Your organization is growing—what a wonderful thing!  Needs are changing, more employees are needed, and you are continually re-focusing to keep the vision clear.  What exciting times.

However, be sure not to get tunnel vision about where you are going and what you really have as resources.

Suppose you are engaging in a new marketing campaign. You need everything from script writers to artists to web masters.  You have an existing web masters and writer. You determine that you need an artist.  So you go outside your organization looking for just the artist you need. This can be expensive when you add up the expenses to recruit, hire and train that new employee.  Meanwhile in the IT department wiling away her time is an aspiring artist just waiting for an opportunity like this.

What was the true cost of not looking within?

Try this one on.  There are two fulfillment companies with their own warehouses and delivery fleet.  Thanks to growing online ordering the companies they contract with for deliveries are expanding.  Both companies need drivers.  Company A goes outside to recruit a local driver with a CDL license.  Time and money later they finally secure a driver to train and engage in the company culture—more time and money spent.  Company B puts a notice out first inside the company.  As luck would have it there is a young father in the warehouse with a CDL license who had been turning down opportunities because he could not find a local driving position.

Who made out better here?  Admittedly the second scenario requires a bit of luck, however the answer is always “no” if you never ask.   The first scenario is very close to one I experienced in an international company I once worked for.

Do you know the hidden talents of your employees?  Have you ever asked?  I suggest you put together an employee talent survey just to know who is on the bus, even if they don’t have a seat at the moment.  That seat might be developing for them as you develop the company.

Organizational Change – It Really Comes Down to Two Things

Organizational Change

Amy Swenson recently asked a question in the Human Resources (HR) & Talent Management group regarding why over 70% of organizational change initiatives fail and if anyone has a methodology that works.

It’s a great question. However, the answers are not a secret. Some great books have been written on the topic.

So why have the statistics not changed that much?

Organizations are systems perfectly designed to create their current results.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Organizations are systems — systems of people, processes, and tools. Those people have an acceptable or standard way of interacting with one another called “culture.” They have ways of interacting with their processes and tools called “Standard Operating Procedures.” Each of these has it’s own inertia. The longer the organization has been around, the more inertia it has. Remember Jim Collin’s flywheel from Good to Great? This is the flywheel.

Another analogy I like to use is an aircraft carrier. It is a huge piece of machinery. It requires a massive staff to maintain and run. Roles are clearly defined in a nice kanban manner through uniforms and vest colors. Operating procedures are highly rehearsed and executed with fine precision.

People inside and outside the organization have adapted to survive in the system of your organization. They understand how to navigate the nuances of the organization’s culture and operating procedures, and the organization reinforces their behaviors through lack of punishment and sometimes reward.

Most change initiatives in organizations are the equivalent of ramming the side of that aircraft carrier with a rowboat. There is little if any noticeable impact on the carrier and it just about kills the people in the rowboat.

I’ve worked with dozens of organizations across my 20-year career. Whether a change initiative succeeded or failed, I noticed the reasons fell into two buckets — Lack of Clarity and Lack of Organizational Reinforcement. You will notice that the second contributes to the first.

Organizational clarity starts with a cohesive leadership team. By “cohesive” I mean a leadership team with no air gaps between them regarding the purpose, behaviors, and objectives of the organization. If the leadership team is not on the same page and committed, then their is no hope for the organization.

Once the leadership team is on the same page, then they can engage the proper stakeholders and create clarity around what is changing, why it is changing, and when it is changing. This part is not too difficult.

However, this next step is where many organizations stumble. Remember the system? We’ve now got to modify the system to reinforce the change. This may mean that some people that just won’t get on board after much listening and coaching need to go. That’s tough when it’s someone you like or an otherwise great employee. It definitely means that reward systems and processes need to be revamped to be aligned to reinforce the change. It also means that there need to be reinforcement mechanisms in place to inspect the new process and disciplinary action steps to handle non-compliance.

If that sounds hard, it is. Change is difficult. That’s why most organizations fail at it.

By the way, I still have not shared with you the two keys to success in change transformation. While the things I mentioned are critical, it really comes down to this: uncommon discipline and persistence.

Are You Creating a Culture of Entitlement?

America was built by men and women who came to this country to stand up on their own and create new opportunities for themselves in a free society.  The founders believed that people have the right to make a life of prosperity with their own talents and creative abilities and every family had to find its way.  There were no government given entitlements.  These strongly independent thinkers would turn over in their graves today if they saw what many of the people expect.  Yet many entitlements that are not even thought of as entitlements are expected:  health insurance (now REQUIRED), vacation pay, sick pay, family leave, and the list goes on.  I am not knocking what we have yet I and others do see some issues.

My research found this from FOX news:

“FOX News

Entitlements are two-thirds of the federal budget. Entitlement spending has grown 100-fold over the past 50 years. Half of all American households now rely on government handouts.

When we hear statistics like that, most of us shake our heads and mutter some sort of expletive. That’s because nobody thinks they’re the problem. Nobody ever wants to think they’re the problem.

But that’s not the truth.

The truth is, as long as we continue to think of the rising entitlement culture in America as someone else’s problem, someone else’s fault, we’ll never truly understand it and we’ll have absolutely zero chance of altering its dangerous course.

The truth is that America’s growing entitlement culture is far more pervasive than people realize. It’s also far more top-down than people realize. Indeed, the entitlement mindset that’s infecting America starts with our leadership, and not just in Washington, either.”

Let’s look at the small business world or the family owned business.  Take the example of a company of 50 employees that has been in business over 20 years. Joe has been there since nearly the beginning of the business.  In the past few years Joe’s work has slipped to a seemingly unacceptable level.  Yet because Joe has been there so long management feels he is entitles to keep the job and is doing nothing to try to change it.

How are the other less tenured employees feeling?  They are carrying extra load because Joe just sits back and does as little as possible.  He knows no one will fire him.   “How can he get away with that when if we worked like that we would be fired?  It’s just not fair.  I think I will just go look for another job.”  Off goes the “A” player and with him or her a lot of bad mouthing about the company.  Is this type of entitlement going on in your company–there could be any number of other reasons for it happening.

Here’s another example of what we see often.  Sue is young and just learning the business.  Her learning curve is slow and she really shows little interest in the business.  She would rather party  But she is the owner’s daughter and therefore “entitled” to the job.  Again, what are the other 49 employees thinking?  Same as above.

Considering the loss of productivity because of under performance, work overload on others, turnover, rework because of mistakes and more, these are a very costly situations.

These are not the only ways a company may be creating a feeling of entitlement that is hurting the company, but they are two examples we see often in our practice.

What have you seen? Your comments are invited and please keep them related to the topic!

Negative Emotions and Memory

I have just read a study the negative emotional experiences actually enhance memory accuracy better than positive ones (Negative Emotion Enhances Memory Accuracy (Elizabeth A. Kensinger, Boston College).It is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. As a coach I have long realized that many of the issues we face come from things in the past that get triggered. I have also found that the negative triggers stay in play longer than the positive ones. Yet I believe there is more to the story.

We at the Cirrus Business Group do a good bit of work with personalities and personal styles.  All of our work and research of the many profiles has shown us that certain personalities and  styles are prone to be quite positive and optimistic while others always see the more pessimistic side of things.  Can this play into the equation?  We think so to a certain degree.

Even with negative triggers the more optimistic person may be able to recover and bounce back rather quickly.  In my life I have found that those with a more pessimistic nature dwell on that negative memory a lot longer making it into something it may not have been.  There is no doubt from the study that those with a negative memory remember is more accurately than the positive ones.  Yet our imaginations are very powerful so over time we may insert details that were not really there.

This is all fascinating to me and something to think about.  I have not yet seen a study comparing the accuracy of negative emotions and memories to personalities.  Just some thoughts a possibilities based on my years of experience with personalities and styles.  Until next time–Coach Judi

Personal Development and Business Development

As a consulting company focused on the development of businesses we have realized in no uncertain terms that a business that is focused solely on the business and not on the needs of the people is doomed to failure.  Along with the business development side of things, we at the Cirrus Business Group have a strong focus on human talent development, and this part of the business is growing rapidly with more offerings in this area.

It does not matter what the size of the business is; there is a need for personal development in every business. An entrepreneur with a strong technical skill must develop him/herself as a person and gain business skills to run the business side along with the technical side of the business.  This goes for small and micro businesses as well.  We have programs specifically designed to meet the need for this personal development.

A larger business may need team and management development along with the personal development. Learning leadership and management skills is a must, however, if the leader is struggling with the personal side of life a lot of the effectiveness can be lost.  Our coaches are trained to sort through the personal side with the coachee while also assisting the business to grow.

Most big businesses do not address this side of their business at all. Just looking at the turnover rate goes a long way to show what is missing, and exit interviews are a must.  The exit interview is where the understanding of why people leave comes from and it is often they are leaving their manager, not the company. Providing the employee at all levels with personal development opportunities can help to slow down the revolving door. When the person understands him/herself and others better, and has opportunities within the company to support their necessary life adjustments, they feel supported and will stay longer. Having a confidential personal coach for one-on-one work is a great investment.

When you look at the most successful large businesses you will find those companies are investing in their people. They see this need and fill it.  The investment in the people actually slows the turnover and saves money.  Turnover is very expensive.  When you look at the loss of experience, cost of recruitment and on-boarding, training and ramp-up time for every employee lost, especially at the senior levels, the cost of personal development and a coach seems to be a most effective way to go.  A third party coach that is not actually on company staff may be the most effective since he/she is looking from the outside in with no vested interest in the company.

We at the Cirrus Business Group have certified, trained coaches to develop the employees from the business side and the personal side. Many leaders believe the two must be kept separate.  It is not possible.  Employees are people first.

The Value of Personality Assessments

What if you knew the work style of every employee in your company? How do you think that might change the work environment and culture? If you are like most employers you have never even thought about it.

We find many times in the workplace there is conflict from clashing personalities. Sometimes people are put into positions for which they are not ideally suited.  We have all heard the stories of people being promoted beyond their capabilities.  Not every personality type is suited for leadership even if they are the best at what they have been doing. Do you thing knowing their types and inherent approach to the world would help to understand these situations? We do.  In fact we base our work on it.

There are several different assessments for learning the personality styles and temperaments. The work goes as far back as Hippocrates and is as modern as DiSC styles and the work of David Keirsey’s KTS II Temperament Sorter.  In most of them it comes down to 4 basic styles and all assessments come to the same basic characteristics for each style. There can be differences between the styles that are so strong that much conflict comes from this alone.  When one studies the personality styles of a whole company and see which DiSC style each uses one can see where the most likely clashes will happen and can see the make-up of each team and indeed the entire company.  When this information is charted and posted in a common area of the workplace all employees have the ability to see the styles of others and can understand them from a new point of view.

Does your company deserve to know this information? We think so.  Let the Cirrus Business Group come in and provide this information through the assessments and company-wide workshops.  You will see a rapid improvement of the interactions of the employees and the teams.

Difficult Conversations – Executive Challenges Town Hall

Difficult Conversations

Sooner or later we all end up having to have a difficult conversation with a peer or key employee. While they are rarely easy, handled well, these can be some of the most productive conversations had in the organization. Chris Reese, Judy Harris, Martha Kanaday, and Angela Jergler of Cirrus Business Group share several things you can do to protect yourself and the organization.

Intention Without Action is a Daydream

We often talk about being intentional about business change yet so many times we see businesses create plans with the best of intentions and see little or no implementation.  So what is it to be intentional?



an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

the end or object intended; purpose.


purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.

purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are.


Intention is what we set out to do; it is not the completed goal.  The completion of the goal is in the intentional actions taken and the assessment of the results.


We have seen the leadership in several companies go on retreat, set the course for change and come back all charged up about the new direction of the company.  Somehow back at the office these intentions are not clearly communicated to the entire company and over time not fully carried out.  Then sets in the frustration of not achieving the desired goals and change.


Intentional leadership is hard work and it takes time.  It is setting the course and always having an eye on the water, intentionally watching for the need for course corrections.  Change is not easy to implement nor is it easy to maintain until the changes become the new habits. The intentional leader is watching for the bad habits to return and takes immediate action when that is observed.


Setting the new course and following it also needs to include celebration!  Find ways to celebrate the small successes along the way.  Celebration raises the positive vibrations in the company and lets the energy flow even better.


Be the change you seek—intentionally!


Coach Judi Harris, MBA  

Executive Coach, Cirrus Business Group

June, 2014

The Coaching Conversation

There are many things to consider in the area of performance management and one of the considerations is what method to use. One method is to use the coaching approach based on the model developed by Corporate Coach U (CCU). This method can be used to take the under performer to satisfactory or above, and it can be used to take the good performer to great. It is a very effective method for developing your “A” players.

When coaching through the gap from the current reality to the desired goal there are four essential skills used:
1. Contextual Listening ©
2. Discovery Questioning ©
3. Messaging
4. Acknowledging

Step 1. Focus

Through a series of discovery questions the focus of the current reality is established, such as:
–What would you like to get from this conversation?
–What feels most urgent right now?
–What do you need most to move forward?

During this step the desired goal is identified and made clear.

Step 2. Discover Possibilities

–Looking at this goal, what is the best that could happen?
–If you knew you could not fail, what would you do first—right now?
–What other outcomes might you achieve?
–What other possibilities can you see that can move you forward?

During this step look at all possibilities, even the unusual ones.

Step 3. Plan the action

–Choose the most compelling action steps.
–Decide where to start.
–Discover what is needed for success
–Decide on who might be needed to assist
–Be clear on how these action steps will lead to achieving the goal
–Review the plan to make sure all of the actions steps are there and in the right sequence

The coach sends a clear message that action needs to be taken and helps to develop the action plan

Step 4. Remove the barriers

–What might keep you from succeeding?
–What is missing?
–Do you have all the resources that are needed?
–What roadblocks might come up that need to be overcome?
–Who can you communicate with to remove these roadblocks?

The idea here is to acknowledge there will be barriers and to identify as many as can be and remove them. The idea here is to make them non-issues before the plan is even put into action. This step addresses the concerns of the person being coached.

Step 5. Recap

–Tell me what you are going to do and by when
–What are you taking away from this conversation?
–What will you have achieved by our next meeting?
–How would you like me to hold you accountable for your commitments?
–What date and time works best for our next meeting?

The recap ensures clarity of the issue and implementation of the action plan and the system for accountability. It is important that the person being coached is clear on the steps and the goal. Any lack of clarity is cleaned up at this step.

The Coaching Conversation Model © does not work in or apply in every situation. When it does it is a very effective method for achieving the desired results—and often more!

Want to learn how to do it? Give us a call!

Judith Harris, MBA 2014
Executive Coach

Too Lean to Grow?

Is your organization too LEAN to Grow?

Efficiency is good.  In most markets you better be running an efficient operation or you won’t be able to compete and make margin.

At least that is the conventional wisdom.  However, Porter taught us that all margin does not come from reducing operational costs.  Margin comes from value.  Cost is just part of the equation.

I have nothing against reducing costs by driving waste out of the system.  Part of our firm’s practice is LEAN consulting.

That said, I’m starting to see a symptom across organizations that is going to require a shift in mindset to resolve.

When the economy tightened up at the end of the last decade, companies had to LEAN up to survive.  Everyone pulled double duty for the good of the organization.

While there are times when that is necessary, you can only run your team in a sprint for so long.

How do you know if you’re too lean to grow?  Here are five indicators.

  1. It’s a big deal when someone takes vacation.  In fact, that job just doesn’t get done.
  2. Your existing staff are so busy doing their jobs, they do not have time to develop others.  Bench strength is a huge competitive advantage.  How is yours?
  3. What would happen to the quality of service if your marketing efforts were just 10% more effective?
  4. Are your key players feeling burned out?
  5. Are you starting to see your A-Players jump ship?

Business is about balance.  A machine that is operating at 100% efficiency by definition can do no more.

If you are trying to grow revenue, make sure you aren’t too lean to do so.