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Navigating the Challenges of Shared Leadership via Strengths

Navigating the Challenges of Shared Leadership via Strengths

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 51
  • Learn how two partners in a dual leadership role have leveraged their CliftonStrengths to succeed during challenging times.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Kristi Rubenstein, Senior Director of Enterprise Consulting at Gallup, and Ilana Ron Levey, Senior Director for Public Sector Consulting at Gallup, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. In early 2020, they were asked to adopt a shared leadership model for a role that was previously assigned to one person. They have discovered some key components to success in shared leadership, including:

  • how small things can injure relationships and how to think more proactively to resolve conflict
  • the importance of trust gained through shared experiences, and how trust and communication go hand in hand
  • the need to relinquish some level of control

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

We're definitely growing into more feeling just really comfortable about each taking the lead on what we're more naturally wired to do, but doing that part intentionally.

Ilana Ron Levey, 15:37

When you really trust someone, you don't have to communicate quite as much about it, because you understand where that person is coming from.

Kristi Rubenstein, 35:26

What dual leadership really means ... is giving up some level of control at all times; to be wanting to invite someone in to help you make decisions.

Ilana Ron Levey, 47:11

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on June 16, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:19

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts -- we have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. Actually, if you're on our live page, so if you're -- you can see that in the address bar up there -- there's a link to our YouTube instance there. If you click on that, it'll take you to YouTube. You can sign in and join us in the chat room, ask your questions live. If you're listening after the fact, you can send us an email: Don't forget, if you're listening on YouTube, there's a subscription button. Click the Like button down there too! Subscription -- you can subscribe and get notified whenever we do something new. And if you're wanting to listen as a podcast and all the cool kids are -- although the pandemic has slowed that down a little bit -- you can subscribe to us as a podcast. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast player. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant here at Gallup, and Maika, great to see you. Welcome back to Called to Coach!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:17

Thanks, Jim. It's great to be back! It's been a long time since I've gotten to join you on Called to Coach but what a fun place we have!

Jim Collison 1:22

Kind of a first postsummit Called to Coach that we've done. We did one last week, but we have a whole schedule coming up. Excited about the series today. So why don't you take a second, introduce our guests and let's get started.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:33

So I'm thrilled to get to introduce everybody to two of my favorite people and inspirational leaders that I get to work with here at Gallup. But really, the reason that I'm excited to introduce them to you is the topic that we have at hand today. Many of our coaches and many of our consultants who use Gallup science and the science of strengths like to -- they get past that individual piece and then they think all that's left is teams. But the secret to great teams is that they're made up of brilliant partnerships. That two by two, we notice that people who have strong alliances at work are significantly more engaged and have -- lead to more engaged customers.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:10

And what we have today is a really interesting and significant, timely story of powerful partnership. These two women that you get to meet today have a pretty cool story specifically to what they've, the problems that they've overcome, the challenges they've been faced with and the beauty of the partnership that's come out of it. So I'm not going to give away the whole story, but I will serve as your host to keep the conversation going. As we're going today, I encourage you to type questions that you'd like to hear from, from our guests, or ideas that you have -- please keep that chat going. Utilize the chat to the extent that it serves your learning today, Jim's here in the background to keep an eye on that, in case I miss anything but I'll also keep my eye on the chat for you as well. So joining me today from our Chicago office is Kristi Rubenstein. She's the Senior Director of Enterprise Consulting. And from the East Coast out of D.C., Ilana Ron Levey. She is the Senior Director for Public Sector Consulting -- both at Gallup. Kristi, I'll start with you with just a warm welcome. Thank you for being here!

Kristi Rubenstein 3:11

Well, thank you so much, Maika! It's a privilege. I'm a big Called to Coach fan. So to be able to be featured today is really exciting!

Maika Leibbrandt 3:18

I think in podcast world we call that "longtime listener, first-time caller." Thanks for being here. Ilana, welcome to you as well.

Ilana Ron Levey 3:29

Thank you so much! I'm also a fan. I remember when I was in the recruitment process for joining Gallup, which was about 6 years ago, doing a little bit of googling about what life at Gallup was like, and I think one of the first things I encountered was Called to Coach videos. So I just kind of like went deep in the well of watching them and they were super inspiring, and I felt like that whole kind of conceptual language of strengths started to make sense to me. So, yeah, I guess I've been like a "lurker fan" from afar, but it feels great to be a guest!

Maika Leibbrandt 4:08

Well, welcome. We welcome lurkers with open arms! We're happy to have you as a guest. Ilana, let me stay with you. Would you please give us your Top 5 and a little bit about what you do here at Gallup?

Ilana Ron Levey 4:20

Absolutely. So my Top 5 are Strategic, Maximizer, Individualization, Ideation and Learner. And my role is to lead our public-sector consulting group here at Gallup. And broadly speaking, our public-sector group really focuses on our strategic, typically research-based partnerships with organizations that have some kind of public- or social-good component to their mission. And typically that's foundations, government entities, both in the United States and abroad, multilateral organizations like the World Bank. So it's a broad category -- higher ed institutions would fall under this umbrella. It's a broad category of types of work and types of organizations. But the common thread is some kind of public serving component to our partnerships.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:22

There is about a million questions I'd like to ask you about all of that. That's incredibly interesting. Cool. Well, we'll dive into a little bit about that. Kristi, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us your Top 5 and a bit about what you do at Gallup?

Kristi Rubenstein 5:36

Sure. So my Top 5 are Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Communication and Positivity. And I'm the Senior Director for Enterprise Consulting. And really, what we're paid to do is to generate new discoveries for our clients' most pressing problems, and then provide recommendations on what they could do to create positive change. So basically, we want to tell them something that they didn't already know and then tell them what to do about it. And that can come in many different forms, whether it be, you know, creating an exceptional customer experience, whether it's looking at the journey of your employee experience. Our clients want to transform their cultures, they want to understand their customers' needs. And of course, you know, help people discover and use their strengths. So we really focus on corporations that want to create positive change in these ways.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:33

Wow, also incredibly interesting! It's so funny, I'm part of both of these teams that you both lead, but even to hear it from you, I realize there's so much more that we do to help people change the world every day. Ilana, you first called me, and I think we had a conversation maybe leading up to the summit about what was going on in your world and your partnership with Kristi. And out of that conversation, we realized there might be a story here and certainly something we wanted to discover on Called to Coach. So Ilana, could you tell us, What is the story of partnership here?

Kristi Rubenstein 7:03

Definitely. And you know, it's so interesting because, you know, potentially there, there are multiple stories. But I think my story started that Kristi and I entered into this role, I would say, in February. It's actually kind of a blurred timing, because so many things have happened.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:23

February 2020. When was that?

Ilana Ron Levey 7:26

When was that? That sounds like a very long time ago. But something I think noteworthy was that this combined group of enterprise and public-sector consultants globally formerly was led by one very talented person. So one big change was that we moved from a leadership model of one person to, I think, a businesswide decision that our teams, our employees and our clients would be better served with a dual leadership model. Because I think one of the things that Kristi and I really think about are kind of where are similarities in the business and creating a common culture and a unified group. And then where are these sort of points of departure?

Ilana Ron Levey 8:13

So I think that the partnership story happened with this decision of a dual leadership model. And I think I became really intrigued by it because one of the clients that I've worked with at Gallup -- probably my longest-standing client that I've had a relationship is a professional services organization that has a shared leadership model throughout the organization, where they have technical leaders and client relationship leaders. And a big part of the story of our consulting work are some challenges in that dual leadership model.

Ilana Ron Levey 8:51

So it kind of occurred to me that a lot of people viewed dual and shared leadership with trepidation. And I remember when we first got put into these roles. Not only do I really admire and respect Kristi as a person, and that's part of the story, but I embraced and really loved the idea of dual leadership from the beginning. But it, it occurred to me that a lot of other people probably out there have fears about it, have a maybe a conception that that dual leaders with some overlapping sets of responsibilities and accountabilities typically don't really work out.

Ilana Ron Levey 9:32

So I became really interested in trying to sort of share that story to help inspire coaches and teams and others to be open to dual leadership, particularly when it was strengths-based and set up to succeed. So I thought that Kristi and I could maybe share some advice, and we're still early days in our journey. So I think this is going to evolve. I mean, I guess it's only month 4, but It's been a jam-packed 4 months, to say the least!

Maika Leibbrandt 10:04

It's hard enough to, I think, separate one role into two. It's, it's even then harder to be one of those two who assumes part of it. But then to do it in the middle of the upheaval and uncertainty of, of 2020, you certainly have a -- we have a lot to learn, I think, from from what's working here. Kristi, what makes your partnership work?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:26

Yeah. You know, I'll also just echo part of what Ilana said where my respect for her really grew before we have this dual role together, because we sat on this management team of about 15 different managers. And then about -- she went on maternity leave for a time, and I really noticed when she was gone. And I remember -- I don't know if you remember this, Ilana, but -- right like your first week back at work, I wrote you this long email about how much we missed you and where your, your absence was noted and how delighted I was to have you back. And part of that was because of the different perspective that you brought around the topics that we were discussing. It was somehow, like, related to the way that I would think about it, but with a different angle.

Kristi Rubenstein 11:14

And so as we were asked to take on these roles between the two groups, I knew that our partnership would be one of collaboration and respectfully engaging with each other's opinions -- kind of coming from two different angles, but like still aligning to the same North Star. So, you know, Maika, you asked what makes our partnership work, and I think part of that is that we fostered these separate identities between enterprise and public sector, without losing a feel of having a cohesive whole. So I know I got this part; you got that part; but we got this together. And that's a, really, I think, what's been making this work so far.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:57

How much of that, Kristi, did you have to set up intentionally, and really take care to do on purpose? And how much of it just sort of happened?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:07

You know, it's funny, I have Communication No. 4. And so I love to communicate things. And, and I have Focus No. 6. So communicate things a very simple form. So one of the first things I did was to draw a picture of what our organization looks like now. So I drew a bubble that had enterprise and I drew a bubble that had public sector and then I drew a big circle around us that said, you know, our enterprise and public sector analytics and advisory group, kind of all together as one. And I really wanted to communicate that. Like, we have some areas where we do manage different client needs.

Kristi Rubenstein 12:44

So there's, there's special things about that, but that we're all in this together. So that was pretty intentional about wanting to communicate both the kind of togetherness but also the separation of our groups, to allow people to focus more and gain a sense for, you know, where they belonged within that structure.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:04

I love hearing somebody with Focus saying we let people focus more. And that we should simplify things and see the, again, that Strategic -- let's see the whole picture. Let's, let's describe what it is. Ilana, you had mentioned that, you know, it works because it's strengths-based and set up to succeed. What is the role that strengths plays in the way that you work together?

Ilana Ron Levey 13:23

I think it's pretty profound. I mean, for me, something that really unites us is that we both have Strategic as our No. 1 strength. We have a lot of strengths differences that we could talk about, like my Focus is certainly not in the Top 10; I think it's low in the 20s. And we could talk about how that manifests. But the nice thing about both having Strategic as No. 1 is we very, very rarely disagree on the big picture and what it is that we're trying to achieve. I think where you see some differences would be in the, the tactics and the style, but that's OK. Because there's an agreement to what you're driving towards. Where I think, you know, could be a challenge -- and again, different strengths combinations can work with powerful partnerships -- but I think if there's a partnership where there's kind of constant disagreement about what you're driving towards, then I think there can be some challenges.

Ilana Ron Levey 14:25

They, I think the Strategic theme also is you can kind of quickly grasp where it is that you're going, and other themes, you know, you have to take a little bit longer to get there. So what I like is that we're, we're kind of going at the same path, the same pace and the same path. But the way that we're, we're getting there is a little bit different. I also think in the beginning, you know, there might be some tendency to try to replicate each other's style. So like if Kristi sends an email on X topic because of her really high Communication, I think, at the beginning, there was a little bit of a feeling like, Oh, I should send an email, around the same time, conveying very similar information. Because, you know, that way, it's just mirroring each other a little bit better. And now I think we're learning more, you know, no problem having Kristi communicate for both of us, or for me to communicate for both of us on those areas of, you know, shared values or where the information is the same. And I think that we're definitely growing into more feeling just really comfortable about each taking the lead on what we're more naturally wired to do, but doing that part intentionally.

Ilana Ron Levey 15:50

And I think talking about it with others, so, you know, I think, Kristi, with your Focus and your Communication, you love a really tightly defined meeting agenda. So I remember when we were -- we had our first co-meeting that we were facilitating -- you know, I think my style in the beginning, because I like to get a lot of input from people, I was like, Hey, guys, anybody have any agenda items you want to talk about? Not at the meeting, before the meeting. And then Kristi was like, Yes, I have 10 perfect agenda, perfectly crafted agenda items. And then it was sort of like, OK, this is great. Now I see that that level of sort of like care and formality in that type of communication is something that's really, really important to Kristi, and I can see the benefits. So let's, let's go with that, because it makes a lot of sense.

Kristi Rubenstein 16:43

Yeah, our management team also has a lot of Achiever. And so I think that we can even, you know, when Ilana and I have our team meetings, we can get into task mode, wanting to talk through everything. But Ilana with her Individualization will bring in a lot more -- I want to say -- personality into the meeting, like get people talking, what do they think about this? Kind of just loosen up that agenda where those points become very meaningful, and it's not so mechanical.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:17

Sounds like right now you're in this beautiful place, certainly accelerated, of learning what each other brings, and, and honoring it. How, how intentional are you about talking about that together? What kind of real conversations do you have about your work styles or your preferences or even your strengths?

Ilana Ron Levey 17:37

I think we do a lot. I mean, we have a weekly connect, which is great. It's a very valuable, to me, really special time during the week. We're in lots of meetings together. So I think if we didn't enjoy each other's company, there, you know, people could say, Oh, we don't need that Check-In this week. I've already seen you 10 times! I think we really value it. And I think what's interesting, Kristi, for someone like you that's, that is very, like, structured and focused, I think we do use that time. We usually have like a few tactical things that we can just run through, like, Hey, what's the agenda gonna be for this? Or Here's an email we have to get out, or here's a decision we have to make. But we definitely spend a lot of time thinking through, What are we seeing in our relationships with other stakeholders? How can we support each other in some -- you know, because a big part of leadership is stakeholder navigation, figuring out, Hey, this person has this expectation for our group and our roles, but this person has a diametrically different expectation. How do we navigate all of that? So I think we talk a lot about that. But I think we've had really open conversations too about where we're naturally wired.

Ilana Ron Levey 18:56

So, for instance, a big part of our role is on financial management. Kristi is like spreadsheet -- spreadsheet queen is -- that doesn't even begin to capture her amazing spreadsheet skills. So, I mean, that's, you know, I think compared to like a mere mortal, I'm pretty good. But seems like amazing. So obviously it was a no-brainer that Kristi is gonna naturally gravitate to sort of own some of that. But I've always felt really respected in the sense that I know the input I want to give, I know what I'm looking for. I know the big picture and the decisions that we have to make. But my view is like, why interfere with that beautiful spreadsheet? And so, I don't want to introduce any errors in there. So I mean, I think that that comes from a place of trust, right? Not only do I know that Kristi's very good at it, I trust that she will have my interests and the interests of the group that I manage at heart when we're focusing on that product. So I think that's a special thing.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:10

And I count on Ilana in just the eloquence of her speech. And, you know, at Gallup, we are not in the business of "pretty good"; we are in the business of excellence. And so just as, you know, Ilana explained that she has a good working knowledge of, of some of the things that I love to do. And I'm a pretty good communicator, like she takes it to a whole nother level. So even just realizing that what each other love to do and where we're finding excellence in each other's roles. You know, we're really at our best when we have each other and utilizing those complementary partnerships. But you're right, Maika, it takes time to learn what those are, and I think you know, facing a global pandemic and, you know, a long-overdue racial uprising has been topics that have really forced us to step up and be challenged, and that some of those talents really come to the surface because our organization and our clients need us right now in a strong, in a strong way. So it's, it's been a time where we really do bring out the best of what we have, just to help us all get through this.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:31

What is that, like? Let's go there -- how are you navigating all of these very serious, very noteworthy challenges?

Maika Leibbrandt 21:41

You know, I'll say -- one of the things that has been interesting with the current events that are happening in our country right now -- from how we're reacting to COVID-19 to the events of the past few weeks that have like crescendoed into this need for racial equality throughout our country -- in an interesting way, it's really brought our two teams together. Because my clients in the enterprise group, they want to know what the general public is thinking. Because the general public are their customers and their associates, their employees. So they want to know the extent to which coronavirus has disrupted their lives, which the -- our public sector is studying through our Gallup Panel -- or they want to know, like, now that things are opening back up, are people ready to come back out? Do they have the financial means to be spending money? is a question a lot of our our clients are asking. Like, what can we expect in terms of people wanting to come back out and reengage in our business? And, you know, to what extent should we expect there to be a resurgence in customer demand?

Kristi Rubenstein 22:46

And all of the answers to those questions come from the data that we're gathering from our Gallup Panel, that's not just historical data, but it's also future-oriented to understand customers' perceptions around how safe they feel coming back out into the world right now. So I've seen, over the last month, our teams really working a lot more together and learning a lot more about what each other's do and how we can support each other's different divisions in collaborating to give those answers to our clients right now.

Ilana Ron Levey 23:29

Yeah, I would say that I, it's obviously -- there's been a number of intense challenges that we're just beginning to deal with, and it affects our performance management, it affects our financial management, it affects the willingness of clients to enter into really long-term partnerships with us. So I think one thing that's been pretty clear as sort of the stress level on our society and workplaces have gone up, we see that in our data, so I think that, you know, one of the things that I appreciate about Kristi is I think we both have a calm leadership style. So we've definitely, I think, internalized, inherited some, some stressful situations. But I think it's, it's very important when we communicate externally, that we're also balancing that long-term horizon and the unknown with optimism for the future, with consistency. I think we've both really drawn heavily on some of our Demands of Leaders research and trying to embrace that. So that's been, I think, a really interesting experience.

Ilana Ron Levey 24:40

I think something that I've also seen from Kristi, and maybe been inspired there is, if we talk about the racial awakening, for instance, that we're having right now. I think organizations have both an internal and an external response. On the public-sector side at Gallup, a really natural inclination is to focus on the external side. I mean, I think we really walk the walk, we've been surveying the experiences and the life perspectives of Black Americans for over 8 decades, where we're doubling down on that. We're going to be really launching a pretty large-scale research initiative to be the definitive source of objective information about the very varied and important lives of Black Americans, both sociologically and in the workplace.

Ilana Ron Levey 25:32

And I think one of the things I'm also learning, though, is how to balance that external focus of our group with some of that internal hard work that needs to happen about the diversity of our workforce, about some of the difficult conversations that organizations need to have about diversity in leadership ranks, about commitment to different types of recruiting, and to have, you know, so difficult conversations potentially about what life is like in a workplace for Black Americans. So I think that we've been, we've been having these intense conversations, which is typically not something that you associate with newer leaders. I mean, usually leaders that have built up sort of a reservoir of trust with the people that they work with are better equipped, I think, to have those conversations. But, you know, I think that, that having this partnership and being able to bounce ideas about How far do we want to take these conversations right now? What can we commit to? What can't we commit to? And then balancing kind of our desire for the speed that we want our groups to move against the backdrop of Gallup as an organization. You know, because we're not isolated groups, we have to move also at the pace of a company culture, even if we, we want to be sort of trailblazers there. That's been, I think, a really positive example of why having a partner is really valuable. I think that would be very, very hard to do by yourself.

Maika Leibbrandt 27:13

We were talking just in the preshow about so many people are afraid of dual leadership roles. And I think a lot of it might have to do with, Ilana, what you're saying -- when, when situations are delicate and situations are volatile and important, can you really distribute that across more than one person? So, Kristi, can you say a little bit about why it's beneficial to do this at all?

Kristi Rubenstein 27:38

Yeah, sure. You know, I think, just to be honest, I feel like leadership can be lonely. So whether it's -- I think you realize that the first time that you become a manager and you start leading people who were your peers last week, and then all of a sudden, you don't go to lunch quite as often or, you know, you don't know how they're really doing or if they're telling you the whole story. And then you start to feel like, well, who can I confide in? Because, you know, I don't know if this is a final decision, and I don't know if I should be talking about it yet. So it's, it can start to feel pretty lonely when you don't have that confidant. So, you know, similar to what many of our coaches on the call today talk about are things that I talk with Ilana about, whether that be, you know, dynamics between people on the leadership team, whether that be challenges that we're facing or hurdles that we need to overcome. Even just reflecting with someone on another situation with really no judgment, and there's no consequences for what I say because we're in this together, but they can just really create a very just comforting piece to know that you have a best friend at work, who is a coleader with, with you, and, you know, wants the organization to succeed as much as you do and is there really in arms with you and working through it together? So it's been great.

Ilana Ron Levey 29:16

I saw in the chat and, you know, Kristi, I'm thinking that maybe some people who listen are thinking, don't you guys ever disagree, or? Like, what happens when you disagree or is there conflict and what happens? So I thought that, you know, that might be a good thing to address. And so, a few things. One is, I, I don't use the word "conflict." I think that, you know, as I mentioned, there are going to be times where we have different tactics or different natural inclinations. I mean, and they can be very minor, like, even this morning, we were copresenting at a town hall where we we had a good swath of our group. And my style was doing some introductory remarks, so my style was like, "Oh, I don't need slides. This is just a preliminary thing. I'm just gonna kind of wing it." And late last night, Kristi was like, Well, you know, the other people in your section, they're going to have a slide. It probably will look more, you know, consistent or polished, reading between the lines, that you have one too. So of course, for a split second, I'm like, "Oh, like, I don't need a slide. I'll be fine without it. I have other things I have to do." But then, you know, I took a step back and I was like, Look, this is important to Kristi, she's probably right. So let me just spend the 20 minutes and make this slide. But I also knew if I genuinely didn't have time, I could write back and say, actually, this is more important to you than it is to me. So here are my bullet points. Can you make the slide because you're the one that really cares the most about it?

Kristi Rubenstein 31:01

I was ready to do that, Ilana.

Ilana Ron Levey 31:03

I know, I saw you were ready.

Kristi Rubenstein 31:06

I already ... pencil it for you, just fill it out!

Ilana Ron Levey 31:09

Just fill it out. I just want this to be a nice package. So, I mean, I think that that's a great example where you, you need to step back and think, OK, why is this important to Kristi? What is the, what is the side that I'm not seeing? I clearly saw the benefits. But I also think it's, it's a question of knowing what is the motivation of being really important to someone? Is there a value and, at a certain point, just sort of saying, Who is it more important to? If it's more important to one of us, then that person can kind of take the lead on it. But this is like the small thing -- that's a small example of if you don't have a good relationship with good communication where you're doubting each other's intentions, it could lead to "conflict." Obviously, it's a small example. But I think relationships in the workplace, they tend to break down not because of big things. They tend to break down because of mistrust arising from what I think are just sort of stylistic and strengths-oriented differences that people aren't taking the time to really think about why is this important to someone?

Maika Leibbrandt 32:24

So I've got a copy of one of my favorite Gallup books right here Power of 2. And we talk about the 8 Elements of Collaboration. And when I teach this, or when we work and consult with teams around this, one of them is trust, which I feel like is something that you addressed out loud, but then it's been kind of injected into everything you've said so far today. And what we talk about with trust is that one out of all the 8 is the, like, the ticket to entry. That if it's not there, the rest of them don't matter. And so what I can hear is even your lens on conflict is different because you come from a place of trusting and knowing each other.

Ilana Ron Levey 33:01

Absolutely. And I think we're gonna have instances, and I, you know, I've seen it. We've been in some intense meetings, and not really that's just the two of us, but with others. Because again, different stakeholders, different expectations. I think with that trust, it, it can be upsetting if I see someone who isn't spending the time to think about, like, why is Kristi coming from this place? What's behind it? Or doesn't see the all the work that, you know, kind of goes into something. I feel a responsibility to be able to be a voice from the background to say, Hey, guys, let's take a step back and think about, This is why Kristi's proposing something. I understand everything that went into it. I support it.

Ilana Ron Levey 33:49

But also, you know, vice versa, we can say to each other, and we do this pretty frequently, you know, maybe our message would have been more successful if we kind of positioned it a little bit differently. And that's where I can, I feel like it's a good marriage of my Individualization with Kristi's Communication and the planning. Because, you know, you have to tailor those plans and those communications to the needs of different kinds of stakeholders.

Ilana Ron Levey 34:17

So I do feel, I find myself getting kind of protective sometimes when I, if I see that, you know, someone's missing some of that nuance. But I think that happens in in deep partnerships because you see each other at work so often, but you see things that no one else sees. So I think that that's kind of an interesting dynamic that evolves over time.

Maika Leibbrandt 34:40

I was recently reading a book about culture, it's by Ben Horowitz. And it's titled, What You Do Is Who You Are. And in that book he talks about there's an inverse relationship between trust and communication. So the more communication that you need, then that is what enables you to build more trust. So if you have a little trust, you have to communicate a lot. Like people are always asking "Why?" about those decisions that you make. But it takes a lot of time to be able to have those, you know, a series of shared experiences where you've had your opportunity to overcommunicate why you're doing something or why it's important to you. To the point where, when you really trust someone, you don't have to communicate quite as much about it, because you understand where that person is coming from. So Ilana and I have been working together now for at least 2 years. So we've had a lot of opportunities to have all of those conversations and understand each other's perspectives, understand each other's strengths, have a lot of communication.

Kristi Rubenstein 35:48

But now we're working with the leadership team, who neither of us have worked with very intimately for very long. We've known them for a long time. So we're finding ourselves needing to explain the "why" behind some of the decisions that we're making or some of the initiatives that we're proposing. And sometimes we can be caught a little off guard, because, you know, I understood the "why" without having to explain it. And, you know, Ilana and I are connected, and then we get in front of the rest of the group and we're having to up the level of that communication as we're building trust.

Maika Leibbrandt 36:27

I love that idea of just really being able to communicate a lot and knowing that that's something that will return dividends; Loraine in the chat asks about accountability. How -- either of you want to jump in here -- how do you hold each other accountable?

Ilana Ron Levey 36:43

That's a, it's a great question. I mean, I think the good news is, we're both, we're both hardworking. We're both, you know, wired to be responsible. And I think that we certainly are not, you know, having to sort of like chase each other and say, "But Kristi, you promised that you would send that email," or, you know, those, those sorts of things I think have been really natural. I think where we're going to have to work on accountabilities are going to be on more bigger-picture issues, because I think that we've had so many disruptions -- and some of these are positive disruptions, like this awakening about talking about race. I don't mean disruption in a negative way. I mean that in a positive way.

Ilana Ron Levey 37:28

But I think we've had a lot of, you know, plans for what we wanted to accomplish and then a lot of external things happened, from COVID to really focusing on diversity to looking at the long-term financial implications of COVID and what that will mean for decisions that we have to make. So I think where we're gonna really need to hold each other accountable is to also not forget about those longer-term issues that we really wanted to tackle and address together. It's very easy to go into putting out fires and crisis reaction and letting other people set the agenda. So I think that that's a place where we'll, we'll need to continue to work to hold ourselves accountable.

Kristi Rubenstein 38:17

Yeah, I, I agree with you a lot on the big-picture elements. You know, a lot of people on our leadership team, and even, you know, with, with Ilana's Ideation, we have a lot of large conceptual ideas, and a very passionate group with a lot of Influencing themes. So the hardest part for me is feeling, you know, a lot of excitement and maybe even pressure around those ideas, and yet a strong responsibility to follow through on those ideas. But I think, you know, what I'm really counting on my Focus and Achiever towards the end of each meeting to simplify, you know, What are we doing now? and Let's not take on the whole ocean but at least navigate through, you know, here the first few waves that might get us towards that horizon. Let's, you know, focus on those, get, get over those. And if it's working, like keep making progress in in that way.

Kristi Rubenstein 39:14

So that's where I think we're holding ourselves accountable to getting that big picture by breaking it down into smaller things that we can achieve in a, in a shorter period of time and getting alignment around those, and then feeling some sense of accomplishment, even just get over the first wave, and then the second one, to eventually land on shore.

Jim Collison 39:35

I wanted to add to that accountability question, and I think maybe what the question in the chat room is getting to is, How is the organization holding you accountable for people? Right? As managers, as managing a group, oftentimes the buck stops at the, at the, at the manager of the team, and yet you're comanaging, or at least in this group. And then how do -- it's a second part to that question -- How did the group feel about that, that change that was made? How have they responded to it? So, again, how are you being held accountable as a manager? And then how'd the group feel?

Ilana Ron Levey 40:08

Well, I think that the good news is I think that the organization holds us jointly accountable, which I think is an -- a healthy and important thing. So, for instance, let's say from a performance management standpoint, if Kristi knew or sensed that I was applying standards that were very different from the standards that she and her management team were applying around expectations around what good performance would look like, I feel very comfortable that, you know, Kristi would come to me and kind of call me out on that and say, "We can't have a dual system where one element of performance is acceptable in one part of our group and is not in the other." So I think that's a really healthy thing. I think, you know, Kristi, and I feel very comfortable communicating directly with managers on each other's team.

Ilana Ron Levey 41:05

So even, you know, little things if it's about time cards, or it's about Kristi saying to all of our managers, Hey, I really expect you to have conversations with your team about what's happening with this racial awakening that we're having and how they feel about diversity at Gallup. That's not easy to have, and I think that there's a sort of joint accountability that the performance of our management team overall is really something that we're both held to. And, you know, it's very interesting because the financial management is also joint, so we have a number of metrics that we need to hit around management of our payroll budget, looking at, like, the alignment of talent to payroll.

Ilana Ron Levey 41:52

And yeah, I think it's unusual, but I think in this case, it really works to have both of us jointly responsible. Because the stakes are really high. You know, I don't want to -- I want to let -- I want to give my teams our very best decision-making. I want to give our clients, I want to give Gallup. But I also want to give that to Kristi, because if I make a terrible decision that would affect her, and that's a, an added level, I think, of accountability. But I think in our case is a good thing.

Kristi Rubenstein 42:26

Ilana, I'm remembering we went through an exercise about a month ago, where we outlined like, what are the performance metrics we're using to measure success within our team? So, you know, I came up with, like, 12 that were appropriate for the enterprise team. And then you took a look at it and said, Well, you know, these 6 out of the 12 are important for the public-sector team. But then we also have this other 6 that are important. So there are just places where the way that we hold our teams accountable for are common, and then there are things that are more custom. So common where possible, custom where it counts.

Jim Collison 43:03

Kristi --

Maika Leibbrandt 43:04

That was good; hold on, that was good. That was really good -- between your ocean wave and common where possible, custom where it counts. That was good.

Jim Collison 43:15

And then, second question, how'd the team respond?

Maika Leibbrandt 43:19

How did the team respond to the dual leadership role?

Kristi Rubenstein 43:22

I think you'd have to ask them. I think they like it. But yeah, I, you know, even the way that we organized our meetings, we meet with the entire management group, for both enterprise and public sector, every other week. And then on the off weeks, we meet with just separately enterprise and public-sector team. So it was a way for us to honor the differences in the group and know that, you know, we're not always interested in talking about everything they're talking about. They're not always interested in talking about everything we want to talk about. But there's some things that are common in our culture that we all want to make sure that we're aligned on. So even like a little cadence of meetings like that, I think, have illustrated that we can be a lot more focused on the things that are important to each group while still maintaining cohesion as an entire client-facing consulting team.

Ilana Ron Levey 44:18

I think that's great. And it's very true, Kristi. And I think that the rest of our team sees our strengths-based approach into action, even if we're not always explicit about it. Like, for instance, in our management meetings, everyone is going to expect and does expect Kristi to give the detailed financial updates and show the spreadsheets. I think if that role suddenly reversed, it would be, it would just be surprising to people. I think they would say, Like, what's going on? Why is it not Kristi with the spreadsheets? And they're, they have the same -- a very high level of trust in her financial management skills.

Ilana Ron Levey 44:58

At the same time, I think I'm kind of known for that high Individualization. So I get a lot of calls from people on the enterprise team, like, Oh, I'm, you know, I'm having this kind of weird dynamic in my relationship with this person. What do you think? Do you have some insight behind the scenes about why that might be? What advice do you have? And so, again, because it's not territorial, because it's strengths-oriented, I think it works really well. I know the managers on my team in the public-sector side, they know Kristi, they love Kristi, they love to spend time with her. So I think another pitfall of dual leadership without trust is when you have leaders who say like, Why is the person why is this person on my management team going to Kristi for advice? That's a terrible attitude, because, I mean, I think they gain a lot having the perspective of different leaders. It helps them fine-tune their instincts. It's another source of wisdom. It's another perspective. It's a great thing. So I hope that people will say that we really encourage that. And we view it really, really positively.

Maika Leibbrandt 46:11

So on that note, what advice would you offer to -- let's say you're consulting tomorrow with a leader who wants to separate one role into two and start from scratch, where you were in February? What would you suggest?

Ilana Ron Levey 46:25

I think, I think fundamentally -- I don't want to be naive and say, It can always work. Because the chemistry of the two people has to be right. I mean, I think you can all see a couple scenarios where it could be kind of disastrous, and we all know examples of, like, dual leadership -- we've lived a few back in the day, even, at Gallup of dual leadership models where there were not close relationships. So I think primarily my first piece of advice would be figuring out those positive partnerships based on, you know, trust, mutual respect and admiration for each other, complementary strengths, but, but a commitment to what dual leadership really means. And what that really means is giving up some level of control at all times; to be wanting to invite someone in to help you make decisions.

Ilana Ron Levey 47:24

I think you have to make sure that the two people that you would appoint to those positions have that foundation, and then provide a lot of support and coaching and best practices and tactics to help take it to the next level. But if you're putting two people who can't stand each other into a dual leadership role, it's probably not going to work because we need to spend a lot of time together. We will do these jobs a lot better if we actually enjoy doing that. You know, and I think that this is the power of our "best friend at work" item and philosophy. When you live it in real time, I think you start to see how powerful it really is. But if we were going out of the way to not speak frequently, there would be a lot of negative, I think, repercussions.

Kristi Rubenstein 48:20

One thing that might surprise you is I think Ilana and I have only seen each other in person 3 times.

Ilana Ron Levey 48:26

Oh, yeah. Good point.

Kristi Rubenstein 48:28

Yeah. I mean, I'm in Chicago, and she's in D.C. And so our relationship has really formed remotely. And I think that that's -- it might be surprising to some people. So yeah, but I do agree with, with Ilana that being able to kind of have your own things that you're responsible for and then, you know, some things that you work together on, and just being able to organize the relationship in that way is really important. And, you know, we -- neither of us have Competition in our Top 10. I think it's No. 11 for you, Ilana. It's No. like 30 for me. So there's no beating each other out. But there -- there's still a lot of drive in Achiever to be able to accomplish something together. But there's no prize -- there's not just one prize to be won here.

Kristi Rubenstein 49:28

It's, I think that if there was this looming feeling that maybe someday there would be a single leader again, then that might generate more competition between us. But now that we feel like very, I mean, I've spent 16 years at Gallup, all working in our enterprise consulting, you know, and Ilama comes from her entire career path being more focused within the public sector. So this was really like a, you know, just a career dream for us to be able to materialize our careers in this way. And so we don't foster a lot of competition between each other. And I think that's -- that helps with the collaboration.

Kristi Rubenstein 50:09

That's a really great point, Kristi. I never thought about it that way. But the fact that I think you're right, I think there's no desire for this to become a singular role, which is very liberating. It -- yes, I think that that's, that's beautifully said. And I think that there probably are organizations that set up dual leadership with the intention to kind of test people out a little bit and then figure out, you know, who's gonna rise to the top. But there's none of that here. And I think that that's extraordinarily helpful.

Maika Leibbrandt 50:45

Thank you both. This has been, I think, hugely insightful and just very impressive and inspirational that you can be so self-reflective in such a short amount of time that you've been, been here. But your ability to -- I want to thank you for a couple specific things -- one is to be so transparent about your experience. It's refreshing to get to speak to leaders about real life and to know that you're open to admitting some things are difficult. And sometimes it can be lonely. And your ability to look in the mirror and really name what's working and what's not just speaks volumes to your consulting ability and your creativity and probably the human beings that you lead who do that for your clients as well.

Maika Leibbrandt 51:23

I also want to specifically thank you for addressing current events and in being positive, forward-leaning leaders who are, who are willing to have those difficult conversations. So thanks so much for being here. I think we've got a community of coaches in -- who are going to benefit from realizing that this is an incredibly important stepping-stone that we consult about that we help people improve. And Jim and I have had the privilege of getting to be partners for years and talk about our partnership. But I think for people to realize that these exist two by two all over our organization and that's, in part, why Gallup is such a special place. Hopefully that inspires them to go cultivate those same strong partnerships in their own little corners of the world. So thank you!

Kristi Rubenstein 52:09

Ladies, thanks for joining us today. I often have to say to Maika, "OK, I'll start a spreadsheet!" So you know that's the kind of relationship -- that's the kind of relationship --

Ilana Ron Levey 52:19

I love it!

Kristi Rubenstein 52:20

OK, I'll make a slide. Jeez, can't I just talk it through? Maybe there's some -- something going on there. Ladies, thanks for joining us today. It has, it has been great. And a great reminder for our Certified and our Coaches out there listening, like, as they coach these partnerships, to see these healthy signs or maybe some warning signs in that, if it's not working. Competition is one good one to watch out for. Is it becoming competitive? How is the virtual communication happening? Who's taking on what roles and how are they doing that in a strengths-based way? How are they looking individually at Hey, here's what I'm best at? And then leaning on each other for those things in those situations where you say, "No, I'm not necessarily great at that. If you could just get that slide ready for me, that would be awesome!"

Jim Collison 53:07

I -- listen, I appreciate that, because I'm in those roles sometimes too, where that's just not necessarily my gift. And I really appreciate those partners who say, "You know, I'll take care of it. I got it. I'm really good at this." Because that gives me the opportunity to turn around sometimes and say, "No, no, I got this. Like, I'm really good at this. And I'll take this for you." So great to hear that in action. We'll maybe put it on our calendars to check in with you guys a year from now and right? How fun would that be to kind of come back and say, we hopefully a year from now will have made enormous amounts of progress both as a company, as a nation, as a globe, and in some of the things we're going through today. So I appreciate you guys. Both of you hang tight for me one second.

Jim Collison 53:47

On the way out, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available, now on Gallup Access. And so you can get to that. Just is a great place to land. Lots of resources for you that are available for you there -- audio, video, programs, all these available out there. If you want to follow us or listen to us as a podcast, just go to any podcast player and search "Gallup Webcasts." If you want to click that Subscribe button there on YouTube, if that's how you're listening to us, you get automatic notifications every time we go live. If you have any questions at all about any of this, and you want to engage, maybe your organization wants to engage with us in some way, send us an email: And we'll get right back to you on that. And then if you want to keep track of all the live programs that we do on a regular basis, we keep them up to date on our Eventbrite page. Go to and you can just follow us there, and it will we'll post those and you'll get an email when we do anything new and live. Join us in our social groups on Facebook: Go to, easiest way, big group. Lots of great information going on there. And maybe you're not a maybe you're not a Facebooker, and that's OK. You can go to LinkedIn and follow us; search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." Love to have you join us there as well. Thanks for coming out today. Appreciate those who came out live. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Ilana Ron Levey's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Maximizer, Individualization, Ideation and Learner.
Kristi Rubenstein's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Communication and Positivity.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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