As an executive coach and developer of leaders and effective organizations, Chuck has consulted firms and professionals across industries, including start-ups, Fortune 500s and not-for-profit organizations in the US and internationally.
ANTHONY: What inspired you to start MCG Partners?
CHUCK: I had been in executive management roles for 10 years and missed working with clients directly. I wanted to build a firm of talented people who shared common values and a vision of making a difference with people and their organizations. I also missed working in an entrepreneurial environment and wanted more control of my schedule, so I could have more balance with my family and other interests.
ANTHONY: In addition to owning your own businesses, you also sit on boards and do volunteer and fundraising. As a leader how do you manage and juggle the demands on your time?
CHUCK: I'm still trying to figure that out! Some of it has to do with my personality. I like to be busy and involved in many different things. My primary focus is my family – my amazing wife and best friend as well as my four children. Our family also grows and harvests cranberries as part of the Ocean Spray cooperative of growers.
However, regardless of one's drive, personality and energy level, I'm a big believer in total leadership – having a footprint and focus on your family, profession, community and self. Quality of life doesn't mean equality or complete balance in every aspect of our lives, but I believe we have a healthy internal balance when we take time to nourish these four areas.
Most leaders do a terrible job focusing on themselves – taking time to decompress, live a healthy lifestyle, etc. It's hard to be effective with your family, profession and community when you are not taking care of yourself.
ANTHONY: As an executive coach and developer of leaders do you find common challenges with executive leaders?
CHUCK: Yes, there are a few common challenges. How do you get highly successful, bright and results- oriented people to be truly willing to change – even traits and behaviors that may have helped shape their success in the past? Another is getting leaders to find the time to work on themselves and to ask others for feedback and input.
ANTHONY: Your Company, MCG Partners, also has a subsidiary, Career Transition Advisors that works with individuals in career transition; in your opinion are there differences in the challenges faced by leaders in transition from individual contributors?
CHUCK: The biggest challenge is that with more senior roles with a higher level of responsibility, there are also fewer options in the marketplace, unless you are completely open to relocation. As leaders we also develop a leadership brand based on reputation, results, experience, personality / style and interest. Some leaders prefer turn-around / restructuring and others start-ups / high growth opportunities. Some like global and complex businesses while some prefer specialized markets and solutions. While it's important to understand and hone your specialties, it can also be limiting in terms of your options for career growth.
ANTHONY: Often time's organizations select individuals for leadership positions because they are a good "widget" maker and assume that they will be a good leader of "widget" makers. This often sets the individual up for failure; what advice would you offer to the new leader in this position?
CHUCK: Someone who has tremendous functional expertise – whether it's in manufacturing, finance, sales, marketing, operations, HR, technology, etc. – has to make the transition to be an effective manager AND leader. They are two separate skills and approaches. Employees need their managers not just to assign tasks but to define purpose. Managers must organize employees, not just to maximize efficiency but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results. Being a good manager means you manage process and systems; you direct, plan, coordinate, organize and educate. Being a good leader means you lead people; you inspire, motivate, provide a vision and coach others.
Managers administer; leaders innovate. Managers leverage the tried and true; leaders originate. Managers control; leaders develop trust. Managers have their eyes on the bottom line; leaders have their eyes on the horizon. Managers ask how and when; leaders ask what and why.
ANTHONY: What does leadership mean to you?
CHUCK: Many things: to be willing to constantly learn; to help others succeed and increase their effectiveness; to help others understand what matters to them and then help guide them to it; to better align how people see themselves versus how others see them; to be humble and able to understand one's audience and adapt to it; and to be able to adjust yourself to influence and persuade others.
It's about truly understanding others – what's important to them, their dreams and aspirations as well as where they came from, what's made them who they are and what they need to grow into who they want to become. Leadership means developing the next generation of leaders, to build high performing teams and to understand the importance of developing relationships and trust.
ANTHONY: What are your thoughts on the value of mentoring?
CHUCK: Being a mentor and advocate for others, including having them for ourselves, is critical. It's to this day one of the most effective means of development and guidance in one's career and life. Most, including those that are "self-made," have had some form of advocacy and mentorship. Never stop having one, no matter how successful or senior you become. Don't be afraid to ask for direct feedback, even if you don't want to hear it or it may be difficult. Most importantly, if you are asking for feedback, input and direction, do something with it. Demonstrate you have heard it, or people will stop providing it. Listen; don't debate. Be grateful and thankful.
ANTHONY: What has been your biggest leadership challenge in your career?
CHUCK: I was asked if I had ever received a 360 assessment. I had not.
After going through the process of collecting feedback, the results were startling to me. I had very little understanding that while I was a decent manager who was very good at building businesses and getting results, I was not a good leader. It was a point in my life and career when I had to decide if I wanted to be a good leader and whether I was willing to learn, change and commit. I've been on that journey ever since, and it's transformed me as a leader and as a person.
ANTHONY: What has been your greatest leadership accomplishment?
CHUCK: Coaching very talented and successful leaders to be more effective and knowing that we've changed their lives and relationship with others is extremely rewarding. Many have been promoted, including to C-level roles.
ANTHONY: The biggest mistake a leader can make is?
CHUCK: To stop listening and learning; to believe they have "arrived."
ANTHONY: The most important thing a leader can do is?
CHUCK: Listen, learn and lead.
ANTHONY: What kind of advice would you give your kids to prepare them for their careers and potential leadership roles?
CHUCK: Follow your heart and passions. Try to understand what you are good at – your strengths and what you like – but don't be afraid to explore. Go out and learn about what people do, especially in your circle of friends and family. Be flexible, a team-player and work hard. Develop strong communication skills and find a mentor and others who will advocate for you. Network internally and externally. Find outside-of-work interests, hobbies and activities. Be willing to make mistakes and even fail.
ANTHONY: I have always found the written word to be inspirational and motivational and so each day I post a quote on the Leadership & More blog and through other social media. Do you have a favorite quote?
CHUCK: There are so many favorite quotes that have inspired me over the years. One I recently have thought of is from Peter Drucker: "The leaders who work most effectively never say 'I.' they think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit … This is what creates trust, what enables you to get things done. "