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Deal Makers Interview: The Truth Behind Failed Acquisitions

Deal Makers Interview: The Truth Behind Failed Acquisitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

2 + 5 =

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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read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

5 + 6 =

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.

You might also be interested in:

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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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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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

15 + 3 =

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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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

5 + 6 =

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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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

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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.

Watch the Conscient Leaders interviews:

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Michelle Hairston

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Michelle Hairston

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

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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.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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Warning: Assumptions Ahead

Warning: Assumptions Ahead

We make assumptions all the time—especially when we assume that everyone else thinks just like us. Our latest blog works over how to broaden your perspective.

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

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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.

You may also be interested in:

Warning: Assumptions Ahead

Warning: Assumptions Ahead

We make assumptions all the time—especially when we assume that everyone else thinks just like us. Our latest blog works over how to broaden your perspective.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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