Agile Leadership with Chuck Mollor

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

In this episode, Chuck Mollor discusses this new leadership paradigm, a roadmap of what makes a great leader, and what organizations must do to develop great leaders.

After the Interview:

About Chuck Mollor

Chuck is the founder, CEO, advisor, and executive coach at MCG Partners, an organization that helps develop leaders and teams, optimizing both businesses and individual talent.

His new book and best-selling book, The Rise of the Agile Leader: Can You Make the Shift?, is a guide for the aspiring, mid and seasoned c-leader and executive that introduces a new leadership paradigm, a roadmap of what makes a great leader, and what organizations must do to develop great leaders.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast, I am your host and Executive Coach Allison Dunn. Today we are going to be discussing the agile leader. And I’m super excited to introduce our guests we have with us Chuck Mollor is the founder, CEO, advisor and executive coach at MCG Partners, which is an organization that helps develop leaders and teams optimizing both business and individual talents.

His newest book, The Rise of the agile leader, can you make the shift is a guide for the aspiring mid and seasoned see leader and executive that introduces a new leadership paradigm, a roadmap of what makes a great leader, and what organizations must do to develop great leaders. Chuck, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Chuck: I’m thrilled to be here. Allison. Thanks for having me.

Allison: Absolutely. I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. So my question for you is, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners?

Chuck: Number one, let’s see considering the environment we’re in right now. I would say pause. You know, we’re running hard, where everyone’s running for one video meeting to next, trying to figure out virtual versus hybrid workforce effectiveness, trying to understand the consumers and the global competition, the global marketplace, and that the pace of change, the intensity of change, pause, find reflect, find time to think to plan to strategize. Don’t just get caught up in the moment. That’s probably my biggest advice. I will get any leader right now.

Allison: And that’s the first time I’ve received that tip. And, Chuck, I want to tell you that that is a tip that I don’t think I don’t think enough people put enough weight on and such a powerful way to do it. So I have my own process. Can you talk me through what process you would use to hit cops? Like what does that look like? In your own world? I’m curious.

Chuck: Yeah, there are a couple of different things. One is a very simple technique that I use, which really involves a person’s calendar. Because often we think we know where we spend our time versus where we actually spend our time. So it’s a very simple exercise, I get a client to print out their calendar for about two or three months, and sort of categorize you know, where they spend their time. You know, is it you know, day to day meetings with clients, customers, you know, whatever the categories may be, depending what’s on your calendar, what your job is, and what we’re, you know, what your industry is. Everybody comes back shock saying, Oh, my God, I thought I was spending my time doing XYZ. The reality is, I’m too involved in the day to day. And I’m like, Okay, give me time to schedule for yourself. Well, now, I try. But I always get you know, overridden. And I end up scheduling something and I and I, you know, sort of be flexible about that. Because the demands of you know, my organization demands on my business.

So it’s really eye opening exercise for a leader, because they recognize for the most part, they’re too involved in the day to day, they’re not spending enough time being strategic. They’re not spending enough time being external, meaning not just with customers, but looking at the marketplace, looking at competition, looking at the future of what the future holds for our company or industry. What are those trends? Looking at things like innovation, what’s going to disrupt our industry? Are we thinking about disruption, too many leaders are caught up in the day to day. And of course, as we just talked about, but not spending enough time pausing and spending enough time having a chance to self reflect not just to be strategic, but to think about themselves? What am I doing as a leader, you know, what am I doing to make sure I’m developing my people? Am I developing next generation of leaders, all things that you don’t have time to think about when you’re, you know, caught up in the day to day, and every leader that says, Yes, I’m going to get to that. It’s like the proverbial we’re going to get to the gym. It just doesn’t happen, right? Because you’re all doing the morning or I’ll do the evening. I’ll do it in the shower. I’ll do I’m having breakfast. No, I just doesn’t happen that way. So that’s, that’s the technique I would advise.

Allison: I have thinking time as a block on my calendar every single day. And it’s when I tell when I coach people to do that. It’s just a foreign concept and so reaffirming what I’ve been telling everyone to do. So when you asked me how was my day going, and I’ve said I’ve had the perfect day in time, which I super appreciate it. It just sets it sets the tone, so great. I love it. So our topic today is the agile leader and I just wanted like you know, just like set a baseline like what does it mean to be an agile leader?

Chuck: Yeah, so we’re talking about agile leader right? Agile is gained a lot of popularity in the last few years because of the actual concept itself came out of software development in terms of trying to increase the cycles of innovation in terms of generating the next software products. So FMF methodology, or Scrum, as it’s known, has been really gaining popularity outside of software development, where a lot of organizations have been thinking about being agile, in terms of transforming their organization, being leaner, be a little bit more empowered in terms of decision making a little bit more flexible. And of course, in terms of the word itself, the vocabulary description, how to be able to be flexible, and be able to shift quickly, to be quick on your feet. Right?

So think about that in organizations today. And I would say yes, it’s one thing if you’re a startup, if you’re, you know, a fast growing company, and you’re and you’re young and you’re small, it’s really easier to be agile, a lot of ways when you start getting to be a larger company, especially fortune 500, or even larger, you know, there’s so many different decision making levels and layers of bureaucracy and processes. And sometimes organizations have to really take a step back and say, did the they need to exist? You know, are we are we moving quick enough to be able to respond to the needs of the marketplace to be competitive, address the future, growth, innovation of our sector.

So it gets a little harder but innovation from a leadership standpoint, not innovation, excuse me, agile from a leadership standpoint is a little different. where I’m coming from is, you know, I think let’s, let’s use a, a some very specifics here, you think about the multiple generations in the workforce today and their needs and their perspectives, you think about the focus of being inclusive. What does that mean, for, you know, multiple backgrounds in terms of ethnic backgrounds, and ages and nationalities, and cultural focuses when you’re managing a potentially global workforce that’s also most likely virtual or hybrid. And, you know, the leadership leader today is, it’s more challenging, it’s more of a more difficult, more complex than it’s ever been in our modern history, right. And you think about all those factors. And of course, COVID, just accelerated that the last two years.

So agile, to me is the adaptability of how to pivot and deal with all those complexities. At the same time, stay focused on what success is for your business, but also success for your organization, its culture, because without culture, without people feeling valued, appreciated, saying, identify with your brand, with what your values are, what’s acceptable behaviors, I want to be part of this organization want to be part of its future, you’re not going to drive performance, you’re not going to drive engagement, you’re not going to drive retention, therefore, you’re not going to achieve the results you’re trying to achieve both strategically and financially. So agile comp encompasses a lot of different aspects what leadership is today.

Chuck: That was a big definition. But it was I capture a lot of different things there. But that’s a very macro perspective. And then you can get into some very, very specifics. Yeah,

Allison: Let’s dive into some of the specific in your book, you, you kind of emphasize how important it is to understand how your team perceives you as the executive and why it matters. Can you kind of enlighten us on that?

Chuck: When you think about managing in the 80s, and the 70s, even, you know, let’s say the early 90s, most of the 90s Managing was really a very top down, you know, work environment, right, we call the command and control right, managers were in charge, they barked orders and the rest of the organization follow the different levels of managers, and it was very top down command and control.

You know, the world started changing tremendously over the last 20 years. And what we see now is the need for managers to have the flexibility to understand why it’s important for their employees to appreciate and value them as managers. So it’s a pretty famous study, I’ll use as an example, you probably know that Google did this big study a couple years ago about, you know, what, what creates a high performing team? In other words, why is why are some managers very effective and what and the environment they create for their employees versus others. And the number one reason was this whole concept around psychological safety, which essentially is about creating a safe work environment, not safe in terms of physical safety, but safety in the sense of, can I challenge the status quo? can I provide feedback to my boss, can I challenge my colleagues? Can I question why are we doing this or why are we not doing this? So it’s about creating an environment where people feel comfortable, can I fail and make a mistake about losing my job? I’m getting reprimanded.

So when you think about what really safety is, and why it’s so critical, and it’s really the pivot of as a leader, how I’m seen as a leader, am I delegating effectively? Am I empowering my people, the expectations of employees, organizations are so different today, it’s really, really shifted in the sense that as an as a leader now, your ability to ask for feedback to empower your people to develop your people develop next generations of leaders, and where the decision making is now been pushed down. And the organization leaders today are as more or more facilitators are necessarily have aI going to be involved in every decision. And frankly, going back to our first conversation, the beginning of this podcast, if you’re not getting out of some of those day to day decisions, you’re not spending enough time being externally focused. So there’s a combination of reasons of why this is so important.

Allison: Is there? Is there a proposed step or process for an executive to find out how they are perceived like what is your tool or your go to analysis for whether they’re succeeding in that factor?

Chuck: Yeah, I mean, some of these tools become very sterile the last 1015 years, Allison, you know, we all know behavioral assessments in terms of understanding who you are, what your strengths are, it’s also about what happens to you under pressure and stress. What are your derailleurs? What gets you to trouble? Things very specifically, like how do you deal with conflict? What’s your natural decision making style? How do you deal naturally with risk and change? How do you communicate? So understanding your behavioral self is so critical? And then also, the feedback mechanism that most people would use is a 360 assessment, right? both written and verbal, which is how am I perceived in that moment.

So your behavioral assessment associates who you are the 360 is subjective opinions, a snapshot in time of how you’re being perceived, versus how you see yourself and understand the gaps of do I see myself both in terms of my strengths, as well as my development needs, is my colleagues do, that’s my boss, my peers, and my subordinates. So those are the traditional mechanisms.

The one thing I think that most leaders simply don’t do a good enough job is understanding how to ask for feedback and doing in a way that’s not only authentic, but doing way that’s effective. Most of us simply say, you know, give me feedback. And you know, when you when you make a general statement like that, most people really struggle with what am I supposed to say, I’m not really sure how to say it. And it goes by creating that right environment, for you, for there to be trust, trust is all based upon relationships, and a person feeling when you respect my opinion, you want my opinion, you’re going to do something with my opinion, most leaders really struggle with asking for feedback and input in a very effective way, not just for themselves as leaders, but also when it comes to making decisions for their organization, their business. So the ability to ask for feedback, as a leader, to me, is probably the biggest opportunities that leaders have today and doing that effectively.

Allison: I agree, and I think the process you’ve outlined, getting it from a risk standpoint, and understanding oneself is huge, it’s a great first step in kind of discussing or opening kind of all the things that are involved in being an agile leader, you suggest that focusing on company culture is critical for the organization’s success. I agree, but I would love for you to share why that is.

Chuck: Yeah, so essentially, is the environment that you’re creating, that identifies what you value. And it’s it just goes beyond what you value and value translates into very specific behaviors, right? So for example, if one of your values is valuing, you know, your employees just making up No, most companies have value statements in terms of what they value for the organization. And those values have to translate into very specific behaviors that are observable.

And then you need to have HR processes and systems that actually support the ability for employees to provide good feedback, but also get reward and recognized and even promoted based upon their ability to demonstrate those values on a consistent level. So it goes back to the cliche, you got to walk the talk, as a leader, because if you know demonstrate those values and those behaviors, why you’re going to expect their employees to and that’s where those values are, you know, collecting dust, you know, in a cafeteria or in a conference room wall. Now, why is that important? Because essentially your culture those values that define your culture is your brand. It’s not just your internal brand reflects your external brand.

So a really good example would be Patagonia, right, everybody kind of remembers Patagonia when they first started and one of their more infamous statements was they had a big sale for their clothing. And, you know, they made it very clear, they’re going to donate most of their proceeds to across supporting the environment. And you know, that became not only are their external brand that they manifested that into how they define that to why you want to be part of organizations culture, how does that translate to what our values are? S

o culture is a combination of your internal brand and your external brand that need to be aligned. And it goes back to why you want to work here. Why do you want to grow here and your career, why you want to perform here and succeed here. And that translates into successful business and performance both at the individual level as well as the corporate level. So culture has really been a very, very big focus. I’ve been speaking about culture heavily the last two years, because of all the changes due to COVID. And the impact of COVID. The culture really is sort of the foundation of who you are. And it reflects your strategy reflects your purpose, your flex, essentially, you know, who you are as an organization as a business, and then translated, as I said earlier, to why you want to be here, why you want to succeed here.

Allison: I would say that the agility of how companies handled the ability to go from a remote workforce to then a combination, or bringing people back in office has had a huge impact on Well, one culture, but also the overall success of an organization. So do you have any tips for anyone who may be struggling still possibly, with this type of ship? Nothing is agile as needed, on how to do this successfully?

Chuck: Yeah, I think one of the things you have to go back to and we talked about self awareness and asking for feedback, even outside of a 360, which to me is the biggest gap right now. But leaders have, I think we all have some natural biases. And you know, and a very specific example would be I know, there’s plenty of managers and leaders and executives out there that struggle with the fact that I don’t see someone doing their job. I don’t know if they’re doing their job well, or if they’re performing at the level I expect. So that’s a bias, right?

It’s like, there’s plenty of very successful employees out there that are working virtually or hybrid, that you’re not going to be able to see them every day. But you have to manage on activities, progress and results, not necessarily visual management. So we have to understand our biases. What gets us into trouble, especially with the complexities now of a virtual hybrid workforce, we’re not always going to see them. The other big challenge I think leaders managers have right now is how do I how do I create culture? How do I create a team and a trusting team, a high performing team, when we’re hiring people virtually or onboarding them virtually, they’re now part of a team that we’re not really developing that traditional relationship, you know, in an office, you know, the watercooler let’s go grab lunch.

So I think managers today need to be more creative and finding opportunities to develop stronger connection with their employees. Another example of if you’re spending all your days in meetings in virtual meetings, what are you doing just have ad hoc conversation? Hey, how are you doing? You know, what’s going on your wife or your family’s doing? What are you struggling with right now. So those are examples of where I think managers need to be really focused on right now.

Allison: Um, you kind of put a big spotlight on the concept of psychological safety. And I think that we both agree that it’s a competitive advantage that we need to maximize right to be able to have a highly engaged workforce, what are what are some of your we’re go to practice practices that you suggest a company implement, when it comes to psychological safety, or in general, creating psychological safety. So you can have that type of engagement, that feedback loop that level of innovation, so outside of outside of the actual feedback itself, like what other? How would you know, if you don’t have psychological safety? Let’s just start with the baseline of that, like, what are the you don’t? What do you do?

Chuck: Sure. So the couple of really very good metrics to assess psychological safety and that a lot of it has employee engagement scores, a lot of employee engagement surveys, or even pulse surveys. And for those who are not familiar, the pulse surveys where you’re doing a survey maybe every month or even a couple of weeks, where it’s not just about overall appreciation and value or do you understand the strategy and your role and all the other questions that all surveys and engagement surveys will ask. A lot of engagement surveys have advanced and evolved to where they’re asking about trust in feeling valued and feeling good. new challenge.

And so understanding the day that getting that kind of feedback from your employees on a very sort of large scale can be helpful. And I think as an individual manager, you have to you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. One, are your people challenging you? Are you receptive to input and feedback not just on yourself, but on ideas that go beyond your ideas? So there’s plenty indicators where it when you’re, when you’re, when you’re in a meeting, and you’re asking for feedback and input and there’s, there’s silence, you’re, you know that you’ve got a problem. A lot of leaders say, Okay, people have an opinion, I know that everybody’s got an opinion. But the reality is, Are you are you creating, again, a work environment where people feel comfortable, they receptive to input and feedback, I mean, I’m working with a couple of executives that historically have been more command and control, and frankly, have been more intimidating.

And it’s really hard to overcome that that reputation, sort of old tapes of how you’re perceived. And even though you may be spending months, if not even a year, demonstrating the right behaviors, all you have to do is stub your toe a few times, and people feel like oh, you’re going back to those past behaviors. So establishing trust with people one on one is so critical, demonstrating the value their thoughts, their opinions in their perspectives, it’s hard to see a metric besides engagement surveys, but it’s really comes down to managers, how they spend their time every day, how they’re how they’re forcing decision making down to the organization, another small technique, it’s a very simple one.

And I recommend this for a lot of managers, rotate your staff meetings, who’s in charge, you don’t need to be in charge of everything, if any, if anything, or your job is to observe how people are doing be a coach, you know, have a debrief after the meeting, say yeah, but you did a really great job. And these three, four things, and here’s one or two things that maybe you can work on. And by the way, or even say that ask them how they did, right. So the build ask them how they did in that situation.

So there’s a lot of really small examples and very powerful examples like rotating, who’s in charge with staff cutting, that gives people a chance to really be empowered and now they have a development opportunity, but also an opportunity to also have responsibility. So it goes back to are you really making all the major decisions? How you driving decision making down through organization? Are all ideas coming from you? Or ideas coming from other people? So there’s a lot of different sort of parameters you can evaluate to be able to see, are you really creating the right work environment or not?

Allison: I love the technic collared shirt, the chair, right, where you’re giving up the opportunity to be that person in the hot seat that really has to try to elicit and pull out the input from other people. And it often has a very empowering form of like, wow, that was really hard. Like, being the facilitator is not easy. Or at least that’s the experience that I’ve had. And also it allows people to shine. Yes, which is very cool. I agree. Chuck, I just want to make sure that our followers understand how to best find and connect with you. What would that be?

Chuck: Sure. Probably the best way would be going to one of my two websites, which is MCG partners.com. Or I have my own website, which really reflects the book, which is Chuckmoller.com. And that’d be the best way to reach me. Yeah.

Allison: Fantastic. I’ll put those in the show notes. And I also I’m gonna put a link to your new book. So congratulations on the book.

Chuck: Thank you so much.

 

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