For the past 10 years, I have lived exactly 3.4 miles away from a good friend. In fact,when anyone asked if we lived near each other we both confidently answered “yes, about 3 miles”. We might have added that it was probably more like 2 miles as the bird flies. I learned yesterday that we actually live 1.6 miles away driving on different roads. I have had the occasion to make some more frequent trips there recently and as I was heading home one day I needed to make a stop at the supermarket, so I turned left at the end of the road instead of right. As I was driving, I passed a side road that would take me directly to my house. The light bulb went off and I realized that this would likely be a shorter way home than the one I had traveled for the last 10 years. Low and behold, the trip was cut in half.

How many times do we not even consider that there is a better way to do something because the current way is satisfactory? Maybe it is fast enough, maybe it is easy enough, maybe we get ok results. None of these things negate that there might be a better way.

Creativity comes from combining experiences and coming up with something new. In this case, I was not trying to be creative about getting home, but when the two familiar experiences were combined (leaving my friends house and going to the supermarket), it became obvious that there was a better way.

Might there be things that are so familiar to you that you assume they are the best way to do something? Try purposefully changing your routine for one thing a week. Maybe get up earlier, or later. Try your morning routine in a different order. What might you see if you parked at a different place at your job. How might things look or feel if instead of sending an email, you got up and walked down the hall to talk to a colleague? You never know what might happen if you turn left instead of right.

We help individuals and organizations make changes that are significant to them and their growth. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

If you would like to learn more about us, go to our web page, like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out our LinkedIn page, or You Tube channel.

Those of you that know and have worked with us know that we do a lot of wondering at Aspire Consulting. The advent of mobile devices that allow us to access the internet on the fly, have greatly decreased our frustration-we can get answers much faster to our wondering.

Here are a few we have been batting around lately:
Why do they put round pizzas in square boxes?
Why do we say eleven, not onety-one or tenty-one
How can something be “new” and “improved”? If it’s new, what was it improving on?
If laughter is the best medicine, why do we also say they ‘died laughing’?
If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Although some of those are fun considering, with health insurance reform in the news, here are a few more, serious examples from Healthcare

Why do we think that our best radiology technician will be a great radiology supervisor when the skills required for performing the job of a technician are so different from those required to supervise people?

Why do we believe that we can continue to do things essentially the way we have for years, and get results that will keep us competitive in an environment that is vastly different, and changing?

Why do we create weaknesses for our employees by asking them to do things that are not their natural talents, when we know they will do better, bring more value, creativity and innovation when they are working in areas that are their talents? Why don’t we shift job responsibility to align tasks with their talents?

How can we expect our managers, supervisors, and front line employees to work towards the fulfillment of our strategic plan, when it is created without them, and then placed on a shelf, even if it is complete and well-conceived?

We do believe that most employees from the top to the bottom of our healthcare systems want to do a good job.

We know and understand the evidence related to finding ways to support your employees working in their strengths and aligning company’s short and long term goals and short and long term growth. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

If you would like to learn more about us, go to our web page, like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out our LinkedIn page, or You Tube channel.

A colleague sent me this short video (212, The Extra Degree) from the site

It reminds me of a fact that we often forget. We can generate so much more energy going from 211 degrees to 213 than we can 101 to 103…or for that matter 129 degrees. The effort does not generate equal results. Even extra effort is not rewarded in the same way.  Some of you want to know why I am talking about boiling water. Let me explain.

There are two basic ways to develop people. You take their strengths and play to maximize them or you concentrate on elevating their weaknesses to a predetermined median or standard.

Each company needs to evaluate themselves and their employees. Are they looking at their employees as one of many (maybe unending possibilities) to fit into a mold that will reiterate, restate and define your “prescriptive to do’s”? When you look at weaknesses, you will attempt to standardize efforts. You introduce scripting and required actions that you translate to behaviors.

Alternatively, are you looking at them as individuals with strengths that if just slightly poked, prodded, moved from 210 to 213 might power results you never even imagined? I have been there. Ask me to work in an area of my strength and you will get that plus all else I creatively have to add.  The Gallup Organization consistently reinforces these four levels of commitment:


What I give

What I get

Do I (how Do I) belong?

How can I grow?

They also consistently document the improvement in clinical and financial results that are evident with employee engagement.

We know and understand the evidence related to finding ways to support your employees working in their strengths supporting the both company’s short and long term goals and short and long term growth. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

If you would like to learn more about us, go to our web page, like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out our LinkedIn page, or You Tube channel.

A colleague and I were talking about the role of executives in leading their organizations. Ultimately, resistance to “change” as a road block came up. We agreed that for any person, company or organization that wants different results, and that includes most of us, there must be change. We also agree that the quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (attributed to a number of sources including both Albert Einstein to Rita Mae Brown), makes sense.

So, if A= B and B= C, A=C, or if you want different results, you must change what you are doing. For organizations to successfully embrace change, key components must be in place. These include a clear and compelling vision, formal structures that make the behaviors you are trying to implement easier than those you are trying to extinguish, management’s words and actions must be in alignment to the desired results, recognition and appraisals must be frequent, supportive and in alignment with the desired changes, and communication must be frequent and comprehensive about the process of change.

Some barriers we see, especially in companies that are a trying to implement significant change include things such as: a lack of data to support the change, and measure when it occurs, personal and organizational goals conflicting, management not “walking the walk”, an environment that does not support ongoing learning, lack of process and structure, poor communication, rewards working counter to the desired change, and boundaries between different parts of the organization that block the process, production, and communication.

We know that change is embraced by leaders and leading organizations. It propels the best organizations to higher level of success, getting them the results that are important to them. We have helped others engage their employees to embrace a change, and improve the bottom line. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

If you would like to learn more about us, go to our web page, like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out our LinkedIn page, or You Tube channel. was recently putting together some notes and came upon an outline of some of the work we recently did with a client. The work, taking a specific look at one of their high priority processes, netted them annually, according to their CFO $1.35 million in gained revenue and cost reductions. Not bad, especially as their total budget was $70 million, and the process was completed in a week!.

So just what is business process improvement in our view? One component of improving processes is decreasing the time required or “cycle time reduction.”  Cycle time reduction is defined as reducing the time taken for the transformation from input to final output. We know that time is money and thus reducing time decreases costs.

While a compelling vision supported by values, a base business strategy, and a strategic plan are the foundational supports for business success, there is more. Strong leadership with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to implement the plan are also essential.  In addition, without processes that are functioning optimally to support both the plan and the employees implementing the plan, outcomes are significantly compromised. We have seen over and over again that poor processes can demoralize even the best employees.

Process Improvement done our way is specifically NOT

  • adding costs to the process
  • decreasing quality
  • rushing the work
  • working  longer hours

Process improvement done our way IS making processes

  • effective by  producing the desired results,
  • efficient by minimizing the resources used
  • adaptable by increasing flexibility and ability to adapt to changing customer and business needs.

 Cycle Time reduction enables businesses to focus on the customer as it

  • better predicts and controls change
  • improves use of resources
  • effectively manages interrelationships
  • provides systematic view of organization’s activities
  • maintains focus on process
  • develops complete measurement systems
  • helps employees understand how input becomes output
  • helps employees understand how good you can get

Ultimately, a correctly implemented process that is management driven, employee supported, and customer focused will deliver a significant return on investment each and every time. Most businesses have processes they know are not working. Where are yours and what will you do about them to improve your bottom line?

We have helped others engage their employees to improve the way they work, all while improving the bottom line. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

If you would like to learn more about us, go to our web page, like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out our LinkedIn page, or You Tube channel.

Well, change is easy when others do it! We know that we live in a world that change comes upon us whether we are interested in it or not.

The changes that have happened in the last few years are remarkable. Some involve technology, for example, medical procedures are possible today which shorten recovery due to technology. Communication can be lightning fast to almost anywhere via the internet. Some of it involves norms. In many places in the country, cultures continue to thrive and mix. Exposure is likewise broadened. Some involve regulations. What was once profitable may no longer be due completely to regulations. Items that we routinely discarded in the past now have some significant and costly regulations tied to them. So what can you as the leader of your organization do?

There is a great short video on that can be inexpensively purchased, called “Change is Good, You Go First” that we often use with our groups. Some of the principles reviewed include:

Make sure your best employees know they are the best employees. Let them know this in ways that are important to them so there is little doubt. They can support you in implementing changes.

Solve the right problem when changing things. Do not be reactionary. If you make changes that cause more problems, is it surprising that people would cone to fear change?

Celebrate your company’s and employees successes frequently. What you measure and then reward will get repeated. Align the celebrations with what you want to reinforce.

Focus on strengths, rather than creating weaknesses. Rather than requiring people to work in areas in which they struggle, find their strengths and focus there. These people will then bring more of that in support of whatever needs to get done, be it the routine or change.

Remove barriers to your employees getting their job done. When implementing change, uncover the legitimate barriers, remove them then look further for those things that are perceived as barriers.

Most of all lead the way and go first. If it is good for your employees and the company demonstrate this in your actions.

Change is good and offers opportunity. How can you and your company or organization take steps to take advantage of it? We have helped others implement change. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

A colleague passed on an interesting article from the Healthcare sector: “Cost Reduction in Health Systems; Lessons from Analysis of $200 million saved by top performing Organizations” by Chip Caldwell, Greg Butler, and Nancy Poston of most interest to me was the difference between the characteristics of senior leaders in “Top performers” as compared to “non-starters”. Non-starters spent too much focus on analysis, looking for the perfect answer, which most importantly frustrated their best managers, and did not allow for implementation.

Non-starters also are slower to adapt to change and seem to fear it more than top performers. This was often fear of physician reactions, criticism from the board or community, or nursing resistance. Supporting their hesitancy to change was thinking that it was not the right time (and it never would be), a new regulation was pending, was coming, a key leadership position was just about to start. Non- starters were more likely to say no to almost anything. They were looking outside for help in terms of higher reimbursement, and always felt that they were different from any benchmark that came up. On the other hand, top performers value speed in thought and implementation. They interpret data, until they have “enough” critical information. Top performers, set goals related to that data, and implement the needed changes. Top performers also build their managers self-confidence rather than criticize. In both, one on one and group meetings, Senior leaders looked for the positive in new ideas put forth by their managers. Other important behaviors of top performing organizations include collaboration cross functionally and departmentally, recognition of the critical role of nursing, recognition that the status quo is not satisfactory, relationships built, and recognition of the manager level as key to supporting and implementing change.

believeI was meeting with a client who is trying to find his way in his health care career. He describes a familiar path he envisions for his career. He was a good, problem solving clinician. He has moved around within various levels of supervision and management at a range of clinical settings. He has a pretty well rounded background. Now he wants to move into “hospital administration” at a “prestigious” facility. He has a number of solid reasons. Some of his reasons make sense when we discuss aligning his natural talents and potential positions. As we dig, however, we uncover potential gaps in his strengths and job responsibilities. We also talk about his life. He is getting married in a few months. He has strong ties with his family.

There are lots of transitions going on for him and in his world. He recognizes the impact that potentially may affect all of his decisions.

Ultimately we move on to development and the interwoven nature of our world. Even when we identify our purpose, we are unable to keep our true selves out of everything we touch. We are “us” everywhere and everything we do influences that. We always see our world through somewhat colored lenses based on our history.

He is going to look at himself in the areas of finance, ethics, family, physical, mental, and social development as well at people, productivity and time management. He will over lay the new information he has about his natural talents and strengths.

He will broaden his thinking about best fit careers and next moves, working to see if a potential employer or job and its responsibility can be fit to his strengths rather than fitting himself into a job description, or unnecessarily narrowing his options.

He has decided to engage a coach to help him through this process. Aside from getting all the things above done, he desires to have a coach who will help him understand the congruence of his values, strengths and desires. He recognizes that we all have blindspots.

AC09_sidebar_thinkers[1]I have been reading with interest Gallup’s latest work on well-being with research by Harter and Agrawal

Tom Rath has defined five areas of well-being. They represent five broad categories that are essential to most people.

  1. How you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: your Career Well-being.
  2. Having strong relationships and love in your life: your Social Well-being.
  3. Effectively managing your economic life: your Financial Well-being.
  4. Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: your Physical Well-being.
  5. Sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: your Community Well-being.

In their initial research, they found that while 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. When we struggle with any of these domains, it takes a toll on us and on our life. Everything becomes more of a struggle than it needs to be.

Here are some well-being work related facts:

  • Employees who are thriving in their overall well-being have 41% lower health-related costs compared with those who are struggling and 62% lower costs compared with those who are suffering.
  • Overall well-being relates to illness which is associated with lower employee productivity and missed work.
  • People who have thriving well-being have a 35% lower turnover rate than those who are struggling.

These things are particularly important as insurance costs businesses a substantial amount of money. And so do absences, turnover, and low productivity. All those problems can be directly or indirectly associated with low worker well-being. High productivity, worker loyalty, and low healthcare costs also can be associated with high well-being.

The researchers found that wellbeing levels among team members were related. As one team member’s well-being went up, others were more likely to do so and that the converse was true, when one went down it could influence others. Supervisors and direct reports appear to have a mutual influence on each other’s well-being, and this influence increases with time. Those who reported to a supervisor, who was thriving, were 15% more likely to also be thriving 6 months later.

Time to pay attention to the well being of all around us!

We have helped others develop their abilities to lead and engage. If we might be able to help you, let us know.

Happy-Dance-300x300[1]Teamwork according to is: cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause. Or literally, the work done by a team. But we know this has become so much more powerful of a word when it begins to describe the functioning and efficiencies and effectiveness of a group of employees.

Research even tells us that even when team members are not at their best, decision making improves with teamwork.Teams do not work well together until there is a strong foundation of trust. When we begin working with organizations, we often see that that trust has been eroded, beginning with the highest levels of teams, starting with the executive team. How willing are the members of your team to put difficult problems on the table, offer unpopular options, or admit that they have made a mistake? What happens if they do, or maybe more importantly, what has happened historically when they have? What might be stopping them from doing those things now? What is stopping you from doing this in your team right now? It requires that the leader step forward and be the first to take some chances in being vulnerable himself/herself and with the team. Next the leader and the leadership group must establish common values and ground rules that encourage individuals to defer personal goals for the good of the team, or to see the alignment of the team goals with their personal goals. Members of a team want to share their successes with each other because they would recognize the value of the bigger rewards that come with successful teams. It has been said that there is no “I” in teamwork.

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