Ask the CEO: Jean Phelps, CEO of LifeLinks, Inc.

Recently, Jean Phelps, CEO of LifeLinks Inc. sat down to answer 4 questions that are on the minds of many Human Services leaders today. We would like to thank Jean for her time and her insights and it is such a pleasure for us to be able to share them with you:

CS: What do you think the human service sector will look like in 5-10 years?

JP: There will be fewer agencies in the sector as overall government spending on traditional programs is capped or cut off.  Agencies will merge or collaborate in order to retain market share and some will be forced to close. 

A greater focus will be placed on private pay or insurance coverage for programs that the government used to pay for.  For those programs funded by the government, regulation and oversight will become even more stringent. 

Less services will be provided overall, as a result of more stringent eligibility requirements for consumers.  

There will be more emphasis on families as caregivers with a focus on supports that are provided in the person’s home rather than in a program. This will result in less need for facility-based programs. 

CS: What does an organization succeeding in that sector look like?

JP: It would be nimble, flexible, and willing to try new ways of meeting the needs.

It would be both internally focused on quality, outcomes and measurement and externally focused on partnerships and collaborations that will enhance and augment internal operations.  

It would be well-partnered with government so that, to the extent that it’s possible, they can influence the coming change. 

CS: What major changes do leaders have to start planning for now?

JP: There are major shifts in funding methodologies.  (We were somewhat caught unaware, when we asked for and finally received a rate methodology for funding of state contracts. We didn’t anticipate the ensuing ongoing utilization review process.) 

Our workforce is dwindling in the immediate future there will not enough bodies to do the work required in human service.  As families become caregivers, staff roles will need to evolve to accommodate supporting families and for oversight and monitoring.

Organizations need to evolve to accommodate change quicker.  We will need to invest in and embrace a heavier reliance on technology and related infrastructure and resources to support service recipients and those who support them. 

CS: What advice would you give other leaders operating in today’s eco-system?

JP: Pick your head up and look at what’s going on around you.  Become informed; go to meetings, conferences, read journal articles to know what’s happening in and around your environment. 

Assert yourself as needed with authority and confidence into discussions that are happening about you but without you.  Create your image as a confident expert who brings added value to every conversation. 

View change and risk as opportunities.  Make mistakes and learn from them. 


Jean Phelps’ career in human services management spans almost 40 years.   Her strong skill set in the areas of administration and finance, programming and strategic planning along with expertise on issues related to developmental and intellectual disabilities has been instrumental in guiding organizations to meet their strategic goals.  Jean has been CEO at LifeLinks/ The Arc of Greater Lowell since 2008.  Since then, LifeLinks has expanded and re-envisioned itself, developing a reputation for high quality, innovative and cost-effective programs that support more than 600 individuals and families in the LifeLinks service network. 

Jean is a Regional Representative to the National Council of Executives of the National Arc.  Jean is the immediate past board chair of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP) in Massachusetts, is active in AAIDD and is an AAIDD Fellow.  Jean holds an MSW from Boston University and a BA in Psychology from Clark University.  She lives in Saugus, Massachusetts with a very supportive and patient husband, a Norwegian forest cat and a not so patient Labrador Retriever. Travel (especially to the UK where her oldest son and his wife live), reading and coloring for stress relief fill her minimal free time.

Are Mergers on Your Mind?

Conversations concerning mergers are now occurring across the country more frequently than ever before. We are seeing collaborations and merger discussions across every sector, including healthcare, human services, and even higher education. We believe there is real value in considering mergers as a strategy, but many organizations may not be prepared for the journey. This leaves many to wonder: What needs to be done while considering a merger?

There is no quick answer to this question due to the numerous factors and variables involved. However, we’d like to offer you the following tips from our own merger facilitation experience to help get you started:

  • Engage your Board. The Board of Directors is the single most important stakeholder when considering this type of strategy, so setting a plan for Board engagement and communication is critical. Even more important is making sure that the Board is part of this process from its inception and that the engagement remains consistent. 

  • Your why. What needs are you trying to fulfill in your organization? What value and benefit would a collaboration add? Understanding what your organization needs and how it can be improved, provides the foundation to support assessment and decision making.

  • Build it or Buy it. For those organizations that have reached a size where organic growth is no longer a viable approach, considering mergers as a means of addressing growth strategy, cost savings, quality, or competitiveness is a viable solution.

  • Understand risks and capacity demands. It takes a significant amount of time to build strategy, find candidates, manage the deal, and then integrate once the merger deal is finalized. This could translate to an organization being unable to undertake any other initiatives during this time. Factoring this in to planning avoids the pitfalls of being overburdened or strained.

  • Answer difficult questions first! Once the process is underway, there are several critical questions concerning the surviving entity that need to be answered in order to avoid wasting time: Who will serve as the Executive Team and Board Officers? What will the surviving brand be? Who will serve on the Board of Directors? Answering these questions early on will make decision making much easier as the process moves ahead.

  • Make the tough decisions. Once the merger contract is signed, the implementation process begins. It is during this phase that decisions need to be made around restructuring. These decisions are often very difficult and stressful but, with the right approach, frustrations can be minimized. For our insights on restructuring during an Organization Design project, click here.

  • Mergers are about people. An organization’s culture is formed over time through shared values and mergers begin with the people who make up that culture. In part, a merger is the unification of two cultures, so you’ll need to allow ample time for due diligence. During this phase difficult questions will arise as an in-depth review of financials, governance, human resources, organization charts, and planning documents will occur. This is also a time to become more familiar with people and their abilities through engagement, communication, and feedback.

Considering a merger is a significant decision for any organization but preparedness is key. A successful merger will help an organization eliminate competition, acquire talent, save money, expand geographic impact, and improve quality of service, among other countless benefits. Most importantly, a merger can ensure survival in a highly competitive marketplace and allow organizations to continue the positive impact they have on society.

If you have an interest in learning about merger strategy and discussing whether it is a viable approach for you, please connect with us here.

Top 3 Strategies to Achieve Growth

In today’s world, organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of change that is occurring in the marketplace. Growth, sustainability, relevance, and future viability discussions have become commonplace in the Board room and amongst Leadership Teams as organizations strive not only to survive, but to thrive.

Many strategic solutions have emerged from discussions and planning, however, the three that we see most frequently discussed as the means of ensuring future viability are:

    • Get Bigger

    • Get Niche

    • Get Integrated

Get Bigger: The pressure to consolidate, merge, acquire, or partner is being felt by companies across every industry and sector. Increasing size as a growth strategy provides several competitive advantages: 

  • Offer increased salaries in a market where talent acquisition is difficult

  • Achieve scale to obtain the resources and capacity to innovate, make capital investment, and support further consolidation

  • Acquire and implement advanced systems that deepen customer engagement and data acquisition and management

  • Broaden service offerings, becoming a one-stop-shop to increase value to customers

  • Improve quality and capabilities by acquiring organizations that add value by improving service or quality

Get Niche:  For those organizations that lack the desire to increase in size, getting very niche in strategic focus is a necessity. Getting Niche does not mean getting small. Instead it means focusing on your ability to own a market space in a very specific area of service in which you have the ability to:

  • Own the market for the niche space you are operating in with a competitive advantage that others lack

  • Design or invest in technology solutions that allow you to improve service and the customer experience

  • Shift resources, focus, and ability, to differentiate yourself in the market towards the niche area

  • Design a strategy that will scale and grow your ability to be a leader in the niche area of focus

Get Integrated: Organizations are becoming more reliant on partnerships, collaborations, and shared services in order to survive. However, sometimes the “too big to fail” approach does not work. When this is the case, you need to look at becoming “too integrated to fail”. Getting integrated allows companies the ability to:

  • Entrench with partners to deepen relationships and share resources that may be too expensive to acquire alone

  • Bridge relationships to work more effectively for the benefit of the customer

  • Collaborate with multiple partners, strengthening relationships that could result in mergers or new models for growth

  • Share data and information to position yourself in the market across multiple companies serving a single market

Regardless of what strategy your company has decided or decides to embark on, each comes with equal benefits and drawbacks. However, there is one core theme that plays across each strategy, which is the utilization of technology. Technology is allowing us to interact, communicate, service, and work together differently. This concept may seem odd to organizations that consider themselves service providers, but we have entered a time of technological advancement that is disrupting the traditional ways we think about conducting business and providing service. 

If you are interested in learning more about the planning trends we are seeing or which strategy might be best for you and your organization, please connect with us. 

Results, Not Resolutions

Each day is an opportunity to start fresh but there is something cathartic about turning the page on the calendar and starting a new year. With that new beginning about half of us make resolutions, 80% of which, according to U.S. News & World Report, fail by February. Why is it so hard to work on the things we want to change about ourselves and how can we increase the odds of follow through?

Whether we are trying to be more active, stop procrastinating, communicate better, or develop stronger teams there are behaviors that have been formed around these areas of our lives. Self-improvement requires changing behaviors and, we all know, change can be hard. But if we dissect these behaviors and understand how we can form new ones, we can be successful.

Below are some steps we can take to achieve long-term results.

    1. Be realistic. We all have things we can improve upon to become better versions of ourselves, whether personally or professionally, but we can’t change everything at once. Working on too many things at the same time can be overwhelming and cause us to revert to our old ways. Pick one goal as the focus and start there.

    2. Be specific. When we choose something vague to work on, for example to become a better leader, it can be difficult to define what exactly we are looking to change. But by identifying an aspect of leadership we want to work on, such as team development or improved communication, actions can be better targeted to achieve the desired outcome. 

    3. Identify the triggers. If the goal is to stop procrastinating, determine the triggers that prompt us to put off certain tasks. Is it when the task is difficult, overwhelming, or a fear of failure? For example, knowing that difficult tasks overwhelm us, we can change the internal dialog that prevents us from starting and break down the tasks into smaller tasks to make it less overwhelming.

    4. Increase your self-awareness. Often the behavior we wish to change is habitual and we don’t give it much thought. When we know our triggers, steps can be taken to detach ourselves and observe the action we wish to change from an objective point of view. Approaching change with that level of perspective helps increase our self-awareness so we can be deliberate in our actions.

    5. Be patient. Change does not happen overnight. Small, incremental shifts in our behaviors can change patterns and are more sustainable.

    6. Believe in yourself. When we believe that what we are trying to accomplish is within reach, it helps sustain the motivation necessary to fulfill the outcomes we want to achieve.

    7. Expect setbacks. Setbacks will happen because life happens. When we view setbacks as part of the process rather than as a failure, we are less likely to give up. 

    8. Be consistent. When we find what works for us, we should do it again. And again. Repetition creates neuropathways, leading to habit formation. When habits form we don’t need to exert as much effort, letting us focus on other things.

    9. Celebrate success. Results are motivating. We begin to shift psychologically and we see that our efforts are rewarded with, for example, higher productivity, stronger teams, or better collaborations. These rewards can inspire us to make the next change.

Taking these steps can translate to lasting results. The reason why most resolutions fail is because they take conscionable work that requires our focus and energy. It is easy to fall back on old habits when we are tired, stressed, or overwhelmed, which are bound to happen at some point. But when we are aware of how habits form and that almost any behavior can be modified, we can take deliberate steps to make lasting change. 

Self-improvement doesn’t need to coincide with the start of a new year, or any date for that matter, although February 7th seems as good a time as any. If one of your goals for 2019 is to improve your leadership skills or cultivate talent within your teams, please join us on February 7th for our Tier 1 Leader Workshop.

If you are unable to join us for the workshop, please check out our Tier 1 Leader website to find out more about how to improve your leadership skills. Our experienced coaches can guide you in developing the focus, insight, and accountability you need to achieve the consistent results you expect. If you have the desire and willingness to discover your full potential and achieve lasting results, then this is for you! Achieve your goals faster and discover your purpose.

Is There a Common Theme That Unites the CDC Sector?

by Joe Kriesberg, President of MACDC

What does an organization supporting fisherman have in common with one that’s cleaning up a brownfields site along the Housatonic River in Great Barrington?  What does a foreclosure prevention counseling program in Roxbury have in common with a small business microloan fund in the Quaboag Valley?  The answer is these are all programs run by CDCs.  If CDCs are this different and this varied in the services they provide and the communities they serve, is there a common theme or thread that binds them all together?  Are all the CDCs operating from a same “theory of change” implicitly if not explicitly?  Is there a common framework that can be developed to evaluate and measure their impact?

I would like to offer a tentative yes to these questions.  With due respect for the individual qualities and attributes of each CDC, and with recognition that CDCs are not equal in terms of scale, capacity and impact, I do think there is a unifying theory that captures what CDCs do.

The power of the CDC model, I have come to believe, is providing a vehicle for local residents and stakeholders to initiate, implement and steward community change by fostering a virtuous and reinforcing cycle that builds the local civic culture, improves the places where we live and ultimately changes lives.  Let me elaborate.

The first step is to change the way people in a community work together to create a functioning civic culture that includes everyone and allows things to get done. In many places, each constituency has just enough power to stop things, but none have enough power to get things done on their own. This can lead to gridlock. Effective CDCs help people in the public, private and nonprofit sector work together.  They also help address another common problem in the civic life of many communities – the fact that certain groups in the community are not always at the table – lower income people, new comers, linguistic minorities, youth and disabled people are generally less likely to be engaged unless there is an intentional effort made to include them.

As communities begin to come together, the physical environment in a neighborhood or community can begin to change. New housing, businesses, jobs, parks, and infrastructure can provide residents with the stability, safety and access to opportunities that they need to improve their lives. CDCs have the technical, financial and yes, the political capacity to undertake, and/or spur others to undertake, the complex development projects that are needed to create and sustain effective local economies, while also creating safer and healthier environments for local residents. Often, CDCs are able to drive a series of development projects over a period of years to completely transform a neighborhood.

As these neighborhoods improve, people can begin to change their life trajectories. Stable housing enables adults to better compete for jobs or obtain the job training they need. Students with a stable home do better in school and have the ability to pursue their dreams and talents. Safer streets, improved community facilities and new businesses bring new opportunities to local residents. CDCs often complement their placed based work with a wide variety of programs designed to help residents enter the economic mainstream and connect to the regional economy. These programs can include financial education and savings programs, homebuying classes, foreclosure counseling, ESOL and youth programming.  As these efforts help to stabilize people’s lives and they gain entry to the economic mainstream, they are better able to participate in the civic life of their communities. Time and again, we see participants in CDC programs become leaders in their communities, helping to pay it forward for the next family that needs help. And the cycle begins anew.

This approach is validated by the experience of practitioners across the country. More and more academic research is also coming out that documents the ways that improved neighborhoods, stable housing and economic security produce positive outcomes in public heath, educational attainment, public safety, and environmental sustainability.  Going forward, we need to improve our ability to collect meaningful data and evidence that allows us to evaluate the efficacy of this approach, refine our models, build our capacity, and tell the story of our field so we can obtain the resources we need to scale our impact.

How to develop your Staff and Leadership team. 

Far too often employees find themselves unclear when it comes to their job function, performance measures, manager expectations, and training requirements. As a result, organizational behavior is weakened and the implementation and management of the Strategic Plan becomes a challenge for leadership. 

Clearly defining job roles can make the difference between high performing teams and those that are unstable and ineffective. With poor performing teams, leaders tend to spend their days putting out fires, with little time left to devote to strategy. 

In order to strengthen organizational behavior and shape a stronger future, staff and leaders must work with clarity and focus. Enhancing collaboration, building accountability, and improving clarity of purpose and performance leads to efficient and effective organizations that are able to propel strategy forward.

The process of assembling high performing teams begins with creating job posts and clearly defining team purpose.The team's purpose should be explicit within the strategic plan as that is the document that sets the direction of the organization. The posts, on the other hand, are designed under the guidance of the strategic plan.

What is a Job Post?

In its most simplistic form, a job post is a position of duty and responsibility. It is a tool that is designed to create a management model and drive conversation to build higher levels of order and organization. Part of implementing any plan relies on each team member's ability to do their job; if everyone is clear on what they must deliver, the chances of success increase dramatically.

When a job post is created collaboratively by an organization it is done so for an assigned function, not a specific person. Responsibilities or titles must be consistent, as well as the performance metrics used to measure the success of each job function.

A job post consists of four things: Primary Purpose, Key Activities, Key Performance Indicators, and Training Requirements 

Step 1: Primary Purpose

Step one is identifying a primary purpose for the post. The primary purpose is a single point of focus for a given job function. It is a key factor that, if missing, can mean the difference between someone really understanding how to best utilize their time and energy verses someone who is busy but unproductive. It should reflect a high-level understanding of the position's purpose to the organization and how it aligns with other job functions.

Step 2: Key Activities

Step two is identifying the key activities. Because each post has a primary purpose, it is necessary to identify the top activities that fulfill that primary purpose. 

Being mindful of the fact that if everything is important, then nothing is, we recommend assembling the top five key activities. This forces a prioritization of the actions that are most essential to fulfill the primary purpose. 

Step 3: Key Performance Indicators 

In step three of designing a Post, we identify what performance measures or statistics will be used to measure how someone is performing within their job and how effective they are. Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are quantifiable metrics that fairly and accurately track the success of a job function. Once performance measurements are in place, it helps remove the emotional aspect of decision making, allowing for the focus to be placed on the best interests of the organization.

We set the following rules when assigning KPIs to a post. 

  1. The person that assumes the responsibility of the post must have the authority and responsibility to be able to control the KPI. 

  2. The KPI must be a true representation of what is being measured. As statistics can be interpreted many different ways, it is important to constantly be assessing the units and means of measurement to accurately reflect a post's success.

Step 4: Training Requirements

The final step in the process is to identify training requirements for each Job Post. These requirements should outline the training and development that must take place throughout the duration of an individual being assigned to a post.  

The prioritization of training, coaching, and mentorship, helps ensure an individual’s success within their post while simultaneously increasing bench strength for the organization. 

Post Benefits

A post is an unemotional look at the types of functions or positions needed in an organization that best aligns to the strategy and structure. A person assuming a post ideally has all the necessary qualifications, understanding, and training needed to achieve the KPIs and primary purpose of that post. Using the post format:

  • Creates clarity regarding job function and employee satisfaction

  • Defines the ability to measure the success of a position 

  • Prioritizes what actions really lead to success 

  • Removes clouded judgment when assessing job performance

  • Builds accountability through every team member knowing their positions

Northeast Arc & Northeast Clinical Services

Please join us in congratulating our clients, Northeast Arc and Northeast Clinical Services on their successful merger!

When discussions between both organizations began in early 2018, there was a focus placed on identifying the strategic value of a potential partnership. 

As Human Services agencies and Healthcare providers have become more integrated and reliant on each other, the strategic value of a deal became increasingly clear.

Ultimately, the true value of a merger revealed itself when Northeast Arc was able to expand and diversify its portfolio of programs to include home health care. 

The diversification of services by Northeast Arc and their ability to add capacity along with the added expertise of Northeast Clinical Services, will allow the merged organization to embark on a growth strategy to expand into new markets and to deepen their service within the existing geographic footprint.

The success of this merger must be credited in large part to the incredible Leadership from both organizations, working together to unite their Staffing Teams and organizational cultures. 

At Curtis Strategy, we feel privileged to have been chosen as the facilitator and advisor for this merger, working collaboratively to bring these agencies together. We would like to thank the Leadership and Staff that we had the opportunity to work with throughout this journey, and we wish them greater success as they forge ahead as a united Team. 

The Heat is On!

The pace of mergers and collaborations in the market is heating up. Costs, regulations, technology, and the need for talent are now leading many to the conclusion that merger strategy is an option to be considered when planning for future sustainability. So much so, in fact, that the majority of leaders we speak with are now including the topic as part of their Board of Directors meeting agendas. 

As anyone with merger experience knows, they are complex and involve many moving parts. From the initial strategy conversations concerning the reasons to merge, all the way through to how to successfully integrate two organizational cultures, people, and systems; we have found that preparation is key and experience is essential. 

Long before any strategic discussions take place, Leaders must determine their organization’s merger readiness. Knowing the As-Is state of an organization will dictate both when merger discussions should take place and with whom.  Leaders must know and be able to answer the following 7 questions as the first step in the merger process:

  1. Why would we consider merging at this point in time? 

  2. What is the business case and strategic value for a merger?

  3. What are our strengths and weaknesses as an organization?

  4. What are we looking for from a partner?

  5. Would we considered being acquired? Merging with an organization of similar size? Or acquiring a smaller organization?

  6. Is there value to merging with a partner outside our sector or with an organization that provides the same services?

  7. What opportunities exist in the market now and do they align with our strategic need?

While these are some of the most difficult questions to answer, they are also the most important.   Having a clear and concise view of an organization’s merger readiness will reduce frustrations and increase efficiency when initial discussions begin. 

Mergers in the nonprofit sectors often have different considerations compared to the for-profit world. In addition, we have found that organizations can face dramatic differences in the level at which Leaders, Boards, and Stakeholders are engaged and participate in the process.

We recommend that Board of Directors be intentional and clear with merger strategy to ensure all Board members and key Leaders are operating with a common understanding. It is critical that all parties involved have clarity on the answers to the questions below when moving forward and setting terms for a potential merger agreement:

  1. What are we willing to consider regarding leadership changes?

  2. What are we willing to consider with regard to our brand?

  3. What are we willing to consider for Board seats?

A successful merger or collaboration between organizations of any size can: eliminate competition, expand service offerings, acquire talented staff, reduce expenses, improve quality of service, expand geographic reach, diversify revenue, improved service delivery, and allow for greater investment in technology.

Most importantly, a merger or collaboration can ensure survival in a highly competitive marketplace and allow organizations to remain relevant and viable in the years ahead. 

Community Quarterbacking

For firms focused on achieving their internal goals, it is easy to let big-picture thinking get lost in the fray, and opportunities for collaboration can be missed. The “community quarterback” model typically refers to an actor aligning resources to address the various elements of community development behind a single project, amplifying the impact a project can make. This can be a lead agency in a community, a third-party acting to organize multiple competing service providers, or a public-sector leader seeking to amplify the impact of public investment in a space. Once a leader is identified and everyone on the field begins to trust their decision making, new opportunities to get points on the board are identified, and the entire community can score. 

Finding your quarterback

A good quarterback needs to fit a few criteria. They need to be trusted by all stakeholders within a community. They need to have a clearly articulated vision for the future; a strategic plan that aligns the goals of every community partner and translates these goals into value adds for each organization. And finally, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback needs to be invested in remaining engaged with all stakeholders throughout the execution of whatever strategy is decided upon. Finding a partner that meets all of these specifications may seem impossible, but in reality, identifying existing overlap among the missions of community organizations can be done with the help of the right supporting organization. Engaging with a strategic planning partner like Curtis Strategy to conduct the stakeholder identification can help to find the best candidates to quarterback in your community, or help you position your organization to take the lead.

Quarterbacking stakeholder alignment

Quarterbacks see and understand the entire field ahead of them; they are calling the plays for their offense, keeping an eye on the defense, and calling audibles when they think a quick adjustment needs to be made. In housing, it is impractical to expect any developer to be able to understand the full picture, especially when a firm measures success not by profit on a project, but outcomes related to human development and long-term success of tenants. Finding a quarterback for your process lets you focus on the hard-work of delivering outcomes to your constituents, and gives you a partner to keep their eyes downfield. In the hustle to address the already busy day-to-day workload at a nonprofit developer, it is easy to miss a signal from a potential partner, or not see a chance to change formation to make your organization more effective. 

Breaking down barriers

Its easy to get caught in the silo of our own work; housing developers are focused on building new units of housing, human service organizations measure their success with counts of the number of people reached, and other economic development stakeholders are caught up in the rush to measure success to ensure continued funding. This approach leaves value on the table, not only for constituents who navigate a complicated roadmap to have their needs met, but also for the community development organizations that are missing out on ways to connect their services to improve the outcomes that led to the isolation in the first place. When a quarterback is leading, outcomes can be better connected, and organizations can multiply their resources through collaboration.

With a community quarterback leading, a community of service providers can be connected, and new partnerships can be formed. When considering how to best serve your organization’s constituents, you aren’t focused solely on metrics that count people reached, homes built, or products delivered; you’re seeking to improve outcomes that are impacted by a complex range of factors. Better outcomes are driven by smarter planning; so when service providers working in the same community open themselves up to new partnerships and strategies, everybody can win.

It's Time to Make Time!

We often talk with our clients about working ON the business versus IN the business. This refers to the difference between thinking about their organization and work strategically (ON) versus fulfilling the day-to-day operations that make up a leader’s role in the organization (IN). When we discuss this concept with leaders we work with, the vast majority say they wish they had more time to work on the business - to focus on strategy, improvements to processes and systems, and team development. 

Most leaders agree they need to make a better effort and carve out time to focus on improving their organization. Often times they find they get “pulled into the weeds” by their staff or are “putting out fires” which prevents them from big picture thinking. However, by making time to focus on the organization and team, leaders can develop ways to enhance services, empower staff to problem-solve independently, identify systems for accountability, and improve processes so there are less fires to put out. We have provided many eye-opening recommendations that sometimes only an objective view can give and as a result leaders and organizations have been propelled forward. By giving themselves the opportunity to take a step back from day-to-day operations, we have seen leaders come up with new or expanded programs and business models, identify team and staff development opportunities, and make workflow improvements.

The concept of ON versus IN applies to all levels of management from CEO to first time line leaders. Of course, the amount of time and the level of strategic thinking are different for various levels of the organization and experience, but setting aside the time is important none-the-less. Someone who leads a team of one still has an obligation to effectively lead that person and to ensure their team’s contributions meet or exceed the expectations of the organization and those they serve.

So if leaders do not regularly set aside time to focus on their organization at a strategic level, what is the probability that they are setting aside time to intentionally work on themselves as leaders? We have found it is rare that leaders take an introspective look at their leadership approach and effectiveness on a regular basis. Often times leaders think about this just prior to their performance review, when things go off course, or if they have the rare spare moment. 

We work with many wonderful leaders who work hard for their organizations, their staff, and the community they serve. By taking a regular look at what their outcomes have been, the quality and contribution of their teams, their ability to develop staff, their impact on the organization, and what they want to achieve as leaders for themselves as well as those they serve is critical to improving performance and elevating a leader’s capabilities.

At Curtis Strategy, we make a conscious effort to take our own advice. We make the time to work on our business, and as a result we have taken a hard look at some of the challenges that organizations we serve have been facing around leadership. It is with much anticipation and excitement that we are preparing to make a big announcement in the coming weeks. Our intention is to help leaders at all levels of the organization improve their performance, their teams, and their organizations so please keep an eye on your inbox. It’s time to make time to lead with intention and, in the words of Simon Sinek, “let us all be the leaders we wish we had.”