Author Archives: Birgit Zacher-Hanson

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Global Telecommunications Company Creates a Promised-Based Culture

Telecommunications company was facing three main challenges: 1. Differences in leadership styles and skill levels; 2. inefficiency due to limited organizational and interpersonal skills, 3. some degree of disconnect with union workers and union leaders.


Managers were reactive versus responsive. Basic, fundamental communication skills, like active listening, validating and reassuring what is being heard were missing much of the time. The conditioned tendency was to tell others what to do, even if that provoked resistance. Managers had practically no skills to hold other accountable, especially not employees they had no authority over.


Organizational skills and time management

Managers were under much pressure to meet the requirements of the job and were consistently operating beyond capacity. There was a great need for managers to adopt new ways of doing their job, i.e. coach versus push, prioritize more effectively, limit and manage interruptions more effectively, conduct more productive meetings, make requests from upper management, direct reports and peers and work more effectively as a team.

Engaging Union workers

Managers experienced a lack of power around managing union workers. The notion that some union workers can’t be managed still persisted amongst some.


Heads-Up Performance conducted a 14-month coaching program for managers and executives.

The first step consisted of a culture survey, individual assessment tools, 360’s and diagnostic conversations to identify the current situation and assess the gaps. We then outlined our approach and co-created a strategy with senior manager to roll out the program.

The intervention consisted of skill-building workshops delivered twice a month to the entire management team and individual coaching for each manager on a bi-weekly basis.

The workshops and group coaching sessions were designed to:

  1. Strengthen their leadership and coaching capacities
  2. Bring them together as a collaborative team
  3. Rally them around a single strategic focus
  4. Empower them to become effective coaches who inspire others, including union workers, to get things done

Additionally we:

  1. Conducted strategic meetings with senior leaders on a bi-weekly basis to define and tweak game plan
  2. Shadowed senior leadership in their staff meetings to assess and enhance conversations for action and level of commitment vs. compliance
  3. Facilitated conversations to assess capacity realistically
  4. Interviewed a sample of technicians to assess productivity breakdowns
  5. Increased best practices through fish bowl interviews with high performers
  6. Created a rallying cry “Connect and Build Trust” to include union leaders
  7. Facilitated joint sessions with area and local managers to improve communication between levels and greater understanding of the challenges each group was facing


Remarkable strides were made while working with Heads-Up Performance that resulted in a 5% productivity increase within the first two months of the intervention.

Majority of managers made significant progress in holding themselves and others more accountable by measurably increasing the number (and quality) of coaching conversations and enhancing trust and relationships. Those conversations resulted in more effective work processes and specific performance measures related to compliance and safety as well as sales.

Managers reported that they were able to turn low performing union workers into higher performing ones by shifting their assessments of the union workers, establishing more effective relationships and communicating more frequently.

Improvements in the area of organizational skills and time management contributed to the region meeting its goals for the first time in various areas.

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Property Management Company Creates a Culture of Excellence

Atlanta-based Property Management Company is under-performing due to several layers of management displaying personal and interpersonal ineffectiveness.  The executive team lacks trust and accountability and is not achieving its full potential. The gaps on the people side are threatening the organization’s ability to execute its vision in the field and reach higher level business goals. The estimated value of closing this gap is millions of dollars in terms of real cost and missed business opportunities.



Heads-Up Performance delivered a year-long program consisting of Assessments, Executive Coaching, interpersonal communications and coaching skills training to empower leadership to change its habits and behavior and more effectively evoke sustained excellence in their staff, improving individual performance, teamwork and organizational results.

Programs were conducted monthly, supported by phone coaching.


“As President/COO of an Atlanta Property Management company I retained Heads-Up Performance to coach our executive team and facilitate team building, communications and strategic meetings.

The book “Who Will Do What by When?” became required reading and changed our culture to a more productive one.

As a result of the coaching I adopted several new practices:

  1. Monday morning stand-up check-in meetings with my executive staff. During that meeting everybody shares information in a specific format. Such information includes their assessments as they relate to emergencies, problems, new goals, corrective measures etc.
  2. The team management action plan (tmap) as a tool to guide our staff meetings and document the promises people make. It’s been an effective tool to manage my own and my staff’s commitments and focus on our strategic priorities
  3. Take a few moments of “executive think time” every day and write a journal. This time allows me to review the tmap and focus on what’s most important. It helps me identify decisions I need to make, conversations I want to have and actions I have to take or delegate
  4. Use the Who will do what by when? book throughout my organization and focus on that question in order to generate a commitment from others (including my teenage son who doesn’t like to be held accountable)

These practices have allowed me to become more efficient and enhance the results of my executive team and organization at large.

My executive team has received their own coaching and has become more engaged in making commitments and eliciting promises from each other and their direct reports. They are now looking for the cause of breakdowns as supposed to just the symptoms.

By working with Heads-Up Performance we have become substantially more aware of our communication. We have found that the cause of most breakdowns is related to a missing conversation or a standard that wasn’t shared.

Financially, I would estimate we were ahead about 300-400k as a result of the coaching.

It takes time and effort to change a habit and fully embrace some of these new concepts, but it is worth it.” President, Atlanta Property Management Company

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Agency for Adults with Developmental Disabilties Enhances Leadership Capacity

A behavioral facility for adults with developmental disabilities was faced with increasing demands for higher quality services at lower costs. Competing priorities among different departments and a reduction in resources placed exceptional challenges on the agency’s ability to perform at its desired level of excellence.

Key issues:

  1. Breakdowns in communication and execution
  2. Lack of clarity, processes still needing to be defined
  3. Role confusion and missing standards

Key leadership opportunities:

  1. Develop a clear vision for the organization
  2. Communicate and execute the mission more effectively
  3. Better define who is responsible for what and who is authorized to make what decisions
  4. Constitute as a team, commit to a shared goal and own the results jointly
  5. Delegate or “let go” without disengaging

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Global Medical Publishing Company Embraces New HR Software

The Client is a global medical publishing company with a presence in 24 countries and currently employs 7,000 journal editors as well as 70,000 editorial board members and 200,000 reviewers.

Company faced challenge to fully embrace the electronic age in an increasingly competitive global market place. To remain the global market leader in the industry, the client had to make considerable changes in working practices and skill sets. What was called for was a commitment at the top of the organization to develop the change strategy and drive it forward within each leader’s business area.

Heads-Up Performance was invited by a European consulting firm to co-facilitate breakout sessions with global managers in Europe and the US.

The key deliverables were to help identify the ‘live’ Cases for Change that would support the overall global change program and ensure that managers have the requisite skills to manage the change for themselves and their teams.


The client gained a different perspective on change and transition that resulted in significant increases in engagement and buy-in.

The intervention reached 400 Leaders of Change worldwide, who in partnership with the European consulting firm were able to develop and deliver a blended support model of webinar, workshop and coaching worldwide.

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Industry Leader Undergoes Culture Change to Embrace New Software

NJ based air-conditioning company purchased newly designed software. Adoption process was slow and created operational breakdowns, which in turn negatively affected morale and productivity.



Company purchased software without the input from the people who were using it on a daily basis. They made assumptions about training needs that turned out to be flawed. And they rolled out the new software without a plan on how to implement the change effectively. As a result, people were not adequately trained in the system and didn’t really understand why they had to change to a new system in the first place. Consequently, they did not trust in the capabilities of the new system and did not learn how to use it effectively.

The culture was turning into victim culture where everything was being blamed on the software and the people who had purchased it. People retaliated by taking short cuts and entering data erroneously or leaving the responsibility for performing their tasks to others.



We facilitated several dialogue sessions between management and the software users to assess the actual gaps with the software. During those sessions we encouraged the parties to listen to each other and what was discovered is that the biggest obstacle was not the software itself but the gaps that existed in how it was rolled out and how people were in relationship to it as a result of that.

We coached key players to take responsibility for closing the gaps by asking for additional training and software modification.


The software manufacturer is making modifications that will more specifically meet the needs of the client. The company is offering a more robust training program. And opinions, perspectives and insights of those using the program are now being heard on a consistent basis which has led to a greater degree of clarity, buy-in, and productivity.