The Small Things

The Small Things

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment, and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”  
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Gratitude comes like a whisper, quietly when we open our hearts and allow ourselves to take in the small wonders that surround us. I was out for my morning walk, wet hair, a little too cold for comfort and regretting my decision to leave the house without a hat when a neighbor opened her door and exclaimed, “you need a hat”. She came out moments later with a woolen cap and off I went wearing a warm hat and happily filled with gratitude.  

These simple acts of kindness, the moments we take to actually stop and allow ourselves to see other people, their joy, their sorrow, their need for humanity, this is what gratitude can feel like. 

When we notice small changes in the universe the changing colors in the natural world from the pale green leaves beginning to come back after a long winter to the magnificent brilliant colors as the leaves bid us goodbye in the fall. When we stop and take note of the beauty that surrounds us, this is what gratitude can feel like.

Each of us move through the world in many different ways, as parents and children, friends and partners, siblings, colleagues, and leaders and of course as individuals. In each of these roles we have the chance to experience gratitude and to be a part of communal gratitude. This is a time of year, as we move toward Thanksgiving to ask ourselves, “what are we grateful for, and what have we done that might have helped another person experience gratitude.”  

Our organizations and institutions are microcosms of our larger world, they are the sum total of our collective selves.

During this particularly difficult time when so many are experiencing isolation, illness, fear and longing what have we done as leaders to support our institutional community?

Have we checked in on our colleagues, do we know who might be having a more difficult time right now, are we providing the emotional support to those who need it most? Have we stopped and really seen and heard those we work with?  

As we move toward winter with shorter days, cold weather that keeps us inside and we remain in isolation from one another it may prove to be more difficult to summon our gratitude. However, this is when we need to dig deep and commit to ourselves that we will notice the small acts of kindness, the humanity around us, and the beauty of the natural world. We need to feel the gratitude for the lives we have been given and offer the same to others. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to ask how the people around us are doing and take notice of them, to show people they matter and we see them.  

We do this as friends, as partners, as parents and children and we do this as leaders, we give gratitude for the warm hat on a cold day, the act of kindness that is the best of humanity.  As we sit together or perhaps alone on Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to count the small things that bring delight to our lives and hold on to those thoughts in the days ahead. 

Carole Zawatsky believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to work toward their natural talents builds the self-confidence needed to grow as a professional. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

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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13 + 9 =

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

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

Then Alexander Graham Bell called. On a telephone.

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

Sounds a lot like 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operations

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

Employees

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

Competition

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

Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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