Leah Conover

Organizational Behavior and Change Management

Building capacity in people and organizations

Hi, I’m Leah Conover, I have a passion for helping individuals and organizations achieve their full potential. As a recovering food service industry professional I bring a unique perspective and set of skills to the table and I am excited to share my story, knowledge, and expertise to drive results. You are guaranteed to enjoy this story.

Confidence in the Uncomfortable

How a childhood memory sparked my passion

I am standing on one of our black kitchen table chairs. Too young and too short to reach the stove without it. The chair wobbles as I stir the pot with the wooden spoon. Handle smooth from years of use, spoon head coated in goopy flour. The smell of salt, flour, and water cooking. When I open a new container of Playdough I am brought back to this moment every time. Making playdough is my earliest food memory. It is fitting that the first of many things I ever cooked, was not exactly food. But a science experiment, that happened to be edible, fun, and affordable. That moment triggered something in me. It sparked my interest in food, science, and process. This moment ultimately led me to culinary school, hospitality, management, training, and consulting.

I thrived on that chair, the wobble always threatening to topple me. It shaped me, into a person that thrives on the verge, in places where others are uncomfortable. On that chair, I learned to take in my surrounding and focus on the goal. I learned the importance of following the science, and understanding where you could go off the recipe. I learned the art of adaptability, passion, success, creativity, and the fulfillment of completing a creation.

As a restaurant manager, I was taught the science of leadership and customer service by some of the best in the business. Marriott’s people passion, Nordstrom’s legendary customer service to Panera Bread’s industry-setting standards. Leaning on behavioral science to develop outstanding teams, food science to serve safe food, and process discipline to repeat excellence over and over. This led to learning and development internal consulting work. Working with managers to help them develop their unique abilities. At the same time tasked with improving the operational inefficiencies of over 100 restaurants. Connecting with a wide variety of shapes and styles of leaders. Finding immense enjoyment while working cross-functionally with support staff, operations, IT departments, regional leaders, and restaurant managers of all levels. This required a depth of knowledge and attention to detail. To create solutions that were creative, simple, and compelling to match the organizations’ recipe for success with the individuals’ preferences. Knowing when to go off the recipe and being confident in the uncomfortable was key.

Keep reading below to learn about my career development, or head over to the portfolio page to learn more about how I work.

The power of "what if..."

The world changed in 2020. Already no stranger to change, Covid-19 changed the world and my direction in it. It created space for me to ask myself "what if...?"

... I sought out the training I always wanted?

I love a good project! I sought out and received a scholarship to complete the Google Project Management Certificate. Completed in six-months, the certification rounded out my personal and professional experiences in project management with the formal knowledge.

... I created something of my own?

Spending so much time in large corporations, I hungered to bring that knowledge to small foodservice operations. It is said 80% fail in the first year, from lack of process discipline and financial knowledge. I started Leah Conover LLC to support those businesses, and expanded to support non-profit organizations as well.

... I went back to school?

Finishing a long-lapsed Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Tourism Management (BSHTM) degree at Roosevelt University filled my learning bucket and left me wanting more. Almost as soon as I started I was exploring Masters Programs at the university to continue developing. I intended to start the Master of Business Administration program at Roosevelt as soon as I graduated.

... I challenged myself and tried something new?

Then I found and researched Organizational Development, and realized what I loved about Training and Development were the aspects of Organizational Development. Instead of taking the path of least resistance, the MBA program. I entered the Master of Arts in Organizational Development (MAOD) program in Spring 2022. I love a good challenge, and every course does that, and deepens my passion for OD. I am wrapping up my last 3 classes and will graduate December 2023. 

... I used my skills differently?

I love being well-rounded. If I only focused on training and development or foodservice alone, I was cutting myself off from new opportunities for learning. Just like Organizational Development. The skills one learns working in food service are highly transferable to other sectors and industries. Customer service, process discipline, financial savvy, every organization needs these. I have enjoyed sharpening my saw in the non-profit and public education sectors in addition to foodservice. 

In the Margins

As a manager working for Nordstrom and Panera Bread. My job was to ensure teams of people from 5am to 11pm were all brand ambassadors from welcome to thank you for coming. The specifics of operating, serving safe food, preparing a budget, and writing a schedule are scientifically defined. Leadership, getting 50 or 60 employees to all care, that is a very undefined artistic space. It requires a lot of notes in the margin. Learning about the associates their motivations and getting them to connect with the brand. It takes a lot of original and creative thinking. Add to this menus that would change six or more times a year, also very defined. Change was and still is the name of the game. I learned how to be comfortable with change, how to champion and get others to buy-in, and grew to love developing others.

I moved from single-unit leadership to a multi-unit training and development role. Serving as an expert internal consultant to multi-unit leaders, all levels of single unit leadership, area leaders, and corporate support staff in operations, IT, and training and development. I ensconed myself fully in the margins, and LOVE it.


On Learning and the Margins

People remember things in all different kinds of ways. Scent memory, like the one I have for playdough, is just one way. Some people have picture-perfect memories and can see information as if it is a picture living in their mind. Others can read and recite back instantly. Me, I need a physical connection with information to remember it. A kinesthetic learner, I have always learned best by jumping in and learning on-the-job and writing or typing to remember. Writing notes in the margin to help remember key points, or notate ideas to think about for later.

Reach out today to connect with me.