My name is Omar L. Harris and I’m the author of 3 books (including my latest release – Leader Board: The DNA of High Performance Teams), an enterprise leader at Allergan PLC, and a Gallup certified Strengths coach. I wrote Leader Board in response to the global employee engagement epidemic that I have witnessed first hand during stents working in corporations and start-ups in the US, Latin America, the Middle-East, and Asia. Being a strengths coach, I am aligned with Gallup’s fight against archaic management practices that focus more on improving individual weaknesses versus maximizing the natural areas of talent that each individual possesses. In my daily work, I have seen the power positive psychology and servant leadership can have on revolutionizing the role of managers and the significant response in productivity, enthusiasm, and engagement from employees.
What exactly does your company do?
I work for Allergan PLC a bold, global pharmaceutical company with operations in over 100 countries worldwide. Allergan markets a portfolio of leading brands and best-in-class products primarily focused on four key therapeutic areas including medical aesthetics, eye care, central nervous system, and gastroenterology. As part of its approach to delivering innovation for better patient care, Allergan has built one of the broadest pharmaceutical and device research and development pipelines in the industry. I work as a country manager leading our Brazilian operation with over 300 colleagues in a variety of functions.
I’ve been leading teams around the world for nearly 15 years. I started writing Leader Board because I have seen and personally experienced the impacts managers at all levels of an enterprise have on employee engagement. I made it a personal mission to not only deeply understand the work of management scientists and leadership thought leaders like Patrick Lencioni, John C. Maxwell, Tom Rath, Simon SInek, and Stephen R. Covey, but to also develop practical approaches to implementing their advice in the real world. The Team Performance Acceleration Principles (TPAPs) discussed in Leader Board along with the ready-made suite of resources in the book are the result of my mission to demonstrate that positive psychology and servant leadership principles are the wave of the future in management and leadership.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Most people have only experienced power-oriented, hierarchical leaders who focus on developing the weak points of the organizations and employees. This mindset is so ingrained into people that when a leader speaks of supporting employees’ growth and development by investing in helping them discover and apply their strengths at work, the pushback initially is quite intense because this may be a slower build to organizational success. Most managers were promoted from being great individual contributors who were chosen to lead others based on a role competency versus the ability to bring out the best in others. Shifting the brain-ware of managers is the biggest challenge facing organization leaders today.
To do this, I’ve had to act on three C’s (Capability, Confidence, and Consistency). The capability level of managers to support and develop their employees was the first point of assessment and area we improved. Then we focused on building manager confidence by providing them with ready-made tools and templates that allow them to easily apply positive psychology and servant leadership principles in their day today. Lastly, we remained consistent to the principles by leveraging them in terms of reassignments, recognition, incentives, and promotions so that people understood what we valued as an organization.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
Personal development is as important as the delivery of results to achieving long-term sustainable career success.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
Everyone I listed in the acknowledgments section of Leader Board has had a huge influence on me. Of course, I start with my parents who instilled the right values in me. Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to work for a team that transformed my perception of what was possible when a group of individuals sacrifices personal glory for group success. This team was led by Sean McNicholas, Ray Russo, and Mike McCann. And then there are the luminaries and thought leaders in the management science, positive psychology, leadership, and employee productivity arenas who I have followed and learned from along my career journey – Donald O. Clifton, Stephen R. Covey, John C. Maxwell, Jim Collins, Tom Rath, Simon Sinek, and Patrick Lencioni. I admire them for their passion, research, clear models, and insights that really work in the corporate world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I wrote an article not too long ago about the 5 types of coaches I have had who made me believe I could achieve even my most outlandish of goals. But I’m most grateful to Mike McCann for sparking my hunger to be a different type of leader. He was the first leader who loaned me Good to Great and encouraged me to learn how to influence without direct line authority.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
I would say the fact that I have continued to progress through my career without having to sacrifice my people-orientation would be my greatest success as well as the many people who have I have managed who have gone on to have significant success by implementing these principles as well!
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