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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How Many Hats Does a CIO Need to Wear?

October 21, 2016 Joe Wolke

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.

hats

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Want feedback? Ask for it!

May 19, 2015 Richard Dana

feedback-at-work_650

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. 

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How To Handle A Crisis

April 23, 2015 Barry Wanger - Guest Author

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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

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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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Since When Is Executive Coaching A Bad Thing?

November 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

While reading Boston.com this past weekend, I came across the article, “New T Manager Underwent Professional Counseling in Atlanta” and was a bit surprised by the tone of both the article itself and – even more so – the reader-added comments that followed.  It seems to me that one of the larger issues (from my subjective perspective, at least) is the general lack of understanding of what executive coaching is – and what it can do for the leader of an organization.

Concern has been expressed over the fact that the newly selected director of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, received “individual coaching and consultation” while serving as the head of Atlanta’s transit system (MARTA). While we don’t personally know Scott or the consulting firm that was hired to work with her, we are familiar with some of the drivers behind the decision to hire a coach (information and quotes taken directly from the article):

  • Scott’s relationship with her board of directors in Atlanta had grown strained
  • “She has so much energy and that for some people can be complicated”
  • “She demands a lot of people.”
  • Scott was a “change agent, and that is often difficult and not always appreciated in an entrenched organization.”

 

Speaking from experience, none of these bullet points raise a red flag in my mind.  In fact, they are quite common.  The relationship between boards and senior management is often a harried one, many times requiring outside help to manage the conflict(s) that develop as a result.  Furthermore, leaders are frequently hired or promoted based on technical abilities and business acumen, with little regard for the “soft skills” that make a leader effective.

The job of an executive coach in this situation is to work with a leader to refine those aforementioned ‘soft skills’ (self-awareness, presentation skills, active listening, stress management, change management, communication skills and messaging, to name a few).  The end result is the development of a true leader – not in the sense of his or her title but rather in action, someone who can inspire and lead his or her organization towards growth and success.

The part of this article that I found most shocking was the quote provided by Mike Jacobs, a state representative in Georgia who heads the legislative committee that oversees MARTA.  He stated, “it’s cause for concern when a consultant is hired for this sort of purpose to address a major leadership position.”  I cannot possible emphasize how much I disagree with this statement.  A cause for concern would be someone who refused coaching and/or refused to acknowledge that he or she had any weaknesses that needed to be addressed.  No one is perfect – and no one should be faulted for trying to address those areas in which there is opportunity for growth and development.

I wonder what Mike Jacobs would think if he knew how many great leaders – in the corporate, government and non-profit sectors – have worked with an executive coach?

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For follow up, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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Lessons Learned At the Beach

July 23, 2012 Meghan Vincent

Lessons Learned at the Beach + Richard Levin Associates + Leadership on Point + executive coaching + leadership development

As most New Englanders can be found doing during the summer months, I was enjoying some sun at the beach last weekend when I witnessed an event, courtesy of a 7 year-old, that even senior executives could learn from.

I watched as the aforementioned boy finished removing his brand new shovel from its packaging and began feverishly digging in the sand.  In one swift motion, a giant shovelful of dry sand went flying into the air and… all over a nearby sunbather.

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But Who Will Make the Cookies?

December 16, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Richard Levin & Associates, Meghan Vincent, executive coaching, leadership, succession planning

Recently, a good friend of mine (Allison) and I were chatting about the upcoming holiday season.  Typical to these conversations, we were commenting on how hectic this time of year can be – an endless circle of shopping, cooking, decorating and attending social gatherings.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the “chaos” that comes with this time of year… we were just taking note of how exhausting it all can be.

Then Allison caught me off-guard with her comment about having to learn how to bake cookies.  You see, her grandmother (the matriarch of her Italian family) was responsible for making at least a half-dozen homemade cookies from recipes that had been in the family for generations.  But, as everyone does, she is getting older and does not want the Christmas cookie tradition to stop with her.  As the oldest female grandchild, Allison was selected to carry on the tradition when it becomes necessary.  This is very important to her grandmother… and to her.

It’s funny, in a way, that Christmas cookies would prompt such careful planning for the future – but one’s business, on the other hand, does not (enough).  Thinking about all the “what ifs” of succession planning can be an overwhelming and scary experience, but you have to ask yourself: what will happen to your business after you’re moved on to something else?

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Where Is Your Business Going?

November 17, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Business Improvement Process + Organizational Direction + Knowledge Management

Mission and vision provide employees with a picture of where their organization is headed and is part of a bigger  value system.  This value system provides direction for how the organization will respond to the overall business landscape and how the business will position itself among its competitors.  The discerning leader uses environmental and competitive analyses to create an exciting and ideal vision of the future or to redefine a new direction for the organization (Nanus, 1992).  Creating a picture of the future, persuading the board of directors and motivating employees are key elements to executing a rigorous strategic plan with multiple tactical elements.  Such a vision gives followers something bigger than themselves to believe in and a clear, values-based direction to follow.

 

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Who Is Harold Leavitt … And Why Should You Care?

October 3, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Harold J. Leavitt's Diamond Model for Analyzing Management Change

The late Harold J. Leavitt was a pioneer in the development of the academic field of organizational behavior, a management expert with degrees from Harvard, Brown and MIT (undergrad, graduate, and doctorate, respectively) and a highly respected college professor (University of Chicago, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Stanford).  And, in 1965, he gave to the world his model for analyzing the impacts organizational change.

Through this model (known as Leavitt’s Diamond), Leavitt demonstrates that each element of an organization’s system – people, goals/tasks, structure and technology/processes – are interdependent.  In other words, changes made to any one of these four elements cannot and will not occur in isolation.  Rather, a change made in any one area of your organization will impact the entire system.

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