rock and sand

Insights about Growth and all things impacting it within your organization 

Be A “Beta Tester” for School of Rock & Sand? It’s a good deal!

Greetings.  I’ve been building the School of Rock & Sand. It’s a bit of a pivot for me.  It’s a online strategy school, where students, right now, can enroll in three classes that will deepen their understanding of strategic thinking and execution planning.

I need “Beta-Testers” for one of the classes: The Rock & Sand Master Class.

  • It’s a deeper dive into the Rock & Sand Model, and all thing strategy, using both Video and Proven Tools.
  • It thoroughly explains every concept in Rock & Sand.  And It’s self paced.
  • It gives explicit intructions on what’s needed to facilitate each portion of the Model, complete with the tools to use with your team when facilitating.
  • It can be used with your team to facilitate your strategic planning process.  Or with a coach. Or by yourself so you fully understand the process and what it will produce for you.

Here’s why I need Beta Testers and what is in in for you.  

  • I’m only half way through with the class.  6 modules completed, 6-7 more to go.  I’ll be adding at least a module a week for the next 6 weeks.  Probably faster than that.  And I need feedback.
  • Because it’s in Beta Tester mode, the tuition for the class is only $195.95.  When it’s complete the tuition will be going up to $600.
  • You’ll be able to access the class with your teammates for a full year after you enroll.
  • When you use it, you’ll be able to create a better strategic plan than you could before.

Enroll as Beta Tester

There are two more classes available right now. More on the way.  

  • An Overview of the Rock & Sand Model  (for those who remember this was a PBS Special in Memphis)
  • Core Customers and Brand Promise: Connected at the Hip, Together They Define Your Strategy

Learn More Here

As you know, Annual Planning Season, is right around the corner.  You’ll want to be ready.

The Seven Stages of Growth: Which One Applies To You?

Summary of “The Seven Stages of Growth

  • 700 Successful Growth Companies Studied
  • Each company grew from 1 (founder)  to 150+ FTEs 
  • Different challenges  are faced at each unique stage of growth
  • What Stage are you and what challenges are you facing?  

It’s an interesting study, in that 700 successful mid market growth companies, not unsuccessful ones, were studied:  CEO/Founders were interviewed extensively about the challenges they had to overcome to grow from 1 person to 150+ and beyond.  The interviews identified 7 distinct stages of growth and the specific unique major challenges faced at each stage.

What I found both enlightening and confirming, is that the challenges are directly attributable to the complexity that is driven by the number of employees, not revenue levels.

The study was conducted by James Fisher of the Origin Institute and a matrix of the findings is available through Flashpoint LLC. at

The matrix of the Seven Stages of Growth will help you and your team determine the stage you are in, and the challenges you need to overcome to achieve sustainable growth.  The matrix also gives insights to the changing leadership focus and time allocations needed at each stage of growth.

The real value of the matrix is that it uncovers the blindspots holding your organization back, so you can address them.

Interested in talking about this?

Schedule a conversation with me ( and I’ll send you a copy of the matrix with you and walk you through how to use this and what you can do about what you learn from it.

Is the wisdom of Jim Collins relevant during Covid?

Of course it is.  Jim Collins is the emminent expert on both growth and failure to grow.  His four books, Built to Last, Good to Great, Why the Mighty Fall, and Great By Choice, are timeless.  They should be required reading for all entrepreneurs and business school students (which, sad to say, is rarely the case for either groups).  His research methologies are strong, the knowledge he’s compiled is both deep and wide, and the lessons apply almost universally.

My good friend and mentor, Ron Huntington, graciously sent me his notes this morning from a lengthy zoom session he attended yesterday.  Collins’ presentation about applying his findings to today’s environment.  As I read through Ron’s notes, a small smile spread across my face. It served to be a review of the foundations of what I have been teaching and facilating for my prospects and clients for years. I’ve been sharing the same, in different words mind you, during COVID-19 as my our world has changed.

It’s a shame that Jim Collins has lost a bit of his shine.  He’s questioned because a number of his “great” companies”  have not continued to succeed.  Yet he even explored that exact situation in Why The Mighty Fall, which looks at some of the failed companies and explains why.  But I digress.

At the end of the presentation, based on his research, he said to focus on these three things RIGHT NOW!

  1. People: Who are the Indispensable Members of our Team that we simply cannot afford to lose?
  2. Relationships: What are the indispensable Key Relationships we will need to nurture and preserve in order to get us to the Thrive Phase? What is their priority and impact in the march to Thrive? Who can best nurture and optimize the connection with each Key Relationship?
  3. What’s our BHAG? What is the Vision and Point of getting to Thrive for the Long-Term? What is the Vision worth struggling for in the long march ahead?

Sorting out the answers to the questions is difficult in normal times, more difficult now.  Get some help?

I’m offering some flex-fit Coaching these type of facilitations.  Flexible enough to fit remote facilitation. Fleixible to your timing and working style, Flexible to fit coronavirus cash flows.  Here’s a One Sheet that tells how we get started.

Discreet Discussion?

More to come on the rest of what I’ve learned.

Why “Adjacent” Pivots are best.

Adjacent is a strange word to use in business.  But for the pivots or moves you are making in this COVID driven recession, it’s really quite good.

From the Merriam Webster App–Adjacent:  (adjective) 1. not distant, nearby, 2. having a common endoint or border, 3 of two angles: having the the vertex and one side in common

Simplifying adjacent futher: it means something common between two items, maybe next to, maybe similar to.

As you are pivoting, short term or long term, as we all seem to be doing right now, your chances for success are increased significantly if you are exploring adjacent pivots.

Look at your customer base first:

  • What’s an adjacent offering you can make to your customers, that snugs up tightly to what you currently offer, that solves a problem for them.  Talk to your core customers and ask them what else they think you should be able to do well for them.  This might be the easiest adjacent move.
  • Are there adjacent customers, ones that look like your core customers but are different in some way: different industry, territory, channel, size, segment, etc. Can you shift your offering to these adjacent set of prospects

Look at your competencies and offerings:

  • Can your compentency, expertise, and capacities be shifted or applied to other offerings.  One of the obvious examples is how all the distilleries and now making hand sanitizer. Do you have a potentially adjacent competency that there is a market for with just a couple of changes to your processes and equipment and that you feel confident you can  master quickly?

The key to these adjacent moves is that you stay close to your existing culture and strengths when you pivot.  Not a complete 180 degree turn, that’s no where near what made you great in the first place.

Your pivots, or adjacent moves, will serve you best if you can remain as true as you can to your cores that got you here in the first place.

It’s not necessarily an easy task to figure out these adjacent moves, especially when you are under the pressure of this COVID driven recession.  So, taking my own advice, I’ve made an adjacent move that you should be interested in.  I’m calling it the Quick Pivot Planning Package a short term focused facilitation of what we just discussed above, flexible enough to fit our times and your cash flow challenges. Download it here. 

Give it a try?

Should you have a “Quick Pivot” Planning Session?

Unless you are one of the lucky ones who is enjoying an COVID induced “Immediate Growth Curve,” a “Quick Pivot” Planning Session is in order right now.  (I would argue that even if you are experiencing an “Immediate Growth Curve” you should do a Quick Pivot Planning Session because it is creating a fair amount of complexity, i.e., I just received an email from zoom this morning replying to a service request from back in April) .

Every thing is new, everything is uncertain, nothing is normal. We’re living in a COVID induced world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) that isn’t going away.  You have resolved the safety issues of staying in business.  You have most likely shored up your cash flow practices.  It’s time to return to growth.  That’s going to take a planning session. That is if you want to respond rather than react.

What should a “Quick Pivot” planning session involve.  A SWOT, An agility assessment, a reset of the foundations of your business (your cores) and plan to find “adjacent” customers, build “adjacent” offerings, and create new relationship and build existing ones.

It should be pointing towards the end of the year, what’s going to happen in the next 6 months and what exactly are your going to do to get there.

It’s a short term execution plan based on short term strategic thinking.  Certainly you can DIY.  But do you have time? Do you need to lead it or be part of it?  When’s it going to happen?  Who should be involved?

Consider a COVID “Quick Pivot” Planning Package.  You assemble the team and the time, I’ll work you through a proven process that delivers results  Covid appropriate fees,  Facilitated remotely.

I recommend watching these two You Tube videos to help you understand the dyamics involved.

Let’s Talk

Fill in the Blank: If you aren’t _________, you are dying.

The traditional answer to the “Fill in the Blank” posed in the title of this blog has usually been “growing.”  I like that answer, but recently have been exposed to a different answer, compliments of Dave Power, author of the book, The Curve Ahead, a powerful book about design thinking and innovation, that takes the complexity out of the both design thinking and innovation.  I read the book quite a while back, and just last week attended a webinar he conducted for Gravitas Impact, my coaching community.

“Evolving,” that’s the word that I want you to consider instead for the blank in the title.  You might think “tomato/tomahto” and that growing and evolving are one and the same.  Not quite.

“Growing” conveys bigger, faster, better, more.  Not necessarily change.

“Evolving” conveys change, adapting, developing, morphing.

When evolving, growth can come with it, and usually does.  Growth can come without any evolution at all.

Sustainablitity is what you want and it comes with continual evolution of your organization.  Growth without evolution mostly likely will bring a diminshing of performance and results and then a decline, that quite possibly won’t even be noticed until too late.

So with the current economic climate, I’m pushing evolution first, and growth second.  Your core product or service and brand promise and offering must evolve so you can sustain.  Dave Powers thinks all organizations, including non-profits, need to be looking for several evolutions at the same time, not all will work, but one or two will and that will provide sustainability and then growth.

I’ve done a webinar on pivots, that looking back on it, is about design thinking and innovation, to evolve your organization to get to the other side of the pandemic and economic down turn.  Survive and sustain. Leading to growth, when conditions allow it.  Without knowing it, I was riffing off of Dave Power’s ideas in this webinar, to help you figure out this thing called pivoting that everyone is hollaring about right now.   Here’s the webinar, give it a look.

I’ve been helping my clients “evolve” and find their “pivots”  Do you need help with the same?  LEt’s talk!


Can You Think Like a Coach To Make Sense of the Ongoing Unrest?

This past week has been hard to witness, and even harder to understand.  My coaching instincts and thought processes helped me immensely although I am still devastated by the violence, left wondering what I can do to improve things.  Can’t help those last few words, it’s what coaches do and it’s why coaches exist: to improve things for others and everyone.  I offer this blog to you, as a way for you to process what you have witnessed and what you are feeling and maybe, just maybe inspire you to contribute to improving things.

When starting an engagement with a client,  I have a rule that I insist on following and repeating,  often more than my clients feel is necessary. I do it anyway.

The rule is “No Blame, No Shame, this is a Judgement Free Zone.”  The rule works pretty well, because it defines the dialogue, and get’s people talking about the facts, and then the implications of the facts.  It puts one’s biases in check.  In understanding everything that has happened since George Floyd died, I relentlessly followed this rule to make sense of things.  I found my myself wanting to judge everything and everyone, but by invoking that rule, I made sure I’m looking at facts, not opinions or judgments, and setting aside my biases as much as I can.  It’s allowed me to learn more and assess more and connect the dots better.  That’s what happens when I coach a client’s team and it’s what happened here.  I suggest you try to apply the rule to the conversation you are having within your mind and with others about all of this.

I also know from my coaching experiences, that the initial problem identified by a client is usually a surface problem that goes way beyond the upfront appearance of the problem.  If we only fix the initial problem, it usually comes back.  We need to fix it, but we also always need to dig deeper to fix it long term.  It’s a symptom, not the cause or disease to be addressed.  This also has been helpful to understanding all that we have observed this past week.  George Floyd’s death is a sympton.  Protesting is a symptom.  Rioting is a symptom.  Escalation is a symptom.  Understanding symptoms requires us to go much deeper than a simple analysis that fits a preconceived opinion or bias.

Coaches also know from serious researchers, like Marcus Buckingham, that humans are horrible at evaluating the performance and motivations of others, we just aren’t very good at it.  Yet we are pretty good at judging our own performance, motivations, and behaviors.  We also know from mental health statistics that we can get that mixed up as well.  I have looked at my own performance and behaviors and evaluated how well I’ve been doing eliminating my own biases and how I have contributed to the racially charged environment we have found ourselves in, either by action or inaction.

Thinking through last week’s events like a coach, will lead you to a better understanding of last week and how you can personally contribute to long term solutions that will make our nation more just and peaceful and productive.

Will you?

If another person says “The New Normal” I think I’ll ……….

Go ahead, say it. Hit the reply button and send me what you would do.  It will make you feel better.

Consider “I’ll run him over with my car” and “I’ll strangle her” and “I’ll punch his lights out.”

Me? I’m going to stop looking for it.  It doesn’t exist yet.  It’s still evolving. So maybe we shouldn’t be seeking it out.

The world is too uncertain right now (the world has always been uncertain, we have so much more of it now).  Most of the business and economic experts we’ve counted on before, for insight and guidance, are just guessing right now, saying just about anything they can to get your attention.

I’m in that boat too.  I don’t have the answers for what is coming down the pike on this pandemic and recovery, and I also want your attention.  But at least I can say I’m not guessing about what is going on.  And that’s why I’m also in the same boat as you.  Uncertain and a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all.

I do have questions, though.

The questions you should be thinking and talking through right now that will help you make some sense out of the madness and lead you to your evolving “new normal” (please don’t punch me). These things need to be thought through and talked through with your teams, and most likely with an outside set of eyes leading you through the questions to the answers.  If you don’t have someone to lead you through these conversations, you need to find someone.

You have to set your “new normal” (again don’t run me over with your car). No one else can.  Others can help you through that thought process, but others can’t tell you what it will be and what you should do about it.  You have to figure it out.

Talk with somebody.

If you don’t have someone to talk with, I invite you to talk with me.  This is what I do and my clients say I do it very well.  I welcome a converstion with you about how we’ll think through and talk through the questions.  Things will be clearer, you’ll start figuring out your “new normal” (don’t strangle me).  And if not me, someone else.

Let’s Talk, Here’s My Calendar

Really. Have an “Inefficient” Daily Huddle or a Second One. I Mean It. Really.

I’ve been saying it for years, maybe twenty.  Have a quick, stand-up, daily huddle. Everyday.  It will increase awareness between teammates.  What’s your “Main Thing” to get done today?  What are you “Stuck” on?  Any “intelligence” to share? Maybe share a “Core Value Story,?”  Then get back to work.  It will eliminate a whole lot of other meetings.  It will increase productivity.  It aligns the team around each other.

I know what you are thinking:  “Just because of the pandemic, you’re telling me to make the daily huddle less efficient or have a second daily huddle. Are you off your meds”

Thank you for your concern about my mental health.  I’m fine.  Yet, I’m serious about making the daily huddle “inefficient” or adding a second one.  It will pay off in effectiveness.  And that’s what you want.

Before everyone went to remote, the daily huddle was about efficiency, alignment, and effectiveness.  But with “shelter at home” and forced remote working, something big is missing from everyone’s equation.  Connectedness to others and something bigger than yourself.  Remember all those conversations you had when you checked in with your team or teammates, talked about the kids, the movie or show you watched, homelife challenges, or the winning home run.  You know these conversations, the ones that relationships are built on and around, the ones that show each other you care about them beyond work?  The ones that seem to happen on thier own, or when you notice someone is having a tough day, or not getting something, and you help them get through the day?

Those conversations have in large part, disappeared.  Your team is most likely feeling less connected.  They aren’t seeing their co workers, or their boss.  They aren’t getting chances to commiserate or celebrate the small obstacles or victories with anyone.  Plus, they are stressed with a new routine that maybe they didn’t ask for, and the kids are in the background instead of at school.  They are worried about the economy, their company, and their jobs.  They are worried about getting sick, or their loved ones getting sick.

If this stuff was going on, and you weren’t remote, you would be “managing by walking around” and initiating these conversations.  Can’t do that now can you?  You are out of your element.

That’s why I’m saying something that appears to be contrary to my previous advice.  Add an extra agenda time to the daily huddle, to just listen in to each other about their new struggles in life.  You go first, share yours, be vulnerable, set the example, and insist that everyone share something good or bad about their current challenges.  Don’t put a time limit on it.  Take the time necessary. And just listen, don’t solve anything.  If it is something that can be solved, just like at the previous huddle, get the people to have a separare zoom call to do that.

It will give temporay respite for what is ailing everyone. The resulting connectedness will be appreciated and the payoff will be greater effectiveness through the rest of the day.

If you don’t want to disrupt the daily huddle this way, have second huddle, later in the day, to do just the listening part I related above.

Don’t think of Zoom, or Skype, or Webex, or GotoMeeting as an efficiency tool.  Think of it as a social interaction tool.  And use it that way.

Feeling out of your element leading meetings in the remote workplace and want to get back in it.  Let’s talk about it.

Schedule a Call

How are “Pygmalion,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Multipliers” Alike?

The question kind of sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? A Greek Myth, a Broadway Show, and a Leadership Business Book walk into a bar….And there isn’t a punch line, but there is a twist to it all at the end.  Hang in there with me.

Pygmalion is a story, from Greek mythology, of a sculptor (Pygmalion) who makes an ivory statue representing his ideal of womanhood and then falls in love with his own creation.  Venus, the Greek goddess of love, brings the statue to life to answer his prayers.

This story inspired many other stories including the play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw which later became the much more popular musical and then movie, My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loew.  Perhaps you have seen the movie on TV. Fun movie.

In My Fair Lady a professor, Henry Higgins, is given a challenge by a peer, who questions Henry’s beliefs in nurture over nature.  The challenge is to change Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, into the toast of high society London.  Lots of funny scenes and very memorable songs later, Henry succeeds and subsequently falls in love with Eliza and they marry.

Both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady provided inspiration for a study done by a Professor Rosenthal at Harvard that demonstrated that in the class room, students for whom teachers have high expectations, perform better than students for whom teachers have low expectations.  The Pygmalion Effect is something I learned about at the School of Education at the University of Michigan, during my teacher preparations classes.  I readily adopted the principle into my teaching and have carried it with me the rest of my career as an executive and coach.  The Pygmalion Effect is alive and true in the world today.

What does this have to do with the leadership book Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman?  Tons.

A “Multiplier,” a leader whose team delivers double or more performance and engagement that other good managers, leads their team with an underlying belief in their team: that “they are smart enough to figure things out”.  Whatever the problem, opportunity, or challenge, this belief in the team produces better results.  The “Multiplier” no longer has to solve everything and works mostly to identify the opportunities to work on.  Everyone benefits.

High expectations bring better or higher results.  Pygmalion and Higgins had high expectations and got great or unexpectedly better results.  Multipliers do the same.

The twist?  Pygmalion and Henry Higgins fell in love with their creations.  With a Multiplier, the team falls in love with their company and their work and in “trust” with their leader.

Isn’t that something you want?

Let’s work together to help you figure out how to be a Multiplier. Let’s talk.

Here’s My Calendar

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