60 Second Interview - Roger Schwarz

Roger Schwarz

Roger Schwarz is an organizational psychologist and author of 'Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results'.

Roger is now the subject of our latest 60 Second Interview

1. How long have you been in the industry, and what is your current job title ?

I have been helping leadership teams get unstuck and get better results for more than 30 years. I am president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates and an organizational psychologist. In addition to my responsibilities within the organization, I consult with leadership teams, give keynote speeches to client organizations and associations they belong to, and write about how to improve leadership teams.

2. Did you have a mentor and, if so, who ?

I didn’t have a mentor who helped me navigate my career, but I had two people who strongly shaped my ideas about how to help leaders and their teams. The first was Chris Argyris, my professor in graduate school at Harvard University, who helped found the field of organizational change. His courses and conversations with me set the path for my career.

The second was Dick McMahon, a faculty colleague who I worked closely with at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when I was a professor. Dick has a superb ability to quickly help clients get to the heart of their issues.

3. Are you by nature an optimist or a pessimist ?

I’m pessimistic about leaders who try to get better team results by simply trying new tools and techniques without changing their underlying mindset. They spend a lot of time and energy and end up recreating the very results they are trying to avoid.

I’m optimistic about leaders and teams that are willing to examine their core values and assumptions so they can shift to a more productive mindset. I’m confident these are people who will make the most positive difference in their organizations.

4. Which business leader do you most admire and why ?

A C-Suite executive whose organization I have worked with for a number of years. (I’m not mentioning his name to maintain the organization’s confidentiality.) He has a clear vision for his organization and is equally transparent about his views and genuinely curious about other’s views. He treats everyone with the same directness and respect, whether it’s the CEO or a first line supervisor. He gets results with people. Whenever his name comes up in conversation, his colleagues tell me what an effective leader he is. He’s a natural model of Mutual Learning, the approach I help leaders apply in their work.

5. What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date ?

Leadership isn’t about being comfortable; it’s about being effective even when you’re uncomfortable.

6. What's your favorite business quotation or life motto ?

'Don’t believe everything you think'. It’s a great life and business motto. Human beings are hard-wired to make meaning. We watch people say and do things and we immediately tell ourselves a story to explain what is really happening and why.

When we act on our stories as if they are true when they are false, we create problems for others and for ourselves - whether at work or home. 'Don’t believe everything you think' reminds us clients to test whether our stories are true before we act on them.

7. What's the best business book you've ever read ?

Reasoning, Learning and Action by Chris Argyris.

This book (and several others by Argyris and his frequent co-author Don Schön) changed my life. It showed me how leaders think in ways that undermine the very results they are trying to accomplish.

It offered a set of core values and behaviors that leaders could use to create much better results. It shaped my work with clients and led me to write several books, including Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams.

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