Welcome to another exclusive interview with ValiantCEO Magazine!
Today, we are excited to introduce you to Maurice Ducoing, a seasoned Human Capital Management consultant based in Los Angeles. With over 15 years of experience, Maurice has honed his skills in psychological safety and inclusion, providing an innovative and comprehensive approach to business activities.
As the Founder and CEO of Ducoing Human Capital, Maurice focuses on four key services: end-to-end management of company integrations (M&A), Manager/Executive Development programs, Organizational Strategy workshops, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion advisory.
His unique approach, grounded in psychological safety and inclusion, sets him apart from other consultants, allowing clients to reap the tremendous benefits of a robust culture.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Maurice Ducoing: Hi Jed and hello readers. I come to you today from my home in Los Angeles as a Human Capital Management consultant specializing in a variety of important business tools and best practices grounded in psychological safety and inclusion.
Having been in this field for more than 15 years since my foundational education at Deloitte Consulting in New York City, I have worked with hundred of companies across a variety of industries to deliver an uncommon approach to common business activities.
Now as Founder and CEO of my own consultancy, Ducoing Human Capital, i focus on 4 key services: end-to-end management of company integrations (M&A), Manager/Executive Development programs, Organizational Strategy (Exec Alignment or Identification of Mission, Vision and Values) workshops and Diversity Equity & Inclusion advisory.
Again, a primary differentiator is our take on these services now grounded in psychological safety and inclusion, thus allowing our clients to take advantage of the huge benefits that come from establishing these robust cultures.
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffet, how would you describe your company, your services or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Maurice Ducoing: I suppose I have already alluded to this by establishing that I am focusing on 4 key services that have made up the bulk of my past experience:
First, Change Management and Communications in a Merger or Acquisition – this is end-to-end support of the integration through a variety of hand-picked tools that really help mitigate employee anxiety and confusion and instead create a bridge a sense of safety and inclusion. I tend to call this Safety-forward Integration Services.
Next, I have been designing and delivering key Manager and Executive skill development programs that truly help managers focus on the managerial behaviors that will have the most meaningful impact on the team and the business.
Due to the nature of the scaling businesses I work with, this tends to identify several key traits: psychological safety (and inclusion), interpersonal change management, and navigating the company-sanctioned core behaviors (i.e., values).
Third, delivering targeted workshops that effectively align executive teams (and build rapport and safety in those teams), and help these teams identify their critical mission, vision, and values.
Finally, supporting organizations in better navigating the Belonging ecosystem (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) through targeted advisory that addresses programming, talent process improvement, Employee Resource Group launches, and measurement.
And again, all of these services are united in their foundational approach to psychological safety.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Maurice Ducoing: In some ways I find it remarkable that the 82% isn’t higher and yet always horrified it is that high. But this disengagement is real and can be attributed to the very way teams work and managers lead.
There have always been many different models and frameworks about what keeps employees happy whether it is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or Herzberg’s Tow-Factor (Hygiene vs Motivators) Theory.
If we take Herzberg as an example, some aspects of the workplace don’t necessarily bring satisfaction or additional happiness when they are present, but illicit serious dissatisfaction when they are absent (salary, benefits, work environment, etc.)
This while others truly and intrinsically motivate us such as recognition and rewards, achievement, challenge of work, skills development, etc.)
Those models were powerful but also limited; it wasn’t really until Harvard professor Amy Edmondson delivered her landmark study of hospitals in 1999 and really began the modern thinking about Psychological Safety, did we have a model that really captures not only individual motivation, but its interdependence with others on the team and the manager.
It essentially identified the human need for “safety” as critical and foundational to the environment that makes teams succeed.
Her subsequent work with Google on Project Aristotle cemented it: the #1 predictor of a teams performance wasn’t the skills and styles of the team members, but whether or not that team felt the safety to speak up, take risks, be vulnerable in the team setting. Daniel Coyle and Dr. Tim Clark have continued to work in parallel to advance this great work.
This is the crux of what I am focusing my practice on as well: helping managers and executives to develop the vocabulary and to identify the actions that will create this foundational safety experience and thus generate more meaningful outcomes.
It is in fact helping these leaders be vulnerable with the teams and help them find their voice, feel safe to grow and learn from mistakes, and feel that their strengths and identities not only don’t distract from team goals but add to them that has become my passion and I think it is central to addressing this engagement calamity.
The ones who embrace this approach will reap the rewards.
Here is a two fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Maurice Ducoing: While there are many books that have influenced me to create or pursue social justice or to otherwise alter whatever trajectory I was on at the time (A People’s History of the United States, Dry, Hocus Pocus, etc.), I will take this question and focus it on a work influence. And further, I will point to a few that have had more influence on my development work-wise in the past decade.
The first of these most certainly was Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I had been tasked with reading The Advantage for a new job (not just new, an entrance into private equity, a world I really knew nothing about) and while I found that book insightful and continue to find it powerful and useful to this day in my practice.
But it was when I saw this next book and the puzzling words “Work Fable” that I was completely blown away by the concept of teaching a method or framework (which can be dry in the best of times) through story. I am a storyteller by nature (and to an extent we all are) and so this instantly appealed to me and I was consumed.
Further, its characters were vivid and its situation tense enough to keep those pages turning – it was Dan Brown for the workplace! But the model was perhaps the most influential aspect really focusing on the required steps to a fundamentally cohesive leadership team – it instantly demystified such an imposing concept and brought it within reach. I read everything else he wrote after that and continue to use this book and model as central to my team alignment services.
Next came Dan Pink’s Drive. I was floored by the accessibility of the science – how science was such an important tool to me, to truly bring these concepts of culture, leadership, human capital to life. It’s theories on motivation awakened an energy and drive to harness this power and it remains central to my approach to my craft.
It is then that I ran into two books almost at the same moment, shortly after reading heavily about Project Aristotle (and many other Google People-Centric investigations) I lunged for The Fearless Organization (Amy Edmondson) and The Culture Code (Dank Pink).
Both took different but steadily related approaches to the organizational culture – doubling down on the premise that Safety and Belonging were central experiences that people need for workplace, and frankly, any achievement to be possible.
They remain at the forefront of my work in this field.
Each of the above I gift whenever possible (along with Adam Alter’s Drunk Tank Pink, with all its fascinating tales about perception and the strange way the world influences us without us knowing.
Christopher Hitchens, an American journalist, is quoted as saying that “everyone has a book in them” Have you written a book? If so, please share with us details about it. If you haven’t, what book would you like to write and how would you like it to benefit the readers?
Maurice Ducoing: I have not yet “published” a book, but for all intents and purposes, the books have been written in my mind for some time and my plan is to devote long overdue time to these in the coming year or so.
Specifically, I will set out to publish multiple books in the work fable format, bringing the power of storytelling to the need of better models that focus on safety, engagement, and principles that better govern leadership and cooperation.
I have at least three of these paced out and I think the balance of workplace advisory with deep, modern characters experiencing very real (and interesting) dilemmas that might might redefine what we consider within the boundaries for workplace fables.
This allows me to keep pushing and making those on the margins more included.
2020, 2021, 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Maurice Ducoing: First, in April of 2020, just as the terrifying reality of Covid was solidifying its place as a global household nightmare, I published an article entitled “Going Forward to Normal: 3 Tips for Being Better After.”
While I may have been a bit premature in terms of truly anticipating the end (or end-adjacent)of the Covid Crisis, the article was necessary to remind people that this crisis was one that would have lasting implications and perhaps fundamentally transform the way work was imagined. And thus, my three-pronged tip:
- Embrace the Break;
- Review What You “Did”;
- Decide What You Will “Do” –
– provided readers with the opportunity to break out of mindless routine and truly engage with their daily team and organizational practices: what still works, what still “works” but simply won’t be tolerated post-covid, and what has no place in the future of work from any angle.
I still believe this. Organizations must grapple with the fact that not only have consumer routines, appetites and expectations changed, but so have their employees. Somehow there was a mass awakening by just enough people in the same ways that caused their indignation at unfair wages, toxic productivity expectations, and a general downward slump of most of our populations into economic ruin.
So restaurants couldn’t open because workers refused to allow the the heretofore unchallenged fantasy justifications for an unconscionably low minimum wage due to opulent “tips” to persist. And the minimum wage went up. A lot.
Employees across the globe stopped suddenly realized that they could do the majority of their jobs remotely and that absurd unpaid commute times wasted or sitting in traffic due to inflexible attitudes on “when to be in the office” or simply having to “move for a job that won’t even pay for your relocation” was a “thing of the past.”
And boy did many companies listen: in 2019 the ILO estimated that only 7% of the global working population worked remotely; contrast this with 2022, where only 44% of companies did not allow remote work compared to 40% who now employed some form of hybrid work (and 16% that were now fully remote).
Not only does this demonstrate a considerable improvement in the flexibility of global working conditions, but it also bodes poorly for those 44% of recalcitrant employers who now face a staggering disadvantage in the continuing war for talent.
And enter here a familiar topic: Safety and inclusion. These working conditions have gained significant traction in workplaces that have benefited from leaders who taken a stark and sobering approach to mental health, work life balance, and general treatment of their teams.
After staring at one another through tiny screens that revealed the people behind the blow outs, business suits, and made-for-tv-movie smiles on family portraits, hand-selected and neatly arranged on desks, we are no longer inclined to “pretend” quite as much.
After all, you witnessed the toddler meltdown on the floor behind me during this morning’s stand up or my cat and dog reduce the living room to rubble as we entered a brave new world where each of our lives was now on screen. Faced with the choice to embrace vulnerability or humiliation, they chose vulnerability.
And this has really helped teams globally forge deeper, more meaningful, and ultimately more creative outcomes. Here, i do not simply mean “creative” as a design element, that solves problems from a new vantage point (although that certainly improves).
I mean this plainly – Safety and inclusion means we improve engagement and motivation which lead to more opportunities for employees to deliver value; increased productivity means m,ore value has literally been created as well; and higher retention not only maintains strong, safe team cultures so that they are now not forced to reset to introduce a new team member and a new dynamic, but instead can keep getting better. Not to mention money not wasted on the search for someone new.
The point of all this is to say that companies have to face a very clear reality: the world has changed and your employees are driving the adoptions of these changes. In some cases, they are simply demanding equity and fairness where previously shameful indignity and injustice persisted.
But in others, such as remote work and mental health, it may be a little more gray to what some new changes should be made and adopted. But the point is employers need to be ahead of this phenomenon. Employers should not retrench; they should not lament the loss of some of their power and lash out.
For some it may be more difficult to manage with these new requirements for working conditions, now sprawled across the globe. But it hasn’t made leadership more difficult: never have desirable business outcomes (Engagement/Motivation, productivity, innovation and retention) been more clearly linked to leadership approaches.
Now they just have to lead.
What does “success” in the year to come mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Maurice Ducoing: 2023 is in many ways similar to others, as it brings much change, uncertainty, as well as opportunity. Yet, it also means a certain degree of freedom and risk.
Working closely with certain organizations in the past, it has reduced risk by also reducing the scope of the opportunities I can pursue, the amount of outcome that is dependent on me, and me alone.
But now, this year brings with it the chance to do much of what I hadn’t in the past, the chances to really develop my methodologies, to write and design as much as I need to build my ideas and thoughts into repeatable and actionable strategies.
I really want to advance psychological safety as an accessible approach for all businesses, and to help them reduce the risk. For this is an approach that realistically makes the workplace better for us all. Let’s see what happens next…
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Maurice Ducoing for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Maurice Ducoing or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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