Category Archives: Work/life Integration

Strategic Thinking & Leadership Seminar [Video]

Strategic Thinking & Leadership Seminar

President, Paul Butler of GlobalEdg in Newtown, CT, speaking to executives on how to improve leadership skills and strategically think to improve company profitability. Paul has taught and influenced many corporate executives using his STAR program.

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Why do organizations often add complexity with Strategy & Execution? — “Stuff” gets in the way!

Does you organization’s approach to strategy and execution becomes bureaucratic and cause people to add complexity? What happens? Stuff gets in the way. By “Stuff” I mean organization structures such as policies /procedures, design elements, behaviors and processes that exist in any organization – no matter the size. We know they exist — even if they or “written or unwritten.”
How do you reduce complexity and simplify your organization? How do you become faster, yet not lose what makes you successful?
Well the important question is how do you simplify and get at that “Stuff”? We have found that a structured and disciplined approach to this dilemma.
Structure must drive simplicity. It is the structure and approach to strategy and execution that makes a difference Here is how we simplify both:
First, focus on strategic thinking not planning. Learning some easy – to – understand principles and an easy- to-remember process —can make a real difference. Principles such as focusing on scope, linking analysis to solutions, being fact-based and using the law of the vital few can serve as a filter for the following process: 1) Determine what is going on; 2) Identify what actions you need to take; and 3) Communicate what will the impact be. This will drive clear thinking and subsequently and a clear set of choices. Think STAR — Strategic Thinking – Action – Results!
Secondly, everything is about execution. However, many organizations create what we call activity cultures. You should focus on Results and not activities. Try this — Work backwards from a due date, with different people committing to deliver results bring. This will bring commitment and clarity, drive a different behavior and makes it easy to understand who is accountable for delivering a plan. It will manage project scope, costs and time in a way that will take unnecessary “Stuff” that slows things down and hurts quality. Here, as with strategy three easy steps make a difference: 1) align those responsible on the initiative; 2) identify and change behaviors that slow implementation; and 3) create a results-based implementation plan with clear accountabilities. Think ACE Align, Collaborate, Execute!

What are you trying to solve for? —A story

It was a sunny Tuesday morning. Sharon, the Executive Director of a large non-profit pulled her car into the parking lot of her favorite coffee stop. She had trouble sleeping last night. Sharon had recently been promoted to her role and she was consumed with the conversation that took place at last night’s board meeting. She had been in her new role for less than a week. The former Executive Director (who was also her mentor) had recently retired –capping a life-long career at an organization he helped to create. He was an “institution” at the place and in many people’s eyes she was following a legend. The anxiety was related to what was immediately ahead of her. Along with Executive Director leaving, the board of directors were experiencing change. Several long-term appointees, who had been close to the former Executive Director, were replaced. Sharon was impressed with their credentials; but did not really know them. However, she realized that the board conversation was changing –different in what she had experienced in the past. Last night’s meeting began with usual review of agenda items — more operations of the organization, but shifted towards the end with the new board members asking more about the future direction of the organization. The board meeting ended with Sharon being tasked to create a 3 Year Plan for the organization. Although, the organization had a plan, it had not been updated in two years and was sitting on the shelf in her office. Although Sharon had been part of the previous strategic planning committee, she really couldn’t remember much of what was in it. Sharon was beginning to feel anxious.

However, the anxiety stemmed not so much from her own confidence with her new position, but in the circumstances that existed in the community and the consequences for her organization. She did not know where to begin. She too had questions and with her mind racing, she decided to grab her coffee, find a table in the back of the shop and jot down some of her thoughts. She took out her notes from last night’s board meeting and began reviewing them. Sharon began by reviewing the list of questions and many were very specific. How are we doing on our budget? Who on the staff needs training? What are the fundraising events planned for the next month. How was the renovation on the new property going? There were so many, she was having trouble getting her hands around them. Although, she thought she had secured some private space in the corner of the coffee shop, Sharon looked up and saw her neighbor and good friend Larry. “Hi Sharon” he said. “You look like you are deep in thought” Sharon replied “I have a lot on my mind –the new job and all. I need to brief my staff on last night’s board meeting later this morning, and I am trying to collect my thoughts. Larry, you are a seasoned executive, help me here! I have been asked to create a three year plan for our organization. There are so many things at stake here; I don’t know where to begin. I don’t want to go into my staff meeting this morning and look like I don’t know what I am doing. Strategic Planning is not my thing.” I don’t have all the answers, at this point just a list of questions and issues we need to address. “Sharon” Larry replied, “In the beginning that is all you should have, but that is not the place to start.” Great Larry, that helps – here is my list, where do I start?” Sharon said. Larry chuckled and replied, “Sharon, forget the list. “If it could answer one question for me, you would be off to a great start.”

“And what would that question be Larry?”

“You mentioned, that you tossed and turned al night…thinking about the board meeting. So Sharon, what is keeping you awake at night?”
One of the most common (and some say overused) phrases in business today is “what’s keeping you awake at night?” Yet we see how hard it is for people to articulate it. Try this …We have a similar but different question. It builds on the idea, yet puts it into the context of action. What would happen if you began every single meeting with the question “What are we trying to solve for? Would people begin to “think” differently? What would the conversation be like in your organization? What if we took it a step further and asked people to clearly articulate in a way that everyone understood it? What if we took another step and asked them to commit it to writing. Would the direction of the meeting be differently?
We do notice a difference in the people who have adopted this approach. They are able to jumpstart the thinking process by being able to clearly identify, articulate and align to the significance of what is at stake. In other words they gain agreement on what they are trying to solve for FIRST. This is there starting point!
Not knowing where to start is the most fundamental flaw in strategic thinking. Not being deliberate and disciplined about what you are trying to solve for at the highest strategic level dooms you to failure. We have seen it time and time again in all sorts of organizations. People are often slow out of the gate to get started, there is a lack of clarity on where to go first. People feel overwhelmed and misaligned from the outset. It takes forever to get started.

Is Ryan Air CEO really listeing to Consumers?

Interesting read from the New York Times on Ryan Air — this I the complete opposite of what we are finding with our work on two fronts:

–        Brand positioning as the “low cost” choice is an important one and works as long it provides Totalvalue to  consumer

–        Employees will quickly become less engaged, because they feel they are not providing Total value to the consumer.

see the link belwo for the article

What do CEO’s need most.

We have found it so many times …. We work with senior executives all over the world and are often struck by what we find.   Every successful encounter we have had — whether one-on-one, or facilitating a strategic leadership off-site meeting requires people to lead and work in an authentic manner.  It breaks down the barriers and allows real change and innovation to happen. This really came to light based on a coaching session with an executive. After facilitating an off-site retreat attending by the senior leaders of a  large organization, I asked the  CEO why he felt he had to “put his  game face on” when he was at the office — his response, “it is funny you said that, my wife and I were hosting  a corporate awards ceremony  last month.  After we got back home that night she told me she did not recognize the person she was married to. “What is most important to you outside of “work” is what should also be most important to you inside of work. Click below to read an article that is in the latest issue of Psychology Today.

World’s Most Powerful Brands: What has changed since 2001?

We often work with executives in our Strategic Thinking Program on how to identify and keep your competitive advantage. Brand is one we drive home as a sustainable competitive advantage. However, it is much more than the “brand” itself–it is about LEADERSHIP!

We are seeing the best leaders doing things differently with their organizations. These leaders know how to create brand value by focusing on what is most important, building the right organization and then aligning and engaging employees to do what they do best — day-in and day-out — so that they know what the brand stands for internally and externally.

Compare the top 30 from 2001 to 2012 below:

Click here to view the top 100 Brands

Why RACI Charts Don’t Work

Recently we had the opportunity to work with an executive team of a consumer packaged goods company. They were at odds with each other because things were not getting done. The executive team had invested a good deal of energy, and a lot of thought and effort into a new product development launch.  They constructed what all felt was a strong plan; it was well laid out, had been communicated to the broader organization with the expectation that they were set to go.  They used a RACI chart to identify roles and responsibilities.

If you’re not familiar with RACI charts, here’s how they are intended to work: A RACI chart is a matrix that outlines the roles for each person or group relating to a specific step in a project.  RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. A RACI chart is often used by Managers to ensure responsibilities are understood across stakeholder groups.

The project leader was dumbfounded; the roles and responsibilities were well laid out; however, he could not understand why they were missing the launch dates. Here was the problem.  RACI charts, independent of people establishing and nurturing relationships with their colleagues, just do not work.  We’ve seen it time and time again, without strong relationships, RACI charts become more of a hindrance than as a way to share roles and responsibilities and get work accomplished.

The take-home-message:  Spending time on relationship building and dialogue is a prerequisite before accountabilities can be developed.  By doing this, not only are you able to become clear on what to expect from each other, you also know where to go for support.

When we posed the question to the leaders, “how much time do you spend with each other outside of meetings—getting to know one another on a personal level?” they were silent.

Once the group was able to invest time in their relationship with one another, the RACI charts became more meaningful and useful.

Research shows that one of the most important competencies for leaders to master for career success or two of four career derailments is building strategic working relationships.

Building a Culture of Cost Innovation

Who wants to sign up for cost cutting? If you are trying to rally an organization around cost saving initiatives, you might be going about it the wrong way. It is not about cost savings or cost cutting … that language is often not helpful or do initiatives that are positioned as cost-cutting always work. According to study by the Conference Board, of the 90% of organizations that are cutting costs this year, only a small fraction will likely retain those savings for three years or longer.
Think Cost Innovation!
What we do know is that people will rally around a cause if they know what they are signing up for and feel that they can contribute to making a difference.
Cost Innovation does just that. Cost innovation is not an initiative – it becomes a way of life for successful organizations. Cost innovation is about making good choices on how an organization uses its resources for growth. Outside of work, people do it all the time. It is part of life. Employees in companies who employ cost innovation techniques understand cost savings funds future growth and if done well allows for sustained success in the marketplace. Consider this:
A successful Consumer goods company’s commercial organization had to reduce 42 million dollars from their operating budget. They rallied the organization by creating cost innovation teams focused on costs and capability building. Teams were successful in identifying ways to reinvest a portion of the savings on capability building. Talk about a win – win!
Here are the steps they followed:
1. Executive team met off-site and created a vision for cost innovation
2. Cost and capability “targets” were identified
3. Change management messaging –organizational readiness was assessed
4. Team were with careful consideration of sponsors, leaders and members
5. Team members were trained: financial acumen focusing on costs, analytical thinking, change management, and teaming skills
6. Teams worked and identified cost savings and capabilities needed
7. Teams disbanded and education along with changes were anchored in the culture & management systems of the organization
Ultimately it is all about culture –creating a culture of cost innovation so it becomes a way of life for your organization –no matter what the size!

Preserve the core – stimulate change.

This is an important concept – people should always “dig” in and ask the important questions during times of change –What do we need to preserve? What is core to who we are? What makes us unique and different? Have we lost that? How do we know? If we still have it, how would we describe it?

At your next meeting –spend time talking about this –no matter what the size of your organization, it is worth the time. Then ask “What must we stop doing or do differently to preserve the core?”

Who is managing your succession? Are you slipping through the cracks?

Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on a wall?  Did you ever wonder what they were saying about you? Whether it is a board of directors, the Chief Marketing Officer, or your immediate boss, someone is talking about you and your future.  Are you leaving your succession conversations in the hands of others? Just as importantly, what tools or process is the organization using to guide the process?  A recent survey by the American Management Association indicated that most organizations still use informal approaches to identify future leaders. What implications does that have on you and your organization?

Four things you should do:

  1. Be honest with yourself about what it important to you. Declare it to others. What does a meaningful workplace mean to you and those that you mentor?  A couple of good references are Neal Chalofsky’s Meaningful Workplaces and Dave Ulrich’s The Why of Work.
  2. Are you mobile? A former boss of mine told me to remember “everyone is mobile until they ask you to move.” It is ok to challenge the status quo – what does mobility mean in today’s world of work? After all, it is your life we are talking about here.
  3. Finally, what tools does the organization have in place to guide this process for you? How much time and energy do you have invested in this?  If you invest your time here – just like you would with one important presentation, you would be better off.  How have you approached it when you were in a job search externally?
  4. Try getting it down on one page. It is hard to do, but it will make it clear in your own mind. There are many tools out there for your own use.

Are you slipping through the cracks?

amachart1Source: American Management Association Enterprise, 2011