Brian Formato is the CEO and Principal at Groove Management. He is a seasoned organizational development, communications and digital marketing leader with 20+ years of corporate experience.
Groove Management is a human capital consulting firm with extensive experience in organizational development, talent management, employee assessment and engagement as well as merger and acquisition integration. Groove Management’s mission is to help individuals and organizations to maximize their performance by focusing on strengths.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share how your model of process focused consulting separates you from the competition?
Brian: The majority of consulting firms approach prospective clients with the goal of identifying problems that they can use their expertise to solve. Groove Management’s approach is quite different. We leverage a process-focused approach rooted in the theory of appreciative inquiry. Rather than asking prospective clients what is wrong in their organizations, we ask the question, “what is working well?” Too much focus is placed on problem solving and focusing on weaknesses. Groove Management engages our prospects in an open dialogue about the success factors in a business. We ask questions like: “What is your competitive advantage?” “Would your competitors agree that you are better than them at your stated advantage?” “If we asked each member of your leadership team about your competitive advantage would we receive a consistent answer?” “Was your competitive advantage deliberate and a founding principle for your organization or did your organization stumble upon it?” These questions are met with much less resistance than asking about problems and challenges. Clients quickly realize that taking a positive approach to their business and highlighting the things that work well creates a new model for enhancing the business. Helping organizations to concentrate their efforts and energies on their strengths can enhance overall performance and help organizations to adapt their approach. Using success stories from a business can help leaders to find ways to duplicate those successes and apply similar approaches when launching new products, expanding markets, hiring employees, raising capital and many other facets of their business. Groove Management creates a process that teaches organizations to build their own learning capabilities.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the art and process of uncovering and teaching organizations to leverage their strengths?
Brian: I like that you referred to leveraging strengths as an art in that with art there is not a right or wrong answer. Art is very open to interpretation and so are the approaches that we take. Many consulting firms use a cookie cutter approach with their clients. We believe that one size and one approach does not fit all situations. By utilizing a Socratic method, we facilitate our clients through a process of self-discovery. We ask them to consider examples of past successes and help them to dissect the achievement to determine the success factors. By helping clients conduct post mortems on projects that have gone well, they learn to identify processes and best practices that can be implemented as standard work going forward.
One way that we often start this process if to have a leadership team engage in a quick experiential team building activity. There are thousands of quick activities that can be leveraged, one in particular that we like to use is called helium hoop and it involves having a team of five or more people stand in a circle with their index fingers extended. We then place a hula hoop on top off all the fingers. The goal is for the team to lower the hula hoop to the ground without anyone losing contact. What tends to happen is the hoop rises rather than being lowered because everyone is too concerned with losing contact. Eventually the team figures out how to achieve the goal.
As the facilitators, we are less interested in the success and more interested in the team’s reaction to their success. Once the goal has been accomplished, does the team high five each other and talk about how they achieved the goal or do they move on ask about the next challenge. In our experience most teams focus on what is next and don’t take enough time to reflect on their accomplishments. That reflection is where the real learning happens. We teach organizations to celebrate and dissect their successes in order to build competency in leveraging their strengths.
BusinessInterviews.com: I love that you focus a lot of attention on developing self-awareness for leaders. Can you share a tip for becoming more mindful with our readers and why you think it’s an important component for success?
Brian: Every single day we learn something new through the interactions we have with others, the media we consume and the experiences we have. That new information impacts who we are and the decisions we make. Self-awareness is about recognizing our own reactions to new information. The better one gets to know oneself, the more effective they can be in a variety of situations. Self-awareness requires self-reflection. A simple question to ask yourself or to have as a dinner table round robin question with your family each evening is, “What is one new thing I learned today and how might that learning impact me?” Unconsciously this occurs daily, but by making a more conscious effort to explore the impact of our learnings makes us more self-aware. I have studied leadership development for several years, taught executive leadership courses and coached several senior leaders. There is no one set of leadership traits that are required for success. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They bring different approaches and skill sets to their work. The one common thread I have found among all successful leaders is that they have developed strong self-awareness. It might be that they are very aware of their strengths, very aware of their weaknesses or aware of the things that bring them joy or frustration. Self-awareness is a life long pursuit that everyone engages in. The most successful people I know make a conscious effort to work at developing their self-awareness daily.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share how the concept of finding a Groove not only applies to people, but can also easily be applied to products and services as well?
Brian: Successful products and services address unmet needs in the marketplace and enhance a company’s performance. The concept of finding a Groove for a product or service is a process by which an organization identifies an unmet or under-met need in the market. The key to doing this is to listen to the voice of the customer. Understanding customers pain points and the features or services that they would desire is a first step to creating a product or service groove. A simple example would be the work that Groove Management performed with a mobile pet grooming business. The business was performing well, but the cash flow was unpredictable and lumpy. Through a facilitated approach, we worked with the owner to identify his pain points and also looked at his customer appointment data. What we found was that a large percentage of his customers used the service monthly, yet they scheduled their appointments only one month in advance. The solution that we helped introduce is a subscription model allowing customers to book for the year and pre-pay for twelve months of grooming. By pre-paying they receive a discount. Customers are pleased because of the discount and the predictable schedule and it provided funds in advance of the delivery of the service, which really helps cash flow. The subscription offering created a win-win for the company and the customers. While this is a very simple example of helping an organization to find their product or service groove, the concept applies to companies of all sizes and in all industries. Groove Management’s approach is to help organizations maximize their performance by focusing on their strengths.
Groove Management helps organizations to define and clarify their customer base, position in the market and to discover unmet needs. The process is quite similar to the approach when addressing personal and organizational development. By asking a serious of questions, we help organizations to identify product strengths and opportunities that can turn into product enhancements, new service offerings or innovative solutions.
BusinessInterviews.com: You coined the term “Forwardfill” which is a progressive talent management strategy. What does it mean and how did it feel to create a new word within your industry and have it catch on?
Brian: I believe strongly that semantics and the choice of words that we use when trying to convey a concept have can have a big impact when trying to drive behavior change. Talent Management is a sensitive subject in many organizations. When organizations have new job openings either through attrition or the creation of a new role, they often benchmark the role against existing talent in the organization or the recently departed incumbent. This approach fails to move an organization forward. The term “backfill” to me has a negative connotation. Rather than seeing a job opening as an opportunity to enhance and improve the talent and capabilities in an organization, backfilling focuses on plugging a hole or accepting the status quo. My frustration with the approach led me to think about a better way of addressing job openings. I coined the term “Forwardfill” in hopes of changing the talent management dialogue to a positive one that focuses on the future and possibilities. Forget about what the departed incumbent did in the job and focus on the current and future needs of the organization. Forwardfilling is a bout anticipating where an organization is headed, what the future knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies will be required for success and hire for those needs.
My experience when sharing the term “forwardfill” and the concept has been quite positive. People understand the difference right away and agree with the approach. The bigger hurdle is helping organizations to learn to apply the concept and not settle for a clone of the departed employee. I am proud of the term forwardfill and would love to see it catch on even more. I strongly believe that the use of the word can significantly change the talent conversations in any organization.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to an executive who was feeling stuck in his job and in need of a shift?
Brian: We all have good days and bad days. Self-awareness is a key to re-engaging when one feels disconnected. It is important to self diagnose the root cause or causes of the disengagement. Much like falling out of love, engagement can and will waiver. If an individual feels disengaged they must question what changed to cause the feeling. It might signal that the time is right to move on, or it might be other factors in ones life that are causing a distraction. As a coach my advice is to seek input from others and to discuss the feelings openly in hopes of gaining insights from those around you. Refocus on the things that attracted you to the work in the first place. Identifying the root cause of the feeling can help an executive to get unstuck or help to figure out what type of shift is needed. The twenty four hour news cycle and overwhelming amount of email, text and other data that we have in our lives is causing more burn out for senior leaders. Learning to disconnect and to find time for hobbies and family can help re-energies leaders at work. If an executive feels stuck, it can become contagious in the workplace causing others to feel disengaged as well. This can be a big organizational culture problem, therefore it is important for executives to address their engagement issues quickly.
Being in the Groove is all about feeling good about who you are and what you do. When you are not in the groove, you are not at your best.
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