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: The Boomer’s Guide to Coaching Millennials

According to a recent Gallup report, more than half of Millennials are looking for a new job.  And that same report makes clear as employees of that generation don’t want bosses. They want coaches—people who can help them develop their abilities and contribute to meaningful work. That means Baby Boomer’s in leadership roles need to approach them differently than they might have wanted to be lead themselves. So besides realizing not all Millennials (just like Boomers) aren’t all the same, what should Baby Boomer’s do if they want to effectively recruit and retain and coach Millennial.

First, leaders must realize a paycheck alone won’t result in an engaged Millennial team member—or probably anyone else these days.  Those employees also want to know how their work impacts the organization’s stakeholders—owners, customers, other employees and their communities.  They want to know why and how fulfilling an organizational mission makes the world a better place—and how their working in that organization contributes to fulfilling that mission. There are endless possibilities for coaches to connect those concerns, including: how an employee’s work may allow the organization to be generous to community and non-profit organizations, or how their work might be helping make a safer, more reliable product that give its customer’s peace of mind.  The key here is tying the individual’s work and their own sense of purpose with the organization’s mission.   

Second, leaders have to get to know their Millennial team members as people, not as a monolithic generation.  Gone are the days when a good pension and health insurance meant an employee stayed with the organization for a lifetime.  Now, more than ever, leaders and managers must invest in building genuine relationships with their Millennial team members. If roughly 80%, as Gallup also indicates, of an employee’s sense of engagement (and thus, their productivity) comes from their relationship with a manager, then retaining productive employees means leaders must invest in understanding their Millennial employee’s goals and values, helping those team members to achieve their dreams and live out their values.  In doing so, these leaders can begin to coach their teammates in the context of that understanding, creating more institutional goodwill and reducing turnover.

Finally, these leaders should know annual reviews alone are a poor means of helping their Millennial team members understand their value to the organization.  Effective coaching is an ongoing and very personal process—the frequency and fervor must go beyond simply achieving tactical institutional goals.  It is built on a clear understanding of the employee’s goals and purpose and how they can best develop their skills and abilities, and how to develop them. In sports, coaches show their players how to execute a skill. Then they allow those players to demonstrate those skills.  Once they have observed that attempt, great coaches give prompt, constructive—and sometimes very straightforward—feedback in a relationship that is built on trust and mutual respect. 

Baby Boomer leaders should know that coaching your Millennial employees is simple.  It’s just not easy.  It will require a commitment of time, understanding, and a willingness for these leaders to accept their inter-generational differences in communication styles and values.Which means these leaders will have to adjust their strategies and tactics if they want to recruit, retain, and develop the Millennial generation talent. Doing such things will, with time, become a clear differentiator to Millennials—and for Baby Boomer leaders and their organizations—creating an environment where people the get to come to work rather than have to come to work.


Performance Matters: Aligning People, Processes, & Policies

Alignment.  It’s not just about getting into your favorite yoga pose properly.

If you work in any large organization, you’ve probably heard the term.  But alignment isn’t just for large organizations.  And while alignment is about getting your vision and and tactics in synch with one another to maximize productivity, it’s not as mysterious a concept as many seem to think.  But there’s a big question to be answered when trying to create more aligned organizations.  So where should we start?

Effective alignment begins with the customer!

It doesn’t matter if we are trying to align a single department or an entire organization, everything we do in any organization is about serving a customer or client.  So when we build policies, assign roles to people, or build organizational charts and processes we have to begin with the needs of the customer.  Sure, we have to make sure everything we do is compliant with laws and regulations, but when we focus on customers in that context, great things can happen.

At the moment, Performance Strategies Group is in middle of a stakeholder relations research on behalf of a client as part of a strategic planning engagement.  That means we are helping our client to identify customer’s opinions about products, their needs, frustrations, and even the reputation of the organization itself,  Yes, we’re also getting feedback from staff, board members, and other appropriate constituencies, but this, or any other organization doesn’t understand the customer’s experience and how easy or difficult it makes them to do business with us, alignment efforts are little more than a lab experiment.  

Whether you’re a CEO, a sales advisor, or a quality control engineer, you have to talk to your clients.  Okay, we will get off our soap box.  Enough said.

If you’ve found this piece insightful, please share it with our friends and peers.  And if you’d like to know how Performance Strategies Group helps clients with strategic planning, alignment, and stakeholder relations–including customers–email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at


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 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: 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.


Performance Matters: Taking Action, Building Teams

As we’ve discussed what makes a great leader  with people over the last few weeks, we’ve heard some interesting concepts and some frustrations.  It’s all about taking action and risk.

Simply put, leaders who won’t act frustrate their teams and engage in all kinds of unrecognized risks.  For example, one leader we know of had a challenging employee. This employee was irritating co-workers and clients alike.  Our had known about the situation for a while, but he had done nothing about it. With time, his employee was gradually alienating just about everyone around him.

There may have been plenty of reasons this leader was paralyzed in some sense.  Maybe he was busy with other priorities.  Maybe he didn’t agree with other’s assessment of the offending employee’s behavior.  Or maybe there we some things the employee did that were so valuable the leader feared confronting or coaching him.  But delaying some—and failing to communicate why—decision and action left the rest of his team wondering why.

Without realizing it, this leader was frustrating his own team.  He was losing their respect for his inaction.  As you might imagine, the chatter around this topic was adversely affecting the performance of his entire team.

So what should he have done?

First, he should have investigated the concerns he’d heard expressed about the problem months before he chose to do so.  Simply put, problems don’t solve themselves.  And leaders must take action when a genuine problem exists.

Second, his follow up might have included talking to some of his company’s allegedly offended clients.  Getting firsthand information allows us to really understand the damage we need to repair.  Perceptions, when it comes to people, vary from different constituencies.  So getting as much data as possible would help this leader make an informed decision.

Finally, if during his investigation he had learned what the cause of his team member’s conduct, he might have averted the damage done his team’s productivity. He might have helped them understand something within the employee’s personal life that warranted understanding rather than condemnation.  Obviously, he would need to be cautious to comply with HR rules, but life is difficult for all of us sometimes and this kind of authentic leadership can lead to an increased sense of purpose for everyone on the team.

Obviously, there’s far more to this than we can cover in a brief essay.  So we will stop for now—and next week we will discuss a bit about how this leader ended up handling this problem.  Until then, have a great week.

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.