Leadership on Point

RLA Named Among Best Management Consulting Firms

May 4, 2017 Richard Levin

Richard Levin

It is with both modesty and humility that I share the good news that Richard Levin & Associates has been named by Forbes as one of the best management consulting firms in America.

What makes me truly happy about this is that we were nominated by an independent and confidential survey of 1100 business executives who were asked by Forbes to identify the 100 best management consulting firms out of nearly 50,000 small and large consultancies nationwide. I am also pleased that our good friends at CFAR, the extraordinary consulting firm with whom we have a deeply valued alliance, made the Forbes list for the second year in a row.

Richard Levin & Associates is truly a dynamic and diverse community. Our team includes more than 35 leadership coaches and management consultants who have created a warm, welcoming culture of collaboration and creativity. They are compassionate, wise, kind people with deep experience in business and organizational behavior. Most important, perhaps, is that we are forever mindful of strengthening our commitments to civil discourse and inclusivity while encouraging leaders to enhance their positive impact, both personally and professionally.


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Best Places to Work: Where Innovation and Mindfulness Meet

June 26, 2016 Richard Levin


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.


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Will Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting Fix The Problem?

March 1, 2013 Richard Levin

As a vocal proponent of telecommuting throughout my career, I am not so sure that Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting is necessarily a setback for working parents and work/family policies (many of which I helped develop over the years).

Having visited the Bay Area several times over the past year, it appears to me that despite Silicon Valley’s reputation as the hub of telecommuting, many Bay Area workers spend part of their workweek IN the office.  But here is the key:  Bay Area companies seem to utilize flex time more than telecommuting – workers frequently come to work “late” (after 9 or 10) and leave “early” (before 4 or 5), checking in frequently from home, cars, or trains when they are not in the office.  So the real story here is not necessarily Yahoo’s ban on telecommuting, but whether the company will still encourage flexible hours and avoid the useless metric of facetime, the policy of being in an office for a set number of hours, regardless of your output.


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The Point Of No Return

February 1, 2013 Richard Levin

We have reached the point of no return.  On phone calls and e-mails, I mean.  We have reached a point where so many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to respond to a phone message or e-mail.  We often have the best intention to reply, and we flag the message for later action.  But later becomes later, as work and the-rest-of-life get in the way.

Maybe it is embarrassment or maybe we really have nothing to say in reply, but a lot of us put off responding to a message until we “have something to say”.  Maybe you are calling someone about a decision that is supposed to be made about a business proposal, or you want to know what action was taken on something that was promised.  Rather than report that nothing has happened yet, we wait until there is actual news to report.  Which, more often than not, brings the other person to presume the news is not good and we don’t have the courage to say so.


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The Myth of Work/Life Balance

August 23, 2012 Richard Levin

I have come to a disappointing realization.  It is now 14 years since my colleagues and I published our much-talked-about book, Shared Purpose, whose premise was that employers, families, communities, governments, and schools must work together to address the work/family imbalance facing working parents.  At the time, we urged our readers not to view “work and family” as a women’s issue, but as a serious challenge we must collectively address as a society.

It is why I am so saddened to read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”, whose conclusion is that society has reneged on its commitment to working moms and has continued to place the burden of “work/life balance” on women.  (Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011.)


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Coming Out of Hibernation: Beware the Bear

April 5, 2012 Richard Levin

Bull Bear Market + Coming Out of Hibernation: Beware the Bear

For five years, we’ve been managing our expectations downward.  It’s become part of our psyche to manage with less, stifle creativity, and look over our shoulders.

Not that we are ready to be doing triple back-flips or anything, but there are signs (dare I say “encouraging” ones?) that we are moving toward a period of renewed growth and hope.  What I’m hearing from the executives I coach – a robust cross-section of American business leaders – is that they expect to do more hiring, plan to modestly introduce new products and services, anticipate keeping salaries relatively flat for a while longer, and worry about volatile gas prices.  That’s why the no-back-flips reference: credit is still tight, energy prices are high, global economies are still unstable, and the overall picture is still shaky.  But business leaders I’m talking to seem encouraged by an increase in U.S. exports, by consumers spending less on overseas goods and services, and by factories gearing up in anticipation of more consumer spending.

It seems safe to start thinking creatively again.


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This Holiday Season, Remember: Customer Loyalty Is A Two-Way Relationship

November 28, 2011 Richard Levin

The holidays are upon us and that means opportunities for retailers to develop loyalty among its customers.  The first step?  Make it easy!  Customers are busy and want to accomplish what they set out to do… without any unnecessary obstacles.  Impressing customers now could likely lead to loyalty throughout the year.


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What Happened to Wisdom?

October 12, 2011 Richard Levin

We need leadership; leaders who lead; government; Occupy Wall Street; Obama; Democrat; Republican

Before the last Presidential election, Barrie Greiff and I wrote a Boston Business Journal column about the disappointing lack of wisdom displayed by the candidates for President.  Sadly, not much has changed on the political landscape, and the situation may be trending toward a disturbing disconnect between wisdom and leadership.

Wise leadership is dependent on the vision of a transformative leader.  We don’t have transformative leaders in Washington, in part because they are busier knocking each other down than explaining to us what they stand for and what they would do differently.


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Crash and Burn: Bad Leader, or Set Up to Fail?

September 26, 2011 Richard Levin

Leaders Set Up To Fail

I was recently asked to advise on a situation in which a senior executive, new to the company, was spiraling downward in his performance.  The executive had been pre-screened by a global search firm and was interviewed by an internal search committee representing numerous corporate functions.  His references were stellar, his executive presence superb. Six weeks into his new job, nearly all of his colleagues and direct reports were in agreement: the hire was a misfire. What went wrong?

The most common response is that the company and its search firm missed something in the executive’s profile, and the executive fell short of expectations.  Our tendency is to focus on what the leader did “wrong”; maybe he failed to engage his team, perhaps he didn’t have great communication skills, possibly he could not articulate his vision or spark people’s (or his own) imagination. In this scenario, the leader’s team is typically presented as competent and well-intentioned, ready to be motivated and inspired by the “right” leader.  The team sees itself as eager and hungry for exceptional leadership, and feels the new leader let them down.  The outcome is a situation in which the leader and the team co-generate an escalating spiral of underperformance, frustration, and anger.


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Ten Years Later, Remembering The Events of 9/11/01

September 6, 2011 Richard Levin

Remembering September 11, 2001

It was mid-day on September 11, 2001.  The planes had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three hours earlier , and it was feeling like the end of the world.  My colleagues and I were scrambling to answer phone calls from anxious clients, family members, and friends when one of my associates called from the field.  She had received a telephone call from a friend of hers at the United Nations, requesting any documents or research we had on helping children cope with tragic situations.  There were pieces of articles I had written and notes for articles I had hoped to write, but nothing specific to the caller’s request.  All I could say was that I would do my best to pull some concepts together and forward some guidelines to the UN.  I closed the door to my office, and over several hours allowed my own thoughts and fears to pour through my fingers onto my laptop.  Writing a document to help people respond to questions that really had no answers, proved remarkably therapeutic and cathartic; I realized I needed some perspective on my own feelings, and a means of guiding people through the madness of the day.  The mission to assuage people’s fear and anxiety kept me feeling productive and less personally afraid.  I could have used days or weeks to write everything I wanted to say, but the UN caller was clear about her urgent deadline: she needed my document before the close of the school day.  I sent her what I had, with minimal time to proofread what I wrote, no frame of mind to add a pithy title, and buffeted by the senseless reality of the day.  Later that afternoon, I heard that the UN had distributed my document, “Children’s Reactions to Stress”, to the schools of New York City to help children, their families, and their teachers understand in some small measure how to cope with feeling scared and unsafe. Without the use of the Internet, the document went “viral” the old-fashioned way: from New York, copies were faxed to other cities; and from the UN, paper copies were mailed to other countries.


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