Mission Statement
Business Leadership & Strategic Performance Training/Enhancement
"Our objective is to assist individuals, companies and organizations reach optimal performance using innate skills and strengths within the larger framework of circumstance, workplace and community. Relevant and stimulating programs are customized to client requirement".
-Rodger Harding

Harding International and Associates Inc.
Telephone: +1 (416) 962 6700
30 Roden Place
Toronto, M5R 1P5
Ontario, Canada
Client Comment
Selected Comments
"This seminar far exceeded expectation - Rodger is poised, articulate, respectful- He was dead on with his presentation and I would recommend him without hesitation." - S.M. Canadian Women in Communications (CWC)
"Your participation in our International/Asia Pacific FS Conference helped make it one of the best and more relaxed conferences we've ever had. Very effective facilitation! Thank you." - Paul Masse, Manager, Bombardier Aerospace
" I want to congratulate you on a job well done. A room full of lawyers is not the easiest audience to appear before, yet you ruled the room. You have that unique ability (gift?) to teach ideas without it being hard work. I found your personal style very relaxing yet challenging". - David Clarke, Chair, YLD Division, The Canadian Bar Association of Ontario
Corporate Intelligence

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"In this compelling book by a former diplomat, you will learn the secrets (step by step) to developing an intelligence strategy by effective information gathering and analyzing, and then to delivering credible intelligence to senior management."|more...

Available from bookstores and online:
Leadership Training
The Essence of Business Leadership Training -
Be the leader you are meant to be!

Toronto based Rodger Harding, applying leadership savvy learned from military, legal, diplomatic & business consulting experience has a proven record of enabling full leadership potential in scores of business folk. His clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, national not-for-profit organizations & learning institutions.

The Harding Leadership training program raises awareness, validates and empowers the true essence of leadership. We enhance your ability to identify, strengthen and take full advantage of core leadership competencies, instilling legitimate confidence rather than reinforcing a preoccupation with outward presence. | more...
Training Program Design and Development
All Harding International and Associates Inc. programs are designed to:
  • Access existing innate and learned competencies/experience.
  • Enhance individual/team ability to meet current organizational requirement.
  • Accommodate changing environment and circumstance.
Our customized programs are built from scratch and will accurately reflect the unique context of corporate operations and identity. Training products that utilize the Harding Model are limited to one company per industry. This commitment ensures that training initiatives will result in strategic and competitive advantage - We encourage clients to safeguard our techniques and methodology as part of their intellectual property.| more...


Let the Madness in...!

by Administrator 25.Sep.2015 10:42:00

"A man needs a little madness, or else... he never dares cut the rope and be free." ― Nikos Kazantzakis

Every day most of us file silently up/down escalators, out of elevators, and into our corporate cubicle or work station. The ever softer tippa tappa of keyboards, muted/appropriate conversations (more often than not conducted with ear/head-sets), and phones on vibrate etc., leave any jarring sound or event totally exposed!

Add to the mix the reams of workplace etiquette and must not lists… the organizational dos/don'ts, so broadly defined, that if anyone finds any given behavior offensive then it is…!

Normal human stuff, that elsewhere might raise a laugh, like dropping the odd F-bomb, subjects such as flatulence/bowel movements, or even relating mildly off-color jokes etc., will ensure the attention of HR, inevitable warnings and probable cause for dismissal!

It has gotten so bad in some circles that direct talk is seen as aggression and confrontation is confused with conflict. People tend to pounce on the most flippant of remarks with such self-righteous alacrity that we do our best to consider each word before we say it.

Safe to say then that such an environment does not lend itself to random foolishness, idiocy or, God forbid, loud laughter!

  • Have we stemmed our innate humor, our appreciation of sarcasm/irony...?
  • Has our attractive youthful exuberance and playful banter been hidden behind layers of de riguer wallpaper?
  • Have we confused deserved respect for others with shallow compliance with sterile rules?

During tedious formal dinners as a young diplomat in Paris, so often stuck for hours at the flowers (juniors always were seated at the center of the table) between two equally reluctant attendees, I learned that giving people permission to be themselves really works.

My trick was to put people at ease by giving people a glimpse of the madness… my silly, foolish, and often idiotic side. In so doing I accessed theirs! Laughter, irreverently inspired or not, is infectious … The seniors often caught the vibe and even the most protocol driven events degenerated from pretentious stiffness, into lively, enjoyable and memorable occasions.

I have tried to never lose sight of the fact that madness (I guess I have to add in moderation) is an integral part of the human psyche… This has served me well over the decades. I ask myself regularly, if I can really be sane if not in touch with my own lunacy? Freedom to be imperfect, spontaneous, exuberant and funny is for me the greatest catalyst in building lasting business relationships.

The impactful closing scene from the movie Zorba the Greek will perhaps illustrate my point - - and will be worth the 6 minute time investment ?


Business Leadership: Is Compassion a relevant attribute?

by Administrator 05.Jan.2015 15:03:00

“Is compassion something the corporate world is interested in?” was the startling question that gave me pause during a recent consultation. The client, with an amazing academic/business pedigree and almost two decades of experience, subjectively felt that the workplace dismissed compassion as unimportant… especially in the leadership context.

We talked it over. My starting point for this sort of idea exchange is always to establish what the bottom line wish list is for any organization. We concluded that in many operational environments anything that interrupts the making of money/profit is often deemed a waste of time… and as we know Time is Money! While probably never overtly admitted, in transactional environments, compassion is indeed considered an attribute that potentially leads to tangential forays and loss of focus. Why go down that road if you don’t have to! What is in it for me?

Our conversation turned to successful organizations that did embrace compassion as an essential leadership/corporate culture ingredient. We concluded that compassion, or the desire/ability to empathize with others, resulted in a workplace that would easily:

  • Identify, accept and address problem issues… importantly human fallibility
  • Accept difference/dissent/debate as normal
  • Allow for timely intervention/fluid planning
  • Foresee and plan for unexpected or probable outcomes
  • Encourage flexible/exploratory mind sets to safely contribute ideas
  • Facilitate creative & effective hiring/professional development/succession planning
  • Evolve a business culture that sustains internal relationships/stakeholder well-being and loyalty
  • Build, in the real sense, a corporate brand and organizational reputation that deserves client/industry respect

A healthy dose of compassion will enable a Leader to:

  • Subjectively recognize who people are as individuals
  • Objectively accommodate their contribution

Simple enforcement of template driven policy and sterile job descriptions, in the context of bottom-line financial consideration is akin to running an engine without lubrication… And will surely result in long term disaster.

Year-End Message from Rodger Harding

by Administrator 27.Nov.2014 14:35:00

Harding International & Associates Inc. 1997-2014

Dear Clients & Friends,

As the Holiday Season draws nearer, I am preparing for my annual recharge period. The office will be closed from 1st – 31st December 2014.

In the 17th year of operation, I am feeling  a sense of achievement at being a fairly long standing part of the business landscape. While change/re-invention and keeping pace with industry change is an exciting part of keeping the business vibrant, staying true to my own vision has been made possible by the support of a core group of clients and friends. They not only provide referrals/recommendations that drive new business, but also the ongoing encouragement, and motivation to continue along this chosen path. 

In addition to the usual leadership and career development engagements, 2014 has seen invitations to participate in several strategy/planning initiatives serving clients in not- for-profit, industrial, and international environments. The varied scope of this work has been stimulating in the extreme.

On a personal level, while my art sales and commissions (again.. a huge than you to those who continue to provide referrals) have been steady this year… Time constraints have limited output somewhat!

I can’t help mentioning my persistent observation this year  that, despite the worrying global issues that beset the current era, there is so much available goodwill evidenced by people the world over.
In this spirit I thought it fitting to offer ourselves a Seasonal/Holiday challenge:

  • Consider the impact that your positive feedback might have on a colleague, friend or family member!
  • Your kind words might just  validate or bring confidence to someone in crisis or perhaps riddled with self-doubt….
  • Give it  a try!    

I wish you well over the Holidays … And a happy, prosperous and safe 2015!

Warmest regards,


The Art of Business Deceit?

by Administrator 15.Oct.2014 13:26:00

I cannot count how often I hear the words appropriate and inappropriate!

If inappropriate is interpreted as anything that might offend others, I would hope to never be inappropriate. Yet my perception is that anything extreme, strongly worded, risqué, contentious, ambiguous etc. has come to be considered offensive.

Hopefully it is not too much of a quantum leap to infer then that appropriate and safe have become almost synonymous? Does this not fly in the face of nature?While we know that life cannot exist without death, day without night, good without evil, like without dislike …etc., is it realistic to persist with the illusion of a world painted solely in positive hues?

Semantics aside, I would suggest that the unthinking pursuit of appropriateness creates a breeding ground for arch deceit. The more we strive to appear appropriate, how much more likely will we hide what we really feel from others? What impact does only showing an appropriate face have on team, peer and client relationships? It is a given that most of us are reluctant to express disagreement upfront and are fearful of appearing uncertain, negative or judgemental. We sit at countless meetings with dead-pan faces that reveal nothing of what lies within… Or we smile and nod assent, or even gush with false enthusiasm, while we bide our time and find safe, backdoor avenues of expression. Usually invoking process, regulations or laws will provide effective cover. Do we live in a society that not only condones, but encourages snitching?

Similarly, feigning understanding at briefings, seminars, workshops etc. encounters etc. is commonplace. Oftentimes, to save face, we later pick apart process, communication style, competence and personality as defective or unsuitable. Those who disguise unpleasant messages seem to be considered diplomatic and tactful. Those that do not are considered ‘blunt’ and/or ‘confrontational’! Those who openly disagree are all too often labelled ‘negative’. Our language is couched in terms that do little to convey what we really mean.

My point is perhaps well illustrated by a mediation I conducted last week. In what could have been an easily avoidable scenario, a manager, finally providing a long overdue performance review, included particularly vicious comments from an immediate supervisor. It turned out that the employee and said supervisor had car-pooled in a jovial and friendly atmosphere every day for several years. Not once was any reference made to any dissatisfaction. What floored me was that when questioned, everyone from the director down, excepting of course the employee, who felt totally betrayed, let me know that to have made any comment outside the review process would have been “highly inappropriate”!

While trust is a commonly used business term, perhaps we have lost the real essence of the word. If we deem it improper to honestly express ourselves, how will we ever be trusted? How will we be able to trust people if we have not encouraged them to reveal who they really are and what they feel at any point in time? Consider the costly havoc this phenomenon wreaks with corporate efficiency. Yet, we continue to encourage and train job candidates to present what is appropriate…not what is real!

The following is a simple checklist to guide decision-making when next tempted to paper-over the right to express ourselves openly and sincerely:

  • Would I prefer an honest response if I was in the other person’s shoes?
  • What response would enable me to get my job done effectively?
  • If I am not upfront here…what opportunity will I have lost?
  • If I don’t speak now, am I prepared to let the matter rest?
  • Would my lack of sincerity cost the company money?
  • Will I lose trust if I am less than honest?
  • Do I want people to know/like me for who I am?
  • I am human and therefore imperfect – Surely it is OK to show that I have not understood, disagree, etc. …
  • Have I been invited to express myself honestly…Why do I not take advantage of this offer?
  • Will my self-esteem be enhanced if I am able to say what I really honestly believe?
  • If I keep quiet now… will I habitually resort to insincere/safer ways of expressing myself?

While appropriate people are generally more comfortable to have around in the short term, our awareness that insincerity, when uncovered, destroys trust should goad us into encouraging open and upfront interaction - The ensuing trusted relationships will be worth the initial discomfort!

It's your Career: Don't Hesitate...Negotiate!

by Administrator 22.Sep.2014 15:23:00

“In business, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”  - Chester L. Karrass

Children are born negotiators – They focus on their goals with dogged persistence until every avenue is exhausted before they give up. They also unfailingly and enthusiastically set new goals as circumstances change.

What erodes this innate ability? I am always puzzled by the general reluctance of business folk to negotiate a better deal, especially when it concerns a promotion, a raise or a more a favourable contract. Instead, people choose to remain silent, walk away or quit a perfectly good job. Why is this?

In a perfect world, that people should be rewarded for good work is a no-brainer. Yet it is an equally human desire to secure the best deal at the lowest possible price. Few would point out to a vendor, for example, that prices are too low, or that a service fee really needs to be raised. So too in the workplace, many managers or employers, accountable to bottom line profit margins, are happy to secure input for the best price. It takes a forward thinking supervisor initiate a raise or promotion for someone just because they deserve it.

Best business practice theories remind us that workplace retention goes hand in hand with incentive and reward. These are perhaps part of the problem. Written policies outlining succession and salary structures create the expectation that individual salary and promotion issues will automatically be taken care of according to set procedure. At the same time many managers/supervisors/owners complacently think to promote/raise salaries only when really necessary. 

Added to the mix, the massive hiring/lay-off cycles witnessed in past decades, as well as the constant post buy-out/sell-off reorganizations, have created a lingering malaise - The average worker is permanently alert to the potential jeopardy of his/her position. There is perhaps a pervasive anxiety that asking for more or seeming entitled will result being placed on the expendable list?       

People are naturally fearful when the outcome of an interaction is uncertain. Just as with interview situations, the possibility of rejection and perceived humiliation of a failed negotiation is daunting for most. It is easier to avoid confrontation, hoping the desired outcome will just appear. The resultant problem is that buried frustration festers and grows into deep-seated discontent, eventually flaring into misdirected conflict over unrelated issues. A more common consequence would be a passive-aggressive quit and stay attitude that eventually poisons the office environment.  

How much better to confront career advancement issues rationally when they arise! To do this the individual employee should be prepared to negotiate in a rational manner, with a built-in preparedness for success or failure. The outcome of negotiation will then dictate a course of action based on actual, not perceived realities.

Potentially Useful Guidelines

Consider the following as a suggested awareness check-list to prepare for an effective career advancement negotiation:  

• Appreciate the current net market worth of your individual experience, competencies, personality and aspirations in a specific work environment
• Understand the financial and operational realities/limitations of your organization and industry
• Set firm, articulate objectives/goals  that will be the focus of any negotiation
• Be aware of the negotiation playing field (who will be your negotiation opponent/party; what are the personality/historical factors that need to be taken into account)
• Maintain preparedness to compromise (unwillingness to compromise changes the prospective interaction from negotiation to aggression)

Confrontation VS Conflict

Directly asking for what is deserved is not conflict. It is the inherent right of any employee to seek advancement. Assertive behavior, however, is the balancing of individual needs with those of the employer. Negotiating while in a desperate financial or emotional state drastically increases the risk of confrontation escalating into conflict.
Unfortunately our personal requirements are not always uppermost in the minds of busy managers/executives. As many assume that silence equals contentment, we would do well to remember that we are responsible for keeping our requirements on the corporate radar screen…In good time!  

When training individuals to negotiate, I rely heavily on Benoit Mandelbrot and his Fractal Geometry of Nature (see the Mandelbrot Set) Theory that illustrates how chaotic enormity contains smaller versions of the same phenomenon… “Fractal property of self-similarity applies to the entire set, and not just to its parts.” Mandelbrot asserts for example that if the pattern of the smallest leaf is understood, so too is every leaf on the tree. Think of the process a child would follow if negotiating for an ice cream or a go-kart ride… The principles are exactly the same when the ante is upped! 

Does Your Label Fit?

by Administrator 16.Sep.2014 12:32:00

Humans undoubtedly want to understand one another in easily explainable and relatively certain terms. Yet so many of us seem barely able to articulate who we are and what we really want – preferring instead to fall back on assigned labels and behavioural etiquettes!

Fueled by technological advance, the popularity of psychoanalysis, and influenced by ubiquitous political correctness, today’s business world seems to be more heavily invested than ever in processes that label, tag and categorize everyone in sight. Certain! Safe! Detached!

Think how often we are asked, as an essential first step in determining suitability for a job, academic, social or volunteer opportunity, to interact with a program that definitively tells us we are a J … an X, a Yellow, a Blue …. or perhaps a giraffe, a tiger or an elephant?  Similarly, the business world seems to echo the psycho-babble tendency of the social realm. We hear constantly of empowerers, enablers, rescuers etc. Fast thinkers are immediately shelved as ADHD, and folks with any apparent lack of focus are, for sure, ADD! How complicit are we in this facile labelling of ourselves and others? How readily do we accept these results? Are we indelibly and eternally categorized? 

I suppose it is obligatory to state upfront that I am not knocking the popularity/efficiency of psycho-analysis, nor am I a Luddite hell-bent on discrediting the use of profiling tools. I am however questioning the accuracy and the efficiency of assigning a permanent label to any individual. I ask myself:

  • Are people, their moods, behaviour and thinking processes constant? Surely we change… day to day, year to year… depending on changing circumstance?
    What, and to whom, does any given label mean?
  • Are we abandoning our thinking/instinctive ability?
  • Surely technology and computed knowledge are limited to known variables and also susceptible to human error? (The garbage in garbage out cliché has some traction here…)

Is above average excellence, original expression & creative thinking a la Galileo, Da Vinci, van Gogh, Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence and Polanski easily labelled and tagged? Will much needed innovation be stifled if analyzed thinking does not fall into recognizable classification systems? 

The human factor, inter alia, instinct, gut-feeling and random perception, is a critical attribute in guaranteeing team efficiency. Think how often in medical or automotive scenarios, despite evident problems, we are told we are fine and sent home because the battery of diagnostic tests came back negative! Think how grateful we are in such context for the Dr. House types and their ilk who, in the face of stiff opposition brought about by persistent and maddening questioning, make a wonderful contribution to keeping the ball rolling and identifying workable solutions. Do labelling processes weed these folk out at the outset? Are they brilliant or are they out to lunch? Are they trail-blazers or negative time-wasters?

Recognizing others and their behaviour is time sensitive – It is perhaps prudent consciously monitor people, at any given time, as they are … rather than as they should/are expected to be…! 

The ROI of Understanding Personal Impact!

by Administrator 02.Sep.2014 10:27:00

"The law of action and reaction is not exclusively for physics. It is also of human relations.” –Dalai Lama

Do we always have we the time or inclination to consciously analyze how we impact, positively and negatively on others?

Perhaps relating an unforgettable incident from my days as a young diplomat serving abroad, will best illustrate the significant ROI of analyzing the cause and effect of even inadvertent perceptions:

In the car some thirty years ago, returning from an out-of -own conference with a member of the host government, he dropped a bombshell: In return for a tidy monthly stipend and eventual citizenship, I would make an ideal source of useful information for his government!

I distinctly remember the frisson of fear that ran through my body. I was being recruited as a spy by a foreign government!

What was I to say?

Would I be in mortal danger when I refused?

How would my own government react?

Would the Embassy operation be professionally compromised?

Panic soon gave way to anger. In the deafening silence I wondered how this guy dared betray the trust I and other members of the embassy had afforded him over the years. Filled with self-righteous indignation, I keenly anticipated blowing the whistle on him.

How could he be so stupid?

Then it struck me that I knew he certainly wasn’t stupid!

What had I said or done that had convinced him to take such a daring step?

I realized this question was where the issue lay… It must have been something I had done… not only what he (and his superiors) had decided to propose that had set the ball rolling?

This realization calmed me down – When his “So what do you think?” came a few minutes later, I immediately conceded that I must have led him to believe I would be open to such a drastic step. While I also allowed that I knew he was just doing his job, I stressed that betraying my country, living a life of deceit and fear and being owned by others was just not an option.

My concession and lack of visible emotion, allowed him room for a dignified escape. To my chagrin he reminded me of several comments I’d made expressing my extreme frustration with colleagues who had refused to enter the spirit of change/reform in South Africa, as well as declared distaste for aid project incompetence that I believed verged on corruption. Apparently, what I had intended as a strategic counter to negative perceptions, was erroneously interpreted as ideological variance. Added to the mix, my youthful enthusiasm for the lifestyle of Europe was mistaken for a ‘psychological separation’ from my country of origin.

I discreetly reported the incident to a senior colleague, who agreed that the bigger picture advantage of minimizing the incident, at a sensitive time in the bi-lateral relationship, would contain far-reaching fall out that would achieve little.

Leaders are encouraged to see introspection and empathy as a strong value proposition in facilitating response rather than reaction in operational spheres of influence. The positive ripple effect of breaking down the Us vs Them syndrome is, for me, immeasurable!


Here is the same message in another format. If you have time listen to The Balance – Moody Blues:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlFYWRajMKY&list=RDrlFYWRajMKY#t=0 to

2014 - Have South African Women Achieved Political Parity?

by Administrator 26.Aug.2014 14:31:00

The return to power of the African National Congress (ANC) party in South Africa on 7th May 2014 reflected a 63% majority with a 73% voter turnout. Significantly women achieved political representation of 50% - Important to note is that 59% of registered voters are women;

 “The candidates submitted [Prior to the May 7th election) are … not less than 50% women … It's a matter of policy in the ANC. We don't have a 50/50 policy; we have a policy of not less than 50% being women.”  - ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe

With a long standing involvement to the empowerment of women on all societal levels, I am surprised that my mention of the above over the past few months meets with little reaction and a decided lack of enthusiasm. This is surprising as many of the avenues of discussion have been with people who have dedicated huge chunks of their professional life to gender inclusivity and the political liberation of women.

What am I missing?

Does this not mean that South Africans have achieved gender parity on a national political level?

Surely this then is government consisting mainly of women, elected by women?

Is this not a heart stopping milestone and indeed a beacon of hope to those around the world engaged in seeking gender equality? More...

Leadership & The Daunting Task of Sustainable Love!

by Administrator 24.Aug.2014 12:53:00

That love makes the world go around is a no-brainer … We all, to varying degrees, embrace love in some or other form – If we did not we would be at each other’s throats like wild beasts!

Most religions, civilized governments, corporations and families espouse love of humankind, in its broader sense, as a basic starting point.  We talk often and comfortably enough of, and indeed idealize, inclusivity, human rights and romantic love.
Why then do we cast out the more empathetic/softer side of our collective and individual psyche the moment we are threatened? Love and Fear are basic, unbidden impulses! Does this mean that we live on two parallel, exclusive levels?

When one looks at the current state of the world, we seem an enraged species – Endlessly ‘shouting hate’ at each other. Those who in such circumstances suggest empathy, forgiveness or introspection are summarily vilified as weak, naïve or gullible – While those who advocate force, punishment, vengeance etc. are considered strong and steadfast … or so it seems to me? Surely big-picture love is most needed when the going gets tough?

Where does this breakdown or separation start? Perhaps when fear strikes TRUST is the first human casualty – Walking an unknown path is difficult when beset with fear. It is understandably impossible to love without trust. Betrayal in any human relationship illustrates this on a daily micro-level.
Consider the following logic stream:

  • People who perceive themselves as seen, understood, engaged, empowered & utilized are, for the most part, fulfilled, happy and content
  • Those who feel unseen, ignored, misunderstood, overlooked/by-passed, and underutilized are to varying degrees frustrated, unhappy & despairing….?
  • In a perfect world then, a huge component of LEADERSHIP would be the ability to identify, understand, engage, empower and utilize others, to ensure, in as far as possible that we all get a fair crack at happiness/fulfillment  - Would not this be a true manifestation of ‘loving one another as we love ourselves’? More...

Corporate Mentorship: Relevance in 2014

by Administrator 21.Jun.2014 15:29:00

I was pleased to be invited by the Invisible Mentor to write a 4-part blog post series discussing my ideas/experience with regard to the relevance of Mentorship Programs in the current corporate climate. Much of what I write reflects learning gained from ongoing mentorship program coordination and participation:


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