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Category: Leadership (Page 1 of 2)

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Bringing Neuromanagement to the Business World

“We are not thinking machines that feel, but emotional machines that think.”
– Dr. Antonio Damasio

Having spent many years as a coach, I could not agree more with Dr. Damasio’s quote. I have worked with incredibly talented people who have great skills to offer but are not as successful as they could be because beliefs and emotions get in their way. As a result, no amount of data analysis, artificial intelligence and/or training can help unless the non-productive ways in which they think and react are addressed.

What is Neuroscience and Neuromanagement and why is it important?

By definition Neuroscience[1] deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue and especially their relation to behaviour and learning. To address this branch of science, Neuromanagement [2] uses cognitive neuroscience, among other life science fields, and technology to analyze economic, behavioural, and managerial issues. It focuses on exploring human brain activities and mental processes when people are faced with typical problems of economics and management.

Why is this important? The reality is that if an organization has human beings leading or performing work, emotions are present, and those emotions will influence business outcomes – for better or for worse. By learning about neuromanagement and applying its insights, organizations can manage the ways that emotions  influence their business.

As a trailblazer in Leadership Neuromanagement Dr. Carlos Davidovich of Optimum Talent and a thought leader for the Harvard Institute of Coaching, explained the benefits of using a scientific-based approach to help individuals and leaders understand the impact that our emotions and behaviours – and the behaviours of those around us – can have on our individual success as well as the success of an organization.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation:

Patricia Polischuk: How is neuromanagement making an impact on businesses?

Dr. Davidovich: Applying the fundamental insights of neuroscience to business is a breakthrough in improving organizational performance. By helping individuals to better understand what is going on in their brain and provide practical insights and approaches that can help them to be more effective in dealing with people at all levels of an organization, we’re able to create sustainable change at an individual and organizational level.

PP: How do individuals benefit from neuromanagement?

CD: There is a correlation between influencers, neurological activity in the brain, behavioural responses, and practical benefit to an organization. The application of neuroscience creates better relationships at all points on the compass – leaders, employees, peers, and teams; and this leads to better collaboration, idea generation, and implementation of initiatives.

Additionally, leaders become more adept at mentoring, coaching, and developing talent. In the end, these changes manifest themselves in better customer relations and overall business performance.

PP: Some critics have said that this all seems to be too emotional with not enough logical thinking involved. How would you respond to that statement?

CD: This is exactly the reason why we have to be interested in these topics. We have the delusion that we are logical and rational beings most of the time. This is far from the truth. The reality is that if an organization has human beings performing work, emotions are present, and those emotions will influence business outcomes – for better or for worse.

Additionally, with the rapid advancements in technology, employers are placing greater value on soft skills over hard skills when making hiring decisions because artificial intelligence can’t yet replicate emotional intelligence. So leaders who possess an aptitude for self-awareness, collaboration, and connection are really tending to their future employability.

PP: So for many, the question is “Why do I need to know about how the brain works? Don’t I just need to be more aware of my behaviour?”

CD: Yes, we need to be more aware of our behaviour. But with an understanding of our brain and how it is wired, with each passing day we can have access to very precise factual information of the brain´s circuits that drive our behaviour. We can now better understand the road map of our behaviour. The dashboard keeps us aware, through specific signs, how I, my team, and my peers are performing and how I can improve myself as a leader, and support the improvement of my team and colleagues in pursuit of more effective business activity.

PP: It has long been known that during periods of change and more specifically during job loss, it is normal to experience a “roller coaster of emotions.” How does the application of neuromanagement influence career transition?

CD: By sharing the latest research and information in brain studies, individuals can understand the challenges and influences that are affecting their mind-set, emotions, and attitude. Through a better understanding of their reactions to stress and change they can see the need and learn techniques for effectively managing through times of uncertainty, which then enables them to be more effective in their job search.

Those individuals who know Dr. Davidovich or who have attended one of his many presentations around the world, can feel the passion he has for helping individuals and organizations thrive. To hear Dr. Davidovich explain the concepts of neuromanagement in greater detail or to learn more about the numerous solutions offered through Optimum Talent’s Neuromanagement Centre For Business, please visit

Interesting Statistic: According to a study done by Gartner Research Group, the implementation of neuroscience into the ways business is conducted and the way in which companies are run will expand its market share from one percent (in 2011) to 20 – 25 percent by the year 2025.




Executive Career Transition

The Case for Executive Career Transition Support

Branding is a consideration for all of us; personally, professionally and corporately. Our brand is best described as what others say about us when we’re not in the room.  And it’s what those leaving our organization say about our company once they’ve left. Historically, that may not have been an issue. In today’s world of social media it is an issue of significance.

Severance is one piece of a separation settlement. Another critical component for the departing executive is transition support. Managing an executive level job search is not an intuitive exercise. Many presume the exiting leader must have a substantial network and healthy financial reserves; and therefore, requires no support to land a new role. While a strong network assists a transition, it can be a hindrance if mismanaged, which is quite likely to occur with the unitiated. On an emotional level, no amount of money can dissolve the impact of losing a job. For many, the role and its accompanying title, are how they are known and how they define themselves. A well-structured executive career transition program is mutually beneficial and should account for the following:

  • Organizational Reputation: For purposes of this discussion, your corporate brand is what exiting employees will say about the way they were treated upon departure. While a generous severance is typically seen as prudent, it offers no guidance or support to navigate a transition. It is  the combination of severance and transition support that engenders positive feedback.
  • Respect and Dignity: Affording the support of an experienced executive advisor upon exit optimizes the likelihood of a smooth departure and helps to manage the emotional reaction of a departing executive.
  • Survivor Productivity: The inevitable communication between the departed leader and his or her team can have a significant impact on engagement and productivity among your remaining talent. With well-conceived and comprehensive transition support the former leader is more apt to talk about how well he or she is being treated.
  • Mitigated Attrition and Increased Attraction: Amongst the surviving team, knowledge that a former colleague is receiving fair treatment decreases the “abandon ship” tendencies – the inclination to aggressively look for job opportunities outside the organization – and forms an attractive element to candidates considering joining the team.
  • Mitigated Litigation: Most employment lawyers will attest to the fact that fair and equitable treatment of the departing executive pays dividends in the short, medium, and long term. Any perceived saving by offering minimal severance, and little or no transition support is a false economy.

The presumption that executives are insulated from the effects of forced transition by the content of their employment contract or the severance they are offered on departure, that as an executive they are or should be better equipped to cope with an unexpected transition, or that they have ample money and will thererfore be fine, is flawed thinking. All the research would argue to the contrary. “My former employer treated me extremely well. The support I was provided through the transition was exceptional. I appreciate all they did for me” is the message you want coming from your departing executives. It strengthens the organizational brand, engenders confidence in the remaining team, and meaningfully mitigates the negative impact of these types of changes.

Richard Bucher is Vice President of  Career Transition at Optimum Talent and  a regular contributor at the CBC.

Make HR A Key Part Of Your Acquisition Strategy

Mergers & Acquisitions: Not Having HR At The Table Is a Costly Mistake

You’ve heard the phrase “Pay me now or pay me later”. This became one of the strongest marketing slogans of the 20th century because the message of “invest a little early, to avoid big problems later” applies to so many things in life – including mergers and acquisitions.

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, there is absolutely a business case for involving human resource partners early, in order to prevent problems later on.

M&As are part of many corporate growth strategies, yet the vast majority of these types of transactions fail to meet their strategic objectives. According to Harvard Business Review, “Companies spend more than $2 trillion on acquisitions every year. Yet study after study puts the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions somewhere between 70% and 90%.” One of the main reasons they fail is because the parties involved underestimate the impact that people-related decisions will have on the outcome of the integration.

M&As that meet and exceed expectations have one thing in common: a clearly defined people and culture plan from the outset.

Here are some of the ways that HR can influence the outcome of an M&A:

  • Culture & Leadership: A cultural and leadership review during the market scan is vital when two organizations are to align their business goals and objectives. Senior leadership, including HR, need to agree on the organization’s vision and leadership style.
  • Financial Implications: The due diligence phase of every M&A needs to be a thoughtful and thorough process. When HR is not involved from the onset it often negatively impacts the acquisition budget, and ultimately the final purchase and sale agreement. This happens because details concerning third-party contracts; pension plans; total rewards and compensation; non-competition and non-solicitation agreements; sub-agent contracts; and high value/high flight risk employees weren’t given the attention they deserve. Involving HR early will help to ensure these matters get the attention they deserve before it’s too late.
  • Communications Strategy: During an acquisition, there are always mixed feelings (anxiety, fear, excitement, etc.), and these emotions will impact the long-term success of the transaction. Honest and timely communication can help manage employee emotions and minimize the impact they may have on business continuity, productivity, and retention. HR partners can provide perspective to the leadership team regarding what messages need to be communicated, when they should be communicated, how they should be communicated, and to whom they should be communicated. They can also help identify key players inside both organizations to help make the integration of people and shared services go smoothly.
  • Retain High Performers: Many acquiring companies lose high performing talent simply by overlooking HR risks from the earliest stages. Let’s face it, the best performers are the most mobile and they know who they are. But do you know who they are at time of purchase? When HR is involved in the planning phase of an M&A they can help identify flight risks and develop a plan to retain high-value talent.

Stay tuned for more on this M&A People and Culture series.

Corrie Anderson is Director of Organization Development with Optimum Talent and a specialist in People Strategies for mergers and acquisitions.


We Drink Our Own Champagne!

We’re all familiar with the expression “The Cobbler’s children have no shoes”. Too often consultants and consulting firms want to be appreciated and recognized for their deep expertise, technical knowledge and skills, but not necessarily for applying it to themselves.

I am proud to work at a firm that truly believes in the services we offer our clients.

At Optimum Talent we use an amazing psychometric tool called SuccessFinder, previously known as Pathfinder Career Systems. In over thirty years of experience, I have never seen such a powerful psychometric assessment, offering both depth and breadth of insight. Completing SuccessFinder is a prerequisite to employment with Optimum Talent, regardless of level or the position. We assess prospective personnel rigorously and make better hiring decisions by leveraging our own psychometric solution. The impact is obvious:  meaningful selection data enabling effective team composition leading to strong business results.

Many of us at Optimum Talent, including myself, have used SuccessFinder with our family members to facilitate their career and education choices. Helping those we love and esteem by using our own products and expertise reinforces our professional integrity. I hope you agree that professional integrity is the first step in delivering great services.

Another service we offer is team intervention coaching. We are often hired by organizations to work with their executive team. We facilitate strategies fostering team effectiveness to ensure their efforts are strongly aligned to achieve their business objectives. As Optimum Talent is in growth mode, we’ve had to assimilate several new executive team members in a short period of time.

To maximize our own success we took the time last July to experience our own team effectiveness process.  Building on the knowledge gained through SuccessFinder we completed the Team Effectiveness Survey which measures 9 factors for holistic team efficacy.  One of our consultants produced the team profile, analyzed the results against our business objectives, and then facilitated a full day session including the company president. Not only were we all highly engaged in discussing our strengths, but also our individual and collective red flags and how to work supportively to assure our mutual success. Believe me, self awareness is great but when awareness of your team members is combined with action planning, the impact is powerful.

Believing and applying our own talent management solutions has been a shot in the arm for our employee engagement. In offering our services to you, our current and future clients, I want to share that we believe in our own solutions and that we apply them to ourselves. We hope you will feel proud to work with us.

At Optimum Talent we walk the talk by ensuring our success is based in the products and expertise that we offer clients and what we offer is the very best in talent management.  I like to say we drink our own champagne!  And it feels really good!

SuccessFinder and Your Behavioural DNA

From Pathfinder to SuccessFinder

It’s in each and every one of us to be successful in the work world.  For individuals the question comes down to what type of work will speak to our potential, offering an engaging and rewarding career?   For organizations, the question is how to source, develop and coach their human potential into profitability?  The answer to both these questions is SuccessFinder!


SuccessFinder is the premier psychological assessment that interprets an individual’s behavioural traits against over 500 job roles to determine that success and engagement.   Learn more about your behavioural DNA and predicting career and organizational success from our colleagues at SuccessFinder.


The C in C-Suite Stands for Courage

Are Canadian corporations and their CEO’s cowardly?  This is the question I heard Michael Enright ask in an October broadcast of The Sunday Edition. Two items spurred this inquiry:

In 2012, while Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Carney admonished corporate Canada for “not putting money to work”, essentially for hoarding cash reserves which he referred to as dead money.  Mr. Carney characterized this level of caution by Canadian CEOs as excessive.  You might be interested to know that the dead money figure as of Q2 2016 is $488,758,000,000.

This summer Deloitte published a study that identifies Canadian corporations as lacking courage, specifically the “…need to get over our fear of risk to succeed”.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Have we actually arrived at a time and place in history where business leaders, leaders in the current Canadian economy, no longer know how to make a loonie – no longer know how to lead?

If Canadian corporations don’t know what intrepid leadership looks like then my colleagues and I would like to help map this out.  We know that this talent profile exists in the people employed in businesses throughout Canada.  Here’s what we’re looking for.

The Profile of Courageous Leaders

According to our research bold, innovative and courageous leadership is characterized by 8 competencies:

  • Drives Achievement – Demonstrates an outstanding need to achieve exceptional challenges under competitive scenarios and is prepared to make lifestyle sacrifices for the sake of career advancement.
  • Sustains Profitability – Uses financial profitability, personal wealth and market share growth as the fundamental factors to judge one’s own and others performance on the basis of measured return-on-investment/cost-benefit analysis.
  • Seeks Innovation – Thinks expansively and combines novel ideas in unique ways to generate innovative solutions.
  • Embraces Change – Demonstrates the ability and willingness to adapt, contribute and support rapid change in response to different problem scenarios or objectives.
  • Initiates Independently – Demonstrates a preference for taking action, pursuing high risks and initiating projects independently of prior approval or requests.
  • Promotes Compelling Vision – Takes a longer-term and a purposeful approach to finding solutions, in order to actualize a more meaningful or worthwhile strategic goal.
  • Maintains Accountability – Demonstrates an attitude that is defined by taking responsibilities and loyalties very seriously. Assumes a sense of personal accountability for one’s direct results as well as co-workers’ actions, without seeking to blame or provide excuses for failures.
  • Builds Consensus – Enjoys working as part of a team. Emphasis is on appropriate compromise, demonstrating tact, maintaining emotional control and interpersonal tolerance rather than making demands.

Yes, the market brings uncertainty. Yes, the market impact of the recent election in U.S. is unknown. But when will we have times of complete certainty? Probably not soon! Canadian leaders need to demonstrate courage now.

Start by taking a good look at yourself and your leadership profile.  Be honest in determining which competencies are effortless and effortful, based on the profile listed above. Once you know that, you can work on your growth plan and identify who needs to surround you to complement your profile.  You and your team will both know and value the critical elements of courageous leadership.

These specific actions can support leaders in demonstrating courage to resuscitate the dead money and generate returns for the Canadian economy, the organizations, the employees and for themselves.

Case in point: Royal Canadian Mint

Ironically in an era where electronic fund transfers are dominant, the organization which literally makes loonies has reinvented itself by tapping new markets for new profitability.  The RCM services and products not only span international currency consulting and provision, they crowd source designs, craft collectables on themes including Star Wars, sell direct to consumers online, and yes, you can download the app. In 2015 the Government of Canada received $53 million in dividends.  Not bad for a Crown Corporation!


Diversity equals profitability

Shareholders! Are too many male Canadian board members costing you money?

This post is co-authored with Normand Coté.

Is the homogeneity of Canadian corporate boards costing shareholders money?

On September 28 the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a report indicating that women board membership on TSX listed companies had increase by 1% from last year to 12% in 2016.

That’s pretty underwhelming, but unfortunately not surprising. For over 25 years there’s been talk about women advancing into senior executive and board roles, but it’s largely talk. There appears to be a self-fulfilling prophesy that ensures women of skill, ability and endurance are held back.

“Again this year, the most common explanation given by issuers that do not consider the representation of women in executive officer appointments was that their selection is based on merit.” (p 8)

Selection based on merit seems to be a stumbling block for corporations. Women are being left out of consideration for high potential development and succession planning. In our experience they are under-represented in the selection process and consequently corporate Canada isn’t growing enough women leaders. This behaviour extends to other under-represented groups as well.

There’s enough research indicating that boards offering diversity, and by this we mean broader perspectives, innovative approaches and richer discussion, result in better financial performance. While boards are conservative by design these short-sited hiring and development practices can no longer be considered a viable pretext for the status quo. So why is corporate Canada short-changing itself and its investors? Is it possible that the biases which excluded women from becoming magistrates and senators found a cozy home in Canada’s boardrooms?

The key to overcoming this limitation is to confront the biases and the egos maintaining the status quo. Begin by acknowledging that they exist: in the corporate environment, in the boardroom and in the board members themselves. Diversity in the leadership and succession planning pipelines needs to be tied not only to the “merit” boards say they are seeking, but also in seeing the “people potential” within their organizations. Tools and external objectivity provide meaningful interventions that focus on clear data and rational decision-making – in other words they eliminate the unconscious biases that the people involved in the selection process poses. For example, external consultants who understand board and industry contexts can ask tough questions designed to illuminate how members think about key issues such as merit. They can also help to establish clear criteria for sourcing candidates based on merit and diversity. Rigorous psychometric assessments target behavioural traits that mitigate stereotypes formed over a life-time of professionally biased leadership perceptions.

The key function of a board member is to balance stewardship safeguarding the prosperity of the company with shareholder interests. This job cannot be done effectively if existing board members are afraid of working with and for women.

High potential leaders

You Must Diagnose Before You Can Prescribe

You’ve hired the best people for your organization. Now it’s time to identify the high-potentials that can take on leadership roles. This is a fundamental business investment designed to sustain your organization’s profitability now, but most importantly into the future. Essentially you are determining who can lead while you can mentor them; who will lead when you’ve moved on. Before the selection process can begin, it’s crucial that company leaders identify the unique skills and assets that each person can bring to your team.

This entails defining the set of activities that will accelerate future leaders’ development and get each ready to lead by developing their self-awareness. Just as a physician evaluating a new patient performs a diagnostic exam before prescribing a course of treatment, you must assess high-potential leaders. Performing a diagnostic assessment enables you to select proper development solutions.
To ensure a proper assessment, your diagnostic tools should include:

  • A 360-degree surveys or simulations
  • Validated personality traits inventories
  • A tailored knowledge and experience review interview or questionnaire

These three methodologies will generate a wholesome view of the high-potential leaders’ strengths and development needs.

Having collected meaningful information you can now ask the vital question that target your high-potential candidates’ self-awareness:
“What is it that one is aware of when one is self-aware?” In a nutshell, there are two answers:

  1. On the one hand, you can be aware of your identity: how you think about and evaluate yourself.
  2. On the other hand, you can be aware of your reputation: how others think about and evaluate your behaviours.

It is critical that a leader, particularly one who is part of a development process, is aware of both the impact of his or her behaviours and his or her reputation as a leader.

Self-awareness is particularly critical if there is a gap between the self-view and the reputation. When both are aligned it is considered self-accuracy.

Leaders who are highly self-aware and “honest with themselves” will recognize their challenges and gaps in order to maximize their strengths. The higher the self-awareness, the more likely the leader will improve.

Performing a good diagnostic before the prescription avoids wasting time, energy, and money. It is the right way to accelerate leadership development, for your high potential candidates and the people they will lead to sustain your organization in the future.

Diversity on Corporate Boards

Board diversity: Why what you see is what you get

Do you want the best person for the job? Perhaps subconsciously what you really want is the person who makes you feel the best about yourself, someone who reflects well on you. The type of person who will reinforce what success looks like, sounds like and most importantly, manages like. Since you are successful and you are in the hiring seat, this person will look a lot like you. Welcome to the very special tribe called Status Quo.

According to a recent article in Canadian Business, there continue to be too many corporate boards that have diversity issues. This is puzzling as there seem to be a number of reports that show board diversity has a direct impact on profitability:

Don’t corporations exist for the pure economic purpose of making money? Don’t they want to be more profitable? Or perhaps the better to ask is what these boards and their members have to lose? No matter how flat corporations become, they’re still hierarchical. Hierarchies allow some people to engage in assigning relative values to others based on perceived status and power. When you derive your self-worth from your corporate status then you’ve fixed the ‘ideal candidate’ for similar roles very narrowly.

In cases where board members are blind to how their power and influence place limitations on hiring and consequently profit-making abilities, corrective action in recruitment practices might be the key. According to Stefanie Johnson, David Hekman and Elsa Chan if there’s only one woman in your candidate pool, there’s statistically no chance she’ll be hired! Apparently when “one thing is not like the others” it signals that you’re different from the norm, that you’re different from the tribe. Instead the board needs a new norm, one in which a different candidate cannot be discriminated against so easily. This quick video explains how inclusive hiring can be facilitated:

So what do the boards of companies in which you hold shares look like, sound like, and manage like? Is there room for more diversity and consequently more profit?

Business Growth

Nothing Grows in the State of Perfection

Nothing can grow in a state of perfection.  Perfection simply does not allow it. It is already perfect, complete.

Now, the problem with perfection is in fact, its’ completeness.  Once perfected, it remains the same, never growing, never changing.  This pushes  against the nature of life itself, whose drive seems to be to forever grow or cease to be.  And like life, organizations and the people within them ideally move continually towards growth.

Working with clients as a career coach, I see first hand how the desire for perfection constrains achievement, fulfillment, decisions and action.  If one can’t do it perfectly, there is a tendency to stop or never begin.

Leadership that demands perfection, too, constrains the growth of an organization. Risk-taking stops, everyone is afraid of making a mistake and the impending consequences.

Progress - Perfection - Concept

Stop striving for perfection, and stop looking for it.  For if you find it, you have found completion. And completion can be a dead end.

If you or your organization has “room for growth”, celebrate it, for it has the space within its’ corporate walls where things can happen.

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