Cathy McCullough says the reward is in the "ah ha" moments her clients express, the healing relationships she facilitates and the spike in production following a frustrating, stagnant plateau. Her clients appreciate her "contagious passion, sincere care and unquenchable energy."

LeaderHuddle Blog

The Balance of Strategic Thinking - Part IV: Strategy and People

Many executive-level leaders laugh at working toward getting in touch with the people-side of their business. They usually feel they have better things to do. Yet, these same leaders struggle with very similar types of people questions, such as: "Why is our turnover so high?" "Why don't people just do what we need them to do?" "What's their problem?!" Sometimes these leadership frustrations come out as a simple statement instead of as a question. In moments of desperation, more than one executive has said to me over time: "...if we just didn't have to work with people!" Read More...

The Balance of Strategic Thinking, Part III: Setting Sail...

It was a less-than-energetic discussion between the executive team members. The subjects of my prior blog (The Balance of Strategic Thinking, Part II) were frustrated and confused--except for the head of acquisitions. He was, if you remember, well ahead of his metrics for the prior year. But his success was wreaking havoc on everyone else. Read More...

The Balance of Strategic Thinking Part II: Strategic Metrics - Are They in Sync?

As one recent CEO boasted to his executive team during a recent Annual Planning Session, "We well exceeded our acquisition goals this past year! We should really pat Fred [name changed to protect the innocent] on the back. He's taking us to the next level! I think we should have a celebration!" Read More...

The Balance of Strategy Part I: Walking the Tight Rope

Have you ever heard, "We can't do that! We're already bursting at the seams!" If so, you're not alone. I hear it all the time as I work with growth companies to build their dream of an incredible, smoothly operating, mean, lean machine. I'd love to just tell executive teams that it's all about 'balance.' But does life balance really exist? Read More...

A Few Good "Reads"...

I'm so thankful that you all take the time to read my blog every week. It is my pleasure to get to share my passion with you. In addition to this week's blog, I wanted to include some extra reading that goes along with the country's current events. With the government shut down happenening yesterday, I want everyone to be as informed as possible about the Health Care Reform. This is important to every person and every business. Let's become informed individuals who make the best possible decisions for our business and our country. I hope you enjoy this week's extra edition of LeaderHuddle! Read More...

The Problem with Passion

We hear a great deal today about how leaders need to create a sense of passion, or engagement, within organizations. There are numerous books written on the subject. What I find interesting, though, is that so many leaders tend to point to their employees as the problem. It becomes a blame game on who did what or who didn't do what. Read More...

It's Okay to Question Your Own Thinking...

I once worked with a group of supervisors in a 70-year-old manufacturing company. This group had never (ever) been involved in any way with decisions around the strategic intent of the company. Then...one day...the company hired a new General Manager who had a personal vision of continuing to grow the productivity of this company. Easily identified were quality problems at every turn that had never been addressed. Customer complaints were a common theme. They were so common, in fact, that the people within the company just accepted it as a part of daily life. Their solution: We'll just fix it (which they would always do). For years, "We'll just fix it" was their solution. It was their motto. Of course, the domino effect was in full swing: They were consistently behind in fulfilling orders, frustration was abundant (for employees as well as for their customers), quality wasn't improving, billing was delayed, finger pointing was rampant, solutions to real problems didn't exist, people were in a constant state of chaos, overtime was a way of life, and more. Their Brand Promise Guarantee was clearly meaningless and wasn't even on their radar screen. What surprised the new GM the most, though, was that this type of thinking ("We'll just fix it") had always been okay with them! (This GM's story is in a book I'm in the process of writing, so stayed tuned to learn more about this turnaround story...) Read More...

The Golden Question

When I get calls from executives who have yet to enter the world of asking a consultative facilitator to help them through an Annual Planning process, I know it's a call from someone who's ready for forward movement. (I don't like to make cold calls. For what I do, leaders need to be ready for it. Otherwise, it's like force-feeding a toddler--which isn't pretty.) As we begin the journey toward identifying key Winning Moves and strategies for long-term sustainability, I discover a lot of things about the company. Read More...

Measuring your Organization's Health

I've worked with a number of organizational leaders who create really good strategies. Their BHAGS are exciting to pursue, their Statements of Purpose are compelling, and their Winning Moves have incredible potential to produce excellent revenue streams. From a Strategic Planning perspective, all is well. But the often neglected conversation in many strategic sessions is organizational health. An interesting analogy here is our own personal health. The script could possibly go something like this: Read More...

Relevance: The Forgotten Variable...

I was having a conversation recently with an executive who was struggling to get his arms around why his company wasn't getting the results they wanted. As with any organization, the dynamics behind such an equation are complex. But through a consultative session, we were able to begin sorting through his thinking. One aspect of this process allowed one key component to emerge: Relevance. Read More...

Great Leaders are Inquisitive Explorers

First and foremost, truly awesome leaders are Inquisitive Explorers (i.e., they have a natural curiosity in what is going on...not so they can control it, but because what's going on around them leads to learning). These leaders are also constantly checking themselves (i.e., What could I have done differently? What was my role in this failure? Why did I do that!?) As Covey noted, it is this type of self-check that keeps great leaders humble and teachable. These leaders usually create organizational cultures where they learn as much from their employees as the employees learn from them. Read More...

Writing a Leadership Success Story

At one point, the exec team was stalled because a key pain point organically emerged that sidetracked them. The CEO became frustrated and stormed out of the room. What I noticed was the group's reaction: They acknowledged that he was upset (which was rather obvious) and then they simply began problem-solving the issue. It was a really challenging and complex issue. When the CEO came back into the room, he sat down next to me--but he didn't say a word. He was still frustrated. The problem needed a solution--literally. So I leaned over and said to him, "You have an incredible team of A-Players, and A-Players don't need to lean on you for every little thing. But now, at this moment, they need you to be a leader. So what do you need from them?" In a quiet whisper, he said he needed them to figure out how the [heck] they were going to solve this supply chain/delivery problem! "Then why don't you respectfully tell them that? Think about giving them a timeframe (30 minutes? One hour?) to create two scenarios that might solve this problem." Read More...

Compliance or Commitment?

It was command central. Eight foot tables lined up in an awkward "L" shape. Fifteen people sitting on one side of the "L"--right next to each other...heads down...all of them profusely cranking information into their computers like mad scientists on a top-secret quest. I was one hour early...but their day was already in full swing. What would a disciplined group of execs like this want with an Onsite Annual Planning session? Some of them noticed my arrival; others did not. "Clearly," I said to humorously myself, "these people are possessed." Read More...

The Power of Informal Conversations

I just came from an organization that is crazy busy. Because of the insane pace, they pride themselves on using technology to the hilt--email, chat rooms, instant messaging, etc. The effectiveness (or not) of email and chat rooms as a form of workplace communication is a study in and of itself. What this executive team is discovering, however, is the number of miscommunications and misunderstandings that are occurring. But they shared with me that they can't figure out why. Read More...

The Tough Conversation

I just finished facilitating a Quarterly Planning session where I observed the Exec team maturing before my very eyes. An outburst of frustration (over some very true systemic issues) finally made its way outward (courtesy of one brave soul in the room who dared to say what needed to be said.) While the outburst was very loud with 'excessive use of language,' in the end, the team was in a much better place. It's not a fairytale; they still have work to do. But the strides they made during that Quarterly Planning session will take them far beyond what they could have ever accomplished had they 'self-facilitated' their own session. One team member asked me afterwards: "Are we your bratty little client group that you hate to see coming? I mean, I bet there are days that you really don't like what you do for a living." Read More...

Your Company's Brain Map

Creating alignment can be a daunting task for any group of key executives. Great plans are made...activities discussed...task lists made...action steps identified. Yet, how to you cascade this information to others in your company (thereby creating the magical alchemy known as 'alignment')? Read More...

Sustaining your Passion: It's a Leader's Job

Like it or not, you (as a leader) write your organization's stage play. Life is hard, and being a leader can be downright grueling. Hard times, tough decisions, people who won't do their work, focusing everyone on the common goal...a leader's job just isn't easy. One thing I like to stress to leaders is that one thing they are NOT responsible for is making other people 'happy.' Happiness is an inside job; no one can make someone else 'happy.' What leaders can do, though, is create an environment where everyone should be engaged to do what they do best. You do this by writing a great script and setting an incredible stage for success. Read More...

Passion + Focus = Success

We hear a lot about following our passion, living for what we're passionate about, etc. Psychologists tell us that it's passion that drives us to do what we do and that it's passion that helps us define a sense of purpose. Read More...

Why On-Site Planning Matters

The CEO said he wanted all the behind-the-scenes jabbing to stop. Another leader said he just needed his exec team to be more realistic and in alignment. Yet another said he simply doesn't understand why his team can't reach agreement. To all of these CEOs, I simply stated what was really needed: Read More...

Forward Movement: Who's Driving--You or Mr. Magoo?

With very good intent, many executive leaders celebrate the bottom-line (which is fine), but at what expense? Many leaders are simply hard-wired to celebrate nothing but hard-core metrics. They look at these metrics with a linear lens vs. viewing them as multi-dimensional forces that impact an entire system (the 'system' being their organizations). If not careful, the linear approach can leave a very messy path of chaos and frustration (i.e. the "Mr. Magoo" effect).

As one recent CEO boasted to his exec team during a two-day annual planning session (which was the first time I had worked with this company): "You should know that we well exceeded our sales goals this past year. We should really pat Fred [name changed to protect the innocent] on the back and have a celebration!" What I couldn't help but notice was the mood in the room at this point in time--which was anything but energetic.

So...because it's my job...I asked about the lackluster feeling in the room. What ensued was a discussion they had been avoiding. Read More...

"What" Vs. "How"

Most companies are notoriously good at creating wonderful strategic plans each year. They'll spend a couple of days hashing through numerous aspects of their core strategy, etc. and end with a great plan for the next year. Then, half-way through the next year they discover not much is moving forward. Metrics haven't been met (or measured along the way)...or better yet, metrics have been met but turnover is through the roof! What's at play in these situations? Why doesn't a great plan "work" back at the office? Read More...

CEOs have reminded me of an age-old challenge in organizations: People.

Recent conversations with CEOs have reminded me of an age-old challenge in organizations: People. After a recent telephone consultation with one very frustrated CEO on people issues within his own executive team (that he had ignored for way too long), I asked him: In the end, what do you want? His response: "I want my company back!...and I just want us to be able to celebrate the great things we know we can do." Read More...

Better Manager or Better Coach?

What a GREAT Fortune Leadership Summit in Atlanta! And the Gazelles200 Retreat was a great opportunity for each Peer Forum Group to connect face-to-face. There was a great deal of chatter in the room--highly engaged! And...Wes Douglas, Forum Group 5-Ops, recently forwarded this article to me. And Wes is right: This was a great article that builds off the momentum of the Leadership Summit. So...the debate continues: To be a better manager or a better coach? Enjoy the quick read! Read More...

A Must Read | The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You?

The world of personality profiles, learning-style assessments, and the honing-in-self-evaluation processes have inundated our culture and brought self-awareness to the forefront of our decisions, relationships and strike zones. In a recent Forbes article, "The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You?," Brenna Sniderman unpacks five major personalities essential in nurturing and cultivating innovation within an organization. Whether you identify as the ace-of-all-trades star pupil personality or the mobilization mogul who is an all-hands-on controller, identifying key personalities that catalyze innovation in your industry is fundamental. Read More...

Those Youngsters

I talk a lot about "that younger generation." Well, it appears researchers are finding out some really interesting trends about these young ones. Turns out, they're not really so different from their parents, but they're different in that they'll take a few risks. They love to share ideas (yes, they can be a bit high maintenance) and they expect to be a part of something bigger (yes, keeping them entertained is a chore). Read More...

Innovative Capacity or Sustainability?

I saw an interview recently with Frank Gehry, the well-known architect. At one point in the interview, he noted the process of innovation is a fluid process, but it is indeed a very deliberate strategy. One insight I took away from this interview was that he feels architecture has recently been through a very expressionist period. Like most of the business world, the economic downfall brought that creative expression to a halt. The backlash has been, according to Gehry, a focus on sustainability. Read More...

Effective Brainstorming

Do you use brainstorming sessions at your organization? These tools are highly effective in generating as many ideas or solutions as possible for a problem or issue. It's important to note that brainstorming sessions are not tools for determining the best solution to a problem or issue. Again, they're for generating ideas or possible solutions, only. Ideas are good. Explore them later. The brainstorming session is not for weighing pros, cons and forecasting the benefits. Just gather ideas. Read More...