Change Management Consulting

CONTACT US TODAY 530.321.5309

Business Success

08 28 2013

Innovate Or Die

Business Hardships, Business Management Consulting, Business Success

August 2013

This article was written back in 2007 in the beginning of the recession, its principles still apply today.

What do organizations, such as those in the publishing industry, need to do to ensure survival, readership, and jobs for their people and provide a service to their communities?

The publishing industry is at a wonderful crossroads, depending on how you choose to look at this challenge. Change and evolution are occurring all around us. Certain industries need to change, innovate, reinvent themselves or they will simply go the way of the steam ship and die out. A few industries in need of innovation are:

  • Publishing
  • Insurance
  • Real Estate
  • Automobiles Sales
  • Community Colleges

Information and news will still be disseminated, people will still purchase insurance and automobiles, and our society will still educate those who have a burning desire to learn. However, the process in which the organizations within these industries choose to conduct business must change dramatically. They must accept reality, innovate, and implement the innovative ideas and plans which will secure their futures.

The first step in any change process, whether we are discussing an individual that needs to quit smoking, a company who is hemorrhaging money, or an industry that is in the late stages of their life cycle is to accept reality and admit that course corrections must be made in order to survive. Beliefs, behaviors, processes and cultures must change. Paradigm shifts must happen. This is akin to a doctor telling a patient who has been smoking for thirty years that “you must stop now and change your behaviors or go home and make your final arrangements.” It’s serious! The good news is that there are options.

These options will be difficult for some people within these industries and there will be attrition for those people and organizations that choose not to respond quickly and with a clear, effective and innovative plan. Some individuals and organizations don’t respond well to change and they will be heard saying, “But this is how we have always done it,” or “I have seen these ups and downs before in my thirty years in this business. Don’t worry, this is just a fad and will blow over.” This kind of thinking is, “stick your head in the sand” blind justification. Never underestimate the power of denial.

The people and organizations that are profitable in the years to come will be those who are thinking of the future with excitement and innovative ideas, not remembering the good old days. History and evolution has clearly shown us that the animals, people or organizations that avoid extinction have always been those who are able to adapt to the changing conditions.

The next step to survival is innovation. So the question isn’t whether or not newspapers should advertise on search engines or not, but rather about how to satisfy the customers’ thirst for news in a format that is efficient, convenient, dependable and enjoyable. In other words, the publishing industry must figure out how to provide the service of delivering news in a format that people want given today’s technology and consequently will be profitable for the organization that delivers this service.

Obviously this is a major undertaking for the leaders in this and other industries. Those who approach this with an innovative, solution oriented, and behavioral mindset will likely prosper and those who approach it using a problem solving formula will die out. There is a subtle difference between the two methods and the choice will ultimately lead to success or disaster.

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Posted by at 1:04 PM

08 28 2013

10 Steps to Personal and Professional Growth

Business Management Consulting, Business Success, Communication Issues, Corporate Therapy, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change

August 2013

1. Awareness 2. Dissatisfaction 3. Affirmation 4. Responsibility 5. Personalized Goal 6. Demoralization 7. Intention 8. Action 9. Self-Support 10. Sustained Change. An Established Habit

First, think of something you can do so well that you can teach another other person how to do it. Second, now think about the stages you went through on that mental and physical journey and the time it took to achieve your current proficiency. Third, now apply that understanding to this article and your professional career.

Anyone who has attained a certain level of proficiency in any endeavor, whether that be in a professional business setting, in academia, or in various sports and hobbies have all gone through and experienced a similar ebb and flow of struggle and growth. I have outlined these stages so that one may know how to more reliably attain the goals you have in your mind.


Awareness of existing behavior, including thoughts, feelings, images, sensations and actions that are experienced as problematic: For example:

A. Catastrophic thoughts: e.g., “If I express my true ideas and opinions my colleagues or superiors will think I’m stupid.” …..Or my VP’s, supervisors and staff won’t think I know everything and will not have faith in me….. or will try and take my position.” B. Distressing feelings: e.g., anxiety, depression, guilt, etc. C. Disturbing images: e.g., an image of yourself as ineffective in your position, unsuccessful leader or a poor decision maker. (this is also known in the early stages in one’s career or promotion as the “imposter” syndrome). D. Discomforting sensations: e.g., generalized anxiety, headaches, shoulder, stomach or back pain etc. E. Ineffective actions: e.g., procrastination, inhibition, ineffective communication (listening and/or speaking), poor decision making skills, poor managing or leadership qualities.

(I have worked with experienced Presidents, CEO’s and other leaders who were technically capable yet inadvertently unaware and on their way to, or currently in the midst of, sabotaging their organization and subsequent careers because of their “blind spots” and fear of working with someone through them.


Dissatisfaction with present behavior: This can either produce motivation for change or the extinction of awareness through various psychological and/or outside influence’s or “distractions.” e.g., denial, obsessive compulsive behaviors, excessive alcohol & drug use etc.


Affirmation of your present behavior’s original survival value: People will often justify the present behavior as needed or valued. I had a client who was a very smart woman and valued her ability to “multitask.” Yet her directors and staff saw this behavior as not valuing them, being distant, and not involving them in decisions. Inadvertently, projects fell through the cracks because she would often “forget,” communication between her departments became more strained because they all needed to stay on her “good side.” She did not fully comprehend the gravity of the situation until the President asked me to work with her and her division.

When this affirmation step is omitted, people frequently undermine (Sabotage) their motivation for change with self-blame or “finger-pointing” e.g., blaming others.

For example, let’s look at the two possible scenarios. Inhibition, placating, letting others always have their way (non-assertiveness) might have been an affective technique for a ten year old child when dealing with a harsh and critical parent. Conversely, the other extreme can be just as damaging as when that child took the abuse at home and then redirected that anger toward others.

As an adult these symptoms can play out as: a person needs to be the center of attention and rarely allows others a voice, unreasonable expectation of others, requires excessive attention/admiration, lacks empathy, envious, or has a sense of entitlement. As you can imagine and have no doubt experienced, a professional manager, Vice President or CEO with these tendencies can sabotage an otherwise successful team, department and/or career. Working through this step is integral in establishing a strong sense of self and an intrapersonal attitude that is conducive to professional growth, self improvement and change.


For instance, some people in the workplace may have a “chip” on their shoulders. As a result, and as the previous example disclosed, their personal thoughts can be punitive and harsh as can their behavior toward others. Their actions can also be either too kind or too harsh given the reality of the situation. As a result, they are ineffective and cause themselves and others grief and the organization time and money with the bottom line being they come across as victims displaying some of these behaviors (e.g., attention seeking, need for admiration and lack of empathy, feelings of inadequacy, submissive and clinging behavior or preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and control). On the surface the symptoms may appear to be diametrically opposed, however, the underlying issue is the same and resolution to this challenge is to take personal responsibility for one’s life (not blaming oneself or others). This must be a major first step toward becoming a more satisfied individual, an appreciated co-worker and a successful leader.

The examples below highlight the difference between a person which allows the “victim” mentality to have control and a person who is being responsible, taking an active role in their thoughts and applying personal growth strategies:

A. Responsible position: “I feel depressed because I’ve “bought into” the belief that I don’t deserve to feel good about myself.” Victim position: “I feel depressed because nobody seems to care.” B. Responsible Position: “I have a point that will add clarity to why our marketing penetration is off by 7%, but I will wait until Gloria is finished speaking before I present my findings.” Victim position: Gloria is constantly talking and not saying anything useful, I’m going to interrupt her and present my data now. It’s more important anyway.” C. Responsible position: “I haven’t been willing to assert myself because I tend to doubt myself when others disagree with me.” Victim position: “I haven’t been able to assert myself because I keep getting shot down”


Set an achievable goal, that is, a change that is under one’s own control rather than dependent on someone else’s approval. Trying to gain another’s approval may be regarded as a desire (or want), but not a personalized goal which is under one’s own control. Focusing attention and energy on personalized goals increases one’s sense of personal power. Conversely, focusing primarily on desires or approval by others tends to increase one’s sense of powerlessness and vulnerability. Some examples are given below:

A. Personalized Goal: ”I’d like to reprogram the belief and overcome my anxiety of speaking up in meetings. Desire: “I want others to care about me so that I won’t so scared to speak up in meetings. B. Personalized Goal: “Effective leaders set the example and are respectful of others, when Gloria is finished I will tie her ideas into my new data so she saves face and the group gets the updated information required to hit our marketing target of 12% penetration. Desire: I am the Executive VP and I should be able to interrupt at anytime to present my information and move these meetings along. C. Personalized Goal: ”I’d like to support myself in the face of other’s disagreement so that I am willing to express my ideas and opinions more assertively during our meeting.” Desire: “I’d like to have my colleagues accept me so that I can express myself more assertively.”


Frustration and demoralization often occur at this stage when one discovers that steps 1-5 do not automatically produce change. There is often a mental struggle going on inside of you where one part is wanting to quit, but the other knows that if you work through this “stage” then success will be forthcoming.

Example, Think of any previous success you have enjoyed whether that is sports related, academic achievement or any act that made you “endure” over a period of time. If you draw on the mental processes, steps and strength it took to achieve that milestone or success then, you no doubt, know the next steps you must take at this cross road. In essence, revert to what you know and have been successful at (the processes, concepts and struggles that were needed) and apply them to this particular challenge.


A strengthened resolve to give the goal implementation process vigilant attention is required at this critical stage. This is the step at which one’s personalized goal is translated into an intention to change. An intention to change doesn’t guarantee change; however, it does have more action potential than wishing or wanting to change.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’”

-W. H. Murry from the Scottish Himalayan expedition to Mt. Everest


One’s intention is then translated into specific action steps. These steps must be intentionally repeated, over and over again, until the new behavior begins to be expressed automatically. This frequently takes more time and attention than people are willing to devote.  But success is assured to those who persevere and apply sound Problem Solving, Decision Making and Implementation skills.


Learning to support yourself through the period of vulnerability that occurs right after one lets go of the old familiar pattern of behavior and up to the point where one begins to feel secure with the new behavior or habit. One must model consistent mental and physical behaviors until which time the “experimental behavior” is firmly established, thus requiring increasingly less attention to maintain the change. A personal or professional mentoring group can be very helpful at all stages but especially this stage. Think of them as your personal “Board of Directors.” Corporations have them, why not you?


Congratulations. You have successfully completed your personalized goal. Now apply each step of this process to the small and large challenges that life presents to you each day and a happier more successful life will be yours as the old unhealthy patterns slowly fall to the wayside and the new patterns build up momentum and show themselves to you in ever self-fulfilling and profitable ways.

“10 elements of Intentional behavior Change” was originally developed by Dr. Joe Russo and stemmed from the work of James O. Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island and colleagues who developed the Transtheoretical model beginning in 1977 . I morphed these time tested behavior modification techniques and have applied them to the corporate environment for individuals and organizations who want to achieve “sustained change,” not just read about it, go through some idealistic steps and pretend change has occurred, when in reality, it has not. If one aspires to achieve extraordinary results, then extraordinary thoughts, behaviors and actions are needed. Are you ready to start?

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 11:56 AM

08 28 2013

Hiring Employees: The Four Requirements

Business Management Consulting, Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Effective Performance Evaluations, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013


Most people look at previous employment history and skill sets to decide on candidate selection. Although past history and skills can be decent indicators of future work, it is far wiser to look at this process through a different set of lenses. Each job actually calls for four major areas to be looked into before a candidate can be considered a good fit. To add value to your organization, be a good return on your investment and for them to be successful so that a long-term professional relationship develops, the four areas to consider are:

1. Company or department culture

2. Behaviors the candidate will need to posses to successfully complete job requirements

3. The actual skill set required to successfully complete the job

4. What does the organization or department need in terms of a team member to help them mature, evolve and be more successful?

Begin with the big picture and look at the culture of the department or organization a candidate will be coming into. The essential elements of culture are invisible, but learning about yours is paramount when making a decision to bring another person into this elusive mix. A brief and over simplified description of culture is: It’s how things are done in your company, the rights and rituals, company climate, reward system, basic values and the shared assumptions that a group has made in learning how to successfully deal with external tasks and cope with internal relationships. Next in line are the behaviors required for this person to be successful.

Behaviors are attributes of a person’s personality, which will increase their probability for success or failure within a certain culture and job. Behaviors cannot be taught; typically people are born with certain behavioral patterns and as one ages they tend to adjust but don’t typically change due to training. For instance, you may want to hire a salesperson. The behaviors that top your list are:

1. Ability to communicate easily with others 2. Make people comfortable 3. Copes easily with rejection, doesn’t take it personally and moves on to the next client 4. Provides information and closes the deal without coming across as “pushy” or “arrogant”

Skills on the other hand, are learned competencies, which can be generally achieved regardless of one’s behavioral set. In other words, keyboard proficiency, understanding computer programs, the ability to learn and explain sales features and benefits are all skills that can be learned through systematic acquisition of information and practice. And last, what type of person does your department need to maximize its strengths?

The last question, and in many ways the most critical and overlooked is, what does the department need, from a human and systemic standpoint, to improve and excel as a unified team? For instance, do you have a department that is mainly full of young get-it-done types who could benefit from a slightly older more methodical type who could add stability to the unit? Or perhaps, there is a group of older people who tend to be set in their ways and need someone with enthusiasm who can jump start your department. Obviously these are extreme examples but you get the idea. What does your team need to grow and expand; someone from the inside, not a manager?

Years ago, I worked on a consulting project with a large multinational corporation. One of the areas that needed guidance was the IT department. The Information Technology department employed eighteen techs that were under the age of thirty-five and two that were fifty-eight to sixty two, but no one who could bridge the gap, including the 48-year-old director of IT. Candidate (1) was around the age of 38, had less technical skill but was worldly, mature, had owned a business and knew what responsibility and internal and external customer service meant. He turned out to be the best fit because he could speak to both the younger set and older techs. In addition, he had a calming effect over the whole department and brought an element of moderation that was lacking. Candidate (2) had a better skill set and looked better on paper, but was more of the same; he wouldn’t have added anything new to the department except another pair of hands. By hiring candidate (1) we received another pair of hands, but more importantly, we hired a person who helped this department expand and grow to the next level of efficiency. So to answer your question, you are looking for someone who can add value to the whole organization, not just fill a spot for the moment so everyone can get back to work ASAP.

As you can see, adding a new person to your organization can be a short sighted quick fix of finding a body to fill a slot or it can be part of a systematized approach to building your company that will separate you from the competition. To recap look at:

  • locating the right person who fits in with your culture
  • has the right mix of personality and behaviors that will help your team stretch and grow
  • has the required skill sets to be successful in the position
  • someone who can help you take your team from where they are to where they need to be by adding something special because of their behaviors, personality and/or unique approach to your business and industry.

Taking the extra time to make the best choice will save you from having increased rates of attrition, high training costs and personality difficulties, which may lead to costly litigation in the future. Good luck and be choosy.

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 10:59 AM

08 23 2013

How to Set Goals & Achieve Them

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013

Business Strategy and Implementation, Improvement, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Work Place Articles

Many people struggle with achieving goals, not because they aren’t serious, but because they don’t know how and don’t have a map to follow.

Whether learning to lead people, run a department or ski having a proven formula or system to follow will improve your success rate tremendously. Setting goals is commendable but how does one actually implement the process, avoid the obstacles and naysayers, and follow-through to success?

For those of you who want to do this but are fearful, congratulations. If you weren’t ready to take it seriously, then you wouldn’t be feeling fearful or anxious. Take a step toward that fear and you will conquer it.

Remember to have fun as you stretch yourself. The process isn’t always easy. Here are ten steps that will provide you with a higher probability of achieving your goals.

1. Select a Personal or Professional Goal


  • Health and exercise. Reduce calories by 38 percent per day, hit the gym three times per week. Do 100 miles a week on your bike.
  • Improve organizational gross revenue by 18 percent in the next 12 months.
  • More quality time to spend with my beloved and children

2. Identify the Benefits to You and/or Your Organization for Making This Change

  • Feeling better, more energy, improved appearance
  • Less stress, happier employees, stronger financial company, improved market share, growth of my business or the department I manage
  • A loving and happier home environment for my children, my beloved and me

3. Identify Strategies for Accomplishing Your Goal

Identifying strategies is a three-part process. First, list ideas for possible strategies to achieve your goals. Next, consider the obstacles that might keep you from reaching your goals. Finally, consider ways to overcome such obstacles:

  • I could get up before work and hit the gym, I could go directly after work.
  • Proactively coach my employees and set clear accountabilities with timelines.

4. Obstacles That Might Get in the Way

  • I hate getting up early, this is a hassle, and I’m tired after work.
  • I don’t have time to coach people.
  • I don’t like setting clear and firm accountabilities because I don’t know what to do if they don’t achieve them?

5. Consider Ways to Overcome Such Obstacles

  • I used to work out after work and it actually gave me more energy.
  • I need to re-prioritize my day and make time to coach. We have a great team; if we did this, the gross revenue targets would be very attainable.

6. Adjust Your Surroundings for Successful Goal Attainment

The people and habits you currently have in place can greatly influence your behavior. By creating supportive surroundings, goal attainment can be a successful and satisfying process. Examine your support system. Family, friends, subordinates and superiors can all help or hurt your goal attainment efforts. Help and teach people how to help you attain your goals.

7. Implement Your Strategy and Record Your Progress

Make a game out of it. Wall charts that measure growth are magic at encouraging consistent behavior modification and improvement.

8. Reward Yourself Along the Way

Rewards are key to human motivation and make the process more enjoyable.

9. Visualize Clear Accomplishments

Our brains work very similar to software programs. In fact, the mind doesn’t know the difference between visualization coupled with feelings of succeeding at an event and actually doing it. This is why you often notice professional athletes visualizing a race course or hitting a golf ball. Coaches call this visualization and psychiatrists call  it self-directed Neuroplasticity. The bottom line is it works and there is much empirical evidence to support it. If you consistently visualize (program) in your mind the exact results you want to achieve this will help your brain duplicate it and look for ways to improve.

10. Make Adjustments as You Progress

If you determine that success is not happening like you hoped, review your goals, barriers, and support systems and make adjustments. Persistence is important, but, if your goal process ends up being all work and no fun and you are beginning to dread the change or feel like quitting, it’s time to adjust your approach. Adjustment is a normal part of your evolutionary change process.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 5:02 PM

08 21 2013

How to Lead Profitable Productive & Efficient Meetings: A Quick Guide

Business Success, Communication Issues, How to Lead Profitable Meetings

August 2013

How to Lead Profitable Meetings

This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
  • Meetings end with unspecific goals.
  • Vague timelines make people wonder who is going to do what and by when.
  1. Meetings are planned more effectively for better results.
  2. Achievable and measurable goals are clearly defined.
  3. Effective meeting facilitation skills are the norm.
  4. Specific timelines with clear responsibilities are the norm.
  • Employees dread attending meetings.
  1. Break-out sessions are used effectively to reduce meeting time and maximize results.
  2. All participants are encouraged to contribute and provide value.
  • Meeting participants don’t feel heard or valued.
  1. A safe environment is created.
  2. Norms and rules for resolving disagreements are established and followed by all participants.
  • Participants rarely contribute their honest ideas and feelings.
  1. The value of pre-meeting assignments is clear.
  2. Roles for participation are defined for all.
  • Participants have different interpretations of what was said and agreed to.
  1. Flip charting and note taking techniques to summarize and get consensus are the norm in all settings.


Unsuccessful and unproductive meetings are a waste of your organization’s valuable time and resources. Creating a productive and goal-oriented environment for your business or executive meetings is singularly one of the most valuable tools you can implement for your organization.

Successful leaders, executives and managers stay focused on how they can stay on course and continue to execute on the strategic & business Plan. Therefore, roughly 10-20% of time spent in meetings should be dedicated to looking at your strategic plan, business plan, vision, mission statement, or core values and discussing with participants how you and they intend to apply these principles so they positively impact everyone’s decisions, actions, statements and behaviors. At first this WILL seem cumbersome. But it is the only way to stay “on-course.” most executives and managers are ACTION oriented and believe the fire directly in front of them is of most importance. (If this belief is plaguing you and/or your executive or management team, you are fighting a losing battle and you know it). Get ahead of the curve and you will be able to lead proactively rather than reactively. A great fist step in this process is to make the most of everyone’s time and improving meeting productivity is usually where you will find the lowest hanging and sweetest fruit.

If you have tried these or similar (conferences, books, coaching, etc) steps before with limited results, you don’t have a meeting process problem you have a people, conflict or cultural issue. In that case, please contact me so we can dig a little deeper into the real problems and partner on finding solutions to these and not get sidetracked with superficial symptoms.

For a more exhaustive list regarding meetings, please go to

Purpose of the meeting?

  1. What is purpose or outcome you intend this meeting to produce; the end-result? The purpose should state why the meeting is needed.
  2. Discuss clear objectives/challenges. Come prepared with all relevant information or better yet, email it prior to the meeting so people can have time to prepare (discussed at the bottom of this paper titled Pre-meeting assignments).
  3. Discuss possible options
  4. The group or leader (depending on your executive culture) decide on the best option given time and resources
  5. One person is given the task to carry out the functions and is 100% accountable for its completion in the given time frame provided. Special note: all executives are responsible for its success, but this one person is 100% accountable.
  6. A clear date and time will be given as to its final completion. If multiple stages are required, then milestone dates and times will be provided and met.
  7. Desired outcomes?
    1. Outcomes focus the meeting by indicating what information is to be shared and what decisions or actions need to occur.
    2. A clear and concise agenda preferably sent at least 24 hours prior to meeting.

Active Facilitation Strategies

Set ground rules so people know how to behave. It keeps the meeting focused. Example:

  1. Start & stop on time
  2. All participate. The facilitator should invite the quieter members to participate
  3. Challenge ideas instead of people
  4. One conversation at a time. Don’t speak over people
  5. We finish with a recap of who will complete what by when.

Pre-Meeting Assignments

Meetings are the biggest wasters of time in all organizations. Therefore, having participants prepared ahead of time and ready to discuss topics will ensure efficiency and productive decision making. Pre-meeting assignments are tasks done by participants in advance of the meeting. If you assign them abide by these rules:

  1. Explain why it is important
  2. Give adequate lead time
  3. Provide clear instructions (i.e., read and be ready to discuss, analyze, or provide us with a synopsis of this topic etc)
  4. Assign only if you intend to use it and then fully leverage the time and material



Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 12:43 PM

08 19 2013

Profitable & Improved Staff Development

Business Success, Communication Issues, Conflict Resolution, Corporate Therapy, Improvement, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013

This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
  • No buy-in and no follow through from participants once they return from a workshop or training.
  • Trainings are ineffective or off-target and result in poor recall on Monday morning when trying to implement the new skills.
  1. People deeply understand and buy into the training because they were involved from the beginning. They support that which they helped create.
  2. Follow through over time is more consistent.
  3. Better information retention; a “learning environment” is created by staff where all continue to train and teach each other.
  • Workshop training manuals get shelved, forgotten, and collect dust.
  1. Participants refer to training manuals and rely on them as valuable resources.
  • Training or team building is like a doughnut (enjoyable, but with no lasting nutritional value).
  1. Consistent innovation moves people to take action and create new habits.
  2. A greater return is received on every training investment dollar.
  • The training is “off the shelf,” one-size-fits-all, or so generic it doesn’t translate well to our particular people and their specific challenges.
  1. Trainings are specifically designed for our objectives, our culture, and our people so that individual and organizational growth can be measured and maintained.
  2. Participants are taught how to overcome daily challenges and integrate information.
  • We want to utilize the information, but work and pressing issues dictate our priorities.
  • We just don’t have time right now.
  1. Trainers don’t leave after one day. They partner with the organization to ensure long-term learning and return on investment is received.
  2. Morale is higher and more consistent.
  3. Prioritization is improved.
  • We don’t know how or don’t take the time to implement staff development because our culture/industry/business is unique.
  1. Training is designed specifically for us from A to Z. Implementing the information is part of the training process and our people grow consistently over time as a result.

You May Want to Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • How do we establish or reestablish trust? Are you ready to improve and add extra strength to the back-bone of your organization?
  • How do our people communicate? How can we really improve communication, goal setting and execution so our people and departments GET RESULTS and we actually utilize all of our resources, people and departments as a UNIFIED whole toward specific objectives.
  • Where are we now and where do we all want to go? How can each member of our organization help to improve our bottom line and why should they?
  • Is any of this even possible?
  • If someone told me it was, would I believe them?
  • If I did believe them would I take the two  minutes out of my busy day and do anything about it? would I call, text or email?

Profit from the inside out. I specialize’s in designing employee development programs tailored specifically for your staff and you. I provide you with the necessary training and tools to ensure that your staff continues to teach itself, monitor itself, and show improved results long after I have left.

Are you getting the best out of your employees? If not, then take steps to improve your organization by investing in an employee development program.

Make no mistake about it: all your closest competitors have good R & D… They have access to financing and resources, and they are training their people. The only resource which separates you from your closest competitors is… YOUR PEOPLE… SO INVEST IN THEM EFFECTIVELY.

All organizational challenges will ultimately be solved by and through your people! Whether your challenges are technical, financial, or in some other domain, these challenges will always hinge on human communications and processes. Understanding and improving communication is hugely important to your organization’s survival and success, because the bottom line is: it’s YOUR people who will ultimately take YOUR organization to the next level.

Important considerations for employee development:

  • Urgency and energy are produced to create a new future.
  • Broad participation quickly identifies performance gaps and their solutions, improving productivity and customer satisfaction.
  • First tackle the larger issues or conflicts that are tying up your organization’s time and effectiveness.
  • Alleviate stress and you emphasize camaraderie.
  • Employee morale will soar higher and stay more consistently positive through employee development; when employee’s morale is high, areas of need will be addressed more quickly and effectively, so problems won’t fester under the surface and get out of control.
  • Encouraging employee feedback on business challenges will help people grasp issues.
  • Employees will become aligned around a common purpose and will create new directions, because they understand both the difficulties and the opportunities of change and growth. In short, employee development creates “ownership.”
  • Lastly, it is virtually impossible to have satisfied customers and dissatisfied employees. Everyone knows when a clown has makeup on and your customers know it when your employees are faking the smiles. So quit insulting them, because in this competitive age they WILL shop you.

In essence, when employees realize that they have some semblance of control and are being heard, the company, the leadership, and the employees all benefit. Thus, it is through this improved communication and shared purpose that the value of employee development truly begins to sink in for all stakeholders. This is when your team will take your organization to the next level. Through employee development, you are guaranteed lasting commitment and support of your strategic plan and your company vision!


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 6:22 PM

08 19 2013

Organization Business Strategic Plan Implementation Skills Assessment

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Effective Performance Evaluations, Improvement

August 2013

The Reality of Strategic Plan Execution should be clearly apparent. You must measure your teams understanding and ability to execute or you’re simply lying to yourself and others and wasting time and money under the illusion you’re doing strategic planning.

Whether I call it a strategic plan for larger organizations or a plan of attack for smaller mom and pop businesses, the foundational elements are the same. Having a clear plan on where your business is going and how to successfully and consistently achieve goals, so that all of your employees, managers and leadership fully understand their respective duties on how to get there, is paramount. The most pivotal aspect of this entire process rests on the ability of leadership and every employee under them to implement the strategic plan so that actions, statements, and behaviors result in improved conditions at all levels within your organization. When this takes place, your internal and external customers will benefit greatly and your competitors will try to emulate; resulting in your leading and your competitors following.

In my experience, however, working with National and International companies, approximately 95% of them have strategic plans, but only 3 to 7 % implement them consistently and effectively; most of these beautifully made documents start collecting dust after a mere 4-6 weeks after their launch. For example, and this represents the majority, not the minority; I had one President share with me that his organization had just completed a yearlong, mid-six-figure, strategic plan creation project; and it was a work of art housed in a leather bound embossed casing. However, when I asked him what he intended to do with it, he replied with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, “I don’t know.” Many of the problems surrounding implementation don’t stem from lack of trying, but rather from lack of understanding. Company leadership either believes the creation of the plan is enough and implementation will automatically take care of itself, or they confuse general strategic plan knowledge with the processing of the plan. In other situations, I have found they have gathered inaccurate information or no information at all, which they base their strategic plan on. Successful strategic plan implementation requires that your leadership team have skills, knowledge and experience, which creates competency when faced with follow-through.

A plan will not and cannot do anything but suggest a way to go; its a map. It does not promote ACTION. People promote action but usually don’t know what actual steps they need to take next because it requires them to do and be different than who and what they were 5 days before and leadership doesn’t know how to help model new behaviors. There are a lot of steps and stages that must be taken and met for a strageic plan can do you and your organization any good. The first step in this process is to determine if everyone on the leadership team and then within the organization knows about the plan, understands the plan and then knows what steps THEY must take to help implement the plan. This quick and easy assessment will help you determine how well the plan is understood.

Leadership Team Competency

These questions will help you and your team discover if you are ready to implement your strategic plan or if you must slow down and make sure everyone knows what the objectives are and their place in helping the company achieve those objectives. So many times I witness leadership going in one direction only to turn around and watch the rest of the company heading off in an entirely different direction–strange but, unfortunately very true.

Now for the assessment:  For ease of wording I use the term “leaders.” I suggest you mentally use all people of authority in your organization including executives, supervisors, directors, managers, assistant managers and so forth. I suggest you use a 0-5 Lickert Scale, where zero means “none of the leaders” and five means “all the leaders.”

  1. Your leaders understand the strategic plan and are able to successfully set department goals in support of the strategy?
  2. Your leaders lead meetings in which strategic issues are discussed in relation to operations?
  3. Your leaders, if asked, could provide a priority list of issues directly related to strategy implementation for which they are responsible?
  4. Your leaders set their subordinates’ goals and objectives according to the strategic goals that relate to their operations?
  5. Your leaders evaluate, reward, and promote their people with strategic goals in mind?


How did you and your Leadership team do? 

If you Scored…


High: 4′s and 5′s You are probably doing well despite economic or industry conditions.
Midrange: 2′s and 3′s You are doing OK, but now you know who/what needs improvement.
Low: 0′s and 1′s You and your leadership team would be wise to take your noses off the grind stone and put some time and energy into your destination and how you intend to get there.


Working Hard vs Working Smart

Working hard is needed, but working smart is required and nothing is more important to business success than working toward a specific destination and making sure you and your team have the fundamental skills, knowledge and competency to create and implement a useful strategic plan. For additional information on any or all of this material, please contact so we can schedule an appointment for you and i to speak about how to improve you and your company.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:38 PM

08 19 2013

How to Create an Office Environment where Change Initiatives can Flourish

Business Management Consulting, Business Success, Communication Issues, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change

Aug 2013

How to create an office environment where change initiatives can flourish

This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
We find ourselves re-doing our project plan and spinning our wheels. People are not working as a team. Increased cross-functional collaboration and communication. Higher degrees of participation from all members, at all levels. Less “failure work;” problems solved the first time.
People within and between departments are not communicating well. Creativity and synergy are poor or non-existent. Employee morale is down; absenteeism and attrition are up. Higher and more consistent morale. A high level of creativity and discovery are generated. The benefits of diverse thinking and multiple perspectives are captured in the moment. Valued staff and customers are retained.
Customer retention rates are sliding due to loss of key employees and our directional changes. Improved image of company or division within industry or community. New ideas and solutions to solve difficult problems.
Current systems and processes are generally less than optimal. People seem paralyzed about what steps to take next. People have initiative and take action. A professional, safe and encouraging work environment exists for all. People feel safe to challenge the status quo; existing beliefs about how the organization works and new ideas about how to improve the organization are stimulated. Discussions on positive change and finding creative solutions to new problems occur formally and informally. The focus is on maintaining a learning organization approach.

Achieving a Positive Change Climate

Charles Darwin theorized the fate of a species was determined by how “fit” it was. Interpreting Darwin’s statement, one might think that only the strongest or the fastest species would survive. But, this would not be an accurate interpretation of his theory of the fittest (especially when it comes to the defining the most “fit” in the business world).

Actually, it was neither speed nor strength that Darwin was referring to when he spoke of fitness. Rather, it was the adaptability of a species that would determine its fate. Similarly, evidence indicates that, just like in the animal kingdom, the survival of the fittest in the business world comes first to those who are able to change quickly and effectively in spite of tumultuous times in which cultural, environmental, and interpersonal changes are fast, fierce, and at times furious.

Organizational Change

To successfully navigate through change, it is essential that leaders, managers, and all employees gain an appreciation of one another’s challenges and needs. This vital first step will help to unify them as a team.

Second, the executives and managers need to identify and clarify for themselves and each other how they can help the organization achieve a more open climate; one which encourages an honest assessment of the situation, not one which merely seeks to puff leadership egos. When conversation is facilitated properly, employees will feel safe and be encouraged to share their insight. These are the hall-marks of creating a positive change climate. Are all of your employees confident enough to provide input on delicate issues or do they hold back and smile, or worse, share what they think leadership or management wants to hear? In either case, if people don’t feel safe enough to speak-up and try to help the department or company solve problems then leadership is driving partially blind and undercurrents of fear and chaos are actually controlling and driving your company!

Third, it is necessary to discover specific ideas (and belief systems) held by all your employees regarding change. Leadership and management often fail to recognize that outstanding ideas for improvement already exist in their people. If your employees are frustrated, obstinate, and difficult it may because they care and want to help but leadership doesn’t value their input. As a result, your employees have given up and….you have taught them to give up because of your silence, snide remarks, and interruptions. yes, they will smile and nod because they must keep their jobs but they are not working with or for you.  If any of this sounds familiar or upsets you……Congratulations, awareness is the first step. The second step is to call me or another specialist who can help you re-align your organization into an effective, fun and profitable company.

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 1:16 PM

08 17 2013

How to Successfully Merge Department or Company Cultures

Business Hardships, Business Management Consulting, Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Culture Diversity, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

Aug 2013

For a project to end successfully, it must begin successfully and this statement could not be more true and the stakes higher then when it comes to any kind of merger or restructure. Long before the CEO’s are finished signing the final documents, the employees of each department or company have already started the process. In essence, the merger has already begun to take shape and for better or worse, sides are being drawn. Therefore, before engaging in any kind of merger or restructure, try to get a good sense of the cultures involved. Train yourself in being culturally sensitive by visiting other organizations and figuring out how their “cultural assumptions” differ from yours.

If you are the facilitator or are in any way responsible for the success of a department or company merger, acquisition, or joint venture, try to visit the other department or organization and experience, as much as you can, how things are done there. Create dialogue groups across any cultural boundary that becomes apparent to you. Do not expect normal communication, goodwill and experience to produce mutual understanding. Both cultural units need to learn to be reflective and to get in touch with their own and each other’s cultural assumptions; this can only be successfully accomplished with the dialogue format.

If you are trying to gain mutual understanding between two or more cultures, you must create a dialogue form of conversation. This is best achieved by an outside and objective facilitator who can choreograph the conversation as well as ensure the focus and flow remains consistent with the original objectives. Below is a general outline of what should take place for an initial meeting.

  1.  Select ten to twenty people who represent the two cultures equally.
  2. Seat everyone in a circle, or as near as possible. Don’t use tables as these will create boundaries and distance the people and impede honest dialogue.
  3.  Lay out the purpose of the dialogue meeting: For example, “to get a sense of the similarities and differences in our cultures and from this learn to listen more reflectively to ourselves and each other.”
  4. Start the conversation by having the members in turn check-in by introducing who they are and what goals they have for the meeting.
  5. After everyone has checked in, the facilitator should launch a very general question, such as, what is it like to be in this company, what is known about this merger? what would indicate success for our departments or organizations as we move collectively through this merger?” Everyone in the circle should, in turn, answer the question from his or her company and perspective and with the ground rule that there be no interruptions or questions until everyone has given an answer.
  6. The facilitator should be observing the group dynamics and encourage an open conversation on what everyone has just heard without the constraints of proceeding in order or having to withhold questions and comments.
  7. If the topic runs dry or the group loses energy, the facilitator should introduce another question. Such as, “how are decisions made in this organization” (in my experience, body language, people communicating through eye contact etc will tell a lot about who may want to speak up but be unwilling or unable to due to ‘unspoken cultural demands.’ Comment about confidentiality or the undercurrent the group may be feeling. Key point—discuss the alligator in the corner. There will always be one and everyone knows it is there. Therefore, as the facilitator you must help them acknowledge the OBVIOUS). Again have everyone in turn give an answer before general conversation begins. This will encourage input from everyone and will detract from the more vocal members commanding the group dynamics.
  8. Let the differences emerge naturally; don’t make general statements, because the purpose at this stage is to uncover mutual understanding, not necessarily clear description.
  9. After a couple of hours, ask the group to pole itself by asking each person in turn to share one or two insights about his or her own culture or the other one; Another question that may encourage productive dialogue is; “what is one idea, concept, insight, or statement you received during this meeting that made our time together valuable for you?” I will always have a non participant writing all of these notes on flip chart paper taped to the walls. This way people can think and speak freely and a detailed description is available to be distributed later or for follow-up meetings.
  10. The answers gleaned from these last set of questions will in turn spark new insight for both the members and the facilitator. These should be kept and used as follow-up information.

 Clarification About What Culture Is

Culture is the shared tactic assumptions of a group that it has learned in coping with external tasks and dealing with internal relationships. Although culture manifests itself in overt behavior, rituals, artifacts, climate, and espoused value, its essence is the shared tactic assumptions. As a responsible leader, you must be aware of these assumptions and manage them, or they will manage you.

Unless your organization is a brand new conglomerate of people from other organizations, it has formed a culture that influences all of your thinking and behavior. If your organization is a new mix, without prior shared experience, then all members bring their prior culture experience to the new situation and seek to impose it on that situation.  The quickest way to create a new culture in such a situation is to give the people a compelling, common task so that together they can build a new set of assumptions.

The strength and depth of an organization’s culture reflects (1) the strength and clarity of the founder or the organization, (2) the amount and intensity of shared experiences that organization members have had together, and (3) the degree of success the organization has had.

Culture is, therefore, the product of social learning. Ways of thinking and behavior that are shared and that work become elements of culture.

You cannot, therefore, “create” a new culture. You can demand or stimulate a new way of working and thinking; you can monitor it to make sure that it is done; but members of the organization do not internalize it and make it part of the new culture unless, over time, it actually works better.

A given organization’s culture is right so long as the organization succeeds in its primary task. If the organization begins to fail, this implies that elements of the culture have become dysfunctional and must change. But the criterion of the right culture is the pragmatic one of what enables the organization to succeed in its primary task.

As the external and internal conditions of an organization change, so does the functionality, or rightness, of a given culture assumptions change. Culture evolves with the fluid circumstances of the organization.

The essential elements of culture are invisible. They are taken for granted and have dropped out of awareness. But they can be brought back into awareness. Failure to understand culture and take it seriously can have disastrous consequences for an organization.

Superficial understanding of culture can be as dangerous as no understanding at all. Theory and concepts gained from Edgar Schein.

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:56 PM

08 17 2013

Successful Strategic Plan Implementation: How to go from Planning to Action

Business Management Consulting, Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

Aug 2013


Strategic plans don’t go from plan to action on their own as most people think–or rather, hope. A strategic plan is a simple document or road map. People must be learn new behaviors and take actions not previously committed to implement a successful strategic plan. Much like people must take roads not previously traveled to arrive at a new destination.

In the same way that the strategic plan has discrete features (core values, vision, mission, action plans, accountabilities, etc.) a plan’s implementation has distinct and necessary features.

Communicating Conscious or unconscious, every organization is in a state of constant change. Programs and departments are constantly defending themselves, trying to gain market share, seeking to improve internal and external customer service practices, utilizing its dynamic and diverse people, refining its processes or striving to otherwise grow its strengths. In the implementation phase of strategic planning, the organization will be facing any number of changes and challenges; however, because we will have a common destination and common purpose as well as clearly defined checkpoints along the way, we will be better suited to talk to each other about our needs and successes.

People do better with change and challenges if they have a sense of what’s coming and what they need to do to prepare. (help them take the proverbial blind folds off and show them the beauty of the destination you have in  mind). When leaders engage in intentional, positive and proactive communication practices, their people will have a much greater sense of security and commitment. In essence, tell them in clearly defined language about the destination and then remind them how much you need their input and commitment while on this journey together.

Getting Buy-In Getting buy-in or commitment means just that: getting people to invest themselves into this idea, process, program or procedure. Luckily, most people will agree to buy-in when they can see how their individual investment will deliver a sound return. Simply put; how will this directly and positively impact them, their department, their family and well-being of the company they rely on for their economic survival? So when leaders empower their people with the ways and means to influence their work, those people will more readily buy-in to better plans. Empowered employees will support and nurture a plan and its implementation whereas powerless employees will just stand by and watch as if the plan and implementation do not apply to them. To get buy- in, leaders will need to provide visible, tangible and meaningful rewards and recognition for positive actions that lead to successful outcomes. If leaders have chosen and grown the right people (and created rewards and penalties that motivate their people accordingly) then the people themselves will seek out the opportunities to buy-in on the implementation of each variable of the  strategic plan.

Inspiring Interdependence Leaders who know their people will be able to spread personal and institutional passion as well as inspire higher levels of thinking and professionalism. Through this process of inspiring others, leaders will help their people implement a strategic plan each step of the way. Through knowing what intrinsically motivates their people, leaders will be able to guide people to recognize and share in the value of micro and macro accountabilities (those day-to-day measures along with the long-term results.) It is through this interdependence of accountabilities that employees themselves will sustain individual and departmental optimism and direction for the long haul required for a successful implementation.

Giving and Receiving Meaningful Feedback Defined also as a “feedback loop,” this feature allows leadership and line staff to inform practice in timely and meaningful ways. As each person and department moves through the day-to-day realities toward micro and macro goals and objectives this feedback loop continuously looks at human behaviors and qualitative measures that inform positive change toward specific goals and objectives. Because timeliness matters, leaders and managers need to implement changes in real time based on feedback. Equally as important, leaders and managers need to communicate those changes back to their people to show how employee feedback has successfully informed positive adjustments. Feedback loops should be internal: top-down, bottom-up and lateral, as well as external: outside (customer driven).

Leaders Acting as Exemplary Role Models What employees see, employees will do. In every sense, for internal as well as external communications and actions, perception is reality. Without fail, people will believe what they see over what they read or hear. Leaders who model high standards of conduct especially in times of difficulty, such as when an organization is facing challenges or changes in the status-quo, are leaders who will have people who are committed to integrity and character. Leaders who create a culture that rewards and supports good judgment at all levels will have more success implementing their strategic plans. (On the flip side, leaders or managers are not acting as strategic role models if they “pass the buck” or otherwise model less than professional behaviors or values including supporting silo-type responses to challenges like, “That’s not my problem. Our department is doing fine. ” Or other “CYA-cover your assets” attitudes.) Exemplary role models are those leaders, managers and individuals whose actions and statements are consistently focused on the successful implementation of the organizational strategic plan.

Offering and Supporting Strategic Professional Development Perhaps most important to the successful implementation of any strategic plan is an organization’s commitment to regular and specific individual and organizational development. This piece is huge because it is in its people that an organization will find its success. Growing people strategically will allow an organization to exceed its goals. Leaders need to ask themselves how much time and money the organization spends to maintain equipment and buildings?

How much is spent on copy paper, utilities and even sick leave? Are you spending more on maintaining your building and equipment or your people? If you are, then you need to seriously look at your most precious asset–your people! Invest in them consistently but wisely. (I don’t care how it is framed or sold; bowling, trust-fall mats, rope-climbing and other frivolous outings are entertainment, not sustainable and enriching team development). If the goal is to take the organization to the next level, a carefully planned and implemented professional development program and budget should be one of the organization’s highest priorities and successful implementation of a strategic plan requires good people who are skilled, knowledgeable and willing to grow.

So, where does your organization want to be one year from now? What behaviors, actions, beliefs, statements, systems, procedures and people would make up your organization in 12-24 months? The answer to that question is your vision. Now, thinking backward incrementally toward the present day, at each step and time along the way, what behaviors, skills, actions, etc., need to be in place at that stage?

These are your benchmark goals. As you backtrack to the present you will see that there are many steps along the way that require additional and highly-specific objectives. In order to succeed, your people need to be made aware of these big picture mile-stones as well as many details. Perhaps you can imagine it as if you are giving your people a road map with key stops highlighted along the way. Make it possible for each person to see how their part supports the whole journey. If you want to arrive at your destination on time and in good condition, your strategic plan will need to include quality assurances (you want to have a safe and sane trip), systems and procedures that take into consideration of variables known (vehicle choice, drivers’ skills, etc.) and unknown (weather and road conditions). Then, it’s time to hit the road and start your journey. This is the implementation; the process of actually moving your organization and your people across time and space to new destinations. If the strategic plan is the “what and why,” then the implementation is the “who, how and when.”

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:12 PM