BTS Develops Leaders with Mix of People-Centricity and Business Reality

BTS has wide expertise across many areas of business consulting, from leader readiness and development to strategy execution and business transformation, talent acquisition and succession, to go-to-market training, transformation and more.

Headed by Jessica Parisi, President and CEO of BTS USA, BTS works to challenge the common misconception that leaders’ expertise in one area cannot carry over to another. We’ve covered BTS’s leadership practice for several years now and have always been impressed by the thoroughness with which they prepare their products to go to market.

After the death of George Floyd, BTS — like most providers — increased its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and its impact on leadership. However, unlike most providers, Parisi insisted that her team learn from experts and work on their internal culture before bringing new DE&I services to market. BTS North America named Lacee Jacobs as head of DE&I in March. It also formed partnerships with organizations such as  Beloved CommunityThe Oneness LabRooftop Storytelling and others to gain perspective from experts with firsthand experience.

“We would not go to market with this until we did our own internal work,” Parisi said. “By October, we started going to market at request. Now, after a year of work, we have done enough internally that we feel good about offering advice to others. We are proud of what we have done for ourselves.”

This human-centered approach, balanced with deep expertise advising Fortune 500 clients in the most disruptive business environment in generations, defines BTS as a leadership-development provider. BTS is focused on striking the balance between delivering shareholder value and putting people first. 

Especially at the most senior levels, BTS helps organizations evaluate leader readiness by allowing succession candidates to practice what they will actually do in their next job through customized, business-focused simulations. For example, one BTS client was reviewing successors for multiple C-Suite positions. BTS put the top three candidates for each position into simulations for running the company in the future and gathered a group of assessors to observe. This experience delivered both data and insights, which allowed the client to make a more informed decision about their succession planning.

In this high-level domain, understanding how leaders handle disruptive business situations is critical. However, this doesn’t mean that evaluations are only about dollars and cents. Adapting to VUCA conditions also means solving problems through people, and how top leaders approach these challenges is critical for both engagement and talent retention in addition to the bottom line. BTS’s assessments artfully meld the two, delivering results that allow businesses to effectively evaluate their bench strength for both people leadership and critical business skills.

Assessing how leaders will act in potential roles is critical for helping them succeed. Brandon Hall Group has long advocated for the development of leaders based on potential. Most organizations, however, are inhibited by an outsized emphasis on performance, which is often a poor predictor of future success. 

More than 80% of respondents to our most recent leadership development research efforts mentioned that leadership development should focus more on practical skills needed for current and future roles and provide more help transitioning leaders to new roles. This means that although many leaders go through training, they believe they can neither apply what they learned nor receive post-training support while adjusting to new or different roles.

BTS addresses these issues directly with a research-based approach that focuses on personalization, continuous learning and the science behind mindsets. 

BTS drills down to “moments” that are most critical for leader roles at various levels. It also focused on critical mindset shifts that will drive leaders’ behavior change.

For example, to support leaders as they develop talent, BTS assessments address specific moments such as:

  • A star performer wanting to leave
  • An overextended team member who needs help
  • Giving and receiving feedback

BTS believes that putting people first includes straightforward and honest communication. This means being realistic about the business challenges organizations continue to face because of COVID while accepting that some opportunities can only be realized if everyone works together. For BTS, honesty means defining reality while providing hope, and inspiring leaders to drive trust and cultivate a sense of belonging.

-Claude Werder, Senior VP and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group 

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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.

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