Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Exploring a Reorganization? Think “ideal” team.

Here’s a great way to explore your next reorganization…..Focus on the ideal roles and responsibilities of the new team. At first, avoid taking your existing employees’ strengths and/or weaknesses into consideration. If that sounds cold, I assure you it’s not. It’s a way to fully explore your best organization while avoiding barriers relating to existing talent and/or limited resources.

As you’re exploring the new infrastructure, ask yourself these questions to help you stick to exploring the “ideal” team:

– What leadership and support roles are needed to move the new organization forward?
– What specific skills, knowledge, and experience will each role call for in the new organization?
– What skills and/or knowledge are crucial to each role and which skills and/or knowledge may be negotiable or transferable?

Once the ideal roles are defined, then it’s time to take a close look at the individuals and talent you currently have to fulfill those roles. You’ll be better-equipped to identify strong matches and/or where there may be skill gaps. The skill gaps will offer a guide to an individual’s professional development and coaching plan. Or, they might disqualify someone from being considered for a role. This will depend on how wide the gaps may be, or how transferable the needed skills are.

Ultimately, you may decide to adjust a role to best fit a highly-valued employee who is making significant contributions. Or, you might adjust the org chart to best suit the ensemble of talent and resources available to you in your existing organization.

Whatever the outcome, you will have fully explored your options. You’ll have a handle on your team’s current and future development needs. And, with your chosen team in place, you’ll be free to focus on further maximizing the success and outcomes of the new organization.


Are you leading an organization? Checklist to help you maintain that crucial bird’s eye view.

Your ability to maintain a comprehensive view of the organization you’re leading is crucial. It’s a bird’s-eye view that will enable you to guide, facilitate, strengthen, and grow the business.

Healthy organizations have leaders who:

– provide strategic direction
– set expectations and require accountability for performance
– maintain their understanding of where the strong and weak links/talents are
– identify, coach, and maximize talent
– delegate effectively (without micromanaging)
– engage employees in problem-solving
– swoop in, as needed, and promptly return to the helm to guide and facilitate success

In the midst of incredible pressures to perform, making it a priority to maintain your bird’s eye view will increase your ability to lead and succeed.

3 Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Business

There are myriad factors impacting the success of a small business, whether it be new or well-established. The success that small business owners or any business leaders experience is in large part due to energy: the energy behind their passion; the energy to sustain consistent efforts towards a longer-term goal; and the energy to maintain a genuine service attitude with their prospects, customers and associates.

Here are three ways to breathe life into your new or existing business:

1. Ignite (or Re-ignite) your passion.

If you’ve ever experienced the passion behind a start-up business or new venture, you know that it was palpable. In fact, if you were to think back on any time when you were fully engaged and accomplished great things, your passion was certainly at its core. Passion drives your vision, your confidence, and your actions. Passion will continue to drive you and your business successfully. Many things in life can impact your level of passion negatively, including personal loss, health, family circumstances, business slumps or simply the lack of stimulating change, to name a few. When you find yourself lacking passion, you may find you’re less effective and the day-to-day charge of running your business and/or leading others can become a chore. What can you do about it? Here are a few quick tools that may help you find or reclaim your passion:

– Be honest with yourself about your waning passion.

– Explore your options to the fullest. Write about them. Write about your dreams, and your worst fears. Explore how an imagined change in your work will impact different facets of your life and the lives of those you love. As you explore, if obstacles present themselves, ask yourself: What if this obstacle wasn’t here? Then what would I want to do, and how might I go about it? Seeing your options explored beyond your perceived challenges will provide you more information to help you better drive your decision-making. Through a fearless and risk-free exploration of your options, you’ll either renew a sense of passion for what you’re currently doing, or you’ll clarify your desire or need to make a change.

– Share your state of mind and ideas with people you trust and get a few other perspectives, ideas, and best practices.

2. Focus on short-term activity versus long-term outcomes.

In order to start a new business or grow an existing business, there’s no denying it’s crucial to have clarity around your long-term revenue goals—your ideal, break-even, and unacceptable levels of business performance. That being said, consider this approach:

-Instead of focusing on outcomes, focus on consistent current activity as it relates to the outcome. For example, you may find that you’re focusing on or stressing about the revenue you’re going to generate or lose based on whether you land a proposal. A more productive question may be about what specific, however small, action you can take today that will move you forward, towards your more comprehensive marketing goals. It’s the old “plant enough seeds and some will blossom” analogy. Sometimes you may find that the return may not come directly from where you placed your energy, but you can count on a return nonetheless. The bottom line is, business growth is most robust when you’re putting energy out daily and consistently.

3. Demonstrate a genuine service attitude.

Take the time to send an article of interest to a prospect. Offer your expertise to a colleague in need. Go the extra mile for a client. Maintain a genuine service approach and your prospects and customers will gravitate towards you and what you have to offer.

These three doable strategies provide you the opportunity to take action today. Breathe energy into your business goals….Energy in, revenue out.

Random Thoughts About Leadership and Life

Every so often, I add to my list of the lessons I’m learning, or the random thoughts I’m having, based on my experience in the field. The list reflects what I see as common behaviors or circumstances at work and in life that either contribute to successful, or unwanted, results. Here’s my latest update:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Random Thoughts About Leadership and Life, by Donna Rawady, published in the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY, on Jan 10, 2017.

As I write this, 2016 is coming to an end. With every year we gain experience and add a few more lessons learned. Here are a few random lessons I’ve learned that continue to ring true in my experience. Wishing you all a healthy, happy, and successful 2017.

– Assertive accomplishes a great deal more than aggressive, and engagement always beats intimidation.

– Stress makes us less productive at work, and less accessible to our loved ones.

– Mutual respect and a service attitude are what builds and maintains successful working relationships. This is true no matter what role we hold in an organization or business relationship.

– Effective organizational change management requires a clear vision and consistent reinforcement. It also requires a fair amount of rolled up sleeves and elbow grease.

– We all make mistakes. It’s best to acknowledge them, take responsibility for them, and move on.

– As leaders, if we promise more than we or our teams can deliver, we can break down trust. Yet, if we promise small doable steps and then follow through and deliver, we build trust.

– A leader’s success is often measured by an organization’s profitability. What’s more important are the strategies behind the scenes to keep the profitability sustainable.

– As leaders we’re often baffled by someone’s lack of accountability. Yet, we seldom ask ourselves why we allow it.

– The most successful leaders maintain a perfect balance between business acumen and communication skills.

– Struggling to make sense of something when stressed or stumped is rarely productive. It may be clearer tomorrow.

– It’s important to listen to our gut. It may be trying to tell us something we already know on some level.

– Integrity always matters.

Happy Holidays! —Enjoy the good stuff even in the midst of tough stuff.

Happy Holidays, 2016! Thinking about my mom this afternoon. She passed peacefully in early November. I’m naturally experiencing a mix of emotions this holiday season, which reminded me of holiday wishes that I posted in 2013. They rang true for me then, and still very much do. So I thought I’d share them again.

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Enjoy the good stuff…even in the midst of tough stuff. Originally posted Dec 26, 2013.

This is a time of year when we may experience an interesting dichotomy of emotions. We might find ourselves thinking about all that we have to be grateful for—family, friends, our health, or just being alive. At the same time, our memories or expectations of holiday cheer may heighten our feelings of sadness over the changes in our lives—loss of loved ones, struggling elders, challenging family dynamics, a loved one’s ill-health, and/or career-related stress.

I thought it a great time to share what I’ve been reminding myself and my loved ones of lately. When we find ourselves feeling burdened by difficult circumstances, whether they be during the holidays or occurring in life in general, we can still choose to enjoy the good stuff. It may be as simple or momentary as a ray of sunshine warming your face through a window, or a few hours free of any immediate responsibilities, the thoughtfulness of a friend, or an afternoon with family. Or, it may be that well-deserved vacation or the warmth of your own home or a lasting friendship.

Today, I offer my gratitude to my readers, clients, colleagues, friends and family with these wishes— Every happiness and success in the New Year and seize the opportunity to enjoy the good stuff, even when you find yourself in the midst of tough stuff.

A reminder for the times . . . Emotions are louder than words.

I began using the phrase “Emotions are louder than words” many years ago in my work. This phrase reminds us of the importance of maintaining our composure if we want to influence others when we’re addressing a concern. If we express negative emotions, even subtly, others may focus on our “attitude” instead of what we’re saying. We trade the opportunity to be heard for the possibility of being judged and dismissed.

It doesn’t take much to shift an opportunity for a rich conversation to an altercation or a lasting covert conflict. People may stop trying to understand each other. They might avoid each other for an extended time until resolution seems unlikely. We’ve all seen this happen in the workplace.

We also may be experiencing similar dynamics over the last few weeks. Friends, family members, and fellow citizens are emotionally charged with polarized political views. And we’re finding it difficult to have healthy discussions.

If you want to be heard, minimize those loud emotions, because it’s probable that no one is hearing you above the noise. Here’s one way to do it. Write your uncensored frustrations down for your eyes only. Re-visit your writing a day later. Highlight only those areas that focus on the business case, or the mutual benefits to you and the person(s) you’re planning on talking with. Then base your discussion on the highlighted points. It’s a start anyway.

Whether you’re at work, at home with a loved one, or engaged in a political debate on line, consider this. If you’re preparing to address a concern or debate an opposing idea, focus on mutual respect and the mutual benefits of a positive outcome. Minimize your emotions and maximize your impact.
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This article was originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY on Dec 4/5, 2016.

Leaders—Explore your role relating to accountability

There’s a delicate balance between encouraging people to feel free to explore, own, and implement their own strategies, and understanding when there’s a need to set specific requirements relating to necessary deliverables. One of the most significant factors for leaders in balancing these two approaches is identifying the leadership style needed based on the levels of competence, experience, and capabilities of the people they lead.

Failing to clearly communicate and require specific expectations around roles and responsibilities — within an agreed upon timeframe — can easily lead to significant performance issues, and disappointment. This is a common and consistent missing link to desired and successful outcomes — as is the absence of any clearly stated consequences if the person is unable to deliver within that time frame.

As leaders, when we’re strategizing our role in successful outcomes, or we’re up against a performance issue with direct reports, we must ask ourselves:

• Have I been clear about the non-arguable expectations and deliverables?

• Have I set specific target dates to review required progress toward the objectives?

• Have I clearly stated the business impact and consequences (i.e., shift in their role, adjustment to compensation, termination) if the employee is not able, or equipped, to meet the expectations or objectives within stated time frames?

• Have I followed up frequently enough to ensure that they’re having successes, and am I aware of their specific challenges so that they’re getting the support and coaching they need to be successful?

Of course your direct reports also have a responsibility to ask you for clarity relating to their role and responsibilities. Yet, the simple, yet loaded, question remains: As a leader, when dealing with a performance challenge of unmet deliverables, have you stated the end-goal as a request or a requirement?

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(This content, written by Donna Rawady, was originally published in Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, October 24, 2016—Titled: “Leaders, explore your role with accountability”)