How do you find your “Blue Ocean”?

More importantly, what is a Blue Ocean? That is the main focus of our upcoming strategic planning workshop called Keys to Forming an Awesome Strategy Workshop on Feb. 2. In it, we examine some of the principles from the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. In order to teach students how to build a business strategy that works, we look at how to dissect the various differentiating aspects of a service or product and create a refreshed strategic model around it.

Think about the different dimensions of your business. What decisions can you make about your product or service that will help you break boundaries? What choices do you have in terms of positioning your company in the marketplace?

This workshop gives you the model you need to reposition and strategize for exponential growth and success using some of the tactics of Blue Ocean Strategy, Good to Great (by Jim Collins), and our years of business strategy consultation experience.

This strategic planning workshop will help you answer:

  • What is the purpose of your business in one word?
  • What is your one-sentence strategy?
  • What is your brand promise?
  • What is your one main target audience?
  • What is your “big hairy audacious goal?”
  • What can you be great at?
  • What is your “X Factor?”
  • What is your ‘Profit per X’?
  • How does culture affect your business strategy and success?
  • How do you attract and hire the best talent?

Hurry! Spots are for our strategic planning working are limited so REGISTER TODAY.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how an executive coach, management consultant, leadership training, or business coach can help your team, please visit his website at or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Human Capital Management Training: Change

Change management is a crucial part of an effective human capital management strategy and one of the least understood. If you are in human resources or business leadership and need to understand how to effectively manage change in your organization, our new webinar is a must!

AGI is offering a one-hour, info-packed webinar on change management on March 8 at 12p EST.

Get more information on our Seminar/Training events page.

Howard Shore is a leadership coach and trainer with expertise in leadership coaching and human capital management. To learn more about AGI’s executive coaching, management consulting, and leadership training, please visit his website at or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Driving Change to Achieve Growth

I am regularly faced with the challenges of trying to be an ambassador of strategy, people and process improvement. They are the same challenges that CEOs encounter when they try to make changes that will reshape and transform their companies so they can better compete in the marketplace.

On the surface, there are two issues that typically need to be addressed:

  • Fear – Employees/leaders do not fully understand all aspects of proposed new programs. It is natural and common for employees to look for factors in the new programs that violate their old belief systems. Rather than seek to understand, they will want to be understood. While their belief systems served them well in the past they typically failed to recognize the sometimes-hidden, long-term consequences of their beliefs.
  • Flexibility – Typically management tries to overcome “fear” by being too forceful and rigid when introducing and implementing new concepts, programs, and processes to their organization.

As a CEO, I have found that anything transformational has to be driven by the CEO.  The CEO is the person that must balance the need for inclusion in decision-making while making the decisions and driving implementation of the desired change. While aspects of implementation can be delegated, it is the CEO that establishes vision and ensures that everyone stays the course. The speed at which complete buy-in occurs is the result of each individual’s past experience and the biases they bring to new situations. For many, there is a “wait and see” attitude that causes them not to accept change until after they have experienced the results. The dilemma here is that many will never experience the results of positive change because they refused to welcome the change in the first place.

Imagine that you decide that you want everyone in your company to embrace a healthy lifestyle.  This means that everyone must eat the appropriate amount of the “right” foods and exercise daily.  Well, the people that are already eat healthy and exercise regularly will think this is a great idea. The ones that love rich foods, overeat, indulge in sweets, and/or hate exercise will think it is a horrible idea. This is despite the fact that everyone knows it is in their best interests to be healthy. The real reason is that people are comfortable with their existing routines (even when it is not in their best interests). In a way, their current bad habits are bringing them short-term pleasure (e.g. enjoy desserts and rich food) and ignore the long-term consequence of bad health.

I shared this with you because my experience in implementing programs like “Four Decisions ProgramTM” is the equivalent of asking everyone to become healthy.  In the beginning it is uncomfortable because it causes people to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term benefits they cannot visualize or experience now.  However, as the CEO, you can recognize that the elements in the “Four Decisions ProgramTM” program have already been proven by thousands of companies and executives.  All the elements are well-documented and have been written about by some of the most renowned business thought leaders of our time.

As an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc., based in Miami, Florida, we work with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more please contact Howard at [phone link=”true”] or email him at

Recruiting Talent: Unusual Yet Effective Approaches

When Dietmar Petutschnig needs to find great engineers for his manufacturing company, ISD Limited in Whangarei, New Zealand, he heads to the docks. ISD is focused on innovation in the agricultural sector. One pursuit, for instance, is turning effluent from dairy firms into drinkable water. Recruiting people who fit into the company’s culture is crucial to its R&D efforts–yet that’s not so easy, given the country’s remote location. “How do you find engineers when all of the engineers want to leave the country?” asks Petutschnig, who acquired ISD in 2010 through Minerva Reef Fund, a venture fund he started with a partner.

Know the values that matter in your culture

His answer is to show up at coastal ports in late October and early November, when sailors navigating the globe tend to take shelter here from Caribbean storms.  The incoming vessels are full of people who have been successful enough in a previous business career to afford to buy sturdy enough craft to cross the ocean. Moreover, folks drawn to long-distance sailing tend to be mechanically inclined, since there’s no one to phone for repairs. “In the ocean, you have to fix things for yourself,” he says. And they’re resourceful and tough. “These are people who have made it across very challenging circumstances,” he says. They’re not easily rattled, he says, if a company hits a bump. People with this set of qualities have tended to thrive at ISD.

Not all growth companies face the same geographic challenges to recruiting as ISD does. But even those based in engineering hotbeds like Silicon Valley or the Boston tech corridor face competition from around the world for talent. And Petutschnig’s innovative methods carry lessons for every company, whether you’re located in dairy country or a big city. (I’ll get to another example of really creative recruiting by the tech firm Atlassian later in the column).

Tap informal networks for talent

One crucial part of what ISD does is show up in the right place at the right time. In some cities, that might mean hanging out at a particular Meetup where the tech talent tends to gravitate. At Petutschnig’s previous firm, Nunet AG—a tech company that serves broadcasters that got acquired in 2006—that would have been a practical approach. But at ISD, he, instead, keeps in touch with other sailors, whom he considers his “recruiting agents,” to find out when new arrivals are coming in–and shows up at the waterfront, ready to strike up a conversation.

“Docks are very social platforms,” says Petutschnig, who owns a 44-foot catamaran and sailed here with his wife, Suzanne DuBose, from the U.S. on a trip from 2008 to 2009. “You tend to know of people before they even come. Someone will meet them and say they’re coming next year.”

Ease into long-term work relationships

If Petutschnig hits it off with a new arrival, he’ll offer coffee or a drink to continue the conversation “You find out about their dreams, where they’re at,” he says. Then he might throw out the possibility of staying in New Zealand for a while by working at ISD. Sometimes, the right candidates will get interested. “They’ll postpone their day of departure from next season to a few seasons down the road,” he says.  And with three-month trial periods of employment typical in New Zealand, both ISD and the candidates know they will have a chance to try out the arrangement before it becomes a permanent one.

So far, ISD has hired four candidates this way: a director (who’s Petutschnig’s business partner) and three engineers. That’s brought the total headcount to 20 people.  “Our goal is to be a $10 million-revenue company in the next three years,” says Petutschnig. With innovative hiring practices like this, he’s on his way.

Don’t wait for candidates to come to you

Another company that’s gotten really creative about getting the right people on the bus—literally—is software firm Atlassian, which has offices in Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco. It’s more than doubled its head count to 550 over the past two years. A few months ago, it launched its “Europe, we’re coming to steal your geeks” recruitment roadshow, traveling around European cities in a bus to find 15 developers in 15 days. “We had a unique opportunity with the European economy not going as well,” says Joris Luijke, vice president of human resources/talent. Atlassian’s bus tour—a great idea for a company known for doing unusual and creative things—picked up interested candidates, where company representatives offered them a beer and told them about life in Australia. The company publicized its day-by-day progress on Twitter. Attracting press coverage everywhere from Spanish TV to the Wall Street Journal, Atlassian got 1,000-plus applications—and found 15 great developers willing to move to Australia.

A couple of crucial takeaways: Atlassian realized that recruiting is, as Luijke puts it, “a numbers game” and made efforts to generate enough buzz about its hunt to attract a large pool of talent. And once it found amazing people, Atlassian didn’t waste time. It offered them a job on the spot. “We cherry picked the best of the best,” says Luijke. That’s how creative—and aggressive—you have to be in today’s economy to snag tech talent, before your competitors do.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Are You Really Effective at Problem-solving?

Recently an executive I am coaching mentioned that some of his team members could not think out of the box.  An hour later, one of my partners contacted me because he was frustrated by a potential client’s indecisiveness.  For the second time, he met with “Prospect X” who, at the end of the meeting, indicated he was signing on to work with us. Also for the second time, Prospect X reversed tracks the next day by sending an e-mail that said that he loved what he’d heard at the meeting, but would delay our working together.  While the two incidents may appear unrelated, both have a common thread: Effective problem-solving.

In the first case, my client began the conversation with the comment that his people “could not think out of the box.”  As we got deeper into our conversation he conceded that this was probably a misperception on his part. His real concern was that a particular team member seemed unable to see things from my client’s perspective. He was mistaking that for their ability to solve problems.  We determined that in his conversation with his team members there were two issues going unaddressed: 1) goal clarity and 2) problem definition.

Many times people actively work to solve a “problem” that either is not the core issue or ought not to be solved to begin with. In my experience, this is because goals are not clearly defined or brought into perspective.  Let’s assume your company develops websites for other major companies.  In addition, the technical engineer assigned to program the latest project is not aware that his firm lost money on the last two projects he worked and perceived him as a strong contributing factor to those losses.  The technical engineer wants to start immediately and do the programming the same way he had for the two money-losers.  Instead, the project manager asks him to a planning meeting and asks the technical engineer, “How can we do this project differently?”  A conflict then ensues that has nothing to do with getting this project done.  The technical engineer, who knows a lot more about programming than the project manager, got insulted.  He responded, “Do you not trust me?”  Clearly, the discussion had taken a wrong turn. Why? Was the technical engineer not capable of being creative (i.e., thinking out of the box)?

The answer is “No.” As any good programmer knows, no two projects are exactly alike, and creativity is critical to getting a websites to meet the client’s specifications.  The real issue was how both parties were approaching the web project.  The manager’s goals were to complete the project in less time than was budgeted and exceed the client’s expectations at the same time. The technical engineer saw his job as not reinventing the wheel to complete a project that was similar to two he had already done, which he knew he was more than capable of doing. Had the manager started the discussion stating the goals and establishing the fact that management was not pleased with the two previous jobs, the discussion would have led down a conceptually better path to encourage the creativity needed.

In the second case, the topic that needs to be addressed is roles and responsibilities. My partner did not properly help the client to see how essential our services are to his success and blamed the fact he was not hired on a failure of the other person.  He is only partially correct.  My partner’s role was to help the prospect look at all the facts and determine how to best achieve his goals.  What is the problem here?

My partner believes that the CEO is flaky. Is he correct? Maybe so. However, it could be any of the following issues:

  • My partner may not know what the CEO’s goals are.
  • The CEO does not trust that what is being proposed will work and is just not telling my partner.
  • The company has a cash flow problem and cannot afford us.
  • The CEO does not realize how much revenue he will lose forever because the sales position his company needs will take 90 days to implement.  By delaying the project for five months, the CEO loses five months of sales forever.
  • The CEO want  to shop around before he commits.

Until my partner finds out the real issue he will not be able to sign on this potential client.

We have found that the concepts from the Four Decisions ProgramTM can provide a simple and effective way to help you with problem solving and clearly define goals. Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at (877) 692-6211 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Stay Out of Your Own Way!

Getting in Your Own Way

  • Do you spend significant time feeling that too much is going on?
  • Are you frustrated by how little time you spend on the strategic aspects of the business?
  • Are you doing tasks and involving yourself in things you should not?
  • Are you wondering how to carry less stress, responsibility, and pressure?

You may be bringing all these burdens on yourself and getting in your own way!

Are Your Issues a Personal Issue?

If you answered “Yes” to some or all of the above questions, the solutions to these problems are made difficult. In most cases, the issues you’re experiencing are not positional or company issues. They are personal issues. Executives who suffer from them tend to attribute their predicaments to the nature of their business, or the results of the present economic climate, or weaknesses in their teams, and so on.

It Boils Down to How One Leads

However, I have found that when the pattern persists for a period of time, it traces back to how one leads, one’s mindset about others, and one’s personal comfort zone rather than circumstances. The proof is in watching leaders who in the same circumstances produce better outcomes, and do not feel the stresses or run into the same problems. More importantly, the leaders that are able to break free and learn to become better leaders also are able to scale businesses faster, have more effective teams, create better work environments, more easily recruit employees, and generally have better businesses.

How to Change Leadership Style

The path to changing your leadership style lies in taking a different view of your role and your employees. You have to believe that your employees are talented and want to access their talents. Rather than having just a few people make decisions, you need to engage the entire management team in debate in order to make sure the best decisions are made. After decisions are made, delegate responsibility for execution to the functional managers. Executive leadership and/or owners are responsible for strategy, holding people accountable, and acting as facilitators as issues arise. Doing so can significantly reduce personal pressure, shift accountability for actions off of the executive team, and gain much more leverage within the organization.

Are You Getting in Your Own Way?

Here are key questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you are unconsciously getting in your own way:

  1. How well would your direct reports rate their inclusion in decisions?
  2. How well would your people rate your giving them full autonomy to do their job well?
  3. Would your people accuse you of underutilizing their talents or not even understanding what talents they bring to your organization?
  4. How much of your time is spent setting strategy, coaching and facilitating others versus doing it yourself?

Improving Leadership

If you are interested in improving how well you function as a leader and how your leadership team functions, let’s schedule a time to further discuss your business. Call Activate Group Inc. for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] or send us a message today!