We help leaders and leadership teams get to the heart of their toughest challenges.
Roger Schwarz, President and CEO
My favorite bumper sticker reads “Don’t believe everything you think.” Over more than 30 years of consulting, I’ve worked with talented, motivated, and experienced leaders and teams who faced challenges creating the results they needed. In each case, people were thinking in ways that hindered their effectiveness, but they didn’t see it. As they changed their mindset, they started to achieve the results they sought – in better performance, working relationships, and their own well-being. That is why I do this work.more
My mission is to help create teams and organizations that are innovative, successful, and that honor the best of who we are as human beings. This means enabling people to change their mindset so they can raise and resolve the issues that really matter but are challenging to address.
That’s why I started Roger Schwarz & Associates. Since 1996, we’ve worked with global organizations in complex industries, such as Moog, which makes motion-control systems for aerospace and industrial applications, and Trans-Canada, which develops energy infrastructure such as pipelines throughout North America. We’ve also worked with government agencies, municipalities and a variety of other business with difficult problems that teams and interdependent groups needed to solve.
The more complex the organization and the task, the more it’s essential that the people charged with solving the problems and growing the business have the skills – and, more importantly, the mindset – to work together effectively.
As an organizational psychologist, my focus – and the focus of RSA as a firm – is helping leaders and teams use best-practices for how teams can work together so they can take full advantage of their knowledge, skills and talents. I’m the author of “The Skilled Facilitator,” a best-selling book widely used in organization development graduate programs. I earned my PhD in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan. Prior to founding RSA, I held a tenured position as associate professor of public management and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I was in my early twenties when mutual learning became the focus of my work. While pursuing my doctorate, I took a leave from Michigan to study with Chris Argyris at Harvard and, while I was at it, earn a master’s degree in education. In one assignment, I wrote a case about a consulting engagement with a hi-tech firm in which I was working with the CEO and COO. I presented it to Chris and the class. Over three hours, Chris helped me see how, as a consultant, I was manipulating my clients but was not aware of what I was doing. I realized that I was not saying what I was really thinking. I was trying to control my client instead of learning with them. I left the class feeling overwhelmed by my ineffectiveness and how unaware I had been of it. This moment caused me to challenge myself to help people get to the real issues. I chose to start with myself. This experience proved to be the genesis of the work that I do with clients.
I strive to use the approach in all my relationships, whether with my clients, my coworkers, my wife and two children, my parents and sisters, friends, and others I interact with. It’s how I want to be in the world.
Anne Davidson, Executive Vice President
I have helped individuals and organizations change for over thirty years. I have watched one initiative after another achieve short term gains only to fail in the long run. My experience has taught me a fundamental truth: we all co-create the difficulties we complain about at work, at home and in our communities. The only real and lasting changes that organizations can make come when the individuals who are a part of them learn to examine and shift their values and assumptions.more
When people strive to be more transparent, curious, accountable and compassionate, dramatic improvements happen relatively quickly and gains are sustained over time. Problems stay solved, people bring more of their innate creativity to their tasks, and results improve. The legacy I want to leave is for others to experience this kind of lasting change and pass on the ability to create it.
I have worked as an organizational development consultant for RSA with clients that include Duke Clinical Research Institute, SAS, Scottsdale Insurance, Kellogg Foundation and the Town of Chapel Hill. Before joining RSA, I was an Instructor of Public Management and Government at UNC-Chapel Hill and an organizational development director for a mid-sized city government. I hold an MBA from Western Carolina University and Masters in Library Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Years ago I worked with a management team including a CEO and his department heads who had great difficulty sorting out data and making effective decisions. After committing to Mutual Learning values and skills, one member who seldom spoke and never challenged the CEO publically called into question an assumption the CEO was making. Verifying the data resulted in saving the organization $350,000. Seeing the pride, amazement and clarity on the faces of the team members solidified my own commitment to the journey of embodying transparency, curiosity, informed choice, accountability and compassion.
In addition to my OD work, I am a certified coach and a yoga instructor. I enjoy hiking, travelling to places where I can do exotic birding and am a published fiber artist.
Mike Mitchell, Operational Services Director
I manage many of the internal operations at Roger Schwarz & Associates including HR, IT and accounting. One of the job requirements was that I would learn the Mutual Learning approach and use it in my daily work life. I am glad that I chose to do so.more
As far back as college, I have owned or partnered in various companies. In my last venture as a business operations and financial consultant, my focus was working with business owners, organization leaders, and their managers to identify ways to improve financial productivity and the bottom line. In that role I spent a fair amount of time trying to identify what the stakeholders’ intentions and motives were in order to craft new policies and procedures. Often, it seemed like it was inappropriate to ask these people direct questions – my intuition was that there were hidden agendas that needed to remain unspoken. It felt like a high wire act. Having been exposed to the Mutual Learning approach, I now reflect back on the working relationships I had with some laughter and regret due to the “cloak and dagger” manner in which decisions were made. As I make the Mutual Learning approach a natural mode of how I think and operate, I see that there is a better way to work. Joining RSA has been an eye-opening experience. I get a sense of happiness and achievement when I am able to work with others to avoid or resolve a sticky situation and generate a positive outcome. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife, our two kids and watching movies with friends at our outdoor theater.
Peg Carlson, Executive Consultant
Whether I’m coaching a chief executive officer or talking to an assembly-and-test worker on the factory floor, the challenge is often the same: How is it that everyone has a sense of what the core problems are in an organization, but these problems aren’t being openly discussed in a forum where people can learn from each other and collectively take action to improve results?more
RSA’s approach is the most powerful way I know to help people see how they may be unintentionally contributing to the very issues that frustrate them. Our approach gives them the mindset and tools to get better results and increase their satisfaction in both their work and personal lives.
I’m an organizational psychologist. I received my PhD from the University of Michigan and was later tenured faculty at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2001, I’ve focused on organization development work for clients such as Moog, Inc., the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Duke University Press.
A number of years ago, I had an “aha moment” that showed me the importance of the work we do. I was working as a coach in 360-feedback sessions with managers. Most participants took the feedback from their peers and direct reports very seriously. But they struggled to understand it, because the responses were presented in aggregate: the manager didn’t know who said what and what was behind the comments. So the learning from this feedback was limited.
The assumption underlying the 360-feedbackprocess – that individuals would only give honest feedback to their peers and bosses if they could remain anonymous – raised troubling issues for me. Are we “helping” by encouraging people to share their concerns via confidential interviews and employee surveys, or are we actually contributing to the root problem? At RSA, we work to address these issues head-on, so people can openly discuss organizational challenges in a forum where they can be acted on.
I enjoy hiking, biking, and traveling with my family, as well as volunteering in our congregation and my children’s schools.
Annie Caulkins, Senior Consultant
I’ve been on the path of helping people collaborate and work effectively together for many years—first as a teacher and later as an OD and leadership development consultant. But it wasn’t until I met Roger Schwarz, learned the Mutual Learning approach, and began working with leaders and their teams to be more transparent, curious, accountable and compassionate, that I began to see dramatic improvements in their ability to openly work through tough issues and problems.more
Over the years, I have been inspired by client’s stories about the successes they have achieved as a result of practicing Mutual Learning. I’ve heard comments such as, “I never would have had that conversation with my peers before learning this approach,” and “We are moving forward on initiatives that would have stalled for months because we are now able to meet people’s interests.” One client, who was so encouraged by the results on his sales team, used the Mutual Learning approach to help his neighbors resolve a long-standing dispute and move forward on a collaborative project.
As a consultant for RSA, I have worked with leaders in a number of organizations including, Boeing, Moog, TransCanada, and Duke Clinical Research. Prior to joining RSA, I was a Leadership Development Consultant at SAS, a large software company in Cary, NC. I hold a master’s degree in organization and interpersonal communication from UNC-Chapel Hill, and I am a certified coach.
I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening, sailing, and traveling to beautiful places around the globe. In addition, I enjoy my current roll as board president of our local mediation center where I also volunteer as a public disputes facilitator.
Carrie Hays, Senior Consultant
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! That’s how I describe my path to Roger Schwarz and Associates. In a “previous life” my aspiration was to become a chef. My first real job post-cooking school was as a chef for a large hotel. In that role, I learned two things: I wasn’t a great cook and the real challenge of preparing food at the scale found in hotels was managing a team. Realizing that management intrigued me more than cooking, I switched paths into the field of Organizational Development.more
One of the most important aspects of my OD education -in addition to my Master’s degree – was studying the Mutual Learning approach with Roger Schwarz. When I completed the foundational workshop, I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: I realized the world wasn’t so black and white and that the way I saw the world didn’t provide a complete picture. There were many possibilities and everyone has different—and legitimate—needs. By studying the Mutual Learning approach, I became regretfully aware of the mistakes I had made as a manager and came to see how I contributed to the very problems which I attributed to others. I wish that I had known about the Mutual Learning approach when I was running a kitchen! But as my fluency with the Mutual Learning approach grew, my regret was replaced by excitement about a way of being and working that has made me a much more effective leader and consultant – and, I think, a better person. Over time, I’ve come to see the extraordinary results that the Mutual Learning approach produces in the lives of clients. Here’s a brief example: One client, having learned the Mutual Learning approach, worked with his family attorney and produced copies of emails in a court of law that illustrated his ability to work together with family members productively and compassionately to make difficult custody decisions. I’ve worked with clients around the world, providing leadership development, group effectiveness and organizational change consulting for such organizations as Marriott International, the County of Napa, California, and the San Francisco Travel Association (formerly San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau). Living in Napa Valley allows me to enjoy great food and wine, to ride my bike among the vineyards and swim with a Masters swimming group. I’m still not a really great cook, but that’s another story….
Kristen Kolakowski, Consultant
My clients have taught me that compassion towards self and others is a key to organizational transformation. They have become much more curious and assertive when they are genuinely compassionate. We aren’t normally both open and persistent, and a truly compassionate mindset makes this powerful combination possible. I have watched this approach help people find solutions to their problems that would otherwise remain buried or unknown.more
For the past 20 years I have helped organizations and individuals make significant change as an executive, a therapist, a professor, a coach and a consultant. Each year brings new stories of unleashed potential. For example,
- the engineer who discovered that her own thinking about her colleagues was dramatically limiting her own leadership potential. She had made unfounded negative assumptions about her colleagues’ competence, which led her not to trust them. Many people on her team wouldn’t follow her lead because they felt disrespected and shut down. She shared this with her team, and asked them for feedback.
- a manager and his team who finally gained the confidence and tools to have a long overdue, challenging but productive conversation. For years, the manager continually rescued an employee who wasn’t seen as a team player, and no one spoke of it. The manager stopped “smoothing over” this employee’s problems with others, and they openly discussed the issue for the first time, each identifying their concerns and how they contributed to the situation.
Complimenting my work in organizational change, I received my MSW from Boston College in 2001, and I am a certified coach. I have completed two coaching programs, one of these a certification with Martha Beck, Inc. I enjoy spending time with my husband, friends and family, and I am a spinning junkie. I love traveling around the world, photography, breaking into song anywhere I can, cooking good food and tasting quality chocolate.
Sue McKinney, Senior Consultant
The Mutual Learning approach has taken a lot of the drama out of my life and the lives of my clients. By using the principles of Mutual Learning, my clients have achieved more serenity, stability and measured calmness that have led to increased productivity and greater results – and more enjoyment of work and life.more
In my work I encounter people who are consistently frustrated with others. My clients tell me, “You just don’t know David!” Or, “Sally is a special case, and she just cannot be reasoned with!” I used to feel this way, too. I had a lot of stress and frustration because of the behavior of others. I saw the problems as outside of myself. The Mutual Learning approach has helped me to shift that perspective and taught me what I can do to improve the situation. The power and magnificence of the Mutual Learning approach is that I’ve learned how to be genuinely curious about other people’s perspectives and motivations. I stay calm and get much closer to understanding the full picture. In so doing, I find out that many “problems” aren’t so difficult to solve. With Mutual Learning, I have also become skillful in giving honest feedback. I went from being called a “perfectionist” and a “difficult person to work for” to being told by an employee that “You give some of the toughest feedback around, but I never feel judged. I enjoy working for you.” I became comfortable leading others because I learned how to offer clear instructions, provide ongoing feedback, and solicit input about the impact of my behavior on my employees. I feel privileged to have shared the Mutual Learning approach with hundreds of clients ranging from small NGOs to large corporate clients including Moog, TransCanada, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute. I have a Masters in Social Work with a focus on organizational development. I am a dog psychologist and trainer and love to garden, quilt, sing, or do just about anything that involves creativity and free thinking.
Dale Schwarz, Consultant
I have provided coaching, OD and management consulting for small and mid-sized businesses, and for corporate organizations and academic institutions for over thirty-five years.
When coaching leaders in the Mutual Learning approach, one of the biggest stumbling blocks I see is lack of compassion towards others and oneself. Compassion is one of the five values of the Mutual Learning approach. Although some leaders might initially see compassion as merely a “soft skill,” it plays a critical role in creating organizational results – a role that is just as important as the other values of transparency, curiosity, accountability and informed choice. I’ve seen that there’s often a turning point in an organization’s effectiveness when leaders come to value the power of compassion.
For example, I worked with a highly competent leader who was unduly hard on himself and, by his own account, at times unnecessarily critical of others. When he learned to be more compassionate by acknowledging and celebrating his own accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments of others in his organization, the results were an increase in overall morale, accountability and more capacity for taking on challenging projects. By focusing on increasing his capacity for compassion, he reaped very practical rewards and became a more effective leader: he delegated more confidently and had renewed vigor for his work.
In addition to my leadership and personal coaching work with clients, I co-authored “Facilitative Coaching” with Anne Davidson.
I’m a licensed psychotherapist, registered art therapist and multimedia artist. I enjoy nature’s beauty through plein air watercolor painting with my husband and friends.
Gail Young, Consultant
My passion is working with organizations to help them develop a shared vision, forge productive relationships and achieve the results they desire.more
The mindset, principles and skills of the Mutual Learning approach enable an organization to create a culture where everyone is engaged and employees see themselves as partners rather than simply workers or even, in the worst of cases, adversaries.
Even during difficult and stressful change like a downsizing, when the principles of transparency, curiosity, accountability, informed choice and compassion remain the values of the organization, employees stay engaged as opposed to spiraling out of control into gossip, fear and lack of productivity.
I’ve experienced these benefits first hand: an organization I work with faced funding cuts and a work-force reduction. The leadership kept employees fully informed and jointly designed with them the policy about how the work force would be reduced and how the policy would be implemented. This collaborative approach produced ideas from employees that resulted in increased revenue, thereby reducing the number of necessary cuts.
I successfully use the Mutual Leaning values and skills to help local governments, for-profit clients and non-profit organizations to clarify their visions, develop strategic plans and improve results. I also apply my skills as the fundraising coordinator of a local non-profit. My hobbies include theater, travel and designing lampwork beads.
I have a Masters Degree in Higher Education, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and am a certified SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Society of Human Resource Management).