A masterclass on how to lead organizational change

Making others see the need for change when they either can't or won't is a significant obstacle for many executives. In this episode of Toughest Call, Luc Mongeau, President and CEO of eSolutions Furniture, talks about a tough call he made in a previous leadership role: tackling a massive strategic shift that few others saw the need for.

Weeks into his position as President of Mars Canada, Luc recognized several early indicators that the company was slipping into decline. But others didn't see the situation the same way and were resistant to change. What Luc shares in this episode is a masterclass on how to lead significant organizational change.

Luc Mongeau: We had a couple of tough discussions with customers where we were able to pass pricing, and the margin started going up. But most importantly, was the energy in the building, the way people were relating to each other.

Chaz Thorne: Welcome back, or welcome to Toughest Call, a podcast for organizational leaders where we...

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A four-step process to prevent mission drift

‘Mission drift’ is a common affliction in many organizations.

It usually starts at the top and trickles down as you lose the plot of the story you and your colleagues are collectively attempting to tell about what your organization exists to do.

In his episode of the Toughest Call podcast, Rob Angel, the creator of Pictionary, talks about how staying on mission resulted in him and his partners turning down a lucrative licensing deal.

They defined their mission as “scaling the energy and fun of Pictionary” and viewed the offer in front of them as unlikely to contribute to that focus.

Given the massive dollars involved and that he was assembling the games by hand in a tiny Seattle apartment at the time, it was not easy to walk away. Though Pictionary would ultimately sell tens of millions of copies around the globe, its commercial success was not a given at the time. When faced with difficult decisions, staying ‘on mission’ is often incredibly...

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Pictionary’s strategy for success: scaling fun

How can organizational leaders prevent mission drift? In this episode of Toughest Call, Rob Angel, Creator of Pictionary, talks about how staying on mission resulted in him and his partners turning down a lucrative licensing deal.

Rob originally dreamed up what would become one of the best-selling board games of all time four decades ago. The demand on the small business they created to publish the game in 1985 grew rapidly. Rob was tired of eating ramen noodles and assembling games by hand in his tiny apartment in Seattle, so they started to explore licensing to a larger games company. And after their first candidate didn't work out, they found themselves presented with an even larger opportunity.

But along with the big bucks came a big sacrifice. What Rob ultimately faced with this extremely lucrative deal was something many organizational leaders confront: How do I ensure that I'm staying true to our mission?

Rob Angel: I don't think we said a word, the three of us. We all...

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The value of a one-page plan

A leap is required whenever you start any new project, initiative, or business; you can’t possibly know everything before diving in. However, there are some simple ways to “look before you leap” to spot potential hazards with a small amount of upfront planning.

In 2010, I first discovered the concept and value of planning on a single page through the book “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. It was in this book that the authors introduced the now well-known Business Model Canvas. 

Unlike typical text-heavy and overly tedious business plans, the Business Model Canvas represents a quick, thoughtful, and visual way to get the entire vision of a business on a single page. These features make the creation of a canvas a lot of fun. Whereas the same can seldom be said about the creation of a typical business plan.

The canvas consists of nine elements that allow you to quickly get an overview of what a business or initiative...

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Making the leap to entrepreneurship

In this episode of Toughest Call, Izabella Roth, CEO of Infinity Healthcare Ltd., talks about how she boldly stepped into the creation of a new company at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. 

Izabella shares the many changes she embraced in her business-building journey that took her from the days of panicking about making payroll to presently expanding Infinity into new markets.

Izabella Roth: If it's scary, go and do it. You can't change unless you do things that you're scared of doing.

Chaz Thorne: Welcome back and welcome to Toughest Call, a podcast for organizational leaders, where we hear stories from your leadership colleagues about career-defining decisions. I'm your host, Chaz Thorne. 

In this episode, I'm talking with Izabella Roth, the CEO of Infinity Healthcare, about how she boldly stepped into the creation of a new company at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Presently, Infinity provides in-home health care to clients in Alberta and British Columbia...

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How do you assess your organization’s change readiness?

How do you assess your organization’s change readiness?

One of my favorite books is “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins. Though it is positioned as the “onboarding bible” for executive leaders, the book also includes excellent insight into strategy formulation and implementation more broadly.

One of the frameworks Watkins puts forth is his STARS Model. In effect, the model allows you to get clear on the “lay of the land.” This clarity is essential because if you jump into proposing significant changes before doing this foundational analysis, you will likely encounter resistance from the individuals you are expecting to implement these changes.

Whether you have led your team for a while, were recently promoted or transferred internally, or are stepping into a new organization, STARS allows you to answer two key questions: 

  1. What change am I being called upon to lead?
  2. What type of leader must I be to lead this change?

STARS is an...

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How a non-profit successfully achieves strategic realignment

What does it take to bring about an organization's strategic realignment? In this episode of Toughest Call, Scott Skinner, CEO of Clean Foundation, talks about how he and his team strategically repositioned their organization to heighten its impact. Scott takes us through how he initially positioned this strategic pivot for success, and then kept it on course, during execution.

Scott Skinner: We had really great, well-educated, competent people that could take on complex projects, so I saw this, I was like, I need to apply these people to their highest and best use. So that may require a pivot.

Chaz Thorne: Welcome back, or welcome to Toughest Call, a podcast for organizational leaders where we hear stories from your leadership colleagues about career-defining decisions. I'm your host, Chaz Thorne. 

In this episode, I'm talking with the CEO of Clean Foundation, Scott Skinner, about how he and his team strategically repositioned...

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How do you navigate a toxic business relationship?

How do you navigate a toxic business relationship?

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in a partnership, team, or company where something isn’t quite gelling.

But sometimes, that situation turns from uncomfortable to toxic when there’s a conflict in values.

In her episode of the Toughest Call podcast, Dr. Dianne Tyers, the Dean of the Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development at Dalhousie University, talks about her experience confronting this situation as a partner in a consulting business. After years of cultivating clients and achieving financial success, she found herself grappling with the strain the partnership was putting on her values.

As a strategic planner, I’ve seen that organizations have no problem coming up with a list of stated values.

The challenge is that sticking to them means some very real short or medium-term pain.

Despite the enormous financial hit, Dianne stuck with her gut and her values and ended the partnership.

Though the road...

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A strategy for vetting business partnerships

How do we assess whether a partner is a good fit beyond a typical, surface-level analysis? In this episode of Toughest Call, Dr. Dianne Tyers talks about her decision to end a business partnership that would have a significant impact on her company’s revenue for several years.

Though she was an entrepreneur at the time she made this tough call, Dianne is now Dean of the Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development at Dalhousie University. She shares what she learned about the importance of ensuring you share the values of an individual or organization before you enter into a partnership.

Dianne Tyers: I got to the point where I need to be true to who I am, I need to be true to the values under which I established this organization that I'm running, and I just need to make this decision.

Chaz Thorne: Welcome back, or welcome to Toughest Call, a podcast for organizational leaders where we hear stories from your leadership colleagues...

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Align teams with your strategy using a Guiding Light

What is your organization’s Guiding Light?

In his episode of the Toughest Call podcast, Mark Bowden, a world-renowned expert on body language and communication, takes me through the process he uses with leaders to arrive at an economical, truthful, and credible statement that can align an entire organization.

Many people think this is what mission and vision statements achieve.

The unfortunate truth is that they typically fail miserably at this task.

What’s worse is the process to arrive at these ultimately useless statements is usually painful.

You spend months in and out of meetings. Maybe you’re working with expensive outside consultants and facilitators. Dozens of emails have gone back and forth. You’ve been promised the endless “wordsmithing” will be worth it. In any case, everyone seems to believe this is “very important work”. And then you have it; the perfect mission and vision statement. You send out a memo, slap it on a...

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