S5E38: Off and Running Vulnerability & Generosity at the Fuel for Selfless Leaders (part 2)

“Great leaders shine the light and draw the attention to others.” Peter Margaritis

Improv Leadership sometimes means learning and being vulnerable as a tool that fuels the leaders’ thoughts and actions. It leads to turning the spotlight on others. Peter has explored different methods in today’s episode on how as a leader, one can motivate others and make them shine. The light shines every day, not just during special events.

Examples include Oprah Winfrey, Simon Sinek, and great movies like Remember the Titans and Don’t Think Twice. The Improv leader’s qualities and responsibilities regarding their teams and how they treat them.

S5E36: Off and Running Vulnerability & Generosity as the Fuel for Selfless Leaders (part 1)

“Improv is not about being a solo performer. It’s about relationships.” Peter Margaritis

Leaders who lead with an Improv Leadership Style have a foundation of respect, trust, and support for their organization and people. These leaders know how to prepare in advance and, at the same time, empower the people who are under them to shine. These leaders understand that it is not only about themselves and what they bring to the table; it’s also about their leadership in delegation and listening to their teams’ suggestions and opinions.

Peter gives us amazing insight into how a leader can make himself valuable to his team and those he leads. He also puts into perspective through his demonstrations of the effects a leader can have if not taking the chance to listen to their subordinate staff.

Individuals require a leader who will act as a unifier and believe in individual contributions. Trust is the virtue required to achieve this kind of respect and unity. And when it comes right down to it, it’s up to the leader to create that environment of mutual trust and respect.

S5E34: Way Off Base: The Death of the Ego in Modern Leadership with Peter Margaritis (Part 2)

“Ego leadership is outdated because it generates behaviors that are no longer tolerated in today’s workplace.” Peter Margaritis

Vulnerability, empathy, and the willingness to let go of our ego matter when it comes to developing the kind of leadership capacity our employees, peers, and other stakeholders deserve from us. Crucial to the development of dynamic, admirable leadership is learning to communicate in a way that doesn’t negate the experiences of others.

Listening and presence exercises can kick your leadership into hyperdrive when added to the ‘yes..and’ collaborative approach. The sense of not knowing when someone is looking intently at us for an answer is hard for all of us, but it’s especially difficult for leaders with overdeveloped egos. One of the biggest challenges in leadership is, by and large, the perception that not knowing is a sign of weakness. Instead of driving their egos crazy during these moments of ignorance, leaders should lean into the not knowing, stop talking, and listen to their team for direction and vision.

Exercise two is talking without ‘I’, an Improv exercise demonstrating how to park your ego. Each player tries not to use the words ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘my’, and instead responds to the other person using ‘we’ or ‘us’. This exercise aims to help us park our ego, so we can collaborate with our partner using the general philosophy ‘Yes… and.’ The idea is to develop stronger self-awareness about the degree to which your everyday language and decision-making might be, by default, a little bit more self-centered than you realize.

Exercise three is ‘thank you’, which demonstrates how to park your ego and show gratitude. This exercise aims to show gratitude to the other person for the information they are providing. The more we offer appreciation, the more the other person appreciates our efforts. Learning to accept praise with a ‘thank you is also valuable and can be a sign of humility.

Sometimes good people with decision-making authority just make bad decisions. When difficult situations arise, the ego can take center stage, but doing the work to minimize the role of your ego when we lead will ultimately take us to a place of more effective leadership.

S5E33: From Auditor to Executive Director of People and Culture with Stacey Rodgers

“People who want to help people further their business and solve their problems.” Stacey Rodgers

In today’s episode, we welcome Stacey Rodgers to the podcast. Stacey is the executive director of people and culture at Cohen & Company CPA firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Stacey offers a unique perspective when it comes to helping the firm to develop and maintain outstanding client service teams. As a former auditor who built her career within Cohen & Company, she has a dual understanding of what clients need and expect from their accountants and how to help the firm train and develop employees to be successful.

Being at the center of the firm’s goal of employing the best and the brightest, Stacey oversees the execution of all people and culture initiatives, including performance management, employee engagement, employee development, and recruiting. In addition, with a focus on attracting, developing, and retaining talent, she works to ensure the firm exemplifies its foundational principles. Stacey is also very passionate and very knowledgeable about the accounting profession’s challenges.

Over time, three things have remained the same: first, hiring the right talent; second, training that talent; and third, keeping that talent engaged and excited about their careers. That is the three-legged stool that is critically important to any organization. So it does boil down to the people and ensuring that you have all of those things working together, despite what’s happening around you, within and outside your organization.

The pandemic has helped organizations to learn that they need to be more open to the different working styles of their people and become much more people-centric in their decision-making. A lot of the research shows that during this time of the pandemic, people had the opportunity to step back and reflect on what they wanted. Similarly, opportunities opened up in a way they’ve never been available before because of the changing market in that dynamic.

Leaders have stronger and better relationships today because of the adoption of technology and its capacity to enhance what they do daily. If leaders find the right way to use it going forward and take all the lessons they’ve gained due to this pandemic, they can come out in a much stronger position than they did going into it.

New hires need to learn how to communicate, both internally and externally. They also have to learn how to manage their time. So, for example, there is a difference when someone comes in with the ability to navigate a client problem without having someone to teach them how to do that, as compared to doing that through instinct.

At the end of the day, people who want to help people further their business and solve their problems. However, people underestimate the power of communication and building relationships and the importance of everything we do. Public accounting enables people to acquire these networking skills, which translate to success no matter where your career takes you.

Once you surround yourself with people who are experts in their fields, you will build a relationship and network that will last you a lifetime that goes beyond the purpose of building a business. The most successful people are those who recognize that they can’t do it alone. If you think you can accomplish all your goals on your own, you will only go as far as your ego and head can go. It is only when you start to understand who are the right people you need to surround yourself with that your business can begin to be successful.

Click to Download the Full Transcript PDF

S5E30: Peter Margaritis: Flipping The Script: Making It All About Them and Not About You (Part 2)

“Great leaders inspire and motivate through empathy, not ego, agenda, and emotion.” Peter Margaritis

It can be hard to teach leaders to flip the script when it comes to being more empathetic and even vulnerable if those leaders are wearing thick protective armor over their humanity in the workplace. Two-face, empathy-devoid leaders take pride in their distance. But unfortunately, their aloof and impersonal workplace behavior starts degrading relationships, and then projects begin to fail.

Self-absorption creates a toxic work environment. Empathetic leadership creates an empowered workplace, and one person’s behaviors and attitudes can impact many. A very effective way to increase empathy is by replacing assumptions with a sense of curiosity that opens us up to empathy. You achieve this through conversation and questioning to reveal what lies beneath the surface of the other person’s issue or perspective. Curiosity is a good thing. It helps us ask questions and gather more facts and information, which eliminates unfounded assumptions. The more questions we ask, the closer we get to the root of any issue, and once discovered, we can help devise a plan to help solve the problem at hand.

The word improv looks a lot like the word improve. It’s a powerful reminder that when we master improv, we improve relationships, teams, organizations, products, and careers. Improvisation is all about empathy for business leaders and provides an excellent foundation to empathize with others. First, as a leader, you must be a great listener and fully present during every conversation. When ego, agenda, and emotion are infused too strongly in a conversation, the conversation halts and negativity is nearly always an immediate result.

Great leaders inspire and motivate through empathy, not ego, agenda, and emotion. Developing the kind of empathy to improve your leadership in this way can start with an improviser mindset. People still find it difficult to understand that a leader’s emotional intelligence, of which empathy is a crucial component, is more critical to the organization than the leader’s technical knowledge. The truth is that technical skills are more accessible to learn than soft skills. To get promoted in today’s business world, you must master your interpersonal skills, which are hard to master. Mastering the soft skills is easier, thankfully, with an improviser mindset. The better you treat and understand the people you serve, the more empowered and loyal the stakeholders become.