episode 141 – transcript

Dave Cain: Welcome to unsuitable on Rea Radio, the award-winning financial services and business advisory podcast that challenges your old school business practices and their traditional business suit culture. Our guests are industry professionals and experts who will challenge you to think beyond the suit and tie, will offer you meaningful modern solutions to help enhance your company’s growth and leadership strategies. I’m your host, Dave Cain.

Right now, the American workforce is undergoing a pretty massive change. Those who have been at the helm of our companies for so long are finally moving on their way out and playing a bunch of golf, and a vastly different generation is moving in to take their places. The customers these businesses are serving are changing as well.  Given the shifting economic climate, what’s a company got to do to stay on top? Can your business afford to completely revamp itself to meet the demands of your changing workforce? Or more importantly, can you afford not to?

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf and Associates, located in Columbus, Ohio, joins us again to talk about the importance of innovation and what that looks like in terms of leadership. Welcome back to unsuitable Maureen.

Maureen Metcalf: Thank you Dave. It’s to delight to be here.

Dave:         Oh, it is, and it’s a delight to have you as a guest. You’re one of our popular guests.

Maureen: Thank you.

Dave:         In fact, you were on the show, I believe, about six months ago, December of 2017. In fact, for our listeners, if you want to go back and listen, it’s Episode 113. It’s a great podcast, take a look and listen to it. But, our podcast community wants to know about an incident that you talked about back in Episode 113. You told a story about you were shopping in a Big Box store, went to the restroom, and came out of the restroom and your dress was tucked in to your undergarments. You remember that story?

Maureen: It’s a good thing I were undergarment.

Dave:         Yes. The podcast community wants to know, are there any other faux pas you want to share with the group?

Maureen: Let’s not share them at the intro but I may tell a story as we go through.

Dave:         Faux pas, now, that’s a term we haven’t used for a while. We can keep going.

Maureen: Let’s start with innovating leadership and I’ll share something about-

Dave:         You want to stay away from that undergarment conversation.

Maureen: You don’t want to know what my undergarments look like. Enough of the folks at Lowe’s saw them then.

Dave:         Before we get started, let’s talk about while our listeners are taking a listen to the podcast, what is your website address? Go ahead and give us some information.

Maureen: Sure www.metcalf M-E-T-C-A-L-F-associates.com. If I were to do it over again, I would not have spelled it all out. But in the early days of the internet, that had all seemed like a good idea.

Dave:         I’d encourage our listeners to take a look at that website. There’s a tremendous amount of information. You’ll see that Maureen’s a speaker around the nation on leadership topics. There’s all kinds of books and articles you’ve written, and blogs and you name it. You’re 24/7 on this leadership thing.

Maureen: It seems like it. There is significant section under thought leadership. I think they’re about 10 categories of Forbes articles, radio shows, books, white papers, and hopefully soon you will be on the radio show. So, your listeners can come visit you on our channel.

Dave:         Sure. And your writer for Forbes Magazine, is that correct?

Maureen: That’s correct.

Dave:         Okay. There’s access to that. So, folks, we have a leadership expert without a doubt in front of us. We’re looking forward to the next few minutes. The topic today we want to talk about is, Don’t Be A Flip Phone Leader, Develop Innovative Leadership Skills. That’s a great lead in.

Maureen: What I mean by that is, I’ve worked with a lot of leaders who get hired because they were really good at something. That’s why people hire us, we’re good at something. Yet over time, they spend so much time on the things that they’re a great technology leader, or they know accounting, or any number of skills. Over a decade, then they’re on occasion asked to depart because they have continued to update their technical skills, but they haven’t updated their leadership thinking, and they’re old school. That old-school thinking does not allow them to lead in the current environment. Given what we know about neuroscience, given the next generation of people coming up, and what they expect in the workforce, I can’t be leading like it’s 1999.

Dave:         … reference there right.

Maureen: Much better that than my undergarment.

Dave:         That’s correct. You and I had a brief conversation prior to production about our consulting group, Rea Consulting Group is out and talking to clients, and other network individuals, and we track a couple things that are on our business owners mind. One of them is succession. We commonly hear, “I don’t have the next leader on board. I don’t have the right person on board.” Succession is on the top of a lot of individuals minds, business owners. I think there when we hear that we immediately go to the leadership programs that company may or may not have. This is where you’re referring to innovative leadership programs. Let’s start there, why do we need innovative processes and programs to lead?

Maureen: As the world is changing, and this is an overused phrase at this point, but it is changing. We were talking about blockchain and crypto currencies and Artificial Intelligence. I interviewed someone recently who does AI work. He said, it’s already here. This stuff is already happening. Now, they’re doing fraud detection for tax collectors, for IRS and folks like that. He said, “These machines are already learning faster than our analysts.” We have smart analysts, it’s not that we hired dumb people and the machines get ahead of them. But then we have to learn. Now, this is not the stuff we see in the movies with sentient computers. But there’s a task and the computer learns. Within that context, and with what we’re learning through neuroscience, leaders have to continually change how they lead because who they’re leading, and what they’re doing as leaders has changed.

Let me give one example. We talked about collaboration being a critical skill going forward because in our history, as things didn’t change as fast, I could be an expert on something and it didn’t … I’ve studied, I read, it’s all I do. I know everything about it. At this point, I couldn’t keep up with the latest leadership stuff if I had to. I would literally die because of the rate books come out, and research comes out. I do a lot of this stuff, and I never feel like I know everything. So, this idea that I have to pull together the smartest people I can get ahold of, and we will collectively think through a problem. Which means as a leader, I have to acknowledge to myself, I don’t know it all. And I have to admit that to other people, and take steps to find the folks … It means I share credit. What I see with leaders, the hardest thing is to admit that I don’t know it to myself because I want to know stuff. I want to be the smartest person.

Dave:         Is that checking your ego at the door? Is that-

Maureen: My ego got run over in the parking lot I think.

Dave:         What’s interesting, and I’ve heard you speak a number of times and listen to some of your podcasts is that as a leader yourself, you are constantly studying leadership, looking to make changes, bring new ideas to the table. I think that’s maybe … Do you see that in the marketplace, and clients you serve that maybe somebody is just content with their leadership style?

Maureen: Those usually don’t tire me. But what’s interesting, and you do this with your podcast every week, you get to talk to a bunch of interesting people. If your brain is open, you’re learning, and you’re updating how you think about things. I have talked to people about what I do, and they’ve said, “Yeah, I don’t need that stuff.” On occasion, I’ll run into them later, and they don’t still have that big job they had. I don’t usually invite them to revisit that question. But there are plenty of people who don’t believe they need it, or don’t have time for it. I am so busy, and we all are. That’s why we do podcasts, that people can listen or watch. Hopefully, they’re not watching while they’re driving, but they listen while they’re driving, while they’re working out, while they’re walking the dog. We multitask so we can stay current. Your podcasts do a beautiful job of continuing to expose people to the topics that they don’t have time to be an expert on. But they need to be aware of.

Dave:         Well, thanks for that comment. We’ve worked hard at that. We’ve had to fire or producer a number of times, he’s well overpaid.

Maureen: But he’s back.

Dave:         He doesn’t go away. He just keeps coming back.

Maureen: Does that means he’s working for free.

Dave:         Yes. When we start talking about these innovative leadership, sometimes you get said, “Oh, that’s for the large companies. That’s for the publicly traded companies. That’s for those guys to deal with. My business, my $2 million revenue business, my 5 million, my 10 … I don’t need that.” I think that’s maybe the opposite.

Maureen: I think it is the opposite. It’s interesting. As I’ve done this more, I’ve gotten exposed to a lot of parts of leadership and how our community runs that I had been unaware of. So, interviewing someone like Alex Fisher from the Columbus Partnership, Columbus 2020, which will be called something else after 2020 probably. But they now have 100 year plan for our city.

What does that look like, and what are they focusing on? Because if I have a $2 million business, I want to make sure that I’m on the positive end of that plan, not on the negative end of that plan. So, as leaders of smaller businesses, how do people work with nonprofits to get exposure and both … Let me give an example. Life Care Alliance delivers Meals on Wheels. One of the things they do is have volunteers adopt roots. So, if I’m a small company, and I’m struggling with team building, one opportunity, maybe I have people from my organization adopt a root. Each time I pair different people who don’t know one another, there are things we can do by being aware of what’s going on in our bigger community. You talk about these things, I talk about them, we have to look for opportunities that are unconventional because some of the conventional stuff, one, doesn’t work anymore. And two, isn’t available if I’m a $2 million company. I don’t have the funds to go do this stuff I used to do when I worked for that big guy down the street.

Dave:         Right. Now, the size of the clients that you work with and consult with on leadership, can you give us an idea of the type of clients you work with size wise? Again, I want to get our listeners a good idea of some of the services that you offer in leadership because, like I said, I subscribe to your thinking, you’re innovative. We’ve had these conversations. I want to just share that with the audience.

Maureen: Thank you. One of my commitments is the world gets better because we have better leaders, or it gets worse because we have worse leaders. We’ve done a lot to make stuff available for free. If you have zero money, you can go to the website, you can take free assessments, you can download the radio shows that you and I both invest a lot of money to produce these as a service to our community, right? So, there are radio shows, books, articles and assessments. The next step up is someone can buy a book for whatever, $25, $35, $45, whatever price it is today on Amazon. Then there are online training courses for about $500. People are using those for Project Management Institute and CPA’s and law firms to get continuing education credits. If you go to the website, there are things you can log on to and get a discount as well. Those are available to everybody. We do an IT leaders program and the cohorts are 50 people each. We’re signing focus up for our fourth cohort, also very reasonably priced. It takes the online program and also adds in end person component. Then I work with corporations and nonprofits. So, a broad range. Just to give you an idea right now, the first cohorts of the IT leaders program, there were 60 different companies represented. They’re small and large. Certainly, the large guys can put more of their people in a class, but it’s also available to smaller companies.

Dave:         You do realize that our production crew, our marketing crew gave us this really nice carefully scripted script that we were supposed to follow today. We haven’t followed one piece of that thus far. I’m okay with that, are you okay with that?

Maureen: You know me well enough to know I wouldn’t follow the script even if you asked-

Dave:         That’s right. That’s why I told you didn’t need to prepare and all that final outline because we wouldn’t follow that. But you could step into a company, consult with a company to talk about their leadership strategy programs. Like I mentioned, with succession and somebody may not have a team in place, but you could actually assist with that.

Maureen: Absolutely. I’m really assessment heavy. We would go in and start with assessments. There are inexpensive ones and there are really expensive ones. For some of them, there’s a really good reason they’re expensive because they give us brilliant information. Again, we look at the range of tools the client’s needs and willing ability to pay. We assess who they’ve got, and we assessed what they need. What I need is a small company that doesn’t do very complex stuff, is going to be different than what you need as an accounting firm. You’re going to need much more complex thinkers, longer term time horizon, ability to deal with the really nuanced questions clients have. What I would be looking for from your leadership team would be really different than a different leadership team.

Dave:         I’m glad we took a detour from the script, because I think we have companies that they just don’t know where to start with their leadership. You hit it right down the middle. There’s, you have to do the assessment. I think that that is where your expertise comes in play to get a program in line. Notice how they’re waving at us to get back on script. Somehow, we got to get back on script here. Let’s talk about what is innovative leadership.

Maureen: To me, there’s the leadership part, and then there’s the innovative part. The idea that I have built into my thinking algorithm that I will continually update how I lead. It’s innovating how I lead on a continual basis. Tools to do that are things like our programs, things like listening to your work or your podcasts, because I have to update not only my technical skills, but my thinking algorithm. I wouldn’t use a 10 year old phone because it wouldn’t do what I needed it to do. My dad does, but he’s in his 80s and retired. For the rest of us, even my step mom doesn’t. For those of us who need to step into our workplace, and deal with this level of complexity, we need our leaders to update how they think. I can give a list of some of the competencies if that would be helpful.

Dave:         Sure. Are those the … What do you have, five elements, eight elements, you got a lot of elements.

Maureen: I know, I have a lot of frameworks. This is actually the Leader 2050 Competency Model. It was published in a book that’s used in a lot of MBA programs by the International Leadership Association. I say that to say it’s been validated, it’s not something I came up with over beers. There are seven competencies and the first one is professionally humble. That was that thing that you were talking about, that if my ego walks through the door before the rest of me, there’s a problem. Unwavering commitment to right action. You think about all of the times we’re seeing now, where leaders across the board; business leaders, church leaders, political leaders, do things to hit results because the market requires it. Often, they veer from their ethics. Often, good people pressure to do things and you succumb to the pressure and then you look back and you don’t know how you got here. The third is 360 degree thinker. I can step out of the situation and evaluate all of the interconnected pieces and then make a decision.

Dave:         Kind of the helicopter view?

Maureen: Yep. Again, as we are now living truly in a global society, I can make a decision in Columbus, Ohio, and it could impact my colleagues around the globe. Intellectually versatile. This is that I stay current not just on my small stuff, but I’m aware of the broader range of interconnections that I have to be aware of. This could be, I read biographies, I listen to music. It’s interesting how many CEOs in Columbus are in bands?  What do we do to refresh and to connect with people? How many people … I read the other day that most of the billionaires in San Francisco go to Burning Man. That was surprising to me. That was a bit of an outlier. What do people do to connect in ways nontraditionally so they come up with the big ideas? Because I did not imagine I was going to go to Burning Man.

Dave:         No, I wouldn’t see a Burning Man either. I wouldn’t go there either.

Maureen: I may now. Then the next couple highly authentic and reflective, I take time to reflect on what’s happening and correct my action. So, I can’t innovate if I’m not continually evaluating, and course correcting. Which is hard to do. It’s embarrassing sometimes you admit you done some things that I won’t share.

Dave:         Yeah, we’re all there. Totally relate to that one.

Maureen: Then the last two, ability to inspire followership. Which for me is a lot about trust. People aren’t going to follow me and feel inspired by me if I’m out of date and not trustworthy. That connects with this authenticity and ability to admit my mistakes. Be vulnerable. Not be ridiculous, but-

Dave:         Sure.

Maureen: Then the last one is, innately collaborative. To find novel solutions, we need to encourage multiple and differing perspectives. People who disagree with me have to be in conversation, and they have to be willing to openly disagree, which means I have to create a culture where that’s okay.

Dave:         So, these are the elements, I guess if you will, of the innovative leadership programs that you bring to the table. You have those listed in order one through seven. The first one we talked about was professionally humble. Is that your favorite one? Is that where we start? If I’m not humble in this whole process, how can I get to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7?

Maureen: If I’m not humble, often, I don’t admit again to myself that I need to get to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Dave:         A leader, as you pointed out, can look at their own leadership style and be very, very critical and want to improve?

Maureen: That’s what we hope. It’s a bit paradoxical because I have to have confidence. We don’t want leaders who are slinking around thinking they’re idiots. I want someone who’s confident and also humble. So, I’m willing to reflect, I’m willing to be authentic, I’m willing to admit mistakes and learn.

Dave:         We talked about you going into organizations regardless of the industry, but do you do a lot of one on one consulting?

Maureen: I do and also executive advisory stuff working with senior folks, and also coaching. There are, again, people who are just brilliant in their topic. Who never learned leadership skills, because they were busy researching curing cancer, and doing those things. But they didn’t necessarily have a how to be a good leader class in the how to cure cancer program.

Dave:         I love your analogy that a lot of leaders are up to date in newest technology. That the iPhone 10 that does everything for you. But still on the flip phone fades as far as their leadership skills. That’s a great analogy.

Our guest today has been Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf and Associates, and has been joining us today to talk about the importance of innovation of leadership and what that looks like in terms of leadership.

Maureen, I want to thank you for taking the time out to talk to us today. Even though we’re out of time on this episode of unsuitable, we’ve got a lot more ground to cover. We’re going to have to ask you to come back next week. So, listeners please tune in next week and we have Maureen back on the podcast to talk about how we can actually go about innovating the leadership. This is Dave Cain, and until next time I encourage you to think outside the box and loosen up your tie, and let’s get those leadership skills going.

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