Businesses in Action: Leadership Retreats

According to “Fast Company” magazine, there are some key ideas to consider when planning a fun leadership retreat: seek new scenery; know that it takes time to build strong teams; incorporate fun into the regular work experience. Choose an appropriate facilitator. Depending on your organization, this may mean hiring a professional. Know your goals and how you want to achieve them. Create a schedule. Provide healthy snacks to avoid sugar crashes, create a comfortable, inspiring environment and invest in long-term results.

Whether you are a business of two or two hundred, in order for your business to succeed at your leadership retreats, your team must share a commitment to your goals and objectives. We suggest you focus on the following;

Your first meeting is about your financial metric goals for revenues and net profit you’d like to achieve.  Set goals and have key discussions with topics that focus on clarifying the strategy about how you will implement to achieve success.   According to InHouse CFO, Donald Cameron owners are “always looking for low hanging fruit ways to beat the competition and increase their income.” Read more about what Donald has to say about increasing your business income. Consult with your accountant or your chief financial officer and discuss some topics for consideration as part of the meeting agenda.

Your second meeting is about the leadership of your business.  There is a growing trend toward a distinction between leadership vs. management.   Those who are being led rather than managed are showing signs of greater productivity, increased job satisfaction and a higher potential than ever before.   Analyze the leadership style of your core team members and ensure that your discussion topics focus on strategy that will make you a better leader enhancing the success of your company.

Your third meeting needs to focus on identifying roadblocks that have kept you from achieving your goals, and more importantly developing a plan to make those constraints disappear. Remember, that no matter how many roadblocks, obstacles or setbacks you encounter gaining more insight to your business, and personal strengths will identify your areas of excellence, both as a business and as a business owner. It maybe a smart investment for you and your company if you consult with a business coach to keep these discussion on track.


Tips on Making Your Training Engaging, Memorable, and Unexpected

boardroom_boredom“Fire Hose Training,” “Death by PowerPoint,” and “Data Dumping” – experiences we have either had, heard about or are unwilling to admit, created it. Training experiences don’t have to bore participating audiences and can be unexpected engaging and memorable experiences.

So what does unexpected look like?

It’s Not About You – It’s About Your Audience You often know too much about what you present.  In fact, it is this expertise that probably led you to be asked to speak in the first. The content of your speech or training fulfills the needs of your audience and less about showing them what you know,  will ensure that your message is more compelling.

“Today’s audiences have very short attention spans. They are stimulation junkies with limited interest levels that will forgive you for almost anything except being boring. “  says Patricia FRIPP, presentation skills expert and sought after speech coach.

Threw Out Traditional Get rid of the long rows of tables and chairs in a boring classroom setting. Change the room setup. Give them tables with few chairs or large comfortable seating that encourages living room conversations.

Varied Media It’s a tough job being an audience of a boring presentation.   PowerPoint isn’t the problem – the error, almost always lies with the user. Your presentation is absorbed more quickly and remembered longer if learners absorb it with both eyes and ears.  Keep your audience alert with ‘less is more.’ Remember, that the more varied the media used the better the retention.


Elements of an Effective Coach – The Engagement

The journey to building a successful and thriving business is difficult. Business coaching is Business man in front of a huge maze thinking how to get throughperceived as a roadmap for success and a benefit. It’s an opportunity for you to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling and mentoring. Pragmatic leaders, those interested in the practical aspects of execution–understand that the key to their success and their teams is enhancing the capacity, competence, and skills of those they work with.

You’re looking for that right coach to help you achieve your business objectives and professional development goals. The challenge you face is that anyone can call themselves a business coach these days. So how do you know what to expect when you hire one?

Coauthor of SCALE Jeff Hoffman1 (co-founder put it, “What I get out of having a business coach is that my coach has run and worked with so many companies that they’ve seen that they’ve seen every situation. So when I don’t even know how to handle a new situation, my coach says, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve seen this pattern a dozen times. Here’s how to best handle it.”

The elements:

  1. Accountability: An effective coach will recognize that h/she is not an expert on you or your goals, and they don’t have the answers for you. H/she will have questions.   You will be required to have to determine the answers that are right for you. Your coach will provide feedback and advice at times. An effective coach will allow you to decide for yourself what to do with that information and then hold you ACCOUNTABLE to your decisions.
  1. Frequency: You want to meet often enough that you can have effective accountability (monthly is generally not often enough for this), but not too frequently that you don’t have time to get things done.
  1. Agenda: You’ll decide what issues or goals you would like to address. A coach will keep you on track, and prioritize accordingly. H/she will challenge you, raise certain issues and questions at times, drawing on their experience, but the agenda is ultimately your responsibility.
  1. Experience: The right coach will have a wealth of experience that you can draw upon.  Many business owners don’t have an internal network of advisers to help you avoid a lot of the expensive trial and errors that most business owners make as they build a business. Situations will arise in your business that you will need an experienced sounding board, a wealth of knowledge to provide the clarity necessary moving forward. Your challenges and issues, although new to you should not be to your coach.

Remember, coaching is not a regulated profession.   Ask about their credentials, training and most importantly, their experience.

Looking for leaders? 5 Tips to help.

Businessman celebrating with trophy award for success in business or first place sporting championship win

One of the most difficult things a leader has to do is identify and develop other leaders in their midst.  If you are looking for that next generation of leader, here are some tips to help you identify who they are.

Go Offsite

‘Having learned the hard way that simply identifying and promoting leaders was less than effective, we committed to an offsite event focused on leadership, communication, alignment and training. You cannot think about things in new ways when you’re in the day-to-day craziness of a startup. You need to plan to get everyone away from the distractions of the work environment, and into a place where they can focus on the task at hand. Don’t try to do this over lunch or dinner at a nearby restaurant. Plan a one or two-day retreat completely away from the work environment . New surroundings spark new thinking. ”  David Roth, CEO of Appfirst

Look for those who surround themselves with people who are smarter than them

“Leaders find success when they create teams composed of people who are experts in their areas, and many times, smarter than the leader who’s hiring them. Great leaders give them room to grow and innovate. These are the leaders who people want to work for. Unlike the micromanager leader whose insecurity leads them to create teams that include people ‘just like them.’ These teams may make the leader feel comfortable, versus challenged for the purposes of creating the best work.”  Tatiana Lyons, the Principal and Owner of Your Creativity Leads via

Look for those who invest in volunteerism

According to some of Alberta’s biggest names, say that if you’re looking to become a leader, it helps to spend some time in the company of other leaders, and there are few environments that are more rich in that regard than the boards of this province’s not-for-profit organizations.

Eric Newell, the former chair and CEO of Syncrude, also believes that board experience and leadership skills go hand in hand. “Your colleagues usually think the way you do, but when you are on a board, you are exposed to different perspectives,” Newell says. “The key to leadership is to understand why people think differently.” Those kinds of experiences can also help you build up your core business skills. “You learn to hone your analytical skills and determine the strengths, the weaknesses, the threats, the challenges and how to manage risks,” Newell says. “Generally, you learn about guiding the strategy for an organization.” Alberta Venture Magazine.

Find great talent at a price you can afford is to be a hiring contrarian.

“So how can you surround yourself with Ferraris when you have a Hyundai budget? Start by thinking in stock market terms: People, just like stocks, are often underappreciated and undervalued.  Who is typically undervalued? People who are skilled but inexperienced. People with extensive education in the “wrong” field. People whose current job lacks sufficient “status.” People who suffer from negative social stereotypes. The key to finding great talent at a price you can afford is to be a hiring contrarian. Go against the grain and against conventional wisdom. Then you can find your next superstar — and give someone a chance to show what they can really do in the process. ” Jeff Haden, Ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, LinkedIn Influencer.

Why a Retreat Is Good for Your Business

SuccessSmall business owners can improve productivity by investing in a company retreat. A retreat is an opportunity to engender creativity — a time to remove your nose from the grindstone and lift your head up, a chance to think about what ought to be — and devise steps to get there.

Regardless of the size of your company, the bottom line is that bringing key people together for a retreat is a smart investment. It can be an excellent opportunity for strategic planning and action-focused decision making to increase your sales, establish higher levels of customer loyalty, control overhead, improve overall performance, and drive business growth.

Effectively planned and executed, a retreat is also an excellent platform for reinforcing leadership skills, brainstorming ideas, solving problems, stimulating teamwork, nurturing a sense of camaraderie, and clarifying and reaffirming your organization’s competitive strategy.

It’s important to think carefully and clearly about retreat purposes since they become the foundation for the retreat design. It’s also critical to share the purposes with participants. This will help set their expectations about what the retreat intends to accomplish and define the goals. The key is to strike the right balance when you create a reasonable agenda that doesn’t overload the employees with work during the retreat.

When your employees stop having fun at work, they are more likely to leave, so a company retreat can improve staff retention, according to “Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up,” by Christopher Noxon. Having fun also stimulates creative thinking, which can improve productivity.

Whether you hold the retreat at a cabin in the woods or a hotel downtown, getting away from the day-to-day grind of the office helps your team think and develop creative ideas and is good for business.

Effective Leadership – A Meeting that Actually Inspires Action

Leaders that have taken their companies to soaring heights recognize that inspiring their teams to take action after a meeting requires them to connect not only intellectually but also emotionally at their meetings.

bigstockphoto_Team_Meeting_1269108The secret to connecting to your meeting audience starts with your preparation and asking yourself the question, “Why would they care?” A true leader knows how to speak as an audience advocate and have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for leadership.

LinkedIn influencer, Daniel Goleman, best proves this statement in his article What makes a Leader?

My analysis showed that emotional intelligence played an increasingly important role at the highest levels of the company, where differences in technical skills are of negligible importance. In other words, the higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness. When I compared star performers with average ones in senior leadership positions, nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles was attributable to emotional intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.

Hall of Fame speech coach and CBT’s Continuing Education Education curriculum developer Patricia Fripp says,

The formula is simple: Logic makes you think…emotion makes you act. Together, they’re an unbeatable combination.

Great leaders are also smart enough to know that the meetings management is also essential to running effective meetings. They never overlook meeting preparation, and are prepared to ask appropriate questions at the right time. Get prepared before so that you can focus on your team during the meeting. Don’t forget that the meeting is not just about the agenda objectives but it’s also about your team. Therefore do all the Prep work you need before the meeting so when you arrive, you have the right energy of certainty, confidence, leadership and vision.

How you manage a meeting of colleagues, clients, or a combination of both can be a good indication of your leadership abilities.”, says Evan Thompson, @CSuiteProspects contributor to the Globe and Mail, in his article Ten Tips to lead a meeting effectively.

What are you waiting for? Start now to make a connect and compel action and change at your next meeting.

Public Speaking – Take Your Presentation Speech from Boring to Soaring

Soaring Presentations with Patricia Fripp

Soaring Presentations with Patricia Fripp

I was sitting across the desk from the brilliant president of a $2 billion software company…and I was about to tell him,

“Sir, at this point, your speech is getting boring.” This was a problem, because as I often say, “An audience will forgive you for anything except being boring.” says Patricia Fripp, National Speakers Association Past President and Hall of Fame Speech Coach.

Now step back, and let’s put this conversation into context. I was working with the person in charge of a national sales conference for that software company, which had just acquired one of its major competitors. They’d also nearly doubled their sales staff, to about 1,500 total. The future was bright and the strategy was strong. The president was described to me as an engineer, very intelligent and a little shy.

My quest? To turn him into a corporate rock star in four hours. He walked in, and as I do with all my clients that I have very little time to work with, I said, “How do you do? If you had one sentence, rather than 45 minutes, what would you say?

He said, “This is a brand-new company.”

“Great,” I said. “Write that down. Your opening line is ‘Welcome, to a brand-new company.’

Now, who decided it was going to be a new company? It wasn’t these salespeople that you’ll be presenting to.” He responded that it was the board of directors. I asked him to paint the scene, and walk me through who said what to whom. As he relayed the details, I asked him to pause for a moment. I asked, “When was the first time you realized the importance of strategy?

He described being a 14-year-old ball boy before the French Open, and how people didn’t realize there was a tournament of the ball boys to qualify. “One of the competitors was my best friend’s sister, and not only are girls enough of a distraction at that age, the way she was throwing the balls was sabotaging my game,” he said. “That was when I learned the importance of strategy.”

And then he asked, as every executive does, “Do they really want to hear these stories?”

I answered, “Yes,” because it revealed something about him and made an emotional, personal connection beyond the respect they have for the position.

We continued creating his presentation in the order that he would be delivering it, finally reaching the discussion of corporate citizenship. The salespeople had donated $360,000 to the victims of a tsunami, and the company had matched it. This was obviously a subject he cared about deeply… and, let’s just say, his speech wasn’t doing it justice. He was doing amazingly well, coming to the crescendo, a call for action, and a close…and suddenly it was just plain boring.

So, I again went for the personal touch, asking him how he would describe corporate citizenship to his children?

“It was the day after Christmas and I sat my two children down and told them how lucky they were to have generous parents and even more generous grandparents,” he said. “And then I suggested that perhaps they would like to give us back one of their gift certificates or presents, and we’d donate them to children who don’t have homes. I was so proud of my boy, who was 14. The next day, he said, ‘Papa, how much should I give? Because I could give you all of my savings and all of my pocket money and all of my Christmas presents and it still wouldn’t be enough.‘ And I told him, ‘Oh, you don’t give it all, but you give enough that it hurts a little.’

Those two simple, well-placed questions helped him take his presentation from boring to soaring. His brilliance was there; I just helped him find the stories and emotions to reveal it.

Making an emotional connection is absolutely essential to powerful and persuasive presentations.

FRIPP V3Whether you are a professional speaker or an executive, start unlocking your inner brilliance by signing up for your complimentary chapter of Fripp Virtual Training here:   And as a bonus start earning continuing education credits.

by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE and Curriculum developer for Continuing Education at CBTCE.

An Off-Site That Motivates Employees to Inspire

High angle view of group of happy multiethnic people raising hanI wake up in the morning rested, alert, happy and excited to start my day. If I didn’t, I know exactly what I would do, attend a typical off-site retreat jam packed with unproductive discussions not aligned with my objectives and goals.

What a huge collective waste of everyone’s time and money.   Avoid this backlash, maximize every aspect of your off-site planning so that you can capitalize on your time together and leave energized, inspired, and tasked with actions that will bring your teams to the next level.

“People who are involved in planning off-sites aim too low,” says branding expert Brenda Williams in a recent Fast Company story. Williams says off site meeting planners should aim for much more than helping your managers get to know each other or better align themselves with the company’s goals.  “What problem will this event solve? What decision will it help people make? What new ideas will it produce? You have to anchor an off-site with goals that actually mean something to the business.”

  1. Plan ahead. At the early stages of planning your agenda discussion topics for your off-site, your meetings are high-level candid discussions that allow you to get a different perspective on your business’ trajectory. Then narrow down your discussions to a specific and defined purpose.
  1. Ask yourself: What do I seek to accomplish? Are you alerting people to a change in management or a shift in strategy? Are you seeking input from others on a problem facing the company? Are your company’s core values in question? Meetings with vague purposes, such as “status updates,” are rarely a good use of time and have no return on investment.
  1. Embrace Technology. Divert your attendee’s attention from emailing, surfing the web, or just playing around with their technology. Utilizing state of the art interactive communication platforms, like the Convention Business Travel platform engages participants and keeps them focused and their eyes on you and the topics on hand.
  1. End on Time. It’s not hell in paradise. Don’t spend 15 hours a day locked in a room without windows at your off-site. Have some fun. Stick to your agenda timeline.
  1. Follow Up. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page. Even the best off-sites with the most powerful ideas can be lost if not documented with accountable actions to follow.

It’s work, but no more constantly running in emergency mode with a stomach in knots, and pretty anxiety-ridden because you’ll never go back to a typically planned offsite retreat.

How to Help Make an International Meeting Shine

Source: Bigstock

Source: Bigstock

Meeting Planners are expected to demonstrate the return on investment for every meeting, conference, and event they organize.

But the stakes are exponentially higher for international meetings and events, since the time spent away from the office and the costs associated with worldwide travel are much greater.

When a company is looking to expand their business, this is where international meetings shine. However, you will want to prepare your client for their foreign business encounters. After all, you want them to get maximum value for the meeting time that is spent abroad. This means you have to ensure that they are open to different values, behaviors and ways of doing business. Lack of familiarity with the business practices and social customs of another country can weaken their position or prevent you and them from accomplishing goals. Make sure you do the research before you design the meeting agenda and travel itinerary, complimenting the country your client intends to travel to.

Secondly, your client is going to need to understand the value of small talk abroad in their meeting. However, they have expressed concern about how they stink at the small talk. You understand the value proposition of a good impression, according to an interesting recent post on Management Issues from author and expert on cultural intelligence David Livermore, simply monitoring four key areas of cultural difference should help them to ensure smooth small talk with prospective business partners or key clients, no matter where in the world they come from. Another tip, if small talk doesn’t always come easily to your client, having a few key phrases in their back pocket can ease their anxiety and keep the conversation moving along as well.

Thirdly, you will want to ensure that the meeting discussions and the time allocated abroad for the betterment of their business is well documented. Efficiency with real-time discussion recording allows for immediate follow up for tasks and team communications upon their return. In addition, vitally important tax reporting compliance criteria associated with the travel expense claims is also supported. Utilizing state of the art, interactive, web-based tools like the communication platform from Convention Business Travel can help add value. At the end of the day,

“Face-to-face visits with international clients can still provide tremendous value, whether you work at a Fortune 500 company or a bootstrapping startup.” says, Tim Maliyil CEO of Alertboot in his recent article, Why visiting Global Prospects the Old-Fashioned Way is a Golden Strategy.

And the facts of the value proposition for international travel and meetings speak for themselves. A study by Oxford Economics and quoted in The Wall Street Journal shows business travel leads to increases in corporate revenue and profits. The study found that every dollar invested in business travel for face time results in $12.50 in added revenues and $3.80 in new profits.

Balancing Compliance with Business Growth

Government and industry regulations are changing the way entrepreneurs do business and this has an important impact of strategic and operational drivers.

In today’s environment, the ability to stay profitable while quickly adapting to satisfy compliance is critical.

Entrepreneurs tend to take little risk with operations and it’s compliance due to agency oversight, customer demands, and ethical responsibility. Growing companies typically take more time with employee-related compliance such as

  • Taxable benefits
  • T4 deposit requirements
  • Equitable pay and stock option practices
  • Fair selection/promotion practices
  • Wage and hour laws

Although compliance in these employee-related areas possesses attention, it does not have the same urgency as operational compliance. That’s why operational compliance typically gets put on the back burner during periods of growth.

Risk management must become an integral component of company growth criteria so that operations like Development, Regulatory, Manufacturing, People Development, Business Development, and Commercialization are not unduly constrained by compliance, but are executing growth strategies within compliant boundaries.

By making the compliance effort part of the process, starting with operating function growth strategy initiatives and then overlaying compliance—the potential to retain key growth programs is much higher.

Most growing companies are so focused on their ability to produce now that they spend little effort on building the operational infrastructure to sustain their growth over time. A focus should be on; work procedures, training and development, information processing, goals, performance management, and communication channels to name a few. The operational infrastructure required to go effectively to market, care for customers, generate revenue, and sustain competitiveness.

The adoption of innovative tools like Convention Business Travel’s web-based interactive meeting agenda and discussion platform that results in an increase in program efficiencies, people development, business development, and productivity are so important to the execution of the companies growth strategies. A feature rich platform with consideration to the government & other regulatory compliance criteria is supported, enriching the operational success of new and established businesses.



Michael Wekerle, co-founder and CEO of Difference Capital, is no stranger to understanding the value of operational strategies to achieve success while ensuring an overlay of regulatory compliance and reporting. I suspect that Difference, his merchant bank was designed from the recognition of value of the above philosophy, as the services offered both allow him to invest in businesses and advise them at the same time.

So like Michael, people who understand and recognize the constraints of compliance, and embrace operational strategies and innovation will be the leaders of change and the next generation of winners in their respected fields.