MVP Seminars Blogs

My colleagues and I are often brought into corporations to do teambuilding. Whether the audience is executive management or employees that work on the manufacturing line, the purpose for hiring my organization is to help teams strategize how to be more cohesive and productive. Early in my career it was theory, structure and small group exercises that illustrated effective teambuilding, but that has all changed. Talk is out the window: taste, touch, feel and experience are in.

I recently read an article in a popular business magazine that suggested video games and online gaming are responsible for the change in what organizations are looking for to help increase teambuilding. I have also heard that Millennials are more action-oriented and need to experience business strategy rather than read or talk about it. Regardless of the origin of change, training in teambuilding is now an out-of-your-seat, participatory experience that reveals vulnerabilities, leadership styles, communication and problem-solving skills, and a myriad of other strengths and deficiencies of all parties involved. The learning is in real time with adequate time built in for feedback, reflection and application in the workplace.

In response to the need for a new delivery style, the training industry has responded with training approaches that can be divided into three categories: simulation, real escape and theme adventure. Simulation exercises have a written adventure scenario, background information, maps, and usually a pressure-sensitive scoring form. There is a group task, individual task and a problem to solve. The timed activity is done on-site and concludes with reflection on how effective the team was, how they could improve team performance, what insights they gained about each other individually and as a team, and how they could transfer the experience to their daily work.

Real escape teambuilding has its roots in gaming, and some give credit to real escape games that began in Japan in 2007. There are many variations of real escape teambuilding, but basically it requires that groups be put into an off-site room specifically designed for the task of finding a way out. The group has to work together using clues within the room to gain their freedom. It is a timed escape at a minimum of an hour. Participants apply communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills to escape. Companies such as FedEx, Frito Lay and 7Eleven have used real escape teambuilding with their employees.

My favorite theme adventure is from a company called Recipe for Success. All of their teambuilding exercises revolve around preparing food. Their exercises are held off site and run for a minimum of two hours. Themes such as Team Breakfast, Chili Cook-Off, and Ultimate Pizza Challenge can be adapted for groups of 10 to 250.The benefits include building skills in negotiation, prioritization, communication, innovation and problem solving. When the task is complete, the team has an enhanced sense of teamwork because they have completed a project that they can see, touch and eat. It is important to note that the skill sets used in theme adventure teambuilding exercises, such as Recipe for Success, are immediate and transferable.

Whatever method your organization uses to promote teambuilding, the desired result is better communication, a more cohesive unit and increased productivity. Talking about teambuilding no longer produces the desired results in today’s interactive market. The employee of today needs to experience in order to learn.

Read More →

Several years ago, I was facilitating a talent review meeting with a room full of executives.  

After hours of great dialogue, we all settled on where their people fit on the 9 box talent grid.  

The leaders were engaged in the process and were excited to be able to make more informed talent decisions to match the organization’s strategies.

And then came the moment of truth:  

What do we say to those being reviewed?
  • Do we tell them which talent box they were placed in?
  • Do we tell them which position we pictured them filling, in 1-3 years?
  • Do we leave it up to each manager to decide?
  • Or, do we not say anything to them at all?

After much dialogue, the eventual decision was to tell everyone how much the organization valued them… and that was it!  

This approach worked well for the leaders in the room, but it was not very helpful, or engaging, for the people being reviewed.

So what is the best approach in having talent conversations? 

Each organization chooses to answer this question differently. Yet there are best practices that, when followed, can build the credibility and effectiveness of the talent process. They can help you inspire and motivate and also increase the engagement and commitment of the employees being reviewed.  

This will require courage of you as the leader, but it can pay off massively for your talent, team, and organization.

Below are the three talent conversations that you must have to help inspire, engage, and retain great talent.

We've also included a complimentary printable Leadership Conversation Guide at the end for your convenience. 

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“We want to invest in you and your growth.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is the conversation with highly talented individuals who deliver beyond expectations and have great potential.  They want to be challenged and expect greater expectations to come to them.  

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You have a long runway and you add tremendous benefit to the organization.
  • We like what we see and we want to see more in the future.
  • We as a company want to provide opportunities, resources, and support to develop and hone your leadership ability.
  • I want to meet with you regularly, identify and discuss your career goals, and work through a personal individual action plan.
  • Senior leaders will be cheering you on and paying attention to your current and future successes.

A Word of Caution:  The caution with this conversation is not to promise, directly or indirectly, any specific position.  Do not mention specific titles for future jobs. This will create expectations that are beyond anyone’s ability to keep.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“You are a valuable and solid contributor!”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the steady performers, those with longer tenure, and/or those with great knowledge of the organization’s history and practices.  They are often the glue that holds teams together during the ups and downs.  They know their position and specific function well.  They are subject matter experts and can have strong relationships with others throughout the organization.   

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You are greatly appreciated for all of your contributions.
  • You are a strong performer.
  • You provide great stability for the department and team.
  • You have strong expertise in your field and the organization recognizes and values your knowledge and abilities.
  • I want to make sure you feel supported and engaged.
  • You are in the right place to optimize your value to the team and organization.
  • I want to help you feel challenged within your current position.

A Word of Caution: Do not lead them to think they are getting ready for a promotion. Clarify with them that they will be able to add value in their current or similar position for the near future. Questions about future positions can be addressed case by case.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“Your performance needs to be better.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the underperforming individuals who are not delivering what the organization needs.  They are not consistently hitting the expected bar for quality, cost, or timeliness. 

The conversation does not address potential; it is all about performance.

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • I want to help you be successful.
  • Your performance is not where it needs to be.
  • We will focus on the short-term, the next 1-6 months.
  • Let’s inventory your skills, strengths, and motivation to make sure it is a good match for the position.
  • Let’s write down very clear expectations and set very specific and measurable performance goals.
  • We can identify logical check-in points to assess improvement.

A Word of Caution:  Avoiding this kind of conversation can negatively impact the high performers because poor performance can pull down others’ engagement and their confidence in leadership.

Final Note:

Employees who have been in the organization or in their position for less than 6 months are typically too new to be put into any of these conversations.  After 6 months, you will have a much better idea which of the three conversations you need to have with them.

The best thing for you to focus on with new employees is to ensure that they have the resources, expectation clarity, and leadership support to achieve quick wins.  


Our Gift to You

We've created a complimentary Leadership Talent Conversation Guide for you to download and use, absolutely free!

Click here now to download the guide now.



About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500.Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

Read More →



Black Belt Leader As Peacemaker

“Peace is a gift, It is a gift we give to ourselves, And then to each other.”

– Richard Goode

I was a young boy once. I had a friend whose family had a Christmas tree, and they weren’t very religious. In fact, they were atheists. Though I didn’t ask my friend about this at the time, I wish I had. Because I’ve always wondered why his family celebrated Christmas; it didn’t make sense to me. But now living here in Tokyo I think I’ve found the answer, and it came the other day while talking with a Japanese woman.


I asked, “Why do the Japanese have Christmas trees in their houses? Why do they have Christmas parties and exchange gifts when they aren’t Christians?”

“Because,” she answered, “it’s very peaceful.”

Tokyo 1985

Read More →

Recently my wife and I took a cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  While in Cozumel, I stood on the aft deck waiting for clearance to go ashore.  As I waited I saw a submarine crossing the harbor.  After several minutes I noticed a tugboat several hundred feet in front of the submersible ship.  A minute or so later I looked again and it seemed the submarine was following the exact line of travel as the tugboat.  After another minute or so, I looked a third time and noticed the distance between the two vessels seemed not to have changed.  So, as I looked closer, I detected a small cable from the rear of the tugboat and it was attached to the front of the sub.  No wonder the sub was not gaining distance on the tug; the tugboat was towing the submarine! So what do a tugboat and a submarine have to do with leadership?  The answer is that sometimes you might be surprised at who is needed to do the leading.  We all have pre-formed ideas about who or what a leader should do and how it should be done.  We have pre-formed ideas about how a leader should look, speak and dress.  But the bottom line is that the leader must be able to get the job done; no matter what the job may be. Sometimes leadership takes the form of a submarine.  Other times it takes the form and power of a tugboat.  When identifying and developing potential leaders in your organization, don't look only for submarines.  Do not erase from your "potential leaders" list those who appear to be tugboats.  You just might be surprised as to who is able to do the leading!
Read More →

For 100 years, improvement work has focused mostly on processes (since the time that process improvement started in the early years of Ford Motor Company). This focus has ignored the barriers to change. These barriers come the management system - from management processes and management team interaction and are like the lid on a jar, but are invisible. The lid on a jar keeps the content of the jar inside the jar and prevents things on the outside from getting in. Barriers that make up the lid hide potential, prevent new ideas from coming in and keep old ideas and practices inside the jar alive. These invisible barriers also cause companies to not achieve their goals for change and go looking for another initiative... hence the "flavor of the month club". Because "the lid" originates in the management system and outside the scope of initiatives or traditional improvement focus), process improvement has ignored or failed to recognize its existence or impact on the change process, which has handicapped every company in its ability to change and achieve optimization. Instead, we are taught to accept "the lid" as part of the change process that we have to work around OR we are unaware of barriers that work behind the scenes to sabotage what we are trying to change. If we understand the lid, we can take off the lid with a new set of beliefs and behaviors that are "chosen" to achieve optimization. We can also make changes within management processes that reveal and release hidden potential for production and cost reduction. 3rd Stage Management is a management-focused process for optimization. It helps management teams understand and remove "the lid", which makes it very different from process improvement work. Interestingly, when you remove the lid, it is possible to simultaneously change performance, culture, and management team effectiveness because the same barriers are responsible for deficiencies in all three areas. Some say that management commitment is the key to change. The problem is that management teams can be fully committed to change in the traditional way, which will not remove "the lid".  It is important for them to realize that "different choices" must be made to achieve optimization - both in the way they design and execute management processes (such as setting targets in the budget, expansion approvals, job descriptions, communications with key measures, etc.) and in the way they interact to solve problems, manage projects, and build trust within the team and with the workforce. If they understand that achieving site-wide optimization depends more on their choices than it does on equipment, they have a powerful platform to operate from.  
Read More →

The goal for my clients is to SOAR! ~  both in their professional and personal lives because certainly there is overlap and all make up the sum of your parts. I am talking about being/feeling in control of your thoughts and actions, not allowing yourself to become “overwhelmed”,  letting go of past issues and traumas so that each interaction, each endeavor is played out to it’s fullest, highest potential and capacity.   Understand  when your “tipping point” is  and it’s time to move on. It’s about being resilient, bouncing back, overcoming fears around past circumstances that may be blocking you from taking strides, making progress and leading a balanced, fulfilling life.  “Success” is relative, and may be personally defined.  I believe that leading a balanced life, including having excellent health and relationships is the basis for and lays the groundwork for a happy, successful personal and professional life, however you choose to live it. You have the power within you to be present with excellent coping skills and you have the power to give "it" your best shot!
Read More →

Ah, the holidays! A wonderful time of the year for many reasons: the birth of Jesus, Christmas decorations, the exchanging of gifts, families coming together to celebrate, and holiday carols that remind us of "peace on Earth, good will towards men". It' s a lovely sentiment that for most seems as elusive as the unicorn and as unattainable as achieving perfect health. How can we possibly have world peace when we cannot even get along with our spouses, parents, and siblings? Putting up with some of them for a brief amount of time during Dec. stretches our patience to the limit.

We've had great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Ghandi, and of course, the Son of God, who devoted their lives to fostering peace within the hearts of humanity. Yet as I sit here in front of my computer, we still have troops in Afghanistan losing their lives in battle and violence in every corner of this world. In Matthew 5:9, the Lord tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers." But who are these people? Why do some propose peaceful coexistence while others choose aggression and violence?

There are certain qualities associated with peacemakers such as compassion, kindness, confidence, and a sense of fairness. They respect all life as sacred and honor each form. Helpful, forgiving, and loving, they are all inclusive and embrace all of humanity as equals.

But we cannot expect the world to live harmoniously unless we first create peace within ourselves. And we do that by the following:

1. Remove all expectations from others and allow each person to be who they need to be.

2. Forgive all those who have mistreated  us, even those who do not apologize.

3. Choose kindness as a way of life.

4. Appreciate and validate all whom you encounter no matter how different.

5. Extend peace and love to all whom you meet every day, in every moment.

Once  you have found peace within yourself, bring that into your family:

1. Encourage love, joy, and acceptance of all.

2. Be the peacemaker in disputes. Make an effort to help heal the rifts.

3. Make allowances for the imperfections of all members.

4. Be all inclusive; embrace every one.

5. See the value and goodness in each person and help them develop that.

6. Give them the benefit of the doubt when a misunderstanding or incident occurs.

Then extend your peacemaking efforts to your workplace and community. Nurture it and it will grow. Let peace become who you are. Let peace become your way of life.

In the words of John Lennon: "Image all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer... I hope someday you'll join us and the world will live as one." Peace, my friend.


To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Read More →

The People First® Business Strategy Map: The Ultimate Peak Performance Foundation for Sustainable Success

By Jack Lannom   I’ve got three quick questions for you. First: How does your organization perform at strategic thinking? Most organizations have established a long-term goal or goals more specific than “to remain profitable.” Having established a clear-cut target for future success, your strategic plan should identify all the elements and processes that will make that goal become a reality. Economics Pt 2So I’m assuming that, to echo George Barna, you have chosen to live by design rather than to live by default. You’ve developed a strategic plan, right? Well done! Let me ask you a second question: How many members of your leadership team can clearly, concisely, and confidently articulate that plan? Can every member of your leadership team promptly identify your strategic objectives and the metrics you’re using to track the organization’s progress toward reaching those objectives? Are you feeling just a little uncomfortable as you consider your answer to that question? Just one question to go: How many of your employees can communicate the objectives and metrics linked to your strategic plan? Can you name even a handful? OK, let’s make it easier; how many staffers can communicate the strategic objectives and measures established for their own department? If you truly want to thrive—not merely survive—in business, your answers to these three questions should be: (1) “Yes,” (2) “Everyone,” and (3) “Everyone!” If your answers were not quite so positive, don’t feel too badly; you’ve got lots of company! The BSC Designer group reports these startling statistics:
  • 95% of a typical workforce does not understand its organization’s strategy.
  • 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully.
  • 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy.
  • 70% of organizations do not link middle management incentives to strategy.
  • 60% of organizations do not link strategy to budgeting.[1]
These figures are staggering! It can’t be a surprise that more than 9 out of 10 organizations fail to accomplish their goals when nearly nine out of ten executive teams spend less than one hour per month focusing on those goals and only five per cent of their employees understand them! Forgive me if this statement seems unkind, but this doesn’t sound like “leadership” to me, or even “management,” for that matter . . . it sounds like chaos! The way to turn chaos into coherence and cogency is to examine the way we think about the way we do business. Are we thinking wisely and well? Over the course of the next several weeks, I’d like to point you toward a way of thinking that holds the key to sustainable success. It’s called the People First Business Strategy Map. The Strategy Map will help you to think more philosophically and strategically about your organization so that you, as the leader of your company, begin to think more intentionally, deeply, and wisely about how to grow and improve your organization and help those whom you lead to do the same. In addition to introducing you to our Strategy Map, I’m going to devote some time to talking about thinking; you’ll learn the phrase metacognitive thinking, which essentially means “thinking about your thinking.” You’ll learn some techniques that the best organizational thinkers have mastered in order to take their companies to the next level. And I’ll discuss one of the most basic, one of the most effective—and one of the most overlooked—principles of motivating people available to every business leader. I truly look forward to interacting with you and reading your comments on this series. The tools and techniques I’m going to outline during these articles will be of tremendous benefit to you, both personally and professionally. Let’s get going!  
Read More →

TAKING THE SHORTCUT WITHOUT DOING THE HOMEWORK How many times as a leader have you tried to take a shortcut only to discover it was the long road? Maybe you thought you’d take the shorter route determined by MapQuest only to discover fewer miles didn’t equal less time. Or maybe you thought you would forego learning about your past, so you could jump right into the future only to discover your future seems to be a repeat of your past. I’m not advocating that you forget about taking shortcuts. Some shortcuts work. What I am saying that those shortcuts work, because you gained information that allowed you to use the shorter route. What happens to most leaders is they want to take the short cut without doing the homework. THE JANUS EFFECT There is a phenomenon called the “Janus Effect,” which is named after the Roman god who had two faces. Janus had one face which looked forward while the other one looked backward. This allowed him to see the past while facing the future. Wouldn’t this be the ideal situation for you as a leader—to see how you failed or succeeded in the past while making strides toward your goals? The key is not to make the past your future, but to SEE THE PAST AS A STEPPING STONE TOWARD your future. When you make the error of believing what happened in your past is going to occur in your future, you are perpetuating what is going to take place. Perhaps you’ve heard somebody say, “This always happens to me.” If they are referring to something good, that is awesome, but if they are saying that bad things keep happening to them, they are creating more of the same by believing it is going to happen. However the past can serve as a preface for opportunity. When you take the time to examine the past, to become aware of the whys behind the events, to study why you connected with your dreams, or why things didn’t come to fruition, you are altering your possibilities. INTEROGATE YOUR PAST When I was younger, I was known as an antagonist, because I always asked the question, “Why?” What I learned was the majority of the people I “interviewed” (okay interrogated), didn’t have insightful answers to my question. In fact what I learned was that most people did something a certain way, because they had learned it from their parents. Their beliefs mirrored their families. They didn’t take the time to examine their beliefs; they simply accepted them. It is okay to mirror your family’s beliefs if those beliefs are benefitting you. It is when your past beliefs are limiting you that you might decide upon a different course of action. This action does not have to mean that you are right and somebody else is wrong. It simply means that you need to take a different course of action to find your success. Your past can lead you a different direction or it can keep you cemented where you are. When you can examine your highs and lows without judgment, but with an eye for growth, you can understand the central recurring themes of your life. Those themes didn’t just materialize for the first time today. The idea is to spend more time doing your homework, learning from the past, so your future won’t feel like the long road. It will feel like the shortcut.  
Read More →

What can you do to be more successful?
My mother had said to me hundreds of times, “Everything happens for the best.” Almost a year after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s sitting in her living room having casual conversation, her favorite commentary changed. “Well, remember John, everything happens for a reason.” What had always been the “best” was now a mediocre “reason”, solemn and unexplainable “reason”?
When I confronted her about it, she reluctantly explained, “I can’t imagine that your Parkinson’s Disease is for the best.” I felt a sudden rush. I didn’t know it then, but I had been looking for something to inspire me. Right then and there, I made the decision to give her optimistic “best” back. Somehow, some way, I would make my having Parkinson’s “for the best.”
The fog and denial that I had been living in started to lift. I felt a purpose. That’s why I do these presentations
I was a successful student and professional.  The same principles and steps I used to develop my life then apply equally to living life to the fullest after a life-changing event.  Your own medical condition or one of a loved one, personal loss, change in your job or even relationship situation can suddenly stop you in your tracks and change the your life as you had known it to be.  It does not have to break you.  You can make it “for the best”.
Read More →

Contact Us

Call Ron or Jill

  1. 916-209-3298

Please call us or send us a quick note about how we can assist you in selecting and securing the perfect speakers or business trainers for any event.

Contact Us!