As MEECO 2018 Wraps Up…Some Thoughts on Leadership, Coaching and my Vision Going Forward


Dr. De Civita_MEECO
Dr. De Civita keynote speaker at 2018 MEECO

This was my first time attending the MEECO Conference and I was inspired and compelled to share my thoughts on my amazing experience in Estes park Colorado. So before I boarded my plane on my way home late last night, I decided to write on a piece of paper my main takeaways that have left a lasting imprint on me and what they mean for our companies, both Papillon MDC and Grand Heron International.

For those who don’t know, every year, the MEECO Conference brings together organizational stakeholders and master-level executive coaches all dedicated to shaping the future. It’s a meeting of the minds so to speak. And the minds I met while there were brilliant to say the least. With every encounter, I emerged inspired and motivated to hold firm to my corporate vision and to keep forging ahead. Leaders at this conference were among the best enterprise-wide executive coaching business partners in the world and the conference speakers were inspiring, impactful, and memorable.

Dr. Frank Wagner set the stage with his request that we all consider what each speaker brings to us as the leaders we are. I heeded his advice and in summary, I walked away with the following:

  1. Breakthrough knowledge on how technology will revolutionize the executive coaching business, and how it is already available to help our clients achieve their desired goals. Can’t wait to share with our executive coaching clients!
  2. Support for the continued work both Papillon MDC Inc. and Grand Heron International are doing in pushing the conversation about leadership development beyond traditional approaches.  We will double our efforts in scaling our programs and investment in E-Learning programs to ensure our clients can afford to develop ALL of their employees, and not just upper management. We have known since 2010 that the most effective and inspiring companies are those that do not discriminate in budgeting their leadership development investments. However, over the years, we have had to come to terms that corporate financial prospects often dictate who gets development and who doesn’t. Therefore, we launched our e-learning programs and began offering our clients the opportunity to train in our leadership programs and to purchase a license to run our programs over and over again. We will commit to helping all clients who want to scale and get there faster than they would on their own.
  3. Inspiration to talk about sustainability with our clients and to show them the way forward. Sustainability has become another ‘buzz’ word in business. For those leaders who take this serious, it has to do with ensuring that all investments that go into developing leaders have a return on investment that goes beyond succession planning. We are talking about creating communities of practice where leaders regardless of position and authority are modeling the kind of leadership that gets results today and tomorrow. We are also talking about looking beyond your current company walls and to see how your business efforts can impact communities positively. It is all about creating a business where leadership practices sustain your corporate brand and reputation long-term, and where “this leadership” impacts communities beyond. Although both of my companies do not manufacture goods that would be able to leverage the local talent and resources in the most sustainable way, we are involved in helping other organizations committed to sustaining communities in countries where living comes with incredible challenges. We get involved by sharing our profits generously and by giving of our professional expertise. We will aim to be that voice for our clients.
  4. Renewed perspective on why our work matters. As the president of both companies, I can say with clarity and certitude that our purpose is clear. Our employees and associates know what matters and why it matters when it comes to impacting the lives of people who give us permission to walk with them as they embark on their personal transformational journey. And while at the conference, being surrounded by a group of executive coaches and business leaders who care about their employees, associates, clients, the organizations they serve, as well as the larger community was deeply moving and incredibly uplifting. Every speaker, one by one shared their personal story to anchor what they do, why what they do matters to them, and how do they do the work that matters.
  5. A full heart and open mind to embrace the unpredictability, uncertainty, and volatility of our world. I personally commit to my practice of mindfulness to keep me grounded, and to keep top of mind the leader I want to be for my employees, associates, clients, and the larger community. And, yes, of course for my family as well. They too serve as my anchor, and remind me every day to be the leader I desire to be.  

I want to thank the MEECO committee for inviting me to be a Keynote Speaker on Day 1 of the conference. The intensity and warmth of the room was palpable. It was a humbling experience to share my thinking on diversifying our executive coaching business through the lens of SpaceTime. It was also the first audience to hear about my new conceptual representation of Coaching As PurposeTM. I want to thank them for giving me the space to share openly, for being generous with their questions, and more importantly for being incredibly accepting of my misses. I certainly hope to have met their needs!

If you are reading this, and you are a leader who wants to make a difference through your executive coaching business as well as through improving the practice of executive coaching, you cannot miss next year’s MEECO Leadership Development Conference!

Please visit MEECO to learn more.

Margaux Roncière: Never Too Young to Pursue Your Purpose

Crossroads International_Margaux RoncièreMargaux Roncière, 16 years old, is a talented young woman with a social purpose. She uses her hands to create stunning landscapes, bringing nature to life on her canvases, and uses her heart to transform her passion to change lives. While some of us may search a lifetime for ourpurpose, Margaux knew at a young age that she can use her talents and passions for good.

Always on the lookout for young talent to mentor and guide, Papillon MDC Inc. made the decision in 2016 to support Margaux’s artwork showcased at Radix: Designer by Nature exhibition, where local Montreal artists converged for a cause: the Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Clinic of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. During this mentorship time, it became evident that Margaux had a great talent for capturing the subtleties in life. Hence, our creative work with Crossroads International began to take shape, we made the decision to involve Margaux as our guide for all things related to young women interested in supporting their community. It did not take long for Margaux to jump at the opportunity to write a short story illustrating the competencies Papillon MDC wanted to develop in these young women.

In July 2017, Margaux flew to Senegal with our partner, Marie-Jose, from Umalia to facilitate the implementation of the program. She had the honor of meeting the women entrepreneurs of Senegal and walked away inspired to continue to focus her efforts on bringing about social change in the lives of women.

Carrefour International_Senegal

Papillon MDC Inc. is devoted to supporting Margaux in her artwork, as well as finding opportunities for her to continue to give back in tangible ways. We wish her continued success in all she undertakes!


The Culmination of an Inspiring Journey: Papillon MDC’s Work Lands in Senegal

Crossroads International and Green Beaver: More than a year later

Social Transformation Series:

Fernando Barbosa – When Dreams Take Flight

Harnessing Leadership Across the Globe: The Remarkable Journey of Hyppolite Dansou

Corporate Social Responsibility:

Papillon MDC Inc.’s Corporate Responsibility Initiatives

The Culmination of an Inspiring Journey: Papillon MDC’s Work Lands in Senegal

 Just this past June, Papillon MDC Inc. was proud to announce that the mentor-mentee program we developed for women entrepreneurs in Senegal was ready to be delivered. The program is a work of purpose and dedication developed in partnership with Crossroads International to help the Senegalese women in their soap-making business.

On July 15, Marie-José Surpris from Umalia along with Margaux Roncière, a young leader sponsored by Papillon MDC Inc., departed for Senegal. For more than a week, Marie-José worked closely with the women, helping the experienced entrepreneurs develop their skills as mentors and the young women in their charge to develop the skills needed to take the reins of the business over time. Margaux’s story-telling featured as a book served to help the young women connect with the competencies targeted in this program

Notwithstanding cultural and linguistic barriers and the overwhelming Senegalese heat, the mission proved to be immensely worthwhile for both the representatives delivering the program and the women in Senegal receiving the training derived from the program. For Papillon MDC Inc., working diligently with purpose to help make a difference for a community was not just gratifying, it was our way to use our talents to contribute to the social economy.

We thank Marie-Jose for making it possible to see our program take flight, and for Margaux to lead her creative mind in writing the story that captured the hearts of the young women. We remain committed to Crossroads International to ensure its ongoing success, and we are especially grateful for helping us prove once again, that social transformation is possible when you allow your purpose to drive your actions to do good for people and communities.

Marie-José Surpris and Margaux Roncière with the women of Senegal

Senegal and beyond:

A second phase to this project was recently announced, further proving that when we live by our purpose, transformation knows no boundaries. Papillon MDC’s mentor/mentee program will be implemented in nine other regional unions with the support of the Programme Québécois de Développement International (PQDI) from the Ministère Québécois des Relations International et de la Francophonie. We are excited to embark on this next leg of the journey!


Crossroads International and Green Beaver: More than a year later

Corporate partnership empowers youth to claim their future – Crossroads International

Carrefour International, Green Beaver et Papillon MDC unissent leurs forces pour soutenir des productrices de savon au Sénégal – Crossroads International

Social Transformation Series:

Fernando Barbosa – When Dreams Take Flight

Harnessing Leadership Across the Globe: The Remarkable Journey of Hyppolite Dansou

Corporate Social Responsibility:

Papillon MDC Inc.’s Corporate Responsibility Initiatives

A Debate On Purpose and Sustainability: Celebrating Umalia’s 5th Anniversary

This past October 5, Mirella De Civita, President of Papillon MDC Inc., had the privilege of attending Umalia’s 5th anniversary dinner. As one of Umalia’s strategic partners, Papillon MDC Inc. also had the opportunity to participate in a debate on purpose and sustainability with distinguished guests from business, academia and civil society. The evening was co-hosted by special guest Neil Gaught, author of the book « CORE, How a single organizing idea can change business for good » who is currently conducting a world tour participating in discussions in 15 countries on how businesses can align on a core purpose to succeed commercially but also make a social AND environmental difference.

The discussions brought forth from the debate made it clear the business landscape is changing, even if ever so slowly, sparking a need for leaders to seek out their purpose BEYOND profits and shareholders, indeed a positive direction for communities and the world at large.

Umalia is an organization that helps businesses realize the tremendous potential of their commitment to social responsibility for a strong and sustainable social impact and enhanced organizational performance, something we at Papillon MDC Inc. have been committed to since day one.

Fernando Barbosa – When Dreams Take Flight

In 2013, we were lucky to have crossed paths with an incredible young artist who was making waves not only on the art scene, but in the lives of this world’s most vulnerable people – children. A writer, director and actor in his own right, Fernando Barbosa, a Bolivian-born-and-raised and Montreal-educated young man is also an activist, using the power of film to fight on the front lines for the young people in his country.

Growing up in Bolivia, Fernando had not seen or experienced the harsh realities of some children and young people in his country, living in poverty, forced to work, abused and neglected by their government. It took one encounter with one of these “children of the street” to realize what was happening right in his back yard and it was a hard pill to swallow. Not one to sit back and watch things unfold, Fernando took to the streets, camera in hand, with the goal to document what was happening, give the children a voice, and tell the world the story of what is happening in one South American country. The first video he produced was in Montreal, walking the streets of the city in the winter with a cape on his back. Dubbed “Captain Shoe”, Fernando educated people about the plight of street children.If you have not yet seen this video, it is a must!

Captain Shoe walks #OnBehalfOfWorkingChildren

Following this initial act of awareness, he then gathered a team and began filming directly in Bolivia the lives of children. The documentary is entitled “Taking Off” or in Spanish “Despegar”. In 2014, he started a crowd-funding campaign to raise enough money to continue working on the documentary.

Fernando does not just talk the talk, he walks the walk, often in dangerous territory, putting his life at risk, so that the children with no voice can finally speak. Even in the direst of circumstances, the children of Bolivia’s streets have big dreams, high hopes and the determination to change their lives around. See for yourself in Taking Off’s second trailer. Warning – it will be a real eye opener!

Official trailer: “Despegando” (Taking Off)

Along with waiting to launch his documentary, Fernando is also busy shooting a U.S. film entitled “Tu me manques” (I miss you) which will be filmed in New York and Bolivia, bringing forth a new platform to promote the meaningful work he has been doing in Bolivia. We truly believe in Fernando’s mission and in his ability to bring about social change. Aside from creating work for Fernando by using his skills for filming our “Seven Inspiring Leaders” video in 2014 as well as for helping our President give an impactful speaking engagement at McGill University, Papillon MDC Inc. has also contributed to Fernando’s Take Flight project while also mobilizing our network to learn more about his initiative and to gather new supporters.


Papillon MDC Inc.’s Corporate Responsibility Initiatives

Social Transformation Series:

Harnessing Leadership Across the Globe: The Remarkable Journey of Hyppolite Dansou


Harnessing Leadership Across the Globe: The Remarkable Journey of Hyppolite Dansou

One does not have to wait for the “right time” or have “enough money” to pay it forward. Becoming an agent of change requires one to look deep within themselves to discover what it is they can offer that can make a difference in their community, their country and the world. Truth is, there is never a right time or enough money, there is just an intrinsic motivation to make a positive mark on this world, and that does not have to wait for tomorrow. That is why in 2011, Papillon MDC Inc., while still in its very beginnings, launched a contest open to non-profit organizations aimed at promoting leadership development, and its impact on society. Every year, the winning non-profit organization would go on to receive up to $15,000 of Papillon MDC Inc. services.

A young leader promoting social transformation

In 2013, the winning non-profit organization BC-ONG located in the community of Sô-Ava, Benin, Africa, singled out one of their young leaders, Hyppolite Dansou, whom through hard work, ingenuity and personal initiative, was already making a difference in his community. BC-ONG is a non-governmental organization entirely run by young people, whose objective is to contribute to the development of their community through environmental, economic and educational programs. Under the leadership of Hyppolite, they have contributed immensely to the community development in Sô-Ava through various initiatives aimed at improving living conditions, education, as well as the local economy. Hyppolite also created the Collective of Civil Society Organizations in 2014, regrouping more than 60 NGOs located in the commune to ensure alignment of vision, actions and to leverage efforts across the community, thus significantly increasing the effectiveness and aligning governance across the community.

Papillon MDC Inc. began to work with Hyppolite soon after the announcement and it did not take us long to discover that we had a found a true gem in him. We saw in him the potential to bring about real change in his community, and we made a conscious decision to work hand in hand with Hyppolite and his team of leaders, offering him leadership services to identify and develop talent as well as one-on-one executive coaching to support him in his decision-making process. Our decision to incorporate several leadership services far surpassed the prize outlined in the contest. Our time was not budgeted: When you work with meaning and purpose, there is no hard stop!

In 2014, Hyppolite surprised the team at Papillon MDC Inc. by coming to Montreal. It would be an understatement to say that we were deeply touched by his presence. The truth is we were overwhelmed by his sheer humbleness, compassion for humanity, and a force of character to be reckoned with. He shared with us how his team has made tremendous progress in terms of decision-making capacity, collaboration, ownership of responsibilities, as well as a mind shift in seeing themselves as capable of leading his organization.  He also shared with us how Papillon MDC Inc. helped him to develop a more robust process for succession planning and talent development in his organization.

But, the story does not end here! In 2016, Hyppolite began his PhD., at Université Laval here in Quebec where his focus is to examine the impact of community participation in sustaining services implemented in partnership with organizations that aim to bring about true change in Sô-Ava.  We have no doubt he will succeed and surpass expectations given his sheer resolve to do whatever it takes to document the best possible trajectory for sustained changes in communities. His research has benefits for other communities across Africa, with lessons learned for all of society.

The entire team at Papillon MDC Inc. is proud to continue to support Hyppolite in his vision for himself and his community. In fact, Mirella De Civita, President of Papillon MDC Inc. was a member of his doctoral Thesis Project Review jury. We wish him continued focus and fortitude.

Watch Hyppolite Dansou’s personal testimony (French only):


Papillon MDC Inc.’s Corporate Responsibility Initiatives

Engaging Talent – Sustaining Competitive Edge

Greatness is not paved by a string of successful outcomes. In fact, it is made up of failures, disappointments, and wrong turns in the road, some bad decisions, as well as high, unforgiving cliffs, and incredibly low, abysmal valleys. When I analyzed the life stories of leaders who have reached greatness in their lives, I discovered that they travelled uncharted terrains characterized by the elements I just described. In contrast, when I conducted the same analysis with those who never quite made it, I noticed that they actually gave up just when they were so close to greatness. In fact, it was Thomas A. Edison who observed that, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”.

What explains why some press on while others give up? Although my research is qualitative in nature and driven by my sheer curiosity to better serve my clients, the answer I arrived at is CHOICE. The choices we make in terms of decision and focus is related to our psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility plays a critical role in how you find your direction toward greatness as well as inspire others to do the same. Let’s begin by dispelling some myths surrounding what it takes to increase your flexibility (that is, stretch your mind) and its relation to developing the talent of those around you.

Let me start by sharing an “inconvenient truth” (borrowing the title from the 2006 American documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim): The majority of people who leave their positions walk away not from the corporation, not from HR structures, but from you. Yes, you, the leader. Leaders who have been appointed as responsible for setting the direction and inspiring people to align toward that ONE direction are often mentioned in exit interviews, qualitative interviews, career transition programs, and even in our Purposeful Career Coaching program.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves: What can be done to help change the statistics when, in fact, we cannot control what other people do? Do we simply keep pointing fingers? Where will these fingers point to next? I believe a far more constructive dialogue is one that focuses on changing the way we think about our work in relation to people. As an appointed leader, your job is to “Develop the ability in others to do their work”. By changing the way you think about your role, you change the way you manage talent.

Common misconceptions that lead to finger pointing:

Talent is inherent. You either have it or you don’t. So those who leave, leave because they just didn’t have it. Nothing I could have done differently.

This comment is tantamount to saying: Leaders are born, they are not made.

If you secretly believe this, you are not alone. It is easier to work with people that seem to come natural to the task of doing, making decisions, and problem-solving, than it is to work with people that don’t seem to quite fit this pattern.  And, it is less work if we convince ourselves that Mr. Jones just doesn’t have what “WE” believe he needs to succeed. Hence, we help Mr. Jones leave the organization. Well, we may not tell him just yet. But through our nonverbal behaviors, our lack of attention toward Mr. Jones, and our denial of the role we play in helping Mr. Jones reach his own decision of whether he is fit for the job, we actually convey to Mr. Jones that he is not a born leader. And, Mr. Jones either quits or becomes a disengaged employee.

Leaders know stuff more than others. I am a leader because I know better than most.

I have often heard really intelligent leaders defend this belief to the point that the more they rationalize it, the farther away they move from true leadership. And, the tighter the grip, the more barriers they create between themselves and others. Quite honestly, they are always surprised when people quit on them.

Strong leaders focus on the KPIs because that’s how you win in the marketplace.

Far too often I have watched leaders fall prey to this belief. The attractiveness lies in the practicality of it. It is easier to focus on the things we can measure than to focus on the things that don’t logically fit. Here again, leaders are disappointed when their well-thought through KPIs are just not attractive enough to their teams. And more surprised when people quit or ask to be transferred elsewhere.


So if leaders are born, they know their stuff better than others, and they focus fiercely on their KPIs, why are we collectively failing to retain our talent? Certainly, I am aware of the external factors that often work against keeping good talent. However, we can’t worry about the external variables that we cannot control no matter how brilliant we are. We must work with what IS in our control. And, growing our in-house talent is where “WE—OR YOU” gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. While others focus on blaming the external conditions for talent retention, you are deliberately bringing about a change in how you lead so that talent stays here! So that your investment stays here!

Coaching and its Role in Developing Talent

Coaching does not focus on the things that don’t work, but rather pays attention to what does work. And in doing so, it builds accountability, ownership, and meaningfulness. People feel engaged, supported, and valued when you coach them to bring forth the best they have to offer. Coaching is interested in helping people make the sharp turns in the road; forge ahead by experiencing the Ah! moments of insight in coaching, which lead to how they see themselves and subsequently the CHOICE to change.  Here are some coaching skills that you want to practice consistently:

Let’s go back to the first belief: Talent is inherent. What if I tell you that people’s talents are inherently invisible to you? Would you believe me? Indeed they are. You cannot identify a person’s true potential unless you do a couple of things. Ready?

Coaching skill 1:

Notice… notice… notice… notice… Notice the behaviors that make people do the right things in line with corporate vision, team goals and reinforce them. Notice how they use words to describe their circumstances, their relationships, their challenges, and what works for them.

You share what you notice. Name the behaviors. You specify the behavior that you notice working for them, for you, and for the team.

Coaching skill 2:

Help them focus their attention on the things they can control. Ask them to be specific on the outcomes they want to see. When you do this, you expand their awareness of their issues, challenges, or whatever situation they are facing:

Ask them to describe what they want to accomplish compared to where they are today: “What is your intended goal given the situation you are in? What do you want to see happen?”


Now, the second belief: Leaders are leaders because they know better. Maybe. Who is going to argue if you feel this way? Certainly, appointed individuals have risen to the occasion not because they know better, that certainly wouldn’t be fair to others who feel they could do a better job. In fact, if this were true then logically people would name their leaders. Right? If leaders know better, then why are we not voting people into leadership position? You can see where I am going with this… Therefore, how do you break away from this belief?

Coaching skill 3:

See yourself as able to learn from others. Ask people around you to share with you how they plan to get to their outcomes. Help them brainstorm solutions. Ask: “Where do you want to begin? What’s your plan? What do you have in mind?”


Finally, let’s look at the belief on KPIs and how they ensure our wins in the marketplace. Here again we are faced with a similar conundrum: Do KPIs determine talent or does talent determine KPIs? Stated differently, can KPIs really decide how far people need to stretch or do people decide how far they CAN stretch their KPIs? Think about it for a moment: What good are KPIs if we are not sure of the talent we have to meet those KPIs?

Coaching skill 4:

Involve people in determining how to hold themselves accountable. Ask questions that get them to plan the process of achieving their outcomes. Ask: “How will you know you have achieved your outcome? What can I do to ensure you achieve your outcome?”

Stretch and Move Forward

Psychological flexibility, therefore, begins with you and the CHOICE you make to stretch your thinking in how you forge ahead when faced with challenges, and how you inspire those around you to do the same. The coaching conversation is about moving people forward- toward their solution and holding them to their commitment. Your job is to keep them thinking and moving forward in their work by using four simple coaching skills:

  • Name the behaviors you notice working for them, for you, and the team
  • Get people to articulate where they want to go with a particular problem
  • Help them to think about what can be done to achieve the outcome
  • Help them determine how to hold themselves accountable

It is not a complicated formula: Focus on people and you WILL have the competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Final Words

I am reminded of Gandhi’s insight that speaks to the importance of noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, your words, and most importantly to your belief(s) about people:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Click here to learn more about Papillon MDC Inc.’s Leadership Programs.

Mindfulness at Work, Mindfulness Presence

MindfulnessDid you know that Papillon MDC has been using mindfulness practices grounded in science since its creation in 2010? Mindfulness is more than a fad.  It is a way of life. It cannot be taught in one course nor can it genuinely be lived when the only purpose for learning is to drive profits. Mindfulness takes years of practice and personal commitment to acceptance of self and others.

Clients who have experienced our programs can attest to how their focus on what matters most in their lives sharpened to give them direction and purpose. We don’t preach mindfulness: We feel that being great coaches as well as insightful psychologists requires a coming together of mindfulness and effectiveness. When we are mindful of how we deliver our services, we are being effective. By being effective, we keep a fierce attention on what is occurring in the moment. We are therefore mindful of our effectiveness. Papillon MDC Inc. is based on this principle.

Learn more about who we are and what clients are saying about our work.

You Are Now An Executive! Are You Ready To Manage Dual Roles?

Let’s get something straight: Being an Executive comes with new responsibilities and commitments. Some may be familiar and others will become obvious in the days, weeks, and months to come. In no time, you will realize the challenge of managing your dual role:

You are NOW the most senior representative of your Business unit AND also a new member of the Executive Team.

As the most Senior Representation of your Business Unit, you are responsible for ensuring the success of your Business Unit (BU) and the well-being of your employees. You represent its interests and needs. You also defend its budgetary resources and visibility when it comes to talent acquisition. You also bring to your Representative role your membership in other groups. For instance, as an individual, you may find great affinities with one political group over another; you may identify with this gender group; this racial group; this cultural group; this religious group; and so forth. Add to this the fact that you bring to your Representative role your unique worldview that influences how you behave, whether you are mindful of it or not. Then, there is the other side to your Executive role: You are also the Ambassador of your corporation. You are now responsible for ensuring that you contribute equitably to senior executive team meetings. It is incumbent upon you to bring to the executive table, views, ideas, and opinions that lead to the growth of the entire organization.  Not just your BU. You are expected to be open-minded and unbiased by your preferences when it comes to decision-making as well as to leave your BU’s interests at the door.

Representative And The Ambassador Role Lie In Conflict With One Another

When you lean more on your Representative Role, you are likely to offend your senior executive colleagues and potentially create the impression that you are immature and not “executive like”. When you lean more on your Ambassador Role, you are likely to offend members of your own BU, and likely be seen as too political. Moreover, when the decisions made by the senior executive team work in favor of your BU, it is easy to demonstrate collaboration. After all, you stand to gain. However, when decisions lead to a depletion of your BU’s resources or when changes in organizational structure do not favor your BU, it is much harder to remain collaborative. This reality, anchored in the everyday life of an Executive, makes it difficult to behave in collaborative ways and to exercise a collaborative mindset. Feeling any other way would not make you human. Then, what is an Executive to do?

Leadership As An Executive

Leadership does not require a title because its definition is related to how you “action” yourself toward others. These “actions” require that you pay attention to others. In line with contemporary thinkers on the topic of leadership, your ability to build and motivate people to bring forth their very best in terms of talent is what defines your success as a leader. And, when your leadership takes place in the context of your role as an Executive, it translates into influencing people to set aside, during decision-making, their personal interests and to work toward the advancement of all. The action of “setting aside your personal interests” does not imply that you ignore, excuse, or deny these. It implies that you notice them.

As a senior member of the Executive Team, you represent your BU’s interest. You are responsible for representing its achievements, ways of working together (or not), struggles, failures, and decisions. However, as a leader you are equally responsible for representing these in a manner that creates dialogue and synergies with your colleagues on the Executive Team as opposed to going to battle. In fact, what you aim for as an Executive is to create a common space where leadership is shared.

This means you do not:

  • Exert the importance of your BU to over-rule group decisions. Usually this occurs when your BU, for one reason or another, holds most of the resources
  • Voice your BU’s struggles, lack of resources, and obstacles as though this is the only BU within the entire organization that everyone must pay attention to.
  • Minimize the importance of working toward alignment when it comes to decision-making by demanding that your President take position at the expense of another BU. Alignment does not mean agreement. People are free to disagree, and still align for the well-being of the organization.

What you do instead:

  • Acknowledge that your views are relevant: Have the courage to speak openly about your BU’s perspective as a starting point to spring forth a conversation that leads to decisions that take into account the bigger picture (what’s important to the organization).
  • Realize that facts are themselves a product of group membership: The best use of time is to contribute in developing robust facts as opposed to defending facts when it comes to decision-making. Knowing how to develop facts contributes to effective decisions.
  • Open the boundaries among BUs: Encourage conversations that aim for high-quality organizational use of resources and talent, and innovative ideas by working with the tension that may exist between BUs. This asks that everyone allows for the free flow of exchanges within and between BUs.

Closing Comments

Senior executive members are expected to function as both Representatives of the groups they belong to as well as Ambassadors of the corporation. Yet, this duality is not without its challenges. For one, executives are expected to set aside the BUs they represent when they sit at the senior executive table. This leads some executives to “hide” their true opinions. This restricts effective decision-making as no one is speaking candidly about the views and opinions that truly matter to the corporation as a whole. Second, when this duality is ignored, communication becomes increasingly distorted. Executives may not feel safe sharing information they have about their BUs for fear that it might be used against them in later decision-making about their careers. The impact of this is growing mistrust within the Senior Executive Team.

Increasing the effectiveness of the Senior Executive Team requires solidifying relationships among all members by accepting the dual nature of the Executive role. This means that the inherent conflict is not ignored, but rather used to spur forth helpful conversations at the moment of decision-making. Executives are encouraged to speak from the point of view of their BUs, while colleagues listen, ask questions, and make statements using a coaching and/or mentoring approach. Moreover, executives are expected to build facts together as opposed to defending them. This expectation is best met by agreeing on what body of evidence, information, or data is required to reach a decision, and asking questions that elicit curiosity to solve the problem for the greater good. Finally, executives see value in facilitating access to their teams. This allows for the free flow of information, exchange of novel ideas, and further solidifies partnerships among people that extend way beyond the Senior Executive Team.

To learn more on how we help newly appointed Executives as well as Senior Executive Teams manage the duality of roles for the purpose of optimizing corporate effectiveness, click on Leadership Programs and ask us about “Optimizing Team Leadership Through Design” .

Crossroads International and Green Beaver: More than a year later

Image from left to right: Mirella De Civita, Papillon MDC’s CEO, Astou Niang, Program Officer with Crossroads, Alain Ménard, Green Beaver’s Co-founder and CEO, and Christine Campbell, Interim Executive Director with Crossroads.

In February 2016, Papillon MDC Inc. embarked on a journey with Crossroads International to design a mentor-mentee training program to optimize women entrepreneurship in the production and distribution of their soap-making business in Senegal. This partnership also included Green Beaver, a leader in natural household cleaning and personal care products whose role was to work with the women on product development and marketing. The initiative was facilitated and made possible by Umalia Inc. through a shared value partnership model aimed at creating business and societal impact.

To say you will do something is one thing, to act is another. Rest assured that we have been working for over a year, leveraging innovation and partnership and creating a unique mentor-mentee program to fit the needs of the Senegal women entrepreneurs. And hard work pays off! We are proud to announce that we are at the point of launching our program in Senegal! Our friend Margaux Roncière, young 16-year old leader sponsored by Papillon MDC Inc.  will join a colleague from Umalia in the delivery of our program. Margaux’s contribution to the program was the development of a narrative story to help bring our concepts for the mentees alive.

This is only the beginning. Great transformations are ahead of us, for the women in Senegal as they grow their business, for Papillon MDC Inc., as we continue to use our knowledge to bring on change in the world and for everyone involved who will experience the profound impact of taking on the role of agents of change. To all who have helped make this happen, thank you and let’s keep forging ahead together as we still have ways to go!

Papillon MDC leads people and organizations to transform from the outside-in by helping them improve relationships with self, others, and the greater social environment. We are committed to empowering transformations that hold benefits for the society at large. To learn more about this partnership, all the incredible players and Papillon MDC Inc.’s other social initiatives, please click here.