Alan S. Berson runs Pulse Point, an executive coaching company based in Maryland dedicated to helping executives “reach their executive leadership goals.” A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, Berson worked in several Fortune 500 companies and taught at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. He recently answered a few questions for WashingtonExec about his career and outlook on life.
WashingtonExec: What is your background?
Alan Berson: Since getting my MBA from Wharton, I’ve been an executive at Gillette, Bausch & Lomb and Chase Lincoln First Bank as well as on contract with Marriott with responsibilities varying from Strategic Planning to Marketing/Sales to Finance. I’ve also been the President and CEO of a VC funded company in the training industry. For the last 10 years, ever since 9/11, I have been a leadership coach and a professor of leadership and change management, recently at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and now at Johns Hopkins University. As such, I have worked with hundreds of top executives in both private industry and government and can be reached at: email@example.com
WashingtonExec: Can you please describe your day to day responsibilities?
Alan Berson: I love that every day is different. One day I might be group coaching a team of senior executives at a major corporation to set and/or achieve strategic goals; the next, I might be teaching a class of 25 executives from government or private industry on how to be a leader; perhaps I am working closely with senior executives, coaching them through important leadership challenges and opportunities; and on other days I am networking and bringing business into my company either through direct contacts or forging strategic alliances. The one common theme to all that I do is being a trusted advisor to others. As such I experience a wide range of executive challenges and have learned a lot about the interrelationship between management and leadership.
WashingtonExec: Can you give our readers a sense of hot issues your customers are telling you are important to them in terms of your service offerings?
Alan Berson: They are searching for ways to assist their senior executives in making the transition from functional management into organizational leadership so I have started writing a book on this subject with Dick Stieglitz who was the founder of RGS. When transitioning, my customers say that they need these executives to be better at change management, acting strategically and being truly innovative. They have to understand that leadership is a responsibility to perform for the organization and its employees; it’s not a place one arrives at, rather a new starting point. Succession Planning throughout the organization is a hot topic. So is Diversity & Inclusion – the key concept here is that we have often hired people who are like us, with whom we are comfortable; in today’s world it is critical to team with others who think differently and are different from us and then learn how to have constructive conflict and communicate effectively.
WashingtonExec: What would you say is your biggest challenge in business?
Alan Berson: This may be an indirect answer, but what frustrates me most is working with an executive who refuses to become “unstuck”, especially when I am also working with this person’s team who I observe to be literally suffering from lack of effective leadership. Getting this person to be truly curious and open is the key to unlocking the rest of the executive talent potential in the organization.
WashingtonExec: How would you describe your management style?
Alan Berson: To grow people and manage their achievement of strategic goals and objectives. To ask a million questions, to make no assumptions and to work with others to find the right answer, knowing that the best solution can come from anyone and anywhere. It is a huge lightening of responsibility to know that, as the person at the top, your job is not to know everything, rather to create the conditions where the best decisions can be made and largest opportunities created.
WashingtonExec: Where would you like to see your company in five years?
Alan Berson: Continuing to work with top executives in major organizations and with a full complement of their high-potentials
WashingtonExec: Tell me a little bit about what personally drives you. What makes you successful?
Alan Berson: Not just saying I care about people but really doing so. I chose this profession after September 11, 2001 when I realized that my passions were less in running a company than in assisting others in being successful doing so. My success come from being the type of person to whom people will say their innermost thoughts, comfortable that I will be non-judgmental and will challenge them to be the best they want to be.
WashingtonExec: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Alan Berson: To thine own self, be true. We can weave any number of stories that are self serving – yet there is a reality that has a minimum of assumptions and spin, a maximum of hard facts and excellent awareness of others and self that I strive to develop in myself and with my clients. It is only when we do this that we can find the best solutions and opportunities. Remember, if we are not honest internally, how can we be so with others?