Category Archives: Get Aligned

Decide what kind of leader to be and collect followers.

From Vision to Action! How to Align Your Team and Execute Your Plan

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, having a clear and well-defined strategy to win the game you are playing is critical. It’s the roadmap that guides your organization towards its goals and ensures that every action and decision aligns with your vision.

However, crafting and implementing an effective strategy can be a complex and daunting task. This is where the IntelliVen Strategy and Planning Offsite comes into play.

Why the Strategy and Planning Offsite with IntelliVen?

If you’re at the helm of an organization, you understand the importance of strategic planning. You also know that it’s not enough to simply have a strategy; strategy needs to be translated into a practical operating plan that guides your team’s actions throughout the year. The IntelliVen Strategy and Planning Offsite helps leaders like you bridge the gap between strategy development and successful execution. 

The Strategy and Planning Offsite empowers you and your executive team with:

  • Clarity: Achieve a clear and common understanding of your organization’s current state, the case for change, and your target next state.
  • Strategic Initiatives: Identify strategic initiatives that will propel your organization from its current state to where you aspire to be next and prioritize actions that will close the gap based on their impact and feasibility, culminating in a roadmap for implementation.
  • Resource Allocation: Determine roles, responsibilities, and resource requirements for your most important initiatives. This includes allocating the staff, time, money, and other resources needed to make them a reality.
  • Financial Alignment: Align your financial and operational plans with your strategic initiatives. This ensures that your strategic initaitives are not side-jobs to be done as time permits but, instead, are woven into the mainstream of day-to-day activities.
  • Effective Communication: Develop a clear communication strategy to convey your vision and plan to all stakeholders, including your board, investors, employees, and partners.

The Outcomes

Working with IntelliVen Senior Oprating Partners, leaders will achieve key outcomes from their Strategy and Planning Offsite:

  • Alignment:  Participants agree on your current state, case for change, target state, and the necessary actions for each strategic initiative.
  • Implementation Readiness: Lay the groundwork for the successful implementation of strategic initiatives, and establish a governance process understood and agreed upon by all participants. 
  • Team Cohesion: Participants leave the offsite with a deeper understanding of each other and a stronger commitment to the organization’s mission and leadership.

Get Started with IntelliVen

If you’re ready to take your organization  to the next level, it’s time to consider the IntelliVen Strategy and Planning OffsiteContact us to learn more about how our team can help you identify and reach your strategic goals for the long-term.

Invest in your organization’s long-term future with the IntelliVen Strategy and Planning Offsite.
Contact us now!

Five Steps to Turn a Prospect into a Sale

Developing a systematic approach to cultivating demand for its products and services is a key step in the evolution of every successful organization. Many early-stage leaders long for a silver-bullet solution; that is, they look to hire someone with a lot of contacts and an extroverted personality to hit the market and drum-up demand.  Such efforts usually fail.

Leaders cannot count on building a scalable demand creation system by hiring one super-salesman after another. There are simply not enough to go around. A better strategy is to figure out for themselves how to create demand for their offerings and then hire and train others to follow their lead.

What follows is a sure-fire method to systematically turn prospects into customers that every executive, client manager, product manager, and sales professional can and should add to their tool set.  It takes a lot of work to prepare properly and to execute well in a teaching-mindset, instead of a selling one, but those who are up to the task will be well-rewarded.

Step-1: Describe what you think your prospect is trying to accomplish.

Use all the data about a top prospect you can get your hands on to describe what problem they seeks to solve that your organization can help with.

Arrange a face-to-face meeting with the person in charge of solving the problem, for whom solving it is strategic, and who has the budget and business case to do so. After opening pleasantries, ask the following question in a nice way: Would you like to know what I think you think is the most important thing you are trying to do right now?”.

You can be sure of a positive response. It is human nature to want to know what someone else thinks you think. At the same time, no one expects what gets said to be 100% correct. They might even chuckle at that thought that you could come close knowing what they think. As a result, your prospect is sure to be interested in hearing what you have to say, even if just for the entertainment value!

This gives you a safe opening to lay out your best articulation of what you think they are trying to do. The beauty of this approach is that to the extent you get it right you gain credibility and, if you get it wrong, you get credit for trying and you will almost always get helpful input to get it right!  If you are right, or reasonably close, continue on to Step-2.

Step-2: Describe what others who have done the same found difficult.

Resist the temptation to sell at this point. Do not talk about how hard or important it is for the prospect to do what they are trying to do.  Doing so will invite resistance and cause the conversation to come to a grinding halt. Instead, talk about others to keep the conversation in a safe space and to invite the prospect to fully engage. Odds are they will lean forward and listen intently because you just might know what you are talking about and say something important.

Now is the time for you to make a good impression with a clear and articulate summary of what you know about the subject. Do not talk about your own organization or your products and services (i.e., resist the urge to start selling) and do not talk about the prospect’s organization or problems. Focus the conversation only on other organizations and what they have struggled with in a way that brings home just how hard it is to do this important thing well and to reveal that you know a great deal about how to do what needs to be done.

Sprinkle specific details about others with whom your prospect is likely to be familiar. Even better is if the examples relate to feared or hated competitors or to organizations the prospect admires and would like to emulate. While it does not matter in general if what you share comes from first-hand experience, from others you know or have worked with, or even from case literature, it is more genuine and adds more to your credibility if it is clear that you have had personal involvement.

In addition to building credibility, the objective of this step is to confirm that your prospect does indeed have the problem you are prepared to solve. If you start by saying:

Do you have problem X?

You run the risk that the prospect is reluctant to share the truth.  Instead, say:

Organization A had problem X”

Thereby creating the opportunity for your prospect to volunteer:

That’s amazing … we have the same issue!”

The net effect is to build your credibility while drawing out important information for you to use later.

Step-3: Describe how the best have succeeded.

Lay out the approach that the best use to accomplish what the prospect is trying to do. Odds are thatthey will be all ears as you help them see what important things they do not already know, but that they could know if you were on the team. On the other hand, if it turns out that they already know, and are already doing, what the best do then they may not be a good prospect after all.

Here, too, mention how you have personally been involved in some of the “best” cases. Remember that you always have three things to possibly sell:

  • Your company.
  • Your service or product offering.
  • Yourself.

Selling yourself is the easiest and most important of the three and this is your chance to sell yourself and make the sale. Your competence, engaging approach, and evidence of your experience make or break the sale at this point.

Step-4: Describe alternative courses of action.

Given what you know now about your prospect and what others have done, you are now in position to share alternative courses of action that could be followed. There are almost always at least three choices:

  • Continue as if you had never appeared.
  • Try to  follow the best practices you have presented without outside help.
  • Work with a knowledgeable third party to navigate the course you have outlined.

If what the prospect seeks to accomplish is truly important and the stakes are high, it would be foolish to continue as if you had never appeared. If it is hard to go it alone, then the obvious decision should be to get outside help assuming outside help is available and at a price that makes sense relative to the value of accomplishing the objective and the cost of failure.

The prospect could search for others to work with or they could work with you because you are:

  • Present in-person at that very moment.
  • The one who revealed the best path.
  • Brimming with credibility due to the way you made the case.

At this point, you have masterfully created the right time and place to share your approach to addressing the problem with high odds of landing a new customer in the following final step.

Step-5: Recommend next steps.

Use your best judgment to recommend which of the alternatives they should follow. Lay out what the prospect should do, what the prospect should have you do or provide, and what value that leads to for their organization. Make clear that what you would do is an important part of what your organization does and that it would be an honor to turn them from a prospect into a customer and under what terms.

If the prospect says: “no”, to retaining you then it is time to start selling. As they say: “selling begins when you hear the word ‘no’!” While so doing, be sure to learn the basis for resistance so you can factor it into your approach for next time.

On the other hand, if you hear:  “yes”, then you have made a sale by teaching and not by selling. Celebrate briefly and then proceed to package what you have done for future use and train others to so the same.


The graphic below presents key points related to each of the five steps in a real example used by a firm that sold program management and governance services to top government agencies.

See Also

Five Steps to a Sale slide presentation

Three Steps to Selling a Services Work Plan

Whose problem is sales

Prospect to Customer Marketing

Ten Steps to Drive Change from the Inside

If you are frustrated by an organization resistant to embracing a change you believe is right, consider using the following steps as a road map to seeing your ideas through to reality:

Get Clear.

Write-up and share your point of view. While what you have in mind may seem clear to you, it likely is not yet to others. Writing about what you want to happen forces you to work out the logical progression of thought and to fill in the details to tell the story in a way others can understand. Share what you write with others to test for clarity and ask for help to make it clearer.

Focus on value.

Emphasize the business value your change would generate in terms others, especially those in positions of authority, can understand and appreciate.

Set the context for change.

Use the change framework to explain how what you have in mind to change exists today, why it needs to change, how it will be in the future, what must be done to get from here to there, and what will be difficult about effecting the change.

Continue reading Ten Steps to Drive Change from the Inside

How Leaders Learn From Those With a Stake in Their Success

Leaders Used to Rule Their Followers

A follower makes a leader. The relationship between leader and followers (i.e., the way the connection between leader and follower works, not just the state of being leader and follower) has changed. Leaders used to command-and-control workers, who were seen to be basically lazy, having to be told exactly what to do, and motivated only by security and money. Leaders had top-down authority and a tight rein on workers who could not be trusted to do good work without control.

A more democratic model eventually emerged. Workers were seen as responsible and motivated to do a good job, even without tight controls, punishment, and reward. This led to a less rigid leader-follower relationship, one more focused on creating happier, productive workers. The tools for doing that, however, have not been clear.


Followers Now Enlighten Their Leaders

There is now even more change in how leaders and followers relate. Specifically, we see more emphasis on a leader’s capacity to build and sustain an inclusive and high-trust relationship with a loyal, capable, and motivated followership. Continue reading How Leaders Learn From Those With a Stake in Their Success

3 Levels of Human Identity Can Be Used to Build Relationships Across Difference

The business case for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-oppression (DEIA) programs in organizations is no longer being built…it has arrived. Investors, employees, and customers are making clear to leaders that DEIA is now critical to their bottom line and that it will be so forevermore.

Consequently, leaders must learn to integrate cross-cultural skills and competencies into all levels of the system.

Education and change management plans that help leaders, managers, and employees navigate their differences and use them to achieve better business results are important and, thankfully, becoming more available.

To start, it helps to have common language and frameworks that make it possible to understand the complexities of communication dynamics posed by working across social group identities such as age, ability, gender, culture, class, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

In her article Alliances Across Difference: Useful strategies for building effective relationships across difference, Amber Mayes does us all a tremendous service by laying out two foundational concepts to get us started:

  • Levels of Human Identity
  • Social Power and Group Dynamics

Amber developed and uses these concepts with leaders across sectors, industries, and geographies to resolve conflict and unleash the power of diversity in organizations for 15+ years in her role as a consultant to leaders, teams, and organizations.

Levels of Human Identity

According to Mayes, in any given moment we operate with a framework, or frameworks, with which we see human identity and differences. Two of the major difficulties we encounter when communicating with others across difference are:

  • Understanding each other’s frame.
  • Meeting others where they are.

Mayes presents three levels of human identity that determine how people typically frame human diversity: Individual, Universal, and Social Group.

feat 3 levels of human identity

Individual Identity

At the individual level, no person is like any other. We each have a unique fingerprint, personality, mix of experiences, and so on. People who see differences using this frame often value unique perspectives, resist being put into groups, and prefer to focus on how each of us has the ability to forge our own paths in life. Those who solely use this frame often miss ways people are labeled, put into groups, and treated differently based on their social group identities. They may also miss out on many points of universal connection they have with other people.

Universal Human Identity

At the universal human level, we are all the same. We all breathe. We all need food and water. We are all social beings. People who spend most of their time using this frame prefer to see the ways we are all connected and the same. They may say things like “we are all cut from the same cloth,” or “we shouldn’t talk about how we are different because we are all in the same human race.” Those who overuse this frame run the risk of dismissing the ways we are different and may minimize the different experiences of others at both the social group and individual level.

Social Group Identity

At the level of social group identity (e.g., age, ability, gender, culture, class, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status) we are like some people and unlike others. Those who focus on this frame are very aware of the different experiences we have based on how we are socialized and treated by the organizations, communities, and societies in which we live. Mayes suggests that the social group identity level is one of the most misunderstood in diversity and inclusion work. They are also laden with power inequities. Thus the dynamics at play across social identity groups are often rife with conflict. She suggests that leaders allot ample time and energy to practice using this frame to understand the dynamics that lead to conflict in their organizations. It is worth noting, however, that focusing entirely on this frame can result in stereotyping or neglecting the ways in which individuals in groups have different experiences.

In reality, all three of these frames exist at once and are omnipresent. To fully understand diversity dynamics, it is important to be able to accept and recognize all three. With regard to communication across differences, realizing the frame you bring to a conversation while understanding and honoring the frame of others is a crucial first step. When we can meet each other at the same level (individual, universal human, social group) we are much more likely to fully hear each other.

Societal Power and Group Dynamics

To truly understand many of the breakdowns that occur when we attempt to create inclusion in our organizations, we must have a deep understanding of the power dynamics that exist at the “social group identity level” of systems.

Within each social group identity (e.g., age, ability, gender, culture, class, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status) there are dynamics that afford some people the benefits and privileges of social power while depriving others of the same. Mayes refers to these groups as “dominant” and “marginalized,” respectively, and illustrates the typical patterns of treatment and experience within each subgroup.

Her article concludes with specific recommendations for dominant and marginalized groups when communicating across the boundary of social group power. For example, when interacting with marginalized group members, it is a good idea to not make the difference the only thing to which you respond.

About the author

Amber Mayes, an OD consultant and coach with Fifth Domain Coaching, has 15+ years of experience supporting the transformation of organizations, teams, and leaders. She works with leaders in the nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors. She has taught Organization Behavior and Cross-cultural Communication at Bentley College, Northeastern University, and Georgetown University. She has a BA from Harvard University, an MSOD from the American University/NTL Institute program in Organization Development, and an advanced certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Contact her at


Understanding levels of identity in interaction

Changing Perspectives; Changing Views

3 Tips and 4 C’s to improve leader communication

Editors Note: Post originally published November 30, 2015 and updated for July 2020.