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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.™

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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.™

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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.™

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Posted by at 10:59 AM

08 23 2013

Implementing a Strategic Plan Puts Companies on Path Toward Victory


August 2013

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

Whether it’s called 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 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 working with national and international companies, approximately 95 percent of them have strategic plans, but only 3 percent to 7 percent implement them consistently and effectively.

For example, I had one president share with me that his organization had just finished a yearlong, mid-six-figure, strategic plan creation project. 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.

To test your and your leadership team’s competency in relation to strategy implementation is to assess their understanding and skills in this area. To improve upon performance, you must consistently measure it. These questions will help you and your team discover what needs refinement.

I suggest you use a 0-5 Lickert Scale, where zero means “some of the managers” and five means “all the managers.”

  1. Your managers understand the strategic plan and are able to successfully set department goals in support of the strategy?
  2. Your managers lead meetings in which strategic issues are discussed in relation to operations?
  3. Your managers, if asked, could provide a priority list of issues directly related to strategy implementation for which they are responsible?
  4. Your managers set their subordinates’ goals and objectives according to the strategic goals that relate to their operations?
  5. Your managers evaluate, reward, and promote their people with strategic goals in mind? How did you and your management team do? If you scored mostly 4′s and 5′s then you are probably doing well despite the economy. If you scored in the mid range of 2′s and 3′s then you are doing OK but now you know who and what needs to be improved upon. If you got blank stares or scored 0′s and 1′s then 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 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.

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.™

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Posted by at 1:52 PM