June 2, 2022

164 CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest with Carolyn Dewar, McKinsey Senior Partner | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

164 CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest with Carolyn Dewar, McKinsey Senior Partner | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Carolyn Dewar. Carolyn is a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, McKinsey's Global Practice Leader for CEO & Board Excellence, and co-author of the book CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest. In the conversation, Carolyn Dewar shared how the authors identified the world's highest-performing CEOs using empirical data and determined the six mindsets that set the best apart. The six mindsets are Corporate Strategy (focus on beating the odds), Organizational Alignment (manage performance and health), Team and Processes (put dynamics ahead of mechanics), Board Engagement (help directors help the business), External Stakeholders (center on the long-term "why?"), and Personal Working Norms (do what only you can do). Carolyn Dewar also went over some of the critical practices of CEO excellence and what organizational leaders need to consider as they plan for the future of work. 

Some highlights:

-The essential role of CEOs in the organization and how the CEO's role has changed over the years

-Carolyn Dewar on why purpose and core values matter 

-How top-performing CEOs approach their roles differently

-Carolyn Dewar on what being bold means for a CEO

-Why leaders should prioritize high functioning teams over individual performance 

-Carolyn Dewar on building trust and strong relationships in senior teams

-The role of ongoing growth, development, and coaching for CEOs

-How the pandemic has shifted our expectations from CEOs


Connect with Carolyn Dewar:

McKinsey & Company Website

CEO Excellence on Amazon

McKinsey & Company on Twitter

Carolyn Dewar on LinkedIn

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:




More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan: Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited to speak to me. Welcoming Carolyn Dewar. Carolyn is a senior partner at McKinsey & Company. She's a CEO excellence global leader, and also a co-author of McKinsey's book, CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets that Distinguished the Best Leaders from the Rest. It's an outstanding book and an essential read for all executives.

Most especially CEOs in learning from the very best globally on the practices and mindsets of CEO excellence. We talk about some of these aspects. The six areas that the book focuses in on our corporate strategy, organizational alignment team and processes, personal working norms, external stakeholders, and board engagements. Carolyn and I have a wide-ranging conversation about some of these aspects.

I'm sure you will learn a lot from the conversation and based on it, want to read the book and dig even deeper into these insights that can help all leaders, most especially CEOs of organizations guide their organizations more effectively. 

I really enjoyed this conversation and learned a lot from it. I'm sure you will too. I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments: mahan.mahantavakoli.com. There's a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. Really enjoyed those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your favorite platform, Tuesday conversations with magnificent change-makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region and Thursday conversations with brilliant global thought leaders, primarily leadership book authors of books that I believe can have a significant impact on how we lead ourselves and our organizations.

Now here's my conversation with Carolyn Dewar. 

Mahan: Carolyn Dewar, welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Carolyn: Thanks so much for having me

Mahan: Carolyn. I love CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets that Distinguished the Best Leaders from the Rest. I was teasing you before we got started because I'm unhappy with you after having read the book, I feel like I have to keep reading it because there is so much great content in the book. And I can't wait on until some of that conversation for the podcast. But before we get to it, Carolyn would love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you've become.

Carolyn: I'm sitting here just in the bay area, just south of San Francisco now, but I grew up in Canada, born and bred. Just outside Toronto. An area off to Ontario, which is the Flint, Michigan of Canada. Was GM town. And literally, our spring break schedule was determined by when they turned over the line at the plant because that's when all the parents were out.

And just very much grew up seeing how business and community shaped one another and it kept me pretty grounded.

Mahan: That's an area that has changed a lot over the years. You ended up at McKinsey. How did you end up leading the CEO excellence practice there?

Carolyn: I joined McKinsey in 2000, which gosh is a long time ago now. And the nice thing here is you can reinvent yourself or you can get very curious and explore different industries and sectors. I spend most of my time in organization work. Kind of org effectiveness, leadership, top teamwork, and also strategy work. And so how do you really set direction. 

And increasingly those two things were coming together. As I worked with more and more executives who were new in roles some of them were, C-suite kind of one below CEO and then over time CEOs and they didn't see that silos that we sometimes have as consultants. They just said, look, I'm a new leader. I need to be effective. What should I be doing? I need to get my team in place. I need to figure out what I'm doing. I need to get my strategy. I need to get them all of it together. And so just became very curious about what does it look like? Bringing all of those pieces together in these roles that are truly ultimate integrators.

Mahan: It is a very hard role, I know you had a blurb from David Rubinstein. I talked to him for the podcast. And David talks about the fact that the CEO role is harder now than it's ever been before because CEOs have to pay attention to so many things, whether internally within organizations or the need to pay greater attention to the many stakeholders externally.

In the years that you have focused on CEO Excellence what has changed with respect to the CEO role?

Carolyn: The CEO's role has always been big and complex. You do have that balance of the internal work of setting strategy and, or plus your board, your stakeholders yourself. I think the external piece has just amplified and we've seen that in the last few years. Part of it is the role that businesses playing in society. 

Employees and customers and communities are looking to business leaders and CEOs to take a stand on things and to both represent their own set of values and purposes. But also they see the impact that the decisions that these businesses make have on communities. I don't think any CEO would have anticipated a few years ago.

They would have been making calls on literally the health of their employees and the supply chains that they're operating in. And you look at some of the political situations now in the war, Ukraine, and Russia. It's almost as if business leaders are being asked to step in and play a broader social leadership role.

Mahan: They are being asked to do that. And I know it's one of the mindsets that you talk about in your book. Carolyn. The CEOs that I interact with are also very stressed with respect to which areas and which issues they should weigh in on and which they shouldn't. Some are clear-cut with respect to the anti-racism conversations that started after George Floyd’s murder, to many, to the Ukraine crisis. But in many instances, they are being asked by the community or their employees to weigh in on everything. And they keep saying, I don't want to be a political person taking a stance on everything. How do you find the best end up balancing what they should take a stand on with respect to the purpose of the organization and what they should forego as CEOs of an organization, not a political candidate or representative?

Carolyn: I do think this is one of the biggest questions keeping CEOs up at night. And one that CEOs from the past haven't had to wrestle within the same way. And I don't think there is a perfect rubric, I'll just say it. I think some people are starting to navigate it well. And those who do you named it?

Come back to this idea of purpose. And not purpose as a pretty poster on the wall, but truly a deep sense of what is the purpose of their organization? Why do they exist? Who are they trying to serve? And what are they trying to do as a company linked with the deep-set of values that the company is committed to? 

Those two things, your purpose of why you exist and your core set of the values have become the touchstone that leaders are coming back to in making these real-time choices because it's not obvious. 

Sometimes, there's been a lot of talk of multi-stakeholder capitalism right at the business round table, came out with it. I think folks agree with it, but now we're wrestling. What does it mean to really operationalize that? Especially when all your stakeholders don't necessarily agree. I'm sitting here in the bay area and I can think about some CEOs you've spent time with you you know, their employees, Northern California, very blue state, we're demand. You need to take a stand on this. And then they look at their customers who are all across the country and they say, but our customers have a different view. How do you reconcile those things? And I think the authenticity of saying what we do stand for and what you can count on our company for are these types of things.

So we will operationalize that in our four walls, but you're right. You need to set some sort of guard rails or else, where does it stop?

Mahan: It is really hard. And I agree with you in my conversations. That is one of the areas that I find is stressing the CEOs out. In putting together this book, you looked at high functioning CEOs, and early on, you mentioned that 30% of fortune 500 CEOs less than three years. And two out of five new CEOs are perceived as failing within 18 months.

Is it that the hiring was not done well? Is it that these top-performing CEOs developed the mindsets that you talk about before they became CEOs? Or they were able to develop the mindset when they became CEOs in time to be high functioning CEOs?

Carolyn: There's a lot in that. Part of why we said to do this research. Almost job number one was really to answer the question, what is the CEO role anyway? Because a piece of what's underlying, what you described is 68% of CEOs say the job wasn't actually what they thought it was. And frankly, I think even boards might not fully realize what the job is. Step one, number one is what is the job anyway? And then step number two was if we look at folks who've succeeded and really done well, and we had a quantitative set of criteria for that. What sets them apart? Was it actually more how they were thinking? What were their mindsets? Versus trying to copy a bunch of behaviors that they mentioned did. Did they had very specific mindsets for how they saw their role and what the value add was against each of those pieces of the role.

Take one quick. One, for example, on an organization. Effectiveness is clearly a job that the CEO needs to do to make sure you have the culture of the talent that we're designed you need. But these CEOs, they didn't outsource that to HR. And it wasn't seen as a soft topic. They had the mindset. I have to treat the quote soft stuff as if it's the hard stuff. I have to treat it with the rigor, the discipline, follow-through, the execution, and accountability as they would any operational initiative that felt quite different than the typical approach. And so we were really looking for those points of difference.

Mahan: It really is in that for many years, CEOs have been saying the people and the soft stuff are important. But it sounds like in you looking at the data, it shows that the highest performing CEOs actually prioritize that soft stuff and treated it as hard stuff. One of the counter-intuitive things that you say in that mindset is you say don't put people first. What do you mean by that?

Carolyn: We were, purposely provocative probably in that wording. Of course, they care about people and everyone should. But the prevailing wisdom tends to be. I should know who my high potentials are or my best people. And maybe HR gives me a list of the 50 or a hundred people that when I'm in town, I make sure I have breakfast with, or I meet up after the town hall.

What these CEOs did was slightly different. They started from what is our strategy? What is our source of value creation? What will it take for us to win as a business? And so what are the roles that matter most in order to deliver against that? And they're not just your leadership team. For the size of companies we were looking at, it was often 200 roles. Some of them were buried down in the organization. 

But if you were launching a digital transformation, that digital capabilities team, a few levels down, you better have players in it. If you're expanding into Asia, your country manager of Indonesia, that you might not normally ever meet, you have to have an amazing person there.

Started with what are the roles that matter and then they mapped the talent to those roles. And really paid attention to coaching, developing, and having a bench. Because there's also a risk if someone leaves that pivotal role. was a flip and it was very much grounded in where the value comes from.

Mahan: Carolyn, I wonder what organizations and CEOs we're doing the best job with that. Over the years for a while, Jack Welch was known as a person that would talk about getting rid of the bottom 10%. To a certain extent, Netflix culture was developed as one that wanted to reward and retain the people that were the highest performing in the organization.

While the pendulum in some respects in some organizations has swung to the other extreme where they say, no, you shouldn't do that and you should stay away from it. I wonder for CEOs that we're able to effectively approach that people development and putting the right people in the right high priority positions, what would be some examples and what were they doing differently?

Carolyn: I think, there was a couple of things. One, if we think about these roles that matter most part of what they did differently is they did prioritize and pay attention. They knew which roles they were. And when they were doing talent reviews or thinking about succession planning and coaching, those were the 200 roles the CEO wanted to look at.

It wasn't necessarily by the org chart, seniority down, show me all the binders. They were very focused and prioritized. I think they had a clear view on for those roles, what is the knowledge, skills experience that we would want in that role to set them up for success? Given what we're trying to get done.

Think of a CEO who was talking about their CFO. And they'd always had a certain profile of CFO, but they knew they were going into a period of acquisition and mergers and growth. And they said actually, the profile of who may need, It's going to look different. And they weren't afraid to name what's the profile we need in this role and match someone to that.

I guess the third piece, which is a bit of a counterpoint to what you said is we did hear, for example, from Brad Smith at Intuit and others, that if you constantly need to be firing people or you're swapping out your folks, are you really a great leader either is it about how do you get the most out of who you have setting clear expectations, building their capabilities, and getting them working well together.

Mahan: That's an interesting perspective to keep in mind. The other part of it that I found interesting is the fact that these CEOs spent time and effort. 

On the people's side, in that this was not something that was delegated for the key roles, for the key positions, to the human resources, or to the people function of the organization.

Carolyn: I think that extends to culture as well. So you think about Satya Nadella at Microsoft. He has spent real time. His first five, six years on transforming the culture. And yes, he has Kathleen Hogan and others as his partner. But almost to the point of being relentless and talking about growth, mindset, growth culture, holding his leaders accountable, measuring it, building the capabilities.

For him, this was a meaningful piece of his agenda that only he could spend time on.

Mahan: Another one of the mindsets that you talk about Carolyn is in setting the direction. Being bold. You quoted the beginning of the chapter, Marianne Williamson, you're playing small does not serve the world. And there is an appealing element to that. How does that being bold differ for the CEOs and organizations that do it well?

Carolyn: When we talked about being bold in setting direction, it was very much about reframing the game of what is a success is for your organization? If we think about RJ Bum at MasterCard. When he started there a decade ago, and you have to rewind time here, this is the early days of all nine payments and things like that. All the whole way chatter was about how do we beat our competitors in credit cards. Us versus visa, us versus American express. And he stepped back and saw that at that time, 90% of the world's transactions were still happening in cash. 

And so his boldness was actually give permission and provocation to the organization to say, rather than quibbling on market share over here, what would it look like if we took this on and really transformed transactions and they went into the debit card and online and all those things. But in that way, it's really the only the CEO that can give that permission to the organization to say, let's challenge our assumptions. What could we be if we really took this seriously? 

But then they have to back it up and they have to back it up in two ways. One, the courage to actually make some bold moves to move in that direction, and they put real resources behind it. Most companies only tweak their budgets a few percentage points here and there.

These CEOs put their money where their mouth is. And so when they set that bold direction, they made sure that the capital and the talent pivoted and was put towards that. Because you can't say you're going to do something big and then not reserve it.

Mahan: There has to be the willingness as the organization is testing toward that end to accept some setbacks and some failures and acknowledged those. And then you also mentioned, kill as much as you create the willingness to eliminate some sacred cows that in organizations it's usually very hard. Where there is a desire to have both. We want to pursue this and maintain what we have rather than the willingness to give something up in the pursuit of that bold ambition you talk about.

Carolyn: Two quick stories on that, because I do think this is one of the hardest things to do. We purposely didn't over-index on founder CEOs because they frankly have degrees of freedom, but I'll tell a quick Reed Hastings story. It's a classic in Netflix. When they first set out loaning DVDs by mail versus blockbuster. Then he readily admits when they were trying to make the pivot to streaming, they had to cannibalize that first business. 

And at first, they tried to get away with not doing it. They were going to charge two fees to their customers. One to be this one and one to be that. And their customers said we're not buying it. 

And they had to have the courage to actually cannibalize some of their business to grow, that's a hard choice. Now he was a founder and he could make it. Mary Barra, a totally different context, a publicly held company. In her first budget cycle is as CEO of general motors, they brought the budget proposal for the investment in India. Now they had been in India for years. They had never made money. And that year's budget for India again was not going to make money. She'd grown up in your organization, this is a sacred cow. And she called it out and she said, wait a minute, is there a line of sight to making money in India?

No, but we've always been there. Of course, we can't give it up. And he took the courageous step. She actually did. They would drew. And she took some criticism for that, but she took all those dollars and put them towards her, the new direction of electric vehicles, and a lot of the innovations they were doing.

And she very deliberately shifted the resources. It takes courage. But if the CEO can't do it, then how do you expect anyone else to do it.

Mahan: That's required for organizations. And I love the Mary Barra example because as you mentioned to a certain extent, founders have a little bit more Liberty to do that. Because people see that initial, sacred cows having been something they have contributed to creating.

Another thing you mentioned about Mary Berra with respect to solving for team psychology is the effort that she has spent prioritizing and investing in team development, even at the senior year.

Carolyn: She's an example of someone who is promoted from within the team to the CEO. And had to make her own transition. I think one of her quotes was, hey guys, I'm still Mary. After a while, she figured out what that altitude was she was at now because she very much sees the value in and all these CEOs do in getting the team itself functioning well together.

This isn't about having a bunch of individual superstars who we're going to get in each other's way. In fact, several of the CEOs would say they would rather have a B+ player, but that were really high functioning than a bunch of big egos that didn't get along. And that takes doing real work together. That doesn't just happen naturally. 

And she and others have really invested in how are we making decisions as a team? How do we build trust as a team? How do we build a relationship? And those reps together of doing the work that we really get any group.

Mahan: And that is really important for high functioning teams at all levels in organizations most especially at the senior levels of organizations wherein many instances people's previous success contributes to more of an Eagle with respect to them wanting to protect turf, depending on how things are done.

That's also something Satya Nadella has done a beautiful job in his turnaround of Microsoft. Getting the senior level of the organization to function more as a team, rather than people leading separate silos.

Carolyn: For him, that was an embodiment of the growth mindset shift too he was trying to drive culturally, What he inherited was an organization that had real silos and competition within it. This being the smartest person in the room was your currency. It was a massive shift to say, actually, it's about being curious and what could be possible and what could we accomplish together?

A massive shift that he was relentless on for many years. These things don't happen overnight.

Mahan: One of the other mindsets that you address Carolyn that I know is very relevant to many of our listeners is for the CEO managing personal effectiveness, doing what only you can do. That's another one of those problems that I see a lot of senior executives and CEOs end up having, how were these high-functioning CEOs able to stick just to doing only what they can do?

Carolyn: Linking back to your comment at the beginning, they didn't necessarily come into the role with that already nailed, this is by design. We talked to folks who'd already been CEOs for over six years. And looking back, this is something they've really learned. And they shared examples where six or 12 months into the role, they realized that the wheels are falling off their own operating model. 

They had made commitments for things to be involved in, frankly, weren't realistic. And we learned the hard way. And part of it is thinking of yourself as one of the scarcest resources in the organization. And that's not about being arrogant, but truly from a stakeholder lens, there's only one of you.

What is the highest and best use of you as a CEO? If anything else can be delegated or done or created by others? Let them have at it. Because frankly there is important work that only the CEO can do. It was such an Adele. Again, I loved his quote of why it's a lonely role. one of the reasons he said is it's an information, asymmetry problem.

No one underneath you sees all the pieces you see. No one above you like your board sees everything you see. The fact that you're that unique and singular layer of integration, that's real work. Your job is to be finding the connections, making sure things working well together looking to the future while the day-to-day is running.

You need other people to largely be running the business for you to be able to do all of that. And it sets a really high bar for what's the stuff only you can do.

Mahan: In order to achieve that high bar, you'll also mention that many of these CEOs are open to being coached. What is that openness and willingness, and with respect to what areas do you find the CEOs continuing to get coaching for their own development and growth?

Carolyn: If you take almost a broad definition of coaching, I think all of these CEOs had, what we referred to, as a kitchen cabinet. A group of three or four or five people who could be their truth-tellers. They play multiple different roles, you need at least a couple of people in your life that will tell you the truth. 

It can mean such an echo chamber that only people bring you good news or tell you, you're great. Who's going to keep you grounded and tell you when you blew it, you need that. You also need a safe space of people where you can problem solve. There is still bias where a CEO feels like they can't say they don't know in a broad audience.

Who are those people who can be your thought partners and really help you work through some of the tough stuff? And the third one, which I think is one of the more interesting ideas we heard from a number of these is the idea of a reverse mentor. A number of these CEOs have someone, several levels down in the organization, maybe several generations younger than them, who they purposely give permission and ask to coach them and to reverse mentor them, whether it's on the latest consumer preferences or digital or things maybe they didn't grow up with, but also to be their eyes and ears in the organization to say, Hey, think this is going great. Just so you know, four levels down. No one's buying it.

I think that takes courage as a leader to invite that kind of feedback and those who do it well, it's hugely valued at it.

Mahan: It takes a lot of courage and it also helps when you have that courage for it to be combined with humility. I love how you say, you need to stay humble and you use a Sudanese proverb, a large chair does not make it king.

But sometimes I joke with my wife, the fact that in organizations, the higher up we move the funnier, our jokes become and the more people become mindful of what information is passed onto us. 

What do the CEOs do to maintain that humility and to continue getting the kind of feedback that you said is essential for them to be able to do their role as well?

Carolyn: I think some of the things, as we talked about of the reverse mentors, the kitchen cabinet help you with that feedback loop. But it has to be grounded in, as you say a humble mindset or learning mindset. Both the recognition you're only in the chair for a certain period of time. Your goal is to leave the place better than you found it. Disproportionately, that was the mindset that we heard. 

And then pairing that with real curiosity and wanting to learn. A number of the CEOs said, if you lose that or when you lose that you know, it's time to move on when you're not learning when you're not interested in learning. If it's coming from this place of wanting to do right by your stakeholders and wanting to learn and grow, then the behavior flipped from that.

Mahan: It has to be a genuine sentiment on part of that CEO and executive. I wonder Carolyn, over the past couple of years, we've gone through a significant acceleration, if nothing else have a lot of trends and changes. You go through the six mindsets that distinguish these best leaders. In what way have any of them changed as a result of this acceleration.

Carolyn: There's three in particular that the CEOs themselves called out as a change. One we touched on already, which is this idea of being bold. I think if the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that companies and vertical change can pivot much faster than we ever thought. Companies took their four-year digital strategy, implemented it in three months, or pivoted their whole product development cycle.

Some CEOs are asking the question now that we know that's possible, but not with the requirement of a pandemic, where else would we apply that kind of bold thinking? We know we can move fast and boldly when we need it. How are we able to do it? We made decisions, faster organizations were flatter.

They were just picking up the phone and calling five levels down. Do we want to keep some of that? I think the second one we heard is the multi-stakeholder, which again, we've talked about, but it's so important. This broad recognition that the decision of CEOs makes have ripple effects throughout supply chains, communities, and economies, all of these things. We have to consider the stakeholders and I think we're working through how to do that. 

And then the third one that's interesting is this notion of the CEOs and how they show up being as important as what they do. One of the CEOs, Michael Fisher, coined this phrase, your to-be list is as important as your to-do list. And I think we felt that acutely in the last little while, 

Where both employees and more broadly, we expected our CEOs to show concern, to genuinely connect with people, to make sure that they were keeping a pulse on their organizations. And I hope that's something we don't lose that we take forward, even when there was something very democratizing about all being able to get on video conference. And we need to not go back to our offices with the door shut.

Mahan: That's going to be a benefit of the experience we have been through the humanity that a lot of people saw in their leaders. One of the reasons employee engagement numbers went up because people felt all throughout the organization, from the CEO on down, there was a greater sense of empathy and a greater sense of being able to relate to the people. 

In addition to that change we'd love to know with your role Carolyn, interacting with a lot of these top CEOs, what do you see the future of work look like?

Carolyn: I think we're in the midst of a pretty big shift that we're all still trying to navigate and work through.

I think what is true is there's no snapping back to the way it was. How do we take what was good about in-person co-located work with what we've learned in the pandemic and together craft something new going forward, and people are experimenting. 

So I do actually think the experiments is part of the answer here. I think we're all going to need to experiment and learn and figure it out. I think those that I'm seeing that are navigating it better than others are being quite thoughtful about what is the work that makes sense to do together? Physically Co-located. 

And what are the type of work that frankly, in many cases, is better suited to doing on your own? There's no point coming into the office and sitting by yourself in a room on zoom all day, not talking to anyone. People are going to call that out pretty quick. It's not worth the commute time. 

But there are some things that genuinely are better done and give us all energy when we do them in person. Some companies have gotten quite specific and it's not a one size fits all answer for the company. In our software development team, we're going to come together for the first two weeks of a product cycle cause that's our brainstorming and they're ideating. 

We can all then go and code in our basements all day long for eight weeks. Then we're going to come back together to do that. Or a finance team who says quarter-end, we need to be together because that's our work. In between, maybe not. None of that is a standard Monday to Thursday in the office answer, but it's going to be a challenge. There'll be interesting to get there. We have to be listening and learning

Mahan: The point that you made, it requires intentionality and it requires experimentation to see what works for the organizations. Your role as a consultant has primarily been pre-pandemic. Spending a lot of time face-to-face with clients, lots of time on the road. How has your life changed and how do you see your supporting executives and CEOs shifting over the coming couple of years?

Carolyn: We went from being on the road all the time to suddenly at home all the time. And now everyone's figuring out what it looks like. I think in the same way, we're recognizing what are the activities that make sense. Even before clients, if we think about our own friends, we turn over people so quickly. A lot of people come into consulting for just a few years. 

We have thousands of people who joined in the last few years who have never met anyone in person. And a huge part of our apprenticeship is the sitting in a team room side by side. Let's do that. Our teams have chosen, it was by choice to come together much faster.

So our offices are actually more full because we used to be at the client and now they're in the office because they realize they can work better together, sitting together, we're doing a lot of that. I think with clients, it depends on the industry. We're following our clients, McKinsey can say, I need to be at my clients, half of them are in tech. 

I show up the doors are locked. And you also need to meet your clients where they're at. And there's some things that you just never can replicate, not in person. The relationship-building, and the coaching, it was really important for top team off-sites. Those things, I think we're all craving getting back.

Mahan: There is a special element to that relationship building, as you mentioned, and the human connection that is important. The challenge, whether it's in consulting or for CEOs of organizations is to determine what lends itself best to those in-person interactions and what doesn't require as much in person.

Carolyn, in addition to your own book, are there any other resources that you typically find yourself recommending to CEOs as they want to develop the mindsets that help them lead their organizations in such uncertain and turbulent times?

Carolyn: We've noticed a few patterns. One is CEOs have been reaching out to one another and engaging with one another we haven't seen before. Everyone used to be members of the various round tables and groups, CEOs are showing up and they're engaging. And I think part of it is because they know they're all navigating something that no one has done before. 

But it's been wonderful to see that peer network of like-minded folks and aside from maybe your own very specific strategy, 90% of the issues are the same that they're all facing, and frankly, they can share and learn from one another. That's really powerful. I do find this notion of a kitchen cabinet, who are your advisors, who are your people either in or outside the organization that didn't get it and understands all the things you're trying to prioritize and can be your thought partners.

And then just recognizing through yourself your own resilience and growth as a leader. many of the CEOs we talked to did have coaches or had done some of their own personal work. It's hard for you to lead an organization when you're not centered in yourself and you know who you are as a leader. It's a great time to do some of that reflecting. What gives you energy? What does it? What kind of leader do you want to be? That's what we're seeing people like.

Mahan: Those are great recommendations and I really appreciate also your book where we touched on just a few of the mindsets briefly. There is a lot of great content, examples stories. One of the things I really appreciated, in addition to the Satya Nadella’s of the world, and Mary Baros, and Jamie diamonds where the names are familiar.

There were lots of people whose names I wasn't as familiar with. And I appreciated seeing and reading their stories. Because as you say, these are the mindsets of those highest performing CEOs, it's not just trying to take one CEO and become a carbon copy of that person. 

For the audience to find out more about you Carolyn and the book, where would you recommend for them to go.

Carolyn: There's a landing page. That not only has information about the book but has a lot of free resources with videos of interviews and things to learn more. If you type in Carolyn Dewar and McKinsey, you'll probably find it or CEO excellence and McKinsey, you can find your way there.

And there's plenty of resources as well as ways to find the book.

Mahan: I can't recommend the book highly enough. And as I mentioned earlier, one of the smartest people, I know David Rubinstein said, any smart CEO looking to not just survive but thrive would do well to read and heed the book's insights. And David reads over a hundred books a year.

Here is a smart executive that reads a lot and recommends this book as highly as I know I do.

I really appreciate you joining this conversation, Carolyn. And the outstanding examples, perspectives, insights, and the mindsets you share in your book. SabagaThank you so much, Carolyn Dewar

Carolyn: Thank you so much for having me.