March 17, 2020  /  Debbie Bing

We at CFAR hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Like you, we are watching the events unfold by the hour, attempting to balance an attunement to this moment with our commitment to our work with both clients and colleagues. We are so appreciative of the many messages we’ve received from those both close and far that convey how deeply we are all in this together.


The safety and wellbeing of our CFAR team and our wider communities are of the utmost importance for us. We have transitioned to working remotely, already experienced and still learning how to authentically stay connected by video and phone. We are doing all we can to provide continued support to our clients. I am am... read more »

March 19, 2020  /  Richard Levin

Almost 20 years ago, CFAR Coaching Practice Leader Dr. Richard J. Levin wrote the guidelines—linked below—for the UN to help parents and children cope with the unprecedented events of 9/11. As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, this same resource may be useful in comforting and guiding you and your family during these challenging times. As always, CFAR is here for you, both personally and professionally. You may download and read the article HERE.

April 13, 2020  /  Todd Smith
Todd Smith, Senior ConsultantWe know that family businesses have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 situation—and the impacts are being felt not only as business owners, but as family members who care for each other and are trying to stay connected in new and purposeful ways. They are trying to navigate an unprecedented environment in ways that keep their family and their business healthy.
One way we are finding many family business clients reacting to social isolation is unexpected and wonderful—using circumstances to accelerate governance and engagement work across their generations. In conversations with them, we are... read more »
April 16, 2020  /  Barry Dornfeld and Jennifer Tomasik
Developing leaders and leadership in healthcare has become increasingly important during normally turbulent times, a topic we reflected on in our piece in the Wharton Healthcare Quarterly last spring. But now that we find ourselves in a full-blown public crisis, with our health delivery systems—from front line workers to clinical and research leadership to executives—completely focused on responding to the crisis, should we expect healthcare organizations to focus on leadership development? 
The simple answer is, of course, no. 
Leaders must focus their attention on the urgent needs of patients and communit... read more »
April 17, 2020  /  Debbie Bing
Debbie Bing, President and Principal“My values haven't been tested but my ability to live by them have been shattered.”
—Family business leader
Yesterday, my colleague and I led a webinar with hundreds of members of family businesses on the topic of resilience. The basic premise is clear: the art of resilience—surviving, thriving, even against the toughest odds—is “built in” for family businesses—built over decades and across generations. More often than not, family businesses that last are molded by values shared and tested week after week, decade after decade, pr... read more »
April 22, 2020  /  Jennifer Tomasik
As the leader of CFAR’s healthcare practice and in my role as Regent for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), I was honored to host a webinar last week for healthcare leaders grappling with questions about how to care for themselves and for others (their teams, their patients, their families) in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. My colleagues at ACHE Rhode Island and I wanted to create a safe space to address the kinds of questions participants were asking: How do I help overwhelmed teams of healthcare providers focus on what’s most important, even as they fear for their own safety? How do I support cancer patients as they’... read more »
April 27, 2020  /  Katelyn Husereau

Throughout this challenging time, there is one message that continues to bring a great deal of comfort: “We are in this together.” We are all facing some degree of paralyzing uncertainty and intense challenge. Though our individual situations may be quite different, some experiences these days seem universally shared: 


— Our personal and business lives are even more enmeshed than normal as the boundary between work and home is obliterated

 read more »

April 29, 2020  /  Caleb White

Caleb E. White, PrincipalThe often heard board governance adage of “nose in, fingers out”1 is regularly held up as guidance for board members and a caution to them, many of whom are former C-suite executives, that it’s not their job to delve too deeply into day-to-day operations. 


But should this hold in this time of a crisis—particularly one the length and depth of which is unknown? The COVID-19 crisis has triggered countless off-cycle board meetings or updates, whether fiduciary or advisory, with management working diligently to provide important information ab... read more »

May 8, 2020  /  Megan Helzner

Preparing the next generation ("Next Gen") is a critical step on the path to succession in a family business. There are many ways to create development opportunities, starting with exposure in “small bites” from a young age, in age- and stage-appropriate ways. Think: formal education programs, or spending time in the proverbial “mailroom” (or its equivalent), or accompanying a family member on a job, and more. 


One steadfast and valuable method to expose the Next Gen to business has been internships, typically starting in high school or college. Summer learning opportunities develop younger family membe... read more »

June 3, 2020  /  Debbie Bing
These are trying times. We see a world that feels turned upside down, and share deep despair and anger at the racial injustice behind the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless more before them.
We know that better is both possible and necessary. We at CFAR are committed to making a difference where we are able—by working with leaders and organizations to create space for dialogue and connection, and through our deeply held belief that differences are a virtue, not a liability, in the impactful outcomes we seek.
Leaders have an important role in our collective next chapter to demonstrate values and build cultures that embrace differences, learning, hope, and commitment to change.It is a... read more »
June 10, 2020  /  Todd Smith
Todd Smith, Senior Consultant2020 has been tumultuous, unlike anything many of us have ever experienced. As we shift to living and working in a new reality, organizations have been left upended. Leaders face abundant, urgent questions about how to care for their organization and their people, and how to plan for an uncertain future.
At CFAR, we have been grappling with the same challenges—both within our organization and through our work with clients. As we listened to leaders voice their concerns and watched numerous organizations focus on the notion of resiliency, we quickly came to realize that resiliency, while a critical s... read more »
June 16, 2020  /  Richard Levin

In this radio interview, initially broadcast on WBOQ-FM in Gloucester, MA, I talk about ways we can acclimate to the turbulence brought about by the combined impact of COVID-19, racial injustice, unemployment, and steep financial losses. Not knowing which way to turn for help has the capacity to crowd out our best thinking, and to force us into making impulsive decisions.


The best way for leaders to be strategic rather than impulsive is to develop new skills that help their organizations deal with collective trauma. I address trauma in the radio interview... read more »

June 24, 2020  /  Barry Dornfeld

Culture has played an increasingly critical role in organizations across all domains, and we know that people across organizational levels have become more aware of how vital its role is in shaping strategy, impacting organizational success, and deepening employee engagement. At the same time, the pandemic, and the necessary responses to it, have tested organizational culture in ways that we are just taking stock of and that may have long-lasting impact.


We know that organizations with purposeful, collaborative, inclusive, and psychologically safe cultures have more engaged and effective leaders, staff, and teams, and deliver better outcome... read more »

June 29, 2020

Chris McEnteeWe are thrilled to welcome Chris McEntee to CFAR as a Senior Advisor for our work with healthcare and research organizations and professional associations and societies. In her most recent role as CEO of the American Geophysical Union (AGU)—a global professional scientific society serving 130,000 scientists—Chris positioned AGU as a leading industry voice and drove key initiatives that increased the relevance and value of science in our society.


With over 25 years of professional experience, Chris has focused on growing large organizations through reimagining their governance, membership, programs, public policy, sci... read more »

July 1, 2020  /  Debbie Bing

Debbie BingOrganizations can get in the way of their own success. The reasons are plentiful—ineffective design, challenged teams, unclear roles or structures, cumbersome or insufficient processes, challenging authority dynamics, to name just a few. Every leader has faced that moment. When they simply know that there is something about how the organization is working that is getting in the way of achieving the full potential of its goals. And yet harnessing the collective power of an organization—with multiple talents, ideas, and a more powerful overall impact than any one individual can have—is somehow still around the corner, just out of reach.... read more »

July 8, 2020  /  Nancy Drozdow, Founder and Principal

Nancy DrozdownLately, even before the pandemic, people inside organizations have been more “heads down,” get it done, don’t distract me. With the pandemic adding one more level of stress to organizational life—where people work from a distance, virtually, still intent to make plan, serve customers, develop talent—a new or renewed view of organizational life is emerging, where invention and adaptation of the formerly tried and true can either be encouraged or discouraged by an organization’s culture. What anchors a resilient organization in a good way,  offering purpose, connection, and readiness for change?

 ... read more »

July 13, 2020
These are times like no other. Organizations of all types have been up-ended by the events of 2020, leaving leaders grappling with a range of questions about the short- and long-term impact on their business and people. 
How have these strange times affected culture and performance? What will be the impact on talent and morale, and how do we plan for it? Have we moved backwards on important goals that were so clearly in our sight just months ago? What have we gained, unexpectedly, in these unusual times and how can we hold onto it? Do we h... read more »
July 14, 2020  /  Jennifer Tomasik

Engagement is the art and science of including people in the shaping and implementation of strategy and change. In our experience, intentionally planning what we call the engagement architecture of a project or initiative that you want to advance is absolutely essential for creating strategy and change that stick. We advise building inclusive processes through which to surface a diversity of voices and opinions, using a variety of methods for tapping into the guidance, expertise, and passion of your people—including leadership, staff, board, family members, and others whose outside perspective can be helpful. 

When consideri... read more »
August 5, 2020  /  Todd Smith

Todd SmithBalancing the respective needs and inputs of your company Board, your shareholder group, and your independent directors always requires a measured approach that values feedback and places a premium on the values embedded in the company by its founders. A Family Council is an ideal forum through which to give family members a “voice” in the company, but it also adds a new dimension to this balancing act. 

Clients often come to us with questions on how to effectively link their Family Council to an existing operating company Board in a healthy and productive way. This can be a particular challenge not only when d... read more »
September 9, 2020  /  Caleb E. White, Principal, and Megan Helzner, Manager

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.” Daniel Kahneman


The 360-degree feedback process has recently been reported to be used by more than 85% of Fortune 500 firms as a part of their performance management systems[1]. The “360-degree” moniker comes from how the process solicits feedback for participating leaders in a full circle: from those working above (supervisors or in the case of the CEO, the Board), below (direct reports), and alongside (peers of) the individual being assessed. 360s invite and require some vulnerability in that, if done as intended, thoughtfully receiving and then using feedback is a de... read more »

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