Dr. Relly Nadler: This week we are going to feature Genesis Park Founder, Richard L. Baird, Global and US Co-Leader, People and Change Management, and also Amber Romine, Leadership Development Expert, as the discuss their roles in developing world-class leaders at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC.
We’ll learn about talent across the globe. Baird has been featured in various publications such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Global HR News, and the Chicago Tribune, for his work at Genesis Park. We’ll learn what it is and how it was created.
It is a 5-month, in-residence program bringing high potential employees from around the world into an intense multi-cultural environment of learning, teaming, and strategic research.
Amber Romine recently completed a 5-year role as the Program Director and Lead Coach for Genesis Park, responsible for program design, curriculum development, and delivery.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I am very excited today to have both Rich and Amber with us. I was fortunate enough to meet them last year at a Linkage Conference where we were all speakers. I was absolutely blown away by their exciting story about changing the future of leadership development at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I can’t wait to get into that subject.
When we were together at the conference and as many of our listeners know, the Linkage conferences are some that are held throughout the year which helps build leaders for tomorrow. I just happened to see that they had a program on what they have been focused on over at PricewaterhouseCoopers called Genesis Park. It really just wowed me; I had to go see it. I was very fortunate to be able to hear their presentations and to learn about the great work they are doing in building talent across the globe.
What I would like to focus on is how our listeners can learn more about leaders developing leaders, because that is what this is all about. This is about people who have a real passion for taking what they know and what they’ve learned, and those experiences, and generating enthusiasm and excitement for those people, those associates that they are not only responsible for, but are peers with, in helping them develop to be leaders themselves.
This unique program at Genesis Park does just that. Welcome, Rich and Amber. Could you each take a turn telling us a little bit about who has been the most influential people and thinkers in your life and career, and how have they shaped your thinking about change as a positive experience that you are now transferring to others?
Richard L. Baird: It’s a good question. In terms of people who have been influential and I’m thinking about change in my life, there are two that stand out. The first would be a fellow named Pat McDonnell who is a retired PricewaterhouseCoopers partner who once ran our US Assurance business. He helped me understand, probably better than anyone, that a clear set of values have to be at the core of every organization strategy. Not just values you look at in a Lucite cube, but values that guide your framework of decision-making, selection, development; all of those things.
The second one is someone that Amber and I will probably talk a little bit more about; his name is Frank Brown. He is also a former PWC partner who is now the Dean of INSEAD, the International Business School. Their operation is in Europe and Singapore. One of Frank’s favorite sayings was, “if you are not changing, then you must be dying.”
It’s clear that change will occur whether you want it to or not. Once we accept that fact and we understand what we have to do to be the change that we want to see, that becomes the “ah ha” moment. Any strategy without harnessing behavioral change, to us, is just a wish list.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, it’s fascinating that you just said that if you are not changing, you must be dying. That’s something that I have heard a couple of times and I’m now believing that it’s probably Frank’s saying that has been passed around at a lot of industry meetings on change management. Thanks for that, and I can’t wait to hear more. Amber, how are you doing?
Amber Romine: I’m doing great. I echo Rich’s comments, thank you both for having us on. It’s a great way to start the week, talking about one of my favorite topics. Now I am realizing that Rich and I should have compared notes because of Frank, as he mentioned, is one of the people that have been really influential to me.
I live in Washington, D.C, and with the recent election and Lincoln’s birthday, and Lincoln has been somebody that I have been studying for quite a bit of time, revisiting in terms of his leadership style and approach. One of the things that I appreciate about him, that I think is very relevant for business leaders today, is this whole idea of understanding the people dimension of change. Understanding that you can have the strategy and you can have the vision and they can be tied to your values, but if your people don’t understand that and you aren’t able to communicate it in a way that gets them engaged and excited about change, then you are dead in the water.
He’s somebody that, recently here, has been a source of inspiration. Again, for me, as I think about this topic.
Dr. Relly Nadler: You can also see, Amber, how Lincoln has come to the forefront with Obama and his influence by Lincoln and sounds like you and lots of others. What we are going to do is first, maybe check in with Rich, and then we are going to go to Amber. Rich, let me start off by asking you how you got the idea to develop a program like Genesis Park?
Richard L. Baird: Well, Relly, it actually wasn’t my idea, although I was fortunate to be one of the three principal members of the team which brought it to life. The idea was actually conceived by Frank Brown who at the time was, as I said, leading our Global Assurance and advisory businesses. Also, Beth Ann Breault, who continues to be the managing director for Genesis Park today and was a consultant doing a rotation through the chairman’s office for PWC.
The two of them connected and their thinking was that most of the leadership development content at the time was, and this was 8-9 years ago, directed mainly toward partners and was very nationalistic in scope, country by country. Beth Ann and Frank both believed and convinced me. I was working closely with Frank at the time. They believed that the firm had to concentrate on really the best and the brightest below the partner level across the entire global network and tap their ideas around innovation and strategy, and only doing that would ultimately get us a sustainable network of folks that were multi-cultural thinkers and leaders.
Frankly, it’s a little bit like a revolution where one of the first things you do is take over the school. That was our strategy to create the school that we wanted to use as the vehicle to create the tight global network of leaders that we hope to have.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Amber, tell us a little bit about how you were able to get the sponsorships and how you came into the picture.
Amber Romine: As Rich indicated, he, Frank, and Beth Ann and once the idea was formulated and enough buy-in was gained from key leaders in the organization, enough to pilot the idea, enough to get one group of folks through. I was fortunate enough to have participated in one of the early teams as a participant. I was selected by my practice, I was a management consultant at the time, to go through the experience. There was quite a bit of momentum building. The program was doing quite well. Rich, Frank, and Beth Ann asked if I would be interested in joining their team and continuing to build it out.
I think one of the interesting things and the model that I sort of came to represent, was bringing someone in from the business who was well grounded in the PWC business model in serving clients, which is ultimately our aim as an organization. Then building on that perspective as a practitioner, learning how to deliver coaching, leadership development, and round out those skills.
It’s a model that has grown over time for Genesis Park. Largely, the faculty is comprised of individuals who have spent many years cutting their teeth in the business as advisors, as accountants, and as tax professionals. Then using those folks to then teach the next generation of leaders in the firm.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the things that I was really curious about both for Rich and Amber, was okay, you started this project, you had some good foundation for the partner engagement process around this, but how were you then able to take this idea and get your firm to sponsor this as part of the core business? Can you talk a little bit about that? Rich, maybe you can kick that off.
Richard L. Baird: It sort of helped that Frank was the global head of assurance and advisory at the time and sat on the global leadership team. I was his operations leader. It’s not that we were without some credibility here from the business standpoint, but not withstanding, there was a lot of resistance. Not involving partners was a concern. The decision was made that this would be a program for non-partners. There was concern about an environment where the first class experience ranged from less than a year to I think close to 10 years and that was a concern whether you could actually create a non-hierarchical environment that worked that way.
Obviously, taking five months off for revenue producers, these are client service professionals, and that was taking them into a residential leadership development environment, was a big obstacle. The cost was a big obstacle. But to be honest, we worked the trap lines really, really, hard. We reminded leaders around the world that distinction comes from not continuing to do all the same things the same way.
I would say it was probably the strength of our personal relationships that really got the pilot off of the ground. Amber knows this story, but I knew we hit the ball out of the park after that first class returned back to their practices and we were going through the budgeting for the next year and the leader of the Dutch firm—this is the Dutch so we know their history of being fiscally prudent—asked me during the budgeting process whether we had put enough in the budget to keep running Genesis Park because what he had seen in his nominee had been so transformational that he wanted to make sure that the pilot was going to turn into a routine.
Listen to the complete interview above,