Planning Division of a Prestigious Resort City Dramatically Increases Productivity

The Community Development Division of the City of Aspen was not hitting its goals.

When we started working together the team was accomplishing only 60% of its objectives.

Here’s why: Aspen had a significant problem balancing conflicting interests – and the Community Development Division (CDD) was stuck in the middle of all of it. City leaders wanted to foster responsible growth, and locals wanted to preserve historic sites and limit development.  The CDD did not have a clear structure for sorting through the competing priorities.

As a result, the Division had a difficult time making good decisions and accomplishing their goals.  Team members felt defeated and frustrated. The team leader was worried that key team members would leave, putting the team in an even deeper hole.

The team needed a “reboot” to identify their most important goals, learn to work together effectively, develop a system for balancing competing priorities, making good decisions, and be accountable for success.

I led the team in a year-long program.  The key components were:

  • A retreat to create an annual strategic plan with clear, measurable objectives
  • Monthly meetings to review progress towards goals
  • An online tracking program that enabled every team member to track individual accomplishments. Each team member knew what the others were doing so they could hold each other accountable and stay on track.

Here’s what Chris Bendon, the leader of the team, had to say:

“In our strategic planning meeting, we got clear on a unified purpose based on the values we established as a group.

With most retreats, two weeks later the whole thing disappears. You go back the next year and the same things come up.

Kate’s program had a memory.  We identified a limited number of goals. We met every month to focus on those goals and what we needed to do in the coming month to further each goal.  It stays alive the whole year.

In our monthly meetings we had a safe and structured way to have important conversations that wouldn’t otherwise happen.  We resolved issues and became way more productive.

There’s a software program where you input your goals, you see other people’s goals and how they progressed, you score yourselves and re-enter goals for the next month.

With this program, you’re continually reminded of your strategic goals and you’re closer to the tactics of how to actually accomplish your goals.  You break your big goals down into bite sized pieces and focus on the tasks that you can actually accomplish month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter that will get you to your year-end goal.”

The team went from hitting less than 60% of its objectives to a 94% success rate.  And all the top talent stayed on board and got re-energized.

The return on investment for the program was 2100%.

An IT Team Comes Together to Raise Performance by 33%

A ten person IT team serviced over 600 customers in 50 departments. They had so much work that they couldn’t get it all done.

Budget cutbacks left the team with inadequate resources. They were spending too much time in crisis mode and confused about which projects took priority. Performance had fallen to 70% of their annual objectives.

The team needed to get out of fire fighting mode and leverage their efforts on the high payoff activities that would best serve their clients and achieve project goals.

I facilitated a 12 month program where the team:

  • Clearly devised an annual strategic plan with clear objectives and accountabilities
  • Aligned around top initiatives so everyone was driving for a shared set of goals and not for individual gain
  • Measured and monitored performance every month to ensure short term targets led to long term achievement
  • Developed into a high functioning team that worked well together.

Jim Considine, the IT director had this to say:

“I would describe our work life as chaos.  We were looking for a program that would give us some structure and to help us be more successful in doing our jobs.

One of my big challenges was to direct the work of 10 strong, independent, technically knowledgeable people.  Kate’s program served as a platform to bring those people together to discuss our issues in a more controlled environment than in our normal day to day. People would be forthcoming and say things that they wouldn’t normally say. It gave us time to generate great ideas and to carry them through in our goal setting.

The other thing I would mention is that we had a lot of fun doing it. You know when you can have fun during the pressures and the stress of providing technology to a considerable customer base, it’s a major achievement.

Kate’s program was very successful for us.”

By the end of the year, the team developed powerful systems and processes that improved performance by 33% on the delivery of their annual objectives.

The discipline they learned provided structure for a high performance culture that the team was able to sustain.

A Leader Develops a Mission Critical Team: Sales Goals Exceeded. Promotion Received.

My client, Toni, had 25 years experience in the insurance market.  After many years with the same firm, she was hired by a competitor to develop and launch a new niche product – disability insurance for senior-level executives.

She recruited most of her old team to come with her to launch the new product.  Management set a sales goal, but Toni knew she wanted to exceed that goal.

As her team launched the new product, an opportunity arose for Toni to step into a senior leadership role.  She had trepidation about the bigger job as more than 25 other candidates were being considered.

Our coaching engagement focused on two key areas:

  1. Make Toni a stronger leader of her team – to make them as effective as possible and surpass their sales goal.
  2. Position Toni as the most qualified candidate for the new senior leadership role.

Much of our engagement focused on ensuring that Toni and her team hit their sales goals.  Here’s what we did:

  • Established new structures for the team so Toni could spend more time coaching them rather than getting stuck in less productive activities.
  • Showed Toni how to protect her team’s time from non-critical interruptions, so they could focus on what mattered most: actual selling.
  • Implemented cross selling strategies so that Toni’s team could contribute more to the entire company’s bottom line.

Toni’s team surpassed its own sales goal and was recognized for its contribution to increasing sales in other parts of the company.

Largely based on her team’s outstanding performance, Toni got the promotion – resulting in more money, more visibility and a more strategic role.

“Kate taught me how to position myself to make a quantum leap in my career.  I knew I was qualified for the senior leadership role but I didn’t know how to go about getting it.  She showed me how to highlight my strongest skills and talents.  My confidence grew as I pressed through multiple interviews and questionnaires. I secured a big job that I previously wouldn’t have been able to sell myself into before our work together.”

Leadership Team Reduces Debt Levels and Sustains Positive Growth After Mergers and Acquisitions

One of the largest parking and transportation service corporations in North America grew significantly through mergers and acquisitions.  As a result, they accrued considerable debt. Furthermore, the corporate team had conflicting views due to different cultural and operational approaches to the business.

The corporation prided itself on its entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging regional managers to be accountable for the facilities in their areas.  Accordingly, the newly acquired parts of the organization expected to continue to do business as they always had.  While this may have been locally advantageous, it prevented consistency and economies of scale.   This set off a mindset of “us vs. them” among groups in different regions or from different parent organizations.  Trust levels were low and employees were not empowered to take ownership for results (ironically, the opposite of their entrepreneurial intentions).

Despite its growth, the leadership team was not aligned in the corporation’s direction.  This slowed momentum in achieving expected economies and producing future results.

The client leadership team powerfully engaged in the year-long planning and execution process to strengthen their performance and results.

The team acknowledged that they had been using their differences as excuses for not achieving their objectives, rather than viewing the diversities as assets that could strengthen their performance together.  They adopted a new mindset of “We win when we trust, empower and commit to each other.”   With this paradigm as a context for their work together, they were able to appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences, extract the ideas of all team members, and focus their attention on their goals as a team.

In the words of the CEO, “We stayed focused on our plan.  (The team) narrowed the gap between what they say they will do and what they actually accomplish.”

Measurable Results:
The corporation’s revenues were up 18%. This is astounding since they achieved this shortly after 9/11 when their competitor’s revenues were down an average of 43%.

Over the course of three years, they reduced the corporate debt levels, successfully took the company public, and sustained their growth through predictable operational results and further acquisition.

In addition to strengthening their teaming behavior, the new leaders began to shift the corporate culture from a command-and-control model to a collaborative, empowering team model. They gained respect and confidence from their investor community, their clients, and their own people.