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Three questions for our new managing partner

Kenning partners, September 2019; Cathy, second from left. (Photo credit: Melissa Musgrove)

This spring, Kenning underwent a leadership transition. After many years of inspiring service as our managing partner, Daryl Ogden has opted to pass the torch. Longtime partner Cathy Boeckmann has accepted her unanimous nomination to the role, and we’re delighted to announce her as our new managing partner.

Cathy first joined Kenning as a partner in 2011. So, given it’s her 10th anniversary with the firm, and she is now taking on a new leadership role, the time seems right for reflection. We recently asked Cathy three questions about her work at Kenning and her view on the managing partner role. Here’s what we learned.

How did your professional journey lead you to Kenning and how do you reflect on your time with the organization?

Kenning is my third act as a professional, and there’s an arc to the way my career has developed. I started out as an academic, teaching literature and writing at the college level. Teaching writing remains the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do, and it felt important and valuable to help students get better at expressing their thinking. But the other parts of being an academic weren’t as satisfying to me, so I started wondering what else might be out there.

That brought me to the world of business. I took a job at McKinsey & Company and stayed there, in various roles, for about ten years. I got interested in what I guess you would call “business communication”: the challenge of sharing messages and complex information in a way that will lead to productive conversations and better collaboration. I saw that challenge play out for leaders, and I also saw the challenges at the level of the organization. All in all, I developed a healthy appreciation for how important it is to reflect on how you show up and communicate as a leader, and how crucial communication is to organizational culture.

Kenning was a logical step from there. I’ve been able to combine the most satisfying parts of the previous two chapters of my career. On a good day, I help people clarify and share their thinking, for the express reason of being a better leader and building a better organization.

Arcs are easier to see in hindsight, of course, so none of this felt purposeful when I was going through it. But it’s nice to look back and see the coherence.

What perspective do you bring to the managing partner role? How does it fit in with your views on leadership?

In my experience, leadership in a partnership has a slightly different nuance. People with the title “partner” after their name tend to be pretty self-directed and have strong expectations of autonomy. But at the same time, for a partnership, the whole should be more than the sum of its parts. The leader’s role is to actively look for ways to boost that sum.

I’ve always admired leaders who identify themes and priorities, make an inspiring case for why they matter, and then trust others to interpret the themes in their own work in their own way. Leading this way requires being willing to allow talented people to make their own choices, even if it isn’t how you would have done it. Best of all, this style of leadership guarantees that you will learn something and evolve your own thinking along the way. I anticipate learning a lot in the years to come!

Where would you like to see Kenning go under your leadership?

I’m inheriting from Daryl a firm that is probably in better shape than it’s ever been in terms of external impact and internal processes. The partnership has been extremely fortunate to navigate the pandemic successfully, and client service levels have remained high.

Looking ahead, we want to grow thoughtfully, and we know we have opportunities to get better. First, like many organizations, we need to continue to grapple with diversity. We realize diversity doesn’t just happen, and we have work to do to ensure that we are hearing more voices, inviting more people in, and benefiting from a full spectrum of experiences and perspectives. Second, I’d like us to have a stronger sense of what makes us special and new ways to tell that story. We’ve already started examining and rethinking our brand and how we show up with our clients, with a new look and feel due out later this year. Finally, I’d like us to modernize a bit, behind the scenes, in a way that could help us be better partners to our clients. We want to be sure we’re doing everything we can to make it easy for everyone to collaborate and do business with us.

 

Learn more about Cathy and/or contact her here.