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SHRM Honest HR Podcast: The Push to Rethink Leadership Development With Todd Holzman

By September 18, 2021September 30th, 2021No Comments
Speaker 1:
This episode of Honest HR is sponsored by PNC Organizational Financial Wellness. Organizational Financial Wellness, organized for you. Learn more at pnc.com/wellness. PNC and PNC Bank are registered marks of the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. PNC.

Wendy Fong:
Welcome to the Honest HR Podcast. The show that explores the uncomfortable, complicated and sometimes wonderful truths of the workplace. We’re here to have honest conversations, giving you the good, the bad and the ugly side of HR, nothing is off the table. This is a SHRM podcast approved to provide SHRM-CP/SCP recertification PDCs. Details will be provided inside each qualifying episode. I’m Wendy Fong.

Amber Clayton:
I’m Amber Clayton.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
And I’m Gloria Sinclair Miller, and we are your three hosts. Hello everyone, and welcome back. I am your host, Gloria Sinclair Miller, SHRM Field Services Director. Today, we are concluding our mini series on leadership and navigation. This podcast is approved to provide recertification PDCs, but only if you listen to the full mini series. In the first part of the mini series, we focused on leading and influencing others and also around developing next generation leaders. We will continue that discussion today, as it relates to leadership development and reframing to navigate in this ever-changing world.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Our guest today is Todd Holzman. Todd is the founder of a global consultancy Holzman & Company. He is an organizational consultant and creator of the Real Work Process. For the last 26 years, he’s worked with CEOs, business leaders and HR executives to use the Real Work Process to simultaneously upgrade their organization’s leadership capabilities and solve their toughest business challenges. Todd, welcome to Honest HR.

Todd Holzman:
I’m happy to be here. I love the name of this podcast, Honest HR. So, I guess we’ll have some real talk.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
We are going to have some real talk today and thank you again for joining us and being a part of it. So why don’t we kick off by you sharing a little bit about your background and why you chose this focus in your career?

Todd Holzman:
Okay, good question. So, I spent some time living inside of organizations, McKinsey, Honeywell, IBM and what I noticed is that when you had people who were exercising leadership effectively, things went really well. And when you didn’t have people exercising leadership effectively, whether from authority figures or for people across organization things don’t go so well. And it showed me how much the quality of leadership that’s exercised inside of at least in companies is extremely important. I’ve been reminded of that and reaffirmed around that from at least three crises that all kind of came together simultaneously, racial, social injustice, economic, health, won’t even mention environmental crises.

Todd Holzman:
And what that remind me of is just how fricking important leadership is, and that we need much better leadership from our authority figures. We need much better leadership from people, from all walks of life to step up and speak up and tackle the real issues. And that’s why I exist, and that’s why my firm and my global faculty and consultants exists, 13 strong to improve the exercise of leadership in companies, communities, and in countries. And the reason I got really interested specifically in leadership development, as part of that mission, as somebody who is by training and organizational consultant is because when I looked at all the data leadership development doesn’t seem to be working.

Todd Holzman:
There’s billions of dollars spent every year, there’s countless hours invested in it. And there’s a lot of good things that it’s doing it, and I guess we’ll get into that more, but the big thing it’s not bringing about is real behavior change. And if you’re not changing the behavior of your leaders, then we’re not getting the leadership that we need. And that’s why I think the field is in need of some serious reform, and I hope my colleagues and I can do our part in bringing that reform about.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Now, I think you touched on some key pieces that I am excited that we can explore a little bit further. I don’t think any other time in our careers, and in our history, quite frankly, have we seen the absolute need for leadership.

Todd Holzman:
Yes.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
You and I have worked together in this space, both as me being a client and being part of your training sessions and then ultimately partnering with you on training. And I think the expertise and approach that you bring has been very valuable in these conversations, but I want to unpack this one part at a time. What are your thoughts on, there’s definitely a need given everything that’s happening to dive into good leadership, if you would. And there’s definitely an opportunity from a leadership development so those who are practicing leadership development in their organizations to kind of rethink or reframe. So let’s start with, what are your thoughts on how we’ve developed leaders in the past and probably up until this year, how that’s happened?

Todd Holzman:
Drawing from research that my colleagues and I have done at Holzman & Company, Harvard has done, McKinsey has done. And then most recently I talked to a little over two dozen CHROs and heads of talent at large, let’s just call them global 1000 companies. And the consensus seems to be that when we do leadership development well now and historically, let’s call it last, I don’t know, 15, 20 years or so. There are some valuable things that we actually do, so I think it’s important to recognize that. When we do leadership around there well, we create self-awareness.

Todd Holzman:
We put good ideas in leaders’ heads. We inspired them to be better than they are. These interventions, processes, programs, what do you want to call them? Deepen their sense of engagement because they see a greater connection between their work and the larger purpose and mission and objectives of the firm. And often has a very important, powerful networking, relationship building effect between leaders who otherwise would never meet each other. So good, good, good, good, good. All those things are valuable, but the consensus from the research and from the two dozen heads, I’ve talked to HR and talent is that while we’re doing all of that and not necessarily doing all that all the time, we are rarely if ever able to bring about a change in leadership behavior.

Todd Holzman:
And somebody once said to me, a head of talent in the UK for our large Fortune 100 companies said we’re about to launch two million pound program. It’s great. I love it. Everybody’s passionate about it. The top team has bought into it. It would probably be the best thing I ever did, and I don’t think it’s going to change anything. And she said, “If I feel that way, I probably shouldn’t be in my job.” And I said, “Well, if you shouldn’t be in your job, then nobody should be in.” Because I think the field, despite its best attempts has really let down people inside of organizations to be able to bring about that behavior change.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Now, and I think you’re absolutely correct. And I’ve heard you say, we need to reframe the field. We need to almost rebrand what we’re doing, because what we’re doing is still critically important. But to your example, if we’re not seeing the value or able to show that value, I think that’s such an issue and an issue, especially now when budgets are very limited. That we’ve got to figure out because the development piece is still very important, but how we’re able to deliver that in a way that’s impactful is going to be more and more, I think critical for our organizations, but I’ve heard you talk about reframing. So if we had to reframe the field, what would that be? What would that look like?

Todd Holzman:
I would say you’ve got to reframe and reform. And if you reframe you don’t reform, then you’re in a worse position than ever were in the first place. Because it is ludicrous to me that while everybody will concede that developing the leaders who run your company and make key decisions with whom you need to work together to solve complex problems, they get great work out of their people, that developing them it’s probably one of the most important things you can do. At the same time, because it’s in the bringing about behavior change and because if you can’t bring about behavior change, then you can’t actually solve real business problems or you can’t claim the development work actually.

Todd Holzman:
Enabled business problems must be solved or more quickly to be solved than otherwise would have been possible then you can’t claim an impact on the business. And if you can’t claim that, then you’re not seeing it as it should you be valuable. You’re seeing as an expense. So when times get tough, guess what gets cut?

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Training.

Todd Holzman:
Right. Training, learning, development, and this is happening to heads of learning right now, because times are tough, people are looking at ways to reduce costs. So, what’s happening? Their budgets are getting cut. Their roles are getting eliminated or consolidated with some other role. So you’ve got people who want to do a lot of good in these organizations, they’re very passionate, but they feel understandably incredibly insecure because they can’t claim behavior change and business solutions or business impact. I think we’d have to promise two things from this development work and the significant investments we make in time and treasure on developing leaders at the very top and across the organization.

Todd Holzman:
Number one, we got to promise behavior change, and we got to promise significant and sustainable behaviour change. Number two, we got to promise solutions to business problems because nobody cares about development in and of itself, except the rare few. And our complaints, they don’t get it. Well, we can complain all day long, but we got to make them realize the value of it. And they’re only going to realize the value of it, if they see their behavior changing and then apply those new, better behaviors to business problems and they’re able to make more progress in those business challenges than they were able to do before.

Todd Holzman:
So I think we got to promise behavior change and business solutions. But here’s the problem with the promise, you don’t deliver on it you’re in a worse place than you were before. So the question is, what then do we need to change about the way we develop leaders in order to be able to reliably fulfill the promise of behavior change and business solutions?

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Yeah, no. I would love for you to expand on that because I think add to that the complexity of the world that we are the new normal, I’ll say, that we’re living in now where a lot of that development happened in people being able to be together, fly to various locations for sessions. And now we’re having to rely on more of Zoom and Webex and communication being so critical. So I would love for you to expand on that because in the midst of having to reframe and continue to develop that credibility, if you would, within the function, we’ve also got to reinvent it to apply it to our new normal.

Todd Holzman:
And by the way, I think this is a great opportunity to prove having this conversation, because anytime you’re going through some tumultuous time, there’s the opportunity to reframe and reform. And this is happening in all walks of life right now. And it just happens that leadership development is one place where man, it’s in desperate need of a refresh. So the first thing is we got to stop developing leaders in the abstract. We got to develop in the context of the real world problems that they care about, and that the only way they can make progress on those challenges is if they change their behavior and the reason they’re not solving those problems or solving those problems with less pain, time, frayed relationships, all of it is because of the way they’re behaving.

Todd Holzman:
So you got to link real-world problems they’re frustrated with, with their behavior. And there a number of reasons why that’s valuable, number one, the whole development experience that people are going through. It’s like, “No, we’re going to work on a real world problem you have, and yes, we’re going to use that problem to help you develop, but we’re going to make sure you apply what you learn to that problem so that you’re actually solving it, or you’re actually able to accelerate.” So, it’s not leadership development separated from work, it’s leadership development embedded in the work and being immediately applied to their real work. That’s number one.

Todd Holzman:
So then as a leader, when I come to some program or process intervention, I’m not seeing it as a nice to do a bit of learning. I’m seeing it as, this is something I can come to, where I’m going to get an answer to real-world business problems that I have. So that helps the reframe. Number two, nothing motivates leaders to learn and change like a problem they can’t solve. Because you got to get through to people who maybe not don’t care, one, I owed about development but they do care about solving their business problems and you can show them that changing their behavior will solve their business problem and their current behavior is preventing them from solving that business problem, then they’ll be motivated to change.

Todd Holzman:
So we got to anchor everything in their real world problems. And by the way, if the problems they select are lined up to how they’re being measured and evaluated, then you’ve built in the motivation already into the program. If it’s further aligned with the strategic objectives of the company, even better, but you let them do the selecting because then it’s personal. That’s step one but then step two, you’ve got to take them through a process where you cause them to recognize that they have a particular leadership algorithm, trademarked here. And you have to help them understand what’s working in terms of your leadership algo in this situation, what’s not working and what’s missing.

Todd Holzman:
And the only way usually to accomplish that is through some very expensive and time consuming, 360, which often doesn’t give you good data because it just gives you perceptions. And so you have no clue what it is that you’re doing that’s a problem, what’s missing, what needed to do differently. So you actually have to take me through experience where you show them in the context of how they’re handling something that they care about, that their leadership algo is the reason they’re not making progress, but you have to go beyond that. You have to help them understand what the consequences of their current behavior are, because they’ve got good reasons for behaving the way they are right now.

Todd Holzman:
Because it does work to some degree, but they’re often blind to all the negative consequences in terms of their impact on other people, the impact on their credibility, the impact on their ability to solve the problem, their impact on their career that their current way around leading around this problem is creating for them. So you have to help them recognize what their own behavioral gaps are and what the consequences are of those gaps.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
No, I think it’s great. And I would love for you to give an example, because I think what our listeners are hearing, which is so important is you’ve got to make it tangible as you’ve talked about, and you’ve got to make it real, and it’s got to be something that, that leader is going to go into whatever this experience is and understand that this is going to help me get better in my business. And I love the tie back to whether it’s a goal or whatever that tie back is to driving their business results. But an example, I think would be great.

Todd Holzman:
Regardless of company, culture or country is having honest conversations about the real issues. This is a pervasive problem, which the field has not said, this is one of the top three things we need to focus on, and they have a very fragmented hodgepodge way about solving it. And it is the root cause of why leaders struggled to be a good coaches to their people, raise their performance. It’s one of the root causes why you don’t get the collaboration between leaders you need. It’s one of the root causes why you don’t have high performing teams. It’s one of the root causes why people struggle to bring up innovative ideas up the chain.

Todd Holzman:
It’s one of the root causes why people struggle to have the kind of relationships that they want with their customers, joint venture partners, everything. The interaction between human beings is essential and as a species, we struggle to be honest about the real issues. And we struggle to create the conditions where other people can be honest with us in turn. We’re all very hooked on keeping things comfortable, being right, maintaining control, being corporate, politically correct, whatever that is and all these things get in the way of us being honest with one another about the real issues.

Todd Holzman:
And that’s a lot of what we’re trying to help people see in terms of what’s missing from their leadership algo. And so I’ll ask a leader, okay. We can see from the analysis of this personal case study that you brought to the process that you’re leaving a lot unset, you’re kind of beating around the bush on the thing. They’re not talking about what the consequences are if we don’t confront and deal with this problem. I mean, there really is a lack of authenticity in terms of your self expression and the person will say, yeah, I see that.

Todd Holzman:
And so, okay, so why is that? Well, I’m afraid of all these negative consequences. I’m afraid of hurting the relationship. I’m afraid of hurting my credibility. I’m afraid of being seen as a naysayer. Okay. I get all that. Totally fine. And by the way, if I say what I’m thinking and feeling here, it actually can make things worse. I ask them, well, what are the consequences of not saying those things? And then little by little, the light bulb starts to turn on. Well, maybe the other person doesn’t trust me because I’m not really saying as much as I need to about what I really think and feel. So I’m not being authentic and maybe they start attributing that I have a hidden agenda.

Todd Holzman:
Okay, great. So your credibility has been hurt. Trust is lower and relationship is not stronger as it needs to be. What do you think? Yeah, that’s right. Okay, great. And what are the consequences for you? Are they hurting my credibility? Yeah. Probably would have taken more work on now than I should, because it’s really their role to take it on but since I can’t convince them, it’s their role I got to do it. I go, is that because you have a lot of discretionary time, like just got a ton of time or you’re just looking to fill. It goes, no, I have no time, but I’m doing this extra. So I said, “Okay, so what are the consequences of that?”

Todd Holzman:
Well, ultimately, it actually affects my home life because I’m eating into my life at home and ultimately it’s not sustainable. And they don’t realize that before going through some process and if you can help them realize it on a real war problem that’s unresolved that they’re in the midst of right now, then they become very motivated to learn and change the way they behave. But also you can’t get into three psychological assessments, which I actually like as a person in the field, because that tells you about somebody’s personality, not their actual behavior. And those two things are different.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
No, you are so true. And I think the other thing it does is it ties into many conversations that employers are having, HR teams are having, quite frankly, within SHRM research, we’re having as it relates to, as we’re thinking about developing skillsets, the soft skillsets around communication, including having honest dialogue is seriously lacking in many of our organizations. You also hit on something else around this emotional intelligence piece, which people don’t even dive into, but it has an effect on us.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
And then more importantly, this ability to manage complex problems, because like we started with, there are a lot of things happening in our world today that are in our workplaces as well. These are real problems that are impacting bottom lines. So I think you touched on all of that in your example and why developing the skillset is so critically important.

Todd Holzman:
And I could easily be interviewing you here. So this is a great conversation because you triggered like 10 more things in my head. But so let me just address the HR executives who are listening to this. Who are HR VPs, who are supporting some senior executive inside of a company. I mean, how often do you feel that there’s a lack of self-awareness on the person to whom you are the HR business partner and or somebody in their team. I bet you, an awful lot. And you know in your heart that unless you can create that level of self-awareness, nothing’s going to change, and you also know how difficult it is. And you also probably have a feeling of how risky it could be for you.

Todd Holzman:
If you screw up that relationship with that C-suite exec that you’re the partner to, where do you go from there? And this is where again, I think the field should serve you better because if we’re doing it properly, they should get that from some development experience and they should get it quickly and they should get it more cheaply than you can get it today. I want it to happen quick. I want it to be useful. I want it to be practical.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
You wanted all of those things. Absolutely.

Todd Holzman:
We also have to decide what do we even mean by leadership? Now nobody wants to land on deaf person because everybody has their own kind of wishlist for what they want from their leader. So this is why we can’t land on a definition forever. And we’re living in a complex world, but you have some authority figure who paints a compelling vision of the future and motivates people to solve it. Now, I’m not saying there’s still a place for that but in the modern world, we have complex problems. And complex problems, no leader has an answer to it.

Todd Holzman:
You need to bring to bear people who see things differently, who define the problem differently, who define the solution differently and are considering different aspects of the problem than you are. So you need diversity of thought, somebody yesterday referred to it as cognitive diversity, that comes from a lot of different kinds of experiences and roles. So how do you get the best out of diverse thought? Well, people got to express themselves and people got to listen to each other.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
That’s true.

Todd Holzman:
And you got to be the kind of person to be counted on to express yourself authentically, but also be the kind of person who will explore what other people are really particularly when it’s different from how you think and make sure that gets on the table. And the problem is, it’s like when I look at the 25,000 and growing leaders that I’ve worked with so much of the good information that’s in their heads. And I say information, I mean their own point of view, their data, their sense of what’s at stake, their experience.

Todd Holzman:
They don’t say it, it gets stuck in their heads. It’s like up to 80% of the valuable information that we need to understand a problem and to make a good decision, never makes it to the table. And they’re also equally bad at getting other people to express all that stuff. So it’s like we only got 20% of our brains on deck to confront and deal with these problems. So that’s part of what we have to help leaders to recognize, and that their leadership algo is better equipped for a simpler time, and they need a different way of approaching problems for more complex time. I don’t have this all figured out. I will work on this until I’m no longer on this planet.

Todd Holzman:
You don’t know if they can even do it in safe conditions. So this is where I think we got to say, okay, you’re clear what you want to stop doing. You clear what you want to continue doing, and you’re clear on what you want to start doing. Great. Now let’s simulate the real people you’re going to interact with right now. Okay. Gloria, how about it? And well, what I would say… Say it like it’s tomorrow in the real interaction with folks and what we’ve got to do in the field is we can’t sit back and take a bunch of notes and hire doing give your feedback here by claps at the end. We have to be very kind of interventionists in the moment. The moment you fall back into some old behavior, we got to call it out because Hey, Gloria, you see what you’re doing?

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
You just hit on like so many important pieces that I want to make sure that are reinforced because outside of framing out this real world ability, there’s this also critical part about if you’re going to do this work and you’re going to do this work well in an organization, this piece about culture, which we have talked about all this year around how important it is to have a culture of you hit on accountability within your team. Because if you’re going to invest and do this work, you’ve got to hold the team accountable for each other.

Todd Holzman:
For sure.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
And that also builds trust.

Todd Holzman:
You need people around you who are totally committed, who are going to keep pushing you, who are going to support you. You need your manager, whatever level of the hierarchy you’re at to kind of do that for you. But we have seen without some big organizational transformation, that if you do development in a particular way we can see people’s leadership capabilities, their ability to mobilize and connect with other people to confront and deal with the real issues improved by like 30%, the high learners up to 80%.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
That’s a fair comment because I think there are many things that we can do. So, I have learned so much from you not only over the years, but I continue to learn from you and continue to be inspired as an HR professional in some of the work that we can do that is just so critically important in our organizations. So before we close, what advice, so we’ve got a variety of different listeners, both who are practicing in this area, those who are thinking about practicing in this area, what advice or words of wisdom would Todd share as it relates to this?

Todd Holzman:
Well, hopefully some of the things I said are useful already, I hope. But if people want to reach out to me, I’m more than happy to talk. My colleagues and I are trying to publish useful insights around all this stuff on a weekly basis on LinkedIn. So, kept with you on LinkedIn, so it’s Todd Holzman. So it’s Holzman, H-O-L-Z-M as in Michael, A-N as in Nancy. And if you want to get a one-on-one with me, you could email me todd@holzman.com.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
Perfect. Well, we have come to the end of our show today. Thank you Todd so much for being a guest today on Honest HR. And thank you all for listening. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so you never miss an episode. Be sure to rate and review the show whenever you listen to the podcast. Feel free to reach out to me as well. You can follow me on Twitter @SHRMGloria or on LinkedIn at Gloria Sinclair Miller. Today, we’re concluding our mini series on leadership and navigation. This podcast is approved to provide recertification PDCs, but again, that’s only if you listen to the full mini series.

Gloria Sinclair Miller:
After you’ve listened to each part of the mini series, you can enter the activity ID 21-E as in Edward, H as in Harry, K as in kangaroo, F as in Frank, S as in Sam, again, it’s 21EHKFS for your recertification PDCs. And you can enter those on the SHRM certification portal. If you’d like to learn more about the Honest HR podcast, myself and the other hosts, or to get additional information and resources about what we discuss in today’s episode, head over to shrm.org/HonestHR. To learn more about other SHRM podcasts, check out shrm.org/podcast. Until next time, thanks again for joining us for Honest HR.

Speaker 1:
Honest HR is sponsored by PNC Organizational Financial Wellness. Organizing multiple, customizable financial health solutions to help address your employee’s specific needs all in one place, PNC Organizational Financial Wellness. Organizational Financial Wellness, organized for you. Learn more at pnc.com/wellness. PNC and PNC Bank are registered marks of the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. PNC.

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