Are You Brave Enough for Leadership Development?

Do you remember your first business mentor? That sage who took you under their wing and “taught you the ropes” of your chosen field?

More than likely you’ve had a few mentors along the way, each having their influence on your development as a leader.

You’ve probably spent many hours and thousands of dollars on books, seminars, or consultants to help you develop your and others in your organization develop leadership skills.

Think about all those times you and your team left the office, spent time with a leadership development trainer in a sterile environment, and then tried to put those ideas into practice in “the real world” of your company.

How did that work for you?

Maybe It’s Time to Rethink Leadership Development

Over the years, I’ve sought various avenues to develop my own leadership skills. But one thing I learned is this – leadership is not formulated in the cold confines of a seminar; it happens in the trenches of everyday business. It occurs when we look up from the latest and greatest leadership guru’s book and look to our team.

Mentorship from the Bottom Up

While contemplating the evolving landscape of leadership development, I ran across some interesting articles that have a new spin on the old topic of business leadership development.

Typically, when a company considers its plan for training future leaders, it’s often assumed that training should begin from the top and filter down the ranks.

But some CEO’s are looking for a new alternative to the same rank and file. They are reaching out to the Millennials in their organization and creating a reverse mentoring relationship. For example, Melanie Whelan, SoulCycle’s CEO, relies on her Millennial mentor to keep up with the times and understand the younger generation.

Leadership Development as an Agile System

Some experts in the leadership development field suggest that current methods of leadership training just aren’t working.One such expert is Deborah Rowland.In her article, Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders, Rowland claims that “Too many business leaders today are out of touch with the employees they lead.”

Maybe she is right.

Final Thoughts

The hospitality industry is constantly evolving. Old ways of doing leadership development does not necessarily translate into continuing success.

You need to find and develop leaders within your organization to serve not only your customers but also serve the mission of your business.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the benefits of seeking out the Millennials in your organization. This is a fantastic group who want to make a difference in the world. They have their ear to the ground, untapped insight, and an amazing ability to change quickly.

When it comes to finding leaders, consider not only how you can help your protégés grow as leaders, but also consider what you can learn from them, such as, books to read, apps to download, or, more importantly, discovering a different point of view.

Skip this step, and you may be overlooking a powerful secret weapon.

Are you brave enough?

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Be the Right “fit” for a Conscious Leader

Social entrepreneurs are driving corporate advocacy and changing the way companies look at business. This conscious capitalism recognizes that consumers are drawn to companies and products that actively advocate for positive social change. Consumer loyalty is driven by the causes that matter to them most.

To be conscious, businesses are changing the way they form and structure themselves, and most importantly, changing the way they hire. These companies have to start from the ground up to build the kind of company that attracts a Conscious Capitalist.

Gauge Your Company’s Consciousness

As Plato stressed, know thyself. This goes beyond your mission statement and straight to your core principles: what is your company trying to accomplish? Focusing on what makes your advocacy unique, and what makes its approach effective, is the first step toward communicating those principles to your customers, and to potential leadership candidates.

Nathan Havey, a founding Partner at Thrive, suggests determining where a company is on their path to being conscious. He outlines five levels of business consciousness:

BAD ACTOR –  Lie, cheat, and steal to make a profit.

At this stage, a business has an almost total absence of purpose beyond making money, and lacks ethics and concern for others.

RULE FOLLOWER –  Obeys the letter of the law.

At this stage, a business will obey the rules of the game, and also take full advantage of others however it legally can. These companies won’t do something proactive for non-fiduciary stakeholders unless it is legally required.

FAIR PLAYER –  Do no intentional harm, but “business is business.”

A business that has an ethical core of “do no harm.” Its leaders will not consciously act in a way that takes unfair advantage of, or inflicts pain and suffering on people. They will, however, compete fiercely to maximize shareholder return, which they see as the purpose of their company.

GOOD CITIZEN –  Take measures to have a net-positive impact.

These companies accomplish a net-positive impact by encouraging employee volunteerism, contributing to a wide range of charitable concerns, and striving to create an enjoyable workplace culture. Investing in social capital and goodwill creates important returns.

CONSCIOUS COMPANY –  Embody a specific, measurable purpose beyond profit.

A company is aware of its power to achieve a specific, important purpose beyond profit, and is structured to fulfill that mission. Growth and profit remain important, but no longer for their own sake – they are a necessary factor of achieving the purpose.

To Thine Own Self, Be True

By knowing thyself, a business can focus their efforts toward a goal that is in line with their culture and practices. This attracts strong leadership candidates that will continue to carry the banner. With knowledge of self fully developed, companies can move on to a structure that excels with social advocacy .

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Saving the Environment Begins at Home

– Create a Company Culture Zeroed in on Conscious Capitalism

As a business, it is easy to focus on the bottom line, or making your shareholders happy. Sure, you might think about your brand and how you can show the market that you care about the environment or your community.

Maybe you donate some money to disaster relief or use items made from sustainable farming techniques. Possibly your company encourages volunteerism by your employees to prove that Brand X supports their local community.

But saving the environment begins at home– starting with your employees.

In a previous post, we talked about capitalism’s bad reputation as a poor gambler and an awakening within the business world called Conscious Capitalism. We further elaborated on the benefits to your organization when you think beyond profits and hire leaders focused on the higher purpose of your conscious company.

Now, you might have read that post and thought, “Conscious Capitalism? C’mon! That’s an oxymoron.” I encourage you to take a peek at John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s fascinating article ‘“Conscious Capitalism” Is Not an Oxymoron.’

Their point is this:“business as usual” is no longer working.

When a company hones in on their higher purpose of making a positive impact on the world, they seek out the interdependencies of all the stakeholders within an enterprise.

All the stakeholders include your staff – executive and frontline.

Mackey and Sisodia claim, “Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment.”

Have you developed a company culture that is zeroed in on conscious capitalism by providing personal and professional growth opportunities?

Zeroing in on Conscious Capitalism Begins with Your Company Culture

If your business truly wants to make an impact on the world, you have to start with your company’s culture and your staff. When you do, your whole business reaps the benefit, such as:

  • Employee Happiness – One of your most valuable assets clocks out at the end of the day and goes home to family. Many look at their time with your company as just a “job” or a “paycheck.” They are not vested in the enterprise. Encourage personal and professional growth, and they become heavily invested in the company’s vision leading to…
  • Employee Retention–Hiring and training new employees is expensive and time-consuming. Investing in your staff shows them you care. When people feel cared for, a sense of community and loyalty develops – resulting in employee happiness (see point #1.)
  • Brand Loyalty – Even if you provide training and personal development opportunities, some employees will choose to leave your organization. But they will always have with them the fact that you invested in them as a person. They, in essence, become your brand’s evangelist.

Final Thoughts

As a leader, you have the power in your hands to develop the right environment to support conscious capitalism. But you can’t do it alone.

While reading “Successful Women in PR: Leaning In & Climbing Up,” Kristin Daher, president of Powerhouse Communications, explains it best, “Understand that you can’t do it all. It’s important to invest in the development of the people around you because you are only as strong as your team. Whether that means providing your team with the resources they need to grow professionally or equipping them with the tools to better serve your clients, it’s of the utmost importance that you surround yourself with people who have skill sets that complement your own.”

Invest in your team’s growth and reap the benefits of employee happiness, employee retention, and even brand loyalty.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Go Beyond Business As Usual

– Hire Leaders Focused on Conscious Capitalism 

Over the years, capitalism has gotten a bad rap. Most of it may be justified – especially if you think back to the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession starting in 2008-2009. Many businesses, banks in particular, played the mortgage lending industry like a roulette table, placing their bets and waiting for their number to be called as the roulette wheel turned.

The results were disastrous, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the public and exhibited in the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Yet, there is good news on the horizon.

As I was reviewing some articles recently, I noticed a pattern emerging.

You might call it an awakening happening in the business sector where companies seek more than just a return on their investment or to appease their stakeholders. They strive to make the world a better place by choosing to be conscious of their purpose and still earn a profit.

This awakening is called Conscious Capitalism.

In his excellent article, “‘Doing Good’ Isn’t Good Enough,’ Nathan Havey describes a company practicing conscious capitalism as one that “is aware of its power to achieve a particular, important purpose beyond profit, and designs its culture and operations to leverage everything at its disposal to fulfill that mission. Growth and profit remain important, but no longer for their own sake. Now they are a necessary factor of achieving the purpose.”

What does this have to do with seeking and hiring great talent for your hospitality business?


More than Profit for Profit’s Sake

When you build the right culture by choosing executive talent focused on a higher purpose than pure profit, your organization benefits from:

1.) Positive Marketing (aka increased sales) – Gone are the days of just “doing good” with your business. Your customers want to know you care not only about their needs and solving their problems, but also, that you are authentic and seek a higher calling than just your bottom line.

2.) Positive Employment Branding – In previous posts, I discussed the merits of social entrepreneurship to attract great executive talent. (You can read them here and here.) As a conscious company, the talent pool expands drastically as you become “the Place” to grow as a professional.

3.) Employee Retention – When you focus on your larger purpose as an organization, you’ll discover that retaining the right employees is the key. And investment in your team’s professional and personal development results in grooming leaders that propel your company’s vision for the future. And those leaders will continue to cultivate a culture of conscious capitalism. An additional benefit: higher employee productivity.

Final Thoughts

I believe John Mackey and Raj Sisodia have it right when they state that businesses that focus on conscious capitalism have:

“…conscious leaders who are driven by service to the company’s purpose, to all the people the business touches and to the planet we all share. Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.”

Choosing talent based on “business-as-usual” leaves you fighting continual employee turnover, a shallow talent pool, and a decrease of your brand awareness.

When you hire leaders that are driven to your cause of conscious capitalism, you benefit from less employee turnover, a deeper talent pool, and an increased brand awareness.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Honor your Values and Create a more Conscious Capitalism

Capitalism has a reputation as a system that can only serve the expansion of profit. The typical reaction to partnerships between businesses and organizations seeking social change is skepticism. Let’s be honest, that reputation was earned, but today’s consumer and stakeholder know that there is another way. Last month I discussed Social entrepreneurs and the strategies philanthropists are using to pool their money and back large-scale social change projects. These social entrepreneurs aim to better our world, and therefore better their own. They are the pioneers tilling the soil for Conscious Capitalism, a new way of serving, and integrating the interests of all their major stakeholders.

The Conscious Company Credo

John Mackey and Raj Sisodia put forth a call-to-arms for companies worldwide to embrace a conscious mindset, and look to goals loftier than profit. They assert that:

Business is good because it creates value

We are witnessing a fresh way of approaching Capitalism, a more conscious mindset and ethic that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world.

It is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange

A growing network of conscious companies are building their companies based on the idea that the coexistence of free markets and free people, depend on economic and political freedom. It becomes a conscious company’s duty to advocate for positive social change.

It is noble because it can elevate our existence

By building a compassionate and conscious culture, they endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, and cultural wealth for their employees, their customers, and their community.

It is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity

This view of sustainability includes the self, the workplace, and the company’s effect on the world. Changing the focus from me to we, allows conscious companies to help billions of people lead more purposeful and passionate lives, impact the environment positively, and actively help move toward a more compassionate world.

Your Values Matter

Social advocacy is an important part of today’s business branding. More than ever consumers – especially Millennials – are demanding that corporations use their influence and vast resources to accomplish positive social change. On the other hand, consumers are quick to punish companies that make decisions viewed as cutthroat, or dangerously selfish. A conscious leader is able to identify the key inter-dependencies that affect all stakeholders. This allows them to serve the company’s purpose while also serving everyone the business touches, and responsibly impacting our shared planet.

“As business owners, we do not operate in a vacuum. We benefit from our interaction with everyone in the supply chain. If we are blessed enough to prosper, we have a moral obligation to reach out beyond ourselves and our corporate interests to serve humanity.”
// Betsy Babcock, founder, Handsome Brook Farm

Consumers want to help shape corporate advocacy

The advocacy-minded consumer spends more time and money with brands that pursue social goals that they hold dear. Authenticity is the key:

“We don’t lose sleep over a few people who may disagree with our advocacy efforts.What keeps us up at night are rapidly proliferating social and environmental problems. That’s why we will continue to act as we have since the first day we set up shop: fighting for what’s right and empowering others to do the same.”
// Ann Krcik, senior director of brand communications and outdoor exploration, The North Face

“Doing the right thing, then, is good business strategy.

By letting brand and culture guide advocacy, companies can differentiate themselves from their competition and more intimately bond with their customers. By letting your values align you with community goals, your conscious company creates an irresistible magnetic attraction for folks that feel passionately about your community. By cultivating a more conscious Capitalism, you are welcoming these strong advocates to your tribe.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Cultivating Culture Begins with Great Leadership

The hospitality and service industry is growing, not just in the US but also across the globe. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism now support 292 million people. That’s equal to about 1 in 10 jobs throughout the world in this sector, and it is set to grow about 3.9% annually over the next 10 years.

This translates into a great opportunity to build a healthy team culture supported by visionary leadership.

Choosing effective leaders is paramount to the growth and sustainability of your business. The question is: what makes a great leader?

A couple of articles from Michigan State University Online lend insight into what you can be looking for in talented leaders. While the pieces made several insightful points, a couple stood out that I would like to share additional thoughts on.

They Have a Vision for the Future

As the MSU article “What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in Hospitality” states, “The difference between a staff member and a leader is perspective. Leaders don’t think of their position in the company as just a job and a paycheck, but rather a platform from which they can positively affect the business.” In other words, they have vision.

As a leader in the hospitality industry, you have a vision of what you want to see your organization do. With this in mind, take a look around you. Who do you see that doesn’t look at their position as “just a paycheck,” instead they are visionary?

They inspire their co-workers and others in the company’s bigger mission. They provide tools to help others get onboard.You will know those individuals when you see them. Trust your gut.

They Put People First – Always

Exceptional leaders not only inspire others with a vision of the future but they also always put people first – and it’s not just about guests.

Talented leaders understand that respect is the key to working with all individuals, especially staff. These are the members of your team that may engage in informal mentoring to help other team members be better at their position.

5 Essentials of Hospitality Leadership” puts it another way.These will be your team members that have strong inner values. For them all people are important. Contributing to something bigger than themselves is important. (To better understand what I’m talking about,check out my previous post about social entrepreneurship.)

Ask yourself, who is that person who is the “go-to” for many because they have the knack of encouraging others?

Bringing it Home

As a leader, you know that growing your organization requires cultivating the culture. Finding and nurturing great leaders within your company is one way to create the company culture you want.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Successful Founders Aren’t Discovered, They’re Made

Projects aiming to achieve big, world-changing goals need a lot of time to develop, and require the coordination of large groups and institutions. This level of complication means that projects must have “shovel-ready” solutions in place to secure investment. A project is shovel-ready when work can begin immediately,and ready-to-go solutions like this require experience.

A successful business entrepreneur has already experienced the pitfalls, accomplishments, and surprises of a project, and that makes them the best candidate for the immense challenges of bringing about social change.  Steve Tobak at Entrepreneur reminds us that “…the only people making a real difference are those already successful in business,” such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

…And Here’s Why

  • First, experienced business leaders understand what it takes to get a startup off the ground, raise capital, grow an organization and scale an enterprise. A task that’s hard enough when the goal is profit, and more so when it is not.
  • Second, successful founders don’t just drop out of the sky into comfy corner office chairs. They are there because they have learned which each past project, and can take that expertise along with them into the nonprofit world.
  • Third, it’s hard to run a business without learning to sell. Asking people to give up their time and invest in a venture that is not designed to show a material return on investment is a tough sell, even for the pros.

Be Shovel-Ready

Experienced business entrepreneurs have the skills to build and cultivate the shovel-ready projects social entrepreneurs are seeking out in growing numbers. With the knowledge to take a start-up from the garage to the enterprise level, these entrepreneurs are creating scalable organizations with the tenacity and structure to take on the world’s most challenging problems and create positive change.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach



Think BIGGER and Invest in What Might Be, to Make a BIG Difference

To see big changes coming from their efforts, philanthropists are pooling their money and backing large-scale social change projects that aim to better our world. By taking on huge projects that can take decades to complete and require the coordination of large segments of civil and private society, social entrepreneurs have pushed past the status quo of investing in what is and are investing in what might be.

Doing it Their Way – Making a More Social Difference

Social entrepreneurs drive social change by pursuing goals with entrepreneurial zeal, using business methods, foresight, and courage to overcome traditional models and innovate. To be successful, a social entrepreneur must build strong and sustainable organizations which, when the time comes, can be scaled to perform wider missions.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship namedBoulder Colorado’s Kimbal Musk a 2017 Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Kimbal is the co-founder of the Boulder restaurant groupThe Kitchen, a family of restaurants that source directly from local farmers to stimulate the local farm economy, and to create quality local jobs. The group has positively affected the local industry by millions of dollars per year. From The Kitchen Community’s efforts to build Learning Gardens U.S. schools, to improving the vegetable intake and academic achievements of thousands of students, Kimbal remains, “…incredibly humbled to be honored alongside these social entrepreneurs changing the world.”

Joining Musk on the list of2017 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs are Malik Ahmad Jalal and FayeezaNaqvi of theAman Foundation. The foundation offers a community-based, prevention-oriented, and affordable healthcare model for Pakistani cities. Aman’s community health program is focused on family planning, reproductive, and child health, and supports 1 million people. Aman takes a very entrepreneurial approach: they use seed capital to incubate social enterprises, and then, to scale the projects, Aman leverages external funding, partnerships, and service agreements with local governments.

Rise of the Social Entrepreneur

This drive to infuse careers with meaning has increasingly attracted entrepreneurs to large-scale sustainable social projects like climate change and prison reform in the United States. While traditional charitable giving on the business level is80% institutional (universities, hospitals, and cultural institutions) philanthropy is also plays a critical role in confronting daunting social problems and is becoming the hallmark of the socially-minded entrepreneur.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Want Better Talent? Think Community Before Bottom Line

Recent articles, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry, note that the social entrepreneurial movement and the millennial generation are a perfect match.

QSR Magazines’s article “Restaurants Can Change the World” points out:“Increasingly, we’re seeing people aligning their purchasing behavior—especially younger people, the millennial generation—with companies that share a set of values with them,” says Jay Tandan, Assistant Global Activism Manager for Ben & Jerry’s.”

When your business reaches out to lead a social change, you are not only helping society as a whole; you are also speaking to a generation seeking something bigger than money – they want to make a difference.

According to “Restaurants Can Change the World,” there are three main areas to consider. I want to expand on those:

Your Community

Traditionally, we think reaching out to your community is a one-time “thing” – like serving at a soup kitchen over the holidays. Today, we are talking about exacting change on a consistent, almost daily, basis.

For instance, Indian Fusion invites people who need a free meal to come in and eat, or Laughing Man Coffee’s mission is to “educate entrepreneurs and support poor communities in Ethiopia.”

Research the shared values that appear in your community and pursue ways to reach out. The millennials on your team are an excellent resource to see what’s going on in the community.

Your Customer

You can make an impact on your community one customer at a time through additional channels such as fundraisers or increasing your patron’s quality of life.

For example, Mazi Mas, a London restaurant, hires migrant and refugee women to cook traditional, ethnic dishes handed to them by their mothers. The cooks get paid, gain experience, and connect with their community.Mazi Mas’ customers experience a cultural heritage and awareness of the plight of fellow humans.

Again, having team members from the millennial generation can be a plus for exploring new ideas like these, not to mention their drive to make that impact.

Your Team

Millennials in your organization may be a “good thing” for ideas on how to reach out and build a social enterprise for your company, but what better social impact can you have than to focus on training those millennials on your team?

I have discussed before on the benefits of being flexible and the trend toward contract employment, but while you have those team members on your team, why not develop a training system that empowers them to grow in their long-term careers?

Consider modifying your current training to empower your employees. For example, Shake Shack hires based on their “litmus test,” but the real strength is in how they offer paths to advancement, not to mention skills, that benefits the employee, which reveals itself in the form of retention.

Final Thought

Many millennials want to help solve a problem, which is a construct of social entrepreneurship. You can harness this talent and drive when you look past your bottom line.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach


Why You Should Trust Your Intuition (and Not Just a Resume) When Hiring.

While reading an article “How Private Equity Firms Hire CEOs” from the Harvard Business Review on the ins-and-outs of CEO hiring for Private Equity firms, I couldn’t help thinking, they’re talking about using your intuition. Intuition taps into the wealth of knowledge you gather subconsciously. Trusting our intuition leads to wise decision making.


Intuition, your “gut-feeling,” gets a bad rap in today’s information-saturated environment. Data-driven decision making plays down the information you already have inside you. To deliver vetted, culture-centric candidates at all levels within an organization, you have to let go of the data and let your instincts guide you.

Beyond The Resumé

Looking at a candidate’s background and how they fit into an industry is helpful, but experience can sometimes be misleading. Candidates that have experienced success with certain strategies in the past can be tempted to recycle those ideas when taking over a new job. Above all, a CEO must master working in any environment they are given, when everything changes, and it will, the best candidates are those who pivot and recognize the clear path to the goal.

In environments where leadership and team-building make or break a portfolio, what’s really important is what a CEO does in the face of challenges and setbacks: can they adapt to constantly changing environments, and can they make the tough personnel decisions necessary to succeed on tight timelines? No job ever unfolds exactly how you expect it to. If a candidate can’t adapt they die.

“Player Coaches”

Tony de Nicola, co-president of the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, puts it this way: “…we’re looking for “player-coaches” who will lead a smaller team and collaborate very closely with owners to create value.” Close collaboration involves the mixing of potentially strong personalities under pressure. Your intuition about how a candidate will interact with their team, and how they will lead, is important, don’t ignore it. A candidate’s ability to recognize talent and positively motivate their team becomes more important than a string of wins in their past.

In quick turnaround environments, assembling, and being able to change and improve a team is a vital asset. Private equity firms change CEOs nearly every time they invest, so a candidate must have the ability to create exceptional teams rapidly, and inspire the trust necessary to bring key players with them to new jobs. The article invites you to use your intuition:

To avoid leaders who won’t excel at building teams, PE execs say, they watch out for candidates who use “I” too much when talking about accomplishments or who display so much intellectual horsepower that they come across as arrogant, which can inhibit hiring and developing A-level talent.

Put Intuition to work

What you learn during interaction with a candidate tells you so much unconsciously that will help you make a wise decision. You only need to recognize when your intuition is filling in the blanks for you, and to do that you need to be open to what you already know. You know what kind of demeanor an effective leader has, you know immediately whether a candidate will fit with your client’s team or infrastructure. This information is already available to you, trusting it is how you put intuition to work for you.

Remember, you can thrive in the pursuit of your passion and excellence.

Tom Spry, Executive Recruiter & Coach

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