The New Year “New” Resolution for 2012

As we all recover from a holiday weekend and bemoan the excesses of extreme socialization, the thoughts of many now are focusing on the “New Year.”  

A tradition many executives have is to make their “resolution list.”  The promises they make to themselves to be adhered to “absolutely.”

I was with a CEO recently who was showing me his list.  I noted that it was dated 1999 and with multiple write over…when the obvious question was asked, the response was “still haven’t finished.”

As the intensity of the global recession recedes, and a collective cautious breath is taken in the hopes that the worst may be over, DPC thought it would be helpful to do a quick “Pulse Survey” of CEO’s regarding their commercial resolutions for 2012.

We had over 20 responses and there are emerging trends the top 5 of which are herein listed.

  1. Understand Social Media – Many CEO’s acknowledge they do not understand nor appreciate this phenomenon.  This lack of awareness prompted expressions ranging from, “it makes me feel out of touch” to “old.” 
  2. Increase External Awareness – Many CEO’s have felt that during the recession they were “too heads down,” and “unaware of what’s new.”  One CEO stated regarding external trends  “unless it was on CNBC I missed it.”  The desire to end the information hibernation was expressed.
  3. Global Mindset – The refrain communicated most was “It is hard to keep track of the dynamics.”  There were specific references to the Euro crisis by domestic CEO’s and the “political crisis” in the US by rest of world executives.  The objective of those sampled was to “understand better” to be “less reactive.”
  4. Accountability – CEOs indicated that “shared accountability” has suffered during the recession due to “competitiveness” and “paranoia.” One CEO stated the desire “I want to put a stop to the mentality of ‘for someone to win, someone has to lose.’”
  5. Pace – This observation was DPC’s biggest surprise.   The focus on pace of life and work, and the desire for more balance were credited to the “new worker.”  “They have the right idea1”  A number of CEOs communicated that the need for enterprise flexibility in dealing with Succession and Continuity Planning is “high on the list.”

Our expectation is that the 2012 list will not be the 2022 list!

The above list is symptomatic of the reflection we have seen in our clients during the year promoting the mentality of “not only do I need to do things well, I need to think about life beyond my office” as well as “a different way of working inside.”

On behalf of Discussion Partner Collaborative and our Affiliates, our best wishes for a prosperous 2012!


Board or Bored?

As Baby Boomers contemplate retirement there is the inevitable question being contemplated: “What do I do next?”

A recent CNBC segment referred to 2012 retirement planning as the “no huddle offense.” Essentially there is a need to accelerate not only the economic preparation for retirement: but also the determinants as to how one would spend their time.

Tammy Erickson’s books on Shifting Demographics forcefully remind us that traditional perspectives regarding retirement are outmoded.  In point of fact Boomers are likely to remain active by engaging in multiple activities.

A recent Pulse Survey of over 2000 executives conducted by Discussion Partner Collaborative  posed 2 questions. “How far evolved are your retirement plans” and  “how will you spend your retirement time?”

 The overall answer on preparation was of concern as it indicated that while there had been some time spent “thinking” there was an absence of “planning.”

 The top 4 answers on “time commitment” were as follows:

  1. Generate income through part time employment
  2. Spend time with the family
  3. Focus on physical well-being primarily by playing golf
  4. Seek Board opportunities

The focus while clear was not supported by disciplined thinking regarding the “how” other than playing sufficient “golf” in the pursuit of lowering ones handicap.

This was particularly true regarding affiliation as a Board member.  The survey participants while clear on what they could offer as a Board member were less clear as to how to go about securing positions.

The good news is that Boards are valuing the talents of Boomers as an example the October 2011 edition of HBR suggests the rules are being broken in respect to the age of Board Members whereas in 1987 only 3% were age 60, now 30% are 64 or above indicative of both the shifting demographics and enterprise desire for the preservation of institutional memory.

However, for those whom have never been a Board member, it is not analogous to a Field of Dreams “if they know I am available they will come”!

Based upon our experience we would recommend for both NGO and/or Commercial Board opportunities the following steps:

  • Proactive networking with all in your “Rolodex”
  • Establishment of relationships with entities which match Board needs with aspirants capabilities
  • Explore Social Networking sites on NGO’s with the “assumption” that a need exists for advisory support
  • Play a lot of Golf while you are securing the opportunityJ!

Avoid the “It Could Be Me” Feeling

One pundit stated recently that blogs are “drivel with punctuation.”

As many blogs are written by consultants it is often our sector that struggles with making salient points in a compelling way.

The rule of thumb is to make your points as if they were “sound bytes”. 

In the recent past there has been an intersection of Discussion Partner research with a phenomenon that lends itself to these iterations.

During a recent survey of over 2000 senior executives regarding level of non-financial planning in advance of retirement:

Over 70% of the executives indicated they have some overall ideas: but lack a concrete plan.

When DPC research indicates an interesting finding we test it with selected clients.

Suffice it to say that the findings were supported by the input from clients replete with anecdotes:

  • “One executive did not realize he was retired…he kept coming to work to socialize”
  • “An executive told me that the implementation of his plans only took him to 10:30 AM every day”
  • “One executive became a serial board member to the point he forgot which meeting he was attending”
  • “The concentration on lowering his golf handicap led him to AA”
  • “His wife got so sick of feeding him she boycotted the kitchen”
  • “Her husband was pleasantly surprised to realize how in shape she could be in post retirement and joined a gym himself”
  • “The female executive became much more aware of her husbands fascination with Big Screen TV’s”

When we met with executives whom were still working we identified three escalating levels of sentiment when dealing with retired colleagues:

  • Poor Guy-I hope he finds something meaningful
  • I don’t have time-seeing the guy repeatedly is now a distraction
  • Self-Awareness-uttering the words “it could be me”

 Now that I have your attention another sound byte from the research-82% stipulated that if they neared retirement without a disciplined plan, their engagement level would go down and their distraction level would go up.

Punctuation aside, the intent of this blog is straightforward, whether you are the executive or enterprise you should assiduously avoid the mantra “it could be X”!

Coaching for Peru

(The following is a recent interview of Tom Casey by the Peru American Chamber of Commerce on the topic of Coaching for Peru.)

 Tom Casey is an expert in the development of organizational transformation strategies for rapidly growing multinational or transitioning corporations. He has consulted in over 20 countries and virtually every economic sector. Moreover, he is the founder and Managing Principal of Discussion Partner Collaborative, an Executive Advisory firm with over 200 consultants in 19 locations.

 While on one of his many visits to Peru, he shared with us his point of view on how much our country has changed during the last few years, as well as the positive impact its economic boom has had on its professional management level. From his experience in Latin America, he applauds the good performance standards from Peruvian high executives, as he has personally worked with many of them, from sectors as diverse as banking, services, manufacturing, and construction. Although he tries not to compare directly, probably because of the evident different contexts, he cannot help but indicate that  Peru has much going  for it in comparison to other countries in South America like Venezuela where he has lived and worked. Truth be told, AMCHAM has to agree that for any American interested in international affairs (this probably goes for anybody from outside this region for that matter), Latin America is a perfect example of opportunities, tensions and extremes.  Tom indicated for him and his U.S. colleagues that after working in Latin America everywhere else seems boring!

Nevertheless, it comes clear to Tom what advantages Peru has in order to be regarded as a successful economic and business model for emerging countries. First of all, he points out that Peru enjoys the right strategy and vision to develop and prosper, thanks to highly skilled managers continuing to reach decision-making positions. A lot of Peruvians have correctly invested in themselves during the past couple of decades; evidence of this is the appropriate leadership style that Peru has adopted to improve both its international image, as much as the “system’s” image to common folk in most parts of the country.  Tom ventured that since 1994 when he first began consulting in Peru there has been tremendous change in how leaders position themselves to compete globally

Of course, one cannot talk about Peru without mentioning its tremendous potential with regards to its raw materials and acute financial services, as well as its wonderful tourist attractions, ancient history and renowned cuisine. Peru’s sheer size is a plus, both geographically and demographically: unlike many other emerging economies, Peru has the right population density, growth and age segmentation, in other words, we have the right amount of eligible young work force. What is more, and thanks to the economic sprint, the earnings potential vis-à-vis our country size has greatly improved (not to mention our per capita consumption figures have started to attract important investments, as more and more companies open offices as they see Peru is good business).

Notwithstanding, it is not all cheers and glory for us, as we do face many challenges with regards to our top executive human capital. Despite all the improvements, Tom does sense Peruvians have to work on a number of managerial skills. For instance, he has seen good project management skills, but they could certainly be better; and a person’s performance may not always be duly recognized, nor bad performance sanctioned. Women’s talent is not fully exploited, as seen on the percentage of those with university and advanced  degrees (one of the lowest in the region). Last but not least (and most countries in the region can relate to this), the never-ending accountability issue (the lack of a Spanish word for it does not help either)…which may also explain our unpunctuality.

Tom stated that the biggest change he has observed is his enthusiasm whereby managers are now aggressively challenging their strategies, business models, subordinates, and themselves to ensure that our tremendous opportunities are exploited. 

When asked for suggestions for Peruvian managers, Tom had a number of them: “Think globally as Peru is clearly a player in the regional and world economy; continue to assertively develop talent inclusive of expanding opportunities for female executives; reinforce the need for managers to hold themselves accountable for achieving expectations; and finally to reinforce motivation, by differentiating the reward strategies allocating the monies to those who have performed the best.”

Beware of Executive Coaches

In the spirit of truth in advertising the notification of “Beware of Dog” should also apply to Executive Coaching.

 The domain of Executive is growing rapidly for 2 incongruent reasons. Foremost it has been well researched and documented that the use of external coaches is the most impactful leadership development vehicle.  Secondly, with the displacement of so many executives, there has been a proliferation those who now carry the career title of Executive Coach.

 The more cynical of us remember the late 90’s when a displaced executive was going to “start a” That aspiration has now been supplanted by well-intentioned but unprepared advisors whom are now “coaches.”

 It is doubtful one would feel comfortable being represented by a lawyer who hadn’t been to law school, or treated by a doctor who didn’t attend medical school…essentially the baseline criteria.  So why should any executive feel more sanguine being advised by someone just because they are now a “coach?”

 The above is further complicated by the “industry” lacking any regulatory oversight. 

 This dilemma prompted Discussion Partners to do a Pulse Survey of our relationships reformatting the standard question, “to be an effective leader, what skills do you need to possess,” to “to be impactful what are the top 5 critical skills needed by an Executive Coach.” 

Top 5 Responses

  1. Strong Business Fundamentals – There is a need to be clear.  Many coaches focus on advising on strategy and operations as well there are those who focus on leadership effectiveness.  The response had more to do with the third area in that even when advising on the quality of a leadership bench, or correcting some less then attractive behaviors there is a need for the coach to know enough about business to be credible with their client.
  2. Sensei Tendencies – The ability of the coach to weave in “war stories” or “lessons learned” from the coaches experience.  At Discussion Partners we refer to this as Illustration Advisory an intervention whereby we can share an example.  There is of course the need to resist the temptation pontificate “when I was a young manager”. 
  3. Willingness to Confront – The desire to avoid offending to preserve economic security can be taken too far in a relationship.  There can be diplomatic ways to articulate “what the hell were you thinking”? 
  4. Intellectual Curiosity – This attribute surprised those of us at DPC, and therefore shame on us!  It is only  logical that a client is entitled to expect that their advisor is staying current.  Although the John Boudreaus, Noel Tichys, David Ulrichs, Jim Collins’s and Michael Porters are in a class by themselves, the reputation of the coach can be enhanced if they share insights from others, and their own documented point of view. 
  5. Willingness to Admit Failure – Staying in a bad marriage is counterproductive if not counterintuitive.  The same logic applies to a coaching relationship.  If it isn’t working the coach should be the initiator of the relationship separation.  Anything less is suboptimal for the client and candidly an unfair position for an enterprise sponsor. 

 You will note that there is a presumption of a methodology and highly-attuned interactive skills!  Both are considered Threshold Attributes by the prospective client.

 Given the proliferation of those calling themselves Executive Coaches, the above is offered as a point of view to assist you in what DPC refers to as QQ (Qualification/Quality).


The Three Ls of Talent Readiness

By Tim Donahue

Perfecting the Talent Readiness formula for “Right People, Right Place, Right Time” involves many complexities, from shifting global demographics to the role of rapidly-evolving technology. But the business case boils down to the Three Ls – Leadership, Leverage and Legacy.


The ever-shifting competitive landscape means that with leadership, mastery is a long-term goal. A colleague of mine once said: “As a leader, you will often be called upon to demonstrate leadership when you feel least ready to provide it.” Inevitably, all eyes and ears will turn to you, the leader, for the answer. As President Harry Truman put it, “The buck stops here.”

There is a particularly urgent link between leadership and safeguarding an organization’s future. This can mean everything from helping capable managers transition to leadership roles to shaping succession plans.

Of particular importance is Generation X, the smallest of the three predominant age groups in the U.S. workforce. The bulk of that segment – mid-30s to early 40s – is the traditional feeder pool for the leadership pipeline. Yet that same segment is the only age group that will shrink in the coming decade. The leadership pipeline may very well become a trickle.

 This demographic phenomenon is one key reason why leaders need to model effective leadership as well as extend a helping hand to show this next generation the way.


Leadership means many things. When it comes to talent readiness, it means finding ways to increase the capabilities and impact of those who occupy spots in the org chart. If you doubt the strategic importance of leaders leveraging the abilities of those who work for them, consider the following:

  •  The Adecco Group North America’s latest Workplace Insights Survey released in September 2009 showed that slightly more than three-quarters of employees surveyed were not satisfied with their career growth opportunities at their companies.
  •  Recent research by Bersin Associates revealed that nearly 40% of line managers do not feel they have the training and skills to effectively manage employee performance. Yet when companies have highly effective talent management strategies, their average revenue per employees is 26% higher, Bersin’s research shows.

In short, what leaders need to do is what their people want them to do: Help them grow.

When leaders make talent development a key strategic priority – when they personally invest in developing the talent around them – they build organizational capabilities and leverage the full potential of their human capital.

This raises an important question: Do your leaders have what they need to help others grow?


Leaders who commit to self-development as well as the growth of their people make an investment that yields a long-lasting dividend: a legacy.

Developing tomorrow’s talent is a job that must begin today. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets – no substitutes for the hard work and commitment necessary for passing knowledge and expertise from one generation of leaders to the next.

If this recession does prompt many Baby Boomers to delay their retirements, there may be a silver lining: Additional time to engage younger employees, transfer knowledge and groom successors.

To appreciate what’s at stake, consider the following:

  • In an era rife with downsizing, it is sobering to consider recent research findings that 30% of companies retain knowledge poorly or not at all when workers depart
  •  A June 2009 study by the Sloan Center on Aging and Work showed that since the recession, employee engagement decreased among Generation X and Y employees – yet hardly changed at all for employees in their 50s and 60s
  •  In her 2008 book “Retire Retirement,” Tamara Erickson says the idealism of the Baby Boomer generation will motivate many Boomers to make a positive difference in the later chapters of their careers – which can include leaving a legacy in one’s organization

Perhaps Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen said it best in her farewell column, “Stepping Aside,” published earlier this year. “John F. Kennedy (said) that the torch had been passed to a new generation,” Quindlen wrote. “But torches don’t really get passed very much because people love to hold on to them.”

Are your leaders holding onto their torches, or preparing to pass them? Is your next generation ready to pick up the torches?

Following the three Ls of Talent Readiness will help you do right by your leaders, your employees and ultimately your organization.

Talent Practices: Leveraging the Power of Collaboration

  One of my favorite quotes comes from Rob Cross in his book The Hidden Power of Social Networks, ” Research has consistently shown that whom you know has a significant impact on what you come to know, because relationships are critical for obtaining information, solving problems, and learning how to do your work.”  That, is a powerful statement about social networking . . .echoed in this comic selection from “Zits.” As I said in my earlier post, we have just finished a piece of research designed to explore in what ways can organizations leverage the power of collaboration across the talent processes.  Social networking itself is not new, what is new is the impact of Web 2.0 technology on collaborative behavior.  In this post, I wanted to offer just an ‘appetizer’ of insight from that research and talk about it in the context of the current economic issues.

We surveyed over 75 organizations, and overall we found that:

  • Social networks are an important component of an organization’s core talent processes . . . While social networking was important to the successful execution of all talent processes, they are considered critical for engagement, on-boarding — transitioning — and off-boarding, and leadership development. 
  • Furthermore, respondents believe that networking is important for all levels of the organization, but particularly so for senior executives.  As Michael Watkins so often points out in this book, The First 90 Days, no leader, no matter how capable, can do it all.  Leaders need networks that are constantly being refreshed and renewed to be successful.
  • Finally, despite the fact that social networking is not a new behavior pattern, our respondents indicated that they don’t think they are as effective as they could be at leveraging the power of collaboration.  Their organizations may be leveraging the technique and/or tools in selective ways or within functions — creating pockets of excellence.  But overall, many organizations are still experimenting with collaboration tools. 

So, in what ways are companies leveraging the power of social networking across the talent processes?  Let me share just a sampling of what we’ve learned:

  • Recruitment: Of all the talent processes, this is the area that has seen the most visible change as a result of social networking and web 2.0 tools.  While I find networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook interesting, I am far more intrigued by sites like “” and “Jibe.”  Before the recession we were seeing the emergence of ‘talent brokerage.’  But the recession has accelerated a new approach to employment –‘gigonomics,’ the act of being employed on a ‘gig’ basis.  Social networking tools allow active communities to form around project based work creating a new type of long term employment experience.  Social networking sites like Jibe, on the other hand, is interesting in that it uses social networking to create transparency around an organization’s culture, allowing potential employees to find a ‘great fit.’ 
  • On-boarding/Transitions/Off-boarding: As the recession deepens and we see talent moved in/out/ and around the organization, effectively managing the employee life cycle becomes more important.  Social networking can become a key tool to enabling that process.  Given the short tenure of senior leaders these days, robust on-boarding and transition management becomes a strategic intervention with real impact on organizational performance.  What if you can speed time to effective performance by 3 to 6 months for a Senior Leader through accelerated on-boarding? In a tough economy where performance runways are short, time matters.  Finally, many of us have had to say ‘good-by’ to talented people as organizations are reforming themselves.  Off-boarding with care and keeping connected through social networks is an effective way to ‘keep your talent close’ in anticipation of future opportunities.  Over time, more of our talent will move in and out of our organization on a project or ‘gig’ basis.  Keeping talent networked with us through their employee life cycle, will be an important enabler for organizational agility.  So who does this well?  Look to companies like Baxter,  Capital One, and Johnson & Johnson who have Leaders Transition Programs.  Consulting firms, not surprisingly, have the most interesting approach to employee life cycle management by leveraging 2.0 tools to keep alumni connected — E & Y and Deloitte, for example. 
  • Employee Engagement: At any time, particularly in tough economic times, employee engagement is a key enabler to organizational performance, now and in the future.  As organizations have cut their way to survival, they may have already lost their most important asset — employee hearts, minds, and hands.  An effective internal social network is the glue that binds the organization together, keep talent engaged, and facilitates transformation.  As organizations fight for precious customer revenue, engaged employees can provide that point of competitive advantage.  My favorite example of good old fashioned social networking comes from Ford Motor Company . . .clearly a company fighting for survival.  As they introduced the new product line-up for this year, they invited all of their HQ employees down to ‘test drive’ the products . . . hoping that they would ‘activate the purchasing power of their social networks.’  What a simple but powerful way to engage, inspire, and enable employees. 
  • Training and Development:  As I prepare my my thoughts for the Winter Professional Development Consortium this week, I am convinced that social networking will have the most profound impact on this talent process.  New social tools will change the fundamental role of the CLO.  We will transition from being ‘content enablers to context enablers’.  These tools will enable employees to access the information they need when and where it is needed — through instant messaging tools, blogs, wiki’s, expertise locators, and so on.  Employees will be able to zero in on the specific information they need to solve problems, perform specific tasks, or quickly update skills.  Our role will be less about creating information/skill content, and more about enabling the context for employess to access information/skill when and where they need it . . . pulling it together quickly and easily to create knowledge. . . experimenting with it. . .creating repeatable transparent processes.  Responsibility for learning will shift to where it belongs . . . with the employee. 

Social networking is real work.  It is not unusual for leaders to think of social networking as a supplemental acticity, something that augments ‘real work’ or ‘personal development.’  For those organizations that actively use social networking and associated tools to share information, cooperatively develop insights or event collectively create product(s) it has become a fundamental work process that adds value to the organization. 

As your organization takes its own unique journey, where do you think it will engage first?  How is your organization harnessing the power of collaboration?