Ovell Barbee is a highly accomplished, visionary Human Resources Executive who has been a client, a subject matter expert, and a friend of our firm for over 20 years.
He has a Masters of Human Resources from Michigan State University and has been recognized as a Top-50 HR Professional, Top-100 Chief Diversity Officer and Most Influential Minority.
We wanted to offer our congratulations on the successful publication of his first book, The Big House: A Human-Centered & Progressive Approach to DEI and Positive Workforce Engagement. It became a #1 Amazon bestseller of new releases.
When we asked Ovell about the impetus behind writing this book, he said, "Most companies invest money, time and energy in diversity equity and inclusion without creating and cultivating a human-centered environment.
"This How To book delivers essential advice to company leaders on how to stop the silence, have difficult conversations addressing race and diversity and learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to achieve an environment where everyone can flourish."
We know that many companies fail when trying to create and cultivate an environment that truly embraces diversity and its benefits .
As of September 1, 2023, Friisberg & Partners International is also present in the Netherlands. With the opening of an office in Amsterdam, we are taking the next step in our international expansion.
Maarten van de Sande will lead our Dutch office. With almost 20 years of experience in recruitment, headhunting and executive search for both multinationals and local companies, his style of working is characterized by a high degree of involvement with both clients and candidates and an in-depth knowledge of the markets in which he operates. Maarten studied Finance & Business Administration at Nyenrode University, and followed several Master courses on HR and Strategy; he speaks four languages including Danish and German.
Maarten is trained as an accountant and started his career at KPMG in the general audit practice. Afterwards he had a number of management roles, including at the German Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, where he was Managing Director for two small Dutch entities for seven years. At that time he started his own recruitment agency, which he and a partner developed into a medium-sized player on the Dutch market.
After the sale of this agency at the end of 2019, Maarten shifted his focus towards specialist Headhunting and Executive Search assignments, mainly for medium-sized companies, often international and many of them family-owned. Together with his team of experienced researchers, Maarten guaranteed high quality service and the best solution. Joining Friisberg & Partners was therefore a logical step for Maarten to serve both his existing and new clients even better in their ambitions to attract the best local and international candidates.
Zoltan Petho, Chair of Friisberg & Partners International, gave a warm welcome to Maarten:
“It has been never easy to expand and find a new Partner in a new geographical location. Especially when it is a mature market, like The Netherlands. Friisberg is not only looking for a professional with proven track record in Executive Search or Management Consulting but also someone who is a great fit for the Friisberg family and shares our values from the very beginning. Maarten is very honest when describing his experience and ambition, and understands the business, which was clear after the very first talk we had - he never hesitates to ask questions showing his ability to be open and learn new things. Maarten has also a sparkling personality and a great sense of humour….and our common Danish background was just the icing on the cake! Welcome to Friisberg, dear Maarten!”
“When I first met my new colleagues, during the conference in Budapest earlier this year, I became acquainted with the characteristic Friisberg culture: friendly, collaborative, entrepreneurial and ambitious. It fits like a glove!”
The first summit was held in 2021 to bring the world’s first ladies and gentlemen together to promote dialogue and find effective solutions to global humanitarian challenges through soft power, partnership, public diplomacy, exchange of experience, and implementation of joint initiatives.
The 3rd Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, founded by Olena Zelenska, the wife of the President of Ukraine, took place in Kyiv on the 6th September 2023.
It was hosted by British actor, director, and writer Stephen Fry and Ukrainian journalist Hanna Homonai.
The theme of the 3rd Summit was 'Mental Health: Fragility and Resilience of the Future' and opening the conference Olena Zelenska noted that it has long been an axiom for all conscious people, at least in the free world, that human life is important and mental health is the basis of this quality. She said that a life of constant anxiety, fear, and uncertainty cannot be called of high quality.
Elena Maysyura, from our office in Kyiv, was an invited guest and the participants discussed how wars and conflicts affect mental health and whether it is possible to adapt to it. She said,
"I was happy to attend as a guest and benefited greatly from the panel discussions. Sarah Brown and Stephen Fry are both incredible experts whose participation made this Summit unforgettable."
The summit consisted of three panels: 'Mental Health: The Balance of Resilience and Fragility', 'The Impact of War on Mental Health', and 'The Generation That Will Lead the World in 15 Years'.
President Zelenskyy noted that people's resilience has its limits. He said he was grateful that this Summit and such a representative discussion was dedicated to the topic of mental health.
Ukraine today demonstrates to the world a people united by common values - a people who value human life.
In the world of business, where connections shape results and success is crucial, authenticity is a cornerstone trait. It’s a key to building meaningful relationships, establishing trust, and developing as a leader. For executives, authenticity is essential in every interaction, and of course a powerful and genuine speaking voice is a key element to this. We often forget to develop this skill, but it makes a difference to every interaction, whether it’s a phone call, a chat, or a presentation. But how can you put genuine emotions, purpose, and sincerity into your voice?
In the realm of effective business communication, a commanding speaking voice is more than just the manipulation of tone and volume; there is an array of essential factors that contribute to a successful speech, regardless of whether a microphone is in use.
Spontaneity injects vitality into your speech. Embracing your genuine self and speaking confidently from that foundation fosters authenticity, engaging your audience and forging more profound connections.
The skill of modulating tones introduces layers of emotional depth and sophistication to your messaging. These nuanced variations reflect the intricate nature of your thoughts and emotions, enhancing your narrative’s impact when combined with authenticity.
Employing well-calibrated pacing and strategically timed pauses establishes a rhythmic pattern that demands attention. This rhythm captures your audience’s focus and lends gravitas to your message. The integration of genuine emotions and authenticity ensures this rhythm resonates effectively.
Controlled breathing is a testament to vocal mastery. An authentic voice, shaped by the cadence of your natural breath, conveys your intentions precisely, weaving a seamless connection between your thoughts and spoken expression.
For an executive, speaking needs to transcend the monologue. Authenticity is not just about sharing your thoughts but also about listening to and understanding your audience, even as they are silent. Intuitively reacting to their responses guides your communication, allowing for change, emphasis, or further exploration. True authenticity strikes a balance between speaking and listening, making your voice a soundboard for understanding.
In the pursuit of impactful business communication, it’s essential to recognise that the microphone is merely a tool – the true resonance resides within the fundamental quality of your voice. By blending spontaneity, nuanced tones, strategic pacing, and controlled breathing, you create a powerful communication that transcends the need for a microphone. This approach empowers you to forge meaningful connections and make a lasting impression in various business settings, transforming routine speaking moments into remarkable opportunities.
Having an authentic speaking voice isn’t just something you’re born with; it’s a skill you develop through practice and guidance. Just like leadership skills, the art of sincere communication develops over time.
Practising in different situations, refining your tone, and embracing vulnerability are important for authenticity. Having a coach’s guidance can be invaluable. A skilled coach can notice the subtleties of what to improve, give objective feedback, and assist you in bringing your authentic self into your speaking style.
In a world full of digital connections, business jargon, and information overload, authenticity is a rare and prized quality. If you can find a way of making your words and your delivery reflect your true self, then your meaning will resonate. Embrace your voice, nurture it, and let it shape your journey as a genuine and forward-thinking leader.
In today's fast-paced and competitive world, the significance of mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. We all know that the well-being of employees not only affects their individual lives but also has a profound impact on organizational success. Addressing mental health concerns within the workplace is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. Based on my talks with various firms, let me explore the challenges associated with mental health in the workplace and discuss effective strategies for promoting a mentally healthy work environment.
As I see, one of the major challenges concerning mental health in the workplace is the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. This stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help, as they fear negative repercussions on their careers or reputations. Consequently, mental health problems might go unnoticed and untreated, leading to more severe issues down the line.
Moreover, the nature of modern work, characterized by high demands, tight deadlines, home office environment and long working hours, can contribute to stress and burnout. These conditions, if left unaddressed, can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and reduced overall productivity. Additionally, the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life due to technological advancements can make it challenging for employees to disconnect, exacerbating stress levels.
Managing and improving mental health in the workplace requires a comprehensive and honest approach that involves both employers and employees. Obviously there are many effective strategies to consider, including:
Employers can take the lead in creating a culture of open conversation around mental health. This involves destigmatizing mental health issues by providing information, resources, and training to employees and managers. Encouraging honest discussions about mental health can help create an atmosphere where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Employers should strive to design jobs that consider the mental well-being of employees. This includes manageable workloads, reasonable deadlines, control of work and the autonomy to make decisions. Furthermore, offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can help employees manage their work-life balance more effectively.
Many organisations established already Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or provided access to mental health professionals can offer employees a confidential outlet for discussing their concerns and receiving guidance. These programs can play a crucial role in early intervention and prevention.
We must encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect from work outside of working hours to help prevent burnout. This can be reinforced through company policies that prioritize employee well-being.
Providing training to managers and employees on recognizing the signs of mental health issues and how to provide appropriate support can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding work environment.
Managers can conduct regular one-on-one check-ins with their team members to discuss their workload, challenges, and well-being. This not only helps address potential issues but also shows that the organization values its employees' mental health.
If you are not confident dealing with this topic as a business leader, CXO or a senior HR person, you may ask for help or advise from a professional. The gains are incredible. This can make your company a healthier, happier, and more productive firm.
I am co-founder and Chief Robotics Officer at Akara. Akara is a spin-out from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Our goal is to help hospitals make more efficient use of space and staff through the use of robots and AI. We’ve developed robots that can decontaminate rooms faster than is possible using current methods and using a fraction of the staff effort that is currently needed. Before Akara, I worked as a data science consultant and held engineering roles at an AI start-up and at a digital marketplace.
My typical day can differ drastically depending on which phase of development we are going through. For example, all this week I am on-site at a partner NHS hospital in the UK preparing for a deployment. Here, my day could range from speaking with hospital staff and figuring out the best way it can fit around current workflows, to writing software that allows our robot to autonomously navigate and disinfect target areas of the hospital. When I am working from the Akara office, a lot of my time is spent writing code and managing our software team.
Stevie was a robot we worked on before we set up the company. It was a social robot that we built to act as an aid to care workers in retirement communities where staffing levels are often very low. Stevie could take care of basic tasks while also being a friendly companion to older adults, which would free healthcare workers to spend more time with residents and in areas where they are needed most.
In the Summer of 2019, we deployed the Stevie robot in a retirement community in Washington DC. We learned a lot about the adoption of robotics within the older adult population during this time. While we were initially unsure about how the robot would be received, we found the community to be generally very open to embracing new technology. We were particularly pleased to see that a number of people within the community living with dementia or some form of cognitive decline found interacting with a robot to be a comforting experience. Other residents in the community took part in games (like bingo or quizzes) that Stevie ran, or reading groups, where Stevie would read to residents or ask them questions about themselves and their day. Since they no longer needed to personally manage these activities, staff were able to spend more time delivering individualized support to the residents that needed it most.
I believe that robotics will fundamentally change how we provide healthcare. The World Health Organization estimates that there will be a shortage of 15 million health workers by 2030. It's clear we need ways to enhance this workforce, and harnessing new technologies, including robots, offers a scalable and cost-effective way to do this.
Technology adoption can be especially slow in healthcare, especially in applications that involve multiple stakeholders and have implications for patient safety. To overcome these challenges, we’ve adopted a user-centered approach from the beginning, working closely with clinicians and environmental services staff to ensure that the technology is easy to use and can be integrated easily within daily workflow. Additionally, we’ve worked in collaboration with several universities to validate the efficacy of the technology, which gives us critical data necessary to validate our claims.
Working at a startup can be challenging, and being successful requires resilience and teamwork. I’m thankful to say that these are two characteristics that our founding team have in abundance.
One of the key philosophies we hold at Akara is that achieving our vision will require all hands on deck. We understand that what we are trying to build and implement is difficult and requires everyone to chip in and help. There is no place for egos.
I'm really proud of what we are building, I know that's a cliché but it's true. When I see how beneficial our decontamination robots and technologies are to hospitals, and how they could help make hospitals treat more patients, it makes me very proud.
We caught up with Nevena Nikolova, from our office in Sofia, who is a prize-winning film maker and a hugely successful head-hunter. Clearly there are parallels between casting the lead and supporting roles for a film and identifying the best possible hires for a corporate client.
Both professions are all about recognizing talent and making the best use of it, making the talent really shine to its fullest potential. The job of a Head-hunter and Management Consultant helps develop transferable skills like influential communication (capacity to convince and inspire) as well project management capability that are very useful for me as a filmmaker.
On the other hand the Directing boosts my creativity, helps me build out-of-the box solutions and support clients and candidates in finding new perspectives and changing their way of thinking or acting. What I experience is a kind of a cross-pollination between the two professions and I find it very enriching. I discover a certain Work-Art balance as the one activity is helping me recover from the other and vice-versa.
My artistic journey started as an actress with stage performances of various fringe shows, but I felt I needed more so the second step was a smooth transition to stage directing and afterwards I jumped into film directing.
My mind naturally produces multiple ideas, images, stories, small pieces of the universe, so writing and directing a movie is a way to share my internal world with thousands of people all over the globe. To feel 'seen' from inside, to experience other people`s reactions, to be able to touch so many souls and minds - this is really powerful and exciting; it makes me feel complete and fulfilled.
Movie Directing is great for upgrading my own leadership skills and style. It requires vision, determination and capacity to balance, align and synchronize the ideas and the input of very diverse professionals, who are often quite opinionated, very emotional and expressive - sometimes ego-driven. When you are an aspiring director, you are full of doubts and it is a huge challenge to keep your authenticity and allow yourself to show vulnerability while nurturing the faith in the project among the crew members. What I discovered while film-making is that it is not necessary to have all the answers and the full picture in order to lead the team, it is enough to be just a couple of steps in front of them.
My first movie MORNING won multiple awards for Best Debut, Best Student Short, Best Silent Film, Best Dance (dedicated to Dance) Film, Best choreography in a Short film, Best actor, Best aspiring filmmaker etc. from international festivals in Cannes, Italy, UK, Mexico, Israel, Chile among others.
The second movie ROOFTOP was recognized for Best Dark comedy, Best lead actor, Best young actress, Best female director ect. Couple of months ago the movie won the Best Independent Short Film award in Silk Road Film Festival Cannes.
Some of my favourite directors are Yorgos Lanthimos, Christopher Nolan, Lars von Trier, Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar, Daren Aronofsky, Krzusztof Kieslowski, Jane Campion, Wong Kar-Wai and many others. All of them have inspired my love of cinema but I`m still searching for my very own style as a director.
My business understanding and thinking was influenced by David Ogilvy, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Patric Lencioni, and Simon Sinek.
Lovely question! For the younger me I would cast Anna Tayor Joy and Juliette Binoche would be my first choice for the middle aged me.
The full-scale war in Ukraine became a real test of viability not only for all of us, but also for the Executive Search market.
The war meant that many companies significantly reduced hiring volumes in Ukraine, or closed, or left the Ukrainian market; most had to stop, postpone or curtail non-critical projects.
However, Ukrainian business is finding strength for recovery and a steady movement forward - business is gradually adapting. Many organizations have become more mobile or even global overnight because the war forced them to either transfer production to the western regions of Ukraine, or to enter new markets outside the state, and in a very short time.
Even in the most difficult conditions, Ukrainians continue to look ahead with optimism and are already planning the future for economic development.
It is admirable that, despite the war and all the challenges associated with it, organizations are rebuilding production facilities and opening vacancies for talented specialists, and every week the number of offers on job portals is increasing.
The war is a huge shock for any country, but despite everything, people in Ukraine continue to go to work, look for work, and reorganize their businesses.
Ukrainians are proving that optimism is a truly invaluable phenomenon.
We all crave good experiences.
We all hate bad experiences.
This increasing trend towards experience is so strong that in 2023 we are seeing Chief Experience Officers (CXO) being appointed to ensure that it is made a foundational element of business strategy.
A recent PwC report noted that it is what every company strives for. Yet so many fall short of expectations – perfectly reasonable expectations.
“Call it an experience disconnect: companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but haven’t focused on, or invested in, the most meaningful aspects of customer experience”.
Communication. Consistency. Convenience. Speed. Friendliness - and of course the human touch.
As well as Customer Experience, businesses increasingly need to think about Employee Experience as competition for the most talented and skilled workers grows more intense.
Over the past year, we have seen huge movements of talented people, referred to as the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, as workers reassessed the impact of work and what they want to get out of their lives.
We often see companies try to retain their key employees by offering financial incentives. However, in our experience, many of those employees would have stayed put anyway and others have concerns that money alone can’t address.
Praise from leadership, frequent promotion, the flexibility of hybrid work, a positive company culture and opportunities to lead projects are often more effective in terms of retention than simply cash. Effective leadership-development programs designed to retain key employees identified as being at risk of departure are also hugely effective.
Customer and Employee experience is a critical component of loyalty and, as a result, revenue.
Great brands, great experiences, great organizations.
Declining brands, woeful experiences and toxic organizations.
Two sides of a cultural stick perhaps.
In the old days, structure told us how things were supposed to work – the designed organization. Something was also telling us that structure may not work as intended – the lived organization. We’ve moved a long way to appreciate the organization today as a place of living and expression as much as a place of processes, roles or corporate outcomes (if not more). Ultimately, culture plays a big part in corporate success, and failure.
Culture was a really trendy topic some thirty years ago, before we realized some challenges with validation and organization effectiveness. Maybe more cult than culture! There are more opportunities today to evaluate this critical feature of corporate and working life; more tried and tested methods. So, let’s use them.
The challenge with culture is what we are measuring and why. Is there ‘good’ and ‘bad’ culture? How do we decide on factors to assess values, beliefs and assumptions? And assuming we can identify dimensions of meaningful insights, how does it relate to effectiveness, individuals, groups, leaders, stakeholders and customers? Or, to change and adaptation? Good cultural insights need tailoring. But don’t wait for the crisis. Culture creeps silently, for better and for worse, surviving the quarter perhaps, but eventually…
There are so many issues from culture it seems impossible to ignore. Talent management, succession, retention, collaboration, communications, structure, risk, resilience, innovation, strategic planning…and yes, even profit. Leadership matters because of the ability to be attuned to culture, the intangible yet very tangible force behind success as well as ruination. However, culture can now be a little more visible and a little less reliant on someone’s intuition, speculation or the occasional away day. Cultural diagnosis may be somewhat science and somewhat art. But now there’s more science, which can help with the art of leadership!
Virtually all aspects of strategy, organization development and effectiveness take something from cultural insights. We meet leaders every day and see the situations they encounter – organization culture is definitely one of them. At Friisberg & Partners we are very well positioned to support incoming and existing leadership with rigorous methodologies and tools for cultural diagnosis and change.