July 2014 - In This Issue:
Sacramento River Cats CEO Susan Savage, her son and River Cats General Manager Jeff Savage and Jeanne Reaves.
Q&A: Asking the Right Questions
Q: I never seem to know what questions to ask and/or I sometimes feel I may come across as being uninformed in a group setting so don't participate like I should. What is a good way to ask questions?


- Larry, Construction Industry
A: Asking good questions, next to good listening skills, is key to good leadership. If you ask good questions you can solve problems, influence the outcome and manage tough situations.

Knowing the person's personality with whom you are speaking and knowing where they are coming from is critical in getting the information you require to solve your need for information. Focus on them and not yourself!


Ask open-ended questions such as "what or how do we manage that..." Don't ask "why" questions unless it is essential for a successful outcome - this can become annoying and seem you are challenging them - but do ask if it is germane to the outcome of the subject matter.


Keep your questions short and simple. When speaking as a team use the word "we" in lieu of "I" - this includes when the team is needed for resolution. Remember, speak confidently and there is no right or wrong question if you need data to answer your need for information.


Q: At times, I question myself by asking "Am I making the right business decision? Is there an art to knowing you're right?"


- Anonymous, MD
A: Making good decisions in business and personally is to understand and accept it is okay not to always know the answer and not to be afraid to admit it. Some feel they need to "know everything" when asked a question by a colleague or friend however, this is not the case. Admitting you don't know shows honesty, courage and good leadership. I strongly believe in practicing the results of a research project undertaken by Jim Collins. After 14 years of research, "Good to Great" author Jim Collins says the art of making decisions are:
  1. Great Decisions Come From Saying "I Don't Know." Collins asks: "Which is best? Saying you don't know when you've already made up your mind? Or presuming to know when you don't and therefore, lying to yourself? Or speaking the truth, which is: I don't yet know?"
  2. The Higher The Questions/Statements Ratio, The Better. The best leaders Collins studied did the best job at igniting debate using Socratic Questions. As for himself: "I tried to make heroes out of those on my team who identified flaws in my thinking." Collins says. "At the next meeting, I might say: 'I really want to give Leigh credit. She really pushed my thinking, and I wasn't looking at this right.'"
  3. Deciding Is Not About Consensus. Debate can be "violent," but in the end, the leader makes the call. "No major decision we've studied was ever taken at a point of unanimous agreement."
  4. Great Decisions Come From External Awareness. Fabulous organizations are internally driven but externally aware.
  5. Even Huge Decisions Decide Only A Tiny Fraction Of The Outcome. "The big decisions are not lot 60 to 100 points - they're more like 6 of 100 points. And there's a whole bunch of others that are like 0.6 or 0.006."
  6. Think Long Term. Real leaders manage for the quarter-century, not the quarter.
  7. You Can Make Mistakes - Even Big Ones - And Prevail. What a relief.

Adopted from "Jim Collins on Tough Calls" -Jerry Useem, Fortune


Strategic Planning - Is it Necessary?

"Jeanne's experience and knowledge with strategic planning gave us the tools to move our family driven business forward. We couldn't have made the same progress in our business plans without a leader like Jeanne to help us build a customized strategic plan" - Sacramento River Cats CEO Susan Savage

Strategic Planning is not just an exercise to be done because others do it or you do it but don't follow through - it is the means to success. A number of quantifiable studies have been conducted in recent years, which validates that a comprehensive strategic plan effects quality performance in heightened operating ratios, increased market share and an excellent return on investment.

There are many many books written about Strategic Planning and some are effective guides while others totally miss the mark. Strategic Planning is a means in which you review your objectives and then state what is needed to achieve the objectives. Forbes published 5 steps to a strategic plan, which I strongly believe, should be implemented.
  1. Determine where you are. Some people see themselves how they WANT to see themselves, not how they actually appear to others.
  2. Identify what's important. Focus on where you want to take your organization over time. This sets the direction of the enterprise long term and clearly defines the mission (markets, customers, products, etc.) and vision (conceptualization of what your organization's future should or could be).
  3. Define what you must achieve. Define the expected objectives that clearly state what your organization must achieve to address the priority issues.
  4. Determine who is accountable. This is how you're going to get to where you want to go. Strategies, action plans and budgets are all steps in the process that will effectively communicate how you will allocate your time, resources and expenses to address the priority issues and achieve the defined objectives.
  5. Review. Review. Review. It's not over. It's never over. To ensure the plan performs as designed, you must hold regularly scheduled formal reviews of the process and refine as necessary. We suggest at least once a quarter.

To assist in assessing your company in contrast to your competitors and in setting quality strategies, a SWOT analysis (Strengths and, Weaknesses which relate to internal factors, in addition to Opportunities and Threats which relate to external factors) should be performed. This analysis will depict your internal strengths and weaknesses and your external opportunities and threats. Goals and objectives are established through the SWOT analysis. A facilitated Strategic Planning Session should be performed along with a complimentary budget to drive the board and staff in a desired direction to meet a shared vision.


Board Room
Determining Governance

Boards may ask themselves "are we truly a governance Board or are we too much into management's responsibilities?" How do we "oversee" the company's assets if we don't question and ask for evidence?


A simple rule is, governance is setting the company's direction through strategic planning - setting goals and objectives, reviewing dashboards, setting limitations and accountability thereby ensuring compliance and direction desired.


Management oversees the day-to-day operation to meet the Board's goals and objectives. Act put it this way "Governance determines the 'What?' - what the organization does and what it should become in the future. Management determines the 'How?' - how the organization will reach those goals and aspirations."


This is the time your Board and appropriate management may want to start considering a planning session to set the future of your company. We are available to assist you in a strategic planning session.

Notable Nonprofits
Supporting Sacramento's Nonprofits is important to us.
When I first took a tour of the Salvation Army I was amazed at how many services they provide our community. It is not just ringing the bell at Christmas to help the homeless, they offer so much more. Did you know their Oak Park location has a beautiful area in which low-income families can drop their children off for an educational day of fun and learning? Did you know they assisted adults in rehabilitation, elderly services, senior services, combating human trafficking, homelessness, providing shelter for those leaving the hospital without a place to go? Or how about transitional housing for homeless families and helping our veterans? Children are also given hope as well - The Salvation Army has a beautiful gym for at risk kids to spend time after school playing sports, doing homework in addition to other activities in lieu of making wrong choices on the street. The list does not stop here. Visit their facilities and see for yourself. Contact them here www.gosalarmy.org.

Did you know more than 60,000 kids in foster care are removed from their homes because of severe neglect or abuse? Most of the kids have faced unthinkable sadness and trauma. Some have never experienced life's simplest joys and pleasures. While California's foster care system provides them with the basics - food, shelter, and medical care - many may not receive much else. Sierra believes every child needs and deserves a permanent, loving family. Through the agency's innovative programs, it has become an industry leader known for advocating finding homes for all children including older youth and large sibling groups. Sierra works with concurrent planning families to secure a stable safety net to let children cope during a difficult transition time. Trained therapists offer individual, family and group therapy. The therapists offer mental health services with a specialty focus on trauma, grief and loss, attachment and permanency issues with the goal of creating a stronger family unit. Sierra supports and guides the families who have finalized their adoption, but could still benefit from supportive assistance. A mentorship program is also offered to Foster Children. The mentors are trained to listen, support and guide each child through fun, age-appropriate experiences in music, the arts, sports, volunteer service, dining out and nature. Learn more about this wonderful nonprofit at www.sierraff.org.

To learn more about Jeanne Reaves Consulting's community involvement and how we support nonprofit organizations, visit our website.

Our goal is to help make your business as efficient and profitable as possible. We will work with you to help solve your problems, while understanding that you have limited resources and budget. Upon completion, we will present to you a written assessment of your business and recommendations for improving inefficiencies and cost. Sign up today.

Jeanne Reaves

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