Tag Archives: Assessment


At the end of his Value Creation Group® meeting, Dan, a talented leader with more than 200 people in his organization, asked me to recommend a book that could help him implement coaching into his operations. I scratched my head because I know this amazing leader has big plans and a book isn’t going to get him there.

During the early phases of a new Value Creation Group®, a Vistage CEO group, or a Key executive group, new members typically hunt for quick tips or techniques while the seasoned members watch and smile. More ideas and information are entertaining but execution is everything.

The ability to execute a coaching process requires a leader to stop their own counterproductive behavioral patterns before they can begin new patterns that are more productive. Since a book can’t help a leader see themselves clearly, they usually become frustrated and fail.

Coaching starts with making an agreement around improving specific behavioral patterns. This contract includes an accurate assessment and an agreement on how to measure the change over time.

Leaders develop patterns that they love. These patterns are chemically embedded in their neural pathways and become instinctive. Shifting to new patterns requires vulnerability, commitment, support, accountability and mostly practice.

Dan’s department has multiple levels and the financial framework for the business requires a lean operation. Given these somewhat typical conditions, how can Dan reliably begin to develop excellent coaching skills that he can ultimately scale through his organization? Here’s how:

Dan could invite his direct reports, boss, and peers to complete an anonymous web based 360 review, based on best practices. Then he could collaborate with an outside coach to look at the data. This would reset his perspective and allow humility to do its job.

Next, Dan would share this information about his strengths and limitations with the people who participated in the review. Then he’d allow his coach to shadow him during 1:1 meetings with his boss, direct reports, peers, and in the group meetings with these people. This would bring the patterns that need to change into focus.

Finally, Dan would enter into a 90-day coaching contract focusing around the behavior patterns he wants to stop and the new patterns he wants to implement. This agreement builds in accountability, milestones, validation and group awareness.

Most privately owned companies confuse coaching with correcting. Correcting is a conversation while coaching is a conversion. To correct someone without helping them change patterns and behaviors leads to frustration and disappointment between the leader and the employee.

After a leader is able to shift their own patterns, they are prepared to sponsor this growth in others and this starts with training others in the coaching process inside the organization. Coaching skills are essential and while learning these skills takes time and money, the payoff in organizational rewards and work life balance can be significant.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts.  Jim@peer-place.com


Plain Sight

Smart, talented, and ethical – each of the 11 members in this company’s value creation group® (VCG) possesses a strong track record. So why is this business currently underperforming? In addition to the whipsaw changes occurring within their industry, there are other systemic causes.

In response to my last blog post, John, a geologist, commented, “Every drive I take in the mountains or in Eastern Washington turns into a Geology lecture. My family may see a pretty barn on a hill and I see that the hill is bedrock high that became a suitably drained building site.” Like John, we each see things through our history until someone or something helps us see through a new lens.

While we all enjoy the company of an optimist, over a pessimist, this disposition of looking at the favorable side of events and expecting the best outcome is a costly business posture. I knew that deep down this group was prepared to face facts, but it wasn’t going to be easy.

The problem with reality is that it often causes optimism to flee. I’ve seen groups who aren’t comfortable spending time with each other in reality and they unknowingly use optimism to avoid the truth. Even when the facts are discouraging, hope, anchored in faith, is strong enough to remain present. That’s exactly what we were establishing in this group, the capacity to do good work while facing reality, and slowly developing a trust that could recover from interpersonal setbacks.

As this VCG settled down and relaxed with each other, I noticed a fresh capacity in their ability to listen. The edginess of tight deadlines and unfulfilled expectations was replaced by curiosity and patience. In under an hour, they transformed their space from a hectic, “I don’t want to be here”, time suck meeting, into a mutually constructed personal learning laboratory.

Suddenly, a comment surfaced about the lack of shared priorities and a tendency to look for quick fixes without doing enough research, and this elevated their attention. When everyone paused and nodded in agreement, I knew we needed to make hay while the sun was shining. For the next two hours, their level of collaboration was palpable.

During our wrap-up, I asked them why they were experiencing this and the newest group members said, “This is first space I’ve ever known where we could relax and focus without performance pressure.”

Attention is a condition of readiness that includes focus and receptivity. When each one of us is attentive and present in the group we can birth collaboration – and value creation always follows. Conversely, the pressure of hurriedness, tight deadlines and individual deliverables can kill collaboration. But when a magnetic topic materializes, everything can change!

It is a facilitator’s job to notice this shift and sponsor the group’s movement into deeper exploration. That member’s comment was the magnet and a hidden truth was now in plain sight.

This group longed for a noble set of priorities to collaborate around, something powerful enough to draw them together. The source of all teamwork is a common future and these talented people were ready. Are you? I’d love to know your thoughts. Jim@peer-place.com


Over the Hump

Ted wished he could get his company “over the hump” so he could have more free time to spend with his wife and kids.  This need was becoming so important that the thought of selling the company was on his mind.

Getting “over the hump” usually requires a team of senior managers that have the skills, capacity and desire to take responsibility for company success and that is exactly what Ted wanted.

By all standards, Ted is successful, both as owner and CEO and as a father and husband.  His desire was to live life more fully, which is why he had asked me for help.  These are reasonable desires and the path to achieving them is usually straight forward – provided you can see it.

We have all heard the phrase, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” and this certainly applies to being a leader.  Like many CEOs, Ted enjoyed the operational details of his business and while he could see the trees, he was missing the forest.  Ted needed a more promising perspective.

To gain a better vantage point, Ted invited his managers to assess his performance as a leader.  As we looked for opportunities in the results we learned that 80% of his managers reported that Ted did not “assign clear accountability for each objective”, or “establish clear measurements for success”, or “confront low performers”.  However, they unanimously reported that he really cared about them and they trusted his judgment and decision making.  Through the years, Ted had built up equity with his managers and now it was time for him to use it.

Reality is a great asset when allowed to speak.  That is exactly what Ted wanted and through this assessment process, his people felt safe enough to provide honest feedback.  Wonderful things can happen when a CEO and his managers come together around the truth and Ted’s review was the catalyst.

As Ted and I wrapped up our one-on-one conversation he asked, “What changes can I make without putting in more hours?”  I responded, “It depends.”  If Ted took this input and created a plan to fix the problem, it would feel like more work.  Alternatively, he could thank his managers and share the insights he learned from them, then ask for their ideas and return in a week with a plan they would support.

Managers want to help their leaders improve.  Actively engaging them in the process is the starting point, because by doing this they start to own their own personal development.

Ted was gaining the fresh perspective he needed and was creating an opportunity to sponsor a culture shift toward personal growth and development.  He could choose to make the shift or not.

A stronger culture is the only way to permanently climb “over the hump”.

Are you seeing the forest or the trees?  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Jim@peer-place.com or Jim@LinkedIn