Tag Archives: cycles in business


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



This time of year developing effective strategy is often the number one interest of CEOs, so what makes strategic planning so interesting to them? They desire to get it right in the next year.

I’m reminded of something Peter Schutz, the former CEO of Porsche, said to my Vistage CEO and Key Executives groups and the impact it had on us. He advised, “Plan like a democracy so you can execute like a dictator.”

Peter used the turnaround story at Porsche to make his point: a perfect strategy poorly executed is worth much less than an average strategy well executed.

Last week I helped a senior team develop a unique way to improve their execution and during that time, it brought back painful memories for me of my own past mistakes. (This from a deeper perspective is what motivates me in my work with CEOs and executives.)

I know from experience that if employees and managers believe with their whole heart that they can make their lives better by working in your company, they are all in. As an outsider, I often see how company leaders miss a critical step in planning – they fail to build commitment in their organization. This can erode faith in leadership and result in deteriorating traction.

Candidly speaking, this company’s planning was loose and unfocused. To compensate the leadership tried to execute like a democracy so when traction slipped, their profit and growth stalled. Meanwhile, everyone works harder and achieves less.

Planning action steps begins when every person on the leadership team understands the important purposes, concerns and circumstances of customers and aligns these with those of employees and managers, as well as the owner/investors of the company. Planning like a democracy is built upon this critical step in the process.

As I worked with this senior team, I could feel their need for speed, yet I worked to help them slow down and understand the value. The first time around can be tough, especially with the time constraints each constituent group faces, but you will make up the time investment later, when crisp execution happens.

There is a time for planning and a time for execution – do not let them overlap! Many CEOs simply lack the experience or the technology, so they plan like a democracy and execute like a democracy, which always dilutes performance.

When democracy surrounds execution, you sell out clarity, commitment and speed and you inadvertently plant the seeds of failure and doubt in the minds of your key people. A high cost that you will pay for later. Are you set up to plan like a democracy and execute like a dictator? Can I help?

What are your thoughts? Jim@peer-place.com



Stabilize, Gather and Grow

There is a lovely story of a man exploring Africa. He was in a desperate hurry on a journey through the jungle. He had three or four Africans helping him carry his equipment. They raced onward for about three days. At the end of the third day, the Africans sat down and would not move. He urged them to get up, telling them of the pressure he was under to reach his destination before a certain date. They refused to move. He could not understand this; after much persuasion, they still refused to move. Finally he listened to their reason. The natives said, “We have moved too quickly to reach here; now we need to wait to give our spirits a chance to catch up with us.”

Similarly, this executive had been with the company for more than a year. Brought in to drive growth, he had hit the ground running on arrival. With a destination in mind, he charged forward until one day he noticed that others weren’t following, so he took them through planning exercises and nothing changed. Even after much persuasion to get on board, change still did not occur. As he shared his frustration with me, I could see he was ready for help.

John O’Donohue says, “When you remain in a rut, you become caged behind one window of the mind. You are then not able to turn around toward the balcony of the soul and enjoy the different views through the other windows of wonder and possibility.”

This executive had traveled too far, too fast and now he needed to catch up – to see other possibilities through different views, and that is what this meeting was all about.

The fastest way to shift a culture is to bring a key person onto the senior team from the outside.

There are two forces at work in these stories. While every person wants to make a significant contribution and be recognized, rapidity is a force causing massive stress in the workplace because it robs many of their sense of place. When an outside person joins the senior team, they must make their place and everyone is affected.

When we have a sense of place, we fit and experience a natural rhythm. When we fit, we know how to make a significant contribution and be recognized for it. When we know how to make our unique contribution and we feel appreciated for it we feel connected. When we feel connected, we have great courage and feel empowered to take risk.

“When things are moving too quickly nothing can stabilize, gather and grow.”

This company had overrun its historical rhythm and now it needed to stabilize, gather and grow as connected people with a common purpose. This meeting was one step down that path.

Winter leads to spring, which turns to summer and things bloom and blossom, then autumn and winter cycle again. Likewise, each company has a natural cycle that will not change no matter how fast you go. What is yours? I’d love to help. Jim@peer-place.com or Jim@LinkedIn