This Collection of Tools Will Improve Your Business Writing Skills

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Writing for business is a specific skill that needs to be honed over the course of your career. Many people think they don’t need to develop their skills, as they already have enough skill to get by day to day, but developing those skills pays dividends. Here are the best online tools that you can learn a lot from, and use in your everyday work.

  1. Hemingway Editor

This app is a great tool if you want to improve your spelling and grammar. Simply paste your work into the text box, and it will highlight any errors in your work. It will highlight different types of errors in different colours, meaning you can see at a glance what skills you need to work on.

  1. Email Excellence

Sending the perfect email is an art unto itself, and sometimes you need a little help to get it right. These email templates will help you craft the perfect email every time, with templates for requests for action, delivering information, and even delivering bad news.

  1. BoomEssays

Nothing is less professional than writing a report that’s full of errors, but when you’re rushed off your feet, who’s got time for proofreading? These online writing professionals can help. Send your important documents to them, and they can proofread and edit them, sending you back high quality texts every time.

  1. Scrivener

If you like to wring the most out of every spare moment, this app could be for you. Scrivener is a downloadable text editor which can be used on laptops and desktops, as well as portable devices. Even if you’re on the train or waiting in traffic, you can make the most of the time and get working.

  1. Wridea

Ever have a brilliant idea, only to forget it, or lose the napkin you’d scribbled it down on? It will never happen again with this app. Write your ideas down in it, and then save them so you can access them easily later. You can even send ideas to your colleagues, which can be really useful when working on group projects.

  1. Readability Test Tool

Your writing is only as good as the people who can read it. If your work isn’t being recognised by the right people, put it through this app. It’ll score it on several readability scales, allowing you to amend it as necessary.

  1. Essayroo

Any good manager knows that they key to getting everything done is delegation. Whether it’s a paper, an email campaign, or a presentation, this writing service can help. Simply send them what they need to get started, and they can deliver high quality work, quickly.

  1. Verbix

The English language is difficult, even for native speakers. This app helps you conjugate verbs, and when you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

  1. Stoodle

Want to learn more about business writing skills? This app allows you to attend classes in real time from your computer. After the class has ended, it’ll be saved on your account so you can access it at any time. You can even connect with other users using its social platform.

  1. Pro Writing Aid

If you need to proofread quickly, paste your work into this app. It’ll instantly underline the issues with your work, allowing you to amend them and move on. It’s perfect if you’re approaching deadline!

These are just some online writing tools that can give your business writing skills a real boost. Try them out for yourself, and you’ll see just how much they will improve, and how quickly. Get ahead at work, today.

About Gloria Kopp

Gloria Kopp is a web content writer and an elearning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from University of Wyoming and started a career of a creative writer. She has recently launched her Studydemic educational website and is currently working as a freelance writer and editor.

Topic: Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Small-Medium Businesses, Women and Business
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New Issue of the Graziadio Business Review Posted

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Welcome to a new issue of the Graziadio Business Review. This issue includes a variety of articles written by knowledgeable authors that we believe you will find informative, insightful, and engaging.

Hiring Disabled Workers

Bringing the Whole Community into the Workforce


One of our most underserved and underutilized groups is the community of disabled persons. Too often their ability to constructively contribute to society and the recognition of their need to do so is overlooked. In this article Michael Cafferky discusses the economic, social, and moral obligation to be more inclusive of disabled persons in the workforce.


The Benefits of Mindfulness in Leading Transformational Change

Managing Ambiguity

transformation shutterstock_293450465 smConditions such as globalization, rapidly accelerating technological advancement, and economic turmoil have rocked the business world in recent years, driving a corresponding shift in both the pace and nature of organizational change. As a consequence, organizations find themselves undergoing transformational change more frequently than in the past.


Revitalizing Organizational Identity to Spark Turnaround

Four Factors That Contribute To an Organization’s Identity

Identity is an important acartoon shutterstock_210479080 smallspect of the organization that can help it attract human, financial, and other resources critical for success. Over time, and especially in times of organizational decline, important identity attributes can atrophy, leaving the organization misaligned with its current and future competitive demands. This article proposes a model for examining and revitalizing identity attributes as needed to support organizational turnaround and avoid organizational death.


“Live Your Life in Crescendo”

Moral Insights for Leaders from Stephen R. Covey

Isitting-in-front-of-treen July of 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, one of Time Magazine’s 25 “most influential Americans,”[1]passed away—about four months after a head injury suffered while riding his racing bike.[2] Covey was 79 years of age, and his regimen of personal fitness, which led to his death, reflected his commitment to what he often cited as the four key elements of his life: mental, spiritual, emotional and physical good health.[3] Covey was still at it in his efforts to maintain physical fitness, although he was nearing the end of his eighth decade of self-improvement—a quest for excellence that he sought in all areas of his personal life.


“Mr. Watson, Come Here!”

How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Healthcare!

“Mr. Watson, come here.” These immortal words uttered by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10, 1876 ushered in a new era in communication technology. Fast forward to May 1997 when another seminal technological event occurred: IBM’s Deep Blue defeated the world’s chess champion, Mr. Garry Kasparov, in a rematch by the score of 3-½ to 2-½. This was the first time a computer program had
defeated a reigning world chess champion under tournament conditions. The results sent a tremor through the chess world, and even more importantly, through the artificial intelligence universe. If machines could beat the chess champ, what else could they accomplish?

When you are finished with these articles, you might be interested in looking through our archives, book reviews, and videos.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to submit an article, please contact Nancy Ellen Dodd at:

Topic: Change Management, Engagement, GBR News, Human Resources, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Technology, Uncategorized

4 Key Ingredients To Family Business Success

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

The Right Planning Can Limit Discord When Personal And Professional Roles Mix

At the office, Alex Sutherland calls his boss by his first name, Ken.

After business hours, he calls him “Dad.”

“I have two relationships with him and it’s important to have some separation between when I am in my role as his employee and when I am in my role as his son,” says Alex, a wealth advisor with LifePlan Group, an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm.

“Sometimes I do slip up and call him Dad at work. I think the clients kind of like that, though.”

The difficulty of trying to manage a dual relationship is something common with those who work in family businesses. It’s easy to allow the personal to seep into the business and to allow business issues to creep into what should be private time.

But there also are advantages.

“Having a father-son relationship in the business is extremely powerful when working with clients,” Alex says. “They get a feel for who we are and they want to know why we teamed up. It’s important to share that story because I think it creates a closer bond between us and the clients.”

The Sutherlands say they have found ways to address the thorny issues that arise when family and business mix:

  • Separate personal from professional. In any business, challenges and disagreements will happen. “It’s important that each person understand that these are business feelings, not personal ones,” Alex says. “For example, when I make a mistake at the office and am coached on how to improve, I know that Ken is discussing who I am as an employee, not as a son.”
  • Keep communication open. In any venture, communication is critical even without family issues. Adding the family dynamic emphasizes the need for communication even more. “Ken and I are constantly talking about each of our goals and aspirations so we are on the same page and there are no surprises or unknown motivations,” Alex says.
  • Talk honestly about frustrations. “Not everything is going to go smoothly and there will be frustrations,” Ken says. “Talk it out. But make sure you do it behind closed doors and not in front of other members of your staff.”
  • Celebrate successes together. The Sutherlands say it’s easy to become bogged down in what each person in the relationship isn’t doing or could do better. They say it’s important to stay focused on the big picture and to celebrate the accomplishments. “Remember that it’s a privilege to work and build a business with a family member,” Alex says. “Approach it that way.”

One major issue family businesses face is preparing to pass leadership duties to a successor, which is not something they all do well. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that 40 percent of family business leaders are reluctant to pass the baton to the next generation, and 73 percent of family businesses have no succession plan.

Ken is determined to avoid any hitches with the LifePlan succession. He has been grooming Alex to take over since the younger Sutherland joined the business in 2012. Alex learned back-office procedures, sits in on most of Ken’s meetings and joins Ken for public workshop presentations where they try to attract new clients.

These days it is Alex, not Ken, who holds an initial meeting with prospective clients. Alex also has taken the lead on the firm’s technology, “bringing us very much into the digital-marketing age,” Ken says.

“Even with our existing clients, we are training them to understand that we are both available to meet their needs,” Ken says. “I find that our older clients appreciate having a younger advisor available to them. And I think they like that he will be there for them for many years to come.”


About Ken Sutherland, ChFC, CLU, MDiv

Headshot - Ken head onlyKen Sutherland has been in the financial industry for more then 25 years. He obtained his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 1994 and his Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation in 2004, both from The American College in Byrn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Ken has an undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Oregon and a Masters of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary. In 2003, Ken founded LifePlan Group ( in North Carolina and has continued to develop his personal approach to financial planning as a Registered Investment Advisor.

About Alex Sutherland

Headshot - Alex head onlyAlex Sutherland joined his father in the business in 2012 and brings a unique and diverse background to his work with LifePlan Group clients. He received a Bachelor of Science degree with a dual major in Mechanical Engineering and Trumpet Performance from Iowa State University of Science and Technology. He was a 2009 Corps Member for Teach for America, a non-profit organization that places teachers in low income areas across the nation. Along with Ken, Alex serves as a Registered Investment Advisor for clients at LifePlan. He continues to leverage his experience as a teacher by developing and leading financial educational workshops and presentations to clients and the public.

Topic: Communication, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Small-Medium Businesses, Work/Life Balance
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New Issue of the Graziadio Business Review Posted

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Welcome to the new issue of the Graziadio Business Review. It contains several articles written by GSBM faculty that we hope you will enjoy reading.


world videos shutterstock_296794649 thumbprintHollywood’s Digital Blind Spots: Navigating Disruptive Technologies

Creative story telling has been the core product of Hollywood. In the dogged pursuit of creative production, the business executives often fail to focus on a disruptive technology as an opportunity because it is viewed as a distraction. Devendra Mishra looks at how the entertainment system can navigate these new technologies.


world alarm thumbprintIs Cyprus the Warning Bell That Bank Deposits Are No Longer Safe?

Joetta Forsyth, Linnea McCord, and Terry Young discuss the crisis in Cyprus that puts the world community on notice that bank deposits may no longer be safe; even smaller depositors lost money in Cyprus banks. They ask the troubling question: will bank bail-ins—by depositors, creditors and bondholders—become the norm in other countries as well?


big data iStock_000046322302 thumbprintBig Data Decision Making: Is There Room for Intuition in the Era of Big Data?

How do you make managerial decisions? Do you rely on data or your intuition? Mark Mallinger and Matt Stefl provide a thought-provoking exercise to help managers assess how they make decisions and then offer guidelines for quality decision-making.


whale_flyingA Whale of a Legal Tale: The Supreme Court Decides If Sarbanes-Oxley Applies to Tossing Fish Overboard

It might be surprising that a case about a fisherman and some undersized red grouper ever reached the U.S. Supreme Court. But in fact, it came close to splitting the nine justices right down the middle. Larry Bumgardner explains how that happened and the potential repercussions.


Drone iStock_000052629782 thumbprintThe Commercial Global Drone Market: Emerging Opportunities for Social and Environmental Uses of UAVs

Initially, the U.S. has focused on drones for military purposes. Donald M. Atwater makes a case for how drones can be connected to the social and environmental objectives of businesses, including worker health and safety, customer service, market image, and innovation.



Editorial: Taking Management Education to a Whole New Level—The Era of the Play-by-Play Man!

Owen P. Hall, Jr., shows that the Play-by-Play Man sporting allegory is not a pipedream, but the new reality in enhancing learning opportunities and outcomes throughout schools of business. Today, the technology exists to transform the sleepy old classroom into a dynamic learning environment.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to submit an article, please contact Nancy Ellen Dodd at: nancy[dot]dodd[at]

Topic: America's Financial Crisis, Business Law, Entrepreneurship, GBR News, Innovation, Investing, IT, Knowledge Management, Management, Media Industry, Small-Medium Businesses, Strategy, Technology

When You’re the Arriving Leader – Part IV of IV

Monday, October 26th, 2015

boy in fathers shoesThe first three parts of this series focused on the broader organization’s requirements to orchestrate effective executive transitions through robust processes and careful attention to bolstering key stakeholder relationships. (Part I, Part II, Part III.) Our final post is going to turn the spotlight on the arriving leader—the successor—the entrant. Yes, our first two discussions reveal just how much is not in your control. But rest assured, there is also plenty that is. There are six nearly inevitable landmines a newly arriving executive will contend with whether they arrive from within or outside the organization. Take heed as you navigate into your next new assignment.

The mandate bait Many executives arrive with a perceived mandate to repeat past success—“You’ve turned around situations like this before and that’s what we need.” Instead of looking realistically at the current situation, executives reach back to their bag of tricks that “worked before” and begin slapping those formulas on the new environment without contextualization. Organ rejection sets in as the leader’s diagnosis turns into an indictment of the culture’s inadequacies. The organization more firmly resists, resenting the executive’s ignorance of what will and won’t work. Avoiding this trap requires deep knowledge of context—reading it and adapting to it. Become an anthropologist as you enter a new role—collect data and analyze it for insights, especially disconfirming insights that contradict biases you may be blind to. Whether arriving from inside our outside the organization, you will have incomplete lenses throughout with which to read the environment accurately, and pressure to act in advance of needed perspectives. Hit the ground learning, not running.

Intensified tapes and triggers Being aware of how others experience you is never more heightened than when you feel on display. The arrival into a new job, and all the excitement and anxiety that accompanies such a formidable change, will push buttons you may not even have known you had. Feeling perpetually evaluated and judged, your inclination to overcompensate by proving yourself, being successful as early as possible, and making great first impressions may well backfire as you make a fool of yourself. People will see right through your agenda to win their approval, affirmation, or admiration, and end up withholding it for just that reason. The resulting consequence is the tendency to hide and isolate in a desperate attempt to not be seen. Listen closely to those warning messages in your head that tempt you to over perform, misinterpret others’ views of you, wrongly assume they are loving you when they may not be, or wrongly assume they don’t like you when they may. The antidote is to ensure you are calibrating with people you can trust. Establishing early, solid connections with deep trust, investment, and openness are the best guardians against this trap. Ask for early feedback and calibrate against what you are hearing. While you may want to effect change quickly, you may first have to change yourself. To transform an organization, you have to let it transform you.

Altitude distortions How your messages are received, and how messages arrive to you, change dramatically when you near the organization’s top. Assume you now have a megaphone strapped to you 24/7. Everything you say and do is amplified and open to interpretations far from your intentions. Similarly, information you get is now sifted. People sanitize data and tell you what they think you want to hear. Unable to adapt to these distortions, many executives regain their footing by reverting to the more tangible, less ambiguous work from their old job. Executive breadth is the requirement for avoiding this trap—having the broadest possible knowledge of your organization, how its pieces fit together, and especially of how to bridge the organization’s seams where conflicts are intensified. Broader perspectives that add value lower level leaders can’t, helps new executives confidently orient to realities of higher altitudes. See the business end-to-end and connect dots others can’t, forge new working patterns that create greater cohesion, and minimize functional fragmentation. Rise above the fray, and stay there.

Power failure Most executives struggle with the larger sphere of positional, informational, and relational power afforded them by bigger jobs. While tabloids are filled with leaders who abuse that power with indulgent self-interest, the more common power failure is abdication. Executives are so fearful of wielding power that they avoid using it, especially when the risks seem high. Indecisiveness; accommodating, mediocre performance; co-dependent relationships with others to hide behind; and irresponsible uses of confidential information are just some of the symptoms of a leader who has abdicated their power. Self-protection, not self-service, is often the driver behind such fearful leaders. What they fail to grasp is the importance of the larger good their power is intended to serve. At the top of the organization your ability to right injustices, allocate resources fairly, provide access to opportunity, focus people on limited priorities, and invest in promising talent are all the privileges that accompany power, and failure to exercise it is as much an abuse of the privilege as exploiting it for personal gain. Embracing the importance of executive choice is the custodian against power failure. Constructing choices with data, appropriate inclusion of others, clear values, and full appreciation of painful trade-offs is an executive’s privileged prerogative. Executive power is intended to serve others, not to hide behind.

Time and complexity shift As the set of variables to manage expands in a broader role, the time horizon for realizing results will also increase. The accelerating dynamics of an increasingly global marketplace and advancements in technology both play into this. With all these variables, the ability to make long-term bets for future success while delaying gratification become your new reality. This can be unsettling. Not only does it place greater importance on your abilities to identify trends and proactively plan in the face of longer, more ambiguous timelines, it also reduces the immediacy of validation to which you’ve become accustomed at lower levels.

From dots to patterns One of the biggest hurdles many leaders face as they rise to the rank of executive is shifting from seeing themselves as a problem-solver to pattern recognizer. At higher organizational levels you need to see patterns in the marketplace, patterns in how your organization responds, patterns in how groups operate, and patterns in how people behave. You need to evaluate and respond to patterns at a systemic level instead of responding to a particular instance or symptom. Like the images hiding in the old stereograms of the 90s, organizational patterns sometimes don’t appear until you squint enough, and seemingly unrelated dots suddenly connect. Effective leaders have great pattern recognition skills, and over time, build pattern libraries in their minds that enable them to easily spot trends, detect shifts in the organization early, and look at issues and opportunities from a much higher altitude.

Invest the needed time to plan an effective arrival into your new assignment, assume that it will take much longer than you hope, or that others may expect, to get sustainable traction, and keep your eye on the longer term prize of truly making a difference and discovering a rewarding professional adventure. The old cliché is true—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Plan to arrive well, and the odds are much higher that you actually will.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at:

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
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Relational Dynamics Can Get Screwy…Even in the Best Case Scenarios – Part III of IV

Monday, October 19th, 2015

This is Part III of IV. Click here for the previous post.

Once a robust transition process has been designed, slated leaders are being developed for the role as it will be (not for what it is today), and contextual and relational opportunities have been identified and planed for. Yet one big variable remains: Leaders in the process get to come to their own conclusions and ultimately choose how they’ll behave. Leaders are also regular people. And when regular people experience the stress of being personally implicated, as is often the case during transition initiatives, they can wind up coming to illogical conclusions and behave in ineffective ways. Ironically, these people are also usually the ones who are in support of the transition at its inception.

Executive transitions: Patterns we’ve seen surface that frequently undermine redefining these critical relationships

Through the years we have seen these types of relationships be managed poorly. What follows are a few patterns, what to look for, and how to make sure they don’t undermine your transition success. Leaders get squirrely during transitions because there is so much on the line for them personally. Transitioning executives are wrestling (often unknowingly) with their diminishing influence and relevance while the new leader is eager to prove herself (usually in ways that are a stark contrast to the leadership that has been). Similarly, leaders on the team are faced with the need to shift loyalties—from their existing leader to the newly appointed leader. Some will relish the change, some will bemoan it. Left unmanaged these evolving dynamics are a recipe for disaster.

The graphic below highlights the most frequent patterns we see unfold between critical leadership relationships during such transitions. (For a detailed look at the model, see post titled “Managing Evolving Relational Dynamics of Transitioning Executives Part II of IV”) <<<<INSERT LINK TO POST>>>

Chart 3 a rev


Pattern 1: Arriving and exiting leaders lack role clarity and duel over decision rights. At the root of this pattern is what we call dueling decision rights. The transition of decision ownership between leaders doesn’t happen overnight and frequently there is confusion or disagreement about who owns what by when. When these specifics aren’t explicitly detailed on the front end, leaders end up spending more time butting heads, decreasing the quality of decisions, and slowing results. Underneath it all are opposing and often unconscious expectations. Don’t let your transitions get tripped up by dueling decision rights.

  • Clarify decision rights and leadership boundaries.
  • Clarify leadership expectations of and from the new leader.

Chart 3 b rev


Pattern 2: Arriving leader wants to prove themselves and differentiate their leadership from past regimes. At the root of this pattern is the fear that I am not going to be good enough or I am not going to fit. We have seen very competent and seasoned executives sabotage their success because they end up working so hard to try and prove a different, better, new outcome to a story that’s only in their head.


  • Help arriving leaders surface their underlying beliefs and assumptions about their entry to the role.
  • Help arriving leaders plan to manage the triggers that spark unproductive and ineffective behaviors that may arise as they assume their new role.

Chart 3 c rev


Pattern 3: Exiting leader struggles to “let go” and leave, and colludes with past significant relationships. It’s hard to let go and move on. And, at the root of this pattern is the exiting leader’s fear of obsolesce. In cases like these their promotion is usually the reward of a job well done and thus they struggle to let go of what they have helped create because they don’t want to risk…(you fill in the blank). Don’t assume that just because a leader has said they’re moving on, that they will actually do so. Behaviors speak louder than words. Collusive behavior between leadership teams and exiting leaders happens all too frequently.

  • Create ground rules about comparison of the arriving and exiting leaders; create forums for candid and honest dialogue about struggles and excitement in a “safe” environment.
  • Evaluate the team’s current/needed capability against future business requirements and create an objective starting point for the arriving leader to step in to.

Fortunately, these, and others, are all patterns that do not have to repeat themselves. Through thoughtful and intentional planning transitioning leaders can get out in front of these obstacles and create a more productive way forward.

In our next post we’ll drill down even deeper on the arriving leader and articulate how to effectively embed them in their new role and ensure success out of the gate.

Subscribe here to receive Quarterly Insights from Navalent.


CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at:


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at:

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
Tags: , , ,

Managing Evolving Relational Dynamics of Transitioning Executives – Part II of IV

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Previously we wrote about the importance of actually preparing succession candidates to become ready to lead in future roles once they assume them. [Click here for previous post] A large and often overlooked part of succession preparation includes analyzing key relationships critical for success in the role, the value that relationship creates, and a detailed plan for effectively working together. Whether meeting for the first time or modifying existing relationships, each new appointment highlights a complex network of new relationships and risks. These new relationships and risks are as varied as the succession context they surface in. Leaders must understand the implications of these variables on the process and candidate’s success.

The graphic below identifies four key leader groups and specific variables to account for. Answers to these variables can be surfaced through the following questions:

  • In what context does the “arriving leader” enter their new role?
  • In what context is the “exiting leader” departing their previous role?
  • How does the “arriving leader’s” new direct reports, peers, and other stakeholders feel about and understand transition specifics?


Leader lg

Gaining insight about what triggered the transition and how people currently feel about it is a good start. However, the arriving leader must also gain insight about the requirements that will ensure their success in the future. These questions include:

  1. What key relationships are required for success in my new assignment?
  2. What value must be created between us?
  3. What needs to change or be established between us to ensure the transition sticks?

Relationships are the fabric of successful transitions. Yet too often HR and OD professionals underestimate the vast network of relationships required to hold it all together and instead focus too narrowly on the arriving leader. Talent professionals are perfectly positioned to guide involved leaders through a process that surfaces insight about leader groups and contextual elements as well as support the arriving leader in building necessary relationships for the future. Defining the relational implications of success and shifting the organization’s mentality from one transition—the classic “baton pass,”—to a tapestry of transitions are unfortunately, frequently overlooked.

The vast tapestry of relationships: Prioritizing relationships and clarifying the strategic value created between them

Not all relationships are created equal, in life or in business. Helping transitioning executives understand their new relational landscape in their new context will help them get traction quicker than nearly everything else that happens in their first 100 days in the role. For the purposes of this post we’ll assume that it is a double promotion. The exiting leader is being promoted to a broader, elevated role and the arriving leader is backfilling said promotion.

Entering a new role can be off balancing relationally; something further compounded by pre-existing relationships and historical interactions as is the case with internal transitions. Furthermore, working relationships can be complicated because of the role a leader is transitioning into and the role they are transitioning out of. The higher up in the organization they arrive, the wider the range of leaders who will be clamoring for their attention and thus an even greater need to prioritize certain relationships over others.

The best way to help prepare this incoming executive is by starting with the exiting executive’s analysis of their critical relationships and the strategic value created between them. In the case of an internal promotion, the exiting and entering executives could do this work together. You can’t plan for every possible relationship but there is usually a similar set of characters who should be attended to. The usual suspects are as follows.

The relationship between exiting leader and arriving leader. This is the most obvious relationship. The arriving leader needs to understand the specifics of the exiting leader’s departure as well as any specifics they must bring to the role. Here are some helpful questions to get clear on the specifics of the relational context between the arriving and exiting leaders.

  • What triggered the transition? Over what time are decision rights and other responsibilities handed off?
  • Similarly, what is known about the arriving leader? Are they an internal candidate from a different business unit or function or was the promotion directly upwards? Do they carry organizational baggage with them? Are they beloved? Feared?

The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and internal candidates not selected. Other internal candidates who were not selected for the role are often overlooked in the process, but you can be assured that they have personal feelings and beliefs about the process that will either help or hinder their ability to build deep attachment with the arriving leader.

  • How closely connected are they to the arriving leaders new role? A new reporting relationship is much different than a candidate who works in a different BU or unrelated function.
  • Was it a long, drawn out horse race for the role or was that individual the only one remotely available to backfill it? Were any of the other candidates informally “promised the role” or had they been waiting for it to open?

The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and their inherited team. The inherited team is one of the arriving leader’s greatest resources, yet their ability to create meaningful attachments with the team and help them move on from the past is what will hamstring their effective use of this precious resource and end up make it a liability in their effectiveness.

  • How deep was their attachment to the exiting leader? As a superior? Personally?
  • Are they happy with the choice? Ambivalent? Or unhappy with it?
  • The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and other strategy-enabling stakeholders. Peers and other stakeholders ought to be understood in terms of what the arriving leader must accomplish with regard to the business strategy. If there is a significant shift in strategy, critical peers and stakeholders will also need to shift. What standing stakeholder relationships no longer serve the elements of the strategy for which the incoming leader is responsible? What’s the plan to explicitly transition and redefine those relationships?
  • What relationships need to be strengthened? What relationships need to “start-up” to account for any shifts in the strategy? What’s the plan to do so?

It’s these contextual and relational nuances that have huge implications for all leaders’ success once the arriving leader is in role. Working the implications of the answers to the above questions into a thoughtful, coherent plan is a must do. The challenge is that success presumes a level of coming together and working with real people who have real emotions and most likely strong opinions about the transition and how it’s unfolding. It’s never just about the new candidate taking the job. The plan must include helping get these relationships off to a productive start. It’s the mismanaged or unmanaged relationships that create transition obstacles. By contrast, well-choreographed relational transitions are the foundation to executing effective succession decisions—take them seriously and you will see unimaginable benefits. Even when transitions are optimally designed, lead people can wind up behaving in weird ineffective ways. In the next post we’ll highlight three patterns of ineffective relational dynamics that frequently find their way into the process.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at:


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at:

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
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The Mechanics of Successful Executive Transitions – Part I of IV

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Are You ReadyExecutive Transitions: Confronting the myths of effective succession planning

Ask any human resources (HR) or Organizational Development (OD) professional about their company’s succession planning process, and you’ll likely hear a dozen different versions of the process. From 9-box grids with quotas, secret and non-secret hi-po lists, slates of candidates attached to the most senior jobs with various readiness-ratings—ready-now, ready in six months, etc.—and computer generated profiles complete with color pictures and career histories compiled in advance of talent calibration sessions. All the accouterment and not much else according to the HR folks we’ve spoken to.

HR: We have a pretty rigorous process in our talent calibration and we’re proud of how many ready-now leaders we have.

Navalent: That’s great—what exactly are you doing to get people “ready” to assume bigger jobs?

HR: Well, that’s where we fall short. We don’t really do great executive development.

Navalent: Then how do you know the candidates are “ready now?”

HR: Well, we know they are more ready than anyone else in the organization.


HR: It’s frustrating that all the execs show up to the conversation with everyone rated as a 9, and then we spend the entire session downgrading enough people so we only have a few real “hi-pos” left in box 9.

Navalent: What criteria do you use to determine who gets downgraded and who stays a 9?

HR: Basically, it’s whoever fights the loudest for their people.

And our favorite:

HR: We make our best choices when there’s a crisis.

The conversations don’t get much better than that. The fact is, that for all of the activity devoted to future executive leadership, the results are pretty dismal. In our 10-year longitudinal study of executive transitions (Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives), which included interviews with 2700 leaders and a survey of more than 100 recently transitioned executives, 76% indicated that the formal development processes of their organization were not, or at best minimally helpful in preparing them for their executive role, 55% indicated that they had minimal, if any, ongoing coaching and feedback to help them refine their ability to perform in an executive role, and 61% said they were unprepared for the roles they assumed. It has been known for decades that somewhere between 50%-60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of their appointment, and somehow we’ve come to accept that failure rate as “normal.”

Want to take a simple test to determine if the approach your organization takes to preparing future leaders has any chance of making a lasting impact or not? Answer two simple questions:

  1. What determines where the process starts?
  2. What determines where the process finishes?

Let’s look at each one separately.

At the outset: Your organizations articulated strategy must underpin all leadership decisions

It’s astonishing how many organizations don’t tie their leadership work to their strategies. They tout great growth aspirations, launching new products, acquisition plans, turn-around investments, refined market segmentation to acquire new customers, and never once identify the leadership requirements to accomplish any of it. The closest we’ve seen is when HR identifies “most critical jobs” as priority for identifying successors, but even then, when you dig deeper to see what criteria gets a job labeled as “most critical,” it’s usually the size of the role, the iconic nature of the incumbent and the cost of the talent acquired underneath them, or an incumbent that is perceived as a “retention risk,”—all of which may, or may not, have anything to do with the organization’s most strategic aspirations.

All too often, the succession process begins with the HR forms to be completed. It begins with whatever mechanics were chosen for the approach, and whatever HR was able to convince the CEO to tolerate. More enlightened CEOs and executive teams whose talent gaps are more glaring are usually more open to having robust talent conversations, but rarely are they able to connect all of the dots between their strategy gaps and their talent gaps. And once the process becomes politicized in any way, hijacked by individual agendas and ambitions, the likelihood of ever connecting those dots is slim.

The first question a succession planning process must answer is “What are the most critical leadership requirements for delivering against this strategy, and in what jobs are those requirements most evident?” Once that is answered, you have the beginning of a succession process with teeth. From there, you can then determine the ideal profile of prospective candidates, development gaps for those candidates, and prioritize preparing those leaders with the greatest promise of meeting those requirements.

Measuring Success: A process that yields truly prepared executives

We had one client who lost their company’s number two leader (ranked simply by the size of his part of the organization, not his effectiveness) in a sudden defection—which of course could have been seen coming had anyone been looking for the right signals. They boasted that their succession planning process had proven effective because they had “a ready-now candidate ready to go, and were able to orchestrate a very smooth transition of leadership as a result.”

Six months after the successor had taken over, the organization had devolved into utter turmoil. Turns out the successor, whose previous role was running about a $1.5B business and the role he assumed totaled about $9B across multiple businesses, had demonstrated some “control issues” in his previous role. Guess what those looked like at 9x the size of the job? He had the organization so hamstrung to act that major bids were lost, product launches botched, and profits in decline. He, of course, had blame to pass around, excuses to make, and justifications for his choices. Hardly evidence of an “effective succession process.”

But it was declared effective because the organization felt they had identified a successor for the role. If you looked deeper, little had actually been done to prepare him to assume a role that much larger and more complex than the one he’d been in. Ironically, not one person was “shocked” at what unfolded. Many who reported to him in the smaller role said things like, “Could’ve seen that coming.”

An effective succession process can be considered complete when tangible investments to actually prepare leaders for future roles have been effectively executed. It’s not enough to simply list leaders you believe could take on bigger jobs as potential successors. Aggressive, robust efforts must then be made in the development and cultivation of that leader’s capability to ensure they have what is required to succeed in that role—and not the role as it is “today,” but the role as it will likely be when they assume it. If the job drives $100M in revenue today, it may well be $200M or more when they get it. If it leads an organization of 1000 employees today, that could be 2000 or more when they eventually assume it. Active and ongoing work must be done to deepen and broaden the leader’s ability, and to surface and address the hidden pathologies that will most assuredly become more pronounced as responsibilities expand, complexity multiplies, and pressure and risk intensify. Short of that, there’s really no point of putting their name on any list unless you are willing to draft their severance agreement at the same time.

In the next post in our series, we’ll take a look at the vast network of relationships that actually determine the success of any successor once chosen. Far more than just that leader and their new boss, the cast of characters actively engaged in enabling, or disabling, the success of newly appointed leaders is far more extensive than most realize.

Subscribe here to receive Quarterly Insights from Navalent.


CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at:


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at:

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
Tags: , , , , ,

Understanding Our Roots To Determine Our Future

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution? Perhaps you don’t think you will be able to understand it? Do you wonder if it relates to us today? Do you know anything at all about the Bill of Rights? Do you agree with the 2nd Amendment? How about the 1st Amendment? Are you sure you know what they say? Did you know there may be exceptions to automatic citizenship for those born in the U.S.?

As we move toward an election year, with all of the political controversy, don’t you think it would serve us well to know something about how the United States. Republic was established and where we get our laws?

I was recently given the opportunity to review two fascinating books on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I know, the last sentence sounded dull and the word “fascinating” sounded like it was trying too hard. However, if you a want a quick tutorial on the documents underpinning our laws, our government, and our rights these books are both well worth reading.


Henry-Bain-BookThe Constitution of the United States of America: Modern Edition

Dr. Co, Editor

Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin TX

Approx. 120 pages

This book makes reading the Constitution accessible to everyone. It was rearranged and edited for ease of reading by Dr. Henry Bain, who is a constitutional expert and who has been credited with finding a typographical error in the Constitution that had previously gone unnoticed by other scholars.

Although this book has stirred up controversy for those who believe Dr. Bain is trying to rewrite the Constitution, and while I am not a Constitutional scholar, I found it worth a read.

First Bain reorganizes the Constitution in topical order and includes the Bill of Rights and Amendments within the text. Since the topics do not follow a consistent and/or logical order in the original document, presenting the text in this way offers readers the complete law as it should be interpreted. Each section includes a corresponding number which represents the placement of the content in the original document.

Also, without overly altering the language of the founders, Bain edits some grammatical forms, punctuation, and style to make the text more understandable in today’s language. Throughout he gives definitions of terms within the context of usage to elucidate the content.

Bain places the items that are outdated or changed by other amendments at the end. For comparison, in Section 2 he gives the Constitution and the Amendments in the traditional order.

This book can be read in an evening and offers a richer understanding of the U.S. Constitution that is so often discussed and yet so often misunderstood and misinterpreted.


McWhirter bookBills, Quills, and Stills: An Annotated, Illustrated, and Illuminated History of the Bill of Rights

Robert J. McWhirter

American Bar Association

Over 500 pages

As the Bill of Rights would fit on a few pages, you may be daunted by a 500-page book on the topic, but fear not, this book is great fun to read. It is lively, colorful, and energizing in its layout and format and a fascinating read.

The top half of the page contains details about each of the so-called amendments in the Bill of Rights and the bottom half contains extensive details (somewhat glorified footnotes) with historical facts that apply to where the line of thought underpinning each amendment developed. There are anecdotes and historical facts from ancient history, various religious beliefs, and modern culture. McWhirter adds pictures and drawings representative of the note and includes movie and culture tidbits to show how we use these ideas in our contemporary culture.

While not a read-in-one-evening book, this is more like salted peanuts, you sit down and enjoy a few pages or notes at a time, that is if you can put it down. For those who want more information, McWhirter includes sources for additional reading and references. In fact, if I have any complaint is that while the footnote is engaging, some of the context gets lost in the sourcing of references.

Both of these books are great primers if you slept through your civics or American history classes. For those who are more informed, the books will add a new dimension to your understanding of how our government and laws were formed.

Topic: Business Law, Ethics, Public Policy
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Raising Financially Responsible Children

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

As a professor of finance, I have spent years interacting with men and women of different ages and professional identities, helping them navigate the intricacies of financial markets as much as clarifying the idiosyncrasies of the investment process. I’ve learned that by working with kids from an early age in nurturing an understanding of the value of money, engaged parents help them develop a future ability to manage it properly.

Davide Accomazzo

Davide Accomazzo, adjunct professor of finance

One element that struck me was a recurrent lack of understanding of the basic foundations of financial literacy. While many had some level of technical knowledge, often they lacked sensible comprehension of the underlying fabric that leads to good long-term financial decisions; an issue seemingly overlooked since the early days of one’s general educational journey.

The importance of financial literacy at an early age resonated with me even more when I worked on developing educational modules on helping wealthy families train the newer generations in dealing with the responsibilities of a significant inheritance. And while very wealthy families undoubtedly face some peculiar issues, the framework of our modules seemed applicable to most families interested in raising financially responsible children.

The first item of debate is when to start a financial education. I think that at some light level, it is never too early. Naturally the process needs to keep into consideration the child’s cognitive ability related to his or her age, however, an early start always seems advantageous.

Many young men and women do not seem to have a good grasp over what money really is. In fact, there is a stunning inverse relationship between the family wealth and the understanding by the next generation of what money is.

By working with kids from an early age in nurturing an understanding of the value of money, engaged parents help them develop a future ability to manage it properly. Starting an allowance program very early in the life of a child should set the right foundations for his/her understanding of the three aspects of money management: spending, saving, and investing.

An allowance program can be used as a tool to improve discipline and decision making as the child will now have to deal with constrictions and parameters. The program can also be modified as contingencies change; for example, the length between cash flows should systematically be increased to improve the kids’ ability to manage their funds over longer periods of time.

The next step should be concerned with training a child in the budgeting process. Integrating allowance management with budgeting can be a powerful cocktail in your children financial education.

The first action we take when we start working with any client, is to require them to work on a very detailed budget. This step occurs regardless of the level of wealth behind the client; budgeting “amnesia” is unfortunately a very common symptom. This is understandable since budgeting can be tedious and generally annoying as, regardless of one’s wealth, it creates limitations. This is why a budgeting discipline needs to be instilled early in young children.

When the kids grow up, more teaching opportunities become available. Making the kids acquainted with the banking system and bank accounts is an obvious starting point. This can be followed by an investment program. In this case, the child can be exposed to the intricacies of capital markets by opening a brokerage account or at least by playing a stock investment simulation game.

Exposure to capital markets also reinforces a spirit of entrepreneurship. While not everyone is built to be an entrepreneur, the sense of responsibility and empowering that comes from running one’s business—even if it may only be a lemonade stand—can have invaluable long term positive influence.

To this point, some families of means go the extra mile of setting up a “family bank” designed to finance well thought out and well-presented projects proposed by the kids. Naturally, large family wealth can facilitate this process but the framework can be scaled down and utilized at different economic levels.

Another interesting tool for educational money management is to engage our children in charitable projects. Choosing a cause and dedicating time and some financial resources to it can have a very positive effect on the child’s ability to strengthen the connection between scarce resources, effort, prioritizing, and results.

One word of caution before embarking on this educational journey comes from psychologist Lee Hausner, author of the book “Children of Paradise.” Dr. Hausner advises parents to take a moment as a first step to examine their own attitude and behaviors in relation to money. Money can be and mean very different things to different people and the way we operate can have great influence in what we teach our children. It is imperative that we as parents do what we say we’ll do and that our messages be clear and healthy. Dr. Hausner suggests husband and wife start a self-discovery process where each asks direct questions on their past and present money models. This action should improve convergence of intent between the two parents and it should help clean up attitudes toward money that may have gotten polluted over the years by past experiences or wrong teachings.

Dr. Hausner also stresses the results of many studies that point to two main elements as pillars of a fulfilling life: love and meaningful work.

Regrettably, at Thalassa Capital we are not qualified to advise on love but we believe that the self-respect and discipline that will come naturally to a child properly trained in financial matters might also help in nurturing more loving relationships with others. On meaningful work, we are again in complete agreement with the mentioned studies. From a financial literacy perspective, parents should stress the importance of pursuing meaning via work and simultaneously stressing the link between work and money. The mutually beneficial relationship between doing something that one loves and the remuneration that comes from it should go a long way toward improving our children’s happiness.


  • Hausner, Lee, “Children of Paradise”
  • Godfrey, Jolene, “Raising Financially Fit Kids”
  • Kobliner, Beth, “Get a Financial Life in Your Twenties and Thirties”

Feel free to call us should you want to explore this theme in more details.

Topic: Accounting, Economics, Finance, Investing, Work/Life Balance
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