- change ups
GRAND RAPIDS — "Look, I'm a businessman. I don't have time for a shrink."
Roger Jansen, a licensed corporate psychologist, says he gets that every now and then.
"And we address it in our seminars," he said. "It's what we call a schema — kind of a script about how a businessman is supposed to behave."
The reality, he said, is that no such script exists in business or leadership; the greatest businessmen and the greatest leaders always have written their own scripts for whatever situation confronts them.
And something that corporate psychology is able to do better and better is getting a handle on which businessmen are likely to be such leaders.
"It's amazing," he told the Business Journal, "but some people spend more time examining what copy machine they should put in their office than on who's going to be their next vice-president."
Perhaps that's because it always has been easier to grasp the potential of an office machine than of a human being.
Or, at least, that used to be the case.
But today, Jansen said that evaluation of people's strengths is a much more exacting and exact process than formerly was the case. And, he adds, nobody in business quarrels about one thing: namely, that people are as critical to their firms as is the capital that created the firms.
In fact, modern business regards leadership as a form of capital, and that's why the enterprise Jansen helped found late in 2000 is called the Leadership Capital Group (LCG).
The notion to create the group came "when we were doing some work for a private equity group here in town. I was spending about 70 percent of my time with just them, and they asked me to set this company up. And it seemed like a good idea. It's grown to doing work for a pretty extensive client base."
Jansen's function was to help the venture capital group find the right people it needed to help grow the budding enterprises that the group buys and finances.
Today, 16 months later, the Leadership Capital Group has clients that seek its help in mergers and acquisitions and reconstruction, in succession planning and in management assessment.
"The success of an organization is directly tied to its human capital and the effectiveness of its leaders and managers," he said.
"Our services are designed to offer management a return on its investment in leadership," he said.
"When newly hired executives fail, it is usually the result of cultural conflict, not technical abilities. Our services help ensure the right fit by aligning both personality and interests, in addition to technical competencies, with the job."
When he uses the term "our," Jansen is referring to a five-member team that comprises the group.
His partners are Jon Huegli, Ph.D., a specialist in organizational psychology and development; Steven Kinkaid, Ph.D., a specialist in senior management selection; Margaret Larson, a consultant in training, management and business development; and Scott McLean, CPA, who manages LCG's strategy and financing and who also consults in its mergers and acquisitions practice. In addition to Grand Rapids, the group has offices in Detroit and Atlanta.
Jansen said that the group sees a good deal of corporate America as making decisions based on what it hopes will work.
"And we try to bring some science — understand (that) psychology really is a science about cognition, about people's thoughts, behaviors and feeling — to the table to help them create some predictive equations about where this person might be successful.
"I just read recently in Forbes that of the firms making up the Fortune 500, about 60 percent use some form of psychological assessment."
Jansen, a Grand Rapids native who officially receives his Ph.D. in psychology in mid-April, says until the 1990s, psychology pretty much was confined to measuring IQ.
"And IQ does make a difference," he said. "But what separates the star performers is how well they relate to and can work with other people and how well they maintain their emotional tone of optimism and resilience."
And those are things psychology now can measure fairly effectively.
He said that modern psychometrics has about a 70 percent success rate in picking which corporate officer will be a high performer in two years. Traditional interviews, he argues, have about a 20 percent success rate.
He said the company is conducting a series of seminars for officers in a broad range of firms.
"We're doing this out of a sense of frustration," he explained. "So many leadership seminars focus on inspiration, and that's fine." But what LCG is attempting to convey is that leadership also can be a matter of cultural fit and personal insights into one's own strengths and weakness.
One of the seminar techniques is what's called a 360-degree assessment. The leader undergoing the assessment answers a series of questions about his or her performance and area of responsibility. Associates and subordinates then respond to the same questions.
"Often times this shows that person some development areas that he or she needs to work on."
LCG did such a seminar here last week and this week is doing another in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Jansen and his wife, Melaine, are preparing for a profound acquisition that will recall all his professional acumen.They are expecting their first child.