Communication, Leadership, and Writing Your Own User Manual

Unfortunately, newborn children and team members don’t come with a set of instructions.  But here’s your chance to write your own “user’s manual.”  Creating your own set of instructions for yourself can be a great way to build stronger relationships in your organization.  It’s a technique we use at Performance Strategies Groupin which two or more people jot complete a series of sentences to identify ways to better coach and be coached, allowing team members to create a common baseline for behavioral and cultural dialogue.

This tool may be particularly useful to do so when new team members join an organization, enabling the parties participating in the exercise to accelerate an understanding about what is important to each of them.   Often, we employ this exercise to compliment our use of several behavioral profiles we use in leadership and teambuilding exercises and become the foundation for creating a coaching culture.  With that understanding, please complete the following sentences with the realization there may be one or more ideas that come to mind.  Try to identify the two or three things that are most important to you, rather than list all your possible responses.

  1. If you want to motivate or energize me, you should…
  2. If you want to frustrate or demotivate me, you should…
  3. I give you permission to….
  4. If I have done something well please…
  5. If my productivity, accuracy, or some other performance measure by which I am gaged falls short, you should…
  6. I would prefer…
  7. I like a work environment in which….
  8. It is difficult for me to…
  9. It is really important for me to…
  10. Conflict is…
  11. As I understand them my primary responsibilities by which my performance will be measured includes…
  12. I need help when…
  13. I get upset when…
  14. I am the kind of employee/manager who values…
  15. I think our organizational culture values…
  16. When I am under stress I tend to…
  17. I feel devalued when…
  18. I feel valued when…
  19. When our organization is undergoing change in policies, people, or processes, I would appreciate
  20. I am not sure who is responsible for…
  21. I am at my best when…

Keep in mind this is only a brief list of statements, not a comprehensive one.  When discussing your responses with someone else in your organization, you will likely find yourself adding to the list.  You should feel free to do so and revisit this dialogue regularly.

If you’d like more information about how Performance Strategies Group can help you and your organization improve your communication, sales and leadership skills, or with our strategic planning process, contact principal consultant, Jim Owens at


Performance Matters: Telling Your Story

“What’s your story?”

It’s a question that’s pregnant with possibilities.  It can be posed as a accusation or as a sincere expression of interests.  But when it comes to telling their “story,” many leaders find it hard to express stories about their organizational culture, mission, challenges or victories.  Such leaders often fail to see the value of a well-told tale when it comes to engaging an audience, resorting to email as a means of so-called “communication” with their stakeholders.  They miss the primary value of story-telling when it comes to communication.  So what’s that?

It’s the opportunity to, as one writer puts it, to “make me care”  as a part of your audience.  When we coach leaders about communication we often have to remind them that they are on a quest to win both the  hearts and minds of their stakeholders.  As leaders, we have to find what is important to our stakeholders and connect with the passions, concerns, fears, or hopes,  and dreams in meaningful ways if we want to engage an audience, a customer, or an employee.  In short, great communicators make people feel a connection with the message they’re hearing.  

Over the years, we’ve asked leaders to share a story about something about their organizational values and mission.  We normally hear vague references to integrity, or hard work, agility, or even how much their organization values people.  But when asked to share an example of how that value has been born out in their organization in the last 30 days, we’re surprised at how few can do so.

So the next time you’re about to write that email, address that audience, or meet with that client, ask yourself one question.  What do they care about?  Whatever message you’re trying to craft will be far more likely to connect if you begin there, rather than if you lead and discuss only what you care about.  We will talk more about this in our next few blog posts as we address how it can help create change in your organization, building your strategic plans, or even how it will improve your sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction.  

Until then, if you’d like to know more about our executive coaching, strategic planning, or leadership and sales process consulting work, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at






Performance Matters: What did you do last night and uncertainty.


It can cause us everything from a bit of anxiety—that pit in our stomachs—to outright panic. But when it comes to our relationships when can feel uncertainty when we walk into a crowded room, meet a new boss, or make a sales call. And at the core of those experiences, we all want to reduce our sense of uncertainty.

So how can we lower that uncertainty quickly and build better and more productive relationships? By learning how, when, and where to ask the right questions. 

Consider this question:  What did you do last night?  It’s a simple question.  But it has a possibility of evoking a remarkable variety of emotions based on how, when, and where we ask. 

If it’s said gently to a teenager, even when we believe they’ve been up to something inappropriate, it might evoke a quiet, “not much.”  But if we ask it in the form of an accusation, WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? it’s likely to evoke a denial, or worse, anger. And if we wake them in the middle of the night ask—no matter what tone we use—we’re only creating more uncertainty and anxiety.  But what if we phrased it this way after the teenager has slept the night, had breakfast and is wide awake?  Tell me about your evening last night?  Wouldn’t we avoid some uncertainty and have a more productive conversation?

When we’re with a prospect—particularly one who might not know us well—each us trying to lower uncertainty.  The prospect wants to know if we are competent, honest, and that our product is fairly priced and best for him.  So we might ask him, “What would you like to know about me and my company or our products?”before anything else. If you’re a sales person and want to become a trusted-advisor,reducing your prospect’s uncertainty first will allow you to offer something about your expertise, the benefits of your product, or even personal references in return.    Once we’ve done that, we can move on to ask our own questions about his business needs and do so in such a manner that inspires confidence in us as an advisor.

There’s much more to be said about asking questions and reducing uncertainty—and we know the teenager example might seem a little extreme.  But in the coming weeks, we’ll show you have you can use this technique with employees to lead more effectively, reduce stress, and improve employee engagement.

Until then….

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 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