Monthly Archive: March 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Amazing how those important dates creep up on you… It’s hard to believe it, but yesterday (March 28th) was Whiteboard Consulting Group’s one-year anniversary.

And what a year it’s been. In that time we’ve developed 8 courses, trained over 500 people, worked with clients ranging from a one-person show to multi-national corporations, and expanded our network of contacts dramatically via Social Media and referrals.

We also added to our own credentials by beginning certification training in Appreciative Inquiry methodology. Oh, and that’s all in addition to the usual start-up activities that any small business goes through.

How are we doing?

Awesome, thanks for asking! There is nothing better than feeling in charge of your destiny, having the flexibility to modify your work hours so that you actually have a work-life balance, and of course being able to choose your clients!

We work with amazing people in a variety of industries, and we learn something new (or two or three things, to be honest) every day. Just ask us about things like magenta flashes, breadcrumbs, and situational leadership.

So What’s Next?

Well, it’s a year of continued growth for us. We’re happily busy through July, and then hope to take some time off to enjoy the summer. We also plan on offering our courses (affectionately named “Whiteboard University”) to the public this summer, finalizing Appreciative Inquiry Certification, and continuing to grow our business.

We also enjoy writing this blog each week, and are planning to create a series of eBooks to spread the ideas of being Better, Faster, and Cheaper.

We would love to hear from you on topics that would be of interest to you. Whether you’re a small business owner or an employee within a larger organization, you can have influence on people and processes around you, and we can help you start that journey.

Let us know what topics you’d like us to cover via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

So what if it is a flavour of the month?

Change, Business Cycles, and Ice Cream.

Ruth and I were visiting with clients yesterday who are working on developing a culture of continuous process improvement in their organization. This high tech organization is busy, and being in the technology and entertainment industry puts them at the whim of their competitors and Hollywood.

With all these ongoing market pressures and demands, how do you make time to do continuous improvement projects? Who has time to devote to improving processes when you are spending all your time actually running those processes?

Many of the employees at the organization would ask us, “How are you going to make sure this isn’t the flavour of the month?”. We would start our spiel about how this is important to the organization, and management is in full support, there is budget allocated to the program, and so on and so forth. But really, what could we do to make sure this initiative was carrying on long after we’d moved on to our next client?

So what if it is flavour of the month? It’s Chocolate, and it’s good.

It got us thinking that every business goes through cycles of change – every 5-7 years in fact.. And while the initiative we are supporting is there now, that doesn’t mean it will be there in 5 years.

Does that mean we’re switching to Vanilla?

Does that mean that your continuous improvement culture shift is a bust? Not necessarily. It does mean that over time, a program may twist, pull, stretch (just like TAFFY) and morph into another entity altogether. But that doesn’t mean it is a failure.

Have you sensed lack of commitment from your team about an initiative? Are they in a bit of denial thinking this isn’t going to happen? If so, read on…

3 Tips to Build Commitment to your Flavour of the Month….

  1. Link your initiative to a broader organizational objective. Instead of your continuous process improvement initiative standing on its own,can you link the messaging of continuous improvement to a new technology, a new regulatory policy, or company standards. Think of Paul O’Neill the former CEO of Alcoa. Although Alcoa already outperformed most U.S. manufacturers on safety, O’Neill believed that to be a world-class company, it first had to become the safest. (click for more info)
  2. Link your initiative to other processess that are wholly ingrained in your culture. (Click to Tweet) Link your continuous improvement program to the strategic planning functions of your organization. Rather than process improvement initiatives being outside of your operational and strategic short and long term planning, make them a core part of that planning process
  3. Use my SQUISH method for change (Communicate, Role Model, Feedback). (Google it I dare you.) Communicate often about your initiative and its linkages to organizational objectives and long term strategy. Role model the behaviour you want to see. If you want Continuous Improvement Projects done – follow up on status, and don’t push off because the next big ice cream flavour is running through the organization. Provide feedback – positive and constructive to keep people motivated and moving along.

Tell us about your successful continuous improvement initiatives on Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Speaking of Which…

At Whiteboard Consulting we love to talk. (Those of you who know us are shocked, I’m sure.) It makes sense, then, that a good chunk of what we do for clients is to facilitate workshops and offer training on a number of business improvement topics.

This week I taught a two-day workshop in Sault Ste. Marie. The students were really engaged, and we had a lot of laughs during the course. At the end of the second day I got a lot of positive feedback and it really energized me! This is why I love this part of my job – it’s incredibly rewarding.

Not excited about public speaking? That’s ok. Many people ask us, “How do you do it? You just get up there and talk without any notes! And you make it interesting! I could never do that.”

Sure you can. The key to great public speaking? Knowing the material & engaging the audience – skills you can learn with a little effort. Click to Tweet

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s an old adage, but it’s true. I’ve been developing and training material for about 15 years now. I’ve presented materials for the Conference Board of Canada, the American Society for Quality, the Public Service of Uganda, and Showcase Ontario, to name a few. I’ve taught countless courses on a variety of topics, and the one thing I do every single time, is practice.

Here’s a little checklist for you to help you practice effectively:

  1. Read through the material – no distractions, no notes… just read.
  2. Read through again – this time, make notes in the margins or use a highlighter.
  3. Develop a set of speaking notes – you can use index cards or regular paper for this. The idea is to have something you can hold in your hand while speaking. Eventually you won’t need this, but for rookies it’s calming to have something to hold, and it gives your hands something to do.
  4. Present the materials to an empty room. Several times.
  5. Time yourself. Keep presenting to the empty room until you can complete the presentation in the allotted time.
  6. If you can, present the materials to a trusted friend or colleague. Get your nerves and giggles out on them.
  7. Get up early the day of the presentation and present again. By this time you should only be glancing at your notes. Instead, you’re speaking in a conversational tone instead of reading material – this is HUGELY successful with the audience.

Make ‘em Laugh

Now I’m not implying you need to be a comedian. Nor do you need the audience actually laughing! But if you can get them to smile, nod, look you in the eye and follow you as you move around the room or across the stage, you’ve hooked them!

The trick is to model the behavior you’d like to see.

  1. Move around! That doesn’t mean shift from foot to foot or pace manically back and forth – it means walk across the stage, stop and speak. Then walk somewhere else. Or if in a room with a bunch of tables, walk amongst the tables as you speak. Change the back of the room to the front of the room by speaking back there – it changes your audience’s perspective and wakes them up a bit.
  2. Smile! Not all the time – then you’d just look weird. Pause, smile, carry on.
  3. Look at different people in the eye for a few seconds at a time. If that makes you nervous, speak to the back of the room for a couple of moments until you get into your groove. Everyone will think you’re looking at someone back there.
  4. Speak in a confident tone. Don’t yell, and don’t whisper. You want to sound conversational (and all the practicing you did will ensure this!).

Finally, if you make a mistake, admit it, laugh about it, and carry on. It makes you human, and people like that.

What works for you in these situations? Have you got a Public Speaking success story you’d like to share? Tell us about it on Twitter@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Say it, but Say it Nicely

This week we had the pleasure of delivering a coaching course to one of our favourite clients. We were lucky to have a fantastic simulation actor from playsThatwork and we facilitated the simulator and a participant in the course through a coaching session.

Discover.Feedback.Difficult Conversations.

Our Coaching Methodology relies on three themes:

1. Discover: Build relationships through kindness and curiosity (leaving no room for anger and resentment) through open questions.
2. Feedback: Give constructive and positive feedback clearly and often, always asking for permission (May I offer you some feedback?)
3. Difficult Conversations: Prepare for these conversations, open with mutual objectives, deepen your understanding, and solve the problem together!

Today I’d like to focus on number two. A colleague of mine found this note in an old archived folder of work stapled onto a report, and when I left my last job, my team had it framed for me because I thought it was so funny.
In our fast paced electronic world, we’re often giving feedback on documents, presentations, or deliverables. How can we do it best in writing when we can’t express or read facial expressions and body language? How can you discover more information from the person you are giving feedback to, so that you understand their intentions?

Have you ever received written feedback that sounds like this?

Dear Barb,
Thanks for your document. See my feedback below:

  • Please change page three, remove capitals, change spacing and remove bullet.
  • Why did you include section 6.4.2? I thought we agreed not to.
  • I changed the entire second paragraph so it reads more easily.

Wow. How do you think Barb feels after she slaved over the document for 3 days, over the weekend?

Want to learn how to give better written feedback? Read on!

It’s all in the subtext…

Here are some tips for giving written feedback.

1. Ask for permission.
Even in an email! People read emails in their voice or your voice in their head! It sets the stage for the person to get feedback and brings their guard down.

2. Reward and Recognition.
Thank them for their efforts, recognize the amount of time they may have taken to do this, or the limited amount of time they had to create the product. Don’t assume what you don’t know. Ask questions. Wow, this looks like a lot of work, how long did this take you?

3. Be clear and clarify.
Say WHY you think the changes might be needed. Ask their thoughts on how the new wording you have recommended will be ‘heard’. Give advice and counsel, not just “DO SOMETHING”. Guide them with clear expectations.

4. Don’t use all CAPS.
It sounds like you are yelling. We all know this now. Stop forgetting.

You’ve all seen people crowded in front of a computer saying “Wow, she said that? You worked so hard? Why is she being so nitpicky”. Fix it. Be a coach and a leader and give feedback so people can learn and grow and feel valued.

Tell us how it works on Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Follow the Leader!

Follow the Leader

We often are asked about the topic of leadership.

What makes a great leader? Does a leader need to be slightly nuts? Dictatorial? A dreamer? What’s the difference between a leader of people and a leader of an organization? What about coaching? Do you have to be a coach to be a leader?

Well, far be it from us to pretend we have all the answers to these questions. We always have opinions, however, and are happy to offer them when asked. So here goes.

First, a Definition…

Our definition of leadership is: the quality that allows a person to develop and inspire a group of people to achieve a common goal.Click to tweet

Let’s take a look at that: first, we talk about the ability to develop others. It takes a certain amount of “social intelligence” to be able to interact with a group or an individual, see the potential in them, engage them in genuine conversation, discover what makes them tick, and then boil all that information into a development plan.

A great leader is therefore also a great coach. He or she takes the time to know and understand a person and/or team’s history, and spends the time working with them to help them achieve their goals (and ultimately the common goals of the team or organization). It’s a process of helping others with self discovery so that they just know the right thing to do, rather than having to tell them what to do.

Can you be a leader and not coach, develop, or inspire? I suppose so. There are many historical examples of leaders who were successful to some degree. But to what end? Often they lead through fear or intimidation, which can be effective – in the short term. (Think Stalin or Hitler.) I wouldn’t call these “great” leaders.

Nutty Dreamer? Or Inspirer?

We believe that an amazing leader is also one who inspires people to do or be their best. The individual or team simply wants to please him or her, no matter what it takes.

The person who has that je ne sais quoi, that element of inspiration, is one who is born to lead. Whether you’re a new hire, a mid-level manager, a CEO, a kids’ soccer coach, or a school council president – if you are able to inspire others through your passion, your vision, your positive behaviours and your confidence, you will be a leader of one or of many.

Sometimes inspiration and passion can appear over the top and label a person as a “nutty dreamer”. Look at Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography, by the way). People often thought he was nuts, and his leadership style left quite a bit to be desired (I wouldn’t use him as a role model for coaching.) But he was truly inspirational and his employees stayed with him through thick and thin. Well, most of them, anyway.

We prefer not to use the word “nuts” – instead, we like to say you need to be a risk taker, putting yourself out on a limb to do the right thing, stand up for the person or the team, and lead by example.

What great leaders do you know? Do they coach? Inspire? Take risks? Do people naturally flock to them and want to be successful for them?

Let us know and share with us at or @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper.

Until next time,


PS: don’t forget that we’re looking for positive business stories to be the focus of our blog (hey that’s like free advertising). Send us one and we’ll send you a business book on a topic of your interest (value of up to $40). Click to Tweet! Sounds like a deal. Best positive story wins! Be descriptive. Tell us the story. Set the stage. Introduce the characters. This is your chance to be business-ey and creative.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons