Monday, June 9, 2014

Interview with Eric Hutcherson - Talent Management Rockstar at Marsh

I am taking some liberty with my description of Eric as an HR rockstar, but trust me if you met him in person you would have the same impression. Leveraging his non-traditional HR experiences in sports and non-profits to his current role as a talent management executive, he has channeled his energy and powerful insights into leadership and human dynamics. I had to ask him to be a guest on my blog. I encourage you to take his advice to heart and challenge you to think differently about leadership. 

JS: In your opinion Eric, how does demonstrating emotional intelligence connect with authentic leadership? 

EH: Authenticity is key to deriving the results you seek as a leader. It is my opinion that employees are wiser than we give them credit for. As a result, they can see right through the games we sometimes play as leaders. This is especially true when having to deliver bad news, tough messages, or are attempting to persuade. It is funny to watch as leaders attempt to “position” the story in a way to compel the person to think, react and feel the way we want them to. When in fact, if that same leader simply gave a true representation of the situation, explained the circumstances clearly and truthfully, the outcome would generally be exactly what they were hoping for. If not, at least the employee walks away feeling respected, appreciated and clear. Many leaders attempt to manipulate the situation. They rely on their “ego” when they really need to tap into their “EQ”. 

This is where ego is a dangerous thing. We sometimes think we are so smart that we can get anyone to feel the way we want. When in fact, the real skill/capability is their EQ. When done right, the leader is able to glean key information that helps them assess where the person is at any point in the dialogue. They can sense the flow of the discussion, know where to go and where not to go, and most importantly, they become in tune to the drivers of the other person, understanding how things are occurring to them and making adjustments along the way. Watching a leader in tune with their EQ and thus leading authentically, is a thing of beauty. As I coach executives on their leadership brand, I hit this subject really hard. Authentic leadership is an art that is seldom practiced. However, I spend a disproportionate amount of time coaching on leadership brand, communication style, authenticity and integrity above all. 

This is why I live by the mantra, “I like who I am and I like what I see”. At the end of the day, I want to go home and make sure my clients go home knowing I was my full authentic self today…every day. 

JS: You have read Ego vs. EQ. What do you think is one key take away leaders should be implementing every day? 

EH: I absolutely love this book because it is not only theoretically sound, but it is extraordinarily practical. I have to say that after reading it, many times, Ego Trap 6: Underestimating How Much You Are Being Watched still strikes me as the key to it all. 

I can’t tell you how many times I and other leaders have fallen into this trap. It still amazes me at how fine the details are that colleagues will recall about behaviors, statements etc. While it is true the impact a CEO can have is often overstated, it is also true that you are always being watched. As I deliver my career and leadership development program, “Say Yes to Success” it focuses on this quite a bit. When you, as a leader, are interacting, consider this simple fact. “You are always on an interview!” When looked at through that lens, you wouldn’t dare say, do, or act in the same way. And as highlighted in the book, it isn’t always the major overt actions that have the greatest impact. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that colleagues remember most. I don’t intend to suggest leaders need to always be buttoned up. But definitely be more aware and in tune to those around them and the speed at which news travels. This is why EQ is so critical. We lose ourselves at times in the moment, not sensing the tone of the situation and this is typically when the misstep happens. 

My advice to leaders is simple. Because of the position you hold and the influence you have, you have to remember that the second the words leave your mouth, it is fact. Surprisingly, I consult with so many leaders who struggle with this concept. They will say, “But I was brainstorming” or “It was just a throw away comment”. This book will quickly help leaders realize, there is no such thing. One practice I have put in place with all of my coaching clients is this. Think five things but only say one. In other words, be more careful and sparing with how much you say, limiting the chances for you to say something wrong. Another simple piece of advice for leaders: your leadership brand comes in the room before you do. So your behavior (past and present) will drive the experiences people get (and therefore shape) the leadership brand you develop. The results you derive, positive or negative, are shaped by those initial behaviors. If you want to change the brand…change the behavior! 

JS: What will the rest of this decade require of leaders? Any insight into the challenges they should be prepared to face? 

EH: I guess there are so many things a leader can expect to face and of course, they can’t really prepare for all of them. That said, the pace of change is the thing I focus on. I believe the next decade is going to move faster than ever before. As Boomers leave the workforce and the Millennial generation become the leaders of the future, pace and change is all they know. Everything is done instantly. Banking, buying, and learning (among others), happen instantly and on-demand. The ability of leaders to adapt to that pace of change is critical. It will shape how we do business, how our clients/customers see our value, how employers will value the capabilities of future employees and how employees will evaluate the nature of the companies they work for. 

Comfort with change, coupled with the unique ability to actively listen, synthesize and adjust will be the key to leadership success in the future. Can leaders “pivot” according to the situation? Can they guide their actions, coaching, and leadership for what is required at the time, yet be prepared to change if the situation dictates? Leaders, especially those that lead with Ego, are predisposed to Tell not Coach. As a result, they often don’t listen…they reload. Since in many cases they have seen it all before, they coach according to past experience, missing the need to pivot and adjust. Today, the leadership issues are so diverse that coaching in the moment is what is needed. Just-in-time, on-demand and customized coaching will be the solution to create the differentiated skill-set required of the most successful leaders.

About Eric Hutcherson

Eric Hutcherson serves as a Managing Director, HR Leader for the US and Canada Division of Marsh, a Marsh and McLennan company and a leading global insurance brokerage firm, based in NY with over 25,000 colleagues worldwide and approximately 10,000 in the US and Canada.

In this capacity, Eric leads the HR function in support of the Marsh business and people strategies.  Eric is instrumental in designing and delivering proactive solutions to the people challenges that face the firm. He and his team are responsible for talent acquisition, colleague engagement, talent and succession planning as well as a range of initiatives and projects.  Prior to his role at Marsh, Eric spent 8 years at Mercer, another MMCo company, in various HR leadership roles including Global Leader for Mercer’s Outsourcing and Global Operations and Shared Services businesses, Chief Human Resource Officer - Americas, Americas Human Resource Leader for Retirement and Investments, and Human Resource Officer - US Northeast Zone.  Eric also held several Human Resource management roles with Putnam Investments.  Prior to his career in Human Resources, Eric worked in the professional sports field with the Boston Celtics and Foot Locker.

At Marsh, Eric is heavily involved in Marsh’s diversity and inclusion efforts, plays an instrumental role in the Employee Resource Groups and is helping to shape their external presence in the diversity community. 

Outside of work, Eric is a motivational speaker, serves on several non profit boards, and is a basketball coach and trainer. 

Eric received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from New York University and his Master of Science in Sports Management and Administration from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

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