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 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: 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.




Performance Matters: Lessons from My Father & Social Media

Performance MattersWe’re listening! We’ve changed the format of week’s blog post based on some of your feedback.

 Leadership & TeamworkLessons from My Father:  Onboarding and Engagement

Of the many things I’ve learned from my father, there is one professional lesson he taught me about leading people which stands out.  People want to know three things, he said, when they join an organization.  For leadership and teams to be effective, employees must be able to answer three questions:

  • What’s job?  That seems simple enough, but making sure a team member knows exactly what they should do, how they should do it, and when they should complete whatever tasks they’ve been assigned isn’t always clear to them as we might like to believe.
  • How am I doing? In other words, they need regular feedback about the quality, timeliness, and appropriateness of the work they are doing.  And that doesn’t mean an annual performance review!  Ongoing dialogue and coaching is essential for them to continuously improve and maintain a high level of performance.
  • Does anybody care? Answering that question for an employee means making sure they know their work and their presence on your team is valued.  That can mean giving constructive feedback when someone’s performance falls short and when they are doing a great job.

So ask yourself what evidence you have that they can answer all those questions if you want to build a more effective team and be a more effective leader.  By insuring you’ve answered those three questions for your team members, you will improve their performance and insure they remain engaged.

SalesTalk to Everyone You Know2.0

In our last edition, we addressed the importance of telling everyone what you sell—not just the people you think are prospects. But what are some creative ways to do that?

First, you can use social media as a platform to highlight converting a prospect to a client.  You might post something on LinkedIn or Facebook like this?  “Celebrating providing an IT solution to a $20,000,000 manufacturer that will make them more efficient and save them time.”  This is a soft way to quickly and broadly tell your network what kind of work you do.  If the post is “Liked” by others, follow up with an email or phone call to ask them if they know anyone else you can help.

Second, you can build an email list specifically for communicating your successes as a professional sales advisor.  Without revealing confidential information, you should briefly describe the client’s unique problem, the nature of their industry, and how your efforts paid off for the client.  Be sure to include something that your contact list members will find useful, rather than just gumming up their inboxes.  This strategy can help you build both reputation as an expert and will keep people top of mind when they encounter others who might have the need for your product or service solution.  And ask them for feedback on what you’ve shared when you hear back from your audience so that you can improve the quality of those communications.


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


Transformational Leadership,Social Networking, and Getting the Best from Your Team

Here’s the second edition of PSG’s blog…let us know if this content is useful to you! And if it is, share it with a friend or two and invite them to subscribe. Now, down to business!

Leadership—Transformational Leadership
I once worked with a man who asked me, “Why don’t people like me?” Despite the fact he’d been enormously successful in his career, he felt like he wasn’t getting the best from his team. This was a man for whom I had great respect. So I was surprised by the question. My response was simple. “It isn’t that people don’t like you,” I said. “They don’t know you.”

He had a penchant for leading with reports, always focusing on “the numbers.” He never really seemed interested in a relationship with the people on his team. He didn’t ask about their families, their weekend adventures, or even their professional hopes and dreams. His style was what has been termed, transactional leadership. Now, there’s a place for that kind of leadership. Leaders have the responsibility of making sure people are executing their duties effectively. In that, they are winning their team member’s minds. But what about winning hearts?

To win the heart of a team member, what might be called transformational leadership, requires us to invest in a relationship with him or her. We have to work to build what I call relationship equity, meaning we have to know our team members, not just know about them. Sometimes, we have to be willing to be vulnerable about a problem we are trying to solve at work. Sometimes it means we ask someone what obstacles are in the way of their performance. It means we know their their hobbies, travel, trials, and enough about their families for them to believe we are invested in the relationship beyond just getting them to do their job well. If that’s difficult for you, just try this approach with one team member with whom you have some semblances of a relationship. Try to improve that one and then move on to others.

Sales—Getting More Appointments
Chances are you run in to people you’d like to meet at coffee shops, parties, community events, and lots of other places. Many of us, however, fail to recognize the value of these happenstance meetings as an opportunity to actually make an appointment. At best, we’ll say, “We need to get together soon.” Then we’ll return to our office and hope we remember to follow up. But there’s a better way!

Why not ask, “You know, I’ve been meaning to call you for us to catch up. Can we put something on our calendar right now?” Since most people use a digital calendar or carry one with them, that’s the most efficient way for your social networking efforts to pay immediate dividends. With this strategy, you don’t have to hope to catch someone on the phone or get them to reply to an email. And if it’s someone you’ve just met, simply ask for a business card and for permission to follow up with them later that day or the next morning. The longer you wait to contact them the less likely you are to get the appointment. If you’re wise enough to leave sufficient time between appointments and meetings, make that call or send that email when you get back in your car—before you put the car in drive!

Teamwork—Getting the Best from Everyone in a Meeting
Much of the research regarding group communication indicates the willingness of group members to share their thoughts, offer important insights based on their experiences, or dissent from “groupthink” is affected by both the facilitator’s style, and each member’s own cognitive tendencies, gender, and race. If you want to get the best thinking from your group, there are a few things you should know.

First, and this is fairly obvious, more introverted group members will be more likely to remain quiet during your meetings. Second, gender plays a subtle but significant role. Women in male dominated groups will often hesitate to speak up. Finally, minorities will do the same when they participate in non-minority dominated groups. Of course, there are always clear exceptions to these tendencies. But facilitator/leaders in these groups need to be aware of them. So what can you do?

Be sure to invite the opinions of these team members. The simple act of asking, “Let’s see what Jane (or any other member of your group) thinks” validates their membership in the group and allows them the platform to offer their perspective. If one member of the group has dominated your meetings in the past, open your next meeting with “Today, I’d like to make sure we get everyone’s perspective on this matter, so I may redirect some of our conversation to make sure we get the benefit of everyone’s thoughts.” Doing so sets the expectation that you might interrupt someone who is prone to speak up and who, perhaps, doesn’t realize his or her impact on the meeting.

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 Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305