Reflection on the Future: Becoming CEO of Toffler Associates

“Time feels like it is accelerating.”

 In a December post in Rapport, Deb Westphal opted to skip making a New Year’s resolution, in favor of looking forward. As I step into the Toffler Associates CEO role this January, I am focused on the future of the firm and its unwavering commitment to be a catalyst for change and future value for our clients. It’s a common practice for leaders in new roles to use their first 90 days to assess the organization and prioritize areas to evolve or improve. This practice of dedicating this first quarter to learning gives the new leader the opportunity to focus on the current state and to think forward. It is a well-honed practice, and I admire the leader who executes it well. (If you haven’t read The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins, I highly recommend it.[1])

As for me, this first 90 days also includes time for retrospection. I choose to reflect on the past – on the legacy that Alvin and Heidi Toffler created as Futurists and on what has made Toffler Associates successful in the past. The practice includes considering our previous CEO’s strengths. What has been a source of magic? What abilities do I bring that are the same as or different from Deb’s? What are the possible blind spots we should try to anticipate as we move into our future?

After we announced our leadership transition to the Toffler Associates team, I asked several colleagues, “What excites you about this transition and what do you see as risks to our business? What will we, as an organization, no longer have after Deb’s transition?”

This dialog generated a healthy discussion about what has made Toffler Associates special and unique for our clients over the past decade. Reflecting on Deb’s tenure, many powerful realizations emerged. She has a passion for and understanding of Toffler concepts such as desynchronization, obsoledge, prosumerism, and mass customization, and how they are relevant to executives as they plan for the unknown future. She regularly asked bold and challenging questions that, while sometimes jolting, benefitted our clients by forcing them to think differently about an unexplored perspective to an organizational challenge. Deb has the courage of her convictions. She committed to advising each leader in how to solve the deep problem and answer the unanswerable question. Clients responded to her sincerity and interest in their success.

These reflections about the leader who has guided Toffler Associates so well for close to 20 years provided me with solid guidance. I raise my New Year’s champagne flute to Deb with a toast to her leadership and share a few of my favorite of her quotes.

As I look forward, I begin to focus in on specific things I can do to extend the heritage of this wonderful firm as I embark on this opportunity to lead as the CEO. Toffler Associates was named for its founder, the founding father of the Futurist field. I take the reins with a combined sense of excitement and pressure for my own future performance as a leader. I respect the past and its successes, even as I look ahead.

What distinct skills, thoughts, etc. do you bring to the role that you want people to know? What legacy will you begin to contribute?

My New Year’s resolution includes asking bold and challenging questions to surface unexplained perspectives and divergent thinking. I seek to open the aperture and look for insight beyond the four walls of my client’s business and industry. By this time next year, I expect to look farther out into the future of Toffler Associates, as well as create longer-term viewpoints for our clients. The journey will be fascinating, challenging and most certainly filled with unexpected discoveries and decisions.

As you embark on 2019, how will you open the aperture for your organization and industry to seek new opportunities and identify risks as you move further into the future?  How can we help you think about what needs to happen now to architect the strongest possible future? Reach out to us! As we say, Toffler Associates is dedicated to helping leaders work on tomorrow, today.


About the Authors

Maria Bothwell

As CEO of Toffler Associates, Maria taps into deep experience with strategy development and execution, customer experience, business performance management, acquisition integration, and organizational transformation. She is an energetic and insightful executive who brings dedication and know-how to help organizations define business strategy, lead high performing teams, grow new markets, and create measurable results.

Related Topics


How Gen Z Communicates Today Impacts How it Leads Tomorrow

Gen Z communications reflect the rapid societal shifts that have characterized their young lives. Their interactions today impact how they lead tomorrow.

A Leader’s Guide to Distributed Decision-Making: Building Trust, Fostering Innovation

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to make effective decisions at all levels of an organization is paramount to success. Traditional top-down decision-making...
On Demand

ABCs of Future-Focused Risk Metrics