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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Practical insights to accelerate your growth in June


Thank you for being a valued member of my community! I hope you enjoy this third edition of my monthly newsletter, which includes timely strategy, leadership, and innovation insights to accelerate your growth. 

Here are links to the first two editions and a recap of topics covered: 

May(1) Prepare for the next downturn; (2) Make better, faster decisions; and (3) Embrace difference to improve performance

April: (1) The Q1 review, (2) Prime yourself for success, and (3) Focus your innovation investments for impact

If you are curious about how we can partner to accelerate your growth, please don't hesitate to book your free consultation today. 


Strategy: Protect your 2022 goals with a strong mid-year review

The mid-year strategy review is one of the most valuable—and underrated—things you can do to ensure success. In 2020, I led the mid-year review for a large division of a Fortune 100 company. Through that review, leadership made several critical course-corrections, which included:

  • Halting a major production expansion in Asia, which had become too risky due to supply chain uncertainty. This decision saved the division millions in investment costs that, as it later turns out, would not have yielded a positive return.
  • Doubling-down on training program development to address emerging safety risks. This decision both improved safety outcomes and boosted employee engagement. 

A great mid-year review should accomplish two goals:

1. Sharpen your strategy. A lot can change in six months: your supply chain crumbles, your top performers resign, your customers turn to a new competitor… If you want to stay on target, you need to track and adapt to relevant changes.

2. Reinvigorate your team. Many organizations struggle with a summer slump in employee engagement and productivity. A great mid-year review can reinvigorate the team by making people feel heard and valued, strengthening personal connections, and re-aligning work to what matters most.

Follow these three steps to complete a mid-year review:

Step 1: Assess where you are. Prepare for a great review by gathering relevant information on (1) the status of key performance indicators and key result metrics, (2) strategic initiative team progress and lessons learned, (3) changes in the external operating landscape, (4) suggestions to improve performance.

I’d recommend giving all employees the opportunity to weigh-in via a survey or team report-outs. Your individual contributors often have great insights. Campbell’s Soup CEO, Mark Clouse, credits the company’s successful navigation of the pandemic to direct feedback from his factor workers. And the simple act of asking for feedback demonstrates you value employees, which alone boosts engagement and productivity.

Send your findings out a few days in advance of the mid-year review meeting. Invite participants to reflect on the past before the review session, so you can focus on the future while together. 

Step 2: Meet to revise the strategy. A few design parameters for a great session:

Invite the right people: If you’re a small organization, consider inviting everyone and making this event a leadership-development and team-building opportunity. If you’re larger, invite the leadership team, strategy owner(s), and initiative team owners. 

Meet in an inspiring location: Meet in-person and offsite, if you can. This eliminates office distractions and spurs creativity. If you must meet remotely, ask participants to post an out-of-office message for the day to avoid email and phone distractions.

Cover the right topics: (1) Evaluate and revise your market position and top-line goals in light of changes in your operating environment. (2) Evaluate and revise bottom-line goals based on lessons learned during Q1 – Q2 strategy implementation. (3) Adjust strategic initiatives to reflect new goals. (4) Reallocate resources to support strategic pivots.

Use a facilitator: A great mid-year review will prompt challenging conversations about goals, initiatives, and resource allocations. There are no sacred cows. A strong external facilitator can ensure you have the tough conversations, make smart decisions, and leave with everyone feeling heard. 


Step 3: Communicate the change. Your mid-year review will only make a difference if it substantively changes what and how your organization operates. So, everyone needs to understand these changes and their role in making them. 

Share the updated strategy with the entire organization along with a brief communication that summarizes how employee feedback informed changes. Then, ask initiative owners and managers to speak with their teams about how they can adjust their work to support the transformation.


Leadership: Sharpen your creative skills

Creativity is the key to turning challenge into opportunity. While GM and Ford closed one factory after another in 2020 due to chip shortages, Tesla doubled its year-over-year production and sales. How? It found a creative workaround to the chip shortage: it rewrote the software for existing chips to suit its needs.


If you’d like to improve your ability to lead amidst uncertainty and change, then you should sharpen your creative skills. Below are three lessons I learned about creativity from Matt Richtel’s new book, Inspired, and how you can put them into action.

1. We're born creative (that includes you!)

Young children are highly creative. But around the fourth grade, the pressure to conform quashes most children's innate creativity. They learn to listen too much to others. Over time, they lose trust in and stop listening to their inner voice, which is the source of creativity. 

If you want to be more creative, you must re-learn to listen to your inner voice without judgement. To start, set aside time to let your mind wander without distraction. Pick a prompt you’d like to explore (e.g., a problem to solve or an idea to move forward). Then, use that time to brainstorm solutions. Generate as many ideas as you can and don’t edit as you go. Editing is form of judgement, which stymies the creative flow. 

2. Creative people are greedy for information

Creativity is about connecting dots in new ways. So, if you want to be more creative, you need more dots—interesting anecdotes, experiences, and stories. 

There are two ways you can collect more dots. 
First, practice meditation, breath-work, or other mind-calming activities. These practices expand your perceptive capacity, meaning you'll capture more dots from every experience you have. Second, try doing one thing outside your routine each day to diversify the type of dots you capture.  

3. Great ideas grow from bad ideas

Many of Beethoven’s compositions started with simple phrases he jot down during walks. Those initial phrases were not particularly noteworthy. Some were even bad. But Beethoven knew how to iterate on his work to turn mediocre ideas into standout symphonies.   

Start jotting your own ideas down as they come to you (I carry a small Traveler’s notebook for just this purpose). Regularly review your idea brainstorm and pick one or two that you can iterate on and bring to life.

Innovation: Win through failure

Several years ago, I worked with a Fortune 1000 company to troubleshoot their product transformation. The leadership team said they’d set clear goals and empowered teams to take ownership, but the organization was still moving at the pace of the Titanic. At this rate, leaders feared they'd be out of business before they got their new product to market.


I interviewed several team members from the product organization to get their take. Why was progress so slow? Two interesting findings:

  • They had to hit 100% of their goals to unlock their maximum bonus

  • When they missed a milestone or goal, managers would “checklist them to death” on the next project

In short, they felt punished when they missed a goal. So, they set safe goals they knew they could hit. In aggregate, these individual and team goals fell short of what the organization aimed to achieve as a whole.

Innovation involves risk and failure. If you want more innovation, you must accept more risk. And that means properly incentivizing your employees to set bold goals that sometimes fail:

  • Encourage teams and employees to set stretch goals. Then, max-out bonuses when they hit 90% of those goals. If they hit 100%, it means they didn’t aim high enough.

  • Dedicate a set amount of time and resources to higher-risk innovation activities. Treat that innovation investment as a sunk cost; don’t punish the team for no- to low- short-term ROI.


Opportunities to Partner

Mid-Year Review: If you're concerned about hitting your 2022 goals—or want to push your growth even further—I'd love to design and deliver a productive and engaging mid-year review for your organization. I have only two spots remaining in my schedule for this work, so please reach out today if interested.

Growth Advisory: If you've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results, I can help. Schedule a consultation to discuss how we can partner to achieve your bold ambitions for the future. 

1:1 Coaching: This is your opportunity to dramatically accelerate personal and professional growth. Clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results. 


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