Archive for Leadership

What’s inside your framework?

At last count, I have tracked approximately 136 different organizational change frameworks. Some famous and highly used, some not.

It’s kind of like looking at art…

Have you ever walked through a museum enjoying and admiring great artwork? Do you remember the pieces and how the artwork made you feel?

Some art has the potential to truly impact me and tell a story, it draws out feelings even when the art is not “my thing”.

But notice, you rarely remember the frame.

And yet…

…the frame plays a significant role in the display of the artwork, it is carefully selected to align with the colours, impression, and the overall ‘feel’ of the artwork. It is the stage on which all great art either pops, stands out, or conveys a sense of historical importance. The frame is truly vital to the presentation. But is not the art.

The art is what you have paid money to see, and is the catalyst for reaching inside your emotions, for telling a story, for conveying an idea or for making us think. The art changes you.

The Framework

So you want a specific organizational change management framework, good. But it doesn’t stop there, success is about hiring someone who can paint the image that fits well within the framework. Putting all your attention on a frame, and leaving the opening empty will not get you that gallery showing. You can polish the frame, you can carve into the frame, you can even repaint the frame, but until you have the artwork, your presentation will be left hollow. (See what I did there?)

I work with a framework I like because science supports that framework, and I trust that. But true success is based on HOW I paint the picture within that frame. It is the application of many elements of how change is led, the engagement, the technical team, the impacted people, and the organization that really drives success. Trust your framework, then find ways to pay attention to the culture, the impact, the touch points and paint the plan with the kind of brush that will truly make a difference for the people being impacted. Positively preparing them for what they will see, think, feel and do is more important than filling out a template within your framework.

How you work within your selected framework matters.

If you want to learn more about how we can teach your team to paint their organizational change picture, contact us.

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.




What’s the Protocol?

What the Show ‘Covert Affairs’ Can Teach Leaders. 

Covert affairCovert Affairss is a spy show about CIA operatives. A few years ago I learned a hard lesson when I failed to ask a very important question while media were gathered around a significant event; “What’s the protocol?” This question appears a lot in Covert Affairs.


Let me explain. As the Chair Person of a Board of Directors of a not-for-profit, I was given the honour of leading a ground-breaking ceremony for a new school being erected that served preschool children with disabilities and their families. I will admit, it was a great feather in my cap personally, and I was extremely proud to see the model moving to the building of a school, when all previous expansion had been through purchase of an existing building or rental. I had spent almost 10 years with this organization and saw it grow from one building serving 173 children to the building of a 6th school that would eventually assist over 900 Children with disabilities. I was very proud of that growth, especially since during that time the organization successfully maintained the importance of focus on the child with an 83+ percentage of outcomes reached.

The Protocol

As a leader intent on supporting the good work of the team, I don’t particularly care for the focus on me, but as an ambassador of the organization it was occasionally my job to showcase the organization to groups. What I had never done before was a ground breaking ceremony. I worked hard in preparation, the Development team had prepared a schedule, a script, reviewed my speech, and I’d practiced until I was blue in the face. They had a wonderful child there who would be helping with the ground-breaking and many community individuals, dignitaries and media had been invited. The event had been very well organized and I was amazed at all that went into it. I just had to show up and be the spokesperson.

What I forgot to ask about the dignitaries and their respective roles, was; “What’s the Protocol?”

My role had always been to highlight the organization and its history, to use real and compelling examples of children and their progress, the heart-strings would always find themselves drawn into the story. I loved it being about the kids, about success and about the way kids overcome adversity. I was on a role, and my young 5 year old helper was a smashing hit, I made sure of it.

Sadly, I was completely unaccustomed to the importance of political dignitaries. Basically, I failed to understand the significance of their presence as it related to the funding, publicity and importance their role plays in the ongoing workings of a non-profit school. Their presence was about future dollars!

Basically, they were ignored. Ground-Breaking

And the Crowd Dispersed

Yes, there were photos with them at either side of my little pal and I holding the golden shovel, but they were just a stand in presence to what should have been a more significant role. What a wonderful media gift it would have been had I known the best part would have been giving those politicians the shovel and asking them to take the first dirt with their new little 5 year old friend and stepping back to let them!

Then I forgot to properly thank them, I took my little 5 year old over to the play area the event team had set up and I talked about the kids, with my little friend sharing his laughter and heart with the crowd. Oh the media loved the little guy – and I was asked for interviews later (which I never do well as cameras intimidate me) and those politicians went on with their busy day, wondering why they’d been called to attend in the first place. Talk about poor political moves!

In the end, the Development Team deemed the event a success, as they did get some much needed media attention, the cameras moving to the main school to shoot additional footage. They never once commented on my faux paus or political immaturity, but I am sure words unsaid were thought. Conversations around, “how do we keep MLA so-and-so here for a bit?” and other comments I heard as the crowd milled about in smaller groups made it obvious, and I grew increasingly aware of what I’d just done.

What’s the Desired Outcome?

Leaders, managers, employees all function under a layer of expectation and understanding. Some of the expectations may seem obvious to their bosses, but not to them. By asking the question, “What’s the protocol here?” gives them an opportunity to truly understand the expectations being placed upon them.

Basically, all meetings, all gatherings and all activity needs to lead to a desired outcome or outcomes. Some of those will be assumed. Some of us will be so entrenched in our duties we will fail to see the importance outside of our typical actions. We need to always be asking – what is the desired outcome, what is my protocol in this situation. Many a problem could be avoided, especially in terms of media communication of we knew that.

Change Management includes a strong definition of desired state for a reason, we want all activities to lead to the desired outcomes we are trying to achieve. Without a clear understanding we will be involved in changes that will be less than successful than we had planned.


Are You Leading for Change Management?

Success MagazineLeading for Change...a few years ago Patti, our Strategist, was interviewed for an article of the same title in Success Magazine. In that article she stressed the importance of involving the team in finding solutions, saying;

“When employees know the plan, the direction, the mission and the goals, it gives them something concrete and real to focus their actions toward. It helps them understand how they add value to the direction of the company and shows them their own worth toward building success for the organization.”

Recently, a new client approached us because they have been struggling with the internal management of some of their change initiatives. The topic of managing change is a relatively new area for them and they have made assignments regarding the change management role. When we identified for them that they have not developed a common understanding across the organization as to exactly what change management is, they began to better understand why some of their initiatives were failing.

What was happening?

  • Employees believed they WERE performing change management in their respective areas.
  • The words Change Management were being used but not necessarily performed in the manner the industry recognizes.
  • They were seeing ‘ownership’ of their piece of the project threatened by the new change management role, assuming their piece would be taken away.
  • They were unwittingly sabotaging the change efforts of the change manager.
  • They had a number of ‘change’ initiative going on, but did not support at the highest level.
  • They were treating the process as an administrative duty.

It didn’t take long to get them on the right track, what they needed was a company-wide definition of the Change Management Process for their organization. They needed to engage the people in the organization to clarify this common definition for the entire company. Then they needed to engage teams in learning just what that involved. Most had no idea that change management is actually a process, not a series of random steps performed in isolation of the other steps. “We added a little Change Management to this…” means they had no idea what change management actually involves.SuccessMagazine

In your best sponsorship, are you leading change by creating clarity and understanding from the top and including people from ALL levels of the organization so that they have both input and a common understanding of initiatives? Here are some ways to help you build the competency in your organization:

  • Bring in someone to help you define a change process for your organization.
  • Train the people you will be assigning as change practitioners
  • Enlighten the organization with clarity on exactly what change management involves.

Let me leave you with Patti’s other quote I like from the article:

“You don’t have all the answers, and science is showing that a group of committed collaborators trumps a single genius for finding amazing solutions.”

Clarity and engagement – two keys to success in Leading Change – Make it Grand!


Own It to Change It

Own_It_Change_It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change. How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard. It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones. The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours. There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action. It can be awkward or frustrating. Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others. (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice. Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership. Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity. Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.



Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Question“We find … it’s much more important and difficult to ask the right question. Once you do that, the right answer becomes obvious.
~Amory Lovins

If you want to know more about why people do or don’t change, then ask more questions.

When working with organizations and teams, it is important to first listen and understand before building plans and developing programs for them. For organizations that do not have coaching as a mainstay offering for their leaders, they may be surprised to hear it is those coaching methodologies that open the door to understanding. For a large company, it is definitely worthwhile for key individuals and leaders within the organization to be coached, and for those in charge of organizational development (OD) to have some coaching training behind them.

There is a generalized stigma around coaching that can be hard to shake and it’s often referred to as that ‘airy-fairy’ soft-skills stuff. There is nothing soft about coaching!

If you remember being figuratively pinned to the wall as a teen in high school as some wise adult helped you learn to stand up and take responsibility for your own actions, you can easily recognize the value for coaching in any environment. Through great questions, a coach can dig deep enough to get to the root of why you choose your current thought patterns and reactions, helping you better understand where you fit among the dynamics of a multifaceted team of individuals. There is nothing soft about it. The secret to a coach’s success is the training they receive within two areas:

  • learning how to ask questions and
  • the right questions to ask.

This is why people in Change Management (CM) are also effective coaches. One who seeks to understand the stakeholders and the stakes involved in any change initiative is best served by first knowing the right questions to ask. Great questions return great results, further creating introspective reasoning for the individual who is providing the answers. The people being asked begin to think a little more about what they do and why they do it, eventually getting to the heart of why, within a change initiative, the stakes are so high for them.

This doesn’t mean the stakeholders are all in an ‘organized coaching program’, but rather, through a varied series of meetings, one-on-one discussions, facilitated group sessions and other forms of analysis and risk analysis, the CM professional is able to dig deep to the heart of any challenges that may inhibit change.

Change is inevitable, but change as a push mechanism is rarely successful. Change initiatives that take into consideration all stakeholders and build a plan for change that motivates and inspires people to move forward from resistance to desire find greater success. It is my experience that there is usually a lot more to resistance than what is initially shared, and a little coaching methodology can certainly loan itself to finding the greatest resistance and helping the people within an organization work through it.


patticroppedPatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop
Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership
through consulting, advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to book for Idea Sessions, Change Management, Executive Coaching or Team Development.

Idea Sessions | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building



The Real Reason Your Team Doesn’t Trust You

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. Here’s Mike:


Your team doesn’t trust you. Honestly. They don’t.

Trust is key to effective working relationships; yet, as you climb the corporate ladder, trust seems harder to earn and easier to lose.

What causes a team to not trust their leader? You. Yes, you. You’re unpredictable and your team doesn’t know what to expect from you. But, these are fixable problems.

Trust is about an ability to rely upon or expect a predictable outcome. When you act in ways your team doesn’t expect, it erodes trust and makes them wonder what you’re going to do next. If you want to get a sense for how much your people trust you, you can take this Trusted Leader Assessment online – it only takes 3-5 minutes and you’ll get a comprehensive analysis of your results after taking it.

If you can clearly lay out how your people can expect you to behave in a variety of situations, they’ll have a basic expectation upon which to build a foundation of trust. These expectations have to be personal and meaningful enough to you that they guide your behavior. I refer to these guiding principles as “leadership maxims” which are rules of behavior or conduct. The collection of all your leadership maxims becomes your personal leadership philosophy.

Defining Your Leadership Philosophy

I encourage you as a leader to define your own set of leadership maxims. They can be as simple as one of mine which is “What would Nana say?” For reference, Nana was my grandmother. I can use that maxim to guide my behavior. When faced with difficult choices, I simply ask “what would Nana say?” and my choice becomes clear. When I explain this maxim to my team, they’ll better understand how I make choices and they’ll see my behavior as consistent with this maxim. It is this consistency that forms the basis of trust.

If you want to define a powerful leadership philosophy, here are a few steps to start with:

  • Be yourself. When you write your leadership philosophy, spare your team the corporate-speak and tell your personal story instead. They can spot a phony a mile away.
  • Give in to emotion. Articulate your leadership philosophy as a set of reminders of stories that have deep emotional meaning for you. The reminders are touchstones to guide your behavior. The stronger the emotions associated with the story, the more likely you are to change your behavior to be consistent with the lesson the story reminds you of.
  • Lead yourself. You have to know where you personally want to go in life and define your personal code of conduct before you can lead someone else. Write down reminders of your code as part of your philosophy.
  • Lead the thinking. Your job is to set direction, challenge outdated thinking, and define standards. Create reminders that force you to do these things on a regular basis – not only during the annual strategic planning process.
  • Lead your people. Get dirty. Know their jobs. Know them as individuals – not as a box on an org chart or a job title. When they know you care about them as a person, they’re much more willing to give you everything they’ve got.
  • Lead a balanced life. If you’re burned out, you’re worthless. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Let everyone else know what they are. Balance applies to your work too – have enough work you love to do to balance out all the mindless tasks you don’t enjoy. Again – create some simple yet personal guidelines that remind you make decisions that keep you in balance.
  • Pull it all together. Document all your reminders of how you want to behave on a single piece of paper. Tack it up on your wall or carry it on a card in your wallet. Having that simple reminder of your approach to leadership always within arm’s reach will help you live up to that standard every day.
  • Share. Tell people your personal story. Share your triumphs and failures. Help them understand the experiences that have made you who you are as a leader. When you share, you help them understand you better. That understanding and the vulnerability you demonstrate while sharing builds trust between you and your team members.

The Bottom Line

The sooner you commit your leadership philosophy to paper, the better off you are. Be sure it is personal, authentic, and free of jargon or buzzwords. Share it with your team. Live it every day. Help them see you’re really not that complex or unpredictable. Morale, productivity, and trust will all increase as a result. Take the Trusted Leader Assessment to see where you stack up. The results can make a big difference in helping you build trust with the members of your team.

Mike Figliuolo is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development firm. An Honor Graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.


Sometimes Mirrors Are Scary

The economy may not be in a hurry to recover, but some employees might be.

Unhappy Employee

photo courtesy of Felix atsoram, Argentina

Desperate employees are the easiest to retain within ‘miserable to work for’ companies when times are tough and jobs are hard to find. Even better for that miserable company is the reasoning that the poor economic environment requires everyone to ‘buck up’ and ‘give one for the Team’.

It’s a great run for short-sighted organizations who fail to see the lack of business sense and poor strategy behind the ‘right now’ chaos where the horse is often chasing the cart down the hill. That strategy won’t take your company where it needs to be when the market improves.

When jobs are easier to find, unhappy employees will make a fast exodus out the door straight to a happier workplace and they take all that valuable knowledge with them.

Being aware of poor morale and unhappy employees isn’t enough – companies need to take action to make positive changes.

The solution most often preferred by the folks in charge is to make a shuffle and rearrange management.

Just remember, a bag of marbles is the same bag of marbles no matter how you arrange it. Unhappy employees are a symptom of the real cause.

I leave you with seven thoughts on leading toward building a happier workplace:

  • To solve your problem it will take great courage in targeting the cause, not the symptom.
  • Change requires you take a good honest look at your entire organization in the mirror – top to bottom – with a fresh eye.
  • You must be willing to take some of the heat in order to make the right changes.
  • Accountability, responsibility, transparency and clear strategy are going to be vital with any change.
  • You must be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
  • You will hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear, listen to them.
  • Trust the employees to want to make it better.

These are just a few – but the courageous leader who cares about their company is going to make some hard calls and is going to be unpopular for them. I have never tried to convince someone that doing the right thing is easy, but it is worth it.

Good luck, Make It Grand!


Patti BlackstaffePatti 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


‘Step Up’ and Direct Change For the Future

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 Jeffrey Summers, the President and Founder of RestaurantWorx who wrote about Building the Ultimate Customer Experience.

Today’s Guest Post is by Joan Koerber-Walker who has recently stepped up again as President and CEO of AZBio and whose blog we follow and share regularily because of it’s insight and great messages.

And now, here’s Joan…


Change is not passive

The Great Wall of China – © Chris Walker 2001 all rights reserved

Change is not a passive activity. Leadership isn’t either. When we see something that is changing, we find our opportunity to step up and lead. Just as with the Great Wall of China, there are thousands of opportunities to step up.

As we look around our businesses, our homes, our communities and our countries, we can always find areas in need of improvement. In each of these areas, we have a choice. We can sit back, watch and complain OR we can step up, lead and direct change for the better.

Take your walking stick on the journey.

Whether we choose to keep our world small or embrace it globally, each of us have our own unique talents, skills, and experiences that we can use to drive innovation in the world around us, These are the tools at our disposal that act as walking sticks, supporting us with each step we take IF we choose to use them. Some leadership journeys can be very long and others can be incredibly steep. Bringing everything you have to offer to the project gives you something to lean on along the way.

Connect your steps.

Stepping up does not have to mean traveling alone. It’s been said that it’s lonely at the top. Keep in mind that it does not have to be. Just like the Great Wall, there really is no “top” just a series of plateaus and mile posts that connect along the journey. With each connection comes the opportunity to form a bond with others who share your goals, passions and reasons for taking the lead. These bonds foster communication and the sharing of ideas just as in ancient times the Great Wall served as China’s foundation for a network of communications linking outpost to outpost.

Look back… Move Forward.

At times, when stepping up, the journey may seem too long ahead of us. This can sap our energy and slow our steps. When this happens, don’t be afraid to pause and look behind you at all of the steps that have lead you to this point. The progress you have made will fuel your energy once again and the momentary rest will give your leadership muscles a chance to recover. Then, when it is time, move forward to step up again. You might just leave a legacy as enduring as the Great Wall of China.


JoanJoan Koerber-Walker recently stepped up again as President and CEO of AZBio, the Arizona BioIndustry Association to lead an organization dedicated to the growth of the bioscience industry in her home state and its impact on health, energy, agriculture and the economy. A two time Stevie Award National Finalist and former Fortune 500 executive, she is also the Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures. As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association in Washington, D.C. she has worked with hundreds of small businesses and on behalf of thousands. Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and @CorePurpose or at her blog at

Patti Image.xsm We DO want great employees, right...or do we?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


We DO want great employees, right…or do we?

give employees a voice

photo courtesy of Laura Leavell, Florida

I hear it time and time again;

“We want to find employees who really care about our business, who are passionate about our customers and who will fight to do what’s right.”

They are employers who lament over how hard it is to get ‘good help’ or who again and again repeat phrases like, “employees aren’t what they used to be” or “this new generation just doesn’t care.”

I call their bluff and I up the ante.

A recent article in our local paper caught my eye last week about an employee who IS passionate, who is fighting for his customers and who is trying to do what’s right. His name is Dr. Lloyd Maybaum, a psychiatrist in Calgary who truly wants to make a difference for his patients. This man is not only concerned about his own patients, according to the article, but he is concerned about all patients in his field of practice. He has tried to care about them using his voice, his friends and his heart, begging to have a mental health unit built as planned for the South Campus.

His reward according to this article is… a letter stating;

“I am forced to make a clear statement that further communications of this nature without discussion and review with members of the Executive of Mental Health and Addictions will require . . . (asking) the Executive to formally review your role as physician leader for psychiatry to the South Campus project.”

So, for asking other doctors to lobby and help his cause, he is slapped on the hand and told to keep quiet. I bring this article to attention because of the leadership priority involved in the situation.

What can we learn from such a disastrous treatment of a well-meaning employee?

  • The leadership in this case is obviously the priority – not health care, not the patients, not the cause, but what is important is the decision of the leadership.
  • The direction cannot be challenged.
  • The right thing to do is defined by the leadership and anyone who disagrees might just as well keep their mouths shut or be threatened.

Sadly, he is not alone in this kind of behaviour by an executive or management group – we see it all the time within organizations who are unwilling to admit their culture is more about covering their rear-ends than caring about the customer or the actual role the company plays in business.

Managers who squash information, hide facts, deflect responsibility, and punish employees for caring about the customer will at worst bury the company and at best, leave it scarred with members who are frustrated and angry. Not exactly what one looks for when seeking a positive, collaborative and innovative culture.

We need passionate employees who care about how we deliver our services, people who see it from a customer relationship side, people who understand the service or product as it is being used, how it is being serviced and what kind of experience we provide. They are the voices we NEED to hear, the voices who challenge us to, as Rebel Brown puts it, Defy Gravity and reach success. We need to celebrate folks who are brave enough to help us understand where we are falling down, not punish them because their voice might make us appear like we don’t know what we are doing.

Do you have an example of a leadership who steps in and tries to quell the voice of reason?


Your Team’s Talent May Be Hiding

Help Your Team Grwo

photo courtesy of Eduardo Schäfer, Brazil

Workplace talent can sometimes be evaluated in a subjective manner with a little bias, self-worth and ego thrown in. Reasons can be anywhere from shaking up my plans to worrying how it will reflect on what others think of me. On those occasions I have had to put my own attitude in check in order to truly utilize the talents of the individuals around me.

One such employee had a talent for bluntly calling out the elephant in the room and speaking up to say the things others were afraid to say. As a leader it could be disconcerting, just when I thought the meeting was going well I would learn just how NOT well it was going. The typical reaction to just such an employee is to wish they would leave it alone and let the meeting go smoothly, so one might be tempted to deflect the comment or put it off hoping the issue will go away.

It took a while to learn the gift is in the challenge, to see how I could possibly manage to take that talent and utilize it for what it really was. The talent she had for digging into the facts, filling me in on what folks were really thinking and for igniting discussion is what helped us grow as a team. To make her stop would have kept us from growing and me from learning that some of the most frustrating things I encounter in others can be the very things I need the most.

Leaders who are settled and comfortable in their leadership are not being challenged to grow.

Furthermore, leaders who attempt to make quiet employees who bring issues to light are not leaders at all, but managers who must control the situation around them in order to maintain their own comfort levels.

My challenge for you is this:

  • Identify the most frustrating thing you find in an employee. (this does not include dangerous or bullying behaviour)
  • Coach them to utilize that strength in a positive way to contribute to the team.(coaching takes time, commitment and dedication)
  • Find ways to see that strength as a means of helping you grow as a leader.

What kind of things do you do to identify and utilize the talent around you?


Patti BlackstaffePatti 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. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Leadership on the Ski Hill – Swoosh!

Stacey B. at Nakiska

Stacey B. photo by W.Blackstaffe

The other day I took my first formal downhill ski lesson. YAHOO!

I guess I should clarify that statement, because my better half is a Level IV International Ski instructor. Every time I have skied in the past has been with him, and so every ski trip has been a lesson – most of which I took for granted.

This time was different, I had to behave, my instructor was someone with whom I couldn’t ‘whine’ or complain as I am comfortable doing with my husband (call me human, I too rattle in my shoes when asked to leave my comfort zone and try something that scares me – but I was willing to try) .

I have never really been much of a ski enthusiast, I have always felt the day was a struggle for me, mostly because I was very much a beginner when I met my husband, and because I am a big chicken, so challenging myself to take what felt like great risk to my life never felt like fun for me.

On this day – I had fun.

Here are some of the leadership lessons I learned while watching both my husband and his talented associate, Stacey, accomplish great things while they were helping us newbie’s:

  • Follow What I Do

One of the folks I was with managed to find herself in an odd position, doing the splits, legs splayed with skis crossed in the back and facing UPHILL – and stuck. Stacey understood her predicament, and promptly put herself in the exact same position as my friend and Stacey slowly guided my friend back onto her skis all the while making her feel comfortable and secure without ever making her feel ridiculous or embarrassed.

Great leaders guide the way by example, over and over again always respecting the people they lead.

  • There are Many Ways to Learn

I had a breakthrough with my turns and learned how to lean into the ski I was edging with to make that turn. I know my hubby had told me (a million times) to align myself with the hill not the trees, but I just didn’t get what he meant – did he want me to fall downhill? Stacey told me the SAME thing in a different way. “Make the letter ‘C’ with your body so that it is over top of your outside leg during the turn. Suddenly I had a different visual than trees and slope. Breakthrough.

Great Leaders understand they need to share the same story in different ways in order to make it relevant to everyone.

  • Follow What’s Right.

For a few years my hubby has asked me to follow him and do what he was doing. I kept refusing, I wanted him to follow me, and then tell me what I was doing wrong. This time I did not argue with Stacey and followed her – this time I paid attention to exactly what her body was DOING rather than ask for criticism and it helped me ‘get’ where my hips, legs and body needed to be. At the same time, my husband was teaching another one of my friends (a much better student than I) and she was grateful for his lead, as it guided her to really improve her skills.

Great Leaders show the way.

  • Picking Oneself Up Means Not Quitting

A few weeks ago I had fallen skiing. I was so frustrated for falling down when I thought I had control and darn-it, the fall hurt. My right shoulder has since lost a bit of its movement as a result. At this point in my ski-learning I wasn’t getting it, was still afraid of the speed and now I hurt. What I did not know is that I was on the verge of getting it. The other day I watched my friend get up, try again, get up, try again and really WANT to learn. She is tenacious and strong, and she is definitely not a quitter. I watched throughout the day how she improved because of her tenacity and how no matter what new thing was thrown at her she was going to keep on trying.

Great Leaders know learning from the fall is how they improve for next time.

  • Some folks learn better in a group

As absolutely giving and understanding as my ski-hill friends are, most of them are expert skiers and have been doing it all of their lives. Skiing with people who are excellent is great, especially when they are all instructors who delight in seeing others improve. But there is always something in the back of one’s mind that thinks, “I hate to always hold these experts back.” and it’s hard to shake. The other day my little group included two expert skiers and three of us who really wanted to improve but are new to the sport. Learning with other learners created different conversations, laughter, camaraderie, and a sense of self that felt like I belonged in a community. This is why at a ski hill beginners learn with beginners and experts learn with experts.

Great Leaders provide learning opportunities that are geared to the level of the learner and they do so in groups.

This week I loved skiing, too bad it is at the end of the season. Next year brings with it new opportunities to enjoy it again and I pray these lessons stay with me.


My ski adventures take place at Nakiska Ski Resort near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Nakiska team are a joy to be around, from snow hosts to lifties, from ski school to lodge and everywhere in between – it is clear that the on-site Nakiska management team is out to rock-it for an experience the guests can truly celebrate.

Thank you to the Ski Cellar in Calgary, Alberta and Nakiska for arranging a delightful Ladies Day.


Patti BlackstaffePatti is a strategic advisor 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. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512



Stew, Steward, Stewardship – Stirring the Pot

Stew or Stewardship?

image courtesy of Claudio Salvalaio, Brazil

Sometimes, when we work without role clarity, we can find ourselves feeling like everything is a jumbled mess, much like a stew with all the good bits thrown in. It isn’t awful, in fact it’s sometimes comfortable and easy, but you don’t get to taste the uniqueness of all the different flavours. When it comes to food, the intermingled flavours are great, when it comes to business it can be a flat-out mess.

I once worked for a company that was a little unclear in what roles everyone was to play in the organization, thus it all seemed to get mixed up. In their minds it was a messy sort of interdepartmental collaboration, but what it really amounted to was ineffective action and a lot of wheel spinning. Very little was accomplished and even fewer decisions were made. Why? Because no one was a true steward of their role – marketing, sales, proposals, operations, projects all intermingled with each other stealing the flavour from one to another as the situation seemed to suit various individuals. Nosy folks who wanted a piece of the pie would claim responsibility at the profit margin end of the game but claimed no responsibility for angry customers or actions gone wrong, thus passing the buck.

Webster’s Dictionary describes the word Stewardship as a noun; I prefer to reflect on it as a verb, performing the actions of being a Steward.

Being the Steward is about being responsible and accountable for a piece of the business – owning it. Stewardship refers to the actions every person in that piece of the business performs in order for it to go smoothly. Without clarity and set boundaries around who is responsible for what, a company’s going to experience a lot of “passing the buck” (or covering the butt) and those actions will start becoming a focus for frustrated employees rather than the work itself. This is not how collaboration and innovation are derived; a stew-like atmosphere holds greater potential to develop a culture of mistrust and internal competition.

Here are some ways to promote Stewardship within your company:

  • Define clear roles – and I say again – define clear roles.
  • Create an environment for autonomy and an understanding of just which decisions a Steward is allowed to make and then hold the Steward accountable for the results.
  • Empower the Steward to support their team-members with tools necessary to best accomplish their jobs.
  • Be willing to fire the person(s) who hold a large wooden spoon and are constantly trying to stir things up but take little or no responsibility for their actions (or worse yet, are covert or underhanded in their actions).
  • Get rid of bullies. Period
  • Bring in a facilitator to help your teams learn what true collaboration looks like, then support putting it into practice.
  • Celebrate your true Stewards – and recognize they are not always the ones who bring in the biggest dollars.

Does your company celebrate Stewardship?

NOTE: If you don’t know who the bullies are (or who is covert or secretly stirring the pot), simply ask your front-line workers where their greatest frustrations lie – eventually a path will lead back to that sneaky little whirlpool sucking down everything in it’s path.


Patti is a strategic advisor 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. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Feeling Busted by Broken Business? Lead Innovation in Opposite Directions

Strategic Sense made a commitment this year to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we have had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays, (and this is very late Wednesday) you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and will have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. As with Kevin Eikenberry, from The Eikenberry Group who wrote about Encouragement last week and asked us who it is WE encourage.

Today’s Guest Post is by Dr. Ellen Weber, Director at Mita International Brain Center, her blogs (blogs Mita brainpowered approaches, to lead innovation – at Forbes’ Mind Makeover and at Brain Leaders and Learners) top of the line blogs how the brain works, how we can use what we know about the brain to change ourselves and how we can better understand leading others.

And now, here’s Ellen…

Scan any newspaper or flip to news channels and you’re soon swamped with lack of advancement woes and tales of loss. Story after story in workplaces too, suggest doom due to ruts, routines and dead-end regulations. Ever wonder why disasters seem to trump wins these days in business and for that matter, in human brains?

Not surprisingly, negative forces work against personal growth in stagnant organizations, in much the same way they halt progress in business. That’s largely because your brain comes equipped with mirror neurons so that you mimic much of what you hear and see in others around you, whether you are aware of it or not. See why media vents, bureaucrats’ defensiveness, and tenured workers who resist change work against progress? It doesn’t have to be that way though.

We’ve witnessed more and more innovative leaders, who take advantage of unique mental tools such as mirror neurons, to mimic and run with winning sprinters. Leaders who dare to risk on the flip side of stagnation, and who capitalize on neuro discoveries, wield rejuvenation remedies that transform tired traditions. How so?

Run from ruts:

Some leaders lament that the time is not right for moving in a new direction. Others remain stuck because they expect to remain in their ruts. Still others tend to blame workforce decline on any number of problems. Workers resist change, accreditation drains time and effort, profit’s down, or they simply don’t have enough proof that suggested changes will improve their lot.
Your Brain Working
Neuro discoveries, on the other hand, reveal that it’s stressed or demoralized workers who default to ruts faster. Simply put, rut-like-tendencies trigger a dangerous chemical, cortisol, which shuts down brainpower. In fact this potent hormone can actually shrink the human brain and shave years off a person’s life. Sadly, cortisol also sinks workplaces as morale plummets, people perpetuate losing routines, and profits decrease in its wake.

Run toward risks:

Regardless of your position in an organization, you lead risks for innovation, by simply stepping out boldly to implement an original idea in an attempt to resolve a stubborn workplace problem. It’s quite scary at first, so you’ll want to act before fear tosses cortisol into the mix, and stops spigots for courage needed to carry out the novel proposal. You may be surprised at your brain’s equipment to help here.

Luckily, we now know that dopamine, the brain chemical for risk-taking and change, also increases with each step taken in new directions. That’s why it’s critical to act on your innovations and move with novel proposals, in spite of setbacks that even progressive workplaces can suffer at times. Good news is that nightly, during REM sleep, your brain rewires, and literally changes itself based on what you did the prior day. Design an innovative practice for your workplace, and your brain changes itself nightly for further success in changes you apply.

Run with winners:

Serotonin, the brain chemical that stirs shared well being, and collaborative success is passed from team member to team member whenever we engage multiple intelligences to partner for inventions that pony up new shots at success. Simply start by using more of your own and other’s strengths.

Ready to risk growth? If so, create the kind of mind-bending news that media report for novelty, and help replace naysayers’ reports that create workplace chaos and loss. How so?

Why not, identify one small area that could use improvement where you work. Fuel your own brain with a shot of dopamine, by proposing a novel idea for growth. Then run with a few winners in the opposite direction of busted routines. With a little help from talented peers, brainpowered tools, you’ve never before tried – will equip you to lead novel designs you’ve never before imagined.

Visit Dr. Ellen Weber, Director at Mita International Brain Center, by visiting her blogs Mita brainpowered approaches, to lead innovation – at Forbes’ Mind Makeover and at Brain Leaders and Learners.


Patti is a strategic advisor 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. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512


Encouraging Others

Strategic Sense made a commitment this year to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we have 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 will have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. As with Marlene Chism‘s post last week that encouraged us to Stop Complaining today’s post helps us remember to Encourage…

Today’s Guest Post is by Kevin Eikenberry, from The Eikenberry Group. His blog Leadership and Learning has been a mainstay in our weekly reading and he has worked for years with organizations and individuals in helping them improve their leadership. You can get a copy of his latest book here From Bud to Boss and follow up on the review we gave on this blog last week.


image courtesy of Davide Guglielmo, Italy

And now, here’s Kevin:

In certain situations we all understand and value the importance of encouragement.

Take, with kids for example. When they are learning to walk and talk, there is tons of encouragement from every adult around. We know that if they keep at it they will succeed.

Take, our friends as a second example. When our closest friends are down or in pain, we all have provided encouragement and support, knowing that our encouragement would help them through a difficult time.

In both of these situations we realize the other person needs greater courage – either to take another try at a step, or to move past the pain or disappointment they might be feeling. To encourage literally means “to cause or create courage”.

Isn’t courage sometimes lacking at work too?

People lack the courage to try something new.

People lack the courage to do the right thing for the Customer.

People lack the courage to change the work process.

People lack the courage to share a new idea.

(need I go on?)

I talk with leaders all the time that want their team members to “be proactive” and “keep growing”. All too often the biggest barrier in people’s way is fear (of failure, of chastisement, of political suicide, or ridicule, to name a few).

And as we intuitively know, one of the best antidotes for fear is the strong, vibrant, continual and authentic encouragement of others.

If you want people to do more, take on more, and grow; encourage them.

If you want people to try new things, encourage them.

Amongst all of your coaching competencies and fancy coaching models, remember one of the most powerful tools you have.


Ask yourself, who can I encourage today?

Kevin Eikenberry is a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband, and father (not necessarily in that order).


Traveling Your Journey ‘From Bud to Boss’

Book Review:

Everyone is a leader, from the guy helping out at the sports game to the teacher, to the person who answers phones at the dentist office. Every part of our jobs involves leadership skills in one form or another. Just navigating your way through the chaotic and ever-changing world we live in requires a myriad of leadership skills.

In all of the chaos and fluctuation we seek to find a voice of reason and a calm guide to help us work our way through and it’s especially challenging when we have most recently been promoted to a management role and are moving “From Bud to Boss”. Well, you can make a stop on that journey of searching and take more than a peek at a new book of just such a name by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris. From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership is more than just a book, it’s a journal of steps and strategies that will bring you closer and closer to your goal of being a leader people choose to follow.

If you could have a map for dealing with the significant change from an employee to a boss it would be within the pages of this book. Charting a course through that change, the critical components of your own leadership style and how you communicate physically, emotionally and verbally is not always easy. Self evaluation is a big part of growth and Eikenberry and Harris provide ample ways to take a good look at yourself, much like holding a mirror up to you and showing you what other people see.

Why is that important? Because until we see ourselves as others might see us, our willingness to grow is hindered by a limited view. That limited view provides limited direction.

“But now the world is different, and your perspective must, necessarily, change”

With a clear guide through the transition From Bud to Boss Eikenberry and Harris offer you what they call “Remarkable Principles” that, when read alone, provide a great template for remembering the lessons in the book – grab a highlighter you’re going to want to have these as road-signs on your map to leadership.

“Change is a choice. People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

With every “Remarkable Principle” comes both explanation and hands-on, real-life strategies you can take with you and utilize immediately. This is a workbook, a book for a person who has a great desire to take the journey to remarkable leadership. Each exercise applies to you – not some generality you must work hard to apply to your own circumstances.

Throughout the book you will find a “Bonus Byte” a hint or tip for applying the exercise to your own leadership, your team efforts or for simply taking a look back at the steps you have taken and re-assess.

Everyone needs a stepped plan, a place to start and support in getting there. “From Bud To Boss” gives you all that, in addition to a plethora of resources you can tap into in reaching your goals of making a difference as the leader you were meant to be. In addition to all the resources, Eikenberry and Harris help you define a vision for your leadership, your relationships and grow a relationship with yourself.

Not sure why you would bother? It is this writer’s opinion that everyone has room to grow, no matter how successful a leader we are, we always have room to learn more, be more and do more. Take this journey and discover the total cost of not adopting change as the authors walk you through the steps and the path of discovering what happens when we stagnate while change swirls all around us and we live romanticizing the past that we ‘think’ has served us best.

If you were to step yourself through the rugged path of leadership, without a guide, without an understanding of what lies in your path , it is going to be a slower journey. Everyone wants some indication of how to deal with the pitfalls, the roadblocks, the trees in the road, and while one cannot possibly give warning of everything – this book addresses a good many of the critical factors in leadership and creates a map worth following.

“Most people communicate in the way that is most comfortable to

them. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this tendency, it

does present a bit of a challenge to you as a leader.”

None of us are on this journey alone, if you’re the boss – you have a team and an organization you must communicate with, not to mention meeting the expectations of your own boss. Follow the information in the Communication chapters to more effectively influence, support, and provide memorable meaning to what you say and how you say it and then begin to understand the deepest and most relevant skill your team needs – you, listening.

Whether it’s adjusting to change and communicating effectively or coaching and evaluation, ‘From Bud to Boss’ offers a comprehensive workbook and leader-journey to support the key to accomplishing great things… and that is collaboration. They walk you through healthy and unhealthy conflict showing you the difference and give you steps to successfully deal with both so that you, the leader, can set – work toward and achieve your goals.

I don’t know Kevin Eikenberry or Guy Harris, but I get Kevin’s newsletter and read it weekly – that newsletter is always packed with content and valuable information. No fluff there, so when I heard he teamed up with Guy to write a book– I found out how I could get an advance copy to read. Thanks to Kevin and his generosity, I have the privilege of adding a valuable manual for leadership to my bookshelf. It is a book I will reference frequently and that offers more than just words on leadership, it offers actionable steps, resources and a touch-base of follow-up support for the leader who chooses to change, grow and develop with and for the people he/she is privileged to lead.