Executive Advisor

Areas of Expertise

For over three decades, Les Dakens has applied his business acumen and behavioral science knowledge to advise leaders in operations, finance, sales and marketing, and human resources coaching business unit presidents, C-suite executives, and high-potentials, he focuses on strategy, behavioral leadership skills, and execution of tactical initiatives.

Les is a recognized leader in human resources best practices and offers insightful recommendations for strategic human resources opportunities. He has deep expertise in difficult unionized environments.

Les’ executive career has spanned major U.S. and Canadian corporations, which include being Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Maple Leaf Foods, Senior Vice President, People for Canadian National Railway, North American Vice President of Human Resources for H.J. Heinz Company, and has also held senior roles in human resources with Cadbury Beverage. Les also has a consulting practice - coaching human resources executives and corporate board human resources committees.

Les is equally adept at internal advising and assisting boards. With a board’s human resources committee, he helps assess executive talent and proposes innovative solutions for executive development. His direct experience in CEO succession planning is invaluable.

Professional Accomplishments

Les  is widely recognized in North America as one of the top human resources professionals for his leadership in developing best practices.  He helped transform the North American operations of one of the world’s largest food companies.  His work involved extensive restructuring of the U.S. and Canadian manufacturing sites and the merger of two food industry giants.

At Canadian National Railway, Les helped lead a company-wide culture change driven by applied behavioral science. The result was widespread improvement in performance, profitability, and safety – plus the remarkable innovation of performance scorecards for unionized employees. Les co-authored the book SwitchPoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track to Business Success (Wiley, 2008) which documents the culture change that took place.

Les has also authored the Real Deal on People: Straight Talk on How the CHRO Creates Business Value (Carswell, 2014), and Employee Performance Scorecards (Carswell, 2009), the story of a human resources  team that implemented performance scorecards for 18,000 unionized employees, creating a new culture of engaged and motivated workers. He was also a co-author of The Behavior Breakthrough: Leading Your Organization to a New Competitive Advantage. (CLG, 2013).

Education and Background

Les holds a B.A. from York University and diploma from the Directors Education Program of the Institute of Corporate Directors. He serves as a faculty of the Rotman School of Management HRC program.

Les actively serves on boards of Equitable Life Insurance Company of Canada, Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto, Huntsville Hospital Foundation, and Walden House. 



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