Lisa DeAngelis, Director

UMass Boston | College of Management | Center for Collaborative Leadership

October 5, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

Four Ways to Develop a Strategy that Doesn’t Sit On the Shelf | By Greg Collins








This guest post is by Greg Collins of Collins Consulting. Greg focuses on both individual and organizational change as the means of delivering results and is leading the first in a series of master classes focused on change management. Register now for his November 2nd workshop, Creating and Implementing Strategy Amidst Change, which will be held at the Westin Copley in Boston.

As I prepare to lead the upcoming Master Class Workshop on Strategic and Organizational Change Management, I reread John Kotter’s 2012 HBR article “Accelerate.” His view that strategy is a “dynamic force that constantly seeks opportunities, identifies initiatives that will capitalize on them, and completes those initiatives swiftly and efficiently” is in lock step with the way I have approached strategy development and implementation over the last 20 years as both an operator and a consultant.

When I think about developing strategies that actually make a difference, these four components are essential:

  1. Start with purpose and vision: Why the organization exists and what the organization will look like at a specific point in the future
  2. Make sure the strategy development process is on-going, not episodic, and disciplined
  3. Be Inclusive: Include people at all levels throughout the organization
  4. Engage people’s hearts as well as their heads
  1. Start with Purpose and Vision:

Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  The same statement is as relevant for organizations as it is for people.  When we think about organizations, “vision” is what we’re going to look like when we get there; “purpose” is why we felt it was worth bothering to get there in the first place.  Why start with purpose and vision?  Because they’re the anchors for strategy, and because they excite people– more on that topic toward the end of this blog.

As a friend once told me, “If we don’t know where we’re going, any train will get us there.“ It’s essential that we know where we’re going, our vision, before we start to think about how we’re going to get there.  And that’s what strategy is. It’s how we’re going to get to our destination, our vision, our desired future state.  The essence of strategy is making choices – do we take the train, bus, or Uber?

  1. Strategy Is Ongoing, Not Episodic:

Strategy, when done well, is a way of thinking that permeates an organization from top to bottom.  It’s a mindset that says, “There’s always a better way to do whatever it is we’re doing.”  Far too often, organizations – whether private sector, nonprofit, or government – approach strategy as an episodic obligation that once “completed” can be put on the shelf and revisited in a few years.   Strategic thinking is a continuous cycle, not a line with a beginning and an end.  And strategic thinking, like any discipline, follows a couple of rules:  it’s fact based and it questions everyone’s unquestioned assumptions.  If we use data, both qualitative and quantitative, challenge our assumptions and beliefs, and keep repeating that cycle – we’ll surprise ourselves with the strategic insights we generate.  And, looping back to the Kotter quote at the beginning of the blog, strategy is done continuously.

  1. Be Inclusive:

Adapting to change is the responsibility of the whole business, not just the top echelon.  Unfortunately, that’s not the way change is typically addressed in most organizations.  Responding to change and developing strategy are often the responsibility of an organization’s senior managers, who then delegate the implementation to those lower down in the organization.  And because the implementers weren’t involved in crafting the strategy, the first speed bump they hit generally causes the strategy to be put on the shelf while the organization reverts to what it’s most comfortable doing. To be effective, strategy development needs to include people from throughout the organization.  It’s essential that we collect and incorporate the knowledge and insights of people with multiple perspectives.

  1. Engage People’s Hearts as Well as Heads:

While inclusivity is important, there’s still one more step – engaging our colleagues’ hearts in addition to their heads. People want to know in their hearts that their input into the strategy matters and they want to feel that where they’re going matters too.  That last thought brings us back to the importance of purpose and vision that we talked about at the start of this blog.  It’s essential that we engage their hearts, their passion, and their spirit.  It’s the fire that comes from that level of engagement that enables us to overcome the inevitable roadblocks that we confront as we implement any strategy.

If you’re one of those people who, like me, believes that clear, compelling strategy that actually gets implemented, and actually delivers results is essential to thriving in this world of increasingly rapid change – please join me, ideally with a colleague or two, at the Master Class Workshop, Creating and Implementing Strategy Amidst Change on November 2nd.

August 31, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

If Change is Constant, Why do We Struggle with it?

change_wordsOn my way into the office this morning I listened to a Ted Radio Hour episode on Shifting Time. One segment in particular caught my attention. It was a segment with Cesar Kuriyama speaking about the work he has done recording one second every day* for the past several years. His purpose for beginning this project was to capture the memories of what had transpired, to be able to look at the video and remember all of the moments – big and small, happy and sad, that he had experienced.

My reaction to hearing about this was slightly different. I thought about the amazing ways that this could be used to help recognize and celebrate the constant evolution that we all experience – individually and collectively; in ourselves, our communities, our organizations. I believe that nothing is static, that as one interacts with the world around them, they are changed. As an example, I am not the same as the person who began writing this blog – or even as the person who took notice of the segment in the podcast itself. Simply through the act of reflecting on and writing about this topic, I have begun to change. So, if each of us and the world around us are constantly changing, then why do we spend so much time and energy resisting change?

Often the language we hear around change is “fear of the unknown” and “loss of what had been.” What if, instead, we saw change as an opportunity? As a way of discovering something new about ourselves or the world around us? I am not trying to whitewash change by making it sound as though all change is positive. As an HR professional, I’ve done my share of corporate restructures, where not only are organizational priorities and org charts recast, but where the impact of restructuring is felt by employees throughout the organization. I’ve taken two distinct lessons from these experiences.

  • First, organizations must continue to transform if they are to succeed.
  • Second, individuals who have helped the organization reach its current success may not be the same as those enabling the next metamorphosis; however, each of them will continue to progress along their own path of who they are becoming.

For both the organization and the individual, these shifts in direction can act as a catalyst to realize that change is an opportunity for renewal and reinvention.

This leads me back to my realization when listening to Mr. Kuriyama. We have no idea of what we can achieve. How might we feel differently about change, perhaps coming to embrace, leverage, even drive change if we simply pause and reflect on the cumulative effect of each ‘one second every day.’

This fall, the Center for Collaborative Leadership will offer Change Management Master Class workshops to support individuals and organizations in advancing leadership skills necessary in today’s workplace.

*This link is to the original TedTalk not the Ted Radio Hour segment that prompted this blog.

July 26, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

The Impact Of A Good Book


While many of you are rightfully enjoying fantastic summer reads, my beach reading this summer has consisted of titles such as, Leadership by James MacGregor Burns, Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer, and The End of Leadership by Barbara Kellerman. As you can plainly see, I am still very much immersed in my PhD studies. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about the concepts these authors are trying to convey, and the way that the concepts effect their readers. Each of the authors I mention above has had a significant impact not only on the leadership industry but also on organizations, and leaders, themselves.

How often does something we read cause us to see something in a new way; or offer us a different way to approach a situation we are faced with; or simply give us language to understand and explain what is going on around us? And, how often does a publication leave you wanting a bit more; wishing you could engage with the author themselves? Well, the center is helping to make that happen.

This year, our online training series will introduce you to six authors who have written books across a variety of leadership topics, such as building high functioning teams, to engaging and embracing those rebels in your workplace, to reflection on who you are (and where you’re headed) as a leader. These interactive sessions will allow you to dive a bit more deeply into the topic with the expert who has written about it. I’d encourage you to sign up for one, two, or all six. And, slip some of these titles into your reading list. You won’t regret it!

May 4, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

Why build purposeful relationships?


In a schedule packed with networking events, meetings, email and social media, who has time to think about building purposeful relationships?! How many times have you been somewhere, met someone, exchanged business cards and/or connected via LinkedIn, only to later look at their information with a blank stare asking yourself, “Who is this person? Where did we meet? Why did we connect?”

One of the tenets of the Center for Collaborative Leadership’s purpose statement is to inspire and challenge you to build purposeful relationships. Two questions that we often receive as a result of this statement are:

  • What is a purposeful relationship, and
  • Why does the center care?

A purposeful relationship is one where people benefit from knowing each other. I’m not talking here about the transactional, reciprocal, quid pro quo relationship where I do something because I expect that you’ll do something for me. Rather, I am talking about the deeper, more meaningful relationships where I do something for you because I can, and because I know that the parties involved will be better off for it.

These are the people that, when you are in a conversation with someone and they mention something, you instantly think, “I’ve got to introduce this person to so and so. The two of you need to know one another.” The benefit, for me, is that I am able to make that connection; that I am able to put people together who can further each others work, thinking, and – hopefully – good in the world. This leads to the second question, why does the center care?

Ultimately, the work of the center is to help develop better leaders and citizens. We believe that no effective leader, now or into the future, leads alone. The best leaders are those who are expansive and inclusive, who build purposeful relationships with those whose experiences and beliefs differ from their own. This allows them to challenge their own thinking and, ultimately, to be able to come to better solutions.

Building purposeful relationships takes effort. First, you need to be curious, to genuinely take an interest in the people you meet. You need to build trust, such that you will give thoughtful consideration when their insights differ from your own. And, finally, you’ll need to stay connected.

Staying connected isn’t all encompassing, but it is deliberate. Send them an article you’ve read that you think may be of interest to them; acknowledge their promotion/board work/other PR that you may learn about them; introduce them to someone with a common interest to theirs.

So, as you head to your next event, conference, meeting, etc., I invite you to re-think your strategy for ‘working the room.’

March 15, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

Happiness is Not a Finish Line


Whenever my schedule permits, I thoroughly enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I am particularly fond of is the TED Radio Hour. I recently listened to the segment entitled, “To Endure.” As usual, they had assembled three compelling speakers to share their stories of endurance. The segment that I want to focus on in this blog is that of Ben Saunders. For those who may have never heard of Ben, he is a polar explorer. In this particular TED talk he shares his experience trying to replicate the Scott Expedition to the South Pole (Scott was first to discover the South Pole). While the entire interview is well worth listening to, one learning of Saunders caught my attention. As he describes it,

“What this long walk taught me is that happiness is not a finish line.
If we cannot feel content on our journey’s,
amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit,
the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists,
the could-do-better-next-times,
then we might never feel it.”

While many of us may never embark on a polar expedition, we all have goals – some we set and some are set for us. Take a moment, think about a goal you’ve recently completed. For the purpose of this exercise, the goal itself is less relevant – whether it be hitting a revenue target, saving for something special, quitting smoking, or getting a promotion. My bet is that you had that momentary exhilaration of, YES, I DID IT! And then you reflected, perhaps a bit in awe, of your ability to actually make it happen. And, even if you fell short of the goal, as Saunders asserts he did in this expedition, you are still able to learn so much about the person you’ve become along the way.

To illustrate, let’s explore the example of getting a promotion. Whether or not you got the promotion, my bet is that you may have explored one or more of these trails on your ‘long walk,’ perhaps raised your hand to participate on high visibility project teams, offered to take on new responsibilities, trained others on the team, and showcased your accomplishments differently. And yet we become so focused on attaining the goal that we lose sight of all that we are learning about ourselves and the world around us, simply by making the effort. The gift of pausing along the walk and reflecting is that you are able to see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, and how you may be changing because of the journey.

As Saunders’ story illustrates, the goal isn’t the finish line, it’s just a guide post on your journey. It’s about discovering more of your self; more of what you’re capable of; more of your potential. So, how will you identify and work toward goals that bring you closer to realizing your best self?

February 23, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

The Art of Being a Compassionate Leader


In my last blog I shared a bit of my reflections from a seminar delivered by Daniel Goleman. In this blog I’d like to explore another facet of his remarks. Goleman dedicated a significant amount of his time to speak of the need to act from compassion. He shared a study where six-month old children were placed in their mother’s laps and shown two cartoons. In the first cartoon the children see a circle struggling to climb a mountain. Along comes a triangle, which helps the circle to make the ascent. In the second cartoon, the children see the same circle struggling to climb the mountain. They then see a square come along and push past the circle on it’s own ascent up the mountain. Next the children are given three objects to play with – a circle, a triangle and a square. Overwhelmingly the children chose the triangle. The findings of the research are that children understand kindness and compassion at an early age. We socialize it out of them in our schools, our sports, and our activities. While Goleman is taking an active role in working with school systems to address this, I’d encourage us to think about how we, as leaders, are acting from a place of kindness and compassion each day.

In order for us to be able to act from compassion we need to be both aware of, and present with, those around us. As Goleman put it, “Time is not a chronological measure but a measure of presence.” We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day but how often do you find yourself thinking about the next meeting, a conversation you had (or need to have), a deliverable, versus being fully present?

In each moment we have an opportunity to be intentional and, as leaders, our behaviors have a ripple effect on those around us. Take the time to connect with your employees, offering support and guidance in helping them to realize their potential in service of the organizations common goals.

My invitation to you (and I will be working to do the same) is to be the triangle – spend your day mindfully, intentionally, focusing on each interaction as an opportunity to build relationship, to support others in their ascent. Think about the impact that this will have.

January 11, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

Something to think about


I’ve recently been reflecting on the Lesley University Sonnebend Fellowship Lecture that I attended earlier this year. The guest lecturer was Dr. Daniel Goleman. For those of you not familiar with Dr. Goleman, he is a prolific author whose book Emotional Intelligence was labeled one of the top twenty-five influential business books by Time Magazine.

While Dr. Goleman covered a great deal of ground in his brief lecture, I’d like to focus the attention of this blog on focus. Throughout Goleman’s remarks he shared multiple stories that had us reground ourselves in the present.

One example he called upon was a parable where a Native American elder is speaking to his grandson and says, “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is anger and the other love.” The child asks, “Which will win?” To which the elder says, “Whichever one I feed.” A comment that Goleman made to support this story summed it up wonderfully, “The world is full of everyday acts of kindness, it’s just not news.” So much of our world has been focused on what’s wrong, what’s broken, what’s not working and, the more we pay attention to those issues, the more of them we will see. Conversely, when we actively look for, and contribute to, acts of kindness (large or small), the more our perspective will change. I’m not talking about putting on rose-colored glasses or pretending that issues don’t exist, rather I’m suggesting that we each find ways to become part of the solution.

This time of year is naturally one where individuals, and organizations, re-focus their attention. This may be driven by New Year’s resolutions or the fiscal calendar; the reason is less relevant. The opportunity here lies in where we focus that attention. As I mentioned in the Talking Business Advice Series, reflecting on what went well – what we’d like to see more of – opens up thinking and creates possibilities; whereas, reflecting on what went wrong – what we’d like to avoid repeating – narrows thinking and creates a defensive posture. Since I offered organizational examples in that piece, I’ll offer an individual example here. In fact, I’ll offer a personal example. As the director of the center, one of my goals in building the brand of the center is to publish. Last year, I did meet the established goal for manuscript publications, but was inconsistent with other writing vehicles (such as blogs). I could spend my time focusing on why not, but a far more productive exercise is to ask myself what I learned, what worked, and what can be leveraged to increase success this year.

And, with that, I’d like to invite you to this process. What have you liked about these blogs? What would you like to see more of? What other topics have these blogs made you think of?

Most importantly, which wolf will you feed in 2016?

January 4, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis

What Your Practices Say About Your Culture


The BBJ recently reported on Ropes & Gray’s year-end bonus program. As the reporter noted, this practice is not out of the norm for law firms. Why, then, did it catch his attention? As he frames it, “The kicker: It will toss in a little more to those lawyers who logged unusually long hours this year.” This got me to thinking about the culture that the industry is perpetuating – particularly as they strive to be more inclusive.

I’m curious as to how the associates have been included in this process. What are their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators? Might they want to be recognized for accomplishments rather than hours? Might they value time more than discretionary income? And, I am most curious about how those candidates who have chosen not to work in these environments would answer these questions.

The legal profession has long heralded the maximization of billable hours, despite the growing body of research refuting the sustainability of this practice. This established system excludes those who are not able, or willing, to dedicate themselves wholly to the profession in such an all-consuming way. I would hazard a guess that this may be a deterrent for talented, nontraditional individuals. In many cases, the exact individuals that the firms are working so hard to attract and retain.

The bonuses these law firms distribute, when multiplied by the number of associates and partners receiving them, are more than sufficient to hire additional staff. One thought might be that law firms earmark a portion of these funds to hire additional associates, enabling the associates to work more reasonable hours, while still allowing funds to be available for discretionary bonuses.

More systemic than this would be for the firms to engage those they are trying to attract and retain to understand what it is about their culture that is deterring them. I would suggest that they think broadly and creatively about this outreach – speaking to those that have left the organization, candidates that have rejected their offer, those studying for their law degree, and, perhaps even select high school seniors. The goal is to seek to understand how these individuals perceive the industry and, in particular, your organization. These discussions will begin to shape a composite that describes your culture – as defined by those that you wish to attract. The question then becomes, is this culture helping you achieve your vision and goals, over the long-term, or might you need to amend it.

December 18, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis

Cultural Competency – not just about diversity and nationality

Recently I organized a cultural competency session for a group of emergent leaders in various industries in Greater Boston. I was not the facilitator, so luckily I had the opportunity to listen and learn along with the attendees. I already knew that culture had a broader definition than referencing diversity and nationality, but the session gave me pause to reflect upon culture within an organization – particularly given my move from the corporate world to the new planet of academia at a state run university.

While my current role is situated in a university, the center I lead is very much business oriented, and as such, I apply the working style that I have developed in my many years in the private sector. Does that style work here? Not so much. I am bumping up against a vastly different culture. I’m not saying that in a negative way, and this is not a reflection on the institution, rather on my surprise that it took my sitting in this session for the light bulb to go on for me as to why I was struggling.

As one faculty member explained to me, academia is about engaging in a dialogue. Academicians are incredibly cognizant of the historical markers that have led to the current conversation; whatever that conversation is. So, when I am thinking about making a change to the curriculum of a program we run, or adding something new, it’s important that I remember to make time and space to have conversations with key partners that provide the historical context that supports this change.

Another example comes in working with centralized departments. As I mentioned earlier, our center is run like a business. Therefore, my expectation is to get reports and information in a timely fashion to ensure we’re ‘on track.’ Again, it’s important for me to keep two things in mind. First, our center is a very small piece of the work of the university. And, second, the university is not a business – it is an educational institution. Therefore, part of my role is to explain to these key partners what our business model is, and how we work; and, at the same time, be patient and flexible as they work to meet our needs.

The workshop helped me recognize my cultural preferences, and become aware that in order to get things done I needed to take a moment to identify strategies to bridge the cultural differences between departments; in this case, between my preferences and theirs.

So, when you think of culture as nationality or diversity, take a moment to think about the multiple cultures that you are immersed in within the confines of the company that you work for. How does your team/department interact with other departments? Which departments do you work with? How do the relationships vary with the departments? What are the ‘unwritten rules of engagement’?

November 9, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis

Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about?


Some of you may recognize the reference to Billy Joel. In this song he was focused on the speed at which children want to grow up. I, however, am talking about the speed and aggressiveness demonstrated by drivers.

I have the unenviable task of driving in and out of Boston everyday and, despite the fact that my commute takes place at a very early hour, the trip can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours or more. It may be worth noting that I live a mere 13 miles from work. So I can certainly appreciate how drivers may find the commute frustrating. However, I have noticed a pattern of behavior that is unacceptable and, frankly, dangerous.

A few examples of this are the dashes across multiple lanes (without signaling, of course); driving dangerously close to the vehicle in front of you; bypassing the line of cars in cue to take an exit and cutting someone off as close to the front of the cue as possible; and, my personal favorite, not stopping for the individual that is using the crosswalk to traverse the street. I’m sure you can all think of examples of your own.

I am not here to get into the debate of how irrational this behavior is, or to discuss how it really doesn’t get you to your destination any faster. Rather, I want to focus on the residual affect this aggressive behavior has had on the rest of us and, in particular, on me. I find that I have now become a more aggressive driver. I will drive closer to the car in front of me than I should. I will get unreasonably upset with the person cutting into the line. I’ve also noticed the toll that this is taking on my stress levels – and on my co-workers and family.

We don’t leave that anger/stress in the vehicle when we step out, do we? I know that I am more irritable and have a shorter tolerance level with those around me. Not a great demonstration of leadership, is it?

Now that I’m aware of the affect this is having on me, I am able to address it. As a leader, and we all lead ourselves, I can choose to behave differently. You may remember a quote that says something to the effect; “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that is important.” I’ve decided to change and I would encourage you to think about it as well. How am I doing it? I’ve taken to imagining that my son (who is nearing the age of getting his license) is driving the other vehicle. I listen to podcasts or classical music on the radio – or I leave the radio off. I consciously let people in and stop for those in crosswalks, and I am distancing myself from the car in front of me. I practice mindfulness, becoming aware of what is happening in my body during the commute (e.g. hands tightening on the wheel, tension in my shoulders, talking to other drivers), acknowledge this awareness, and make a choice about whether this reaction is serving me or not.

Has any of this changed the driving behaviors of others on the road? I don’t know, but I do know that I am far less stressed and angry when I get to my destination. It’s about me putting out into the world what I want to see more of. And, the reality is, while this example is about driving, I’m sure you can think of many others that happen in the office on a daily basis. The response can be the same. Choose differently. Step into your leadership and model what you want to see.

Referring back to the very next line in this Billy Joel song, “You better cool it down before you burn it out.” I welcome hearing about the techniques you are using to identify and positively impact issues through your personal leadership.

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