How Leaders Can Grow Their Skills Through Performance Assessment

a businesswoman writes in a notebook at a desk

The harsh reality of being a leader is that you have to assess your performance. For many of us, we rely solely on yearly and quarterly reports. However, these reports often have shortcomings and do not paint a complete picture of how we are doing at our job. When we receive a report on how we are doing, we often just do a quick look over and move forward without ever looking back or following up on anything. As a leader or CEO, it is essential to assess your performance and take active steps in becoming a better leader. Luckily, there are several tactics you can use to evaluate your performance and get that valuable feedback.

Do Self-Reflections
To become a stronger leader, we often have to have uncomfortable conversations with ourselves and do some self-reflection. Self-reflections are a step in assessing your performance that has to be done frequently. Many leaders prefer keeping a journal or a document that they can return often. In your journal or document, write down any discoveries you have. Write down how specific projects, meetings, and people make you feel. Having documentation of how daily tasks make us feel allows us to identify patterns in our behavior, which can be changed if we find anything harmful. Make sure you schedule in the time for self-reflection because otherwise, many leaders skip over it. However, reflecting on our actions is one of the best ways to become a better leader.

Ask for Feedback
While quarterly and yearly reports are feedback, it often feels impersonal and is not always helpful. To evaluate yourself as a leader, it is crucial to create opportunities for feedback. You can even start by asking people who are closest to you about how you are doing and asking them for their total honesty. Once you have received their feedback, you can then move onto your general staff. Administering anonymous feedback forms can be helpful. However, it is also vital to encourage input to happen in meetings and the general office. When leaders are open to feedback at all times, it creates a more positive work environment and boosts your credibility as a leader.

Evaluating our performance as leaders is a difficult task to do. However, by doing self-reflection and asking for feedback often, not just yearly or quarterly, you can grow as a leader. Take in the feedback and the discoveries you find through reflections and work on any weaknesses you may encounter while still growing your strengths. If you need further help in assessing yourself as a leader, contact CEO Solutions today.

Strategic Planning for the New Year

A woman holding a black binder reading to a pensive man in a suit

Strategic planning is an essential part of every business. It is the process of documenting and establishing the direction you want to take your organization. One thing separates good leaders from bad ones, and that is following through with your strategic plans. As we look forward to a new year, make sure you know how to set a strategic plan and put it into motion in everything you do as you start 2021.

Collaborate with Others

Working on your strategic plan with your team is the best way to have a successful strategic plan. If your employees feel involved in the decision-making process, they will be more supportive when changes happen. You hired everyone on your staff for a reason, and they are capable of giving you feedback on how things went in previous years. The more inclusive and collaborative your process is, the more support you will have with people outside the business as well.

Know What Your Strategy Is

Once you have successfully collaborated with your team on the strategy, make sure you know what your plan means. Your strategy is the direction you want to take the business in over the year, so think about how you want to market yourself, what you want to invest in, where you want to focus your attention, etc. You should even factor in the negative things that could happen in the year. Unfortunately, you should plan for people to leave, pandemics to set in, and just bad days at the job. If you reach a crisis like most of 2020 was, you’ll have to pivot your business. However, the more realistic the strategy is, the more likely it will be implemented and followed correctly.

Know Your Most Valuable Team Members

When starting your new year as a business, many of your employees will have new goals and aspirations they are trying to achieve. Make sure you know what those are, especially those you want to give more responsibility to. Once you recognize who those valuable members are, let them know of the strategic plan and what priorities they may have to implement it. You might have to rely on those you trust when you need to delegate tasks and mentor them into leadership positions throughout the business.

Planning for the year ahead can be a daunting task, and implementing that plan can be even more challenging. However, by working together, knowing the strategy through and through, and utilizing your most valuable resources, you can be sure to win the year as a CEO. If you need further advice on your strategic plan, contact us today for a second look and real advice from established CEO’s.

Everything is Figureoutable: How to Reach Your Goals as a Leader

Everyone, even the most successful leaders, struggles to achieve their goals sometimes. Whether there’s a lack of motivation, no will to begin, or too much going on, we’ve all been there at some point. Luckily, according to Marie Forleo’s book, Everything is Figureoutable: How One Simple Belief Can Help Us Overcome Any Obstacle and Create Unstoppable Success, adopting a mindset that everything can be figured out can help you reach any goal no matter how big or small.


The book explores everything from relationships and happiness to success and reaching goals. Forleo provides a nine-step framework to support the mentality that everything is figureoutable and that if you set your mind to something, it can be achieved. In the book she outlines several personal anecdotes about times the steps worked for her and others.


To reach that intimidating goal you’ve been thinking long and hard about, you must be willing to try new things, connect with others, and be prepared to do the work. You have to believe that you can achieve your goals because if you can envision something, you can get it done. If you cut out excuses as to why you can’t get something done you can accomplish even more. Your actions are because of yourself and not others and things around you.


The book suggests that to accomplish your goals you should clearly define your dream. You don’t want to start any projects before you know what you are trying to accomplish, so define your dream by outlining exactly what your end goal is. If you know what you are aiming for, you’re more likely to hit it.


Another thing that gets in many leaders’ way when working toward a huge goal is waiting to be “ready.” The book explains that waiting until you’re ready causes many people to never start. So get ahead of the game because there will never be a good time to begin. Don’t get too caught up in everything you do being perfect. While you want to ensure you complete quality projects, you have to remember that progress is important to every task.


Along with several other steps, the final step to adapting an “everything is figureoutable” mindset is to remind yourself that you have something special to offer. As a leader, you have something unique to bring to the table that the world needs. By empowering yourself by believing you are needed, you are more likely to achieve your goals.


By adopting the nine steps outlined in the book, all leaders are guaranteed to achieve even the most intimidating goals. Get yourself a copy of the book and shoot for your goals. Remember: don’t make excuses, make progress, and start now.

The Reality Phase

reality phase

In our previous blog posts, we have discussed the Innovation Cycle, detect – correct, innovation vs status quo, and improving communication through innovation. Now, for the next in this series: the Reality Phase.

We agree that Innovation is an import skillset for success, both in business and in personal life. The challenge is, how do we continually enhance our ability to innovate?

Let’s look at the first phase – the Awareness, or Reality Phase – and learn how we can enhance this aspect of innovation.

There are three key components that make up your InnovatorMindset score. They are:

  1. Cognitive: how you logically or contextually view observation. You can think, “Yes, I am curious and want to explore ideas.” This is good as it causes you to be aware of new ideas or information, and be open to them on a thinking level.
  2. Value: whether you place a higher value on the existing and proven knowledge or the new and unknown thinking and ideas. If you truly value new inputs, you will be more likely to ask questions, inquire more, explore and discover.
  3. Behavior: your actions when you observe something new or different. Do you actively pursue new information, sources of insight, discuss, listen, and act on your curiosity?

Let’s say you have a high cognitive mark towards innovation, but scored lower in value and behavior. New information or a new idea is observed and acknowledged, but you value the known and proven more. Therefore, you question whether it is worth the time to explore; even though your thinking says go, what you value holds you back. The same occurs with your behavior, although you cognitively say the observation has merit, your behavior does not move you to explore, but instead to default to the known and existing, thus you take no action.

A person with high marks in all three categories would respond in the following way. A new observation is made and, in response, would realize that the idea has potential and needs to be explored. Because the value is high, curiosity is heightened and there is no blockage to exploration. Behavior being supportive so actions take place immediately, questions are asked, people are sought out, and the information exploration is propelled forward.

To enhance the cognitive aspect of innovation in the reality phase, explore how you think. Is your thinking one of exploration and new ideas, or one of status quo and safety in proven knowledge? Question yourself until you can articulate why you think about innovation and new ideas as you do. What can you do to choose a different thought pattern?

Evaluate what you truly value. Is stability, safety and avoiding error more valuable to you than a new idea? If so, why? What could potentially help you to value innovation more? This is an emotional response more than a logical one, so dig deep into the “why” of your feelings on this. It may not be fear, but understanding what you value and why you value those things can lead to some great insights and further growth in innovation.

Our behavior is what we actually do, and is often influenced by our cognitive and value, yet it can override them if needed. Do you see yourself as bold and willing to explore openly when you observe a new idea? If not, why? And what might you do differently to change your behavior? Observing but taking no action is an indication of low behavior in regards to innovation.

The most important thing to remember about the reality phase is that this is about mindset, not a locked in behavior or personality trait. It can be changed with effort, and can be made permanent. The more aware of why you do things and why you act the way you do when making new observations can be a great first step in improving your personal as well as your organization’s approach to Innovation.

When a new observation is made, be bold, act on it, pursue it and you can improve your InnovatorMindset score.

For more on the InnovatorMindset® contact CEO Solutions/H. Goerger & Associates Inc. dba AskHG, one of the first to be certified in the nation.


InnovatorMindset® is the property of Dennis Stauffer,

Developing a Culture of Innovation

innovation culture

In our previous blog posts, we have discussed the Innovation Cycle, detect – correct, innovation vs status quo, and improving communication through innovation. Now for the nitty gritty, if you will: how do we create an innovation culture throughout our organizations?

First, let’s reemphasize that the “detect – correct” cycle is important to stability, profitability and security. What we are advocating is making innovation a higher value activity that creates new outcomes, which then become part of our operations and are subsequently managed by “detect – correct”.

As with anything that creates culture within an organization, it is about what is valued most, and what is promoted and reinforced most.

We have all clients who emphasize core values as primary discussion point in hiring, coaching, repositioning and removing. By placing so much emphasis on those values, an organizational culture is created around the core values, which everyone turns to for direction, decision making and behavior expected.

The challenge for many organizations is the emphasis on “detect – correct,” which then becomes the cultural base. People default to the “detect – correct” behavior first because it is the focus of the leadership and thus the culture. This is not a bad thing, yet does it foster a true innovation culture within the organization?

A few questions for you to ponder:

  • How often are employees allowed to experiment with new ideas, techniques or processes?
  • What is the reaction from leadership when a new or different idea or solution is presented?
  • If a department or division began doing something very different, how would the rest of leadership respond?
  • Does your organization allow specific time, resources or support for working on new ideas or experimentation?
  • How often do people from various parts of your organization get together to problem-solve, innovate or challenge the status quo?
  • Does leadership actually walk around among employees for the sole purpose of observation and learning new information?
  • How often does leadership specifically block time for creative thinking or clarity breaks?

Those are a few questions to ponder. If you can give an absolute YES to all of them, you most likely have a highly innovative culture already. On the other hand, if all are a no, you have a huge opportunity to become far more competitive than you are.

At your next Strategic Planning session, pose the above questions and discuss how your leadership might infuse innovation into your organization. Just by opening the discussion, you’ll make a great start on creating an innovation culture.

Want more on InnovatorMindset, Strategic Planning,  and culture development?

Our next post will be on improving our awareness, or Reality Phase.

For more on the InnovatorMindset® contact H. Goerger & Associates Inc. dba AskHG, one of the first to be certified in the nation.  

With peer advisory groups meeting regularly in Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Fargo, CEO Solutions is a valuable business development resource for company leaders, whether experienced in their position or new to the job. Not only do our members learn valuable operational skills, but they also receive peer support that helps them perform at their best.

InnovatorMindset® is the property of Dennis Stauffer,

How the Innovation Cycle Can Improve Communication

innovation cycle

To recap: In earlier blog posts, we’ve covered a basic overview of innovation, as well as the difference between the innovation cycle and status quo cycle.

In our executive consulting, the challenge of effective communication is always difficult for most, in one way or another. How do we, as leaders, continually improve our communications so we and our teams can be more effective, while eliminating the miscommunication and drama that often occur?

Let’s take a look at the Innovation Cycle as a model for continually improving communications.

An example: David is an executive VP and Erin is a high performance producer under his direction. Both are valuable to the organization, yet have very different personalities, viewpoints and thinking processes. Thus, there seems to be a significant disconnect in their communication at times.

How might the Innovation Cycle model a way for David and Erin to improve their communication?

Phase one is the Reality Phase where we turn to observation and seek new insights.

Phase One: The Reality Phase, in which we observe and seek new insights.

David focuses on observation of how he communicates and how Erin receives his communication. Because he is not in “detect-correct” mode, he can note Erin’s reaction to tone, words, body language or directive wording. He sees that certain words elicit a negative physical response and a defensive nature from Erin.

Phase Two: The Feedback Phase, in which we take our new observations to heart.

David evaluates the new information gathered in phase one to try and determine why and how his communication might elicit such responses from Erin.

Phase Three: The Idea Phase, in which new knowledge and insights lead to new ideas or applications.

David formulates a new and different way to communicate with Erin, eliminating certain words and deciding to experiment with others.

Phase Four: The Action Phase, in which we experiment and undergo a period of trial and error.

In their next encounter David utilizes his new approach to see whether Erin’s response is different. This ultimately places him back into the first phase, and the cycle continues.

Over the next several weeks, David continues to utilize the Innovation Cycle in seeking better ways to communicate with Erin. As a result, he finds four specific actions he needs to eliminate and six new ways to communicate that, in turn, helps Erin to open up and communicate on a more effective level.

Now, many will say, “Isn’t that what we all do?” Unfortunately, we don’t fully complete this process as often as we think we do. When “detect-correct” is our primary operational mindset, we utilize what is known. Experimentation is not usually valued at the same level as status quo.

David had to break out of this mindset to open up new possibilities he had not explored before. He had to eliminate the old habits he had developed in working with others, because the methods were not effective with Erin’s thinking style and process.

Innovation is not just about product or idea development. It is a mindset – one that can be changed and developed IF the right environment is provided. Time and effort must be invested in experimentation in order for true innovation to occur.

In this case, a very high performance employee is retained and becomes even more productive. Further, a leader’s stress and frustration is reduced, and he becomes a more effective executive because of his newly developed insights and skills.

If you want better communications at the executive level, we urge you to give the Innovator Cycle a try!

Stay tuned for our next post, when we’ll discuss ways to develop an Innovator culture throughout your company.

For more on the InnovatorMindset® contact H. Goerger & Associates Inc. dba AskHG, one of the first to be certified in the nation.


InnovatorMindset® is the property of Dennis Stauffer,

The Innovator Cycle Compared

Innovation: what a word! It’s spoken often, but do we truly understand it, support it and utilize its outcomes?

These are essential questions for executives who are leading companies and looking for that competitive edge. So we use the word innovation quite readily when discussing how to be more competitive, achieve greater market share or drive opportunity.

Based on decades of research, the InnovatorMindset® profile looks at two types of cycles to define true innovation versus what most business leaders actually do.

Most of us tend to adopt the Status Quo Cycle, which has four phases:

  1. Idea Phase: We ask, “How do we reproduce existing possibilities?” We aren’t seeking new or outside information, but simple sustainability of the existing known outcomes. Our focus tends to be on that which is proven, what we already know and have used.
  2. Feedback Phase: We look for reinforcement of what has worked in the past and why it worked. We restore our world to what has been and try to maintain the status quo.
  3. Reality Phase: We detect deviations in the present system or process that could cause a different or lesser outcome. Our focus is then on correction of the deviation to return to the normal or existing.
  4. Action Phase: In this corrective phase, we apply the solutions we are familiar with or have previously used in order to eliminate the deviations and return to the norm.

In the Status Quo Cycle, the focus is on utilizing the known and existing solutions to maintain the existing norm. Often times this referred to as “detect and correct”, which is vital to a sound and functioning business operation. We do not want to eliminate or avoid this cycle, but simply be aware of which cycle we are in.

In comparison, the Innovation Cycle seeks new information and explores what is not yet known, in four phases.

  1. The Reality Phase: We observe our business surroundings and our environment, and become aware of what is or is not happening. We see consequences that might not have been noted before and outcomes that we were not aware of. We look for the new or different versus the known and established.
  2. Feedback Phase: The new information or insight is interpreted. We seek to learn new knowledge, discover various applications and retain that which has possible value.
  3. Idea Phase: The new knowledge and insights lead to new ideas or applications that have not been applied before. We strive for new possibilities that existing knowledge has not given us.
  4. Action Phase: We take action by experimenting and undergoing trial and error. We apply the new knowledge and insights to observe what positive or negative outcomes may occur, testing our new hypothesis. This might be referred to as “failing forward:” testing quickly and adjusting to determine the best new solution or opportunity.

You’ll note a significant difference in mindset between the two cycles. The Status Quo is focused on tried, true processes and knowledge to maintain an existing situation, while the Innovator Cycle is all about seeing the existing differently, actively seeking new information and encouraging experimentation to try something new and different.

So what are we suggesting?

First, in which cycle does your organization invest most of its time and energy? Most are in the Status Quo, and occasionally a few within the organization might utilize the Innovation Cycle. What we recommend, and what highly innovative organizations do, is elevate the Innovation Cycle to a higher status, encouraging it through experimentation and working to stay out of Status Quo cycle.

On the flip side, the Status Quo is important, and while only utilizing the Innovation Cycle might be exciting, it’s not stable enough for long term growth and profitability. Both need to be utilized with purpose.

Are you including innovation as an initiative in your strategic planning? If not, perhaps that is a place to start.

Watch for our next post on utilizing the Innovation Cycle as a leadership communication tool.

For more on the InnovatorMindset® contact H. Goerger & Associates Inc. dba AskHG, one of the first to be certified in the nation.

InnovatorMindset® is the property of Dennis Stauffer,

Unlock Innovation with InnovatorMindset®

In business, we hear the word innovation quite often. Innovation has become a buzzword, used in mission statements, core values and promotional materials to try and differentiate who we are.

But what, really, is innovation? Is it being creative and coming up with a thousand new ideas, an art piece or business opportunity? Or is it much more?

Creativity is a component of innovation, of course. But what truly is innovation, and what does it look like in action?

After a decade of research, Dennis Stauffer can help identify what innovation means to you and your company. With the InnovatorMindset® profile, leaders can discover what forms of innovation they understand and support, and what barriers they have to remove. The great thing is that innovation is not a personality trait, but a mindset which we can alter and change permanently, should we choose to.

So what is true innovation? Based on Dennis’s research, there are four components that support and either drive or block innovation. Interestingly, those that rate above 70 in the individual components tend to provide exponential results, yet only 5% of the population is in this group; a 60 puts you in the top 10 percent!

  1.  Your AWARENESS or reality: How clear and aware are you of business surroundings, changes and opportunities?
  2. Your OPENESS or feedback: How well do you take negative feedback? What do the numbers really say? Do you use feedback to drive innovation?
  3. Your CREATIVITY or ideas: Do you value your own ideas and the ideas of others? How do you act on them?
  4. Your BRAVERY or action phase: Innovation tends to swim upstream. Are you brave and bold enough to take the action?

Each of these can be altered, if you choose to. There are three components in each of the four areas that determine your strengths and barriers when it comes to innovation. Each are changeable.

  1. COGNITIVE: How do you think about knowledge or innovation? Perhaps you think it is important, but something is getting in the way.
  2. VALUE: Which do you put more value on, existing knowledge or discovering new knowledge and understanding?
  3. BEHAVIOR: How do you actually behave when innovation opportunities arise? Do you act or retract?

The great thing is that, if innovation is truly part of an organization’s culture, it can drive profit, performance, competitive edge and market dominance. A tool such as the InnovatorMindset® can be a starting point that leads to an awesome future.

Stay tuned for our next post will be on the two competing cycles: “detect/correct” vs “Innovation Cycle.”

For more on the InnovatorMindset® program, contact H. Goerger & Associates Inc., dba AskHG, one of the first to be certified in the nation.

InnovatorMindset® is the property of Dennis Stauffer.