Brandon Hall Group Sits Down with HCM Excellence 18 Keynote Roberta Matuson

We sat down with Roberta Matuson, The Talent Maximizer®, to discuss some of the ideas she is bringing to her keynote during our HCM Excellence Conference. Matuson, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, will join our CEO Mike Cooke, for an interview and audience Q&A as part of Thursday’s Opening General Session, Inspiring a Better Workplace Experience. The conference will be held January 31 – February 2 at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Visit for more information.


BHG: You’re known globally as The Talent Maximizer®, how do you help get the most out of talent?

RM: In my role as executive advisor, I work directly with the CEO and the senior leadership team to create workplaces where employees love to work and customers love to do business. Our focus is often around creating the type of culture that attracts top talent and inspires them to do their best. I call this a magnetic culture, because when you get to this place, you are in the envious position of effortlessly pulling talent towards you and having employees stick around because they want to—not because they have to.

BHG: How do you create a magnetic culture? 

RM: If I gave you the secret formula, you wouldn’t have to read my books! However, I will provide you with some insight to help you get started.

First, the senior leadership team has to commit to making this a priority. I’m not just talking lip service here. Employees will see right through a leader who says one thing and does another, which will have the opposite effect. You’ll begin to repel talent.

Next, you need to understand what employees really value and what they’re looking for from their employers. I believe there is a ton of work that needs to be done in this area as employers keep throwing perks at their people and yet they are still unable to move the needle on employee engagement. That’s because their focusing on the wrong things.

All the free beer in the world cannot make an employee delusional enough to stay with a boss or a company that has bad leadership. Sure, who doesn’t love free food or some of those crazy perks, like fully paid sabbaticals to incredible places one can only dream of visiting. But at some point, we all have to come back to reality.

In order to create a magnetic culture, you have to have strong leadership. You need a team of magnetic leaders, who put their people’s needs before their own needs. Magnetic leaders are resilient, transparent and have charisma. Who wouldn’t want to work for someone like this? The good news is that magnetic leadership can be taught!

BHG: This time of year, with the holidays there are a lot of opportunities to show your appreciation for your employees but how do you thank your employees all year long?

RM: Your question is quite timely as yesterday, I completed the scripts for my next LinkedIn Learning course, which is on Employee Engagement for Managers. Here are some things managers can do to thank their employees all year long.

First, give the gift of time. Managers are so darn busy these days, that it seems like the only way to get their attention is to offer to buy them a coffee at Starbucks. The waiting time in line is priceless, as it almost guarantees you’ll have five to eight minutes of uninterrupted time with your boss.

What if instead, you carved out time on your weekly calendar to have meaningful conversations with team members regarding their performance and to keep them updated on what’s going on in the business?

Another way to thank your employees all year long is to show interest in their career aspirations. Ask team members what they’d like to be doing next and help them figure out what skills they’ll need to make this transition.

And let’s not forget the power of thanking someone for a job well done! This may be an old-fashioned concept, but it still works to keep in terms of motivating people to do their best.

BHG: What can organizations do to help their first-time managers?

RM: Let’s first talk about what you don’t want to do. Don’t promote someone into management who doesn’t want to be a manager. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve coached over the years who told me they never wanted to be a manager. Yet here we are. I see a noticeable difference in the performance of leaders who are in management because they want to be versus those who got thrown in there and thought they couldn’t say no.

With that in mind, be very careful who you let into management. By that I mean, make sure these people have the traits needed to be a successful leader in your organization. Assuming they do, then you’ll want to provide them with support. That support can come in the form of assigning them a mentor or a coach.

In my Suddenly in Charge® group coaching program, I work with newly minted leaders to help them successfully transition into magnetic leaders. Group coaching is especially great for new leaders, as they quickly see there are others who are facing similar challenges. They all rise together!

BHG: How do you manage up in a top down world of business?

RM: Half of my book, Suddenly in Charge is all about how to manage up in the top down world of business. One of the key points I make is that if you don’t manage up, you won’t have to worry about managing down, as there’s a good chance you’ll be taken out by a wave you never saw coming.

Managing up is about managing your boss and those above you, so you can get the resources you need for your people to be successful. And when they are successful, you look great! It’s also about managing these relationships, so that you can effectively navigate the political landscape that is common in every organization.

To do so, you’ll need to decode your boss, as no two bosses are alike. You’ll then be able to adapt to his or her style of leadership.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.