Are you helping your employees become more effective?

Top of the list when speaking with CEOs and business owners is the subject of finding and retaining good employees.  By far, more than strategy or finances, the performance of individuals is the most daunting task.

Since everything within an organization relies upon an individual accepting responsibility for their tasks and them being held accountable.  What are you doing to help your employees not only accept responsibility but be Team members united behind achieving significant results?

If you would like to find out how some companies have achieved extraordinary results click here.

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Are you overlooking the obvious?

Take a few minutes to learn how Obvious (Oliver) Adams grew a great business! Obvious Adams

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Are you achieving your potential growth?

Why? During the recent Great Recession (2005 – 2009) the average Vistage CEO Member companies in the US grew an average +5.8% CAGR while D&B companies declined on average -9.2% over the same time period.

How much was attributed to “dumb luck” or:

Making better decisions – Strategy, Finance, and Human Capital?

Accountability – Who holds the CEO accountable? How does the CEO hold the leadership team accountable? How does the leadership team hold the management team accountable? What are the KPIs used to measure accountability, and how are they aligned with the CEO’s and corporate’s goals?

    How well are the different facets of the company – divisions, offices, product lines, employment/management levels – aligned with the corporate (Participative, Expertise, or Authenticity) culture?

Growth –     What are the growth goals for the CEO, leadership team, managers, and employees? What are the organic growth goals for the company, product lines, divisions, offices, and through acquisitions?

Isolation –     Whom can the CEO discuss with full openness and honesty the challenges, opportunities, frustrations, and personal attacks the CEO faces?

    Where can the CEO propose/find innovative solutions to challenges/opportunities and receive unbiased, open, honest recommendations from people with “no skin in the game?”

Change –     Where does the CEO find out about coming external changes and how are other CEOs addressing those changes? Ex: Millennials, regulations, health laws, work rules, banking restrictions, etc.?

    How does the CEO motivate internal change to stay competitive with the changing external world? How does the CEO encourage risk taking to ensure their company and its businesses are the most competitive in their industries?


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Some Thoughts for the Day



Years ago there was a survey of life’s greatest fears.   The apprehension of speaking before an audience ranked first (death was 7th).   Many successful people will tell you that speaking to the right groups made them so….after they overcame their stage fright.  Life’s a first impression business, so  Check out this fun  8 minute TED video by a country music singer/songwriter who shares how he confronted life’s biggest fear.


Few would hold that confidence artists and entrepreneurs are morally equivalent; but one writer thinks that there are several qualities that both require to achieve their goals. In many ways, with one important exception, both are “doing the hustle.”


So many books on success claim to have the secret thereto.   One writer doesn’t think it’s a secret; it’s just that winners do things others don’t.   Check out this one page Business Insider article on the 19 Hard  (but easy to understand) Things that can get you there. 


It’s hard to believe that it’s been THIRTY YEARS since the introduction of the Apple Macintosh….a machine that weighed 17 pounds!   This article from the Smithsonian revisits that launch and shares some of the critics’ comments at the time.   It’s worth reading to appreciate how revolutionary this machine was and how far we’ve come in a generation.


Right thinking on Unemployment Rate: We’re constantly focused on the unemployment rate as the most important economic indicator because it’s about people.  Vistage Staff Economist and ITR Principal Alan Beaulieu offers a quick primer on what’s important and what’s not when you get this number thrown at you ….and he has some thoughts on exuberance” as well. 

Q4 Looking Good:  Economist Brian Wesbury looks ahead to the announcement of Q4 GDP and thinks the conventional wisdom is understating how well things will turn out.  Check out why he thinks Q4 will be stronger than predicted.

Reprinted with permission from Allen Hauge

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How does the phrase “Doing More with Less” motivate your employees?

Are you going to be the market leader in your industry? Will you be the market leader because of strategic planning, financial wizardry, or execution? How will you maintain your leadership position? If execution is required does the phrase “Doing More with Less” motivate your employees?

Pause for a minute and think of the message you are portraying. You want to be the market leader while the vision you are painting is reducing the future. During our recent senior HR peer advisory Group meeting we agreed that the majority of employees, when told to “do more with less” think of deteriorating working conditions. Whether it is reducing perks, limiting expenses, greater burdens, hiring freeze, reduction in forces, etc. the resulting message is each of their lives will be negatively affected. And then what happens, do the “A” players start looking for other opportunities? What happens when you try to divide by zero?

Why aren’t we proposing to do more with more? Why aren’t we encouraging our employees to help us grow our businesses? Why aren’t we asking our employees how can we help them grow and become leaders? Do you believe that we need leaders throughout the organization, or just at the top? How are we sharpening our saw and how are we helping our employees sharpen their saws? How can we learn to work smarter not harder?

There is a classic Milton Friedman story of doing more with more. Mr. Friedman while observing Chinese workers building a dyke with shovels, questions why they are using shovels. The response is so that we can create more jobs. Mr. Friedman’s response: If you want to create jobs, why not use teaspoons?



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Why is conflict so important?

The following paper is by Craig Weber, a Vistage speaker, author, and owner of the Weber Consulting Group.

Leaning Into Difference: The Key to Solving Tough Problems

By Craig Weber

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress   – Mahatma Gandhi

“Life is a series of problems,” observed M. Scott Peck. A more accurate statement was never made. But when it comes to solving them it’s important to realize that not all problems are created equal. All our difficulties fall somewhere on a spectrum; at one end of this spectrum we find routine problems, and, at the other end, adaptive challenges. A routine problem isn’t considered routine because it happens regularly, but because we have a routine for dealing with it – a protocol, a process, or expert on which we can depend for a reliable fix. A routine problem may be irksome and expensive, but at least we’re in familiar territory and know what to do about it. When we’re facing an adaptive challenge, on the other hand, we’re off the familiar trail in uncharted territory where there are no proven routines, protocols, solutions, or experts. To successfully negotiate an adaptive challenge we must work and learn with others to navigate the alien terrain. All the problems we face in life fall somewhere between these two distinct poles.

It’s easy to see these two types of problems in the workplace. If our corporate computer loses connectivity, for example, there’s a clear process for getting the problem fixed. It might be frustrating, but the problem is routine. If our corporate culture is trashing our strategy, however, we’re in highly adaptive territory, because, unlike the computer problem, there is no simple solution, no established process, no ready expert who can solve the problem for us.

Performing effectively in today’s world is increasingly difficult because the number of adaptive challenges we face is snowballing. The culprits driving this trend are well known – rampant technological, social, economic, and political upheaval, and all the unpredictable change, surging complexity, and expanding globalization that comes with it.

Given this shift, it’s more important than ever to recognize the distinction between routine and adaptive issues because they each require a profoundly different problem solving approach. For a routine problem a bias for action is appropriate. We have a routine, we know what to do, so as Nike suggests, we should “just do it.” But for an adaptive challenge – where there is no clear routine, no proven process, no ready expert who can save the day – a bias for learning is essential. Why? To navigate our way over unfamiliar ground we must roll up our cognitive sleeves and work with others to figure out the best way forward. We must orchestrate, in other words, a process of adaptive learning.

The key to adaptive learning is leaning into difference – the act of seeking out and exploring conflicting ideas and views. “If people don’t engage across the divide of their differences there is no learning,” says Ron Heifetz. “People don’t learn by looking in the mirror. They learn by talking with people who have different points of view. In a sense then, conflict is really the engine of adaptive work, the engine of learning.” And a critical competence that enables our ability to learn from difference is something I refer to as conversational capacity – the ability to have open, balanced, learning-focused dialogue about tough, heated, adaptive issues. High conversational capacity transforms how we react to people with different perspectives and information because our strong bias for learning leads us to see them as rich opportunities to expand our awareness and learn, not petty nuisances to be avoided or attacked. Rather than cave in or argue when someone has a different point of view, we get curious: “What might their perspective teach me about how I am looking at this issue?”

This learning-focused orientation dramatically expands our ability to make informed choices, because, as Peter Elbow explains, “The surest way to get hold of what your present frame binds you to is to adopt the opposite frame. A person who can live with contradiction and exploit it – who can use conflicting models – can simply see and think more.” And when working in unfamiliar territory nothing is more important than the ability to see and think more.

Abraham Lincoln understood this. Facing an adaptive challenge of historic proportions – a civil war and the utter failure of the American experiment – he did something unusual: he pulled into his cabinet people with political agendas that clashed not only with his own views but with each other’s. He didn’t create this hornets’ nest of conflicting perspectives because he yearned for comfortable cabinet meetings, nor did he do it because he wanted to get his way all the time. He did it because he knew a room full of contrasting points of view would help him make wiser, more informed decisions about the adaptive realities he was facing. The diversity of Lincoln’s cabinet helped him to see and think more.

Vistage gets this too. Vistage is a global organization of over 17,000 CEOs, business owners, and top executives that meet in peer advisory groups to facilitate conversation, spark insight, and spur growth. I’ve spent over fourteen years working with hundreds of Vistage groups and I’m impressed with the learning the experience generates. As with Lincoln’s cabinet, the power of a Vistage meeting isn’t in the sameness around the table – it’s in the difference. The candid dialogue and open-minded exposure to the varying personalities, organizations, educations, cultures, and life experiences of the group members allows each executive to see and think more about their important leadership problems. After a CEO explores an adaptive challenge she’s facing with her Vistage group, she drives home with an expanded field of vision and clearer set of choices precisely because she leaned into – and learned from – the diverse views of her colleagues.

But mere exposure to difference isn’t enough. Our differences only facilitate adaptive work if we have a bias for learning that is greater than our natural defensiveness to new and conflicting ideas. To truly learn from different perspectives we need the conversational capacity to balance candor and courage with curiosity and humility, to genuinely approach conversations with people who see the world differently as opportunities to trigger an “aha” moment – the exhilarating experience of having a blind spot in the mental map of our predicament unexpectedly illuminated.

Because it enables us to think smarter, faster, and together, the adaptive learning provoked by leaning into difference is invaluable in any organization facing tough challenges (and what organization isn’t?). So let me leave you with a few questions to consider and discuss: What are the major issues facing your team and organization? What aspects of those issues are predominantly routine and which are more adaptive? When it comes to the adaptive challenges you’re up against, does your team have the appropriate bias for learning needed to do the necessary adaptive work? If not, what canyou do to build their conversational capacity so they can engage these challenges in a more balanced, healthy, learning-focused way?

Craig Weber is the author of the groundbreaking book, Conversational Capacity: The Key To Building Successful Teams That Perform When The Pressure Is On (McGraw-Hill, 2013) and the founder of The Weber Consulting Group, an alliance of experts committed to helping organizations and teams build their capacity for engaging tough, wicked, adaptive challenges. He was recently awarded Vistage International’s 2012 Speaker of The Year Award. For more information visit

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What are the 7 Lessons from 1776?

The following is reprinted from Bustin & Co.
Due to popular response, this July 2012 bulletin is being redistributed.
7 Lessons from 1776
Tomorrow – July 4 – Americans celebrate Independence Day.
This national holiday commemorates the passage by the Second Continental Congress in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of American independence.
John Adams, writing to his wife Abigail, believed independence would be “the most memorable epocha [sic] in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by future generations…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other forevermore.”
And so it is.
Without question, however, the signers of the Declaration of Independence skirted the difficult issue of slavery. Yet ultimately that very document prompted Lincoln to declare in 1858 that the Declaration of Independence served as “a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of…oppression.”
Recognizing that people of many nations have fought hard to win their freedoms, I nevertheless believe the actions of America’s leaders in 1776 – particularly around the drafting of the Declaration of Independence – can serve as helpful reminders about the essential steps necessary to develop and execute a plan for any organization.
Planning Equals Change
If you don’t plan to change, don’t bother to plan.
I’ll examine “The 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strategic Planning” in a Sept. 13 webinar.
In the meantime, if you’re committed to improving, take a page out of the playbook of America’s founders and then answer the questions I’ve posed.
  1. Be clear in purpose – In the summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia expressly to vote for independence from Britain. This issue was known as “the Glorious Cause.” Not all of the 56 delegates supported independence so the issue was debated. “The Novelty of the Thing deters some,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, “the Doubt of Success others, the vain Hope of Reconciliation many.” Debate is healthy. Lack of debate is unhealthy. Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.

    If our company did not exist, what would the world be missing? What ideas are we fighting for?
    Your purpose should be about more than making money. Making money is one result of your purpose.
    1. Think big – The 56 delegates knew they were in the spotlight. They realized they had a chance to reject old customs and try fresh ideas. They were not, as Thomas Jefferson noted, held by “the dead hand of the past.” And they confined their differences of opinion to their internal debates, refusing to air them publicly. When they were done, they set events in motion to achieve four unprecedented accomplishments: 1) winning a war for independence against the world’s most powerful military and economic power; 2) establishing the first republic in the modern world; 3) creating political parties to institutionalize the concept of legitimate opposition; and 4) establishing the principle of the legal separation of church and state.

      Ask: If we were starting over, what would we do differently?

    2. Get your best and get going – While waiting to vote on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence, the Congress appointed a five-person committee (Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman) to draft the declaration. Jefferson thought Adams should write the draft, but Adams declined, saying, “Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.” Though Adams was older and Jefferson was among the youngest delegates and had only recently joined Congress as a delegate, his talent was obvious. Jefferson began writing in seclusion on June 11 and finished in “one or two days.”

      Ask: Am I in the way? Do we invite our best people to help us plan our future? Are we spending too much time planning or can we accelerate our process?

    3. Write it down – Once Jefferson produced his draft, the committee reviewed it and made minor changes. The declaration was presented to the Congress on June 28. On July 2, 12 of 13 colonies approved it after shaving about 20 percent of the language. The final document was a single page.Ask: What would our plan look like if it were reduced to a single page? (Download a free one-page planning template by

      clicking here.)

    4. Get unanimous commitment – Despite differences of opinion, the signers sent a signal that they were united. One of the changes made to Jefferson’s draft was modifying “A Declaration By the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled” to “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united STATES of AMERICA.” Not every delegate was happy with the vote. But every delegate signed the document.Ask: How aligned is our team of leaders on our mission, vision, values and strategy? How committed is our team?
    5. Communicate it – Following adoption of the Declaration of Independence, John Dunlap printed “Dunlap Broadsides” and these were dispatched on July 5 by members of Congress to various committees, assemblies and legislatures. On July 6, the Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the first newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence, and on July 8 the Declaration was read in public for the first time. Washington ordered the Declaration be read before the American army in New York on July 9.Ask: How well do we orchestrate communication?
    6. Follow-through – Execution requires leadership and teamwork. “It is not sufficient,” said Washington, “for a man to be a passive friend and well wisher to the Cause.” Washington believed everyone “should be active in some department or other, without paying too much attention to private interest.”Ask: Does everyone on our team know where we’re going and what’s expected of them to help us get there?
The Paradox of Freedom
Elton Trueblood wrote 33 books and was a presidential advisor. At this time of celebrating freedom, consider this thought:
“The basic paradox of freedom is that we are most free when we are bound. What matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete but who is unwilling to discipline his body…is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance. Discipline is the price of freedom.”
Are you modeling the discipline you want to see in others?
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How can you improve your bottom line?


The future of tomorrow’s businesses will be determined by tomorrow’s leaders – today’s young professionals. The Accelerated Professionals program “LAUNCHES LEADERS.” The program develops employees who you want to be your company’s leaders. To be a business leader one must understand business and be able to communicate with confidence with the C-suite, and the employees they manage. Graduates of the program gain communication, leadership, selling, and strategic skills and how to apply these skills utilizing the basics of business measurements – P&L, Balance Sheet, Cash Forecasts, & Key Indicators.


Accelerated Professionals (
provides unique training programs for young professionals that combine the principals of business with public speaking techniques. Students that participate and complete the program have the training and the confidence to communicate as a leader in the language of the C-suite.


“The greatest change I’ve seen in Deborah over the course of the training is a significant improvement in her poise and confidence.  Her presentation style is much stronger, while still showing through her sweet personality.  She is more thoughtful in her dialogue.  She is seeking out feedback and is both quick and delighted to act upon it.  For someone who’s been with us only 7 months, she’s performing at a much higher level than expected.  She’s doing now (sales performance wise) what I expected after at least a year- year and a half.”  – Sheryl A. Lyons, MBA, CEO

What is your return on your investment in developing your young professionals? The Accelerated Professionals program’s purpose is to accelerate the development of today’s young leaders – LAUNCH their CAREERS. Your ROI can be calculated using the charts below for those individuals who complete the program and have accelerated their leadership growth.

Example: Yearly Salary of $50,000, accelerate performance by five months is a ROI of 8.6 and a savings of $29,000.

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Are you trying to win or trying to not lose?

Washington and Lincoln on Management:

“My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty, it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.”

George Washington

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln, Deal Guy

Econ Recon: Still Plowing Along…Your Peers’ Take on the Economy….Canada Can, Can We?

You: Trying to win or to not lose

The Man Behind The Arches

Abraham Lincoln, Deal Guy

Lincoln has received enormous publicity in recent months due to the Steven Spielberg movie on his crusade to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution.  Aside from George Washington, it would be difficult to find a president held in higher regard.   Lincoln has more than a little to teach CEOs.  For a quick overview, check out these article:  The first  “Making The Biggest Deals- Abraham Lincoln style” offers three lessons on negotiation drawn from major events of Lincoln’s presidency.    If you want some general leadership wisdom from our sixteenth president, check out Lincoln: Five Leadership Lessons.

 Econ Recon: Still Plowing Along…Your Peers’ Take on the Economy….Canada Can, Can We?

Still Plowing Along:   Despite the constant gloom of the mainstream media about the economy  (most notably regarding a stubbornly  high unemployment rate),  the fact is that the economy and total employment  (not the unemployment rate) have been improving for three and a half years; albeit at unacceptably slow  pace.   Economist Brian Wesbury looks why our growth is so slow and explains why we seem stuck with a   Plow Horse State of the Economy.

Your Peers Take on the Economy:  The Q4 results for the Vistage Confidence Index are now available.  Click here for a sense of how Vistage CEO see the economy in the coming year.

Canada Can….Can We? :  Looking for a developed country that seems to have its house in order?  Look up  (on the map, that is).   Vistage Staff Economist  and Institute for Trend Research principal  Alan Beaulieu takes a quick look at our neighbor to the north and points out a few lessons we could learn from them.  

Are you trying to win…. or to not lose?

The most important thing for all of us to manage is ourselves.  To that end, the first question to ask is “Who am I?”  A recent HBR article suggests that each of us is either promotion-focused or prevention-focused in our orientation: In other words,  do I know if I am the kind of person who is trying to win…or I am usually trying to not lose?  This is profound information to have about ourselves and those we report to,  or those who report to us. . Click here for the article.

The Man Behind The Arches

If asked who was the man who made McDonald’s
what it is, most business people automatically say Ray Kroc, who saw a terrific opportunity that the original McDonald’s brothers did not.  True, but every business needs not only a visionary, but also a missionary….someone who lives the brand and whose zeal demands unbending adherence by all to the founder’s vision.

Such was the role of Fred Turner, Former Chairman and CEO of McDonald’s, who died in January at age 80.    Turner started off running a grill at a McDonalds, became operations manager in 1958 and CEO in 1973.     The Economist Magazine runs one obituary each month, almost always of someone not well known who nevertheless had a significant influence in their chosen field.  In January, they chose Fred TurnerTake a moment and read this missionary’s obit.   Who is the “Fred Turner” in your company?  Do you have one?

Reprinted by permission by Allen Hauge

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How do companies benefit from their senior HR executive being part of our Vistage Group?

STRATEGY, FINANCE, or PEOPLE, which is most important for the success of your company/business?  I would argue that all three are a necessity and if you forget, or ignore, any one of the three you will never achieve your company’s true potential.  The head of HR should be on the executive team to develop/align the human capital needs to make your company the most competitive in your industry.  Read the comments from executives who have members:

Michelle Biggs Mark Carmen Marc DuPont Lizzie Dragon Jim Smith Dave Sparks

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