tim barefield, managing director at kotter


Tim Barefield

Managing Director

Tim has spent the last 22 years in leadership positions in organizations where leading change has been a critical role. As a Managing Director at Kotter, Tim both serves as the lead relationship manager for client engagements and is actively engaged in the outbound efforts to introduce Kotter’s capabilities to prospective clients. Tim’s experiences in a variety of functional senior leadership roles (Head of B2B Sales and Marketing, Head of Human Resources, Head of Operations and CEO) across a number of industries (finance, hotels, retail food, internet, insurance brokerage and technology) has provided him with the opportunity to see and lead change efforts in a number of different industries. Tim received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri School of Science & Technology) in 1983, an MBA from Rockhurst University in 1987 and an A.M. in Psychology from Harvard University in 1997.

Tim is based in Westchester, New York.

Why did you decide to work at Kotter?

When I began discussing the potential for joining Kotter I was still in the research stage of figuring out what my next career step would be.  I had just retired after a ten year stint in the finance industry and was ready to learn new things in a new area.  Once I was introduced to Kotter’s mission of creating better leaders, and more of them, while helping organizations successfully navigate complex change efforts, I was inspired.  It was clear that the team at Kotter is focused on being the leaders in the world at what they do and that they have the team with the skills, knowledge and experience to attain that goal.  I wanted to be a part of that effort and on that team.

What is a defining moment in your career?

Early in my career I was asked by the founder of a firm with which I had previously worked to come back as a consultant and spend three months digging into a nagging question with which he was struggling:  why were his top performers quickly reaching a performance plateau and, once that level was reached, never surpassing it?  I spent the summer interviewing these performers, collecting and analyzing data, and ultimately putting my conclusions into a final written product.  Judgement day came when I had to tell the founder–a very tall, charismatic and imposing individual who was not known for his openness to criticism or feedback–that his behavior was the primary cause of the issue.  I learned first the value of having “done my homework” as I had the data to support my conclusion and second that, despite the risks, I had  the courage to present difficult information to a powerful person who was both a mentor to me and my employer.

What is the biggest transformation you have seen realized successfully?

I was brought in shortly after two divisions of the company I joined had been merged into a single division.  Enormous animosity existed between the people in two divisions, especially the most senior individuals, not in the least because the two Presidents of the two divisions despised each other.  One of the Presidents was let go and the second one became the President of the newly combined entities.  At the time of the merger there was a belief held by the most senior executives of the company, a majority of whom came along from the same division as the new President, that most of the individuals who had come from the other division would need to be replaced.  They believed the animosity was too great and thought these other individuals were weak performers.  Through hard work we were able to gain the trust of these individuals and drive a successful integration of the two teams in such that very few of these individuals left and most were able to become effective leaders and high performers in the newly combined organization.

What has you thinking right now?

The opportunities afforded by AI, automation, robotics and computers generally are at the same time allowing firms to operate with greater speed and with greater efficiency while introducing cyber threats that we do not fully understand how to mitigate.  I have been interested in tightly coupled systems for some time, systems which have both unique strengths and unique fragility, and find that automation has created some of the most tightly coupled systems we have ever seen.  I am enjoying exploring how firms approach addressing the risk/reward tradeoff in this area when making decisions.

Share something about you that would surprise most people.

I love to take long walks.  A lot of my “aha” moments come from the thinking that I do while on these walks.  I also benefit from the exercise and therapeutic benefits that come from taking these walks.