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07 24 2015

Leadership Evaluations for Higher Performance

Corporate Therapy, Effective Performance Evaluations, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Rapid Customized Executive Assessment Package

August 2013

A Brief Overview on Leaders

Exceptional leaders tend to share a common desire: knowing which problems exist in their organization, so their people, processes and systems can either be improved or removed. After winning the 24 hours of Le Mans, Mario Andretti was asked by a reporter what it felt like to drive a “perfect race.” Andretti responded, “I didn’t drive a perfect race. In fact I made tons of mistakes; I just caught them quicker than the other drivers.” All of us make mistakes; chalk it up to being human. The people who consistently improve and evolve in this life are those who are willing to be honest with themselves and others and listen to constructive insight and then do something about it.

Working with National and International corporations, I have discovered the higher a leader’s position in an organization the less honest people tend to be with that leader. The paradox is that the higher the position, the more his or her decisions impact hundreds or thousands of people.  Therefore, would it not seem logical, that these leaders receive performance evaluations from the staff and the customer? It is, and it needs to be done for many reasons. Those few who implement these types of honest two-way interactions tend to have better bottom line profits to show for it. Leaders must set the example by creating these highly interactive types of cultures within their organizations. After all, accountability and performance improvement should go in both directions, shouldn’t it?

Benefits of Leadership Evaluations

Leaders must not simply talk about “honest communication, trust, and tell people their door is open” they must prove it with their behaviors and set the example. What follows are the benefits of leadership evaluations, for the leader, the employees, the organization and most importantly THE CUSTOMER.

  1. Leaders should meet face to face with customers and employees, asking them to be honest about their product and service from A to Z. One of my tenants of business is that “if it does not positively impact the customer, it has no value.” Who better to ask how to improve then your customers or employees? This will be the best Return On Investment you will ever get.
  2. Happy, involved, and trusted employees equate directly to happy, involved and trustworthy customers. In fact, it’s impossible to have unhappy employees and happy customers. More than anything else, people want to feel valued and respected by their leader. Asking for their opinion and really listening will help achieve that.
  3. Four steps to professional development are: Train, Coach, Counsel, and (as a last resort) Terminate. Where do you stand in this mix? Are you trainable, need coaching, require counseling, or are you not worth the investment and need to be terminated?
  4. By opening yourself up to performance evaluations by others, you will quickly find out if you really are trusted, have good communication, and are a good leader. You will find out if your management methods are effective or ineffective and why certain people require less input or more input from you. You will learn to understand them and who best to learn from than those you are leading. Ask your people how best to lead and manage them. They will tell you either by what they say, or more importantly, what they don’t say. You will quickly know, see and feel if they are lying to protect their jobs and helping you save face.
  5. You will show your customers and people that they matter and are important. And along the way you will learn some very valuable lessons about yourself.

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 11:26 AM

08 28 2013

Successful Leadership: Seven Actions

Business Management Consulting, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching

August 2013

It’s rare to find anything new in the area of employee-leader relations. Effective leaders know the value of establishing trust, setting rigorous and tangible goals, reflecting on and refining practices and procedures, and keeping communication lines open. Here are seven other important considerations that will take your organization to the next level.

Grow Your People. Make professional development a priority. Model personal and professional growth. Never tire of developing your team and yourself.

Make Your Communication Count. Use your words and your energy to inspire, support, and lead through ordinary and extraordinary conditions. Regularly check for understanding. Build consensus related to the standards and expectations in your field. Make good on your promises. This modeling will naturally encourage and teach your people to do the same.

Make Work a Learning / Doing Place. With each new project, with each new employee, by staying on top of trends and advancements in your field, make every day a time to learn. Learning will keep your people interested and curious. Knowledge is power. Share it through coaching, consulting, collaborating, and mentoring. Helping others will grow your leadership at all levels. Day in and day out, encourage problem solving, creative thinking, and structured growth.

Grow a Successor. Surround yourself with talent and skills. Encourage and grow these individuals. Such support will elicit loyalty and make your business excel. Choose a small group of individuals who have demonstrated their strong values, their sincere commitment to the organization, and wisdom beyond their years. Chose wisely and nurture these future leaders. Assume it is from this group that you will someday cull your successor. Begin planning now for your successful handoff.

Model Integrity, Relationship-building, and Commitment to Your People. Have real and honest conversations with your people. Listen. Be honest. Follow through. Be trustworthy, and expect the same of your people. Communicate in ways that demonstrate your sincerity. Care about your people. Grow their opportunities. Encourage their career development. Respect their values. Commitment to your people will lead to impressive interpersonal as well as organizational results.

Know Your Employees and What They Do. Leaders are knowledgeable about their employees’ performance, which builds considerable trust and respect. Most would say that this is a “no-brainer,” yet, on average, only 30% percent of employees report that their managers communicate performance standards and provide fair and accurate feedback to help them do their jobs better.

Give Strengths-based, Specific and Timely Feedback. Make feedback timely, specific, POSITIVE, and based on mutually-accepted goals and objectives. Keep feedback respectful, related, and reasonable. Look for strengths in your people. Address performance gaps as opportunities to grow your organization (e.g., “we need your help to strengthen the team in these specific ways,” rather than “you messed up and need to improve in this area”). Recognize and celebrate strengths and successes as essential links in your organizational chain.

These seven qualities should be due diligence for all leaders. Practiced regularly, they will grow your people, your organization, and yourself. You know you have the heart and mind to establish a core culture of integrity and success, a place from where you will no longer have to lead only by command. With these seven qualities, you will enjoy your people instead of control them, nurture a highly-productive environment rather than clean up after mistakes, discover the many hidden talents and potential in your future leaders through ongoing dialogue, and realize breakthrough improvements in manager-employee relationships and on-the-job results.


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 10:32 AM

08 23 2013

Leadership Requires Strength & Insight


August 2013

Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Work Place Articles

Clarify the Results and Expectations of the Job

Most employees deeply want and need an insightful and strong leader. In every intake interview session I have conducted, the data is clear. People deeply desire a leader who communicates with them, involves them, and establishes accountabilities for everyone in the organization—especially the leader herself. This successful leader learns to set the example by being kind yet firm, makes the decisions, doesn’t get pulled off course by pushy people or groups, provides a unified vision that people buy into, outlines a clear path for employees to follow, and supports people so they are successful. Here is a condensed list I have collected from thousands of employees and what they told their CEOs, owners, supervisors, and directors, what they needed to make their company’s successful.

  1. Get our opinion:We know our particular job better than anyone else in the company, we know what the customer wants or doesn’t want because we work directly with them, and they tell us.
  2. Listen to us:Really listen to us and don’t multitask when you do. Respect us, and show us that you value our ideas by implementing some of them or discussing the vision or processes with us. (This will empower employees, unite them, involve them and help them feel pride in what they are building. And most important, they will buy into what they helped create).
  3. Make the decision:Ultimately you are our leader and so you must make the final decision. We want to be lead by a confident and insightful leader who we trust to lead us through the difficult times and out-smart the competition so we can win. And we need a leader who we admire and are proud of.
  4. Don’t waver with your decision:We need a leader who is strong-willed and won’t be swayed by an overbearing employee or a group who wants special treatment because they have been here longer and feel entitled. Your decision should be made for what is best for the company—period.
  5. Give us a clear vision:The vision should be created with all of our input but synthesized by you and delivered back to us in a crystal clear manner. In essence, what will be our company vision and destination in 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months?
  6. Outline a step-by-step Roadmap:To make our journey less ambiguous and scary, please provide a very clear step-by-step roadmap for us to follow so that we can follow and trust you even when it’s dark.
  7. Support us along the way:We know our jobs, but we constantly need professional development in how to do them better, more efficiently or how to approach this new vision from a different perspective so that we can fully believe in it and totally support it, even when we are not 100% sure what we are supporting. We do this because we believe in you. Can you please provide us with these skills and insights so that we can have pride in ourselves, in our company and in you, our leader?

All company success is built with and through its people, but the leader must know how to unite and ignite these people. In essence, the leader is similar to a conductor of an orchestra, if she lacks the skills, there won’t be inspiring music for people to hear, but rather disorganized noise. Just like highly trained music conductors; leaders of companies must possess leadership skills. Are you worthy of being your company’s leader? Depending on your answer, you may need to seek personal professional development in order to be the leader you are capable of becoming.



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 2:01 PM

08 23 2013

Non-Profit’s: How to do More with Less


August 2013

Business Success, Culture Diversity, Improvement, Work Place Articles

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Each year my partners and I decide on a few nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to work with.  We are drawn to working with helping organizations because in them we see opportunities to put our energies where our core values lie. These liaisons allow us to support and make a positive difference in the lives of those who so directly help others. Also, the passion and untiring work ethic inherent in so many individuals wholive, eat and breathetheir causes reminds us of how success is so oftennotin theseeking, but in theseeing. That said, there are many practical issues facing nonprofits that are worthy of discussion. One in particular that has troubled some of the nonprofits we have worked with recently is the trend toward bringing on outside fundraising specialists without including in the process a comprehensive plan to develop consensus and build capacity amongstallmembers of the organization.

Primary Non-Profit Issues

We have worked with numerous nonprofits over the years so we have seen first-hand the wealth of talented and hard-working volunteers giving unselfishly of themselves usually with the same level of commitment, skills and expertise as paid staff. The energy of these volunteers seems boundless, yet we all know it is not. Keeping nonprofit organizations financially viable not to mention well-staffed, so that all the tasks are handled efficiently, can be very challenging. As hard-working and dedicated as members of these non-profit organizations are, it is clear that making the world a better place is not just a matter having one highly motivated or famous leader at the helm and everything else falls in line. Often nonprofits have to look outside their ranks to find specialists in the field of organizational development and fund-raising to supplement what they can’t do alone. When we consider the issues faced by nonprofits:

  • Accountability
  • Reporting
  • Management of Assets
  • Assessments
  • Training
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations, etc.

We understand their need to reach out, but we recommend that certain considerations be in place as well.

Giving Power to the People

If nonprofits bring in outsiders to do their fund-raising, those outside individuals may by default become separated from those who are in-house staff.  Fund raisers may be separated from those doing the altruistic work of the organization. With this adjunct or outsider status comes a division that may become problematic for an organization and here’s why: Without carefully scaffolding understanding between each member of the organizational team, without building on each other’s  strengths, as well as having frank conversations about the importance of interdependence and understanding each other’s needs, misunderstandings will probably occur.

If our people distance themselves from each other, the risk is they will see each other as commodities rather than associates, partners or colleagues. However, when each contributing partner makes personal meaning of his/her own, as well as others’ roles and sees how these roles are interdependent, then a sense of community is strengthened and there is heightened value put on all. No one aspect of the organization is better or worse, more valuable or less. If those who do fund-raising are separated from other members of the organization (because they are outsiders in some form) or if somehow their work is valued differently (either held in higher esteem or minimalized because they don’t do the hands-on helping) this can tend tostaff splitan organization in very short order.

The Harsh Realities

The reality is that for some altruistic individuals, dealing with money may bring with it some underlying beliefs of scarcity or lack and these beliefs may undermine the successful efforts of the organization. If a person believes that money is at the root of all things bad, then despite that person’s best efforts toward the contrary, he or she is going to have at least mixed feelings toward those who raise money. Nonprofits need to build bridges between their workers, not unintentionally let divisions occur. Being aware of this potential is worthy of some time and actions. Finally, a belief that there is never enough can lead to lowered motivation, feelings of hopelessness, resentments and potential burnout. A belief that we are all contributing and succeeding at making the world a better place can inspire, enlighten and potentially open up innovative dialogues. Given the right structures and facilitation, each individual, group or entity within an organization has something to teach the other and herein lays the gift they can share to grow the organization and themselves. Yes. Hire specialists, but also make sure you have the communication processes and trust necessary for all to make meaning of their value, agree on their mutual vision, and support interdependence.

Getting Outside Help

“Help thy brother’s boat across and lo! thine own has reached the shore.” — Hindu Proverb

When individuals can see how bringing in an outsider can add value and build capacity, this will help grow an organization. Without these explicit connections, without these structured communication events and consensus-building activities, bringing on any new plan or any outside expert may have less than desirable results.

Keys to Success

“We should acknowledge differences, we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.” — Dr. Adela A. Allen

In our experience, the only real obstacles between a non-profit organization and its goals are limited communication, limited trust, and the mindset of lack.

Without fail, when all the members of an organization—in-house people, as well as those who are outside specialists—have been brought together for structured, well-facilitated communication events, their ability to generate a wealth of resources, energy, ideas, and innovations has been beyond compare.

Value your people for their contributions and facilitate those honest conversations your organization needs to have. Through those processes, you will discover that the keys to success lie within all your people.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” – Anthony Robbins

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 1:44 PM

08 23 2013

Technology is no Substitute for Effective Communication


August 2013

Give Us a Technology Pill to Cure All Our Ills

Communication Issues, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership, Work Place Articles


Technology is no substitute for effective communication, trust and leadership development:

  • Super software will not always cure your organizational ills!
  • Digital systems will not always trim the fat off your budget!
  • Strategic plan software will never help you implement your cool new plan!

I have to admit that I am just as intrigued by fun trends as the next person, but I also have an obligation to speak the truth in front of seductive technologies and their impressive draws: There simply is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and getting to know the needs of your people and customers. Yes. Trendy software can be pretty darn cool. Yes, improved software programs can be very helpful and may even save you plenty under the right conditions. But no tool will work if you do not have successful communication, trust and professional development as the foundation for your organization.

One way to develop successful communication with your people is to recognize what stage they are in as a group. Most people have heard of Bruce Tuckman’s the four stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Perfuming.  click here to link to it:

It’s truly sad and very costly that 95% of leaders don’t truly understand how to leverage this knowledge to help themselves and their companies mature and grow through these very normal stages. As we all know, each new passing day in business, departments and organizations go through predictable stages. Having an awareness of these stages will help individuals and leaders recognize and accept these natural phases. You and your people will likely feel a heightened level of safety and security in knowing where you are on your journey and what you need to do to get to the next stage successfully. Often people and organizations get stuck in one of these stages and assume wrongly that “this is just the way it is.” I am here to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In this case, knowledge is power and the knowledge of social dynamics is imperative in growing a successful corporation.

Group Development Examples

Laying out the four stages of group development, the model is well-known and highly effective in helping groups and their leaders understand what to look for and then what to do to increase a group’s communication, trust and leadership effectiveness through stages of change. If your organization is facing change brought on by the introduction of a new idea, a new program or a trend, we recommend you give this model some thought. Consider sharing this information with your people to open up a dialogue and begin to build trust. All groups, regardless of their history and regardless of their level of knowledge or skills, will go through or remain stuck in these stages. As you read through these, locate where you are and decide if you want to create effective change. Then take steps toward improving your team, department or organization.

Keep in mind when you are tempted to drop a dime on any number of quick fixes: Business models may appear to be what you need. Even computer programs may seem like the “safe” bet. But they may seem safe because you are caught in the fantasy or illusion that if you buy the new “widget” then you’ll become the success.

The Tools are Only as Good as the User

Models, diagrams, computer programs, technologies and trends are just tools. That’s all they are. Tools. In the hands of the right people, they will enhance a good thing. But, on their own, they will not help us change our behaviors. Further, they alone will not help us improve our communication. They alone will not build trust or buy-in. They won’t do our work. They will only postpone the inevitable. Make no mistake about this. Businesses succeed or fail through their people. The better your people communicate with each other and your internal and external customers, the better off your business will be. If you understand this then utilize the models, the best technologies, and the motivational programs, but always with the caveat to see them for what they are: just tools to help your people grow and develop your organization and themselves.


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 1:20 PM

08 21 2013

Executive Coaching & Leadership Development Methodology

Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013


This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
  • As hard as you try to get the executive committee and staff to support the same vision, it seems everyone has different goals that don’t directly support the overall business objectives.
  1. The leader leads by example. Period.
  2. The leader aligns the entire organization around crystal clear objectives with succinct responsibilities.
  3. The executive committee or management team honestly discusses and agrees on strategy and tactics needed to achieve individual goals which directly support organizational objectives.
  4. The leader understands people from their perspective and has the ability to motivate each person to buy into the organizational vision.
  • Our organizational structure is in place, we are lean, and people stay busy, and yet timelines are being missed and objectives still aren’t being met.
  • Work doesn’t translate into profit.
  1. Objectives are measurable and focused on the customer, staff, and your product or service.
  2. Internal busywork is filtered through this simple belief: If the customer doesn’t feel it, it doesn’t exist.
  3. Leaders have ensured that organizational structure and philosophy are fully supported; individual goals support the organizational goals.
  • The leaders of the organization have lost touch with the customer.
  • The leaders of the organization have lost touch with the employees who directly serve customers.
  1. Leaders know the secret to success: Only internal and external customer opinions count.
  2. The leader has his/her fingers on the pulse of the customers and the employees who directly serve customers.
  • Our leadership approach seems to be reactive and defensive rather than proactive and offensive.
  • We focus on solving problems instead of preventing them in the first place.
  1. Foresight and innovation are always the first step; “reactionary” problem solving is a second step, and only as needed.
  2. The leader equips her/himself and those within the organization with fundamentally sound planning skills.
  3. People are educated to think for themselves; all have the freedom to fail now and again. i.e., to make the original mistake and learn from it.
  • We lose good people and then scramble to fill positions.
  1. We have deep “bench strength.”
  2. Leadership develops and invests in key people and provides them with mentoring; talented people are ready to step in to fill key positions, as needed.

Strong leaders understand the critical role they play in creating and communicating strategy. They know how to drive transformation to build a sustainable competitive advantage.

Successful leaders use a positive yet realistic approach to overcome the economic and psychological uncertainty of today’s business environment.

Above all, great leaders know how to achieve results.

I strive to awaken the hidden leadership genius within you and your people. Let me help you create a cohesive, common-goal work team that transcends your current abilities. I help you achieve cutting edge transformation, not rely on cookie cutter one-size-fits all coaching and leadership programs.

Through leadership training, you and your executives will see tremendous results and improvements in the following:

  • Your team’s ability to work together more efficiently. Cultivate confidence in each other through honest conversations that develop trust and group commitment.
  • Learn to work through and remove the “unspoken” but volatile topics that everyone knows about but are unable to overcome. You know what I’m talking about….the “taboo” topics, the “Emperor has no clothes” topics that keep you and your team from moving forward.
  • Enhanced employee buy-in and commitment that lead to job satisfaction
  • Better communication, innovation, creativity, and production
  • Improved problem-solving and decision-making capabilities
  • Better foresight and project planning abilities
  • Significantly improved execution and implementation of strategic plans and projects


You and your organization are unique, so I design a customized leadership development training program that makes sense for you.

I learn the language and culture of your organization so the program I design is a perfect fit for the needs of your people and organization. Through my leadership development training, you and your executives will gain the specific skills needed to evolve and succeed.

My Leadership Training has four straightforward goals:

  1. Help leaders, executives and managers identify their own talents and strengths so these are leveraged and developed into high-performance leadership capabilities
  2. Develop intrinsic and unique attitudes and skills necessary to sustain long-term change
  3. Help each individual executive grow and then weave these individual leaders into a unified team capable of extraordinary results.
  4. And last, help refine micro and macro goals into prioritized objectives so results can be achieved in profitable time units.


I start from the “inside” of your executives personalities and organizational structure and work out to the pre-determined organizational objectives; the end-result which can be measured in any number of ways. I work with client organizations in “real-time” to observe and evaluate the hierarchy that is present in your corporate environment. My goals include tailoring your leadership development program to each specific executive or manager’s personality and that of the executive team and organizational culture.

For organizations striving to open up their full potential, leaders hold the key. Leaders bring the short- and long-term goals of an organization to fruition by inspiring each and every individual to work to his or her personal best. The program I design will support leaders as they strive to meet individual needs, respect personality types and learning styles, and guide the organization to achieve its goals and objectives.

Leadership development is a deliberate process that includes focused conversations and assessments. Through the process, I will guide your team to create environments that support individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement. My program will produce leaders who:

  • Remove barriers that hinder individuals from realizing their full potential
  • Provide skills for gaining valuable insight into crucial situations
  • Identify obstacles that impede an individual’s progress

Contact me today to discuss where you would like your organization to be in 12-24 months. By developing your executive and management teams we can partner on acieveing organizational objectives.

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 2:26 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.™

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Posted by at 12:43 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.™

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Posted by at 3:38 PM

05 04 2013

Improved Communication: Check for Understanding

Barriers to Effective Communication, Communication Issues

August 2013

Throughout history, many great communicators have mused about how difficult it is for people to effectively communicate — even those who speak the same language! Some scholars cite how subtle differences in age and style can potentially create real challenges in successful communication. Case in point might be the stereotypical communication challenges faced between teenagers and parents, husbands and wives, conservatives and liberals. These same kinds of communication issues appear in the work world, as well.

I was asked to work with a director and one of her high level computer technicians. This technician was responsible for a major account significant to this director. This technician had the ability to accomplish his work successfully, but it seemed he was horrible at communication and customer support. These two areas of deficit were greatly jeopardizing this major account, not to mention putting the tech’s continued employment in question.

The director, the technician and I sat down for a meeting to see what could be done to clarify the communication and customer service issues. The director spoke very clearly about what she expected of the technician when he met with the clients and when he interacted with others (both clients and colleagues). The technician nodded in agreement and said that he understood the gravity of the situation. He said he understood what he was doing wrong and assured his director that he would “improve.” After they were finished discussing the communication and customer service issues, and the detailed procedures the director had clarified for him, I asked the technician what his next steps were going to be to improve his standing with the clients on this major account. He looked at me and said, “I have no idea.” The director looked dumbfounded; her mouth was literally hanging open. She was without words. She believed she had been very clear. She believed the technician had nodded in agreement to all of the well-thought out plans she had presented, yet clearly now he didn’t know what his next steps should be. This was an example of an unsuccessful communication event.

I further asked the technician a series of questions and led him through the necessary steps, in his mind, using his metaphors and word choices. We essentially created his game plan in a manner that he could comprehend. We clarified expectations, created measures of success, and established timeframes. With that now visually and firmly in his mind, he was able to summarize his next steps. The technician left the meeting relieved. Over a reasonable period of time, evidence indicated that this technician had indeed learned some new communication skills and his customer relations had improved accordingly.

At the conclusion of the meeting with the technician, the Director and I spent thirty minutes debriefing. We discussed different learning and management styles. She was amazed how her message which had been so clearly intended and what she thought was so clearly sent, was not the message received or understood. This realization was a profound one for her. She vowed to check for understanding more often and especially when she interacted with this technician. She wanted him to succeed and had never seen the role she had played in the breakdown of communication between them. She saw how, as the person delivering a message, she had the responsibility to be sure the message had been received and understood. In the case of the technician, she needed to reframe her message in terms that made sense to him, ask him to summarize it back to her, and then review his next steps, so both she and he would leave the communication event with the same understanding. Although she had believed herself to be a skilled communicator (and by many measures she was), she learned that in this isolated event, she had needed a new set of communication skills. She foresaw how she could also generalize these new skills with other people and different situations. She had added another strategy to her repertoire of positive communication skills, one that would help her to be a better leader in the future.


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 3:37 PM