Our global community includes mastery-level facilitators and coaches across Europe, MENA, Asia, the USA and Mexico backed by a brilliant team of project managers and led by a team of highly experienced business leaders.
Here we find out more about our Managing Director Vik Kumar, who took on the leadership of iOpener Institute following the retirement of Julia Lindsay in January 2020.
How did you get involved with iOpener?
Back in 2005, I was a client of iOpener’s with jet black hair, delivering a training program to upcoming managers in a utility. iOpener came in to deliver a Personal Impact workshop. The aim was to get a bunch of engineers to experiment with their voice and body language and not just rely on data to influence their audience. What I remember is how the facilitator, David Solomon, shared a handful of concepts so that participants could practice and receive immediate feedback. Simple! It made an immediate difference to every single participant. It was the first time I’d witnessed how bridging the ‘knowing-doing gap’ could be done so quickly and easily. I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2015 and (now with greyer hair) I became an iOpener consultant. Since then, I have worked with thousands of leaders; from the top 5 business schools, 30 different client organizations, and in 15 countries across the world, each facing their unique leadership challenge.
And now it’s 2020, a new decade, I’ve taken the lead at iOpener and I’m looking forward to deepening our relationships further with our clients and helping even more leaders deal with the issues they are facing.
What makes iOpener different?
The 2 differences I typically hear from our clients is that our consultants get under the skin of what the participant really needs. From there, we deliver simple and practical learning based on solid research. One client told me that she chooses us because each consultant has their own backstory and real expertise in their topic. We have ex-journalists, lawyers, mediators, psychologists, actors and even an opera singer. What ties all of the iOpener team together is a real willingness to develop and serve their participants, so they feel safe in sharing their challenges and experimenting with new behaviors.
For me personally, I enjoy the research driven approach. My first example of this was when the Founder Jessica Pryce-Jones explained Happiness at Work, over 10 years ago. I looked rather puzzled at first, getting leaders I was working with to think of the emotions of their team was difficult enough, and here she was talking about happiness. But digging deeper, what Jess shared made sense, was valid and could be applied easily. 10 years later, we now have a strong dataset of what makes folk happy at work from over 30 countries.
What do you find are the biggest challenges facing leaders?
After 10 seconds scrolling through LinkedIn, you can already see the big stuff that leaders are having to face. They’re dealing with a mix of VUCA issues; for example, the fast pace of political change, how AI and automation is changing the shape of work and then the climate crisis. As well as having to guide their people through continuous change.
Then there are those ‘internal’ challenges; understanding their natural leadership style and whether this really works for them, their team and their business. Over the past 10 years we’ve talked about being authentic. However, this has to be matched with really working out what’s going on around them. Who follows them? Who doesn’t? Which changes are emerging and how will they respond? By the time they answer these questions, their plan probably needs to change again.
Whilst dealing with this big stuff and what’s happening inside, I still hear leaders asking some very common questions. How can I make my presentations to the board less boring? How can I have that difficult conversation with a colleague who is also a friend? I haven’t got the backing of my team … what do I do?
How do you see iOpener developing in the next couple of years?
Being able to quickly turn the insights we pick up every day in our workshops and create even better ideas and solutions to help leaders with their challenges. In 2019, we worked with over 7,500 leaders. What we need to do even more of is to gather the insights and make our solutions even more relevant. It would be cool if I still keep some of my grey hair too.