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A Conversation with Barbara Mintzer-McMahon, CEO of the Center for Transitional Management, and the managing director of the Alexcel Group

April 14, 2011

Linkage’s Seth Resler sat down with Barbara Mintzer-McMahon, the CEO of the Center for Transitional Management, and the managing director of the Alexcel Group, a global network of coaches and consultants at Linkage’s 2010 Women in Leaderhip Summit.

I want to start with your story, because I find it fascinating.  You started by working with police officers? Tell me a little bit about that.

In the late 1970s, when my full-time career was in clinical psychology, I was recruited to be a full-time clinical consultant for a police department in northern California. But, in the late 1970s, two things were very true:  police officers were not very fond of working with psychologists, and they were less fond of the idea of working with a female psychologist. When I started, I got a lot of feedback from the officers, who said, [they were] not interested in having me try to get involved in their business.  They did not think I understood what they did and they did not want me to try to get inside their heads.  [Because] I did not know what it is like to do their work. [Therefore] I asked to go along with each officer on ride-alongs so that I could have a better understanding about what their work was like; and they accepted that offer. These officers got me involved in all kinds of case interventions that went beyond the original definition of the role that I was hired for.

I was [originally] hired to work in the juvenile division and got asked to be involved in all sorts of other kinds of cases that stretched my experience and gave me opportunity to strengthen capabilities that I did not know I had. The good news is that those opportunities turned out well and the resistance diminished significantly. It was both because we did well in our partnering; it was also because in between being at these events we got to spend a lot of time talking personally about what it really was like to be a cop on the beat and what it meant for them and what they went through; and how they were managing to deal with the stressors that are inherent to their jobs. My position was solidified and grew.  My 40-hour work week position became an 80-hour work week position.  I was attached to the department by an umbilical cord that they called a beeper and I worked day and night.

What this did for me was it got me very interested in stress management, and I began to research everything that had been written on stress management and over the next two years designed and developed one of the first systemic programs in stress management.

I got a new title as an expert in stress management, working with professionals in high-risk, and then at about the same time, I was teaching graduate school.

I started teaching about this stress management program and my graduate students asked why I was only doing this with professionals in high-risk.

They started referring me into businesses, and I started working with organizations and large corporations on stress management, work-life balance.  Not too shortly after that I redesigned the stress management program into a change management program, and around that time I was asked by Chevron to come in and help them assess why one of their departments had gone down to 30 percent production.

I went in with this program, worked with them, utilized the program to transform them into a high-performance work team, to implement a 360-degree assessment, and they went from 30 percent production to 100 percent production.

Then I started to roll that program in change management out with other organizations and my work transitioned from the clinical world to the world of business.  For the last 19 years, I have been operating as an executive coach and consultant.

Do you have a system for uncovering stressors?  When you walk into an organization, how do you discover what they are?

Over these last eight years, I have actually developed a model for transformational change that is based on what I now call—the four Ps model. The four Ps model basically is built off of the premise that to make any real, sustainable transformational change you have to learn to traverse four critical territories. You have to imagine in your mind’s eye a circle, and divide that circle into four quadrants.  We will go ahead and start at the upper left-hand quadrant with perspectives.

Perspective is about how you see yourself and how you believe you are seen by others.  Your perspective is built off of your beliefs, your ideas, the way you think and fundamentally, your values.

The second P, is practices; behaviors, habits, competencies chosen to focus on, which influence the third P, which is about partnership.  That is the dynamic way that we interact with others, and even more importantly how we teach others to interact with us.

Then the final P is about performance.  Performance is about vision at the top end—the idea that you want to create—and it is really about what actually happens, about the outcome.

In working with any leader or any organization to create transformational change, you can enter into any one of these four quadrants and look at what you believe is true or needs to be true to be able to close the gap between your reality and vision.

Wow.  Well, that is a fascinating story.  Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.  If people want to find you, how can they do that?

They can reach me at bmcmahon@thealexcelgroup.com, or at thectn@aol.com, or they can reach me at my office at 925-997-1005.

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