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08 28 2013

How to Improve Employee Development

Effective Performance Evaluations, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013

Staff Development (Methodology)

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. People deeply understand and buy into the training because they were involved from the beginning. They support that which they helped create. Follow through over time is more consistent. 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. 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). Consistent innovation moves people to take action and create new habits. 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. Trainings are specifically designed for our objectives, our culture, and our people so that individual and organizational growth can be measured and maintained. 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. Trainers don’t leave after one day. They partner with the organization to ensure long-term learning and return on investment is received. Morale is higher and more consistent. 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. 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 the heart of your organization?
  • How do our people communicate? How can we really improve cohesiveness and goal setting between and beyond specific teams, departments and projects?
  • 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?

Profit from the inside out. Kelly Graves The Corporate Therapist 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.

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.”

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.™

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Posted by at 1:55 PM

08 23 2013

Strategic Planning: How to Chart your Course for Success


August 2013

Charting Your Course For Success

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Improvement, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership


In order for any business to end the year successfully, it must have begun the year properly by establishing achievable goals at the micro and macro levels. Setting a clear course toward those goals includes gathering accurate formative and summative measures of success and maintaining the flexibility to anticipate and adapt to the unknown. A leader who is clear on the direction of the organization will more easily maneuver around possible bumps in the road ahead.

Given there are a multitude of factors influencing organizational success, not the least of which include developing human capital, usefulness of procedures and policies, growing market share, and coping with the inevitable unknowns, how can a business effectively set broad goals, chart its course, and act accordingly?

The simple answer to that question is in effective strategic planning and purposeful implementation. However, like anything this important, a simplistic answer does not adequately express the depth and breadth of the task at hand. To complete a thoughtful strategic plan, as well as implement this plan successfully, takes time and effort. The basics of writing and implementing a successful strategic plan are as follows:

Clarifying Your Core Values

Prior to writing a strategic plan, an organization needs to ascertain and communicate its guiding beliefs. Core values precede strategy because they represent what the organization believes in. They clarify its purpose; why it exists.

Ask the Following:

  • What do we value and believe about our organization, our responsibilities, our people, and our work?
  • Why are we here doing what we do?

Creating Your Organizational Vision

Next, through representative leadership, the organization must have a vision. The vision establishes what the organization will be, do, know, and look like in the future. In this phase, it is wise to be bold. Use consensusbuilding communication techniques, such as wall charts or document sharing applications to mutually develop where your organization will be by the end of the coming years.

Ask the Following:

  • Where do we want to be in one to two years? (Be VERY specific.)

Scaffolding Your Strategic Plan

Now that there is mutual agreement on your direction toward a clear destination, it is time to formulate the means to get there. Once the picture of the future has been created, it is best to work backward to determine what has to be changed today in order to reach tomorrow.

The strategic plan itself will be in the form of a living document that will likely evolve throughout the year as new information unfolds, but overall its focus will remain the same if the strategies were founded on accurate baseline information. Developing specific incremental steps to get to your future destination should include clear measures of success along the way. Further considerations should include environmental factors, physical plants and facilities, competition, potential threats and opportunities, and any other existing parameters or limitations.

Ask the Following:

  • Given our long-term vision, what factors will influence our success?

Implementing the Plan and Assessing Progress Toward Goals

Ask the Following:

  • How will our leadership, management, and/or supervisory staffs make meaning of this plan in its entirety? (This is a macro point of view.)
  • How will each individual and department on a micro level respond to this plan?
  • What human capital and talents will be required to meet these strategic goals?
  • Who will review the procedures, systems, policies, environments and resources that must be changed in order to best support our people to achieve these goals and objectives?

Aligning Individual and Department Objectives with Organizational Goals

Organizational goals and outcomes are useless if the people within the organization do not fully support and “own” them. This may seem obvious, but in our role as professional consultants and objective observers we often hear leaders say one thing and go in one direction only to witness the employees saying something else and going in an entirely different direction.

Ask the Following:

  • What concrete evidence do we have that our people, processes, procedures and programs are aligned with our vision and our strategic plan?
  • How often and in what ways do we need to revisit the vision and strategic plan in order to ensure successful commitment to its goals at all levels?

Strategic Plan Implementation

Most organizations we consult with have well-written strategic plans housed in fancy binders, but often these plans are not utilized because the leadership and the line staff don’t know how, or aren’t motivated to implement the plan.This happens for any number of reasons. But, regardless of why, if an organization doesn’t intend to refer to the strategic plan regularly, ensure its effective implementation, follow its recommendations or at least hire a consulting firm to help to make its goals a reality within the organization, then it would be wiser not to even start the process in the first place.

If your strategic plan is just sitting on a shelf gathering dust, or your individual or departmental goals are not aligned with the organizational vision, it might be because of these reasons:

  • The organization’s goals and objectives are too vague.
  • No one feels “ownership” of this document or process.
  • Leadership and management don’t regularly communicate and revisit the vision or demonstrate the value of the strategic plan.
    • NOTE: This “de-valuing” may be due to the mistaken belief that strategic planning is only an executive-level function.
  • The strategic plan’s components aren’t directly related to or aligned with individual performance expectations and objectives.
  • Individual and departmental goals are not aligned with organizational vision and goals because communication or trust issues exist within the organization.
  • There is little or no reinforcement and monitoring of progress toward macro or micro goals because these features are not clearly delineated within the plan.

Becoming a Wise and Innovative Leader

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t recognize obstacles until after the fact. But, make no mistake about it: It’s the CEO’s job, the business owner’s job, and the department manager’s job to not only chart the course, but also anticipate challenges. In highly competitive markets this is not only good business, it is crucial to survival. And those leaders who have the experience and wisdom to be innovative and proactive will find success beyond their reactionary peers. Through thoughtful strategic planning and implementation, your organization can make it to the next level.


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 1:34 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.™

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Posted by at 3:56 PM