Major in the Majors

Major in the Majors

APPROXIMATELY 4-MINUTE READ

Major in the Majors

Business books come and go, but it takes more than a cursory reading to gain the benefits they offer. When you apply the principles you read about, the results can be transformative. One example is Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

This book is part of the core discussion for one of the executive peer groups that I lead, and I’m privileged to have seen how it played out as the foundation for some real-life success stories.

Take a moment to look around and consider the plethora of choices we’re exposed to every day. From entire grocery store aisles dedicated to pet food options to a limitless supply of goods that appeal to our human desires–fountain pens, clothing, shoes, fashion, household goods and electronics. We have available an immense selection of TV and entertainment programming choices to entertain us as well as newsletters, podcasts and other sources of information all vying for a chunk of our finite attention. It’s easy to see how the allure of “more” permeates our culture.

That sense that “more is better” creeps into our minds until we deliberately take a step back and reframe the conversation to focus on “less but better.”

Essentialism gets its share of attention. As an executive coach, I’ve seen the beneficial results of this shift in focus. I’d like to walk you through an example. Also, as an executive coach, confidentiality is a cornerstone of my practice, so while the process and transformative power of focus described are real, the client I’ll discuss is a composite C-suite executive. Who knows, you just might recognize yourself in this picture

 

Situation: Overwhelmed and under-producing

Our executive is Sarah Mitchell, the Chief Operating Officer of a tech firm that’s growing fast. She has been under constant pressure with responsibilities that include overseeing operations, implementing strategic initiatives and managing critical relationships–within the organization and with clients.

A multitude of issues and topics competed for her attention and pulled her in several directions. Sarah’s days were spent balancing an endless stream of shifting priorities that took the form of urgent emails, texts, and Slack messages that arrived between–or during–seemingly constant meetings and added to her never-ending to-do list.

Despite long, busy hours struggling to address every pressing issue, she ended each day feeling she had accomplished little and questioned the value of her efforts. At this point I introduced Sarah to the concept of focusing on a few top priorities instead of on the many thoughts, ideas, and to-do items that occupied her time.

 

Implementation: Foundational steps toward “less but better”

Our discussion centered on exploring how her attention was distributed. Spread thin across an array of responsibilities her effectiveness was diluted; concentrating her attention instead on a few key priority areas could enhance her clarity and improve productivity.

We created a strategy for Sarah to use in her work day built upon these steps:

Identify core priorities
Sarah sifted through her responsibilities and identified the three most crucial that aligned with the company’s objectives. For her, these were scaling the operations team, optimizing the supply chain, and building collaboration across departments. Your goals may differ, but limit the list to three items.

Delegate and eliminate non-essentials
While many tasks are valuable, not all tasks require Sarah’s personal attention. Sarah determined her three priorities, and evaluated the rest. She assessed each one in light of her overall goals, delegating work to qualified team members and eliminating non-essential tasks.

Apply time blocking
Each of the three identified priorities earns specific, dedicated time blocks on Sarah’s daily schedule. Based on the timing of her best energy and peak focus, she allocates blocks of time to work on these three focus areas and commits to her plan. I encouraged Sarah to intentionally block in time to think, read, and plan. In addition, I recommended incorporating clarity breaks in her schedule–time to take a walk or get out of the usual environment. Breaks like this provide space for the mind to creatively process all that it has taken in. Although it may seem counterintuitive, these breaks can be a game changer as I’ve learned through work with clients.

Review regularly
At the end of each day, and again at the end of each week, Sarah reviewed her progress and plans for the next day and week. This gives her an opportunity to make adjustments while ensuring she remains aligned with her goals.

 

Outcome: Clarity, productivity and confidence

Significant changes appeared within the first month. Instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed, Sarah gained improvements in focus and results toward her objectives. Over a three-month period, overall results include:

Increased productivity
Daily and weekly reviews allowed Sarah to see the progress she was making toward her goals. By the end of this three month period, she had accomplished, or made significant progress toward each one of her objectives.

Enhanced clarity
Maintaining tight focus on a limited number of focus areas helped intensify her focus and gave her greater clarity. Her decision-making abilities improved, and her stress level went down.

Mastery and confidence
With a narrow focus and fewer distractions pulling her away, Sarah could invest more of her ability into each project, producing a sense of mastery that significantly boosted her confidence.

 

Takeaway

An intentional, disciplined focus on a small number of priority focus areas intensified Sarah’s effectiveness, revealing the power of focusing on the few rather than the many. Eliminating distractions while improving decision making strengthened her control and mastery of her responsibilities, and that increased her confidence as an executive.

Make no mistake, these changes required dedicated effort, but the results were clear. Accountability, a community of peers, and executive coaching contributed to the effectiveness and accelerated Sarah’s progress. Do Sarah’s challenges sound familiar? If you’re reflecting on how you could begin to trade chaos for focus, why not grab a spot on my calendar and let’s talk.


Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting
where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams,
leaders, and organizations.

Major in the Majors

Better Decisions Fuel Success

APPROXIMATELY 4-MINUTE READ

Better Decisions Fuel Success

Helping business leaders to achieve more and build their professional and personal success is what brings lasting significance to my own career. Changing the way leaders guide their companies and make decisions affects an entire community, including the lives of employees and their families. Better decisions drive better results and more productive and successful businesses.

As leaders gain balance and perspective, they become more engaged in the community and the whole region can benefit.

Throughout a professional career of business leadership and executive coaching, I’ve gained wisdom from many sources and experiences. Always receptive to new ideas and seeking improvement, I have refined my business practices over the years and apply advice I share with others.

Most recently, I’ve chosen to align the RoundTable Consulting business coaching practice with the widely known and highly respected Vistage organization.

This was not a difficult decision to make. Instead, it was a natural fit that allows me to continue to enhance my own skills and abilities while offering a wider and deeper array of resources to the clients who work with me.

 

Why Vistage?

Proven structure
Vistage has a longstanding record of success through confidential peer advisory groups–a structure that I have used successfully for a long time. For more than 65 years the formula of drawing CEOs into an environment away from their daily responsibilities, where they can focus exclusively on their business, has succeeded, building companies that have outperformed their competition. Since its founding in 1957, more than 100,000 CEOs have participated in Vistage groups; today there are more than 45,000 active members in 35 countries.

Advanced resources
Proprietary research, an extensive body of thought leadership content, and access to a community of more than 1000 speakers and workshop leaders support Vistage peer groups. By introducing Vistage to our community, I can now offer my clients access to an even richer pool of resources.

Record of success
The success of Vistage members is measurable. A comparison of the growth of member companies to those of similar size through D&B shows that member companies on average grew 2.2 times faster. That record of CEO performance can be attributed to the effectiveness of the methods and to the inherently high performing characteristics of the membership.

Relationships that refine Connecting leaders from a variety of non-competing industries creates the environment for innovation and fresh ideas to flourish; collaboration in this setting is multiplied in effectiveness. Accountability is an important aspect of the groups. It produces results and motivates participants to follow through, while confidentiality establishes a safe place that breaks down the isolation CEOs so often experience.

 

Why RoundTable Consulting?

The Chairs selected by Vistage to conduct CEO Peer Groups are hand-picked. Becoming a Chair means joining an elite group of seasoned business leaders, highly qualified in leading businesses. Among other required qualifications to become a Vistage Chair, a leader must have achieved personal success as a CEO, business owner or senior executive and weathered the challenges of having full responsibility for an organization.

As a Chair, I bring the accumulated wisdom of a long career as a business owner as well as experience gained throughout a career in business consulting. My perspective in championing organizational health adds another unique dimension to my leadership style.

Mentoring, guiding, and facilitating to maximize the skills and leadership of CEOs and others is what provides purpose for my work. When the lives and performance of leaders are changed, whole communities can change–colleagues, staff, customers, suppliers, and more. Gaining the ability to make better, stronger, and faster decisions builds confidence and effectiveness that flows into other areas of life.

 

Why Vistage at RoundTable Consulting?

There’s a unique synergy between a peer advisory group leader and the participants of each group. In part, this is shaped by the individual leadership style, character, and approach of the leader in addition to the leader’s experience.

The Vistage CEO Peer Group model includes one-on-one coaching sessions with the group chair, giving participants individualized mentoring and objective guidance to help identify and refine the issues to raise within the group that will bring the most far-reaching results.

Choosing to join a Vistage CEO Peer Group through RoundTable Consulting provides access to a rich supply of proprietary research and noteworthy workshop speakers, in addition to the experience of executive peers. Using a local, in-person advisory group model, partnership with Vistage introduces this specific premier coaching service to our community and region; as it grows, so will the network of connections increase.

When it’s time to take action on the results of advisory group discussions, RoundTable Consulting offers a broad range of business consulting services that complement the CEO Peer Group, including executive coaching, facilitation, and strategic planning.

Groups are forming now. Take a few minutes for a conversation; let’s explore the options and see if a Vistage Peer Group is right for you.


Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting
where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams,
leaders, and organizations.

Major in the Majors

The Power of a Peer Advisory Group

APPROXIMATELY 4-MINUTE READ

The Power of a Peer Advisory Group

As a CEO or business owner, the best decisions you make for your business involve developing the people who make up your teams to become better leaders, to make better decisions, and to drive better outcomes in business and in life. Now is the time to invest in yourself in the exact same way.

You might feel it’s too late for a New Year’s resolution, but it’s not too late to take a step that could dramatically energize your business and your life outside the office.

As a CEO or business owner, you have the vision and the authority to make things happen at every level. You also have an impossibly full schedule with little room to squeeze in one more activity. But if that activity is joining a peer advisory group, that single step can bring deep and lasting benefits to you and your company.

Time is a precious resource. Beyond spending it wisely, it’s important to spend it in a way that multiplies its value. Consider the focusing question Gary Keller asks in his book, The ONE Thing, “what is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

Imagine the insights you might receive in bringing your struggles and opportunities to a group of CEOs who have perspectives on similar issues. The benefits that you can derive from joining a peer advisory group pay dividends that reach into all areas of life.

 

Freedoms vs constraints

The freedom to make decisions, take risks, and control your own destiny are associated with the role of CEO or business owner. At the same time, these freedoms are constrained by a sense of isolation and the feeling that there’s no one to talk to about sensitive issues, openly and trustingly, within the organization.

In a peer advisory group, composed of 12 or more leaders from non-competing industries, the balance changes. You’re no longer alone at the top. Instead you become part of a group that shares a common goal of making better decisions that drive to better outcomes.

 

Questions vs clarity

When the full responsibility of your business is on your shoulders, you can find yourself deeply immersed in the day-to-day action. Situations arise–whether problems or opportunities–and you’re without the necessary perspective needed to act.

A peer advisory group brings together a select group of high-caliber individuals, executives in diverse industries, who share some common interests and concerns. The group helps you gain perspective, to avoid the tunnel vision that leads you to always respond to similar challenges the same way.

Confidentiality and trust within the group provide the structure that allows for open and honest sharing. Mutual respect and a common focus on better decision making create the setting for powerful conversations that lead to growth that can’t be achieved on your own.

 

Inaction vs accountability

Change is hard, even when the results are strongly desired. It’s easy to slip back to old ways– just look at the typical pattern of New Year’s resolutions. Accountability, particularly to a group or to someone you respect, changes the dynamic entirely. A peer advisory group fulfills this function. When you’re the boss, who has the authority to really keep you accountable?

In-person peer advisory groups are being formed with these challenges and goals in mind.

As a seasoned business coach leading peer advisory groups for nearly a decade, I have chosen to expand my practice by partnering with Vistage and taken on the role of Vistage Chair.

The peer group model creates an effective space for CEOs to come together and share in a way that helps them become better leaders, make better decisions, and drive better outcomes in business and in life.

At this point, I am looking for growth-minded CEOs from non-competing industries who are committed to growing their businesses and themselves in the next few years.

If this is something you’d like to explore, why not schedule a 15-minute call so we can determine if this might be a good fit for you?

 


Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting
where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams,
leaders, and organizations.

Major in the Majors

Achieve Alignment with Facilitation

Achieve Alignment with Facilitation

We’ve all been there. In meetings that lose focus, wander far off topic, and drag on endlessly. Or other meetings where the “discussion” is so tightly constrained and alternative views so unwelcome, any real dialog is stifled.

When the stakes are high and the issues at hand are deeply important to the organization — or involve points that involve differences of opinion or strong emotion — you can’t afford to have unproductive meetings.

A facilitator may not be a magician, but the work they do can bring order, harmony, and clarity to the most critical discussions organizations face. Facilitation makes the group better together, building a synergy that leads to action and results. Let’s take a quick look at what you can expect.

How does facilitation differ from running a meeting?

The critical point of differentiation is that a facilitator helps the group reach their goals as a neutral party, without defining or influencing the outcome. As a leader guiding a group through a structured process, a facilitator is not a contributor to the points of discussion. The facilitator’s objective is to help the group arrive at results that are accepted and understood by the participants. Simply running a meeting, on the other hand, often maintains a tight focus on a set agenda, conveying information, delegating tasks, and working toward a pre-defined outcome.

Who can be a facilitator?

While it might be tempting to tap the CEO or other executive for the role of facilitator, that’s not always the best choice. The traits that allow an individual to excel as CEO are not the same ones that describe the best facilitators. When the facilitator is the CEO, it can be hard for other participants to see past the CEO’s rank. For example, many times participants are reluctant to speak as freely as they otherwise might, which can substantially alter the quality of discussions.

It is possible that facilitators can come from within the ranks of your organization, if they bring the right set of skills and qualifications and are prepared to function in a neutral rather than participatory role. A vital part of facilitation is ensuring that all participants are engaged and contributing. That includes cultivating input from more reticent participants as well as politely preventing stronger — or more senior — participants from controlling the conversation.

An in-house facilitator does face additional hurdles. Ensuring equal engagement in discussion may be difficult because it could be hard for a facilitator to push back against a CEO or superior in a meeting in order to give everyone’s views equal treatment.

A professional facilitator from outside your organization can politely and effectively control the discussion to ensure that all participants are treated equally and ensure that all views are considered, without fear of repercussions. The setting becomes a place of safety and trust.

What situations call for a facilitator?

Strategic planning sessions, off-site retreats, board meetings, innovation sessions, corporate summits, and campaign kick-offs are just some of the situations that benefit from leadership of a professional facilitator. Tough or politically charged discussions and complex issues are more easily resolved when a professional facilitator shepherds the process.

In other words, facilitation makes things easier for the participants and the organization to identify and solve problems and move forward together. Participants and stakeholders have greater opportunity to listen, understand and focus to achieve true collaboration. Discussions become richer because those around the table feel respected and accepted — and more willing to share their views.

What should you look for in a facilitator?

When you’re choosing a professional facilitator to work with your organization, it helps to keep in mind some of the key traits a facilitator should possess. A facilitator should be:

  • Impartial
  • Perceptive
  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Adaptable

To be effective, a facilitator must be an active listener capable of motivating the group. He or she should have a positive attitude and be skilled at managing emotion and setting the tone for the group. Choose a facilitator with knowledge in your industry or business; especially for retreats or development sessions, the facilitator should be equipped with tools and exercises that will help develop participant skills, promote engagement, and improve the overall process of building the team.

When you engage RoundTable Consulting to facilitate, you’ll be working with a professional who creates a comfortable safe environment for participants while establishing accountability and helping the leadership to achieve alignment and effective communication that cascades throughout the organization.

It all begins with a conversation. Contact me for a free consultation and let’s talk about how I can help your organization achieve the results you need



Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations.

Major in the Majors

Be Proactive, Not Reactive, with the Right Strategic Plan

Coachability Leads to Success

Every new year is ripe with potential as we look forward to what we can accomplish in the months ahead. The chaos that has characterized the last couple of years has taught us that uncertainty won’t ever go away; tidy predictability is not part of our world, nor will it ever be, despite the relief we feel at once again being able to meet in person, shake hands, and conduct business in more familiar ways.

We know that holding on to the status quo or preventing change is not possible. We do, however, have an effective response. We can prepare for the future with a strategic plan. Planning puts your organization in a proactive position–anticipating, and preparing for, what could be ahead. Predictions, like those from Michael Weidokal, may offer a sense of what could be in store, but a strategic plan provides the structure to guide your organization’s response to events that come along so you can keep moving forward.

While strategic planning can be done as a regular activity of business for an in-house team, sometimes organizations need a helping hand. The process often requires tough conversations and honest answers that could be divisive. A skilled business consultant can help you navigate the process, bringing neutrality to discussions and ensuring both full participation and accountability from key stakeholders.

Before you can move ahead, you have to know where you are. The process begins by assessing your organization to find what’s working and what’s not. Take stock of the health of the relationships that drive your organization; make sure any communications or functional problems are addressed before embarking on further plans.

On your own or with a business consultant, a classic SWOT analysis will help identify the strengths and weaknesses within your organization and the opportunities and threats that affect it. Clear, honest, and objective thinking is involved here as you truly assess your strengths. Identify where you may be throwing resources at a weakness instead of using them to enhance a strength. Remember that opportunities may require hard work and what may appear to be easy wins could prove to be nothing more than a tempting distraction from your core purpose.

As your strategic plan takes shape, be sure that your team has a clear understanding of the difference between a strategy and a wishful list of ambitions. Richard Rumelt, professor emeritus at UCLA Anderson School of Management, points out that too often a list of aspirations masquerades as a strategy. He recommends isolating the main challenge your organization faces and focusing on this one item as the basis of strategy. Rumelt says, “Strategy is problem-solving. It is how you overcome the obstacles that stand between where you are and what you want to achieve.”

With strategy clarified, actions and goals defined, your strategic plan becomes a roadmap for your future. The plan doesn’t end there, residing in a binder on a shelf, where it gathers dust. It must be implemented then reviewed on a consistent basis.

For a strategic plan to be effective alignment is necessary; as a recent Gallup article points out, “executives must align around a shared understanding of purpose.” Similarly, Rumelt, in his article, “Getting Strategy Wrong–and How to Do It Right Instead,” connects alignment with the need for focus as the most crucial element of strategy. Concentration is not scattered energy, splintered by different agendas. Instead, it is “the coordinated application of resources and effort to an important yet addressable challenge.” Effective coordination that focuses power on the right target to bring results begins with leadership that is aligned.

Whether you seek the assistance of an experienced consultant or work your way through the planning steps on your own, your organization will reap the benefits of improved efficiency from aligned leadership and a structure that will help to guide you through challenging times.

Where are you on this journey? As a business consultant experienced in strategic planning, facilitation and executive coaching, I help organizations move forward effectively. Are you ready to move forward with confidence? Let’s talk. Click here and let’s get the conversation started.

 



Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations.