Tag Archives: business model


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


Inside Out

A remarkable CEO and member of my Vistage CEO group who announced to his peers, “I feel stuck!” incited my last post. Being stuck relates to a pattern and this feels like a faint inner sense that there must be more. In other words he was saying, “The way I’m thinking and behaving isn’t serving me as well as I’d like it to and I want your help.”

For leaders, primary patterns show up in the way they think and behave around others. Scientists have described the brain as a pattern-matching machine so in a sense we are each a series of patterns and feel most comfortable when we instinctively channel our energy into patterns that produce the results we like. Feeling carefree might best describe this state of being.

While dynamism is the quality of having vigorous activity and progress, energy manifested as remarkable forward movement, being stuck is usually more prevalent as a very low-grade longer-term kind of background suffering. A recent study by Stanford Business School found that nearly two thirds of CEOs don’t receive executive coaching or leadership development while nearly 100% said they would like to receive coaching to enhance their development. So why does nearly every CEO want help but nearly two thirds do nothing?

Over the years, I’ve received many requests to coach CEOs and executives on a one to one basis and after much experimentation; I decided it’s not my cup of tea. In my experience, individual coaching is usually a remedial action designed to correct a deficiency in someone. It requires the person being coached to start by saying, “I’m broke, fix me.” Leadership development on the other hand starts by saying, “I want to further develop my capacities.”

A friend sent me this helpful quote from Bill O’Brien, the former CEO of Hannover Insurance:

“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener. Our effectiveness as leaders depends not only on what we do and how we do it, but also on the inner place from where we operate, both individually and collectively. The need to pay attention to this inner place has largely been a blind spot in leadership research and is the single most important theme that has emerged from this investigation to date.”

Leaders observe and upgrade the patterns of their organization to optimize its ability to deliver a great customer experience. In other words, leaders do interventions to change organizational patterns. It’s one thing to intervene and change the external world to meet your expectations but it’s a horse of a completely different color to intervene in your own interior condition as a precursor to initiate change.

So how can leaders learn to apply this to their own leadership? Many companies including Google are investing in cohorts that support personal awareness and development to accomplish this. Nearly 300 CEOs in the Seattle area alone are members of peer groups through Vistage.

In the words of Douglas LaBier, “Successful leadership requires astuteness about others; their emotional and strategic drivers; their self-interests, overt and covert, and these relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness.

When my CEO member declared that he wanted to grow, he did so within a peer group structure designed to help him. This bold choice manifested as dynamism. He created value for himself by breaking through his old pattern and inviting others to help. As a result, he unlocked and demonstrated a new level of personal awareness that sponsored this same capacity in his group members. What an amazing return on investment!  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Jim@peer-place.com



Disruption and Change

I’m working with CEOs whose business models have been disrupted. Who are silently wondering if things will return to normal or if substantial changes need to be made?

I took up golf several years ago and the learning curve’s been steep. I might shoot 85, on my best day, but I’d really like to break into the 70s.

In many ways, I think learning to play golf is like building a company. I have 13 clubs in my bag—each is a different length with a different head and face and each is designed to perform in different circumstances. When I change clubs, my brain accesses a unique neuro-pathway, the one including all my learning and mistakes from using that club in similar situations.

Likewise, my brain has multiple iron pathways, putter pathways and a driver pathway. I feel somewhat confident with 10 of my 13 clubs, so I don’t use my 3, 5 or 7 woods because I don’t have solid neuro-pathways to support them. I have made small week-to-week improvements just playing with those 10 clubs.

Those 10 clubs represent my golf model. With it, I can play any course in America (although on long courses my score would be embarrassing).

Good businesses—those with high employee and customer retention rates—operate instinctively through their model. It becomes embedded in the neuro-pathways of each person. This is one reason change is so hard. Good times produce repeatable models for how we create value, while disruption makes us map new pathways. Every business model has a limited shelf life and disruption is a constant threat.

When customer and marketplace disruptions cause a business to shrink, exposing the model as less potent, the need for change is apparent. This change is uncomfortable because we’re burning in new neuro-pathways rather than relying on the old.

Change always follows this model.

Adjustment process

In the old order, employees were unconsciously competent in their roles. They didn’t need to think all that much about what they did—although they might have needed to do more or less of it.

We choose to either stay unconscious or move to a place where we acknowledge real change is needed and if we do this well, we create a plan and communicate our intentions. It’s a hard shift, and many prefer staying in the unconscious space until the last possible minute.

In a golf game the cost is acceptable, but with a company, it’s not. Admitting we feel incompetent is difficult, especially for leaders deemed successful. This is where humility serves us well. It creates an opportunity for everyone to move forward with change by acknowledging doubts and mistakes.

Shifting means we’re experimenting with new thinking and burning new pathways through trial and error in the real world. During this beginning phase, people no longer know how to make their unique contributions and insecurity runs high as well as employee resistance. Those who persist through the tension eventually move to where value creation is high because everyone knows how to make their contribution instinctively.

With my golf model, I thought I’d break into the 70s by now, but a lingering foot problem has forced me to quit playing. I’m working hard to solve this problem so I can return to the game. But when I return, the path back to where I once was will be slow.

Where are YOU in your change process?

Send me your thoughts:  Jim@peer-place.com