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5 Great Leadership Posts for Smart Executives

April 5, 2016
by Chris Ward

5 Great Leadership Posts for Smart Executives

This week we’ve put together a few of our favourite articles from around the web on Leadership.

1. A Harvard Psychologist Says Your Success in Any Situation Hinges on 3 Things

With research backed by Harvard Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, this article outlines the role that body language plays not only in leadership but in most situations. Making the mind-body connection that results in what Cuddy calls “presence” has the capacity to propel your success.

Have a look at the 3 things that people notice about you when you’re present and how this can boost your leadership skills.

2. One Essential to Building Great Organizations

Often at the core of any leadership role is building and maintaining great companies and organizations. This post brings things back around to one central and pivotal pillar of leadership. It also shares 15 ways to implement this concept.

Take a look at this one essential tip.

3. What Does Leadership Look Like in the Future of Work?

Leadership is always evolving, and with the rapid speed of innovation and change in large companies it pays to be forward looking and proactive in your self development as a leader. This great post covers everything from how leadership has changed over the past few years as well as topics like trends, diversity and how Millennials leaders are different.

Wondering about the future? This is well worth a listen. (It’s 75 minutes long, so you might want to listen to it on your commute.)

4. 11 Ways to Strengthen the Relationships That Will Lead You to Success

This post targets how relationships are paramount to a successful leader, moreover how most of the significant things we achieve are done in relationships with others. President and CEO of Lead From Within, Lolly Daskal offers 11 actionable ways to build and maintain significant relationships starting today.

5. 15 Proven Behaviours That Elevate Leaders

How you are perceived as an executive or leader is intrinsically linked to the effectiveness of your management. This post outlines and categorizes one’s behaviour and subsequent presence as a leader into character, substance and style and why you should care about these.

Read this and increase your effectiveness and opportunities to engage and inspire any team.


Let us know your favourite articles on Leadership.

Have you read a great post lately? Share it with us on Twitter @stratretreats

 


Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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How to engage me with your brand

March 10, 2016
by Chris Ward

How to Engage Me With Your Brand

(Hint: It’s all about “me”)

In a competitive market, a product succeeds because “users” feel a connection with that product. This connection could be intrinsic (i.e. the product performs as advertised or expected). However, intrinsic connections are not usually that powerful or long lasting. What is powerful, and what will ultimately determine the longer-term success of most products, is the presence and strength of an emotional connection.

Sure, I like my eight-year old Chevy Malibu.

It gets me where I want to go. It’s pretty reliable. And it doesn’t cost too much to keep on the road. From a functional standpoint, it’s all I really need.

But I dream about owning a new BMW M4. Now that’s a car! It’s fast, gorgeous and all my SUV-owning friends would be extremely envious. And that all adds up to an emotional connection that every brand would love to achieve.

This is what brands are all about. Ultimately, the success of any product, service, person or company depends on how users feel about that product. No feelings, no real connection. And so, the questions that brand builders have to answer, and have a good answer for, concern value, in general and what it means to me in particular.

The big question is all about me!

Your target audience might not care if they can tell who made a certain product. What each and every person does care about is, quite frankly, themselves. Often subconsciously, we all answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” every time we’re exposed to a new product, service, person or organization.

What’s in it for me if I…

… join your health club?

… buy your copier paper?

… dream about owning a Ferrari?

… trade in my Android for an iPhone?

… donate to your charity?

… retain you to facilitate our annual offsite?

What's In It For Me?

If the answer is nothing, that’s where it stops. If I judge that there is no benefit for me, I’m not interested. However, if the answer suggests that there is a real benefit for me, I might act on an offer, file it away for another time, or even put this in my ‘Things I Like to Dream About’ file.

When the perceived value is greater than the cost…

Perceived value is what separates generic products that have only intrinsic (read, functional) value from those that have emotional value. It’s also what makes price irrelevant (assuming the price is not way beyond my ability to pay). Like you, I will  quickly assess and assign a personal value to every product, service, person, company, charity, cause – you name it.

Once I know something exists, I don’t have a lot of control over that assessment process. My likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and desires kick in to assign a value. And, once I understand “What’s in it for me?”, assigning a value is pretty straightforward. It either has value or it doesn’t. And when this value is greater than the cost of obtaining it, and it compares favourably to alternative ways of spending my time or money, you can count me in to buy, join, donate, or in some other way engage with you.

 


Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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Good facilitation leads to clarity and familiarity.

April 14, 2015
by Bob McCulloch

To recap, in the last three posts I identifed a number of situations in which an experienced, external facilitator can play a beneficial role:

  • The team needs to develop a shared commitment.
  • The team needs to create a plan of action.
  • There are multiple and diverse viewpoints in the group.
  • A shared understanding of issues and preferences is a prerequisite for success.

In this post I'll touch on two more, ... 

1.   There needs to be increased clarity around roles and accountabilities.

An action plan delineates the steps that need to be taken. Now it’s time to talk about by whom they must be done. What are individuals’ specific roles? When must they complete certain objectives? What are the consequences for failing to do so? What does success look like? The facilitator can guide this dialogue to ensure that everything is fully nailed down, at least to provide a base against which to improvise.

2.   The team members need to get to know one another better.

This borders closely on team building. However, when it is focused on a business problem, challenge, or opportunity, then we find that facilitation can help build shared understanding. In a facilitation involving a dozen people, for instance, each participant may really want to know what the others are doing because each has distinct accountabilities and projects.

Rather than, “What’s your name? What do you do?” I might ask, “What excites you most about your job? How does your work contribute to the overall success of your organization?” Everyone is able to highlight what is important to him or her in 3 minutes or less. By the end of 40 minutes, there is a clear understanding of where people are focusing. Not only are team members more aware of others and how their work could intermingle, they are also re-energized in their own role. There's somethgin very useful about articulating your value in a room full of your peers.

Of course, this is not the only objective of the session; they are there to deal with an important business challenge or opportunity. However, with a richer appreciation for each other’s role, tackling the business challenge is a lot more productive.


Bob McCulloch

Bob McCulloch is a Principal with StrategicRetreats. Over the past 35 years he has facilitated countless meetings, workshops and retreats for well over 100 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations of all types and sizes. A recognized authority in providing strategic guidance and executive coaching for business leaders, his approach is to advise as a facilitator of strategic thinking, rather than as an independent strategist. 

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Facilitation benefits from solid business and leadership experience.

April 1, 2015
by Bob McCulloch

In my last post I discussed two situations in which bringing in an experienced outside facilitator can be highly beneficial:

  1. There are multiple and diverse viewpoints in the group; and
  2. A shared understanding of issues and preferences is a prerequisite for success

In this post we'll dig in a bit more to understand two other areas in which experience can pay off.

1.  The team needs to develop a shared commitment.

For a faciliated session to be successful, all members of a group or team need to have clarity around their roles and accountabilities, as well as be committed to fulfilling them.

This is as true of teams that work at the operational or tactical levels as it is of teams that work at the strategic level. The team might be comprised of the CEO and his or her executive team; or it could be a front-line manager and his or her front-line staff. Regardless, a knowledgeable facilitator can play a major role in helping participants clearly understand what their contribution to the business or project can look like. And clarity allows teams to eliminate overlaps and gaps in their work.

2.  The team needs to create a plan of action.

Facilitation can add significant value when a project is being launched. The team can come together and work with a facilitator to establish a shared commitment and plan of action. Often, the facilitator will focus on having the participants develop all of the components of the project charter so there is a very solid foundation from which to launch the project. Is the plan clear? Is the team committed?

In both these cases, a facilitator with solid business and leadership experience can introduce frameworks into the dialogue to help participants organize their own individual and collective thoughts, and build mutual understanding across the group. 


Bob McCulloch

Bob McCulloch is a Principal with StrategicRetreats. Over the past 35 years he has facilitated countless meetings, workshops and retreats for well over 100 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations of all types and sizes. A recognized authority in providing strategic guidance and executive coaching for business leaders, his approach is to advise as a facilitator of strategic thinking, rather than as an independent strategist. 

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Two situations that benefit from skillful strategic facilitation.

March 18, 2015
by Bob McCulloch

In an earlier post, I identified six situations in which external facilitation can be highly beneficial. In this post I'll take a closer look at the first two.

1. There are multiple and diverse viewpoints in the group.

Imagine a Committee with 12 Provincial Deputy Ministers, each with strong, and often conflicting, opinions, …each equal to the next in position and authority. In cases like this, the facilitator must act as a ‘lightening rod,’ attracting comments from each participant, documenting them for all to see, and then working with the entire group to build a shared understanding of the various ideas and viewpoints.

It is essential that facilitation be used to ensure that each of these strong individuals not only has a voice, but also listens to – and most importantly hears – the other perspectives.

2. A shared understanding of issues and preferences is a prerequisite for success.

When people work together on a regular basis, building a shared understanding of issues and opportunities is absolutely essential. For example, a business unit could be working on developing a solution to a challenge it’s facing in the US marketplace. This intact team has a common purpose; now the members need to get together to share views, risks, and strategies, and ensure everyone understands all the relevant issues, and the various perspectives they each hold.

The external facilitator – with no vested interest in the outcome – is in a unique position to draw out the knowledge, opinions, and preferences of everyone in the room, without being judgmental, and to help the group craft a strategic choice that has a very good chance of being successful.

The facilitator ensures that everyone in the room is seen, heard, and understood, and the group avoids the irreconcilable conflict that often occurs when this most basic of all human needs is not satisfied. 


Bob McCulloch

Bob McCulloch is a Principal with StrategicRetreats. Over the past 35 years he has facilitated countless meetings, workshops and retreats for well over 100 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations of all types and sizes. A recognized authority in providing strategic guidance and executive coaching for business leaders, his approach is to advise as a facilitator of strategic thinking, rather than as an independent strategist. 

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6 ways to benefit from skillful strategic facilitation

March 3, 2015
by Bob McCulloch

An effective strategic facilitator wears several important hats. He or she is someone who knows the right questions to ask to engage a diverse group of people, … someone who helps a group explore their initial answers and focus on desired outcomes and results.

While strategic facilitation can aid teams and groups in a multitude of different situations, there are specific cases in which a strategic facilitator can add tremendous value. Of all we have seen, here are six that benefit greatly from that unique, third party perspective:

  1. There are multiple and diverse viewpoints in the group.
  2. A shared understanding of issues and preferences is of paramount importance.
  3. The team needs to develop a shared commitment.
  4. The team needs to create a plan of action.
  5. There needs to be increased clarity around roles and accountabilities.
  6. The team members need to get to know one another better.

The focus: performance and results

In each of these situations, the focus is on performance and results. Strategic facilitation encourages and helps teams to create shared understanding and commitment to the organization or project. It can be a vital step in reconciling the viewpoints of people who do not share a common purpose, renewing energy in a team that does, eliciting qualitative feedback, or simply getting to know one another on a different level.

It is a first step in creating a new reality, a new dynamic in which, while challenges may be great, commitment, cohesion, and purpose are greater.

In subsequent posts we’ll share a bit more about each of these situations. 


Bob McCulloch

Bob McCulloch is a Principal with StrategicRetreats. Over the past 35 years he has facilitated countless meetings, workshops and retreats for well over 100 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations of all types and sizes. A recognized authority in providing strategic guidance and executive coaching for business leaders, his approach is to advise as a facilitator of strategic thinking, rather than as an independent strategist. 

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Perhaps an experienced facilitator would have been a good idea.

February 18, 2015
by Chris Ward

You've invited 12 colleagues to participate in an important planning meeting. For various reasons you asked another colleague from a different group to run it. The day arrives, ...the meeting takes place. Unfortunately, the outcome is not what you expected. Participants were unable to agree on the key issues. One nodded off in the morning session and a couple excused themselves right after lunch.

Having a facilitator to ensure a meeting runs smoothly and accomplishes what it’s supposed to is always a good idea. The question is, should you look outside or choose someone from within your company?

As a general rule, and at risk of this appearing self-serving, there is a lot to be gained from recruiting an external facilitator.

  • In the first place, the person you select should have no vested interest in the outcome. Their only concern should be achieving the results you’re after.
  • Second, an experienced outsider will have a greater chance of getting participants—particularly those with the title 'boss'—who have a tendency to be a little too opinionated or forceful, to appreciate the negative impact their behaviour is having on the quality of the conversation. That’s not something that many employee-facilitators, at least not those who are concerned about their upward mobility, feel comfortable doing.
  • Third, a professional facilitator will be a valuable resource when it comes to planning the retreat. If your facilitator has earned his or her spurs in business, they will be well equipped to pull together an appropriate agenda, help clarify what can be expected from the retreat, break up log jams and (if requested) join in on a conversation to help keep it moving. And, following the retreat, a good facilitator will provide you with an unbiased summary of decisions and action items making it much easier to plan specific tasks and to track future performance.  


Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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Communicating the value in a strategic offsite.

February 3, 2015
by Bob McCulloch

In my experience, “I’m too busy to take the day off to attend a retreat” can be code for any number of things, including:

  • “I really don’t see the value in going somewhere else for this meeting.”
  • “I want to get away early this Friday and this is going to get in the way.”
  • “Been there. Done that. I’ve got better things to do.”

Because sentiments like these can have an extremely negative impact on other members of your team, it’s important to identify any participants who might feel this way and deal with the issue directly.

Of course, there is always the possibility that someone will have a legitimate reason for wanting to bow out. He or she might be in the middle of inking a deal that will put your business on the map! Or there might be an essential meeting with your banker that really can’t be put off. Reasons like these could result in giving an individual a pass, or even rescheduling if their presence is really required.

Identify and deal with misunderstandings

But very often, there is a real lack of understanding about the meeting and how it will benefit the organization. Offsites consume time and money. You’re not proposing one just to give your people something to do. Very often the reasons can be expressed in terms that bottom-line driven managers will appreciate. The reason could involve improving morale or productivity. It might be related to reducing churn or shrinkage. Perhaps the goal is a plan to penetrate a new market and add much needed volume.

Whatever the reason, sitting down with skeptics and discussing their misgivings will contribute to a successful outcome.


Bob McCulloch

Bob McCulloch is a Principal with StrategicRetreats. Over the past 35 years he has facilitated countless meetings, workshops and retreats for well over 100 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations of all types and sizes. A recognized authority in providing strategic guidance and executive coaching for business leaders, his approach is to advise as a facilitator of strategic thinking, rather than as an independent strategist. 

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I'm too busy to take the day off!

January 27, 2015
by Chris Ward

How many times have you heard this one? Perhaps even thought it or, horrors, said these words out loud?

Time is precious, but...

For most of us, time is the most precious resource. So for many, the thought of abandoning the office for a day or more is enough to cause a panic attack.

If an off-site retreat is not something for which your colleagues are used to making time, the prospect of actually doing it can be somewhat intimidating. What if a major account has a pressing issue? Who will be around to troubleshoot problems on the production line? How will all those HR issues get resolved? The fact is few of us are as indispensable as we would like to believe. And, with a little advance planning, there is very little danger that your business will tank if you and your colleagues are away for a day or so.

Au contraire!

Some executives and managers are surprised to find that members of their team are perfectly able to step up and handle situations in their absence. In fact, many will relish the opportunity.

Key accounts can be asked to direct any requests through a particular individual. Arrangements can be made to cover off almost any responsibility. And, truth be told, in the case of a real emergency, there is almost always a way of getting in touch with those on retreat.


Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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Here’s a New Year’s resolution you might have overlooked!

January 13, 2015
by Chris Ward

Forget about 6-packs and hourglass figures. Rather than focusing on losing, quitting or stopping – some personal behavioural change that’s unlikely to happen – let’s look at a resolution that will make your business more successful.

Which, in turn, will benefit you and perhaps provide the wherewithal to fly off to one of those super deluxe desert spas where you can, at great comfort and expense, achieve that personal miracle that’s been so elusive over the past few years.

Review and revise your strategy, if necessary.

First, speak to a few employees and clients, members or donors to get a fix on how well your present strategy is being recived, and how you compare to your competition. Share these insights with your colleagues.

Armed with this information, you'll be in a position to review your progress over the past year, look at where your business is headed and revise your strategy in light of results to date, competitive activity and other factors.  

With so much to do and not enough time to do it, freeing up members of your leadership team to give this review the time it deserves can be a challenge. That's why it makes sense to consider getting your team together for a strategic retreat.

Consider holding it offsite.

Often (but not always) held off-site to avoid interruptions and stimulate creative thinking, a professionally facilitated one or two-day retreat can be an ideal venue for reviewing performance, discussing mission-critical issues, sharing insights and collaborating on how best to deal with high-priority issues and opportunities.


Chris Ward is a Principal with StrategicRetreats and founder of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors. Over the past 20 years he has facilitated dozens of meetings, workshops and retreats and conducted more than 1,000 key informant interviews for organizations of all types and sizes. An expert in strategic planning and branding, he helps clients develop very specific plans to achieve corporate goals and own their space. 

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