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Nielsen’s Matthew Hanzlik: The Difference Between a Leader Who’s Out & an Out Leader [VIDEO]

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By Curt Wagner

When Matthew Hanzlik says Nielsen’s efforts to build the next generation of diverse leaders within the company are genuine, he isn’t toeing the company line. He has proof.

“This isn’t something I could do if I wasn’t 100 percent bought into it,” he said. “I’m bought into it because I saw it work for me and many other associates across Nielsen.”

As Nielsen’s Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager, Hanzlik oversees the company’s Diverse Leadership Network, an intensive leadership development program.

Hanzlik is a product of that program. He credits the network for his advancement to his current role after working in the company’s client consulting business for six years.

In his new position for about a year now, Hanzlik helps identify talented and diverse associates to take part in the Diverse Leadership Network.

These associates, around 35 per class, are paired with current senior leaders—usually senior or executive vice presidents—who act as coaches. The program curriculum also includes various leadership and business courses taught by experts from within and outside the company.

“We like to think of it as our ‘internal MBA,’” Hanzlik said. “It helps them develop their leadership skills, but also develop in their own careers—to ultimately accelerate and diversify our leadership pipeline.”

The one-on-one relationship between participants and their coaches lasts throughout the 15-month program. Nielsen prefers the term coaches, Hanzlik said, because the relationship is both mentoring and instructional. It is designed to help the participants develop through structured goals.

The participants continue working their current roles while in the program so that they can apply what they learn immediately. If past classes are an indication, the current class can expect new success. Past participants frequently move to new and expanded roles during their time in the program.

The current Diverse Leadership Network class boasts 36 participants from 30 areas of the company, all with unique backgrounds. At Nielsen, “diversity” covers takes a broad view, encompassing more than just what you can see.

For example, an associate might be picked for the program because they came from an acquired company that had just five employees and they bring an entrepreneurial background to Nielsen, which boasts 40,000 employees.

“We think of diversity in terms of the different skills, experiences and cultural backgrounds that make each of us, as an associate at Nielsen, unique, and therefore, make our contributions unique, too,” Hanzlik said.

Identifying and developing top performers who have unique and diverse backgrounds is an important part of Nielsen’s success, he said.

“From our CEO down, diversity and inclusion is viewed as one of the strategies that’s critical to our growth, to our ability to innovate and to our ability to bring innovative products to the marketplace,” he said.

Hanzlik, who participated in the program’s second class, shared his status as an out employee with his coach, a global president for the company. His coach, also an out leader, taught him an invaluable lesson about leveraging his strengths as an out leader instead of as a leader who is out.

“My LGBTQ identity is a leadership strength. My awareness of myself, many years of practicing presenting myself confidently despite being uncomfortable, and my ability to help others build confidence themselves all stem from my LGBTQ identify.”

“I had always been out my entire career at Nielsen,” he said, “but shifting that focus to being an out leader and leveraging my identity as a strength was really valuable for me.”

Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.