Mike Felmlee

A Life’s Work—Learning from Mike Felmlee

by Mike

Mike Felmlee and I have had the opportunity to work (and play) together since 1980, as “young pups” at PwC, both in Minneapolis and New York City.

As some of you have heard, Mike is beginning his retirement process, with the goal of transitioning his client relationships over the next three to five years.

Mike turns 65 on August 1, so we thought it would be fun to look back on 42 years of friendship and workship.

Enjoy the excerpts. I know Mike’s comments will bring a smile to your face.

  1. What have you most enjoyed about working with clients over the past 20 years?
    • The relationships and connections we’ve built over the years. I’ve met some of the finest individuals in my life over the past two decades. Many have become mentors of mine. Plus, the intellectual stimulation really drives me.
    • I’ve come to learn that being a CEO can be very lonely at times. They need people like us to act as sounding boards to help advise them because of the pressure placed on them to deliver results quickly, and their tenure is generally short.
  2. Any recommendations or food for thought for management teams as they head into the post-pandemic era?
    • Speed matters. With technology advancements today, strategic advantages don’t last very long. ln some situations, they last about a day and a half.
    • Innovation is no longer a nice to have. Constant innovation has now become table stakes.
  3. Any recommendations or food for thought for boards as they head into the next decade?
    • Protect the organization from cyberattacks. They’re not going away.
    • It’s a people game, the organizations with the best people are going to win. Invest in people.

    • NIFO (noses in and fingers out).
  4. What is the biggest laugh or joy you had when working with a client?
    • Best client ever… said to us twenty years ago that they didn’t know if we can help them but wanted to come and talk to us to see if we could. Today, their organization is 25x+ and still growing strong. I have had more fun and experienced more joy in watching this talented management team do what they never dreamed they
      could do.
  5. What is the biggest challenge you had working with a client?
    • I share with prospective clients that what we do doesn’t work all the time. I’ve noticed that it tends not to work well when we find ourselves more committed to their futures than some of the leadership team members seated around the table.
  6. Any advice for up-and-coming leaders in the corporate world?
    • Everyone is great at the first 80% of a project. If you want to be unique, successful, exceptional… be a strong finisher.
    • Invite dissent.
    • Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn to speak last.
    • Be mindful of the unseen burdens your people may be carrying. Give each other more grace.
  7. What’s the most memorable quote from a client CEO over the past 20 years?
    • We at the Prouty Project are always quoting great leaders. My favorite “recent” idea or quote is from Jack Uldrich, futurist and author of Business as Unusual: “Today is the slowest rate of change we will ever experience.” In light of the past couple of years, this statement is incredibly daunting.
  8. Any closing words of wisdom for the leaders among our readers?
    • The round table in our Creative Think Tank is a great metaphor for the work we do. Its round structure provides unfettered dialogue without hierarchy. Its worn edges reflect the passion of leaning into new and different ideas. Its age reflects the seasoned judgement we’ve observed clients use to make decisions that changed the direction of their companies. It’s humbling to have been asked to be at this table, as I’ve had the opportunity to see people do the impossible. So, keep dreaming big!!!


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