Below are my answers to their interview questions.
Kevin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m a veteran army officer who read Ayn Rand and then decided to do something productive with my life. Now, I’m a nationally recognized leadership and strategy consultant, coach and author of the upcoming book, “Managing Chaos: The Emergent Leader,” scheduled to be published in the Spring of 2020. I work with entrepreneurs and companies, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 5. Current and previous clients include LifeLock, Medtronic and McKesson. The intriguing thing about my story is that my work revolves around my interests: leadership and strategy, behavioral profiling, and computer wargames! This mixture makes sense given my background.
US ARMY OFFICER. My career in leadership development began as a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute. Upon graduation, I was commissioned an infantry officer in the US Army. I requested to go Korea (one of the least desired choices for duty assignments) and was instead sent to Fort Lewis, Washington (the No. 1 destination choice). My luck didn’t end there: I was assigned as a rifle platoon leader to THE unit experimenting with the “Medium Brigade” – a brand new concept the US Army ultimately adopted, using Stryker armored vehicles. This was an important time in my life as I was able to play a role in creating a new army doctrine. It also was fun because I was able to utilize my knowledge of WW2 tank and mechanized warfare during field exercises.
In 2003, I volunteered for the war and the army sent me! Despite being a combat arms officer, I was assigned to military intelligence and granted top-secret clearance. My participation as a staff officer in the central headquarters enabled me to see the war from the highest levels. My last year in the army was spent in Korea as an assistant war-planner in a division headquarters.
Overall, after six years of active duty, I was able to work across the tactical, operational and strategic levels of national defense. Also, I served in the three different army branches and helped coordinate across different services. It was a hell of an education in leadership and strategy for a man shy of 30 years old!
BUSINESS CONSULTANT AND FACILITATOR. I entered the private sector as an entrepreneur in 2005. Here, I successfully translated my knowledge of leadership and strategy to the business world. Weary of traditional leadership programs that are often loaded with Power Point and storytelling, I wanted to do something different and unique. So, I incorporated computer wargames (real-time strategy) as a learning platform. Why listen when you can have fun and get engaged in the learning? My first big client was a small startup called LifeLock.
Technology other than computer wargaming is becoming a bigger part of my work. Currently, I am rolling out an online tool that measures leadership effectiveness for companies. It also helps build a company’s bench-strength of capable, available leaders. The first company to use it is valued at $30 billion.
PROFESSOR, WRITER AND AUTHOR. General Patton once wrote, “All soldiers are hero worshippers.” This explains one reason why I teach US Military History at Scottsdale Community College. I introduce my students to leaders (good and bad), as well as strategy and philosophy in action. Most importantly, I show my students how to connect the lessons of history to life, business and decision-making.
As a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only organization for leading business coaches and career coaches, I write on topics like behaviors, leadership and strategy. All of this is practice for writing my up-and-coming book. The working title is “Managing Chaos: The Emergent Leader,” and the goal is to publish it in Spring, 2020. The impetus for it was a simple observation made throughout the years: leaders are often not prepared for chaos, no matter the organization, industry or sector. So, I want to help leaders by educating them on how to manage friction and uncertainty while driving their competitive strategy. In effect, I’m writing the leadership book I wished I had read as a junior officer.
Please tell us about your work.
Leadership and strategy are interrelated, and the better your leaders are, the greater the chances are of you actualizing your strategy. This is where I come in. My goal is to help companies gain an edge in execution. I do this by developing leaders and teams that can effectively drive strategy from the ground up; I also prepare them to manage the chaos that always seems to rear its ugly head during execution. My help comes in the form of behavioral profiling, workshops, and individual coaching.
A major element of my work is identifying a leader’s natural strengths along with the environmental factors that elicit or hinder them. I even help people identify what truly motivates them in order to better support their decision-making. This work is called profiling and is necessary prior to workshop participation or coaching.
My workshops gain the most attention because they are the most fun and the most powerful of my services. Modeled on how the Army trains its officer corps, these two- to three-day events are designed to rapidly develop business professionals, from front-line managers to Chief Executive Officers. Working together as teams, participants apply a curriculum using real-time strategy computer simulations. Working as a military staff, they create nations, develop economies and build armies while their competition does the same. Everyone eventually deploys the skills and competencies necessary for leading teams or organizations, such as strategic thinking, cross-functional communication, planning, and systems management.
The experience is incredibly powerful. The combination of education with experiences helps participants rapidly accelerate their growth. My clients say they gain (what feels like) years of experience in a matter of days.
Upon the completion of the workshop, I individually support leaders with one-on-one coaching. The goal is to ensure the lessons learned from the workshop are consistently applied. Some people have used my coaching services as a means to prepare for promotion.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Kevin Black Consulting – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
What I’m most proud of is that my intellectual property was used by a company that executed a successful initial public offering. One time, falling back to my experience as a war-planner, I helped this same company create a strategic crisis playbook. It came in handy, preventing an overnight $2M loss!
Another thing that I’m proud of is that I was invited to be on the Forbes Coaches Council. That’s because my leadership coaching and consulting services are first-class. One client, a high-potential manager, improved her performance – and her chances for promotion – by 20% in just 14 weeks of leadership coaching.
What’s sets me apart as a leadership and strategy consultant? Two things: content and “educational experiences.” My content is not primarily about self-actualization or communication, as it seems to be with so many leader programs today; instead, I present leadership as a complex discipline consisting of many elements (like those deployed in my workshops). Most importantly, it must effectively balance the needs of people and mission under pressure.
The process of my workshops is the other thing that sets me apart. People learn from doing. The results are “educational experiences” that enable them to rapidly accelerate up the learning and experience curves. For the individual, the impact of the experience is major and substantial, not incremental or forgettable. For the company, in a matter of days, they’ve improved the value of their leaders and teams, and thus the overall chances of success.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Publishing my book is priority number one. Everything I do, everything I’m about is in this thing. All my focus is on it. Once the book is published – and successfully marketed – entire new paths in career and life will hopefully open up.
Address: 515 East Grant Street, Phoenix AZ 85004. I’m in Galvanize. Come by and say hello!