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A Peek into Our . . . not Google's (sorry!) . . . Consulting Algorithm

I think a map would definitely help in this case! Photo by  Victor Garcia  on  Unsplash

I think a map would definitely help in this case! Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Just finished a post for our email subscribers about the critical need for professionals, turned consultants, to have an “algorithm,” or decision-making process, process or path, to guide them as they engage with human systems. This engagement may be in developing their private practice through contracting or by going “beyond the couch” and becoming a consultant. In plain terms, this algorithm can be boiled down to a series of questions and decision points that creates a path to follow, such as . .

HSC CONSULTING ALGORITHM: (Sample questions to ask yourself.)
1. Do I have contact with a decision maker? YES .....
NO ......

1A. If, YES, go to #2 . . .
1B If, NO, then ask to make contact or move on . . . .

2. Does the decision maker recognize a need? YES ....
NO ....

2A. If, YES, go to #3.
2B. If, NO, go to 1B.

3. Does the recognized need, require a deep understanding of the human system? YES . . .
NO . . .
3A. If, YES, go to #4.
3B. If, NO, Is the need solely training/coaching for the decision maker? YES . . .
NO . . .

3C. If 3B is YES, then seek conceptual agreement to propose training/coaching.
3D. If 3B is NO, explore the issues and how they relate to the system, then seek
further exploratory meetings or a conceptual agreement to propose

The Power of an Algorithm

The power of an algorithm like this is comes in . . . confidence. Confidence in knowing where you are in the process, what has been done already, what needs to be done next, and a process that is replicable—and can be used again and again with decision makers. This algorithm, for HSC, has developed through more than two decades of consulting work, reading the consulting literature, teaching graduate students and professionals how to do consulting, and our own publishing.

Developing this process at HSC has evolved to the point that we created our IMPACT Model of consulting and forms the core of our Competitive Edge Coaching process . . . helping mental health professionals who want to develop consulting contracts. We even created a “cheat sheet” of our process in our IMPACT Model Quick Start Guide.

Moving from Healthcare to Contracting/Consulting

For those starting, or wanting to start, this process . . . here is a place to start:

  • Recognize that this process—creating an algorithm—is helpful for getting private practice contracts that provide “health care” . . . as well as consulting with organizations. At HSC we have done both—private Employee Assistance Programs, for example, and business consulting/coaching. We use the same process for both.

  • Read everything you can get your hands on about consulting. Especially, resources coming from those who transitioned from health care to consulting since they will speak the same language and can highlight the similarities and differences.

  • Consider getting training as a coach or consultant. Training programs will decrease the time and effort to make the transition and start getting contracts. Organizations such as the International Coaching Foundation, or others, can help you get moving.

  • Adopt an “algorithm” process or plan that has worked for other consultants until you develop your own—if you ever need to. Don’t “reinvent the wheel” start by finding a template to follow then you will tweak that, or create your own, as you gain experience.

  • Be patient, but aggressive. Remember, it will take time to transition into a new product or service and to transform yourself into a new skill-set. Be realistic about your progress and not overly self-critical. Get support, find mentors, and just keep working . . . and it will be likely to happen.

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Contracting Quick Tip . . . for the good guys and gals out there.

Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Today I had, yet another, conversation about how to establish a price for some contract work. As always, in my world of nice folks who didn't grow up in the business world, I found the conversation filled with fear about asking too much.

Despite having been told that the job was already bid out at a price probably twice what they would ask for the job . . . the doubts about losing the work, fearing the customer to think they were trying to take advantage of them if they asked too much, and a lack of information about creating a fee structure . . . was driving the price down to the point I questioned if it was really worth doing.

Once again, I found myself talking about the costs of Labor and Overhead, the risks of underpricing and never becoming a real viable business, explaining how a profit margin is like insurance for the business protecting it against risk, and encouraging, consoling, directing, these nice young people into charging the full value of what they were providing.

"Don't cheat yourself," I said. "Develop a real price structure that can give you the confidence that what you are asking for is fair and then stick with it." "Don't give in to fear."

Afterwards, I though to myself, "I should have told them to take a picture of their newborn and post it on the computer" where they were writing their proposal. I should have asked them, "Is it fair to your son to give away your labor and give away the future support you can provide for him?" Too many good people sacrifice in this way.

I think original advice is what they really need . . . a well-thought out price structure to boost their confidence and ward against the "push back" of customers wanting to get a "deal." But until then, maybe it's time to post those pictures next to the computer.


Trying to create prices for your services? Try out our trial Consulting Rate Calculator!



Mistakes . . . Vulnerability . . . and Developing a Good Product

Photo by  David Beale  on  Unsplash

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Attending Practice . . . and Seeing something new!

I was confused. I sat watching a choir practice at my kid's college. As they practiced, I noticed a student raise his hand, the conductor nodded, then he put his hand down . . . in the middle of a song, what? . . . then another raised her hand, and quickly dropped it, then three students in quick succession did the same. This pattern of hands raising and lowering continued, as if I was watching human hands leaping around like popcorn being roasted, throughout the song--a continual violent punctuation of the air as the directer continued, apparently seeing, but mostly ignoring, this phenomenon--to direct the musical piece to its close.

I waited. Ready for the conductor to address this strange phenomenon.  "What is this . . . a prank?" I would hear him say. Or,  "You guys need to focus!  . . . If you have a question, quit raising your hands until the song is complete!" . . . It didn't come.

Now, I was even more confused. It's not like the entire experience was new to me. I have had a fairly extensive background in choir rehearsals.  I grew up on that same college campus and had seen practices--with more than one conductor--many times. I was in choir myself, both in High School and College. But never had I seen this behavior, or anything remotely like it.

They started practicing on a new piece--a fast-paced spiritual--and once again the "pop, pop, popity-pop" of hands began.

Slowly, I realized the connection. Students raised their hands every time they made a mistake!

Like an athlete watching "film" of their performance, here was a live-action critique of how well the chorus was performing this piece.  I watched and, despite my limitations in musical ability, I began to anticipate when and where the next hand or hands would rise.

I asked my son about it after practice. "Oh, he said, that's a way for Dr. R. to know that we are aware of a mistake . . . and so that he can see when particular parts are giving someone troubles, without having to stop the practice every time to correct something."  Voila! Nailed it. I'm not a trained observer for nothing!

Now, I began to reflect . . . This choir was good, no doubt about it.  They receive glowing reports, awards, financial backing, and acclaim and had for several years. I began to wonder about how the climate of "signaling errors" came to be accepted, comfortable, and the norm."  A few things came to mind about the practice as I observed it . . . 

First, mistakes were expected. There was no false sense that someone was doing it right all the time. When you make a mistake, you raise your hand. Not "if" but "when."

Second, identifying mistakes was seen as a process to creating a good product. If you know that you made it mistake then you can fix it. If you don't know, or try to pretend you didn't, you are less likely to fix it.

Third, it made individual members aware of their mistakes and focused on what they needed to improve. Undoubtably, no one wants to keep making the same mistakes, so acknowledging them in this public fashion leads to accountability to improve.

Fourth, it allowed the leader to have a good read on how well, or poorly, the team was performing at each stage.  The conductor was not having to take his focus away from his tasks to try and discover who wasn't getting the music correctly. They kept him informed through signaling the errors.

It was nearing the end of practice. I had become quite used to the hand raising and felt some what comfortable with the "what and why" of this new and odd technique. Then, the conductor made a mistake. He turned two pages, instead of one, and pointed his baton toward a section of the choir, there was a moment of hesitation, but the choir corrected and carried on. The conductor, noting something was wrong, quickly flipped back two pages, then forward one. He was back on track now . . . and he raised his hand. The choir laughed.

Mistakes and Business

When I myself, or when I and another consultant, work on a project, I always save time at the end of each step to do a "post mortem." I want to assess what went well, what was just okay, and what could be improved. These reflections and discussions are invaluable to continuing to grow and increase our value to customers.

I encourage leaders to do the same. Those that can honestly do this critical self-analysis, noting the successes and admitting the mistakes, are much more likely to see growth and improvement in their work teams.

But, it starts with the leader.  Employees will ask themselves, "Is it safe?" and "What does the leader really care about--quality or their ego?" before they themselves will risk being vulnerable.

If you want others to join in making the quality of something great, if you want them to be transparent about their mistakes and improve, if you want them to figuratively raise their hands then you have to lift up yours.

Yes, you can get good quality at times through control, coercion, fear and other factors but only leadership, transparent and honest leadership, will harness the good will, loyalty, and extra effort to truly develop a high functioning team and a top-quality product.

Finally . . .

If you want to be a great employee, increase the probability of advancement, and be a part of a high functioning team. The you also need to display these leadership traits. Yes, you need to assess whether it is safe to do so, but in the end, protecting oneself only leads to a mediocre team and merely delays the inevitable. Poor outcomes and failure.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.



Our Small Town Bank Locks it's Doors . . . and reminds me of a "road not taken" . . . and an Opportunity!!

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

Our small-town bank locks it's doors . . . a road not travelled . . . and an opportunity!

A bank employee will now let you into the building . . . but only with the proper ID.

Our town only has a population of 2,000 . . . and it's in the middle of a rural area, in a state that has been referred to as "fly over country." So it's a bit shocking to get a letter like the one in the photo. I mean, this "ain't New York City!" to adapt the advertising slogan. We're used to leaving our doors unlocked, the keys in the vehicle, with the naive confidence that people generally "mean well" and can be trusted. No, this isn't "Mayberry" from the Andy Griffith show. But it's close. 

A quick side-note. Our site has grown over 60% this year. Thank you to everyone for visiting our site, recommending us to others, subscribing and and following our blog. We will continue to offer content through our blog, email list, and  our free eBooks in 2018!

Anyway, this letter reminded me of an event that happened about a decade ago. A bank President called me. She asked if I would be interested in setting up a state-wide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing network for her bank. At the time I was the Executive Director of a counseling center and had worked with bank leadership on a couple of her work-teams. 

I told her that we might be interested, but that I would have to find out more about what setting up and running a state-wide CISD network would require. My first call was to my professional "guru." He told me right away that the state operated a CISD team and that I should contact the head of that department. I did.

The result was disappointing . . . at best. It was clear that contact with this state-run program would be of no help what-so-ever. The program, to be fair, was designed to help "first-responders," an admirable ambition, and it was clear in the conversation with this bureaucrat that there was no room to provide this service to anyone outside the governmental system. To his credit, he was brutally clear; the legislative focus was on government and, as such, they would not provide advice, training, support, or even make available the names of counseling professionals they used across the state for their CISD services. It was a complete dead-end.

I called back the bank President. I described the experience with the state and informed her that, without being able to tap into existing resources, we simply would not be able to develop and provide this service. We were not equipped to identify, train, support, and provide the services state-wide as a small center with less than a dozen professionals on staff. It was not the right opportunity for that organization and my focus, at that time, was on building up the organization--not seizing on the opportunity to contract with the bank to develop and deliver this service.

But truth be told, it bugged me. I've never worked in government--but I have had a number of grants and contracts with legislative branches--and I am fully aware of the constraints under which they serve. What galled me was that here was a legitimate need and it went unmet. Being a problem-solver by nature it just didn't seem right to drop it. But we did.

This experience did teach me a few things that might be of use to you, my readers. Mostly, that their are unmet needs all around you and if you can uncover them, and find ways to help, you will never be without work to do and people who will pay you for the value of that work. But, more specifically . . . regarding this opportunity . . . 

1. Banks, fast-food restaurants, retailers have lots of attempted, and some completed, robberies that never make the news (in fact, in many cases, they work hard to make sure they don't!).

2. These events can cause significant turn-over and often negatively impact employee morale . . . directly impacting the "bottom line" of the bank.

3. There is no established system for addressing this need in the for-profit world. (at least not here or to the knowledge of many professionals I have asked in the past decade)  and despite training on what to do in such events and some education of the effects, there is no systematic follow up or support when the events occur.

4. There is no recognized standard way to recognize those that have expertise in helping these organizations (no state licensure or certification for CISD/M in general). Psychologists and counselors often get referrals for people who have been traumatized by these incidents and who are experiencing anxiety or other symptoms but it is rare (excepting, perhaps, public school settings) to provide this support at a group level.


This is an untapped area for private practice consulting for professionals who want to get trained, develop expertise, and market these services.



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Continuing Education: Take Aways from Presenting at a National Conference

Take Aways from Presenting at a National Conference

Getting Started . . .

Getting Started . . .

Just finished presenting "Beyond the Couch: Using MFT skills with Organizations" at the national conference for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). The presentation was delivered in a pre-conference, 5 hour, "institute" held in Atlanta at the Marriot Marquis.

This pre-conference institute requires attendees to come a day early, pay an additional $175, occur additional costs of an extra day in training, and be willing to commit from 9-3:30 to this training. We had good turnout with 35-40 attending.

As an educational endeavor, I am listing the learning I got from presenting this institute. Incidentally, If you are a member of our FONS group (a private Facebook group) or a subscriber to my email list then I will give you some more personal insights later that I won't share publicly.

A beautiful day in Atlanta.

A beautiful day in Atlanta.

Here a some of my take aways . . .

Things I kind of knew that were re-confirmed:

  • Therapists are some of the nicest people to have in a presentation
  • The interest in working on contract, avoiding the insurance market, and working with organizations is growing
  • There is still little, or no, training in masters programs on business skills, contracting, or working with organizations
  • There is a strong interest in learning the tools and techniques of developing contracts
  • Therapists don't know where to find mentors when it comes to contracting and working with organizations
  • Seasoned therapists get requests to help with organizational issues whether they are trained in this area or not

What should I have known, that i learned:

  • Teaching people, even highly skilled therapists, how to do contracting takes more than 5 hours
  • People are going to be interested in connecting personally with me for support
  • I need a plan to capture the contact information of those who show interest in connecting
  • People are going to want to buy my book, from me, right there at the conference
  • There always is at least one attendee who already has extensive experience as a consultant who is present just to get new ideas
  • There are decision makers present, often with funds, that may be looking for ways to enhance their program offerings.

What I still don't know . . . 

  • Is it worth losing two days of revenue, paying for the cost of a plane ticket etc., the time to develop the presentation, and paying for the cost of the conference (really? the presenter has to PAY to attend their own presentation?!?!)
  • As a corollary, to the point above, will I ever present at the AAMFT conference again?
  • Will the institute have an impact? Will there be any follow through for attendees who expressed interest in developing their own contracts and consulting?
  • Will the attendees who expressed an interest in coaching, training, connecting, follow through with contacting us?
  • Did the institute give attendees enough to go out and develop their first contract?

We are finalizing our 2018 schedule for training, consulting, etc. The next opportunity to get in on learning about contracting and consulting is in the Interactive CE Training (ICET) Dr. Miller will be presenting on-line October 29th. I

To reserve time for a  presentation or coaching, contact Bryan directly.

For those interested, we also have two products to help therapists get started.

Beyond the Couch: Dr. Miller's seminal book on consulting with organizations.

BTC Ebook Cover.png


Private Practice through Contracting: an eBook to reduce insurance dependency and help develop contracts as part of a private practice.








Mavericks . . . and Tips for Preventing Implosion at the time of Transition

Photo Credit: Ben White on Unsplash

Photo Credit: Ben White on Unsplash


After I had finished speaking, a family friend approached me.  He said, "I really enjoyed what you had to say, but I noticed that your parents walked out on you!"

It started like this . . .Several years ago I was speaking in a city near where my parents lived. It just happened that they had travel plans and were leaving from the airport in that city and told me that would swing by and listen to my "talk" . . . but, they would have to leave before I was done to catch their flight. I connected with them before the speech, started my presentation and, when they stood up--waving as they snuck out the back--I nodded in their direction to acknowledge the prearranged plan.

My response to my twinkle-eyed friend who delighted in putting me on the spot? I told him, "Well, that's okay, you can't teach your parents anything anyway!"

Which brings me to talking about Mavericks. Sometimes they are charismatic leaders. Entrepreneurial types. Visionaries. Sometimes they are ideologs--passionate about their mission. Sometimes they're family.

Too often the vary characteristics that make these Mavericks successful often sow the seeds that cause their work to implode once they are no longer "in the driver's seat." The dynamics of following a leader who was a "golden child" or domineering force are turbulent with threats of comparisons, resistance to change, and stress.

To make things more complicated, Mavericks rarely see the risk. After all, their nature tends toward confidence, maybe over confidence. They believe they can succeed where others do not--create a new product or market, improve upon the established product or service, out hustle and out sell the competition. The challenges of continuing that success beyond their reign seldom is a focus.

So, how do you help these Mavericks avoid an implosion that brings down the fortifications they have worked so hard to build?

  1. Determine who, relative to the Maverick, has the position or relationship that will allow them to be "heard.  As my opening story implies, relationships impact how information impacts us. If it hadn't been my parents who left and my friend had said, "I noticed someone walked out on you." The meaning is very different than having your parents walk out. Will the Maverick trust the guidance of a long-time advisor, a colleague, industry expert, extended family member? Who delivers the message can be critical to its success or failure. 
  2. Acknowledge their willingness to take risks and the importance of their leadership. Mavericks often react to any implication that they are not willing to face changes or that their ego is too attached to being in charge. Once again, the confidence they often exude does not lend itself toward being self-critical. Acknowledging that they have been willing to take risks and change (certainly true) set up the next step.
  3. Use their experiences to frame the present as a challenge . . . in a series of historical challenges. By getting them to review the decisions they had to face, the risks they had to overcome, and the threats they faced you can highlight how a failure to act would have resulted in missed opportunities or even failure. 
  4. Explore how the current situation is like past challenges. Mavericks once again tend to have a wonderful focus. They know what they think and believe. They know what their end goal is. What they often don't do well is to adequately consider factors that go against their vision. But, they have a history that where they have encountered roadblocks and threats. They have met them and made adjustments to survive. Help them recall this and focus on how to be proactive to prevent future threats.
  5. introduce the need for facing the current risks. By now, you should have gathered enough information to tie their experiences into a well-defined "argument" for how the current situation calls for facing the challenge and  risks of change. Lay out your argument. But don't offer a pre-designed solution. 
  6. Don't back down. The Maverick's first response may be to challenge you. After all, they are confident in their own thinking and simply trust other's take on a situation they know better than anyone. Displaying confidence here will likely help them consider the idea more seriously. Vacillating will only send the signal that you are uncertain and the Maverick will likely see this as a need to provide confidence and control and stick with their own plan.
  7. If they agree, utilize them to come up with a plan. After all, these tend to be very capable people at least in some areas. Engage them in coming up with ideas. But remember to challenge their thinking in areas in which they are not strong. So in the case that follows the answer is not "the son needs to be like me!" the answer lies in "how to support the son's growth-with his own strengths--as a leader."
  8. Give them a role or job. I think of the typical Maverick as a "working dog." Like a Border Collie or similar breed they do best when they have a job to do. Whether that job is to develop a new product line, find the right advising team for the son, or become a philanthropist or community leader . . . simply stopping or stepping back is a harder concept than doing something new. 
  9. Be willing to give up your position to help the organization. Who ever has the task of challenging the Maverick needs to accept that this may "poison" the relationship with the Maverick if he or she is not ready to consider and accept this new challenge. So often this role needs to be taken by a board member, colleague, advisor, or and "expendable crewman" for the sake of the organization. A family member, especially in a family business context, may be the wrong messenger due to the fact that this may have irreparable consequences for the family

I once talked to a family business owner who confided that he did not think his son could make his own independent decisions. He feared that this son, and mid-life manager was overly-attentive to what others thought and therefore needed his continued supervision. I was incredulous!  In fact, the two men were very similar in personality and willingness to be "in charge" and run the business. The younger man however had more "sensitivity" to employees and did not "run rough-shod" over them in his decision making. I knew this younger leader, and in my opinion he in no way, demonstrated an indecisive, tentative, "people pleaser" leadership style.  I challenged the father. "So, you are telling me that you raised a son that can't think for himself and make his own decisions?" Thinking this would make him rethink his assessment. It didn't. He replied, "Yes." 

While I still did not believe the father's assessment was correct--I saw the son as trying to move toward a more collaborative and inclusive style of management perhaps as a reaction to the autocratic and forceful personality of his father and the father being over confident of the success of his management style--this father's "reality" was where we had to start. "If that's true," I rejoined, "then you need provide the right conditions to help him develop this ability."  He didn't disagree. From this, we began to talk about how the father's experiences helped to develop the confidence to make decisions and take prudent risks. We then explored his experience and his son's, noting how the circumstances were different for his son and began to craft a plan to help the son grow in his abilities--including a planned "backing out" of the father's role, some training, and continuing and increasing some industry-specific coaching they had begun to continue support for the son.

We can never forget that most Mavericks truly care about the future of the business in most cases. Even if that caring at times makes them "hold on too tightly." They generally are motivated to help the next leaders succeed. But they may have trouble seeing the practical steps that need to happen to turn this into success without their direct involvement and may need someone to help them find a way to let go of the reigns.


Ebook available: Family Legacy: Protecting the family in family business. No cost, no obligation.





New eBook almost here . . . and it's free!

Here's the cover . . . Credit Andrew Miller

Here's the cover . . . Credit Andrew Miller

I just got the final version of our new free eBook--Family Legacy: Protecting Family in Family Business--and it looks amazing! Thank you to Andrew Miller, graphic designer at Andhedrew. Once we have the download set up we'll send out a link to where you can download it.



Don't leaders know?

What is it You Do?

When I explain to people what we do . . . use intensive interviewing to understand work teams and assist leaders through the development and implementation of action plans  . . . I often get the question, "Don't leaders already know what is going on with their employees?”  Good question. I think implicit in this question is a common misunderstanding.  I think what is being asked in this case is often something like, "Do you really think that there are a lot of leaders out there with no idea of what is going on with their employees?"  If this, revised, question is closer to what they are really asking, then the answer is an emphatic, "No!"

In fact, I trust that most leaders have a good idea of what is going on with employees. I believe that the majority have spent significant amounts of time trying to understand their employees and the impact of their leadership decisions on those employees.  (This is why I think that consulting approaches that do not see the role of the consultant as a collaborative one are often misguided!) But . . . consider this . . .

Parents, arguably, know more about their children than anyone, yet often "what they know" can become the seeds of problems between them and their offspring.  "You don't understand!" is a common complaint among those children. People are complex. Couples, likewise, know more about their partner than they know about any other of their relationships . . . and often have more trouble. Regularly it is at least partially because their knowledge invites them to assign blame and an unwillingness to make changes. Each person’s history of learning to cope and maintain their own psychological safely is unique and employee’s learn to lie . . . to themselves and others.

Knowing isn’t Understanding . . . Or a Plan of Action!

No, simply "knowing" is not enough. Leaders need to continue to challenge what they know--testing it to check it's validity. Leaders need a vision of where they want to go but they also need a clear understanding of where they are--without the polarizing lenses of self-deceiving "knowledge."  The gap in a leader's "knowing" is reflected when a leader proclaims of his/her team "we are a family" only to have an employee mutter "a dysfunctional family."

Examples of Things Leader’s “Know” that Sustain Problems

 Here is a list of things that leaders "knew" when we were contacted by them or began working with them. In each case, this knowledge proved to be a barrier to knowing rather than an accurate understanding of the situation.  

  • people understand my irritability because I come from a different part of the country . . . it shouldn't effect how they view me as a leader

  • we provide information about employee benefits in a number of ways and times so employees can't have issue with that

  • if we tell employees about the financial status of the company they will have worse attitudes than they do now

  • my daughter is just stressed but she still appreciates working in the family business

  • the way we interact with employees works . . . its these particular employees attitudes that are the problem

  • we have a plan that all the leaders have agreed to and support

  • if I'm not in the room bad things happen (leader who refused to leave when board talked about his job performance, salary, etc.)

  • we already fane a (financial) consultant we can just use him to help us figure out the people issues

  • our family can handle these issues without getting an "outsider" involved (family business member now in litigation with siblings)

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Learn more . . .

HSC provides free and low-cost resources for leaders. Here are some of our related posts:



Playing with words

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I love words.  I love twisting them and enjoying the nuances of language.  I like the way it invites us to look at things from a new perspective.  Lately I have been collecting words the help me to rethink how I see leadership, organizations, and consulting with those leaders and teams. So, just for the fun of it here are some words-=and how I see the connection--that hopefully will stretch you and make you think . . . 

Leaderchipped: the state or effect of wear and tear on people in managerial positions. Leaders tend to get burned out, "used up," or even traumatized in their roles.  They're "Leaderchipped."

Connexus: being together with a central point or important place; a process of being together with two or more intersecting points; making interactive relationships among people. From the Latin con to "be with" and nexus this is the heart of working with organizations and leaders. Consultants need to join with and be in the central "nerve center" of the organization to have an effect. They need "connects."

LeadHer, Guydance, DirectHer, ManagHer: the act of leading, guiding, directing or managing from a gender-specific viewpoint. Are there words to emphasize the differences and similarities experienced by leaders from different genders?  I don't know. I haven't found a good one yet.

ExSample: a process of demonstrating the effect of having an outside viewpoint.  In Consulting the data-gathering process (interviews in our process) often occurs before leaders recognize the value of having the outside perspective.  In a sense the data-collection is an "ExSample" of how the outside perspective adds value to the organization. 

OrganIzation: term used to demonstrate that the individual contribution, the I in organization, is an important consideration. As opposed to the adage "their is no I in Team" this emphasizes that the organization is, by necessity, made up of a multitude of individuals, and the auction of each "I" is critical to the organization as a whole. 

Hegemony/Harmony: a dichotomy placing necessary command and control functions of management agains the desire for peace and avoiding conflict. Leaders and followers must navigate the tensions of structure/regulations/processes/people in ways that value the need for good practice and humane treatment.  It is a challenging dichotomy to maintain.

A-sin-dency (Ascendency): attitude that projects ill-will or intent on people who desire to progress or succeed especially if that success appears driven by a financial or power/influence motive. For those, like myself, who have come out of the human services world there can be this attitude that makes entrepreneurial, business-owner, concepts an uncomfortable role.  We must transcend the "money is evil" mindset.

Ampliflowcation; the process of increasing the amount of communication within a team or organization. Individuals within teams often avoid communicating, do not communicate enough, or begin to "scream out' their frustrations when there is a crisis.  Ampliflowcation is often needed to begin to address the issues and find a new path--the communication needs to increase and be changed into something usable by the team.

Look, I didn't say I was good at playing with words. Just that I like playing with words. The most important part to me is that it is a tool to think about common experiences in ways that stretch my thinking.  Now, those of you who are good at playing with words . . . what do you got?

 Free ebook Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.




Leadership Fail? . . . It's a communication problem



Where did that go wrong?

"Employees recommend having insurance benefit meetings in the evenings," I said as we gave our report to the senior managers of a large manufacturing company.  We were finishing our consulting work with a company that had surveyed employees, found out some areas of concern, and asked us to come in and figure out how to help. "We already do!" the HR Director exclaimed, "I can show you!" he said, waving the company newsletter in the air. Sure enough, there in the newsletter was an announcement: Employee Benefit Meeting, Thursday, 7 pm. The date was the same week we were finishing up our interviews . . .

The classic 1953 skit "Who's on first" by Abbott and Costello is a delicious bit of miscommunication that often, sadly, is reminiscent of our business communications.  We think we are communicating but often we simply . . . are . . . not. Worse than a "Who;s on first? miscommunication--which at least gives the parties the change to discover that their message is not be received as intended--we often "swing and miss," failing to communicate at all. 

Take the senior management meeting I shared above. My colleague and I had spent six days working with employees in focus groups to follow up on the employee satisfaction survey that had identified some problem areas. One problem was "employee benefits." Our focus groups (Two three-hour meetings on this topic with 20 employees across 9 plants and all 3 shifts) focused on identifying what were the specific problems with employee benefits and creating recommendations for action plans for the senior management to follow up on.

One of the suggestions was that having benefit meetings in the evening would be helpful. This suggestion was particularly relevant because this company operated in a male-dominant industry (with fewer than 20% women employees) and the spouses were overwhelmingly the ones accessing the benefits. Employees explained that due to childcare, jobs, and other factors their spouses could not get away of attend meetings during the day and the employees, who could attend the meeting, did not because they did not "handle" the benefits.

So, a recommendation was crafted to ask for benefit meetings in the evenings. But, they already did have the meetings in the evenings. as the exasperated HR Director pointed out. He showed us the newsletter with the announcement. The air in the room was still with anticipation. What did this mean? How could employees not know this? Are the recommendations even valid?  I pointed out that although this particular recommendation was a moot point, "It is obvious that you are already doing this. However, the fact that 20 of your employees were involved in drafting this recommendation and no one said, 'Uh, guys? We already do this!' says we have a problem."

Diving In

This led to a discussion on the use of the company newsletter.  It turned out that the company was simply posting the newsletter on bulletin boards around the plants. However, employees only had time to read the newsletter before or after work with the result being that almost no one took the time to actually read them.

The problem? Communication.  Leadership thought they were communicating by creating the newsletter. Employees were not happy but their "voice" had not been heard. Everyone was aware of the tensions in the workplace but until the survey identified benefits as a problem no one was tasked with figuring out how to fix it. The key, often, lies in communication. How do we communicate, when do we communicate, who do we communicate to, what do we communicate, and why is it important should be important considerations for any leader.

But communication is complex. People often communicate through their actions rather than their words. To reach their own personal goals they may obscure their real thoughts and emotions. They may avoid communication that, although important to the success of the team, puts them in a situation where they will feel uncomfortable or fear their job might be threatened.. Aggressive, avoidant, or "freezing" at moments of high emotional stress--such as when conflict occurs in the workplace--may further block good communication. If you've been a leader for a few years you know.

What can be done?

But what can you do as a leader to mitigate the impact of poor communication?

1. Model a belief that the goal is to grow, be efficient, improve, or master your workflow . . . not simply avoid mistakes. Employees know what you really value. It oozes out of everything you do--what you pay attention to, what you reward, what makes you react--and they know it's in their best interest to "give the boss what he/she wants."

2. Learn about your own communication style and challenges. Are you aware that you have a tendency to get defensive?  Do you avoid the "hard" interactions with employees? Are you just tired of being a boss? Knowing where you are and how that effects your communication--and how it is effecting the organization--is critical to making adjustments.

3. Promote awareness of communication as an important business tool. One reason communication is often a problem is that no one focuses on it as a business concern. Yes, many are quick to not that it is a factor in the problems they experience but how many times have you hear of a company that has a "communication initiative" or a "communication program" for employees of managers? If you have, drop me an email. I'd love to hear that story.

4. Encourage the development of communication skills. Make communication one of the critical factors in evaluating your team, and each individual's, performance. Remind them that no successful team has ever been poor at communicating. If you want a practical, low-cost, and fun way of illustrating this check out the game "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes." It's a fun game (about $15) where one person tries to defuse a "bomb" while another person or several people use the bomb manual to assist--but neither participant can see what the other one is seeing/doing. It quickly illustrates the challenges of  communication. (We used it recently with a work team and it was the highlight of the workshop!)

5. Periodically and regularly use an external tool to identify and developing problems. Look, employees don't sit at home and ask themselves, "Is there anything I should be communicating to management that I haven't said?" Worse yet, they may know things that they would like to say but, like teenagers with parents, there are complex dynamics to actually having the courage to speak. "What will my boss think? How will other employees react? Will this influence who is promoted?" Employees need an "emotionally safe" space in order to give real accurate feedback. Anonymous surveys, external consultants, even Employee Assistance providers (if management focused) all can be independent sources of information and a "reality check" on what is really going on with employees.

6. Proactively address any issues identified. Communication is enhanced or diminished by what happens after the fact. People expect to see actions a result of their communication input. That action may be as simple as "thank you for your help" but often it needs to be something more. It needs to imply, at the least, that we really "heard what you told us" and, even more often should have an added element of "here is what is the result." Even if the result is negative it can meet this standard.  "We understand what you are telling us but because of X we are not changing this right now. But we will reconsider it if or when X happens," can be effective action even if the employee does not like the outcome.

7. Expect new communication glitches., Time, learning, growth . . . many things contribute to having new communication problems. The compliant 5 year old becomes a pushy 13 year old. They have grown and developed but now there are new issues. I mentioned using the game "Keep Talking" above. When we were using it with the group the results at first were quite bad . . . the "bomb" went off overtime before they could defuse it. However they were beginning to understand and anticipate some of the problems. One was that they needed to figure out how to communicate more effectively about the "wiring" on the bombs. For this round, I gave out 3 bomb manuals to team members to help defuse the bomb. They immediately set to work organizations how they could "attack" the problem of understanding the wiring and help the team member who was at the "bomb site" working on the devise itself. This would have been a great strategy . . . except . . . it was based on the assumption that the next bomb would be like the others they had already attempted! But the new bomb didn't even have any wires. All their communication and preparation was useless.

Leaders, communication is central to everything you do. Just like branding, marketing, public relations are elements you need to be aware of in order for your company to succeed communication is key to your leadership success.

 Free ebook Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.




Contracts with Medical Practices

A reader asked me to specifically address contracts with medical practices.  So this is for you Trey!

Below is a post I wrote a couple of years ago at the request of a reader.  Since that time, I have had the opportunity to a) further develop my consulting model (see the model), and b) contract directly with a group of physicians and their staff.  The post still holds up as is but I wanted to add links to the fully developed model to help readers who find this older post.  All the best! Bryan

Original post:

A caveat. Most of my direct contact with medical practices has not been contracts that I have set up myself.  Rather, they have been set up by therapists I trained to do consulting or colleagues in practices I joined.  My contracts have been more in the spheres of education, non-profits, family-based business, churches, and manufacturing.  But, since my reader asked, here's what I know . . .

Contracts with medical services that I personally am aware of include . . . 

A contract to do counseling with a program to help young mother's learn to breastfeed and take care of their babies. (The therapist first became aware of the need through a client then approached the program.)

A contract with a gynecologist to do brief counseling for women and couple's who were having issues with pregnancy or the emotional impact of expecting. (This was born out of the therapist going to the gynecologist for her own pregnancy and noticing how many women were crying before or after the appointments.)

A chiropractor who was moving to a wholistic model including message and counseling.

A Urology clinic that was looking to provide support services to their clientele and support to their staff and professionals.

A cancer program who wanted to provide counseling to those newly diagnosed.

Other contracts that I have been a part of include . . .

A short-term EAP service (including trainings) for a manufacturing company.

A retainer contract for supervision of therapy.

An EAP service for a local church. 

A contract for in-school counseling (5 schools) for identified at-risk students.

A project to integrate the mental health services of four non-profit agencies.

Here's the bottom line.  If you can . . . 1) find a need and . . . if the organization is 2) aware of (or can be made aware of) the need . . . and they are 3) willing to spend money to address the need. You can, assuming you have the requisite knowledge and skills, propose a contract to meet that need.

For me that means a process I describe as:

1. An exploratory meeting

2. An agreement to conduct preliminary assessment

3. A proposal for an intervention

4. The intervention

5. The follow-up

It's not rocket-science.  However, it helps to have a clear plan, know the risks and pitfalls, be clear how to price your work so it's worth your time and be willing to advocate to be involved at a level that will really allow you to help them accomplish their goals.

Hope that helps Trey!  If you have questions feel free to contact me at



July Toast and Jam

Next month it may be Bread and Jam . . . can't take the heat.

Next month it may be Bread and Jam . . . can't take the heat.

Continuing our monthly "the single best article I have found" series "Bread and Jam." Now into our second quarter!  The idea is to share one influential article that you can read while you make toast . . . and, of course, add a little Jam.

Here's my next installment.  Enjoy!!  

Please recognize that inclusion in the monthly Toast and Jam does NOT mean I agree with the author's opinions! In fact, sometimes it is quite the opposite! I plan to include cogent articles that challenge the current thinking and that, I hope, will get you asking "better questions" yourself.

Organizations and Business:

The Family Farm: Avoiding Five Common Estate Planning Mistakes

If You Can't Say What Your Meeting Will Accomplish, You Shouldn't Have It!

The Day I Failed at Tedx


7 Self-Defeating Psychological Habits that Stymie Success

50 People share their One Sentence Inspirations for Success.


The Creative Pastor has an interesting article on 7 Innovative Ideas for the 21st Century Church.

Barna Group's new study on American Morals.

And the Jam: Fun and Curious:

Video: The best way to wrap cheese.  Why? Just because you need to know!

Infographic: How Americans spend each hour of their day.


Questions?  Contact us.





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