Performance Matter: Engaged and Productive Team Members

Recently, we’ve been doing some work with strategic planningclients. And a lot of our discussion is around attracting, developing, and retaining engaged productive employees. 

Based on our experience and research, engaged employees (the one’s who feel like they getto come to work rather than have to come to work) are more productive on almost every measure.   But what keeps them highly engaged?  Most of them say its because they understand their roles and are appreciated for their contributions to the organization’s mission.  Benefits, salary, and working conditions are, of course, also important.  But those things are really like milk, eggs, and bread in a grocery store.  They’re like minimum requirements for getting people to come in the door!

So if you’re trying to attract, retain, and develop top talent, you have to have those things.  So how can leaders differentiate their organizations from their competition if those items are largely a commodity to your team?

First, make sure every employee understands how their role fulfills a larger purpose.  If an accounts receivable clerk doesn’t realize how getting billing done accurately and promptly affects the organizations cash flow, they may just be going through the motions of getting tasks done.  But if they don’t realize their peers might not get paid if they don’t get those bills out, they won’t really see the larger value in what they do and they will be less engaged.

Second, ask your team member’s this simple question.  On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you to be working here?  Tell them a onemeans you’d be looking for another job if your salary was tripled and that a ten means you’d work here for free if you had the means to do so.  Once you have the answer, ask them this.  How can I help move that number closer to a ten? You will be stunned at what you learn.

Over the years, we’ve heard things like, “I really need a new computer,” and “I’d like to do something more challenging.”  Or they might say, “I need to be able to adjust my work hours a bit to help out with my family.” The mere asking of these questions will help people feel more valued within your organization. And it will make them want to become even more productive.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to be said about employee engagementand productivity.  And you have to be careful to pose the questions in the light of what you can control.  If it’s possible to deliver that employees request, do it.  If it’s not, make sure to explain why it isn’t possible.  More often than not, people will appreciatejust knowing why a change can’t be made.  But whatever you do, don’t just ignore their response.  You’re better off not asking than not delivering one of the two possible responses.

We will talk more about employee engagement in future.  So stay tuned!

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.



Performance Matters: Strategic Planning and Relentless Measurement

For the past four weeks, we’ve been discussing the essential components of an effective, actionable strategic planning process for your organization.  We’ve addressed the need to engage stakeholders, ask (and answer) critical questions, plan continuously,  and to implement only needle-moving strategies and tactics.  This week, we’ll address the essential need to have a relentless measurement process in place to insure you successfully implement your plan.

Keeping score matters. So your strategic tactical must include a systematic and relentless measurement component. Some things need to be measured every day. Some every week. And some need less frequent measurement. But everyone must know what is being measured and how often if they are to help the organization achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. And that measurement system must in answer the following questions.

What’s the goal?

Who is responsible for achieving that goal?

How will it be measured?

How often will it be measure?

What will we do if we are not being successful?

Most leaders would like to believe their organizations are agile. But if they aren’t consistently and accurately measuring the effectiveness of their strategies and tactics, they don’t know when to make changes in their policies, processes, people, or procedures. In short, they won’t know when their execution of tactics is out of alignment with their organizational mission. So they will simply be wasting resources in their effort to achieve it.

Obviously, no series of blog posts can adequately comprehensively address the topic of strategic planning.  So if you’d like to know more abut how PSG works with clients to build and execute simple and effective strategic plans, contact Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at



Performance Matters: Strategic Planning and Engaging Stakeholders

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered a variety of issues related to creating a straightforward, meaningful strategic planning process for your organization.  We’ve stressed the importance of continuous planning, answering critical questions, and implementing only needle-moving strategies and tactics.  This week, we address the importance of engaging stakeholders in the process.

If you want buy-into your strategic planning process and its goals, you must let   people weigh-inthroughout the process.  If you’re leading a 7-member organization allowing everyone to weigh-in is simple, and relatively easy.  But if you leading a 700-member team, getting them to weigh in will be a challenge.  So develop a representative list of team members and, if nothing else, give them the opportunity to point out what they see for your organization in the way of threats and opportunities.  A brief survey throughout the year can be a remarkably effective means of generating needle-moving strategies.

In larger organizations, leaders can become far-removed from their customers.  They might not see inefficiencies in the production process.  Or they might be unaware of some emerging threat or opportunity simply because they don’t have as good a communication channel as they believe they might, or they don’t have the time to wander around the organization and talk to enough people.  Be sure to let your stakeholders know what you’ve reviewed their ideas and, if possible, make sure they know why you haven’t acted upon them. Doing this will help minimize disengagement by letting your team know you take their input seriously.

As you’ve begun to identify strategies and tactics for implementation, let your team have the chance weigh-inon those too!  Most organizations struggle to keep everyone engaged and that costs them productivity.  By keeping them engaged throughout a continuous process, you will improve organizational trust, commitmentand, ultimately, results!

Finally, make sure to engage your customers!  At the end of all our planning and tactics there sits a customer.  If possible, talk to them.  Ask them why they chose to business with your organization, what would make them decide to choose another provider, and how you can insure they will be your customers for life?  Brief surveys, dinner with a group of significant customers, and focus groups throughout the year can be an extraordinary and high-return investment on the time and money you will invest in this process.

If you’d like more information about how Performance Strategies Group helps our clients build meaningful, actionable and differentiating strategic and tactical plans, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at



Performance Matters: Strategic Planning and Scarce Resources

For the past few weeks, we’ve been addressing the topic of effective strategic planning.  We’ve noted the need for continuous planning and how an effective planning process must answer several essential questions.  But because all organizations have scarce resources, we have to choose which strategies and tactics to implement.  Because of that, we must implement only needle-moving strategies and tactics–the one’s that materially lower risk, raise revenue, improve our products, or improve the leadership skills and productivity of our teams

Few organizations have the luxury of wasting precious resources in pursuit of their strategic mission and achievement of their goals.  As such, only the most meaningful strategies and tactics should be implemented.  More often than not, there a few essential strategies that warrant implementation—things that move the needle, if you will.  The more complex your plan, and the more it includes, the greater the chance nothing meaningful is actually implemented. In many cases, less truly is more.  So we have to abandon strategies and tactics that aren’t delivering the results we want.

Scarce resources, like expertise, people, money, time, means leaders must find an objective means, whenever possible, of identifying the probability of success of whatever tactics you undertake, their cost, and likely reward before implementing anything.  Rank those strategies and tactics and implement only those you believe have the highest probability of success and return.  It’s almost always better to implement one needle-moving process, tactic or strategy than to implement many with a limited return.

When ranking alternatives, it may be useful to appoint a devil’s advocate to avoid groupthink from settling into your planning process.  Whenever groups work together, it’s possible for them to be unable to see the forest for the trees.  So if you don’t engage an outsider to facilitate some of your planning, appoint someone who’s role it is to argue against conventional wisdom—a devil’s advocate.   If you’re in a senior leadership role, taking this position may stifle open discussion about all the alternatives you’ve developed.  By appointing someone else to play this role you will allow everyone to contribute without quenching essential dialogue.  Better yet, rotate that role amongst team member so you get the benefit of a variety of perspectives.  Remember, your goal is to generate the best strategies and tactics!

If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group works with organizations to help them build actionable and meaningful plans, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at  


Performance Matters: Strategic Planning and Critical Questions

Last week, we began our discussion about what we’ve found makes for a meaningful, actionable strategic planning process.  Our first components was to recognize the importance of continuous planning.  So what’s the next component?  It’s being sure we answer a few critical questions.

Simplicity is the essence of effective strategic planning. Your goal in meaningful strategic planning is not to identify every possible threat or opportunity, it’s to identify the most important ones.  Far too many strategic-planning initiatives get wrapped up in minutia.  Yes, there are times when large scale research is required for planning.  Yes, there are times when the details behind regulatory changes is essential. But getting wrapped up in endless amounts of research and long-winded dialogue over relatively immaterial matters is a recipe for failure—not to mention the high-cost of such an approach.  At its core, an effective strategic planning process will answer these these critical questions:

  1.  How can we differentiate ourselves, or product, or service from our competitors? 
  2. What are the catastrophic threats to our business model?
  3. How can we capitalize on demographic, economic, financial or technological trends?
  4. What capital expenses must we make to remain competitive?
  5. Do we have the leadership capacity and expertise to achieve our goals?

 If we can’t clearly identify the things that differentiate our organizations from our competitors, we will face a steep, uphill battle to be successful.  We need to know if we will do that from marketing, pricing, sales processes, technological advantage, or by finding a specific unserved niche for our products or services.

Catastrophic threats are those that can be the death knell of our organization.  Is talent acquisition or retention a serious threat to our survival?  Are our competitors innovating technology, delivery methods, or is regulatory change a threat that could dash our hopes of success?  Without knowing these challenges, we leave our organizations open to existential threats.

Trends in our industry, the economy, geography, and demographics can be the source of great opportunity for our organizations.  Baby boomers are retiring at record rates.  Will they travel more?  Downsize their homes?  Need unique approaches to healthcare, transportation, or want recreational options that your organization should anticipate?  Find out where the world is headed and how your organization can capitalize on those trends and you will give your organization the chance to prosper for many years.

The need to reinvest in our organizations is critical to our efficiency, quality, and processes.  If we aren’t investing in new equipment, new communication hardware and software, CRM systems, and much more, time alone will erode our ability to build organizations that will last!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our organizations need to recruit, develop, and retain high performing leadership.  According to PWC’s CEO survey, as well as what many CFOs report, leadership succession is the single biggest threat to the continued success of their organizations.  If we aren’t focused on building the next generation of leaders for our organization, or know what we will do if we lose a significant leader within it, we will always struggle to create long-lasting, successful organizations.

If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group helps our clients through their strategic planning process, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens at,


Performance Matters: Continuous Strategic Planning

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing five essential components of a simple, effective strategic planning process.  These posts may be a bit longer, but we think the topic is worthy of a bit more substance.  Based on our research and experience, we’ve found the following five techniques essential for effective strategic planning and tactical execution of those strategies.   The first  is to continuous planning.

Strategic planning, for some strange reason, seems to be an annual process for most organizations. If that’s the case in yours, then you’re waiting far too long to recognize and effectively respond to the implications of product innovation and demand, economic trends, the entry of competitors into your marketplace, leadership capacity and development,and so much more.   If you want to minimize threats and maximize the opportunities in the quickly changing environment of your organization, continuous planning is essential.  With continuous planning you’ll also stop asking your team members to force all their planning efforts into a brief period of time that distracts them from essential tactical responsibilities.

Ideally, you are building a continuous organizational planning process into your weekly, monthly, and quarterly tactical management activities.  Something as simple as asking your sales team, “what are the slow-erosion threats to our sales volume and product or service margins we face?” Or you might ask your manufacturing group a similar question like, “What are the slow-erosion threats to the quality of the products we make?”  Slow-erosion threats are those subtle threats that might not be easily identifiable like changes in your competitors pricing or the aging of soon-to-retire essential personnel—and they can be the death knell of your organization is not addressed.

You will also want to continuously identify the catastrophic threats that might result in untold damage to your organization’s productivity, reputation, or even its existence.  The death or disability of a CFO, subject matter expert, or critical business development officer might be the source of such threats.  Or it could be a data breach, litigation, regulatory change, or the development of new killer app by a competitor.

Just as you identify those threats all year round, so too you must identify immediate opportunities.  A competitor’s failure, departure from your market, downturn in materials cost, might mean you have the chance to seize new market share, lower operating costs, or raise product margincan all present remarkable opportunities for an organization, but if your organization is only focused on an annual process, seizing such opportunities before your competitors do will be difficult.

Strategic opportunities arising from demographic trends, changes in technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, public policy and regulation all warrant continuous review, not annual consideration.  Opportunities can arise both internally and externally for your organization, but your ear must always be on the ground if you are to hear their hoof beats in the distance.   As you hear those hooves across the proverbial plain, leaders must then look up, around, and into the distanceto see them in time to adjust their mission, tactics, and align them to prepare their organizations long in advance of the opportunity arising.

Next week, we will focus on the critical questions you must make a part of an effective strategic planning process for your organization.  If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations build a simple, yet effective, strategic planning process and how we help them execute that plan, email


Performance Matters: Wilt Chamberlain, Granny Shots and Strategic Risk-Taking

Last week, we talked about assumptions and strategic planning.  Assumptions can be a dangerous thing in business, sales, and life as a whole.  And as we’ve worked through some assumptions with a few clients, we’ve found ourselves discussing risk a bit.  So let’s unpack some of that here in a bit  of an unusual way.

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game. That single game record still stands.  But what’s even more remarkable is the fact he made 28 of 32 free-throw attempts on that night in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  When Chamberlain joined the league he was a terrible free throw shooter.  He had been completing less than 50% of his attempts until he began to shoot them underhanded or “granny-style.”  In 1962, Chamberlain shot 61% from the free-throw line, about 20% better than his career average.  But the following year, Chamberlain returned to the more traditional, overhand, technique for foul shooting. He said he quit shooting underhanded because it made him feel foolish.


Chamberlain, arguably one of the best players to ever play the game, felt foolish?  The man stood more than 7 feet and weighed somewhere around 270 pounds.  Who was going to say anything to him shooting underhand free throws?  And what’s the relationship between Chamberlain, strategic planning, and risk?

It’s simple. If you could improve your ROE, sales production, efficiency or just about anything else by 20% you’d take  some new risks, right?  But the fear of feeling foolish sometimes limits our thinking. It limits innovation and risk-taking in favor of conventional thinking—which means we aren’t thinking strategically.

Clearly, Wilt Chamberlain was good enough.  He didn’t need a 20% improvement in his performance to be a Hall of Famer.   But maybe you and your organization needs to risk looking foolish to accomplish all you are capable of accomplishing.   So the next time you take a minute to assess your company’s performance, think about Wilt. Ask yourself if you’re constrained by the fear of looking foolish and what the price of that is to your business. It’s worth the risk.