Leadership On Point

How Many Hats Does a CIO Need to Wear?

October 21st, 2016

Technology leaders earn their keep when they help their organizations use technology as a competitive advantage. Success is no longer measured just in availability, speed and uptime: one must now add resiliency, security, scalability, affordability and, most of all, the flexibility to meet business needs that have yet to be defined. These leaders must understand differentiators in their businesses; they need to know real capabilities in the IT marketplace as well as the best providers of those capabilities; and they need to know how to staff and manage high-performing teams who can assure consistent and reliable delivery of those services. They need to be:

  • Technology specialists who know and understand what is real and what is hype
  • Authorities in security, protecting the information that drives the company as well as meeting regulatory compliance
  • Team leaders able to attract, manage and retain a team of highly skilled technical professionals
  • Salespersons, working with peers within an organization to create and sell the business cases that prove the investment in technology is the best use of a company’s money
  • Service brokers with the ability to source both commodity services and the business differentiators from providers both internal and across the globe.

No single university discipline, certification or job prepares individuals for what they need to be the best IT leaders for their organizations. There is no single source that can teach IT leaders to comfortably wear all the necessary hats at the same time.


Read the rest of this entry »

Words Matter.

September 30th, 2016

In this world that we live in, populated by digital media, has the written word become both more AND less important? We have become more sensitive to language than ever before.


Of all that was said in the 90 minutes of the first presidential debate, I was struck most by Secretary Hillary Clinton’s “words matter.”

“YES!” I thought to myself: “That’s what I’ve been trying to say!”

In this world that we live in, populated by digital media, I feel that the written word has become both more and less important. In some ways, it matters less if you type “exectuive coahcing richard levin,” because Google’s algorithms have become more adept at knowing what it thinks you really meant:

And yet, the written word has become more crucial than ever. At a time when I (and my peers) get the majority of our news from the internet, rather than the television, the ways in which stories are presented matter all the more—for an example, see the ways in which “winning the debate” was defined differently by different populations (pundits vs. candidates’ supporters, for example), setting both as winners and losers.

It is the reason people are decrying a lack of civil discourse – or decency, or whatever words you choose to call it – we have become more sensitive to language than ever before, while believing it is less important.  It’s the difference in a workplace of saying “Thank you” before asking someone to complete another task. It’s the way in which we demonstrate that we know the value of those who are close to us – or don’t. It’s also the way in which the value (and values!) of a company or organization are exhibited to its stakeholders and the world. In short, without the carefully-chosen written word, we would fail at communicating our values.

In the Jewish tradition, this is the time of year for consideration of the ways in which we have hurt others, whether intentionally or not. It is a time for reflection, reckoning, and reconciliation. Whether words were intended for harm or a careless typo, one is still held accountable.

I believe strongly that #WordsMatter. I believe that words are the building-blocks to networked communities and civil societies creating a #SharedPurpose. And even though some say that “actions speak louder,” I believe that words are the first steps on that path.

Sara E. Miller is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Richard Levin & Associates.


Best Places to Work: Where Innovation and Mindfulness Meet

June 26th, 2016


June 24, 2016

By Barrie Sanford Greiff and Richard J. Levin

As improbable as it seems, Star Trek and the Dalai Lama have joined forces in the workplace.


Star Trek is the inspiration for several technological inventions and disruptive innovations, including the cell phone and the tablet computer.  The program is also noted for its progressive stance on workplace diversity, boasting one of television’s first diverse casts.


The Dalai Lama, meanwhile, is impacting the speed of work. In a fast and frenetic business environment that often triggers mistakes, companies are paying more attention to work styles designed to slow us down.  In a business climate that rewards speed, there is new attention to mindfulness — being “present” to facilitate greater focus and fewer errors.


Both mindfulness and technology are leading to renewed attention to the whole worker.  An employee who has better tools to work with, and feels more of a seamlessness among work, family, personal interests, and community, will be more attentive, energized, and productive. This is also crucially important in communicating to current employees and prospective hires that they don’t have to check their outside interests at the door.  Witness the addition of music rooms and play spaces to the workplace.


Much of this is emerging from increased attention to employee suggestions about work spaces and work styles that foster innovation, collaboration, productive work, and the reduction of stress.


We are also seeing a greater awareness that technology, applied wisely and respectfully to employees and customers (or health care professionals and patients), enhances disruptive innovation. A good example of an innovative workplace will be CBS’s new fall series Pure Genius, whose storyline adapts technology, mindfulness, diverse perspectives, and creativity to holistic health care.


In addition to enhancing productivity and yielding a healthier bottom line, a best place to work is a powerful recruitment tool.  In an era of increased competition for the best and the brightest, telling an authentic story of an innovative, respectful, collaborative workplace enhances a company’s competitive status as an employer of choice.


All of this leads to a handy five-part recipe for creating a best place to work:


  1. Treat people with dignity. Create and nurture a diverse community that values and respects people for their unique perspectives and contributions.
  2. Acknowledge that a business is part of a wider universe that symbiotically benefits from shared experiences between their employees and local communities — from shopping at local businesses to volunteering at community organizations.
  3. Promote an environment of learning and discovery, understanding that creativity requires risk.
  4. Encourage healthy lifestyles that integrate work and personal/family life, support mindfulness, and promote wellness.
  5. Foster an environment of transparency and open communication where ideas and feedback are freely shared, where executives model ethics and values, and where leaders say what they mean and do what they say.


In the words of the Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”

And in the words of Mr. Spock: “Live long and prosper.”


Barrie Sanford Greiff, M.D. is former psychiatrist at the Harvard Business School.  He can be reached at bgreiff@aol.com.  Richard J. Levin, Ed.D. is one of the country’s first executive coaches.  He can be reached at rlevin@RichardLevinAssociates.com.


Ezra Schwartz’s Death Should Be a Wake-Up Call for American Political Leadership

November 24th, 2015

Hope Peace

Violence and tragedy are two words that could not escape our vocabulary this week. In the midst of deadly events in France, Beirut, and Mali, there was a tragic terrorist attack in Israel – the death of five individuals, including 18-year-old American student Ezra Schwartz –that was barely acknowledged by political leaders in this country.

All we can think about is Ezra at age nine, Jessica’s rambunctious, outgoing, and carefree camper. The camper who had so much energy, excitement, and passion. As he grew up, he devoted himself to his studies, his family, his friends, and his community, which included summers at Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire. His commitment to the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam, translated from Hebrew as “repairing the world,” were evident in his last hour of life, when he was shot on his way to deliver food and care packages to Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Religious persecution, as evident in the case of Ezra and the Israelis who lost their lives last Friday, is ever present. This oppression is not reserved for any particular religious group. Muslims across the world are discriminated against because a percentage of their population are associated with the Haram State and its radical Islamic ideologies. The most recent terrorism across the world has not only revitalized the power of government surveillance and trampled on civil rights, but has catalyzed the rise of religious intolerance in this country. Over half of U.S. governors oppose welcoming Syrian refugees into their states. Some Presidential candidates have urged the U.S. to implement a surveillance system that monitors all Muslims and mosques in this country. What our political institutions fail to recognize is that Syrian refugees are not terrorists. Muslims are not all Islamic extremists. Narrow beliefs make the United States a country filled with religious discrimination, oppression, fear, and hate. We are a country unprepared to manage, accept, respect, and discuss religious diversity.  Read the rest of this entry »

Want feedback? Ask for it!

May 19th, 2015


Leaders frequently lament that, “I just can’t get real feedback from my team”.  If this speaks to you, let me ask, “what have you done to solicit feedback?” In my Executive Coaching practice, too often this question is followed by a long pause and then a response like: “when I ask for feedback during team meetings, the room becomes quiet!”

Let’s unpack this dilemma – how many leaders ask for feedback in a way that feels genuine to his or her team? All too often, team members feel the question may be a perfunctory request, or the leader really wants to get on with business. Team members may be uncomfortable giving spontaneous feedback because of observed or feared leader defensiveness. People don’t want to take risks that may jeopardize their jobs.

As a leader, do you really want feedback? If so, try coming from a place of curiosity and express authentic interest in each team member’s perspective. To break through the team meeting impasse, try meeting individually with each team member. Let them know why you’re requesting a meeting, and genuinely express your interest in their perspective. Remember- it’s not all about you! Be curious. Ask about your leadership style and the team’s functionality. Then listen, and don’t interrupt! Receiving feedback requires creating a comfortable, trusting and secure setting. Once your peers and/or direct reports trust your intentions, they will personally disclose.

Requests for feedback may also be specific and substantive, targeting current concerns, decisions and/or recent events. To grow as a leader, broaden the discussion and give team members the opportunity to share their concerns- what is working, and what is not. Solicit their ideas on business challenges and always use the foundation skills of effective listening and communication:

  • Be positive and attentive
  • Be empathic and reflective
  • Seek clarification and understanding
  • Express appreciation
  • Value their opinion- this fosters loyalty and creates a positive culture

Finally, here are three tips that will help you successfully engage and ensure a positive outcome:

  • 80/20 Rule – Leaders using a coaching managerial style spend 80% of their time listening and   20% of their time talking
  • 5 Second Rule – Wait 5 seconds before responding.  Often there is no need to provide a response
  • WAIT – Why Am I Talking?

Business Psychologist Richard Dana is an executive coach and organizational behavior expert specializing in leadership development, executive coaching and team building for a broad range of organizations. www.richarddana.net. 

How are those New Year’s Resolutions going?!

April 29th, 2015

ED Note: This article was originally published and written for TempNet.

It’s check-in time! The year is moving quickly. It seems like only yesterday we made promises to our companies and ourselves that this year things would be the best they’ve ever been. Do you remember what those resolutions were? How are you doing?

If you have fallen off or didn’t have time to make goals at all, you aren’t alone. Most people are so “busy” with phone calls, emails, texts, cancellations, workers calling in sick, clients calling with emergencies, too much work, etc. Here is some advice on how to become more “productive” in such a “busy” atmosphere.

There are four keys to achieving extraordinary success.

The first is GOAL IDENTIFICATION. Pick a goal for the week. Sales and Service people could commit to contacting five past clients per day that haven’t utilized your services in the last 90 days. Sales people could commit to gathering 50 business cards from new prospects. Owners could meet with one staff person per day for twenty minutes to gain feedback on ways to improve the business. Receptionists (if they’re still called that!) could call ten existing clients per day to simply say “thank you”. The idea is to identify one high priority task that would make a positive impact to the company’s bottom line. If everyone did that, what would the result be in total?

The second key in goal setting is to GET COMMITTED.

Read the rest of this entry »

How To Handle A Crisis

April 23rd, 2015

Hardly a day goes by without the leaders of some company or nonprofit organization wondering how to handle the latest crisis. A product recall; an evironmental disaster; a sexual harassment lawsuit; an unexpected scandal. The list goes on and on.

What is shocking to me is how often the crisis is handled ineptly. The most common mistakes:

· Not having a crisis plan in place

· Hoping the media won’t find out about the crisis

· More concerned about potential liability than doing the right thing

· Stonewalling

Read the rest of this entry »

Innovate, Don’t Imitate

September 11th, 2013

Chip Bell + Richard Levin & Associates + Principles of Innovative Service + Service Innovation

The concept of best practices has been a mainstay in industry for a long time. Typically it has been a siren’s call for leaders to flock to the feet of a renowned exemplar in search of practices they could duplicate and methods they could replicate.  For the company on the pedestal it was no doubt an ego thrill.  After all, in the words of Charles Colton, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”


There have been many lessons learned from best practices studies that resulted in improvement.  Some organizations learned what not to do; some learned their own ways were better.  And, some shamelessly copied without logic.  For example, a pianist at a baby grand like the ones in the early Nordstrom stores begin appearing in places a piano seemed out of place.  Customer service did not improve, it just sounded prettier!  These mimics embraced the service symbol and missed the point!


There is a dark side to searching for facsimiles.  They bypass the creativity of all employees, especially the insights of those that interface with customers.  Why not innovate instead of imitating?  If employees are given clear direction and free reign, they can be as inventive as Apple and as entrepreneurial as Virgin Air.  If they experience their ideas are valued…even those that do not always work…they will remain on the hunt for novel ways to serve.  Set your employees free and enjoy their gifts!


Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several best-selling books.  He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.

The Power of Pause

August 19th, 2013

The Power of Pause, Richard Levin & Associates, executive coaching, communication consultant

The speaker thanked the MC for the introduction and launched into her presentation. We were still thinking of our lunchtime conversations, shuffling papers, checking cell phones and didn’t pay attention to the introduction or to the speaker’s first few sentences. She seemed unaware of that as she continued.

Only in the middle of her third sentence did most of us in the audience begin listening. Those crucial opening sentences were therefore lost. One can only imagine how much more compelling her presentation would have been had she captured our attention at the very start.

As an audience, we are often on automatic listening mode and need something to help us change gears. For most of us, our ears and brains actually welcome the signals that help us transition. We expect words, so when we get the unexpected, we sit up and notice.

In the theater, as the lights are dimmed, the audience collectively understands that moment to cease talking and focus on the stage. In a meeting, a lack of words can have the same effect.

So, give the audience the unexpected… and … STOP … before starting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are You A Spectator In Your Own Life?

June 21st, 2013

Richard Levin & Associates

At 50 years old, I got maybe the best gift anyone could ever get… I got fired.

Of course, at the moment it didn’t seem like a gift.  After a wonderful 30-year broadcast career, I found myself at a new chapter in my life with a burning question: What next?

The next logical step that my “mind” told me was to get another radio manager job, which would have been my TENTH.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to have had a wonderful career.  But, I felt that the meaning in my life was no longer there.  While I did my best to help others, the corporate world had me focused less on people and more on profits.

Should I get a new job and feel like I was a spectator of my life and not living it? Or should I stop and try to finish a book that I had started a few years before, on positive thinking and well-being?  How wonderful to think about this project of slowing down and doing something that brought true meaning into both my life and the lives of others.

Read the rest of this entry »