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Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – Talent Talk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  Talent Talk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and leadership styles. Today’s guests are Bruce Lewolt, CEO of BrainX; and Brad Cook, Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Informatica. To hear the entire show, click 

The effects of tapping into individual team member’s motivations as well as learning styles is a major theme touted by both of today’s guests.  They are also both great examples of how taking learnings from other industries – whether sports or manufacturing – can dramatically improve how a team functions.

BRUCE LEWOLT leadership styles

Lewolt first came across learning theory in college which, he says, changed his life and set him “on a professional passion to help people earn their learning potential.”

Research shows that of the billions of dollars that corporations spend on training, 90 percent of it is wasted. It against this backdrop, that BrainX delivers a customized approach to learning for both schools and organizations.

Conditioning Sales People as Athletes

Lewolt challenges managers to think of their salesforce as competitive athletes who need constant training and reinforcement.  When coached effectively, these “athletes” can likely outperform your highest sales expectations.

For instance, developing “rapid adaptive reasoning ability” – much like a quarterback needs on the football field or a star sales person in a critical prospect meeting – takes practice.

But not all practice is created equal.  Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, the best managers figure out how each person learns and adjust their coaching to that style. 

Further, if managers stop focusing on outcomes and start focusing on skill development, performance will soar.  Lewolt suggests replacing, “How are you doing on quota?” to asking the salesforce how they are doing honing a particular skill.

Leadership Journey

Lewolt draws influence from outside his category, from process thinkers such as Drucker to sports psychology. 

As to his own leadership styles, he has to stop his instinct “to just jump in” and instead help someone arrive at the answer when approached with an issue.  Time management is his biggest area of development, however, especially as it’s easy to get wrapped up in work that excites him.

Why Do You Come to Work?

Lewolt suggests managers ask each person on their team why they come to work, in order to be able to inspire them in the way that motivates them personally.

When it comes to loving what you do, Lewolt believes this definitely helps performance, but he proposes an alternative for those who don’t: “Fall in love with being better at what you do” to get satisfaction from improving performance until you can change your job circumstance.

What are you Reading?

Lewolt is currently reading research-based texts such as Individual and Team Skill Decay.”

How Can I Connect with You? Via the contact form on


BRAD COOKleadership styles

Cook runs talent acquisition for Informatica, a 3,200 person global software company focused on data integration.  Cook was recently named a “Rising Star of the Year” by HR Executive Magazine, and credits the hard work his team for this accolade.

The greatest recruiting challenges he faces in this role are a shortage of skilled data talent, competition from the “big boys” in key markets such as Silicon Valley, and general confusion around the real meaning of “big data.”

Leading Through Empowerment

His greatest leadership influence is Brian Jeffries, his manager when Cook was at Cisco. Jeffries quickly learned Cook’s skills and vulnerabilities alike, and was able to use that knowledge to get the best out of Cook.

Cook believes that in today’s complex world, “a leader today has to be able to get into the trenches when need be, but also be able to look at the bigger level to understand what is going to make the biggest impact today and tomorrow.”

His biggest leadership challenge was to not jump to the answer when approached by someone on his team.  Instead, he’s learned to adapt his leadership styles to help them arrive at the answer and empower them the next time a similar issue arises. In fact, Cook asserts that “if you don’t empower your team, then you’re the weakest link.”

Pushing Smarter

One lesson he learned the hard way is that “it’s all about timing.”  Cooks recalls a Cisco project he toiled on for more than two years and could never get off the ground.  The project was later implemented by someone else using much the same tools and approach as Cook had, and in shorter time.  The experience taught him that sometimes the timing just isn’t right, so it’s “not about pushing harder, but about pushing smarter.”

Input, Activity, Output

In his creative process, Cook takes a note from manufacturing by “continually looking for ways to break a process and make it better.”  Gleaned from Six Sigma, he takes a data-centric “input, activity, output” structure to team brainstorming.

What are You Reading?

On Cook’s list is Leading Through Leaders: Driving Strategy, Execution and Changeby Jeremy Tozer.

How Can I Connect with You? Find Cook via LinkedIn.

Tune into the show next week, and remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Show Date: October 1, 2013