- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On April 18, 2023
- 0 Comments
- author, Business, inclusion, leadership, overcome adversity, psychology, sneakers, trust
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli, organizational psychologist, leadership advisor, and Founder & Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, discusses overcoming bipolar disorder, emotional intelligence vs relational intelligence, embodying the change he wanted to see, why inclusivity = authenticity, Boomer vs Gen Z leadership styles, groundbreaking definitions of trust, rapport, and influence, and takes a DEEP dive into his sneaker addiction with guest host Stephanie Maas.
About Dr. Bandelli:
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli is the Visionary Founder & Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates. He has 20 years of management and leadership advisory consulting experience in the firm’s service offerings, including board consultation, senior executive selection, leadership development, CEO succession, organizational culture, and transformational change.
Adam is the author of the books Relational Intelligence: The Five Essential Skills You Need to Build Life-Changing Relationships and What Every Leader Needs: The Ten Universal and Indisputable Competencies of Leadership Effectiveness, which have received strong reviews from prominent business leaders. Adam is an expert on communication, relational intelligence, and leadership effectiveness, having worked with CEOs and senior executives to strengthen their abilities to inspire and influence their people, teams, and organizations. The mission of his firm is to help leaders identify, unlock, and unleash their true potential.
Adam has worked with executives around the world in organizations ranging from small start-up firms to global Fortune 100 companies. Sectors he has served include private equity, financial services, consumer products, manufacturing, medical devices, retail, energy, pharmaceuticals, sports and entertainment, technology, media, and telecommunications.
Prior to founding Bandelli & Associates, Adam was a Partner at Korn Ferry, where he led the Private Equity assessment practice for North America. Earlier in his career, he was a Partner at RHR International, where he served as one of the firm’s leaders on Board and CEO Succession, High Potential Development, Senior Team Effectiveness, and Executive Assessments.
Adam received his Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the University of South Florida in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and a bachelor’s degree concentrating in Psychology and Business Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Acknowledged as an expert on leadership, relational intelligence, and organizational culture, he is a frequent speaker at business and professional meetings, including the American Psychological Association, the Society of Consulting Psychology and the Society of Industrial-Organizational Psychology.
Learn more at BandelliandAssociates.com.
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Welcome. Thank you so much.
Stephanie Maas: Well, and I will also throw a caution flag your way. I also have a son named Adam, so if halfway through I start yelling at you about not cleaning your room. That’s an association thing. By the way, is your room clean?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: I’m actually visiting my, uh, siblings and my niece and nephews, so the backdrop should be my shoe collection. I’m a sneakerhead. I have like Jordans that I collect. They’re on the wall on mounts and stuff.
Stephanie Maas: Okay. That is gonna be super fascinating and I’m actually gonna start there because my Adam is also a sneaker guy, he uses the website GOAT a lot. And he just got some Yeezys. They’re black and kind of funky.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Uh, he better buy all he can because Kanye’s comments, there’s not gonna be Yeezys much longer after after the last couple months.
Stephanie Maas: Ok, so let’s start there. Tell me about your sneaker fetish. It’s got nothing to do with your background, your book.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, it does have to do with my background. So I grew up in the eighties, um, be like Mike, kind of Michael Jordan, one of those kids. And I, um, you know, played basketball, high school and college. And so my first foray into leadership was through sports. Uh, I would say I’m an athlete first before a psychologist or a leadership advisor. And, um, once I realized in college that I wasn’t gonna be like Mike, I had to find a plan. It really turned me into the field of leadership in psychology. And I would say that today, you know, one thing that’s kept me going the last 20 years in terms of my focus has been what makes great leaders great. And so that started through sports and watching some of the athletes that I aspired to be like, and then being a leader as a point guard on the teams that I played in in high school and college that really kind of led to it.
And so I’ve been collecting shoes since 1994 when Michael Jordan came back to the N B A from his baseball stint. But yeah, that was my entryway into doing leadership as.
Stephanie Maas: Very cool. So what pair do you have that you’re most proud?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: I’ll say my most recent, so every Christmas they release the Jordan elevens. These are the ones that are patent leather at the bottoms. They’re all like a cherry red for the patent leather. And so that’s the addition for this year. And I also, you know, get ’em all on goat. So I was able to get on early and get ’em, and they arrive like 10 days ago.
Stephanie Maas: Nice. So some people put out, you know, a holiday album, various traditions that way, and for you it’s the sneakers. . And they’re red, so how perfect. That’s right. That’s right. Very cool. Okay, last question. Probably the most important. Um, so if you need a minute to collect your thoughts for you, answer. Yep. All right. If money, availability and any other hindrance or not an issue, what is the one pair of sneakers you would ask for?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Wow, that’s a tough . That’s a tough question. Um, so I have a pair of, um, Jordan 11 golf shoes. They came out with them maybe five years ago. They’re collector items. They don’t make ’em anymore. And so if I had to pick one pair that I could bring and have with me, that would be the pair. They’re all from the top and they have a like gold coated red, red and gold bottoms.
And they’re golf shoes you can wear. They play top golfers. You’re playing out on a course and I’m an avid. You know, there’s different versions and generations of Jordan’s. So the Jordan one is kind of one of the most popular, the 11 or the other. And if I had a chance to go back and collect some of the number ones, that would be cool too.
Stephanie Maas: Rockin. Okay, so let’s, let’s parlay off of that. Um, part of what I didn’t have in your bio was the college athletes. So we’ve got this. College athlete, undergraduate degree, master’s, doctorate. You’ve had an incredible professional career, obviously still in the midst of that, you’ve written a couple of books. I mean, obviously your parents are incredibly disappointed with you, I’m sure.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, so my drive really comes through some of the life experiences that I went through, both personally and professionally over my career.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was in graduate school, um, and the way that I was diagnosed, I was, uh, I went through a depressive episode for several months and then had a manic episode for another couple months, and then fell into a depressive episode with suicidal thoughts. Um, my father at the time took me to see a psychiatrist.
Um, this is where I talk, I talk about in the book, on the chapter on rapport. Um, bedside manner for many doctors are not good. And so within three minutes I was diagnosed and told that you have bipolar, take these meds and come back in three weeks. And I outright rejected the diagnosis. I said, how could a graduate student getting his PhD in psychology have a psychological.
Which led me to living in denial about it for seven or eight years, um, which led to a substance abuse addiction and a lot of other issues, frictions, problems with my family, friends that I had to address when I checked into rehab and started to turn my life around. And so, you know, I’ve had a career, thankfully, for 20 years doing leadership advisory and management consulting work.
But the thing that drives me today, I really feel, um, you know, I should be dead. I should have overdosed and I had a second chance on life. And to be able to serve the clients that we serve and to help them strengthen their relationships through relational intelligence. And a lot of the other things we do around leadership is really what gets me outta bed.
And so I believe I’m called to do the work that I do, the team that I oversee. Um, and you know, it’s, for me, it’s not just about business and helping leaders be successful and run financially profitable organizations, it’s about their, you know, mental, physical, emotional wellbeing as well. Because all of us have struggles and challenges that.
At least in the business world right now, people are still hesitant to talk about, there’s a stigma still associated with it less so than 15 or 20 years ago. You see athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, other golfers come out and talk about it. So it’s being talked about more today, but I think it needs to be discussed more in the business community.
Stephanie Maas: Thank you for sharing. Obviously, you’re at a point where you’re very comfortable bringing that out right away, but I think you hit on something there at the end. Yes. It’s much more acceptable to talk about those things today than it has been in the past, and especially probably when you were going through it. But it is still an incredibly sensitive subject. It’s a very difficult subject to deal with, and you just put it out there. Do you mind if. Pull on that string a little bit?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: If you were to ask me this five years ago, I would say, Nope. We got the wrong guy. But we’re my journey. Yeah, absolutely.
Stephanie Maas: So given that, and again, and I also think too, mental health is way more rampant than even our society acknowledges today. Even, even the healthiest of us we’re not given at day one. we’re given tools. Yeah. But we’re not always showing how to use them. Some of them become outdated. We don’t know how to replace them. And I love how it plays perfectly into your talk about relationships. So one of the things I wanted to talk about was, obviously you went through some incredibly challenging times. Talk to me about this idea of emotional intelligence. I think this is one of the hardest things people think. You either have it or don’t.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Relational intelligence or emotional intelligence?
Stephanie Maas: I wanna start with emotional and then I’m gonna go to relational.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been doing research on emotional intelligence since 1994 when Daniel Goman came out with his book, um, emotional Intelligence, why it Matters More than iq.
And that started me on a 10 year journey till I completed my PhD on the idea that relationships include emotions, but it’s a separate set of skills as well. Um, and so at today we define emotional intelligence at my firm as the ability to understand your emotion. The emotions of others and how to manage emotions effectively.
And so leaders can use emotions for positive. You can use emotions to elicit, you know, inspiration and to motivate and set goals with your people. And we’ve all seen leaders who can use emotions to manipulate or to instill fear in their direct reports or team members. Um, and so I had the chance to study eq.
For my undergraduate thesis, for my master’s thesis and what we looked at in my master’s thesis, my mentor and I, we said, you know, is there a dark side to eq? And you know, narcissistic leaders and Machiavellian leaders. And what we found is, is that, you know, Machiavellian leaders who are leaders that are self-serving, they’re not inherently bad people, but they just know how to use emotions to trigger their desires and their interests, be they positive or negative and others.
And so for me, that got me thinking, okay, if these skills or EQ could be used for positive or negative, are there a separate group of skills or behaviors that leaders use to build lifelong sustainable relationships with people? Um, and that got me into doing the research around the five skills that are in our relational intelligence framework, and ultimately to me, doing my dissertation in graduate school on relational intelligence.
Stephanie Maas: For you personally, as you went through this very dark time, who were, or what were some of your inspirations to pull from?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, I mean, so again, I think, you know, it, it there you think about people who are, you know, famous or who are in these type of roles that, you know, influencers and those type of things. I will tell you that I learned more from a transgender woman in rehab about empathy and about connecting with people and about showing compassion than I did in any class.
I took in graduate school on emotional intelligence or understanding people. And so there’s been various people that are people you wouldn’t even think about that came into my life at different seasons that taught me about different things. Um, my first mentor in undergraduate was phenomenal. He took me under his wing after my sophomore year, I became his graduate assistant.
And he taught me how to be a consultant. He taught me the importance of building relationships and why developing trust and embracing diversity and inclusion is important. Um, so there’s been a number of people on my journey. My family has played a tremendous role. My mo mother has a certain role she’s played.
I grew up in a single family household. My father has played another role. Faith and spirituality has been in the mix. My mother and I are Christian, my father’s and Muslim, and so there’s just so many things that have kind of played a role in kind of how I view people and relationships.
Stephanie Maas: Wow. That is a huge topic that I feel like we could probably spend the next three days. But in the spirit of time, there’s two other things I wanted to make sure we hit while we had this time together. So I’m gonna completely shift gears on you. Sure. Absolutely. So one of the things I noticed in your background is in 2015 you started your own firm, and specifically that it’s a black-owned organization.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Multicultural, multiethnic. We have black people, Hispanic, straight gay men, women. So it’s multicultural, multiethnic. It’s not an exclusive black.
Stephanie Maas: Even better. 2015. Obviously the world knows there was a incredible need for the idea of diversity and inclusion and, and really changing the landscape of the professional society that we participate in. Most of us participate in now, but it wasn’t hot topic then. It really didn’t start to become kind of on the forefront until the last couple of years. How has what it was back in 15 to what it is in becoming today, how has that changed? Can you walk me through that evolution? It’s a big question, but can you walk me through that?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: So when I started my career, I joined a global management consulting firm. Um, I was one of the youngest in the firm’s history, a job I shouldn’t have had. Um, but I was able to build relationships with the folks that I work with. But most of the people I worked with are older, whiter men and women.
They’re about 25, 30 years older than me. . And so as a person of color, I was surrounded by mentors and people who were all very similar. And so as I got, you know, 10, 12 years into my career, I said, you know, I wanna build a firm that is multicultural, multiethnic, and we don’t just talk about diversity or offer a program to teach leaders about it, we actually embody it.
Um, and so in 2015, I started my firm really around four pillars. Multicultural Multiethnic was one of them. And what I have seen in the last several years, really since George Floyd and Social Justice in 2020, that diversity in getting bodies and chairs is not really the full focus of what diversity and inclusion should be.
It’s really about this idea of authenticity. Uh, and in the book I talk about, one of the skills of relational intelligence is called embracing individual differences, which is the ability to be authentic in acknowledging and accepting that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experience . And so it’s having a positive reception to people who think, act and behave differently than you do.
And so when we talk about inclusivity today, I share with my clients that you want to have people who are different from you around the table on your team, whether that be age, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, when you bring people together. And what our research shows and research in the broader business psychology field is diversity of thought is the outcome you should drive.
And if you have people who have different experiences in their life and they’re able to communicate and share that and feel that they can bring their true selves to work, it leads to greater innovation, it leads to greater problem solving teams work more effectively. Um, and so for us today, diversity and inclusion is really kind of an older term.
For us it’s authenticity. And as a leader, are you comfortable enough in your own skin to come into work and be your true self enabling and creating the conditions through which your people can have the freedom to do that as.
Stephanie Maas: Which is just the perfect bridge to the eq, emotional intelligence, relational intelligence. So again, being a part of the professional world, I’ve sat in a lot of diversity and inclusion training over the last couple of years. I have never heard that, that link between authenticity and I think that is really worth just re mentioning here. Yeah. What an accurate way of really defining. diversity and inclusion really means it’s when you and everyone around you can be their authentic self.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: That’s right. And whatever that entails. Yeah.
Stephanie Maas: Okay. Looking forward, knowing what you know, looking out three to five years, what do you see the biggest challenges that future leaders are gonna face?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, so we’re in the midst now in the next five to seven years of a transition between different generations of leaders.
So you have leaders who are baby boomers and Gen X who are in the senior level roles in organizations right now. And we have an influx of millennials and Gen Z who are starting to come into the workforce or have been, and so you’ll have a Gen X or baby boomer leader managing a millennial or. Um, and what our research has shown, and I’ve written a couple articles you can find on our website about this, is that things like purpose and things like fulfillment in someone’s job and things like joy, those are things that are universal regardless of what generation you come from.
And so leaders of the next four to five years are gonna have to be able to. Create the conditions for diversity and for inclusion, but they’re gonna have to go a step further and understand what are the individual needs of their employees. And so this is where relational intelligence comes in, in a positive way, is for leaders to use this skillset.
It’s not a one size fit all approach. . And so these skills I, I talked to clients about, this is a blueprint. The book is a blueprint of five skills that every leadership, practice and possess. They are skills that you can develop and learn. So they’re not personality factors like extroversion or introversion.
You can pick up these skills and practice them, but as I’m sure you’ve seen in your own relationships, um, Stephanie, every relationship is unique. Relationships are built on reciprocity. So as a leader, are you getting to know your people and whatever that might entail? Their strengths, their opportunities, aspects of their personal lives and work outside of work.
Um, but leaders really need to focus on doing that so they can meet the needs of their employees, but ultimately help their employees develop and grow. We’re sitting in the midst of the great resignation right now. And what our research has shown is that, you know, people are leaving companies not because of just pay title promotion, they’re leaving because of the lack of relationships or lack of development they’re getting from their employers.
There’s that famous saying that, you know, we don’t leave companies with e bosses. And so that is a big part of us. So I think those are some of the challenges. I think the other challenges, you know, we’re gonna continue to see the hybrid work model as the approach going forward. We’re not gonna be back in the office every.
And so leaders need to find ways to connect and you can never create the connection if you or I were in a room together. I think there’s power in having that human heart to heart moment where you can look across the table into someone’s eyes, have a conversation, um, but there are ways to do it on Zoom or in other ways where you’re really intentional about the time you spend with your employees.
So, you know, great example is I had a leader about six, seven months ago who couldn’t bring the employees back into. There was a mandate that they still had to be remote, but that leader created specific time each week where he would have 30 minutes with his, each of his direct reports to just check up on ’em.
You know, very simple stuff. And then bringing the team together to celebrate successes, not just talk about the next hill that had to be tackled. So I think those two things are big, you know, the ability to adapt to a remote workforce model, and then also being able to meet the needs of different leaders regardless of what generation.
Stephanie Maas: Really sounds like, and I’d love if your experience in research would support this, but it really seems like if you look and you go back and you study how Boomers led and managed, it was very much at a macro level. And what I’m hearing you say, but please correct me if I’m wrong, is where we are headed is really much more at that micro level.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: If a leader wants to be successful, they have to in, they have to interact at that individual level 100%. Um, you think of baby boomers, it was more top-down authority. There’s a hierarchy in organizations. You don’t challenge the status quo. I think leaders who are successful today create conditions for people to be more collaborative. They value feedback. This is a huge piece of research we’re conducting right now. Feedback goes both ways, and a leader should be able to, through the relationships they build with people. Have folks be comfortable giving feedback. And so that means having a degree of humility, which I think a lot of leaders, especially baby boomers, don’t wanna show their weaknesses.
I see this more with the men that I coach versus the senior executive women, but having a degree of humility, um, trust the way we define it in our framework for relational intelligence is the ability to be vulnerable and risk being exposed to the actions or behaviors of others. So a lot of our work builds off work that Brene Brown has done and others around trust and around vulnerability. And so that’s another big piece I think is tied in as well.
Stephanie Maas: Anything else in our time today that you would just love to have the platform to share?
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: Yeah, look, I mean, I think people are probably gonna want to know first, how is relational intelligence different than eq? And so, as I mentioned earlier on, EQ can be used for positive or negative purposes depending on the leader’s interests and needs.
But relational intelligence, we define that as the ability to successfully connect with people and build strong, long-lasting relat. So what our research has found the five skills in our framework, and those include establishing rapport, uh, which is the ability to create, use energy to create initial positive connection with someone.
So it’s how much energy do you bring to conversations, things like finding common ground, uh, the way you dress your appearance, verbals and nonverbals. Uh, the second skills called understanding others, and this is being intentional about putting in the time and effort needed to get to know people on a deep.
So you think about things like active listening or being curious and inquisitive, or the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes and be empathetic. The third skill we talked about already embracing individual differences is the authenticity bucket with the goal of trying to get diversity of thought with your team.
Um, developing trust is the fourth skill, and that is again, around vulnerability. It’s about this concept that we came up with as well, called intentional generosity. And so leaders who get the most followership from their people get the most commitment and engagement. They are intentionally generous in terms of how they sow or invest.
We like to use the farmer’s analogy, how they sow into the lives of their people and are they doing it at an individual level, the micro level that we talked about. And then the most important skill in the framework is cultivating influence. , and that’s the ability to have a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of others.
So it’s things like being a servant leader, it’s mentoring and coaching and going out of your way to do that with people who are on your team and maybe people across the organization. Um, but it’s also about creating a culture of feedback where it can go both ways, like I mentioned. And if you do those things, you’ll build committed relationships with your employees, with your people. Um, and what our research has shown the last several years is that when you practice relational intelligence and when you learn these five skills and put them into work and start to model them for others, it leads to greater senses of, you know, commitment, engagement, and financial profitability as well.
Stephanie Maas: Hmm. Super appreciate your time and willingness to be here with us and just your openness. I think that’s these kind of conversations, like you said, where you really learned empathy was probably the last place you thought. And uh, I think it’s conversations like this and willingness to have them and show that vulnerability that are huge different as makers. So thank you very much.
Dr. Adam C. Bandelli: My pleasure. My pleasure. Absolutely. Pleasure to be here.
Stephanie Maas: Thanks, Adam.