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

The cover of our eBook . . . .

Engaging Cover Mini copy.png

Here is a list of few things I’ve learned being in leadership positions for more than 25 years . . . how many do you agree with? How many have you experienced? Are their others that should be added to the list?

  • While there are lots of successful business models, business gets done through the effort of people.

  • Managers typically lose more sleep over people issues than they do business decisions.

  • Problems that persist in human systems are rarely simple, obvious, or subject to a quick fix. The easy fixes never become persistent issues.

  • Leaders fail to deal with “difficult employees” for a number of reasons but the biggest one is fear . . . in the leader themselves.

  • There are many successful business plans but success is determined by the action of people on the team.

  • People’s behaviors are, to a large degree, conditioned by their past experiences and only recognizing this and sustained focused practice create real changes.

  • The leader’s most difficult employee is likely to be one that differs the most from the leader in personality . . . and thus the one with the most potential to add balance to the team.

  • Leaders who are quick to see termination as the answer to problems will create teams with systemic problems of trust, loyalty, honesty, etc.

  • Leaders who will not address a toxic employee will demotivate and erode their team’s efforts.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading “difficult” people is an eBook we wrote to help managers and leaders. It can be downloaded for free (we do ask for your email), or, if you prefer, you can support our work and buy it on Gumroad.



Simply . . . Like Jobs. Steve Jobs . . . and Redesigning Apple

Apple logo: Wikipedia

Apple logo: Wikipedia

Simplification . . . Yes, KISS** is still good advice!

In his book, Boundaries for Leaders, Dr. Henry Cloud tells the story of Steve Jobs, who—having returned to Apple as CEO, brought clarity to the struggling organization—eventually driving success by eliminating 70% of their models and products. How did he do this? By having a clear vision of what Apple was and was not. Jobs, while sitting in a product strategy session, shouted, “Stop! This is Crazy!” and going to the whiteboard, drew a four-cell chart. “Here’s what we need,” he said—then he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro” across the top of the two columns and followed this by labeling the rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” “Their job,” he said, “was to make four great products, one for each quadrant.

Simple. Elegant. Apple. Great at what it does. Different.

Often times in business we over-think ourselves. We move, naturally, toward more complexity—believing that “more is better,” that complexity or more choices creates more value, right? But experts remind us that focus, clarity, and quality are often driven by parsimony . . . simplicity if you will . . . and may be more important than complexity. (Think of your T.V. remote. Do you really want more options?)

How about your business? Have you driven your strategic planning to parsimony? Have you achieved Job’s level of clarity? If you quizzed your board, employees, vendors, customers, would they all describe what you do in the same terms? Are you clear what and whom you are and what you are not?

One Example

At HSC, we have focused on developing this clarity and created four core products—one for each market segment and product level. This clarification of our vision has driven us to focus on continual development of these products and prevented being “distracted” by pouring energy into new ancillary products that take the focus off what we do best.

For example, a recent conversation with a business owner lead to the discussion of an “opportunity” to develop a product to help private pilots deal with the anxiety of flying—particularly the additive stresses of landing. An interesting, and tempting, thought given our background in mental health, mindfulness, and training. Should we do it? Should we invest energy in developing expertise in this “problem” and create a training to meet this need? Well, focusing on our core model helps get to an answer . . . does it focus on our customers? Not clearly. Is it a service we offer? No. So, unless we change our strategic plan, this is not an opportunity that we would pursue.

Maybe it will help you to do the same.

Like Steve Job’s example, we divided our table into two segments: our market segments and our product lines. Here’s a representation of our model for comparison:

Keynote slide on our four core products.

Keynote slide on our four core products.

Notice that we have two primary markets: Organizations (including family business) and Professionals. We also have two distinct product lines: Services and Training. Our four core products then are located in the yellow cells. cross-referenced by these four variables.

What issues are each of our core products focused on improving"?


Human Systems Consulting: There are many ways to implement a successful business plan. In almost all cases, the plans depend on people to carry them out. Our core consulting service is designed to help resolve issues related to the human element. Challenges with culture, motivation, conflict, performance . . . all the human variables that interfere with high functioning.

Team Player Skill Development: People behave as they have been conditioned to behave. Reach out your hand toward someone raised in the USA and they, involuntarily and instinctively, extend their hand toward yours. But that rationale “act” of shaking hands is not universal—it is a conditioned response. villagers in asian countries may not respond in the same way. Employees need training that does not simply “tell them” how to do something different they need to practice. Our training is to start the process of practicing new, functional behaviors that create good team functioning.


Leading Edge* Coaching: Professionals want new ways to practice and pay their bills. But most are “locked into” a health care model dependent on insurance reimbursement. We help professionals develop private practice contracts and to develop a consulting practice through personalized coaching sessions. our coaching process is designed to help identify opportunities, understand how to apply their skills and knowledge to contracting, create marketing plans, develop their fee structure and generally support professionals developing private practice contracts and consulting work.

IMPACT Model*: For professionals ready to jump into contracting and consulting, provide and introduction to the contracting/consultation process we have developed over 20 plus years, to give them a road map on how to work with organizations. We have trained professionals on our marketing/consulting model in national conferences, on-line trainings, and in person workshops.

Well, that’s it. Our four products, one in each quadrant to serve organizations and professionals.

Special note: Interested parties can check our availability for training/services by contacting us. Please note that due to demand, we typically schedule trainings a year in advance. Other services are on a first come, first served basis, and subject to the availability of a consultant at that time.

**KISS acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”



Are leaders born or made?

Are Leaders Born or Made?

I remember the summer I came home from camp and my brother was standing in the kitchen, alternately bouncing then "palming" a basketball with each hand. I knew my days of being the "top dog" on the basketball court were numbered . . . he had hit his growth spurt that would make him my "superior" in height and value as a player. Still, it is almost less of a shock to find out that your younger sibling will out grow you than it is to find out that they have acquired wisdom that you don't possess. Such is the case as I work with Keith after his long military career. As we sit down with owners and managers, Keith's practical, operational, and personal focus helps us advise our clients to create effective and well-functioning teams. 

So, I invite you to hear my "little brother" talk about Leadership . . . then get the accumulated wisdom or 21 years of leadership.

As a retired Major in the Air Force, Keith spend 21 years leading professional men and women to accomplish critical tasks as part of his career. But Keith is not your "typical" command-and-control type. Keith's success has come from his genuine heart for people and this concern shows in his leadership style.. So, take a moment to watch our short video and listen to him reflect on whether leaders are born or made. Then check out below his leadership manual Lessons Learned Around the World. You will not regret it.

Are leaders born . . . or are they made?  Major (Ret.) USAF Aubrey Keith Miller talks about what contributes to people becoming leaders in a new video.

Keith also has developed a manual for leaders called Lessons Learned Around the World: People-Centered Leadership that we have used to train managers on how to become person-centered, emotionally intelligent leader. For the cost of a cup of coffee, Keith shares the knowledge of his 21 years of leadership across the globe--challenging leaders to engage in a person-centered style that will make them more effective and minimize the challenging of managing people.

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Special Eary-Bird Opportunity: The first three people to get Lessons Learned Around the World may enter the code word "learn" and take off an extra $2, bringing the price down to only $2.99.

HSC also offers free resources to subscribers like Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people and Family Legacy: Protecting family in the family business. 




It's Here! . . . It's Free! Our newest eBook.

Well, it's finally here. Our new eBook on Protecting the Family in Family Business. We apply our knowledge and experience with families, business consulting, and work with family businesses to five our readers ideas on how to minimize the risks and maximize the advantages to the family who works together.  We hope you enjoy it!

You can also get our other free eBooks below . . .

Engaging Your Team: A Framework for Leading "Difficult" People

Private Practice through Contracting: A path away from insurance dependency.



A little something for therapists who want to do "more" . . . or do "something else"


It was a pleasant surprise. Earlier this month, I got a message from a former student (see below) just to say, "Thanks!" "Thanks for what?" you ask. For introducing her to the idea that a professional, in the "world" of mental health, has developed a skill set that can be used for more than "just doing therapy."

The message came at the perfect time. Why? Because I had just decided--working with my graphic designer/social marketer expert--to offer, for a limited time, the book I wrote on the subject for free. This was the same content that students, like this one, told me I should put into a book. So, I did.

The book was published, used as a textbook for my course, and has been selling bit-by-bit for the last five years. (You can check it out, if you want--but don't buy it! I am going to give it to you free, remember? Here it is on Amazon)

Since publishing the book, a number of students and other professionals who read the book, have recognized the potential and have started contracting and working with organizations and businesses. For some it has been offering therapy services--such as an Employee Assistance Program--for others it has been business coaching or consulting. But "some" is not enough. There are so many organizations and businesses who could benefit from the support of a professional who understands complex human systems and who has "people skills". . . that I continue to doggedly "preach" to my colleagues the benefits of acting as a consultant.

Now, we are offering you this tool--a free tool--to help you jump start your thinking and consider what more you can do. Feel free to share it with other colleagues. (The book has paid for all it's publishing costs!) We want to see more and more organizations and businesses using professional "people experts" to help their work teams and organizations. We can't leave the role of "expert advisor" to business experts, accountants, and lawyers alone. They are very good at what they do--their areas of specialization. But so are we. They know business, we know people. Expertise in both is necessary for leaders and the organizations they lead, to be highly successful.

What is it? The book, Beyond the Couch, is over 200 pages of information, encouragement, and tools to help you begin to think and begin to engage in the role of a human systems consultant. It includes information on:

  • identify potential clients

  • develop proposals and get them funded

  • decide how much to charge

  • conduct and analyze projects

  • utilize the skills you already have

  • manage a consulting practice

  • learn how organizations and leaders think about people

My student, as you will see below, decided to throw herself into full-time consulting work. Others have done the same. But most professionals have continued as therapists while adding contracts to their work. Either way, the book will give you a basic understanding of how to get your first contract and begin to help people Beyond the Couch.

One last thing. I will be hosting a video chat in the next month to tell you more about my experiences and answer questions for those who want a little more advice. When you enter your email to download the book you will be added to our list and we will let you know when the video chat will take place. This will also let you email any questions you would like me to address in the video chat.

Finally, here is the student's note (It is unedited except to protect confidentiality. Used with permission.):

Good evening, Dr. Miller, I was one of your students at _____ in the MA in Counseling program. I wanted to share something with you. By the time I took your class, I had already started my clinical internship and, to my dismay, I didn't like it. I spent most of my time doing paperwork and very little of my time actually helping people. Even when I was helping people, each hour felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. It was challenging, but only because I was so bored. The problems people faced were results of systems larger than themselves - and I wanted to tackle systemic problems. However, I was about to finish a degree in counseling; didn't that mean I should become a counselor? I was frustrated and a bit panicked. Then I took your class. In class, you discussed that you did consulting on the side. After class, you spent a little bit of time with me explaining the consulting work and it piqued my interest. I did a lot more research after speaking with you and tucked the idea in the back of my mind - mostly like wishful thinking. Fast forward. I have been working for a little over 3 years now for ______ with their Organizational Consulting unit. I work with an I/O psychologist and have consulted with NUMEROUS organizations - both public and private. The changing projects, brilliant colleagues, and constant challenge is a much better fit for me. I would even love to start my own consulting group some day. I say all of that to simply say thank you. I knew I wanted to help people and I knew I was skilled in understanding complex relationships, but I wouldn't have thought to use those skills in consulting had you not shared your experience with me. I wish you all the best.



What is an Organizational Behavioral Consultant?

Keith & Bryan.png

Organizational Behavioral Consultant.  

Organizational Behavioral Consultant. It's a mouthful isn't it?  That’s the title one early consultee used as a label for what HSC does with organizations. What exactly does it mean?  Well, I'll give you my take.  

First, the focus on Organizations means understanding the human "system."  Our founder, Bryan Miller, was steeped in systems theory including taking courses on topics like “Cybernetics of Cybernetics”—a course on the “system of human systems”—whose underpinnings were all about systemic theory. Studying how complex systems of human work was critical to the founding of HSC.

So, when we talk about consulting with organizations, or being an Organizational Behavioral Consultant (OBC)—the consultant should have a focus on the organization as a wholistic richly cross-joined system.  He or she needs to understand the entire "animal" and how subsystems work within the larger needs of the organization.  They need to understand that each subsystem is interdependent upon the others and a change in one will effect the other subsystems.

Second, Behavioral means that the focus is on how the organizations actually "acts"--what it believes, says, and does. No grand theoretical models here!  Instead it is a practical, pragmatic, approach that focuses on real outcomes and solutions. Understanding human behavior can, of course, be acquired over time by any consultant. However, at HSC, our consultants have backgrounds in the helping professions and leadership. With high-level training, and experience, in understanding the complex behavior of groups and individuals, HSC provides a rigor and depth of analysis and direction not found in typical consulting processes.

Third, consultant.  At HSC, this means a collaborative partnership.  Working with the talented, smart, experienced leadership in a way that allows our "outside" perspective and experiences with the methods, processes, and tools of consulting to help influence and guide the steps to creating the most effective and successful system. Our approach is to build upon the strengths of the organization and it’s leadership. Challenging each to rise to its best performance and breaking down barriers to that goal.

These traits . . . system-focused, behavioral, collaborative . . . enable us to use our tools (employee interviews, focus group, action planning, coaching) to quickly identify and target issues holding back the organization and free it to move forward in a less stressed and sustainable manner.

Well, that's it.  Organizational. Behavioral. Consultant. This defines HSC and the work we do to help leaders and organizations support and connect the power of their human resources.

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.