Rodney C. Burris is in the business of inspiring. He uses leadership mindset development training to persuade businesses that they already have what it takes to enhance their productivity and conquer challenges. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

Although Rodney C. Burris’ portfolio includes distinct clients like the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Baltimore Education Coalition, there is one thing they all have in common: the ability to be inspired. Burris said he really only does one job for his clients, which he termed as leadership mindset development. 

“That’s around this whole idea that being able to become different and better is within our grasp,” said Burris. His philosophy is that companies, nonprofits and other organizations already have what it takes to improve themselves and get to the next level.

Burris grew up in Baltimore City, but at the age of 10 he moved to Florida. He made his return to the city when he attended Johns Hopkins University. Originally, Burris thought he wanted to be a doctor, but after watching videos of various surgeries, he didn’t think he could stomach the work. Instead, he studied psychology and ultimately realized he was interested in the business of people; and he longed to inspire and encourage. 

Before making leadership mindset development his full-time job, Burris was elected to the Central Committee of Maryland’s 43rd District. During his time in this position, he said he became a change agent for the city. He continued his journey in politics while running for Baltimore City Council. Burris ended up losing the race in 2016 and decided to make his exit from politics. 

“I was like ‘what was it that I was doing and/or saw myself doing that I enjoyed about that experience?” said Burris. “It was the platform of being able to connect and inspire.” In 2017, leadership mindset development training became the focus of his work life. 

One of the tools Burris commonly uses during his training sessions with organizations is his EPPS model, which stands for emotions, positives, problems and solutions. In this model, the staff participate in a timed session where they go through each word and write down their thoughts. Burris intentionally puts positives before problems so that the organizations do not simply dwell on the challenges they face. He then quickly moves them into finding solutions. 

Another tool Burris implements in his training sessions relates to his book “The Five Fast Features of Fixing Firms,” which was released in January 2020. The tools discourage companies from mass firings and “fresh” starts, and most of them are no cost to the company to put into effect. Communication, club membership, change management, capacity builders and the five C’s of stakeholders comprise the five features. They educate businesses on facilitating effective communication, teamwork, strategic planning, leadership and service to all stakeholders. 

Burris said training has also benefited businesses as they recover from the pandemic. “Those learning and those takeaways go across industries,” said Burris. “It doesn’t matter what industry a person is in, to work with folks in a way where we that leadership mindset element has been so pivotal with coming out into this new normal.” 

While entering into this new normal. Burris said companies must abandon the status quo of solely sticking to their job descriptions. Because people want to shop differently, companies must adjust their business models and provide training on soft skills to better serve their stakeholders. 

“When you’re properly managing your human capital, the function of your business prospers and you’re more productive,” said Burris.

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