Archive for Coaching

Use Your Simplicity Super Powers

Super PowersWhen I am with a coaching client, it is my job to focus on that client without distractions. They are often grateful for the time because they are able to focus on their own personal goals without their usual complex environments filled with distraction.

Finding simplicity in a confusing and chaotic world can be as good as a vacation. I can hear the resounding “ahhhh” now as all you readers begin to imagine your lives with less stress, less connection, less of everything. Not feeling the simplicity love? Use your superpowers.


The Tiny House movement is one example of how many people are feeling burdened by the trappings of what was once a lofty goal – big house to hold lots of things and more and more gadgets. And yet there is a feeling of great weight that seems to have loaded people up to the point where more and more people are sharing, dreaming and talking about tiny houses…but not living in them.

Real Simple, the magazine, strikes deep longing breaths as one paws through each page longing for less pressure, less clutter and less hassle, yet it gets stacked in a pile next to all the other interests beside the couch in a living room filled with so many children’s toys one can barely move.

Software websites that once held flashing reminders to buy, buy, buy have simplified to beautifully designed simplistic pages with a small scattering of visual-based links that draw the mind into believing solutions are simple, but people are failing to purchase because the choices of similar software are far too grand and need more investigation.

Not Really Simplifying

The thing is, we want and crave simplicity, less distraction, less of all the millions of messages hitting us on a daily basis, overwhelming our senses and distracting our focus – but actions and wishes do not always match. Goodness knows, I am guilty of getting sucked into the ‘always on’ mentality!

Human beings crave attention – and the digital age has provided us with an attention banquet unsurpassed in history – often at the expense of giving attention to those we are with. We have at our disposal, hundreds (if not thousands) of attention getting gadgets, platforms and media to fill every minute of our day and keep from every getting anything of value accomplished.

Sit in a coffee shop and watch the throngs of people sitting with each other but all looking down on their phones. Sit in a meeting and notice how many people are actually listening compared to how many are checking phones. Notice how many people on their drive home from work are texting, talking or handling their handheld devices – in spite of legislation that tells them it’s illegal.

We crave simplicity, yet we ignore the many avenues for gaining it. I find I am most successful when I drop the gadgets and start listening and doing and that requires super powers!

Use Your Super Powers for Good!

All your gadgets, devices, applications and digital connectors to your world have hidden super powers. That’s right – and we are going to show you a few.

  • Voice Mail: For meetings, driving, paying at the till, walking your dog, getting stuff done. This little super power of your cell, desktop and home phone gives you the power to organize your life. Stop running to answer and be respectful of the people who you are actually with.
  • Airplane Mode: This is great for tablets, laptops, phones and other devices we may not know about. Can’t get something done? Shut ‘er down, my friend and finish that project.
  • Flag or Close Your Email: You are the hero of this story – you get to decide when you check your email and you get to decide when you will get back to someone. Prioritize who gets instant gratification from you.
  • Stop answering texts – hit the call button. Are you getting inundated with texts? They take time, especially if you are a slow texter. Hit the call button and call them back when you are finally alone, make it quick and answer fast.
  • The power button, on your T.V., computer, or any other distracting electronics. This ultimate of super un-power gives you those long craved for moments – go for a walk, soak in a tub, play with the kids – escape the time suckers.
  • Turn off Social Media Notifications – you don’t really need to check EVERY ping and knock from your social media, it’s not like it’s going anywhere! Check it after a nice lunch – perhaps

You get the hint – take control, because the attention you are getting from a text, social media notifications, email, or any other distracting forces in your life is taking you AWAY from simplicity and pulling you toward loneliness and complexity.







Building the Ultimate Customer Experience

Strategic Sense, in addition to providing Leadership Training, has made a commitment to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we’ve had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. Such as Dr. Ellen Weber, Director at Mita International Brain Center who wrote about brain based approaches to innovation.

Today’s Guest Post is by Jeffrey Summers, the President and Founder of RestaurantWorx whose full-service, national and international, Hospitality Coaching and Consulting firm in Dallas, Texas guides clients to bring their customer experiences to new heights.

And now, here’s Jeffrey…

Customer ExperienceThe Experience

The customer experience is your product. It is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with your brand at every touchpoint. Equally critical is the employee experience. Both should be given equal validity, weight and attention when discussing, analyzing or creating the ultimate customer experience.

Most business owners/managers will tell you that most of this is out of their control or direct influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are 5 critical tools you can use to design and deliver a superior customer and employee experience.


As one writer summed up it up recently, “Culture trumps strategy, every time.” Culture is critical in understanding, defining and executing the desired actions and behaviors by employees in order to ensure a superior customer experience. Culture is what happens in the absence of direct supervision or company policy. It’s what an employee does when confronted with a customer situation that wasn’t covered in their training or ongoing coaching by their supervisor. It’s also a critical decision-point which can make or break the customer experience and ultimately determine the success or failure of the business.

Culture is also the area in which you must align all of your businesses goals, values and processes with those of your employees and customers in order to achieve the necessary level of customer-centrism, cooperation, trust and execution.

Buyer & Employee Persona’s

The ‘Buyer Persona’ is critical to knowing and understanding who your target market is and what issues and behaviors you need to influence in order to increase the desired purchase or loyalty behaviors you want to see from them. It answers the two critical questions about your customers, ‘How can we influence this person to buy from us’ and ‘What issues or attitudes prevent them from buying from us.’ Essentially it defines what is important to them and what is not.

Without knowing the answers to these and similar questions, all of your marketing efforts will be in vain at most or just shots in the dark at the least.

Likewise, it is equally important to understand and create a similar ‘Employee Persona’ that matches and aligns with the company’s goals, values and processes in order to successfully execute your customer experience.

Voice-of-the-Customer & Voice-of-the-Employee

Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) and Voice-of-the-Employee (VoE) programs are extremely important to your experience building success because it gives you the much needed measurement of your experience and ongoing experience building efforts. The value of gathering customer feedback, information analysis, the resulting process and experience changes and performance monitoring is immeasurable. This is where you can better understand and influence the loyalty drivers of your employees and customers by engaging them in the very process of experience design.

Experience Design

This is the overt process of mapping out your customer experience by analyzing each and every customer or employee touch-point. Then utilizing your VoC & VoE information to determine the what, where and how to add meaningfully differentiated value to each one in order to create the best experiences possible. This ongoing process of measuring, analyzing then refining not only applies to the customer experience, but the employee experience also as you cannot disconnect front-line employees from the process.


Coaching employees and staff is absolutely critical to ensuring that you have not only their input and buy-in into the customer experience building process but also their understanding and participation in the necessary culture and ongoing process refinement that ensures future success as well.

Let’s also not forget that the process of building the ultimate employee experience is similar and just as important and critical to your success as it is in building the ultimate customer experience. Employees are your ‘Brand Ambassadors’ and are directly responsible for executing all levels of the customer experience. Not embracing this part of the program will render the rest of it worthless.

Jeffrey Summers is a 29 year veteran of creating, operating, Coaching and consulting with successful food service & hospitality concepts that include national and international chains, franchises and independent operators. He is an award winning business Coach, consultant, speaker, writer and blogger.
Jeffrey is also the president and founder of RestaurantWorx™, a full-service, national and international, Hospitality Coaching and consulting firm based in Dallas, Texas. Besides helping clients achieve success by working with them one-on-one, he frequently speaks at and attend numerous industry events as well as at local, state and national small business groups in order to share his passion for the business of food and hospitality.

Jeffrey can be reached through his company’s website at: RestaurantWorx™ and you will find him on Twitter providing great content for his followers.

Patti Blackstaffe, President of Strategic Sense Inc, is a Speaker, Strategic Advisor and Trainer in Leadership, Customer Service and Cultural integration through Mergers and Acquisition.You can book her to speak at her personal page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Read what folks have to say about her eBook Leadership XXL: 11 Practical Steps to Living Leadership Extra, Extra Large.

Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there, and call us. (403) 201-8512


Gold Medal Olympic Leaders

(Photo from file 2008)

Photo Courtesy Walt Blackstaffe 2008

Congratulations to all Olympic Athletes – they’ve been training most of their lives, they have competed all over the world with other contenders. The ‘ski industry community’ is very small – each name comes with a story and athletes are very familiar with one another. Canadians with Russians, Swedes with Americans; they all know each other and their personalities and reputations follow them all over the world.

Alexandre Bilodeau has his own legacy, one that has followed him around within the industry – and now he has triggered a new legacy as the world congratulates him on winning the gold medal in Men’s Moguls for Canada. What people in the skiing community know about Alexandre is that his older brother is one of his heros. Frederic has cerebral palsy, and his medal winning brother attributes much of his success to what he has learned from Frederic. Alex has made his mark. But it doesn’t stop there!

As of yesterday, Alexandre Bilodeau has just taken on a new leadership position. He is the first Canadian to win a gold medal on Canadian soil and is a new role model for young athletes’ world-wide. His job is about to get a whole lot bigger than it has in the past, and he has just boarded a new lift. He will be inundated with sponsorship offers, event invites and much more.

Alex is about to test his leadership skills more publicly than any of us in business usually do – they will be tested in front of the world for all to see and base opinion. The stats only tell a portion of the story – he won the gold medal, that’s the stat. Each step he makes from here will define his leadership and mentorship of a community within an industry that pushes for excellence and hard work. The public will (rightly or wrongly) judge his character and lay expectation before him of how a ‘gold medal winner’ is to behave.

Sponsors he chooses to work with will want their products represented with just the right persona. All leadership roles take on this kind of pressure and expectation, a bit less public but all people who are being led make assumptions and build opinion about their leaders.

What’s often missing is guidance for the new leader – that ideal element leading to the success of leaders within organizations. Having advisors to train, coach, or guide them through how to manage opinions, expectations and build alignment with teams and collaborative business units can make the difference between success and failure.

Being a great leader and mentor calls for being authentic. One cannot build a false ‘persona’ for the public then lead a different life in private because they will always be found out. (I don’t need to share examples here, you know who they are.) Leaders can choose to be a ‘better self’ making their actions a legacy worth sharing with their children and for all others to follow.

Strategic Sense offers a program for new and emerging leaders called “14 Weeks of Managers Making the Mark” teaching leaders to make their mark by leaving a positive leadership legacy in their role as leaders everywhere. Contact us to find out more about our programs for leaders.


Your "Attention Radar" – Choosing Your Focus

RASHave you ever taken training or coaching where someone was working hard to gift you with gems of wisdom or a different way of looking at things? Do you know if you were truly open to the information being given?

One of the most difficult situations is when a coach or mentor is trying hard to move you forward and your door is closed!

A great way to tell if you’re being receptive is to listen to your own response. The next time someone – a coach, boss, trainer, or mentor – is making a concerted effort to encourage change, try to acknowledge that they have a different view you might not be seeing. Then ask yourself if you are actually leaving the door open enough to receive the gems of wisdom they offer.

  1. Are you taking time to hear what they are saying and turning it into a lesson to be utilized in your own life?
  2. Do you respond by defending the behaviours that keep you from moving forward?
  3. Do you use expressions such as “I DO that, but it never works.” Or “I try, but….” or “I AM…”
  4. Do you leap to conclusions about what others think of you, even though it’s not actuallywhat they were saying?
  5. Do you hold tightly to beliefs that are clearly holding you back?

If so, then you might very well be trapped in a cyclical thought pattern based on buried beliefs and while you think the doors are open to hearing and recognizing opportunity and growth, they may very well be closed.

So, what’s really going on here?

Neuroscience has performed studies on an area in the brain called the Reticular Activating System or RAS. The RAS acts as a sort-of connector between your conscious and unconscious mind and filters information by “listening out for” things that are relevant to your conscious thoughts and focus. Basically, it controls our ability to pay attention. For example, when you are walking down the street there are literally hundreds of thousands of noises. You might hear a vibration or hum of noise in the background but you do not hear each and every individual sound, only those for which your focus is attuned, but it has it’s limits. Your brain is programmed to take in approx 5-9 individual items at a time and you hone in on those items because focus on them has been programmed by your conscious mind providing the “attention radar” for your unconscious mind.

A car horn signalling danger; familiar music coming from a store; your name being called from the other side of the street; all of these are items your subconscious will listen to because they are out of the ordinary in a typical walk and your conscious mind has made them a relevant focus in your life. Equally so, inadequecy or feelings of being persecuted or judged will fly into the face of a discussion if your belief system has been built under the experience of having to continually defend yourself. Basically you are ‘looking for it’ and so you will find it.

What great information for all of us –the beautiful thing neuroscience teaches us here is that the Reticular Activating System can be reprogrammed, or you can change what you are ‘looking for’. This is why setting goals, saying affirmations and visualizing ìn the conscious are the beginning of the journey to realizing our dreams because they speak to our unconscious mind, the place-holder for our belief systems.

Learning how to listen and embrace information with an open heart and mind can be done with practice and by learning strategies and techniques for reprogramming your RAS. The first step is in recognizing if you are listening openly, take a few minutes to evaluate your recent conversations against the above list – are you truly open? If not, then you will benefit from learning strategies for discovering and challenging belief systems that hold you back and practicing techniques to reprogram your RAS thus putting the “attention radar” on that which will help you grow and move forward.


Leadership Lessons From Mom!

All of us have a background and history. Many of the lessons I learned about leadership were really common sense child-rearing lessons passed on from one of the most remarkable people I know, my Mother. With Mother’s Day approaching I thought I would share a few with you.

Respect Everyone: No one ever truly knows anyone, what they’ve experienced, what they’re going through now, or who they are internally. Showing respect recognizes everyone partakes in struggle and triumph and deserves respect.

If You Can’t Share it With Your Grandmother, You Shouldn’t Say it, Write it or Do it: This is especially true now, be impeccable with all communication. Words tossed in rudeness, anger, haste or without thought will always come back to bite you in the butt. In this day of high-speed internet and Social Media, it’ll bite immediately, and it could cost you your job or force you to repeat it in court!

Be a Cheerleader: No, not a pom-pom shaking acrobatic one (unless that’s what you love to do), I mean cheer on the success, efforts and opportunities of others, just like you would your own child. Being happy for others rather than resentful feeds your soul.

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously: Sometimes life is absurd, period. People react and are reacted to in ways unexpected. Situations don’t always work out as planned and one needs to redirect. Laugh! Find the humour and the gems of wisdom within the unexpected. You will be all the healthier for it and you’ll make more friends!

Clean Your Own Room First: Before you go criticizing others, take a good look at your own life. The day you can say everything in your own life is perfect, you are exactly who you wish to be and you have no tasks left to perform, go criticize someone else. Until then, collaborate, help, take part and learn the art of allowing, influencing and encouraging others in their path! We live in the same house!

Clean Out Your Backpack: Pay attention to what you choose to hang onto. Holding onto negative emotions, old resentments, anger and frustration is no different than choosing not to take that full milk container out of your backpack, after a while it begins to stink and rot and it ruins things!

Use Your Stuff: My mom lit her candles, used her good dishes and wasn’t afraid of polishing silver or using white table cloths. The deal is, you have it so use it! You are born with and have developed many gifts, talents and strengths worth sharing. You’ll find joy in using them!

Mom taught more lessons than that and I can guarantee you, I wasn’t always a quick study! The beauty of having a mom who models great leadership is that she’s willing to be repetitive, probably to the point of frustration at times! Lucky me that she still continues to persist in providing the lessons in life that, for some, only experience will drive home. Thanks Mom, for being remarkable!

(Original Post was written May 3, 2009. Update, my mother passed away on January 22, 2014 making these lessons ever so much more precious to me now!)


Notes From the Leadership Diva!

My last post ‘A Letter to the CEO’ drew a lot more attention than I expected! The attention was from leaders and employees alike all saying the letter beautifully highlighted common issues within most corporate life.

This week I wanted to write a response to the letter, but interestingly enough I struggled with the manner in which the response should be delivered. I then opened the discussion up with a collegue and she suggested a very good manner in which to approach responding. Over the next few posts we are going to take you through the leadership development consulting for both the CEO and the employee in order to highlight ways in which the conversation for change can both begin and solutions can be formed…so stay tuned.

This struggle for delivering to you a solution packed with the kind of helpful and insightful means of addressing the letter (as if it were happening in a real company) took most of my week. As a result the post is not quite ready for this weeks issue of Making Strategic Sense. I do, however, have a wonderful treat for you from TED, an amazing speaker, Barry Schwartz who will provide some remarkable and commonsense suggestions for allowing practical wisdom back into our lives!

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Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be.


Top Ten Lessons From 2008

Top Ten Lessons from 2008

It has been quite a year of change for Strategic Sense; change highlights the adaptive skills inherent in every individual and business! From the tail-end of a boom in Calgary to the significant change in business due to a recession, many lessons have been learned. We wanted to highlight a few here with thanks to each and every one of you for contributing to our early success.

1. It is a very small world on the internet we have been visited from as far away as Indonesia. Seeing the many countries who have visited the website certainly prove we are in a global age.

2. Web 2.0 has significantly changed the face and the means of doing business. We can’t wait for what’s next.

3. Exceptional Leaders are needed in bad market times, especially if they want to get the people rallied around company success.

4. Many people understand how to define a goal, but are not quite certain how to apply the actions for getting results.

5. Employees often tell us they wish we would work with their leaders. Those same leaders often tell us they are doing all the right things. (disconnect)

6. Business can be done from anywhere, but meeting face-to-face is the only way to learn the passion the other individual has for the topic.

7. PayPal is brilliant.

8. The people within a company and the customers they serve are the two most important things to focus on. Internalized self-serving executives will kill a business.

9. Leaders who have employees with bad attitudes are responsible for attitudinal change.

10. The most difficult leadership position, is adequately and responsibly leading yourself!

We wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May prosperity find you and may you recognize that YOU are in charge of you, YOU are in charge of changing your own world and of making a difference in the lives of others. Happy 2009 from the nice people at Strategic Sense!

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