How one CEO went from ‘good ol’ boy’ to respected leader

How pros use behavioral science to change executive communication styles.

The problem: At a time when the company’s work force was becoming more diverse—and serving an increasingly diverse customer base—people complained that the CEO, “Ed”, was a “good ol’ boy” who was chummy with his white male friends and dismissive of women and people of color who reported directly to him.

“When the board approached him about this, he was angry and felt the accusations were unjustified,” says Braksick, a behavioral scientist and co-founder of The Continuous Learning Group (

Braksick sat in on Ed’s next meeting to observe a round table update by his team members.

“His body language, speaking style and overall communication with the white males on the team were exemplary—encouraging, empathetic, constructive and supportive,” she says. “But when the female team member and the African-American male spoke, Ed couldn’t have been more different. He stared at the ceiling, put down his pen and interrupted.”

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