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Assess Your Strategic Growth Plan for 2017


5 Key Questions to Assess the Clarity and Strength of Your Strategic Growth Plan:

  1. What is your company’s “Competitive Advantage?”

Is the whole organization able to articulate it to the marketplace consistently and powerfully to create action?

  1. Is your company’s culture a key component to your company’s “Competitive Advantage”?
  1. What is missing in your organization to be able to achieve the company’s strategic goals consistently?
  • A conversation with self or others (feedback and communication)
  • A skill (inability to do the tasks necessary)
  • A commitment (resistance to taking action)
  • A support structure
    • People
    • Processes
    • Practices
    • Tools
  1. What is the volume and quality of information that you are receiving from your company’s “Listening Strategy”?

A well designed and intentional “Listening Strategy” allows your organization to capture quality insights from your clients, prospective clients and non-clients in three areas of interest to your organization:

CARE – What do your clients care about?

CONCERNS – What are your clients worried about?

COMPLAINTS – What are your clients frustrated by?

  1. Is Your Executive Leadership Team bringing game changing ideas/value or identifying key trends to follow in support of the growth plan?

If you and your Executive Leadership Team (ELT) can’t answer these 5 questions above with complete clarity and confidence, then click on the two links below to start the process of building a Strategic Growth Plan you and your ELT can execute in 2017.

Great Leaders Have a Strategic Business Model

Creating a Culture of Deep Listening


Have questions or need some direction?

Contact me at darrell@awesomejourney.ca to start building your strategic plan!

Darrell Nimchuk, Director of Strategic Planning

“Simply Brilliant!” – A Must Read for Great Leaders


“Simply Brilliant!” tells the stories of 15 great organizations that are doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. These companies are not high flying techies from Silicon Valley, but rather everyday companies who have found new ways to bring tremendous value to their customers.

The author, William C. Taylor, is the co-founder of Fast Company Magazine and this is his third business book, and it’s spectacular!

William’s research is top notch and his examples of companies who are transforming their organization’s come from all industries. One example is Metro Bank in the United Kingdom. Metro Bank disrupted the banking industry in the U.K. by taking their stellar customer service model from the U.S. and implementing it in the U.K. market where customers have distain for banks with poor service, limited hours, and slow response times.

William makes many great points throughout the book; here are a few of his best:

  1. Great Leaders Care

Quote: “Organizations that perform at a high level for a long time don’t just think differently from everyone else, they care more than everyone else. In an era of big ideas and disruptive technology, simple acts of connection and compassion take on outsized importance.”

Leaders who are serious about differentiation are clear about what they care about. They are focused and they understand that when they focus on what they care about (culture, strategic plan, employee development, financial health, etc.) they will be rewarded.

  1. Great Leaders Do What Others Cannot or Will Not

Quote: “The most successful organizations are no longer the ones that offer the best deals. They’re the ones that champion the most original ideas, and do things other organizations can’t or won’t do.”

Leaders who are successful are constantly practicing the art of possibility thinking to differentiate and stand out. They understand that the best way to lead the industry is to always be one step ahead and always thinking beyond the borders that hold other companies back. 

  1. Great Companies Do the Extraordinary With the Ordinary

Quote: “Organizations that make the most dramatic progress are the ones that invite ordinary people to make extraordinary contributions, and whose leaders are as humble as they are hungry.”

Leaders who are constantly supportive and open to their teams taking small but calculated risks on an ongoing basis create an environment and culture of innovation that leads a company to long-term, sustainable GREATNESS!


Your Weekly Learning Journey:

We are such fans of this book that we are offering to send a FREE copy of “Simply Brilliant” to the first 5 people who request it!

All you need to do is include a comment below about why we should send you a FREE copy and promise to send us your thoughts and feedback once you have finished the book.

We look forward to hearing from you!

An imperative to transform


A TED Talk by Lars Fæste

Lars Fæste helps CEOs transform their businesses, and over the years he’s noticed something troubling: Managers tend to get comfortable during times of success and fail to be on constant lookout for ways to grow. Yet with today’s unprecedented rate of change, constant transformation is the norm, and adapting to it is the key to staying ahead of competition and volatile market trends. In other words: if it ain’t broke, fix it.


5 ways to lead in an era of constant change


A TED Talk by Jim Hemerling

Who says change needs to be hard? Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling thinks adapting your business in today’s constantly-evolving world can be invigorating instead of exhausting. He outlines five imperatives, centered around putting people first, for turning company reorganization into an empowering, energizing task for all.

[ted id=2601]


Daily Practices of Every Great Leader – Mental Hygiene!


In today’s over stimulated 24/7 world, many leaders struggle to leverage the power of their mind to focus and concentrate because they have not developed “Mental Hygiene Practices” to support having a “Healthy Mind”. Although they use their mind every day, they are not “Taking Care” of their mind.

When you become intentional about “Mental Hygiene Practices” to build mental strength you will see a significant improvement in your ability to truly make an impact to support your goals.

Top 6 Mental Hygiene Practices We Recommend to Leaders:

  1. Meditation: 20 minutes of meditation daily is a great practice to support developing mental muscle to focus and concentrate. If you’re new to mediation, avoid being discouraged by started small with just 5 minutes a day. Consistency is key!
  2. Get Rest: Be intentional about having quality sleep by “Designing” one hour before going to bed to slow down your mind through:
  • Relaxing music
  • Quiet time to reflect
  • Stretching
  • Minimal interaction with negative media
  1. Study/Learning: Allow time daily for studying and learning. This is a mental practice to stimulate the mind by learning something new or taking time to ponder ways to create new possibilities.
  2. Self-Reflection: Allow time daily for self-reflection. Here are two great questions to ask yourself at the end of the day:
  • What is one thing that inspired me, engaged me or moved me today?
  • What is one thing that irritated me today?
  1. Exercise Your Imagination: In your mind, practice having generative conversations (action-orientated) with yourself about how you perceive and view “The Unknown Future”. Instead of telling yourself how scary it is, use your internal voice and imagination to talk about all the new possibilities you and your team can embrace.
  2. Remove Technology Distractions: In an excellent article in the New York Times on Nov 19, 2016 it said this, Quit Social Media – Your Career May Depend On It. The article speaks to the need for people to disconnect and practice being intentional about making time in their day to focus and concentrate on creating high quality value and impact from their expertise and knowledge.


Your Weekly Learning Journey:

Pick one “Mental Hygiene Practice” and do it for 7 days. Take time to reflect and be aware of your increased ability to create “Quality Value and Impact” around you.

How Effective Is Your Innovation Strategy?


As Executive Leadership Coaches, we see a lot of companies who struggle with developing effective innovation strategies to find new markets, create new products, design new business models, or implement new delivery systems.

One of the leading experts in Innovation today is Clayton M. Christensen a professor out of Harvard Business School. In his new book entitled,

“Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice”, he and his team share a new discovery about what companies who are consistently successful with innovation are doing that others are not.

In his book, he states a specific Disruptive Question that is enabling companies like Ikea to have sustainable success with innovation:

“What job is your client hiring your company to do for them?”

In his book Clayton asks the question: “Why does Ikea not have any major competition?”

There are many other companies that sell furniture, but Ikea is in a league of their own. Clayton responded to this by stating that since Ikea is not focused on bringing products and services to market (they already believe the market will buy their offerings), they instead asked a different question:

“What job are our clients hiring Ikea to do for them?”

The job Ikea is being hired to do for their clients is to fulfill the need for space that is useable tomorrow.

From that insight, Ikea’s management team built a complete logistics system to make it easy for their clients and potential clients to think of Ikea first when the problem or issue of needing space up and useable tomorrow arises in their life.

From his book, Clayton outlined his belief that if you want to become consistent at bringing innovative ideas to market that will differentiate your company, you need to build your foundation on the pursuit of understanding the jobs your customers need filled. Once you have done that, your strategy will no longer need to rely on luck.

When you take the time to ask the right questions, you get access to insights that will support moving your organization forward!

“Understanding customers does not drive innovation success. Understanding customer jobs does.”  – Clayton M. Christensen

 To get a snapshot of this transformational question, check out Clayton Christensen’s video Understanding the Job that explains his insights about innovation by applying this powerful question.

This Week’s Learning Journey:

Take half an hour and ponder – “What job is your client really hiring your company to do for them?”

Initiate a dialogue with your team about what they believe is the reason your clients are hiring your company.

Book Recommendation:

“Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” is a great book to go through with your staff to create new future possibilities for your company. We Guarantee It!

How Deep Is Your Listening?


Great Leaders are committed to being intentional about awakening every member of their team to their greatness. They recognize that getting to know their people and understanding what makes them tick is vital to empowering them to perform at their highest level.

Question: As a Leader, how deep is your Listening to Understand and Connect with your people?

Here are 10 key things that you can look for, identify and hear when listening to your people:

  1. Do they speak using the Language of Accountability: I can, I will, I choose, or I am versus a Language of Non-Accountability: I’ll try, I should, I guess, or I assume?
  2. Are they are speaking in a Future context versus a story that happened in and comes from their Past?
  3. Are they Stuck or in Action?
  4. What are their Gifts of Greatness and how can leverage these gifts and strengths?
  5. Do they have a Fear of, example:
    • Looking incompetent?
    • Rejection?
    • Not being liked or accepted?
    • Imposing or being seen as demanding?
  6. What are their Core Values and how do they guide the person in their life?
  7. What do they Care about personally and professionally?
    • Personal examples: family, hobbies and/or travel
    • Professional examples: career advancement, learning & development and/or security
  8. What is their current Mindset?
    • Abundance i.e. what’s possible and what can be created
    • Scarcity i.e. not enough time, money or ideas
  9. Do they speak to Fix and Rescue others or do they speak to Empower and Support others?
  10. What are they Concerned about i.e. what are their frustrations, worries, problems, and roadblocks?

As you focus on being intentional about growing your people, and you take the time to get to know, understand and connect with them through ‘Deep Listening’ practices, you will be able to empower your people to harness their ‘True Potential’!


Want to expand your Deep Listening skills?

Check out this article by Tony Zampella titled “Commitment of Listening


Your Weekly Learning Journey:

Pull out a piece of paper and a pen, and for 10 minutes this week write down how much you know about two members of your team based upon the ‘Deep Listening’ areas outlined above.

Commitment to Listening


Listening is the most necessary capacity for developing leadership and the most significant commitment for being related. Indeed, relationships are a function of listening.

And yet we often reduce listening to a skill that can be trained and transacted. Given its importance, I will devote a four-part series to the topic. Part one will distinguish the topic through four levels or mindsets, and part two will expand and distinguish Level 2 Listening, which is pervasive in organizational life. Part 3 will develop Deep listening from Empathy, and Part 4 will complete with deep Listening from Being.

Download the PDF to read more

High Performance Culture


Great Companies that Execute at a High Level of Consistency are Defined by a High Performance Culture


In today’s hyper-competitive business world, companies that are delivering sustainable performance are masterful at executing their promises and commitments to clients and to shareholders. What is it that allows companies like STEP Energy Services, Disney or Starbucks to be so successful? From working with CEO’s for the last 15 years to create Transformational Leaders who are able to build sustainable performance within their organizations, we at Awesome Journey see that a critical component of their success is that the CEO and the Senior Leadership Team made the commitment to build a High Performance Culture. In this article, we will demonstrate how to build a High Performance Culture to support your goal to design a company that is able to deliver sustainable performance.


What is Culture?

Every organization has a culture; however, is the culture in your company, High Performance/Healthy or a Low Performance/Unhealthy Culture? A culture is a “Network of Conversations” that people in the organization are having. It is common beliefs, values and behaviours that demonstrate an organization’s culture.

Many organizations have an unhealthy or low performing culture, typically because the Senior Leadership Team does not understand the role that they play in building a Healthy or High Performance Culture.

If you do not develop your corporate culture, it will develop itself. Corporate culture doesn’t happen by accident–and if it does, you’re taking a risk.”

— Monique Winston


Definition of an Unhealthy or Low Performance Culture

An unhealthy or low performance culture is characterized by “Background Conversations” that staff are having that lead to people eroding trust within the company. This leads to staff becoming disengaged, which leads to poor execution. This is visible in the company through the following:

  1. Low employee engagement – employees are late for meetings, employee sick days are high, etc.
  2. KPIs are not defined or measured
    • Missed sales targets
    • Profit targets and budget overruns
    • Operational targets are not clear
  3. High turnover of staff or worse – warm bodies showing up everyday
  4. Time wasted on ‘firefighting’
  5. Micro-management by leaders
  6. Unacceptable levels of frustrated clients
  7. Little recognition and appreciation to staff
  8. Non-accountable behaviours:
    1. Deadlines aren’t clearly established and agreed to
    2. Poor communication
      • People do not feel safe in expressing their real thoughts
      • People listen with the intent to respond, not hear
      • Issues are not being discussed and dealt with
      • Little real time quality feedback

3. Absence of consequences for poor execution

4. Lack of collaboration among team members and departments – hoarding of information


Definition of a Healthy or a High Performance Culture

A healthy or high performance culture is characterized by “Intentional Conversations” that staff are having that build trust in an organization. The foundation is a set of core values that influence staff to behave in a way that drives deliberate action towards a set of clear outcomes. This is exhibited in the company through the following:

  1. High employee engagement, staff go the extra mile willingly
  2. KPIs are being achieved – sales, profit margins and budgeted targets are met Operational targets are being achieved
  3. Low employee turnover – staff love working for the company
  4. Time is used wisely and colleagues are respectful of others’ time
  5. Leaders trust and empower their staff
  6. There are many long term and loyal clients
  7. Employees are recognized and appreciated regularly
  8. Accountable behaviours
    1. Deadlines are clearly understood and regularly achieved
    2. Effective communication occurs
      • People feel safe and share how they honestly feel in private or in a group setting
      • People listen with the intent to understand each other
      • Key issues are addressed and resolved in peaceful ways
      • There is an abundance of real time quality feedback occurring throughout the company
    3. Strong performance management system in place to support high quality execution
    4. Plenty of collaboration and sharing between team members and departments


How does a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) go about creating a High Performance Culture within their organization?

Step One: Commitment

The first step is understanding it will be fraught with highs and lows, progress and setbacks. It will take time and commitment. The SLT needs to understand they will author the culture and they need to own it. Making the commitment to be a High Performance organization starts with being accountable to the promises and agreements we make with each other? The organization needs a set of “Guiding Principles or Core Values” so everyone in the organization can decide if they can align with and support them.

Step Two: Core Value Discussion

The SLT needs to define a set of “Guiding Principles or Core Values” that will define the personality of the company. This will involve a passionate debate within the SLT in order to create four or five core values and a clear definition of each value that everyone agrees on. One example may be to choose the core value ‘Excellence’; and define what that means so everyone in the organization understands it and can live by it.

Excellence: We are committed to being masters of the details in everything we do. This will ensure that the decisions we make and the service we deliver to each other and our clients will be flawlessly executed.

Step Three: Make it Real Through Intentional Conversations

Once you have defined the “Guiding Principles or Core Values” that you are committed to living by, the next step is to present the core values to the organization and get everyone to decide if they can support and live by them. Here are some examples of what successful companies are doing to achieve alignment to their core values:

Hiring new staff

High performing companies incorporate a series of questions in their hiring process that include their core values to ensure that the candidates they hire are aligned with the company’s culture.

Repetition and reinforcement

Whether it is a safety meeting, sales meeting, executive meeting, operations meeting or a company-wide staff meeting, talk about the core values. Ask individual staff members this question, “Tell us how one of the company’s core values had an impact on you this week.” Or, “Share with the team how one of the company’s core values allowed you to deliver great service to a colleague or client.”

On-boarding new staff

Ensure that managers or a member of the SLT have an intentional conversation with all new employees to review the core values, what they mean to the entire organization and how they are expected to live them.

Decision making

When making decisions ask, “How does this decision align with the company’s core values?” 

Example: You decided to go to your boss and ask for an extension on a project deadline. You reflect on the company’s core values before you have the intentional conversation with your boss and you realize that one of the core values is ‘Accountable’. To the company accountability means, “I will honor my word and do what I say I will do.” As a result, you decline to ask for an extension and decide to stay late to get your work done and meet the deadline.

Company events

Design a set of intentional conversations around celebrating individual and corporate success. If one of your company’s core values is ‘Excellence’, the following are examples of how you can use company events to re-enforce the core value of ‘Excellence’:

    1. Staff Meetings – share client success stories and real client feedback
    2. Staff Birthdays – hold monthly birthday parties to honour staff celebrating a birthday in that month
    3. Staff Anniversaries – recognize individual staff for their length of service to the company
    4. Individual Staff – celebrate individual staff success stories, both professionally and personally

Unique Company Language

All High Performance Cultures have developed their own unique language that supports building a company personality.

At Disney some of the key words they are committed to speaking to honour their unique culture are:

  1. All employees are called “Cast Members”
  2. When Cast Members are working they are either “On-Stage or Off-Stage”
  3. Staff that design shows or movies are called “Imagineers”
  4. All customers are called “Guests”
  5. All cast members are focused on providing “Magical Guest Experiences”

At Starbucks some of the key words they are committed to speaking to honour their unique culture are:

  1. All employees are called “Partners”
  2. Staff that make the coffee are called “Baristas”
  3. Your total pay package is called “Your Special Blend”
  4. The size of coffee you order is not small, medium or large it is “Tall” (small), “Grande” (medium) or “Venti” (large)

At Step Energy Services some of the key words they are committed to speaking to honour their unique culture are:

  1. All staff are called “Professionals”
  2. All field staff are called “Field Professionals”
  3. We deliver “ECE” to our clients – Exceptional Client Experiences
  4. We deliver “EEE” to our staff – Exceptional Employee Experiences
  5. Customers are called “Clients”


Four Stages of Developing a High Performance Culture

There are four stages to developing a High Performance Culture:

Stage One: Forming

The SLT presents the company’s core values and strategic goals for the upcoming year to the team. Done successfully, staff are energized by the event; they are grateful for the clarity and attitudes are positive for the future potential.

Time duration: 0 to 3 months

Stage Two: Conforming Through Repetition

Through leadership from the SLT, the team is buying into the new company culture and what you see or hear is staff supporting each other, staff being accountable for their commitments, and staff sharing ideas for company improvement – staff is engaged.

Time duration: 3 to 6 months

Stage Three: Storming

The team’s commitment to living by their core values will be tested by performance issues that can arise by events such as the economy declines, product deliveries are delayed or sales soften. This puts a strain on employees and will test the individual’s and organization’s resilience to living its core values. You may see and hear the following non-accountable behaviours emerging:

  • Staff members deferring blame – it wasn’t my fault that the client didn’t renew their contract with us
  • Staff members not collaborating with other members of their team – it is another group’s fault
  • Staff members reacting negatively to feedback given to them to improve
  • Staff giving excuses, justifying or rationalizing as to why their performance is not meeting targets

This is a crucial time in the company. By living the core values through intentional conversations directly related to building a high performance culture, the SLT can keep things on track.

Staff members will demonstrate through their behaviours and attitudes if they are willing to transform to the new culture. This will be a true test of the SLT commitment to the new culture. Turnover will occur as people self-select and leave or others are identified for release because they do not live the values and support the culture. It will be particularly tough when a previously top performer needs to be released because they are choosing behaviours and attitudes that don’t support the new culture. The SLT needs to trust that this individual can be replaced by someone who will still deliver results yet live by the company’s new culture and values.

Time Duration: 6 to 12 month

Stage Four: Transforming

The team is consistently living the company’s core values and demonstrating the following behaviours of a high performance team:

  • Team members holding their colleagues and the SLT accountable to their commitments
  • Team members requesting feedback
  • Team members challenging each other
  • Team members sacrificing for each other
  • Team members celebrating their success and wanting to set new stretch goals
  • Team members brainstorming solutions to challenges
  • Team members having courageous conversations with each other

Time duration: 12 months to 18 months



Companies that are deeply committed to building a High Performance Culture realize that a key component to differentiating themselves in a crowded marketplace is their commitment to having “Intentional Conversations” throughout their organization, on a daily basis, at all levels in the organization to build a unique culture of Trust, Discipline and Learning.

Step Energy Services has a high performance culture. Step has created this culture with the support of Awesome Journey and we work with Awesome Journey coaches throughout the organization in support of our culture.


This paper is written by: Eric Crowell, BSc, President of Awesome Journey and, Regan Davis, CEO of Step Energy Services

“The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. former CEO IBM


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