December 16, 2018

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Leadership Interviews

Deborrah Himsel - Inside the Reign of Avon's Andrea Jung


What makes leaders great? What Makes them Fail? A conversation with Deborrah Himsel, former Vice President of Avon and the author of Beauty Queen

Published on July 03 2014

"Culture eats strategy for lunch." Deborrah Himsel

Deborrah Himsel, Leadership coach, author of Beauty Queen -TotalPicture Radio interviewDeborrah Himsel

Deborrah Himsel is the author of a new book titled Beauty Queen: Inside the Reign of Avon's Andrea Jung (Palgrave Mcmillian). A former senior leader at Avon Products, Deutsche Bank and Pfizer, Himsel is currently a leadership development consultant and executive coach for many global companies, including Johnson & Johnson, ExxonMobil, KPMG, Essilor, Citigroup and Walmart. She teaches at Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. Andrea Jung, the former head of Avon, was one of the world's most charismatic and effective CEOs, credited with the astonishing turnaround of the company. Universally praised in the business press, I remember meeting her at the HSM World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall, (now called WOBI), during the peak of her power. She clearly projected the aura and authority of a Fortune 500 CEO. So what went wrong?

Deborrah Himsel TotalPicture Radio Transcript

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Hi, this is Peter Clayton. Welcome to a special leadership channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. Today, we're going to be speaking about someone who is a former CEO who is on Professor Finkelstein's third worst CEO of 2012 list. He is actually the professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, and this individual actually when she took over the reins of the company, it had a market value of about $21 billion back in 2004 and in 2012 its market value was down to $6 billion. We are speaking about Andrea Jung who is the former CEO of Avon, a celebrity CEO. We're going to be speaking today with Deborrah Himsel who is the author of Beauty Queen: Inside the Reign of Avon's Andrea Jung, a brand new book that is just published and she was a VP at Avon at that time that Andrea was the reigning queen there, and I'm really interested in getting her perspective. So thank you very much for taking time to speak with us.

Deborrah: Thank you, Peter, for having me.

Peter: What inspired you to write this book first of all?

Deborrah: Well, I have over 25 years of experience in the leadership development space and one of the things that I found is that storytelling is just such a powerful learning tool and the story of Andrea Jung is compelling. I mean, you talked about how she ended up on the worst CEO list and she started out here tenure as one of the most admired CEO's and she was on the cover of Fortune, Business Week also Time's one of their most influential 100 and when I left Avon in 2005, things were going well and I couldn't even imagine Avon or Andrea falling and then as you said, things just kind of went downhill. I always thought that she was a very, very strong leader. In fact, I actually still do but I was really curious as to what went wrong and most importantly I really wanted to understand why and what we can learn from that. So the book actually Beauty Queen is in two parts. The first is the Avon story and kind of her rise and eventual fall, and then the second part are really the broader leadership lessons learned. So as I mentioned, I really wanted to focus on what we can learn.

Peter: Right. Yeah, and you're right, she was a celebrity. I mean, there's no question. She spoke at Clinton Global Initiative. She spoke at the World Business Forum. I was there, and she was a star. She was like...

Deborrah: Yeah. Almost could do no wrong as well.

Peter: I've had the opportunity, as have you, of working personally with CEOs of very large organizations, and I have to say it is a rarified world of private jets. They're almost like state leaders. I mean, they have that kind of staff and resources available to them. So tell us a little bit about your story at Avon and how you came to work with her there.

Deborrah: I was leaving Deutsche Bank at that time and I got a call from a recruiter and they said there was a fantastic opportunity at Avon and my first thought was like, is Avon still around? Because at that time when I went there and then at the time when Andrea took over, Avon was really struggling. There were takeover attempts. The brand was very outdated and it was called I think not your mother's brand but your grandmother's brand. I joined before she was CEO but the company was in the midst of a large scale change and transformation. They said they really wanted to focus on leadership as an avenue to drive organizational change and I met with her, I met with other people and it sounded really exciting.

I remember the first time I met her and she's just tall, beautiful, gorgeous, speaks so eloquently and she just motivated me with the vision of the company that was really all around women's empowerment all around the world, and I could tell that she believed and she got me to sign up and away I went. My role was really to help architect the transformation from really Avon that operated as a set of independent countries and the vision was to really move to a more integrated organization where there wasn't one of everything and you had more efficiencies and economies of scale and I wanted to be part of it and it was a terrific ride. It really was.

Peter: Give us some timeframe, when did you start working there at Avon?

Deborrah: I started working there in 1999 and I left in 2005 and then was relocated from New York and I live out in Arizona and I teach and consult now and like I said, when I left everything was great and then it started kind of going up and down from there. I was just cringing on the sidelines and so is my stock portfolio.

Peter: Yeah. Absolutely. Wow. Obviously, you've done a lot of research in putting together this book and some of the lessons learned from her tenure there. Do you see any comparison between her leadership at Avon and Carly Fiorina at HP?

Deborrah: A little bit. I mean, style wise I think their styles were very different from what I have read about Carly - a more directive leadership style and Andrea's style was really more inclusive, which really is strength and she really worked hard to kind of get everybody all on board with where she was going which I think that was one of her strengths. One of the lessons that I talk about in Beauty Queen is that also was a liability because she oftentimes would not... she would shy away from some of the tough conflict and some of the tough decisions because she really wanted... she was a pleaser and she wanted to make sure there was harmony and almost to a fault that everybody was on board.

One of the things that I did learn is that you can have different styles and when I was there Andrea was CEO and she had another woman Susan Croft who was her number two and they were like Yin and Yang and very different. Susan was an operations person, very detailed. Andrea very strategic, very visionary and one of the things that I talked about is that complement was so helpful because ultimately what I find in leaders is that you need both focused on the vision as well as the focus on the operations. I think we're seeing a lot of companies today Veterans Administration, GM, the list goes on where they really need some leaders that are down there in the nitty-gritty detail.

Peter: I think one of the criticisms of Andrea was that she was a marketing wizard but knew absolutely or cared nothing about operations.

Deborrah: Yeah, and that was I think overall one of the key takeaways for leaders and there's a little bit of everything for everybody in the book but you have to really know where your tilt is. As I mentioned Andrea's was in marketing, it was on the mobilizing the strategy, what can be, had a million great ideas and when she had her strong CEO there, they really balanced each other but when the CEO retired, she never really had that complement on her team and to your point, where she really struggled was in the details.

One of the things that really t tripped her up in the company in the end was that they had IT infrastructure problems in Brazil and they lost representatives and sales. They just couldn't get orders out the door so some supply chain issues as well, and a bad acquisition. So part of this was just really some of the fundamentals of the blocking and tackling that were missing.

Peter: You write in your book about the risk of functional favoritism and over-specialization. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Deborrah: I think that was to your point earlier that Andrea's strengths was really as a marketing whiz and all the jobs that she had were marketing jobs and around re-inventing the brand and things like that, and so she had never had when she got the role at Avon, she had never had a role outside the United States and Avon's portfolio was shifting from when she came in it was about 80% sales in the United States, 20% overseas and that's reversed right now. So she hadn't had any overseas assignments and she had never had any assignments outside of marketing. So that goes back to our earlier discussion is you could really see how that hindered her because in terms of really knowing the operations, what drove some of the P&L lovers, she just really didn't have that. In the latter part of her reign, she was still focused on the marketing ideas and the big marketing programs and that's not what the company needed right then.

So part of the lesson is to really make sure that if you have ideas and aspirations of more general management roles, you really need to have some rotations into other areas outside your comfort zone, especially for women. Sometimes companies have difficulty getting women outside the sort of normal stereotypical roles in getting them into some assignments where you really get into the bows of the organization.

Peter: I'm curious, do you think women CEO are treated differently than men CEO? I mean, obviously... and you brought this up the new CEO of GM Mary Barra of course has been in the news a lot lately and on television.

Deborrah: They keep grilling her like...

Peter: Oh my god, it's unbelievable.

Deborrah: Well, you know what, when I look - I'll just take Mary Barra for an example - I sometimes think and I don't know if the research bears that out a little bit does that we expect female CEOs and leaders to be exhibiting of the those I'll call them kind of stereotypical and characteristics that women do more compassionate, more let's say... some of the kind of warm and fuzzy, maybe more direct communication, not evading the issues and I think that...

Peter: But those are all good attributes.

Deborrah: Well, they are, but I think that sometimes and when I watch the Mary Barra grillings that it sometimes you think that they want her to be saying just to give away the whole store and to say, oh my gosh, we're so sorry. We're just going to give anybody whatever amount that they need to compensate them for and/or to kind of say things that are maybe what we'd all like to hear but potentially put GM in a more libelous position than they already are. I don't know if I made that clear but with their all good attributes but sometimes I think we expect that that will extend into other situations and you know what, some of that is not good business. I think what she is doing is she's trying to be compassionate but also trying to protect her company and that's a very difficult paradox, I believe.

Peter: She clearly walked into a snake pit here.

Deborrah: I know. I feel for her and some people say is she on the glass cliff that she was just there potentially as a scapegoat. I don't think she's on the glass cliff but I think it's so sad that her tenure may be defined just by this incident, which I think is very sad.

Peter: I agree with that. In reading your book, I interviewed David Rose recently who's an angel investor in New York. His book is all about angel investing, and I pulled a quote out of that which is, "Any company designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st." In reading your book, it seems to me like Avon was really stuck in the 20th century. They just didn't really perceive the impact of the internet and what all of this was going to mean to their business.

Deborrah: You're exactly right and I talk about that not as in the Beauty Queen, not as much on the internet but what I do talk about is just not adapting the business model to meet the real needs of the local markets and how to really walk that line between driving global scale and economies of scale, but also locally. What happened, which is I think really interesting, in the US direct selling is still viable but I think to your point we've got the internet, we've got Amazon where you can buy everything and you've got just different ways that people are selling.

In the US, the kind of typical door to door just isn't as strong as it was. But in markets like Brazil, in Chile, Vietnam and some of these emerging markets where you don't have the corner drugstore, direct selling is really a viable business model. So I think one of the big lessons learned is companies just have to be very nimble and adaptable and have to really look at what's right for one market may be very, very different from another market and I think that's really, to me, the big lesson learned.

Peter: Deborrah, in doing the research on this book, is there anything that really surprised you when you were doing the research that you learned?

Deborrah: Well, the thing that really surprised me was - and I interviewed close to 100 people - how loyal that everyone still was to Andrea and in fact, I really wanted to in the book Beauty Queen to actually have individuals quoted, and only about three or four people said I could use their name. Everybody wanted to be anonymous. I think it just struck me how at the end stock price was down, people spoke when case were in the toilet and the company was ripe for a takeover and yet... and I just didn't go after everybody that I knew would be loyal to her but I did a cross section and there was still so much loyalty to her and people really... I don't want to say most people but many people said, you know what it was just the perfect storm. Things collided it all at one time. She's really still a good leader. I have to say that it just really surprised me that how much they still think of her, and the company is still struggling now and it's still takeover rumors are once again rampant. So I have to say that was the biggest surprise overall.

Peter: Yeah, of course during her reign Coty made a $10 billion offer which was rejected and she's been roundly criticized for that.

Deborrah: Yeah, very much so. And now Coty and Avon have an arrangement in Brazil where they will co-market some products which is really interesting, and I think those takeover rumors are once again kind of bubbling a little bit to the surface but they're still really struggling which to me, and even though the book I'm really happy that it's a balanced book about what she did well and what she didn't do well still when you go back and look at it, Avon is still struggling and still so many remnants of what wasn't focused on when she was there.

Peter: Was it really all of the bribery charges that brought her down?

Deborrah: That was another thing I think that surprised me that it wasn't just one thing; it was multiple things. Clearly the alleged bribery in China and the investigation it was just a cash drain, and when all is kind of totaled up for legal fees and the SCC charges or settlement will be close to half a billion dollars. So if you just look at that and then there was, as I mentioned, IT problems and just... what you could tell there was just a lack of investment in infrastructure which really had Brazil at that time was the biggest market and really had a profound effect on that. There was a bad acquisition Avon acquired during her reign Silpada which was a party plan silver company for $650 million and then silver prices skyrocketed. Anyway, last year they sold the company back to the original owners for $85 million.

Peter: One of those. One of those. Oh man, yeah.

Deborrah: Then the last thing there was a talent drain and people - the really good talent were really fed up and so there was kind of the revolving door.

Peter: Right. You wrote a lot about culture and how important culture is within an organization and she really didn't seem... I mean, she had her inner circle and her loyal, as you put her very loyal supporters within the organization, but when you're operating a global organization like that that's not enough.

Deborrah: No. And also what had happened during the second half was she ended up more tilted with outsiders coming in and they seemed to have the floor more without the understanding of the business and sometimes the outsiders really denigrated the insiders. You had a lot of the people who really understood direct selling leave and so you had a drain really on the direct selling business as well.

Just as an aside, going back to GM again, some of the congress has said, 'GM needs to get rid all of the long tenure people bring in a bunch of new people.' One of my big learnings was it's not an either/or it's and/both. So you have to have a mix of people that really understand the business with also some fresh blood, and that's one of the things that Andrea didn't do as well as really manage those tensions between the old and the new.

Peter: Another criticism from our friend Professor Finkelstein was that she had no succession plan. There was no one in place to take her role.

Deborrah: Yeah, and at the end of the book I have what's called kind of the manager to-do list and you've just got to have succession plan and you have to have more than one also. She had a successor identified Liz Smith, but Liz Smith got frustrated because the job wasn't hers, and she didn't see it in the future so she left. Andrea, I think, in the end she almost boxed herself into a corner in that there was really nobody else that the board could turn to until it was really almost too late.

So even though I find leaders sometimes find it hard to have somebody waiting in the wings, you really need to have that pipeline, you need to have that succession plan in place and more than one. Most companies, as you know Peter, they have the horse race, they have multiple people that can really take on it anytime.

Peter: One more question for you. As we all know, women CEO remain extremely, extremely rare out there and according to a recent PWC study, women CEOs are more likely to be forced out of office than men. So what do you think the future holds for women in Corporate America?

Deborrah: Well, maybe it's my optimistic personality but when Andrea took over the CEO role in 1999, there were only three other CEOs and at least now my latest stat show 5% women in the CEO roles but the pipeline looks good. I've actually gone in and looked at the pipeline of CEOs in some of the Fortune 500 companies and it's strong.

But I'd say for the younger women coming up, they face challenges as I mentioned earlier about getting some of these cross-functional roles where they can really learn different parts of the business and secondly raising their hands. Sheryl Sandberg talks about that a lot in Lean In, but raise your hand for those high visibility assignments, those ones where you can get noticed.

Sometimes what I find - when I do a lot of executive coaching - is that women don't promote themselves enough and they think well if I do good work people will see me, and you just can't do that. So it's raising your hand for these assignments.

The third thing which this is some of the researchers call it the second order gender biased but it's those kind of subtle ways where women may not be getting their voice in the workplace, may not be getting the coaching that they need and we really, that's a both ways that both men and women need to work together to really understand how we can continue to move women through the pipeline. Because I think we've got a lot of ones that may be ready to take on the senior positions but it's the earlier ones and some of the women that are opting out and they're just saying, 'who needs all of this. I don't want to be grilled like Mary Barra in front of congress.' So I think it's a number of issues that we still need to address.

Peter: I think that's some great advice and I completely agree with you about women in these roles in Corporate America really need to help promote themselves and take those expat assignments because that will be invaluable in promoting and advancing your career.

Deborrah: One of the biggest learnings that I've had is that it's easier to do that when you're younger, when your children that are younger, your spouse it's a little bit easier for them to move. So getting organizations to do some of this earlier versus later when the compensation just gets too high, so do it earlier when you're young and a little bit more mobile.

Peter: Deborrah, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us here on TotalPicture Radio. I enjoyed your book.

Deborrah: Yeah. Thank you. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thanks very much.

Deborrah Himsel is the author of Beauty Queen: Inside the Reign of Avon's Andrea Jung. It's available now in bookstores or in Amazon or wherever you buy your books. You'll find this podcast in the leadership channel of TotalPicture Radio, that's Visit Deborrah's showpage where you'll find a complete transcript of our podcast. While there, sign up for our newsletter. It's free, easy and fast. Connect with our TotalPicture Radio group on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @peterclayton and @totalpicture. I'm happy to connect on LinkedIn with TotalPicture Radio listeners. Please be sure to include in your invite that you listen to my show when sending the invitation. Thank you for tuning in.


The Cielo Talent Activation Index


Angela Hills, EVP and Managing Director of Cielo, Provides Insight Regarding Talent Acquisition and Retention Best Practices

Published on June 26 2014
Angela Hills, Executive Vice President and Managing Director-North America of Cielo -TotalPicture Radio interviewAngela Hills

As Executive Vice President and Managing Director-North America of Cielo, Angela Hills is responsible for overseeing the firm's increased market penetration and expansion strategies in the Advanced Manufacturing, Life Sciences, Consumer Brands, Financial Services and Technology sectors. Her unique expertise in talent management is a valuable addition to the firm's suite of talent acquisition services, and provides Cielo's clients with leading organizational capabilities and true competitive advantage.

Welcome to a Leadership Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio with Peter Clayton Reporting. At the HRO Today Forum in Philadelphia, Angela presented the findings from a new study conducted by Cielo called The Talent Activation Index with stats like 84% of "Leaders" are "very satisfied" with the quality of their workforce - compared with only 5% of "Laggards". Angela joins us today to discuss the Talent Activation Index and bring us up-to-speed on Cielo, previously, Pinstripe Ochre House.

Questions Peter Clayton asks Angela Hills in this Podcast:

Before we dive into your study, right at the time of the HRO Today Forum, you changed the name of your company to Cielo - I'm interested in knowing the rationale for this - obviously changing the name of a company the size of yours is a big deal.

Your company roots are as an RPO vendor (recruitment process outsourcing) you've grown not only internationally but in capabilities as well. Bring us up to date.

Alright, your Talent Activation Index is very interesting - and to me, at least, surprising. Give us some background regarding this study.

Who took part in the study, and tell us about the methodology.

How were you able to identify "Leaders" and "Laggards"?

The TAI study identifies 8 talent strategies where the difference in approaches between the highest-performing organizations, the "Leaders" and the poorest-performing organizations the "Laggards" are most extreme - and I'd like to discuss some of these with you, starting with #1 - Embracing Work Life Balance. Which I found surprising...

As you know at all the HR and TA conferences we attend Big Data is sure to be on the agenda. Number 2 on your list is Using data and analytics to create workforce strategies - I'd like you to take some time to unpack this one for us.

One item on your list of differentiating talent strategies that didn't surprise me is "embracing cultural diversity" however, my perception is a lot of companies don't walk the talk on this one. I'm interested in knowing how the Leaders you identified proactively make this happen... it must start with attraction and hiring, right?

61% of the Leaders rate their organizations' ability to empower workers of diverse generations as very effective - compared to only 6% of the Laggards - that's a huge gap - give us some context.

A theme I'm picking up here Leading organizations, 1 - have strong well defined cultures and 2, are transparent, and very good at communicating with their employees. Would that be a correct assessment?

Of course, that's a perfect lead-in to number 8 on your list... 86% of Leading organizations rate their employee value proposition as very effective at attracting top talent versus only 13% of laggards - were you able to identify a common thread within Leading organizations? What are these companies doing that makes them so effective at attracting top talent?

Another insight I'd like you to discuss: 69% of Leaders report being very prepared for the changing workforce demands that will emerge by 2020 compared with only 19% of Mainstreamers and 7% of Laggards. Can you identify what some of these "demands" are?

Another no surprise your report states "With higher quality of talent comes higher performance in every region and industry - tell us about some of your findings.

Was there anything in TAI study that surprised you?

How can our listeners get a copy of the TAI study?

The study includes a do-it-yourself assessment organizations can use to discover where they stand on the spectrum from Leaders to Laggards, is that correct?

One last question. What do you think is the most important take-away from the TAI study?


Accelerate: Podcast interview with John Kotter


A Powerful New Framework For Winning In A World Of Constant Turbulence And Disruption

Published on May 08 2014
John Kotter, Kotter International,-TotalPicture Radio interviewJohn P. Kotter

"The 21st Century will force us all to evolve toward a fundamentally new form of organization."

"Leadership is about setting a direction. It's about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through a effective strategy. In it's most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future." John Kotter, ACCELERATE

This is Peter Clayton reporting. We've all heard the old song, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If you believe that, and run a business or want to advance your career, this interview will radically alter that philosophy.

I met our special guest at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans several years ago. His keynote address at SHRM was titled The Importance of Urgency - and that interview with Harvard Business School Professor and best-selling author, John P. Kotter remains on TotalPicture Radio, because like most of his previous books, the interview is as relevant and timely today as when we recorded in 2009.

Dr Kotter's previous books include Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency. He is widely regarded as the world's foremost authority on leadership and change. In recent years, Kotter and his firm, Kotter International, have helped numerous organizations, both public and private, build dual operating systems to drive growth and accelerate strategy.

I'm truly excited to have John back on the Leadership Channel of TotalPicture Radio to discuss his latest book, Accelerate, published by Harvard Business School Press. The book cover looks like a giant Twitter hash tag - with large block letters XLR8. Leading this discussion is CEO strategist David Dalka.

Over 10,000 Downloads!


Robert Sutton - Scaling Up Excellence Podcast Interview


Getting To More Without Settling For Less

Published on May 02 2014

Bob Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School-TotalPicture Radio interviewRobert Sutton

If your organization has a bit of excellence, a pocket of goodness, how do you spread it?

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio with Peter Clayton and David Dalka. 

I'm here to tell you that podcasts have the shelf life of a Twinkie. And we have living proof on the show today! One of the most popular interviews I've ever recorded on TotalPicture radio was with Bob Sutton - recorded in 2007, the two-part interview is still live on - the book and concept we discussed - The No Asshole Rule was a major best seller - and one major publisher refused to publish the book because Bob refused to change the title. I'm glad he did. And I'm glad he's back with us today to discuss his new book, Scaling Up Excellence Getting To More Without Settling For Less. Leading the interview today is CEO Advisor and frequent contributor to TotalPicture Radio, David Dalka.


George Bradt - First-Time Leader


Foundational Tools for Inspiring and Enabling Your New Team

Published on April 17 2014
George Bradt, Managing Partner, Primegenesis,-TotalPicture Radio interviewGeorge Bradt

"People will follow a charismatic leader for a time... but it's all about the leader. On the other hand, they will commit themselves to the cause of a BRAVE leader over time."

According to our special guest and frequent contributor to TotalPicture Radio, George Bradt, 40 percent of first-time leaders fail within their first 18 months. "Leading is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best, together, to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose." Welcome to a Leadership Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting.

Much of this book focuses on building relationships, building teams, and how to hire great people. HR leaders and recruiters will find a fresh approach to the recruiting process, including tools like the Recruiting Brief which will give you the mindset of a senior executive and what is most important from a leaders perspective when assessing candidates, including mission/responsibilities, strengths, motivation, and fit. As with his past books, First Time Leader is really a workbook, including many downloadable tools and forms such as The Recruiting Brief.

In our exclusive Leadership Channel podcast, Bradt delves into the BRAVE leadership components articulated in his new book, from the outside in:
Environment: Setting the context for everything else by understanding the historical background and competitive environment in which you are playing
Values: Understanding your mission and getting clear on what really matters and why
Attitude: Learning and observing the current strategy before trying to change things
Relationships: Understanding the heart of leadership. If you can't connect, you can't lead
Behaviors: Determining the course of action that will make a lasting impact on others

George Bradt - TotalPicture Radio Interview 'First-Time Leader'

Hi, this is Peter Clayton reporting. Before we get to our interview with George Bradt, co-author of First Time Leader, I want to remind you that I'll be at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee April 28 through the 30th covering the SHRM Talent Management Conference and Expo. TotalPicture Media has high visibility marketing opportunities available to a limited number of vendors, exhibitors and consultants for video and podcasts production. To learn more please contact me through, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Welcome to our Leadership Channel Podcast here on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. Joining me today is George Bradt, Managing Director Prime Genesis. Prior to founding Prime Genesis, George Served as Chief Executive of J.D. Power's Power Information Network spinoff and then General Management Marketing and Sales at Coca-Cola in Europe and Asia, Procter & Gamble and Unilever. As a principal of CEO Connection, George contributes to a weekly column,, the new leader's playbook. He is a frequent contributor to TotalPicture Radio and the author of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan, Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time, and his latest book which we'll be discussing here today, is titled First Time Leader, foundational tools for inspiring and enabling your new team.

George, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

George: It's always good to spend time with you, sir.

Peter: Thank you so much. So, right off the Amazon website here, 40 percent of new leaders fail within the first 18 months. True?

George: True and the scary thing is we can't change that number. The people we've worked with we've dropped that 40 percent failure rate down to below 10 percent, but we haven't changed the overall number and this has been going on for years and it's a real problem.

Peter: So, is there a common cause for this failure George?

George: Well it's three.

Peter: Okay.

George: When people fail, it tends to be for one of three reasons, either poor fit, they don't deliver, or they can't adjust to another change down the road. And what's interesting is whoever you talk to about this blames the other guy. If you talk to the organization, they say yeah, you know that new guy or that new woman she just didn't fit. If you talk to the new guy or new woman, they say you know that organization wasn't what they pretended to be. The organization will say, yeah he or she just couldn't get it done, they couldn't deliver and he or she will say they didn't give me the resources and support I needed to get it done.

Then on the third piece, that things change, everybody says yeah, things change. Nobody is prepared to step up and take the blame, but with a 40 percent failure rate, I am here to tell you there is enough blame to go around.

Peter: Well and it seems that a 40 percent failure rate and that's costing corporations a lot of money.

George: Absolutely. It's crazy.

Peter: Well isn't there such a thing, George, as a natural born leader? You know an individual with a lot of charisma and a gift for inspiring people, people like Richard Branson, for instance.

George: Yeah, maybe. Maybe. What happens is - and Branson may be the exception that proves the rule - but what I've figured out, we've figured out is that people will follow a charismatic leader for a time, but it's all about the leader. On the other hand, they will commit themselves to the cause of a brave leader over time. If you're the leader, when we talk leaders we say listen, you need to understand it's not about you. Actually, it's not even about your team. It's about the cause. Get people rallied around the cause and then they'll go forward almost no matter what you do and then you're job is just to inspire and enable them.

Peter: I think that really fits well within Richard Branson's model because his whole thing is about the cause, whatever it is he's promoting, right.

George: Yeah, he's fabulous. I was at a conference last year and got a chance to be part of a small group talking. The guy is just (A) electric and (B) really, really does care about his causes, about what he's doing. He's rare and special and terrific.

Peter: And I think it's that authenticity a lot of times that really shines through, especially with leaders, because there's a great sniff test out there now, which is called the internet. People who are authentic, other people are willing to follow.

George: Yeah, the model or the framework I like is be, do, say, where, and nobody is going to believe what you say because they'll just sniff it out eventually, which is why you're actions must match your words, but with that great sniff test out there that you've just talked about, just matching your actions to your words is not good enough because if they don't match your fundamental underlying beliefs, sooner or later you're going to get sniffed out, you're going to get caught.

Peter: Okay, so let's talk about First Time Leader. First of all, what's the difference between this book and from The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan?

George: Yeah, the co-author, Gillian Davis called me up and said 'listen, George, I've been working with entrepreneurs, I've been working with people starting up teams, I've been working with first time leaders and I've been trying to adapt the tools out of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan and I'm having trouble because they seem to be for people leading big teams and is there a way to adapt these tools for people going in to lead small teams or people going into for their first time leadership role.' And I said, "Well, maybe, but why don't you and I just write a whole new book and look at it from afresh," and she loved that idea. So that's what we did. We started from scratch and said okay, what do I wish someone had told me when I was a first time leader and that's the sort of slant of the book.

Peter: Let's face it, leaders come in many forms and sizes so is the approach the same, meaning taking on a leadership role in a Fortune 500 company, a Coca-Cola, where you may be leading hundreds of people versus that of a small company or a startup.

George: I guess the NCAA final, basketball finals and in some respect it's really about shooting and defense and passing and teamwork and that's true for a grade school basketball game or the NCAA championship. But at the NCAA championship we're at the pro level, they have to take it to a whole different level. It's the same with leadership. The basics are the same. The shooting and the defense, it's all the same. When you're playing at the executive level, there are levels of complications that we really take into account in the new leaders, under the action plan. In First Time Leader, we've stripped away a lot of that and we really focus on the basics and in particular we've pulled in this model of BRAVE leadership, which we think is a framework that will work for first time leaders and it's something that they can carry through with them throughout their careers.

Peter: All right, so let's spend some time talking about this BRAVE framework, which is an acronym for behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, and environment. So George, walk us through this a little bit starting with behaviors.

George: No.

Peter: No?

George: No.

Peter: Okay. You want to go backwards? You want to start with environment?

George: I do, because you want to go outside in.

Peter: Okay.

George: And you read it right, and the reason I don't want to start with behaviors is because one of the fundamental premises is you've got to start outside in. You don't start with what you're doing, you start with the context. So it's set up with these five questions. Around environment the question is where to play and this is about understanding the context, the business environment, the organizational history, the recent results. You've got to answer the question where do I play before you do anything else. That's step one.

Peter: Okay.

George: Then, once you've decided where you're going to play and I can give you examples if you want, but let me give you the headlines first.

Peter: Okay.

George: Then you've got to get values and that is what matters and why. This is about purpose. This is about mission, this is about vision, this is about values and these are, this is the cause. This is the thing that leaders need to rally people around, you've got to understand what matters. That's values. Then attitudes. Attitude is about how to win. These are about the choices, the strategic choices, the posture choices. Are we going to be proactive, are we going to be reactive and then the whole culture because culture is in the end the only sustainable competitive advantage. So you make those choices. Then we get to relationships, which is how to connect and relationships are the heart of the leadership. So arguably the environment where to play is the context. What matters is what matters and why. The attitude is how to win. All that sets up how to connect. This is about communication, this is about the organization, this is about building the team.

Once you've done that and only once you've done that then you can get to behaviors, which is what impact. That's about the operations, the milestones, the making things happen. If you start with behaviors, you're missing the context, you're missing the values, you're missing the choices, you're missing the relationships and it's harder to get people to follow you. So you're right, BRAVE is an acronym. I think it's important to build it from the outside in.

Peter: Oh, that's really interesting and while you were describing this, I mean one company and one person that I was thinking about is Tony Hsieh, who is the CEO of Zappos because culture is everything to that organization and it's foundational to how they approach their entire business.

George: Well, absolutely and Tony has one of the great where to play stories because he talks about playing tournament poker, which he does a lot and he said after a while, after playing tournament poker he realized it's all about choices and where do you bet and what do you do, whatever. He said the most important choice he makes at a tournament poker match is what table to sit at because if he goes into one of these big rooms with all these tables of nine people and he sits down at a table with nine guys who are on a bachelor party who have been out all night having a great time and are there for fun, he's got a far better chance of winning than if he sits down at a table with nine former world champions hell bent on getting their prize back. So where to play and that is why he chose to play in retail shoes because it was so broken he decided it was like the whole industry had just come back from a bachelor party and he thought he could win.

Peter: Your book is a tremendous resource for those who can plan and organize the transition to a new leadership position, but as we all know there are many situations where you may be thrust into an opportunity without having any notice or time to prepare so how do you approach something like that where you wake up one morning and all of a sudden you're presented with this opportunity and you've had no time to prepare for it.

George: I think that's why the frameworks are really so important. In particular, I'm really liking this BRAVE framework because it is so simple. You can literally in a minute say okay where do I play, I'm jumping into this role, what do I know, what do I know about the context, what really matters. Just stop for a second, how are we going to win, how am I going to approach this, who do I connect with, how do I connect with them and then what impact do I have to make. So you can go through the BRAVE piece really quickly and it sets up if you have a little more time BRAVE onboarding.

So I'm using this acronym, I'm kind of like Maslow running around the world looking for nails to hit with my BRAVE hammer. But BRAVE onboarding you ask the same questions and you take a stop and you say okay, how do I get a head start. Even if I only have a couple of minutes, what's the context, what matters, what's the approach? Then I've got to get my message right. I've got to figure out how I'm going to connect with these people even if I'm thrust in. If I'm being thrust on them and from my perspective, I don't have a lot of time to think about it.

From their perspective, it's the same thing. I'm being thrust on them, they don't know how to react either so I might as well control the dialog as much as I can by getting clear on my message. Then, in terms of behaviors, I want to think about the strategic process, the organizational process and the operating process so even though I'm being thrust in I'm thinking over the longer term.

Peter: It seems to me, George, that there would certainly be a difference for someone who was being promoted within an existing company versus coming into a new organization as a new leader. What are some of the challenges and differences in that kind of scenario?

George: It's really the context. If you're promoted from within, you are part of the context and you have a track record and people know you and even if they don't know you, they know people who know you and there are no secrets. What happens whereas you're coming from the outside, you get a completely fresh start in theory, to a degree? But that sets up a whole bunch of things like there is no honeymoon if you're promoted from within. Nobody is going to give you a day to find the bathrooms, they assume that if you're promoted from within or are transferred you're going to hit the ground running and be up to speed instantly.

The other piece then is timing. So when we talk to people about executive onboarding or onboarding, which obviously is my sweet spot, we tell them three things - (1) get a head start, (2) manage your message, and (3) build your team. What happens is if your coming in from the outside, you want as much time as possible between when you're announced and when you're going to get started because you can use that time between being announced and starting to jump start relationships, meet with some people, talk to some people before day one and enroll them as coaches.

If you're promoted from within, it's exactly the opposite. Because the minute you're announced if you're promoted from within, you're live in two jobs. You have to do the old job and you have to do the new job. So it's actually more stressful so what you want is ideally as little time as possible between the formal announcement and when you start when you're promoted from within.

Peter: There's a section of your book I'd like you to spend some time on. Many of my listeners are in recruiting and HR roles and you have a section that's titled How To Hire Great People, which really comes at this from a very different perspective than most of the folks who I've spoken to about the recruiting and HR functions. You would think, George, that this would be kind of obvious you know, the recruiting process, you know like things like why are we hiring but it's not.

George: One of the things that people are finding most interesting is the tool on the recruiting brief. One of the things we've done with a lot of our books credit Wiley because they're the ones that originally pushed us into this, but all of our books are designed to be used, not read. So they all have these downloadable tools and Recruiting Brief is one of the downloadable tools and you're right, I took a very different approach with that because in some ways it's like it's BRAVE recruiting again. But it starts with why. Why does this position exist, why do we need anyone in this position? How is our world going to be better off with this person because no one should ever start recruiting anyone for any position anywhere until they know why they need them. If you start there and then flesh out some of the obvious stuff, the objectives and the specific responsibilities, the relationships and the impact on the rest of the organization, you're getting a pretty good picture kind of what they're going to do and why.

The second part then gets at their strengths because as you and I have talked about before, there are really only three interview questions. Any question anybody has ever asked anybody in any interview or been asked in any interview is a subset of three questions. Can you do the job, would you love the job, and can we tolerate working with you? Your strengths, motivation, and fit. So in the Recruiting Brief we suggest fleshing that out. In strengths, stealing from Gallup are a combination of talents, things you're born with. Knowledge that you acquire through education or training and skills that you get through practice. It's a really nice way of thinking about what is going to be required of somebody, what's somebody's going to have to be able to do the job, strengths.

Then we get into motivation because if these people don't love the job they're not going to do a great job so you need to figure out how it fits with their likes and dislikes and then motivation. Then finally it's fit and fit is with guess what, the organization's values and then the work style of the company, the group and the manager because as you know people don't really leave companies they leave bad managers. So the fit with the supervisor is important and that then is a framework really encapsulated by the Recruiting Brief and as you've figured out the section on relationships is actually about half the book. It's the heart of leadership and recruiting and hiring great people is a big part of that relationship piece, but the reason I chose to answer your question by zeroing on the Recruiting Brief is that's the heart of it, that's the pivot. It's the difference between saying oh my gosh, we've got to fill this job and stopping and saying okay, can we take a look at this. Why are we doing this, what's the context, what matters, what are the values. How are we going to do this, how are we going to win on this, how are we going to establish relationship and what do we want this person to do.

Peter: Again, back to my original question and the Recruiting Brief was what really set me off on this because again, and in a lot of the situations and the people I've talked, I mean a lot of recruiters use SLAs (service level agreements), which are somewhat similar to the Recruiting Brief, but are focused on a completely different set of objectives.

George: Yeah, and I think they're wrong. It's not that I think hey, these are different ways to get at the same thing. I think a lot of recruiters go at this wrong and if leadership is about inspiring and enabling others, which it is and if onboarding is a crucible of leadership, which it is, the way you bring people in is critical. It starts with getting everyone aligned around what you need from this person, what the new person is going to do, whoever they are, in the role because this is how you combat that first issue, that first fit issue, which gets back to the 40 percent failure rate. A lot of that happens before the first contact between the organization or the organizations representatives and the candidate. So get people aligned. Recruit them in a way that it starts their onboarding and then you can go from there.

Peter: Another form that you have is called the Job Requirement Checklist, which really gets into a much more detailed thing unlike the Recruiting Brief, which really is sort of like an overarching look at the company and why you're bringing this person in. The Job Requirement Checklist gets into the details of the job itself.

George: Well, all right. So not telling tales out of school, you just got at the difference between Gillian and me. I wrote the Recruiting Brief because I think, you know, I'm the more experienced wisdom guy and I think strategically and what really matters and Gillian, who's an ex recruiter, she did the Job Requirement Checklist because she says hey, the devil is in the details and of course, the answer is we're both right.

Peter: They complement each other -

George: Yeah, it looks like we worked together on it.

Peter: Yes, exactly, exactly. George, I've really appreciated your time today. So, in addition to the book, The First Time Leader, you have a First Time Leader program. So tell us a little bit about some of the services that you're offering in addition to the book?

George: We built a whole program, we built it actually six months before we launched the book and the idea is we wanted to be able to help first time leaders however they wanted to be helped. So there's a whole bunch of information in my Forbes article, and by the way, at this point I've done over 200 of them, so there's a real body of knowledge there and a lot of its applicable to first time leaders and that's of course free. So that's a pretty good price. Then we've got the book, which actually takes a lot of some of the best learning from the Forbes articles and my own experiences and that's whatever it is -- $25.

We've got a series of videos, so we built a program to help first time leaders transition into new jobs. If you're going to your first job and it's sort of self-service program that we charge, I don't know, I want to say $500 for that and each of those steps has videos on it and then worksheets. We separated out the videos so you can just go look at the videos if you want for I think it's $99 and then of course we have coaching and we have workshops and we're doing public workshops for first time leaders once a month and we'll be doing workshops for corporations. So there's a whole range from free articles to books to videos to workshops to online workshops to private workshops to one on one coaching. So if you're a first time leader and you need help, which you do, we have a way to help you.

Peter: Super. George, thanks so much foe taking time to speak with us here on TotalPicture Radio.

George: Always a pleasure, sir.

George Bradt is Managing Director of Prime Genesis and co-author of First Time Leader published by Wiley. You'll find this interview in the leadership channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's along with resource links. This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.

A very quick closing reminder here folks. I'll be covering the SHRM Talent Management Conference and Expo April 28 through the 30 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee. TotalPicture Media has high visibility marketing opportunities available to a very limited number of vendors, exhibitors, and consultants for video and podcasts production. To learn more please contact me through, LinkedIn or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I look forward to seeing all of you in Nashville.


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