Chuck Mollor – Culture, Leadership, and Change | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

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Chuck Mollor | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

One thing I love about talking with coaches is how readily our conversations can move between a 30,000-foot view and an in-the-trenches kind of practicality and practice. Chuck clearly excels at this, as you can hear in our episode today.

We touch on a plethora of topics in our time together, primarily focusing on ideas like the importance of putting your company values into practice (with a behavioral structure for support), the need for more dynamic leadership development as the nature of teams and company culture evolves, and how new technology has created (and will continue to create) exciting and scary opportunities for capital-C Change in how we work and live.

Chuck Mollor is the founder, CEO, advisor, and executive coach at MCG Partners. He is also the best-selling author of “The Rise of The Agile Leader”

For over 35 years, Chuck has advised, coached, and consulted executives and organizations across industries, from startups to Fortune 500 and not-for-profit organizations.

As a recognized expert in leadership effectiveness, Chuck specializes in coaching and advising senior executives and leadership teams through times of rapid growth, M&A, and change.

As an executive coach and strategic advisor, Chuck develops leaders to reach their next level and optimizes their abilities, learning, and success. Chuck aligns an organization’s leadership and culture with its business strategy. He helps create a leadership culture reflective of the organization’s purpose, vision, and values.

Chuck is a graduate of executive programs at The Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has a BA in political science and a minor in business administration from Merrimack College. He is an ICF-certified executive coach, a Talent Optimization Consultant in The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, and is certified in Hogan and several 360 assessments.

Chuck serves on several boards, was a Cranberry Grower-Owner of Ocean Spray, and is a fundraiser and rider for the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a 192-mile bike ride for the fight against cancer. Chuck has four children, three dogs, and is a first-generation American.

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Kevin Stafford 0:00
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the conversations with coaches podcast. As you might be able to tell from the tone of my voice, I have already been having an excellent conversation with Chuck Muller. Let me introduce you reintroduce you if you haven’t heard previous episodes for him before. Chuck is the founder, CEO, advisor and executive coach at McG partners. He’s also the best selling author of the rise of the agile leader. for over 35 years, Chuck has advised, coached and consulted executives and organizations across industries, from startups to Fortune 500, and nonprofit organizations. As a recognized expert in leadership effectiveness. Chuck specializes in coaching and advising senior executives and leadership teams through times of rapid growth, m&a, and quite frankly, capital sea change. So this seems like a great time to be talking to you. Given that we’re going through plenty of capital sea change here in the early parts of 2023. and have been for quite a while. So Chuck, it’s great to have you on, it’s good to talk to you.

Chuck Mollor 0:57
Thanks, Kevin, appreciate that introduction. As always, it’s good to be back.

Kevin Stafford 1:01
So we obviously we started talking before I hit record, and we were it didn’t take us very long to start getting into some meaty and juicy topics about like just how, how the world is going so far, both in 2023, and how it’s been trending over the last year especially. And we started talking about some of the things that you were doing at McG partners have been doing for a while, especially in terms of the evolution of company culture and alignment and fit as it pertains to the demand for for people, the demand for workers, the demand for talent, how work, what work looks like now and going forward, given all the things that we’ve had to adjust to and have embraced over the last couple of years. So let’s pick that conversation back up.

Chuck Mollor 1:42
Yeah, let’s do that. And, you know, I know it’s an overused term over the last couple of years, but the future of work, right, we we’re kind of living the future of work right now. And yes, things like COVID have had a huge impact. But it goes beyond just COVID. Right? We know, the virtual workforce is not a new concept. We’ve had that for quite some time. Yes, everyone was sort of forced into it during COVID. Now we’re sort of coming getting back to more of a normal cadence between virtual hybrid in office, as you probably read in the news are a lot of CEOs out there, especially United States are really kind of pushing to get people back in the office. But some of the dynamics of that are that if you continue to pull the employee population, this country, and by the way elsewhere, guess what, there’s a huge percentage that don’t want to come back to the office, they want to work virtually, or if they are physically near their headquarters or a primary office, you know, go in a few days a week. So there’s definitely some tension there. But what creates even a greater dynamic is the fact there’s a skilled labor shortage. Unemployment considered continues to be very, very low. Yes, we’ve been dealing with an economic sort of fluctuation and inflation, and obviously terrible stock market for over a year now. But guess what, there’s a skilled labor shortage out there. And now yes, even though high tech is laying off, left and right, right now, we’ve seen that in the news last few weeks, and that’s probably not going to stop at least for another month or two, and probably some other industries will be getting impacted. But guess what people are still hiring. And as you and I chatted in one of the lead indicators, economically is what is the staffing industry doing? I always look at the staffing industry. And guess what, they’re not slowing down. And they’re struggling to find skilled labor of all all levels. I was just on LinkedIn, about an hour ago and half the postings are people trying to find people to hire. So we have this kind of dynamic, this tension of supply and demand. And then to your earlier comment, how does this impact not only that strategically for your business, and then sort of intensity of change we’ve been living in for a number of years, which is never going to go away? I hate to say it’s not going to slow down? And then how to how does it impact not only your business strategy and sort of your purpose and your mission and who you are going to essentially your culture? And what do we mean by

Kevin Stafford 3:57
that? Yeah, and what and what do we mean by that? I feel like that, that that part of the question is very, it’s very top of mind for for both people looking for work and people who are hiring, there’s a lot of why are we doing it this way? I think in a well, in large part in a healthy way, I think it’s good because one thing that these forced adoptions of things like remote work and just everything that the pandemic threw into our lives into our culture and into our into our societal development, prompts us now to ask why questions about how we go about doing things like why are we doing the office thing? Why are we only hiring geographically, when there’s when the talent pool is global, and the ability to hire from that talent pool has recently thanks to the pandemic partially gotten the level up, everybody now has not just the technology and the ability and the connectivity to be online in a way that’s meaningful to be able to do meaningful work. But there also there’s been some skill development in that regard as well. I know over the last few years, I have learned a tremendous amount about How to Be a human being in a Zoom Room, which, you know, if you had said something, a sentence like that, you know, a couple of years ago, I’d be like, Oh, that sounds kind of weird, but learn how to connect and be emotionally available and to, you know, use your face. And like, I don’t know, if you could tell him, you can tell the audience gets audio only. But I’m a hand talker. And my hands are constantly rising up into my Zoom screen. And I like that I’ve actually got the camera angle so that so that that could be demonstrated because it’s a part of who I am. And if you were in the room with me, you’d be seeing me like gesticulating somewhat wildly, sometimes, especially when I get excited about a point. And being able to develop those skills in a relatively rapid fashion, across industry is pretty much across the world, is we’re still kind of I think we’re still grappling with what we can do now. And how we shouldn’t be going about what we do. Like, why are we doing things the way we are doing them? Now? Why did we do them the way we did them before? Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. But how can we do things going forward? That’s really the best of both worlds, so to speak. I think I’m very fascinated by just that aspect of it, let alone all the rest.

Chuck Mollor 6:03
Yeah, well, I agree with you 100%. I think we’ve come such a long way, the last two years, two years, plus now almost three years, really, in terms of you know, how we’ve adopted technology, how we’re leveraging technology. And look, we all have our biases, we talk about biases or unconscious bias when it comes to diversity, equity inclusion. Throughout lives, we have unconscious bias when it comes to many things in life, including, by the way, I prefer working with a person I can see, I prefer interaction in the same office with a person versus virtually I don’t like virtual connection and work and video meetings. And like I get that I get people’s preferences. It’s not going away. And yes, there are advantages of being in the office, there’s no doubt about it. But when you look at the labor pool, to your point earlier, when you’re looking about having the best that you need for your organization, having the right skilled labor force. And leveraging technology, the bigger issue really, is that companies need to do a better job of developing their managers to manage a hybrid and virtual workforce. That’s the issue. That’s still the smoking gun. And I know because we do a lot of that work. And I can tell you, there are still organizations that have not invested enough in how to do that effectively, and frankly, how to leverage technology and leverage the parameters of what works, what doesn’t work. In meetings. No, were no meetings itself was we all know, we’re in this meeting crisis, right? There’s everyone I talked to every company, every industry is saying, Oh, my God, you know, Chuck, I’m just on the meetings all day and, and I challenge CEOs, my challenge executive teams to say change that change how you work, because you don’t have time to think you don’t have time to plan, you don’t have time to be externally focused if you’re just in meetings every day. And it’s like having your head down or being one of those plow horses. With advisors, you can’t see anything except the line in front of you. But we all need to have a macro perspective, we all need to be thinking externally in the marketplace. And that’s how you create innovation. So you educate yourself to trends and what’s going on with consumers or your clients or competition and what’s happening in the world. So that’s one of the bigger challenges we have right now. So So virtual is not going away, we have to learn how to be more effective in there that and then we have to sort of embrace that to say we can have a healthy culture by having an effective virtual hybrid workforce. And by the way, I’m happy to explain to you what I least mean, and how I define culture. If you want me to go there,

Kevin Stafford 8:34
actually, yeah. What we’re talking about is I obviously, I have lots of thoughts about this. I love this conversation, but I want yeah, I want you continue, please.

Chuck Mollor 8:41
Alright, so So very quickly, well, culture is not new, we’ve been focusing on culture for quite some time. You know, one of the old adage expressions have been around for quite some time, people get hired for their background, their experiences, their skills, their expertise, their accomplishments, but they get fired, or they leave because of bad cultural fit. So culture really is huge, right? And, you know, more and more companies are getting smarter and better at how they define culture, but how they leverage their systems and processes to live and sustain their culture. And that’s one of the missing gaps by most companies. So essentially, the other piece of culture that’s really, really critical culture is not necessarily just the environment for your employees, and how you live, and what their experiences overall, it’s also should be reflective of your external brand. So this whole notion of your brand of who you are, why do you exist? What’s your value proposition? And that’s really defined by your purpose and your mission as an organization, no matter what you do, as an organization, right? So this whole notion of purpose and mission that gets reflected in terms of how you describe yourself as a brand, and that should also be internally reflected in meaning, why would you want to even work here to have a career here? What are the experiences you’re going to have here? So how do you actually map that out? specifics is you actually demonstrate that by your values? What do you what are your values as an organization externally and internally. So once you’ve defined those values, then you take those values and break them down into very specific behaviors. And the reason you do that, because behaviors are observable behaviors are measurable, at least you can define them to be measurable. And then you use that sort of that model of values and behaviors, to hire, and develop and promote, and to provide feedback to your employee organization at all levels. And that’s usually the gap and then your HR systems and processes, in terms of how you promote how you recognize how you advance how you reward, your people are all helping support those, those behaviors, those values, that culture. So that’s, the processes actually support that. And that’s what that’s what culture really is, like most organizations that hasn’t changed hate to say no, for 30 years, they great, they free these great values, they have this big drum roll this big launch internally, and then they get all their cafeteria and, you know, conference rooms and every other you know, public space, and they promote their values, it’s on their intranet extranet on their websites. And guess what, they start collecting dust because they’re not living them. There’s no There’s no way to, to provide feedback to hold people accountable to embrace the develop people based upon that. So you have to have that system in place to be able to live your culture and actually experience your culture that makes any sense

Kevin Stafford 11:41
that, quite frankly, that makes perfect sense. And that’s it’s So honestly, refreshing to hear you put it so plainly. And so simply because it’s again, it’s one of those Oh duh, of course, putting your values into action makes total sense. But like you said, so often, the companies and people, individuals even will craft their value statements with like, almost like they’re putting a watch together. It’s like, they’ll tweak the wording, and they’ll make this list of values or this value statement or this paragraph and just like this tweak, it’s, it’s perfect, we’ll have meetings about it, workshop, we’ll talk about it, and then look, it’s done. It’s beautiful. Let’s put it up on the shelf and get back to work. And there’s no structural behavioral system in place to put those values into action to have them be available to be visible to actually imbue the company culture, they end up being a book that you heard about that you want to read, you buy it and you put it on your shelf, and you feel a sliver of the satisfaction of having read the book, when you probably never even crack the cover.

Chuck Mollor 12:42
Here’s the thing, and here is so for those for some of your audience. That’s That sounds great. You know, Kevin, that sounds great, Chuck. And that’s kind of like pie in the sky. And I’m like, really? So let me let us take a step further. So everyone’s familiar with the concept of employee engagement? Well, again, what really is employee engagement, employee engagement, by at least definition is getting your employees to go beyond the minimum requirements of their job, right? So that’s huge, right? Because you want people to go beyond the minimum requirements, because they’re engaged, they feel they feel connected to the organization, they feel appreciated and valued. Right. So those are huge drivers. And by the way, there’s been so much research in the last 20 years that demonstrate that when your organization by metrics, by definition, are highly engaged, right versus not engaged, your high engaged organizations outperform substantially, you’re not engaged or lower engaged employee organizations. So there’s actually a financial correlation to why you want a highly engaged workforce. Well, guess what, how do you get a highly engaged workforce by having a healthy and purposeful culture that can be managed effectively with systems or processes and definition and parameters. And by the way, what drives all that leadership, right? leadership that’s aligned leadership that understands what we mean by leadership and how we demonstrate that leadership, and how we reinforce and demonstrate our culture every single day.

Kevin Stafford 14:11
And it really is it is a virtuous circle like that. It really does just take a commitment and a spark. And then if you pursue it, truly pursue it and put in the work, it becomes, I mean, it really becomes self sustaining. And that by design, it’s the way it’s meant to work. It’s the way human interaction tends to work, the self sustaining organizing principles that imbue how we live our lives and there’s, there’s no reason why you can have that and I could not agree more strenuously and loudly, that that leadership that’s that’s, that’s a little bit of what we’re lacking right now, not just in the willingness to be leaders, but also some of the some of the training and the skill development and leadership development for managers and leaders to be able to lead, you know, hybrid teams, remote teams to be able to build that company culture in 2023, not 1983 We’ve changed a little bit in the last few decades.

Chuck Mollor 15:06
No, and let’s face it, we I think we even talked about this the last time we got together, but leading today, managing today is harder than ever. It’s so complex right now. And yes, it’s harder than ever because of a virtual hybrid workforce, and having the skills and abilities how to manage that effectively, how do you build a healthy engaged team, when you’ve got people in office virtual and fluctuating between in office and be virtual, right? The hybrid model? So it’s that itself is very complex? And how do you bring people on board how you feel people feel connected and valued, appreciated, and I use those words very, very specifically meaningfully so. And then you add that then, you know, issues that we’ve had, at least in the US around the cancel culture and the wall culture and the fact that people are afraid to say no or disagree, or, you know, feel like they’re walking on eggshells, and they don’t know how to have a healthy conflict anymore. So that’s a huge issue in the work environment, right how to help healthy conflict versus unhealthy conflict. And then you add, you know, challenges around diversity, equity, inclusion, and creating essentially a safe work environment. So people feel not only appreciate and value, but it’s okay to challenge the status quo. It’s okay to fail and make mistakes. That’s how you drive innovation, but also, frankly, and engage workforce. So we can go on and on. And so again, managing today, it’s very complex is difficult. And frankly, there are people out there and they’re saying why, why do I want to be a manager and have all this complexity in this almost an unappreciated part of my job thankless part of my job. So there’s there’s one characteristic that really is so critical, besides the fact that maybe you’re very ambitious and you’re motivated advance your career is you need to watch who you need to want to manage lead. And we forget about that desire, versus I just been added to my plate because I have to have it if I want to advance or run a business or whatever organization and achieve strategic and financial success, no, you truly need to have a passion to want to manage a lead, and you have to learn that craft. And one of the things I talk about all the time, Kevin, is there’s a lot of executives out there that look at managing, especially the leading part of their job is sort of just as additional aspect of their job, in addition to their expertise and getting their metrics and receiving results. And I try to explain to them, no leadership is a craft, it’s a, it’s a skill, it’s an area of expertise that you frankly, need to be always investing in and developing yourself and throughout your career. So there’s any message out there, I would tell anybody that is recognizing that leadership is a craft, and you need to be fully invested in developing that craft in your career if you want to be successful.

Kevin Stafford 17:43
Yeah, well, I really liked that analogy of just it being one more thing being added to your plate. In my head, I literally I imagined almost like a one of those old like old school trays, those plastic trays where you get the little compartments, and you’ve got the big compartments, you got the tiny compartments, and that last thing you like, I’m imagining, like people scooping leadership responsibilities, like peas into this one little corner of their plate, and they’re like, maybe I’ll get to it, maybe I won’t, but I’m gonna take care of the main course first, and I gotta go back to class, or I gotta go back, I gotta go back to wherever I’m going. And it’s like, you can’t, you can’t afford to let leadership be a side dish, it’s gonna have to, it’s gonna have to be a part of your main course, if you’re ever going to have a chance to be the kind of effective leader, you probably want to be, you probably want it use maybe don’t understand how you have to prioritize it, it can’t it can’t get your scraps. It’s got to get it’s got to get your full attention if you really want to develop it. Absolutely. I love that. Oh, that’s a good one. And I’m hungry.

Chuck Mollor 18:45
No, I said, but again, these are all interconnected, right? We talked about culture, we talk about leadership, we talk about employee engagement and retaining your people. It The world’s changed, right, we know it has, and we’re not going back. And you know, there’s global competition. There’s consumers, who wants something new and faster and better. So the cycles of innovation are getting shorter and shorter. So yes, there is just a complex world. And and we have, frankly, as we said earlier, an employee population that likes to work virtually that values that but how do we still build a strong and healthy culture and organization in teams, and where people still feel valued, appreciate and they feel the advancement opportunities, where they’re working virtually. So organizations still need to really figure that out. And honestly, I think we’re just scratching the surface around technology, I think technology, I think we’re going to see huge advancements in technology, in terms of how we’re going to continue to connect with each other. And beyond just video calls and video meetings. I think there’s going to be continued usage of that. But again, I hate to say it especially for I guess those over 35 We need to adapt. We need to learn how to leverage these technologies and get comfortable these techniques. of us in working in the way we do across the world. And so I think there’s still some major adjustments and innovations coming down the road.

Kevin Stafford 20:08
I couldn’t agree more and I’m most I’m some percentage of excited and terrified in a good way because I type in terror are they’re they’re, they’re almost identical just kind of kind of depends on like, what else whether the baggage you might be bringing to the table. But yeah, I’m mostly excited and a little bit scared in a way that’s healthy about what’s coming at what’s already here, what’s coming around the corner, and what it’s going to mean for how we work and how we live. And I don’t know, we’re, we just had, I think a really great conversation was one that I’m energized and innervated by in a Zoom Room in front of a camera, a little microphone, and I was like I’ve, you know, gotten to meet you and like, know you a little bit more. And that’s, you know, I’m just thinking about the ability for something like this to even happen, you know, five or 10 years ago. And here we are. And I think that’s reason to be excited about what can come next, even as its events, it can be a little bit scary.

Chuck Mollor 20:57
Yeah, you know, and it’s kind of cool to maybe do a little bit of a deep self reflective dive, I mean, because we’re talking about essentially change, right. And I mentioned even earlier, this intensity of change, the cycles of change are getting shorter and shorter. Change is no longer an event or an initiative. I mean, we live change every day, right? And when you think about what’s happening in social media in the world, it just seems like everything’s changing on a constant basis, we’re getting, you know, fed and bombarded with information 24/7 now and the more connected we are, the more overwhelmed it can be. So I really think that going back to something we said earlier, how do we manage our stress how we manage our pressure, the anxiety of the world that we live in today. And frankly, some of us deal with change differently. So on a behavioral level, some of us really embrace change. At a very, very high level, some of us really think of change as a threat to how we do and how we live day to day, and everyone is else’s in between. But no matter where you are in that spectrum of how we manage change on a very personal level, we all have to think about the impact of change and how we handle manage change ourselves individually. So I think that’s so critical moving forward. And everything we’ve talked about today, this whole notion of how we manage change, is again foundational to this.

Kevin Stafford 22:12
I’m completely unsurprised, but nevertheless, I am always mildly astonished. I looked up at the clock, we’ve already been talking for over well over a half an hour. And I feel like I’ve, I’ve got three hours more conversation I’d like to have, but I should I should probably get you out of here. This has been a thinned out. I mean, if I feel like we just scratched the surface, but also I think we managed to get like under the skin a little bit as to what’s what’s what’s moving underneath the surface of what’s really affecting and shifting and changing the world around us. That’s, that’s, I’m gonna have to have you back again in like another three or four months, just so we can continue this conversation and see what literally what else is new. So thank you for this conversation in our previous one and pre thank you for our next one.

Chuck Mollor 22:56
Or no, I think they’re, I think three, four months from now. There’ll be a lot more to talk about, not only from a reflective standpoint, but also more and more insight to what’s gonna be happening in the future. So yeah, that’d be great. Enjoy, Kevin.

Kevin Stafford 23:08
We’ll check this has been great to the audience out there listening. I hope you enjoyed this. If you enjoyed this half as much as I did, you’re gonna find out more about Chuck. Well, actually, I should ask you before I let you go, where’s the best place for people to go if they just want to like learn more about you what you do MTG partners, any of your personal endeavors, where’s a good place people to go to find out more and to maybe connect with you and talk to you know,

Chuck Mollor 23:28
I appreciate that. Probably to two places LinkedIn. A lot of information on LinkedIn under my name, which is Chuck Moeller and that’s mo L L. O R. and the other would be my firm’s website, which is MC G.

Kevin Stafford 23:43
Perfect. I’ll make sure those are in the show notes as well. You know, the usual podcast stuff and yeah, Chuck, thank you. This has been great. I should I gotta, I gotta let you go. It’s like ripping a band aid off but I gotta, I gotta I gotta stop recording so we can get on with the rest of our days. So yeah, I just want to say thank you one more time.

Chuck Mollor 23:58
Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to another conversation as well. Excellent.

Kevin Stafford 24:03
And for us here at the conversations because this podcast and for me, Kevin, I will get to talk to you again very soon.

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