The Challenge                                                                                        (download the pdf)

An established Executive Team of twelve including two new members was struggling to reach agreement on several major strategic initiatives.  The decision making process was being negatively affected by interpersonal communication styles and political agendas. Due to diverse interests and personalities, major strategic projects were being stalled. The situation was affecting the performance of the Executive Team, was poor role modeling for the rest of the organization and increased the costs associated with the stalled projects. The organization was engaged in several significant change projects and the inability of the Executive Team to “pull the trigger” would affect other projects and company confidence.

The Client

ASCI was appointed by the CEO of a large multi-national insurance company to work with the Executive Team. The team consisted of the CEO, CIO, CFO, Executive VPs from regional areas and market segments, Legal Consul, and the Chief Commercial Officer. Behavioral analysis (TAIS) of the team revealed that the dominant attentional style was Analytical/Conceptual combined with a relatively slow decision making preference and a very low propensity to risk. Read the rest of this entry »

by Randy Sabourin
Over the years both Cam and I have contributed our time and resources to several worthy charities. When we talk about Fairness as a team building attribute in our Team Dynamics Workshops, the subject of philanthropy often comes up. Research on why we volunteer our time to charities can be linked to our sense of fairness and desire to balance the scales. Others who are less fortunate, experiencing social injustice or suffering from a disease need our help. We feel better when we show compassion and help others. Matthieu Ricard has been dubbed the happiest man in the world. In his TED Talk Chade-Meng Tan from Google explains that Ricard’s happiness was measured with an fMRI and that it was the highest ever recorded. Ricard states that he was meditating on compassion at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

By Randy Sabourn

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” John Burroughs

A simple and obvious statement: successful people get things done. However, there are millions of great intentions that never turn into action – think back to your New Year’s resolutions or the last time you committed to getting your work/life balance back to a state of equilibrium. In the business environment, especially in sales, intentions without execution can be a problem. Missed revenue opportunities are the bane of every sales professional and manager. Keeping track of appointments, tasks from meetings, following up on future calls, and recording data for team selling are a few of the important tasks that can suffer when intentions are not put into action. Corporations are intention-generating machines and the challenge faced from CEO to salesperson is the same: to track, prioritize and execute intentions.

There are three primary stages to the process of converting intention to action: creation, storage and execution. When first the thought or idea germinates, it is an intention stored in short term memory. Next we transfer and store the intention either in long memory or an external system. Finally we retrieve the intention and execute. Some intentions are instantly converted to action while others are stored for later recall.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Randy Sabourin

Leading change is one of the most difficult tasks faced by every level in an organization. Traditional ‘carrot & stick’ and humanism behaviour motivation is being replaced by a ‘brain based’ neuropsychology approach. Discussion and research continues on why we resist change and the often predictably irrational opposition seen when an organization adopts new strategies or systems. The placebo effect is a powerful phenomenon that may be an additional tool to assist us in realizing our change objectives.

The placebo effect has been a well documented phenomenon in the medical and scientific community for several decades. It can be defined as “the physiological or psychological response to an inert substance or procedure”. For quite some time, it has been observed that administering a remedy with no medical value (a sugar pill) can have positive results because the patient ‘assumes’ they feel the effect of the drug they believe they are taking. Although employed as a “commonplace method or medicine” as early as the 18th century, it was first brought into modern medicine context by an army nurse during the Second World War who lied about administering pain-killers to wounded soldiers. Read the rest of this entry »

by Randy Sabourin

I had a very interesting meeting with a former colleague last week that shown some light on a perplexing issue.  Phil and I had worked together 15 years ago in the semiconductor industry.  I was working on an Electronics Degree and Phil, an Electronic Engineer, was kind enough to help me understand some of the more complex math problems.  I have always remembered Phil’s kindness so when he reached out a few weeks back to catch up I met with him.

It turns out we are in the same business again: Leadership Consulting and Coaching.  After reminiscing for a while we returned to the present.

You will have seen on this blog, in our newsletter, and certainly in our workshops, discussions on the dynamics of human behaviour. As members of the NeuroLeadership Institute we are fascinated with how we might guide our clients through leadership, hiring and coaching situations through the power and potential of the human mind. Preferring the scientific approach to question of the boundaries and potential in the context of leadership we use a highly reliable psychometric tool (TAIS) and follow the latest research. The cutting edge of that research is often the most interesting to observe: that edge is also where the charlatans, whether well or ill intentioned, are found in abundance. Their presence while helping to push the frontier, simultaneously slows down progress by reducing credibility with unfounded claims and exaggerations. Lacking the credentials or research background to judge, I view our role as taking what we can to add value to our client engagements. Read the rest of this entry »

by Randy Sabourin

Coaches tell us that continuous practice of the basics is vital regardless of what level of success one has attained. In a profession where success is determined by performance in real time, practice is critical. Many professions implement this approach but sales people and business leaders generally do not.

The methodology of our PVC Sales and Relationship Management training program is considered by many to be advanced. It explores concepts like political acumen, counter-tactics and client relationships relative to that of competitors. We are increasingly being asked to adapt the program to a less experienced sales force. During the two-day PVC Fundamentals Program we spend approximately half the time on preparation (organizing, research, strategy, tactics, value propositions, etc.), and half on face to face client interaction (status, style, improvisation, objection handling, closing skills, appointment making, communication, etc.).

Successful veterans and first time sales people alike can benefit from ‘brushing up’ on some of the basics. There are numerous skills that successful sales people utilize for client interactions. Among the most important are increased awareness, listening, status manipulation, and improvisation. But one that is often overlooked is mirroring or mimicking.

Conventional sales wisdom tells us that matching a client’s posture, leaning in or folding one’s arms, helps the client relate to the sales person. The value of mimicking goes deeper than this and can have far greater value. In his book Honest Signals Sandy Pentland explores the type of unconscious signals that influence people to bestow trust. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Sabourin and Cameron O. Anderson

Every civilization uses or has used story telling as a way to communicate social values, skills, and to change or reinforce behaviors. While stories are often the basis of interaction they are also the building blocks of knowledge and the foundation of memory and learning.  They connect us to our humanity and link our past, present and future by teaching us to anticipate the possible consequences of our actions.  Stories can help us define what is authentic about something or someone.  The stories we tell and hear about our companies comprise our corporate cultures. Read the rest of this entry »

by Cameron O. Anderson and Randy Sabourin

Multiculturalism and acceptance of diversity are important to Canadian national pride and national identity. In fact, after democracy, multiculturalism is Canada’s top source of national pride, and is more important to national identity than sport or bilingualism (Chapman, 2010). “Canadians respect difference,” McCulloch (2010, pg.1) asserts, attributing this characteristic to Canada’s “history of accommodation” and “founding principles of ‘peace, order, and good government’” (pg.1). However, despite Canadians’ positive attitudes towards multiculturalism and diversity, the glass ceiling phenomenon continues to exist in the modern corporation. Popularized in the 1980’s, the term “glass ceiling” describes the barriers to upward mobility within organizations experienced by women and minorities (Hoobler, Lemmon & Wayne, 2009). So-called because of the invisibility of these barriers, the glass ceiling continues to impede success for many talented and competent individuals. For women, this experience can be particularly perplexing. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a windy cold February afternoon, looking out of the floor to ceiling windows of the skyscraper the day looks like night has already taken over. The darkness is perpetuated by the tinted windows, its 4:30pm in Chicago and the sun has indeed set. It’s been a long week but the team is looking forward to this evenings Team Building session. It’s not a cooking class nor is it trust exercises, this group is going to become movie moguls and create movies as preparation for their Strategy Workshop scheduled over the next 2 days. The client is the Foreign Exchange (FX) Traders and Sales team from a major Financial Institute. The objective of the strategy session is to find new markets and clients for a traditionally reactive division of the bank. Combining the fun and comradely of making a movie with the ‘heavy lifting’ of strategy creation may seem odd companions but there are several reasons why having these two disparate activities on the menu makes sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Improvising and being creative in real time under pressure is a skill that we appreciate in the arts such as music and theatre. We also admire athletes who develop an ability to ‘read the game’- especially a fast paced sport such as basketball or hockey. However, when I started researching improvisation for business applications I came across applications of its use in other professions as well.

One of the earliest and most interesting stories is Mann Gulch; where there was a very large forest fire in Montana in 1949. An experienced wilderness Firefighter, Wagner Dodge (great name for a firefighting hero), found himself and his crew surrounded by a wildfire. Conventional training at the time would have suggested that their best method of escape was to try to outrun the fire (some did try this- without success unfortunately). Dodge, however, improvised a solution to save his men: He started a new fire and he and his men took refuge in the burned away area as the larger fire raged past them and they managed to survive thanks to his quick thinking.

This is just one of many examples of how improvisation is utilized in non-traditional, non-arts environments. Corporations, for example, also often use an improvisation based process called ‘Wild Card Theory’ [Frank Ruff 2004] to prepare for unforeseen disasters like contaminated food, scandal, etc. In my opinion, of all the applications of improvisation out there, the most crucial is in the emergency services. I recently spoke with Dwayne Macintosh the Deputy Fire Chief of the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) at Toronto Pearson International Airport about how improvisation plays a part in how they train firefighters to use the Jaws of Life when they face the challenge of extrication at a crash scene. Read the rest of this entry »


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