Predictions 01

My Predictions – #1 Continuous Transformation

When I entered the corporate world over 40 years ago, change wasn’t something you did much of, and you certainly didn’t talk about it. Organizations existed to execute work, and most pretty much did the same thing day after day. When there was change, employees normally accepted it without question.

Fast forward to today. The marketplace demands more and faster innovation and vastly improved customer experiences. Therefore, organizations must reinvent themselves regularly. Organizations must also enroll employees more fully to satisfy the talent pool’s insatiable desire to make a difference.

This leads to my prediction that more organizations will develop a culture of continuous transformation – a culture that continuously evaluates and rapidly implements change.

The implications of this on organizational design and leadership behavior are significant. In his book Team of Teams, Stanley McChrystal tells us that one key reason we had so much trouble in the Middle East in the mid-2000s was because our military had a historically hierarchical structure. Staff in one area were artificially constrained from fast, open communications with staff in other areas. This created a situation where it took too much time to regroup as ISIS popped up here and there. McChrystal’s team learned the enemy’s organizational structure was spatial. There were no specific reporting relationships. Everyone had complete open access to everyone else.

The other factor is that as the iGeneration matures and enters the workforce, they will identify, accept, embrace, and execute change faster and more proficiently. Senior leaders must prepare for this by hiring and encouraging bright young people who can help them transform – and accept that they may not do it the way they might prefer.

This all means that leaders must give up the old command and control management techniques. Yes, you still need some form of control since there are goals to obtain and finances to manage. As we move to continuous transformation, leaders become coaches, and guide rather than control the work going forward.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.


Thanksgiving 2019

How Will You Express Your Gratitude?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Every year as I think about Thanksgiving, I always think about the first few years my parents and I spent Thanksgiving “on the farm” in southwest Michigan. Our first Thanksgiving there, in 1966, consisted of reduced rations since we had not yet acquired any appliances or furniture. It was a real adventure for me as a small boy exploring our new 30-acre farm complete with hills, orchards, vineyards and a fantastic creek that kept me busy for hours.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for growing up in different settings – urban, suburban and rural. As a result, I was exposed to numerous cultures and gained appreciation and respect for others. Today I am sharing a traditional Thanksgiving meal with my daughter and her family. I’m grateful to be with them.

I am also grateful for the great work I’ve been able to do with many clients across several industries. To show this gratitude, each year I provide one pro-bono project for a Chicago based not-for-profit focused on underserved youth. Read more at

How will you express your gratitude today?

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Culture Impacts

How Culture Impacts Transformation

There are several cultural factors that impact your ability to affect large scale, transformational change. One factor is “Risk Adaptation,” or the ability of your organization to identify and adapt to risk.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.


Jim Burda

How to Build a Team

I recently had the opportunity to speak with my friend and colleague, Jim Burda. Jim is the Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer for GF Sports in New York. We discussed the transformation he is currently leading as GF Sports moves from owning sporting events to purchasing and operating a sports team. That team is the professional lacrosse team, the New York Riptide. Their opening night is December 28 at NYCB Live, home of Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Jim: There are several elements to this. You must recognize that you do this with your team both individually and collectively. You are taking your team on a guided discussion to create a new culture. You help them move out of their respective comfort zones by sharing the why’s and then the how’s. Listening skills are critical. It’s also critical to keep a positive attitude.

Steve: Tell me how acquiring and integrating Riptide was particularly challenging or rewarding for you.

Jim: As with any transformational change, it begins with having a clear vision of success. In this case, we wanted to create an organization to support the Riptide and help it be hugely successful. There were setbacks such as temporary poor office space, marketing challenges, and technology issues. I instituted a program from a previous role dubbed “PS2” – “problem spot / problem solve.” We created a problem-solving culture, as only problem spotting creates complaining without solutions.

Steve: How did you clarify purpose?

Jim: I’m a fan of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, particularly “begin with the end in mind.” We collectively defined that the goal for 12/28 was not just to have a financially successful first event, but to have a collaborative culture in the organization. We discussed why this was critical to our success, and then we identified how we would achieve this. By doing this collectively I was able to engage the entire team.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address it?

Jim: I had an advantage since I was building the organization from the ground up. When I hired new team members, I looked for basic technical capabilities, but more importantly I looked for key traits. Did they demonstrate a willingness to work collectively? Were they humble in their approach?

I also meet one on one with every team member. I listen non-judgmentally which in turn allows people to express themselves and feel confident about their work. This supports the notion of enrolling each employee individually. This also allows me to address issues that I don’t even know exist.

Steve: Were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Jim: The parent company, GF Capital, has been highly successful for 20 years. In creating this new division, we perceived their expectations that we resolve issues faster since they had a long-established team. This was not the case at all. They helped with problem-solving. They demonstrated a human side suggesting we are all in this together. Sometimes our perceptions prevent us from seeing and acting on reality more quickly.

Steve: Please comment on any organizational challenges you faced, both structural and behavioral.

Jim: By having one on one discussions balanced with team discussions, I demonstrated that I was going to be as open as possible. We made decisions quickly and encouraged everyone to be entrepreneurial. While all of this was positive, it caused some disbelief among new team members, so it took some time to convince them that this openness was real.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Jim: In the areas we were struggling I needed to ensure I am going through the same challenges. For example, we were struggling with ticket sales, especially with a late launch to our marketing, so I started making phone calls to sell tickets to experience the same obstacles. We had morning huddles with the group to discuss feedback we received from our calls. As we discussed these struggles together, it gave me a great deal of insight and it increased my credibility.

Steve: What is advice you would give to aspiring transformational leaders?

Jim: Trust your people yet verify their results. Don’t assume that no news is good news. Conversely, don’t assume that when you hear something that it means you have an issue. Listening and giving feedback shows that you care.

Steve: Jim, thank you so much for sharing your insight on transformational leadership, and best wishes for great success at your opening night, December 28.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.


Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

How I See Transformational Change Changing

Yes, we can handle all this change!

I see three trends related to transformational change that are gaining momentum. Continuously transforming organizations, closing the strategy to execution gap, and solving what I call the Integrity Deficit Syndrome.

Continuous Transformation. I’m not talking agile. I’m not talking continuous improvement. I describe this as a culture that continuously evaluates and implements change at lighting speed.

Improved Strategy to Execution Success. A recent meta-study (a study of studies) looked at the issues that prevent strategy execution success. These studies tend to agree on the reasons: lack of clarity of the message, lack of leadership, and lack of clear execution plans.

Greater Focus on Integrity. Everyday it seems we read about integrity failures in organizational leadership. Everyday. People lose faith in organizations when their leaders misbehave – or worst yet cover up their misbehavior. This integrity deficit plagues transformational change.

We will explore each of these in more detail in the coming weeks.

We can handle all this change. Our organizations will continue to successfully drive positive transformational change and do so at higher rates of speed. It comes at a price – we must learn to close the strategy execution gap, and we must always take the higher road. Always.

I think it’s worth the price.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How Transformational Leadership and OCM Work Together to Help you Succeed

You need both transformational leadership and strong change management to lead your transformation to success. Transformational leadership includes things you must do yourself to prepare you, your leadership and the organization to begin the work. Change management includes the day-to-day work your team will execute to drive the change forward. This includes communication, education, training, resistance assessments, risk evaluation and a myriad of other items focused on execution.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Transformational Leadership Requires Repetitive Communication, Humility, and Belief

Michael Moyer is the Director, Wine and Viticulture Technology at Lake Michigan College (LMC) in Benton Harbor, Michigan. LMC boasts the only school of its kind in the Midwest to teach both grape growing and wine making. The operation, run by students, produces small batch wines. The program operates out of the new Welch Center, a new facility celebrated in an August 27 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Steve: Your history is fascinating. Please tell our readers a little about your entry into the wine business.

Michael: I attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. We had a study abroad program, and I opted to go to Dijon, France. At the time, all I knew about was mustard. I knew nothing about burgundy. I lived with a family there, and like most native French, there was a great deal of wine consumed. My first day there, the father took two five-gallon cans to town and filled them from big tanks. One red wine, the other white. This was their everyday wine. He had nicer wine in the cellar for guests and special occasions. I visited many wineries and barrel tasted many wines. I was hooked. When I returned home, I decided to enter the grape and wine program at the University of California – Davis. I began working in wineries in California and then Washington. I worked seven years at Walla Walla Community College, and then spent 5 vintages making wine for Figgins Family Wine Estates, producers of Leonetti, Figgins, and Doubleback (Doubleback has their own winery now).  I met the folks from Lake Michigan College while they were visiting Leonetti. They enticed me to consider working for their new grape and wine program. I was intrigued, but expected Michigan wines to be apple, cherry and sweet. They sent me a case of fantastic wine from three southwestern Michigan wineries and I was impressed. They were making high quality wines. I accepted LMC’s offer, and here I am!

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Michael: This is all about transforming the perception of Chicago wine consumers. This means transforming the way we do things in southwest Michigan, from vineyard selection and management to bottling our final products. I am passionate about the potential of southwest Michigan, and the opportunity to make world class wines is tremendous. This takes humility and requires teaching and coaching. You must be open minded and willing to try new ideas.

Steve: Tell me about a time when this was particularly challenging or rewarding for you. What was the situation, what did you do, how did it work out?

Michael: I was surprised at the culture here. Here we were conducting fund-raising events for our grape and wine center, and the organizers would not pour Michigan wines. I found myself repeating and reinforcing the notion that if we are trying to raise funds to raise the profile of our region, we ought to promote our own products. I had a few arguments about this but continued to “beat the drum” to bring folks along.

Steve: How did you clarify the purpose of your transformation?

Michael: We are consistent about our identity and our mission. We repeat this at every opportunity. This requires a great deal of education, communication and repetition. It also requires us to focus on making quality product.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address this?

Michael: The leadership of LMC has generally been very supportive, but there were some exceptions that made it difficult. In addition to showcasing local wines, we also made it difficult for new students to engage with the program. College leaders were not convinced or aligned with the purpose of the program. We have resolved this with more repetitive communication.

Steve: Were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Michael: Within LMC I have a great deal of support. My leader lets me do my job. She recognizes that she doesn’t know everything and lets me be the expert in the room. I also have great support from local industry leaders.

Regarding the area wineries, however, there was some vocal opposition to us selling our wines – those that came from the program and made by the students. Some viewed us a competitor, not collaborators. If you look across the most successful wine regions of the world, it’s about cooperation and working together to market a region. It’s not about one winery being better than another. We have a huge opportunity to make a name for southwest Michigan. We need to work together. This is improving, though we have a way to go.

Steve: How did you enroll others in the transformation?

Michael: At LMC, I just keep doing what I am doing, and repeating the message. I help others realize the importance of our work. And I give them time to sort it out in their own minds.

About the area wineries, I don’t let the argument amplify. We can agree to disagree. I stay my course. I seek common ground where possible. Most are supportive.

Steve: Please comment on organizational challenges you faced, both structural and behavioral. (structural = team structure and make up; behavioral = trust, conflict, humility, etc.)

Michael: My mantra has always been to do what is best for the industry here in southwest Michigan. Sometimes I need to reflect on this and make sure I’m focused in this manner. This requires humility and introspection.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Michael: I believe in what we are doing. I believe in the mission. I believe the best way to achieve the goal is to be collaborative. Get along. Agree to disagree, but don’t be disrespectful, and operate from that platform. We must recognize that if we’re going to put southwestern Michigan on the map, we are dependent upon each other.

Steve: If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Michael: Be a good team player. Invest in the right people. Take care of them. You get what you pay for – extra investment goes a long way. Organizations sell themselves short when they skimp.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How White-Water Rafting Illustrates Leadership Alignment

My son, grandson and I recently had the opportunity to enjoy white water rafting on Colorado’s Poudre River. It was a great experience – one we enjoyed a great deal.

There were six of us in our raft, guided by a young man named Dakota. Clearly Dakota knew what he was doing as he almost effortlessly guided us down the rocky waters.

As we began our journey, Dakota spent about 10 minutes educating us on our upcoming experience, and the various commands he would use to tell us how to navigate. “Back two” means to back paddle twice. “Right forward three” tells the people on the right side of the raft to paddle three times forward while us on the left do nothing. It was clear that Dakota understood clearly that how action on one side of the raft would affect the motion of the entire raft, and how it would impact the actions of folks on the other side of the raft.

As we floated rapidly down the rock infested Poudre, it occurred to me that this was a perfect example of aligning leaders to execute transformational change.

  1. It’s essential that everyone understand the purpose and outcomes related to the transformation. In our case it was a safe and enjoyable rafting experience where we all stayed relatively dry. Dakota made this clear.
  2. Your leadership team needs to know your expectations of them. Clear and simple direction about how to navigate through the transformation is required. Of course, in a business setting, you will more than likely collaborate to determine the course of action.
  3. Your leadership team needs to understand how change in one area of the organization will impact work in other parts of the organization. In this way they can course correct as necessary as you proceed through the transformation.
  4. Involve everyone. When you proceed through an organizational transformation, your entire leadership team must have a role. There’s no one on the sidelines. This extends to your full organization. To reach a sustainable outcome, everyone is involved.

I am happy to report that our rafting experience was 100% successful and 200% fun! There were no overturned rafts, or any injuries. I was a little sore the next day from all the paddling. It was clearly worth it.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.





The Three Most Frequently Asked Questions

Recently a colleague asked me to share the three questions I most often field from clients.

What is it that we are really trying to accomplish? In summary this is all about clarity of purpose. When leaders ask me this question, sometimes it’s rhetorical, but often, it’s a real question to help them sort out clarity for their goals. I’ve written volumes about this topic in this column, and in the Chicago Business Journal. Here is one of my personal favorites.

What stands in the way of our progress? Typically, this references resistance. Organizational resistance to transformational change can be a real roadblock. Yet it doesn’t have to be. You can learn from it and use it to help navigate your organization to the outcomes you desire. Here are a couple of columns that explore this in detail, and how to leverage it for success.

How to align the leadership team to the outcomes? Cross-functional dysfunction is more often rooted in misalignment at goals at the top of the organization. A recent McKinsey study notes that 83% of executives believe there are silos in their organization, and 97% believe silos create issues for their company. Read my column next week – it explores this further and provides simple guidance to follow to resolve cross-functional dysfunction.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Send me an email, and we’ll feature your question in this column.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How Inquiry vs. Advocacy can Mitigate Resistance

We recently had a ceiling repaired in one of our condo bathrooms. The cause of the damage was poorly sealed plumbing in the unit above ours. A contractor was selected to do the work. Working with them to schedule the repairs was easy. Working with the gentleman who did the work provides a case study in advocacy vs. inquiry and managing resistance. We will call him Sam.

Sam appeared at our door on time on the day we had scheduled the work. As he began the work, he explained that the damage was caused by poor ventilation in our bathroom, and the wrong vent grill. Sam was persistent about advocating his rationale for our issues despite my challenge to his rationale. I politely disagreed with his assessment – I was resistant. We agreed that he would talk with the building maintenance team to find out about proper ventilation.

Sam returned the next day to complete the job. I asked him what he had learned from our maintenance team and it was clear that he had not spoken with them at all. Instead he continued to advocate for his position that the ventilation was wrong, and I should take action to correct it. Later that day I did in fact speak with our maintenance supervisor who assured me that I was right about the damage, the leak and the ventilation.

Sam’s handling of this issue illustrates two important transformational leadership behaviors – and how not to demonstrate them.

The first is advocacy vs. inquiry. If you are trying to change someone’s perception of a situation, you will not gain any ground by continuing to advocate your position, and not asking questions about why people think the way they do. Not once in our exchange did Sam ask me how I came to believe why the situation had occurred, my previous experience with construction (I built a house 20 years ago), or my tenure with the bathroom. Had he asked questions to better understand my position, he would have built some credibility.

The other is handling resistance. This goes hand in hand with advocacy vs. inquiry. I clearly rejected Sam’s diagnosis of the problem and he knew it. We agreed to a course of action. He failed to follow through with it. Had he explored why I rejected his diagnosis (inquiry), followed through with his commitment to find out more information, and demonstrate some willingness to adjust his course of action, we might have had a more positive outcome. We would at least be aligned. We weren’t. He completed the project and left reinforcing the idea that the ventilation was to blame. I simply said thank you and closed the door.

Don’t be like Sam. Take time to understand others’ points of view when you are leading a transformation. Then take action to address concerns and follow through with those who express concern. You’ll build credibility, improve your leadership, and have a far greater chance of success.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.