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.

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Want feedback? Ask for it!

May 19, 2015 Richard Dana

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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Lessons Learned At the Beach

July 23, 2012 Meghan Vincent

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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Stakeholders and Change Management

October 26, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Stakeholders and Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Richard Levin & Associates

Effective Business Positioning with External Stakeholders

Business executives and connected advocacy groups are both focused on the benefits and risks encountered by an organization’s business decisions.  As both entities measure and manage organizational benefits and risks, proponents of theoretical stakeholder’s viewpoint postulated that the long-term sustainability of the firm is ultimately based on relationships (Vachani, 2006).  Experts, in the field of stakeholder theory, speculate several important leadership factors that should be embraced by today’s executives, i.e.; noteworthy participations outside the professional arena and boundaries of job responsibilities; confronting institutional mindset both inside and outside the firm to think and behave in the communities’ or region’s favor; and maintaining a creative and constructive connection with the external social and philanthropic environments (Welter & Egmon, 2006).  Welter and Egmon suggested, “Building the continuous process of change readiness on deeply held, sustainable principles”.   Unfortunately, some leaders’ inability to accept their social responsibility may be a result of historical factors that influence their behaviors; whereas, previously learned behaviors, formal training, and orders from superiors are often established to confront current and future business predicaments, skirmishes, and opportunities.

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Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions (Part II)

October 21, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Example of Executive Leadership’s Politics at Work

Understanding executive politics is vital for personal career success and downright survival.  If we would carefully observe and examine the dynamics of our executive team, we would discover that they are accomplished individuals who apply their skills and talents to advance the business – everyday.  One useful method relative to navigating the C-Suite environment is to have an astute understanding of self and how you are perceived by your peers.  Your boss is essentially interested in your performance, stellar interpersonal skills, and how well you interact with peers; those who possess strong personalities, in a demanding business environment.  As we reflect on executive decision quality, however, we may conclude that our decisions are fundamentally good.  However, let me share an example of poor decision quality vis-à-vis a specific company’s rollout of a new market based compensation program, which generated a social shock to and within this particular company.

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Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions (Part I)

October 18, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions + Leadership Development + Executive Coaching + Richard Levin & Associates

As professionals, we embrace creative and critical thinking in a manner to take on exciting initiatives and provide new opportunities for our businesses and personal improvement.  Prior to formal training and exposure to the nuances of critical thinking, we may have found professional socialization and interaction either challenging or cumbersome.  During our professional development, several business situations may have presented small and large problems for us.  These difficulties may have resided in executive leadership’s politics, shadowing role models, and our inability to demonstrate a questioning attitude.  Often, we place ourselves under the assumption that we are effectively exposed to refined relationships and we are properly functioning in our professional world.  Routinely, we may be deceiving ourselves into believing that we are performing well in various business settings.  However, if we truly reflect on our daily professional situations; peer and team dynamics; and our success or failure within our personal interaction; we may discover that our assumptions are actually blind spots.  These blind spots may be a result of our lack of creative and critical thinking.  Ultimately, our goal is to uncover and confront these assumptions and establish corrective measures to deconstruct our leadership suppositions.

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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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