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7 Questions with Roxi Bahar Hewertson
7 Questions with Roxi Bahar Hewertson
Name: Roxi Bahar Hewertson, MPS, ACC
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Highland Consulting Group, Inc.
Roxi Bahar Hewertson is a leadership expert, Presence-Based® Certified and ICF Credentialed ACC executive coach and organizational development expert with more than three decades of practical experience in the worlds of higher education, business, and nonprofits. She is the CEO of Highland Consulting Group, Inc. and author of two highly-acclaimed books, “HireRight, Fire Right: A Leader’s Guide To Finding And Keeping Your Best People” (Rowman & Littlefield) and “Lead Like it Matters…Because it Does” (McGraw-Hill). With a successful career focused on developing high performing leaders, Roxi is a foremost authority on helping executives and managers create thriving teams and work cultures that achieve stellar results. Her no nonsense, practical, tell-it-like-it-is insights have graced the TEDx stage and been featured by premier media outlets. She holds an MPS from Cornell University where she was Adjunct Faculty and a Senior Administrator. Connect with Roxi online at and .
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
When I formed my company in 1996, I had no idea whether or not it was sustainable. That meant taking a big risk and trusting that what we had to offer would add value to our client's lives. During the deep recession of 2008, we had to reinvent ourselves to thrive and continue to invest time and resources to grow. My mantra everyday was, "Innovate or evaporate". Increasing resilience in myself, and helping grow resilience in those I serve, was critical at that time as it is today.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I had a dream of moving out of my role in the senior administration at Cornell University into my primary passion - helping good leaders get a whole lot better. With the support of my own leader, mentors, and other colleagues, my dream was realized and has grown beyond anything I could have imagined.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I structure my days from morning until evening to ensure I'm doing at least these three things every day: 1) Meeting and following up with our clients and prospective clients 2) Learning something new 3) Reaching out to people through my writing and through my various networks. At least once a week, I donate my time to a worthy cause that matters to me. I spend little time on TV; I do listen to podcasts as one way to learn new things, and I force myself to get out of my office and go outside into nature every day to recharge and remind myself how grateful I am to live this life I enjoy so much and never take for granted.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
LISTEN! When we are distracted, multi-tasking, or in some kind of manic hurry, or preparing to answer or "fix" or... to deeply listen to our employees, we miss far too much and we learn far too little - to our own peril. This is true in our families as well. Listening seems to be a lost art in many places these days - sound bites tell us nothing of value and can become dangerous influences on us. Great leaders are great listeners first - the rest comes more easily when you actually pay attention to what others are communicating as well as what you are communicating. I remind my clients that communication isn't what you say - it's what the other person hears or understands.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
That's a tough one - but I'll choose Primal Leadership (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee) because about 25 years ago I became acutely aware of the role Emotional Intelligence plays in our workplaces and our families and this book really does a great job demonstrating how EI (or the lack of it) plays out in our workplace results, and particularly in leaders. Since then, I have become a certified EI practitioner, read everything I could on the subject, attended a Daniel Goleman course, and woven EI into everything I write, practice, and coach in the leadership arena. While it really is common sense, it's certainly not common practice to measure or reward people for demonstrating the 12 EI competencies - and yet, EI is the single biggest differentiator between highly successful people and those who fail at leadership.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
To even begin, a SME has to believe they have things to learn about leadership - so being open to one's own 'shadow' or 'learning edges' is essential. Arrogance will submarine a career sooner or later. My best advice would be to look for and hire a great leadership coach, or find a superb mentor who has walked plenty of miles in similar shoes. Reading is good - however it augments vs. replaces practice, exploration, and feedback or guidance. Taking a great leadership course can be really impactful, particularly if coaching happens as a followup to that focused learning. We all have to understand that leadership isn't about "me" - it's about those we agreed to lead. And it's our number one job to develop and inspire the best in our people. The leader's success can only happen through their team's success. Bottom line.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
We were hired as outside leadership and culture change consultants by another SME and served that client for over 6 years. During that time, we had the privilege of facilitating leadership courses for the entire company, building and strengthening the C-Suite leadership team, and coaching leaders within the organization. The range of opportunities was both challenging and rewarding. The friendships we made then still are strong a decade later, and knowing that we made a real difference in the culture and the results inspired me to write my first book and then my second book. I am grateful for the enormous trust the CEO and his team placed in me and for years of unforgettable experiences working with a great SME - that, by the way, continues to be a great SME!