Internal Branding

Create an alignment between your external and internal brand

Companies spend significant amounts of time defining their external brand. Todd Gehrmann, instructor at the Accelerate Institute, reminds us to place emphasis on our internal brand and what is happening inside our walls. 

With all the effort put into managing the way customers and potential customers see us, it can be easy to underemphasize what your own employees think about our own company. Todd shares his experience visiting Facebook and recalls the alignment of their internal and external brand. 

 How can you help retain your top talent through management of your internal brand?

  • Communicate a similar message internally to your employees and externally to customers. For example, ask your employees what they like about working at the company and share their stories with the public.

  • Consider cultural alignment. Do not place your creative employees in cubicles. Break down the walls for them. Give those who need it time and quiet spaces to reflect or collaborate. 

  • Invest in your brand ambassadors. Help them send the message that this is a great place to work.

Satisfy Growth Need

Investing in Employees Encourages Growth 

Matt Meuleners, lead instructor at the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training, shares three ways to help keep your top employees in town and in your organization. Help your top talent see that you are investing in their growth by:

  • Identifying knowledge and skill gaps
  • Connecting employees with resources for further development
  • Creating an environment that supports learning 

To learn more about how to satisfying growth need, check out the Accelerate Institute by Focus Training. 

Skill Development

Engage your Employees by Providing Skill Development Training

Todd Gehrmann, instructor for the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training, shares information about how to get the most from your high-potentials. Help your top talent by offering training and providing mastery experiences to increase:

  • Persistence when faced with challenges

  • Buy-in from stakeholders connected to the process

  • Positive results

To learn more about Accelerate Institute, contact us today. 

Coaching Keys – Nailing Tough Conversations

Are leaders in your organization avoiding difficult conversations? Or going in unprepared and making things worse? Sharing constructive criticism or difficult news isn’t something that most business leaders look forward to, but it is a critical skill for those who want to drive performance and change.

One of the many topics FOCUS Training covers in our Coaching for Results module is the art of the critical conversation. Here are a few tips you can share with leaders in your organization:

Be Prepared

  • Clearly define the goal of your conversation. What is the specific outcome you need to achieve? Is there a behavior change you need to see? Be specific – you need to be able to plainly define this goal for the coachee. For example, asking someone to “improve their attitude” is too vague to encourage action. Instead, you might ask them to be more careful about using sarcasm in meetings.
  • Gather specific examples as evidence to support your desired outcome. Generalities like “you always…” or “a lot of people think…” will make it hard for a coachee to accept your feedback. Describe an incident where you witnessed the behavior you are trying to encourage or change.
  • Practice your key sentence. If you only were able to say one thing, what would it be? Be sure you are ready to deliver that statement with the appropriate wording and tone. Usually it is a good idea to lead with this key sentence rather than leaving them hanging. “Because of the incident this week we are going to be letting you go today. Let’s talk about your two options for exit plans.”

These and other best practices for preparing can make a tough conversation less intimidating and more constructive.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training

Making Performance Reviews Less Painful...and More Productive

Getting your leaders to complete performance reviews can feel a bit like getting a teenager to clean their room. It takes hours of asking, cajoling, and vague threats – and when they finally give in, they complete the chore with the minimum effort required to be “complete.”

Performance reviews handled improperly can be more than uncomfortable, they can be counterproductive! A 2013 Globoforce survey revealed that employees who see the performance review process as inaccurate are twice as likely to be looking for other jobs. So, as a leader in your organization how can you ensure that reviews are happening…and happening the right way?

One of the best practices FOCUS Training teaches managers and emerging leaders is to build a framework for reviews that is driven by metrics. To measure performance well, help employees see the value and accuracy of your feedback. There are two types of metric to consider and communicate:

Lag metrics – measurable objectives you wish to achieve - the end result. Sales revenue targets, customer service scores, production line output are all good examples.

Lead metrics – measurable actions required to get to the end result. For example, to help an employee hit sales revenue targets, you may wish to track weekly call targets.

For some positions these metrics are easy to identify (e.g., sales representatives), but others are not so simple. Investing the time to clearly define the metrics that matter will help make performance reviews go more smoothly and achieve the desired results.

To learn more about this and the other essential skills of leadership that we teach, check out the
Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training

Keep Leaders Local: Feedback

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Help Your Talent Grow With Constant Feedback

According to a 2015 study by TriNet, 74 percent of millennials frequently feel “in the dark” about how their managers and peers think they’re performing at work. Matt Meuleners, lead instructor at the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training, shares best practices for providing feedback. Help your top talent feel that they are supported and valued during their performance reviews by:

  • Being preparedOff the cuff feedback can sometimes be ineffective or even misinterpreted.
  • Staying on target. Don’t deviate or get distracted from the core message. 
  • Showing up with evidence. The result has been this, try this. Give your employees specific examples.
  • Giving feedback regularly and in real time.  Being raised in the Internet age, Millennials are used to receiving feedback immediately.

To learn more about the essential skills of an organizational leader, check out the Accelerate Institute.

Personal Branding

Tell Me A Story - Positioning Your Personal Brand
When it’s time to hire, fill a leadership position, or make a purchase from someone, we don’t tend to choose the mysterious stranger. Our risk-averse brains tell us to lean towards the familiar, a person to whom we can relate. We want to understand what we are getting, know their story and what to expect – a personal brand offers a shortcut for these choices.

Image, reputation, brand…whatever you choose to call it, the impression that others in your professional sphere have of you can be a key driver of how they respond to you. But a powerful brand is more than a list of features. It tells a story.

One of the many topics FOCUS Training covers in our Personal Branding module is the art of crafting your story.

Here are a few tips you can share with leaders in your organization:

Crafting your brand story

  • Reflect for value: Think back about each of your significant professional experiences. Where did you start your professional journey? Because of each of the roles that came after, what can you do? What do you know? What have you seen?
  • Differentiate yourself: What sets you apart from the rest of those who are pursuing the same goals? It doesn’t have to be unique to the world, just unique to the competitive space.
  • Transition with intention: Be prepared to discuss the space between experiences. What led you from one job to the next? Why did you make this career move at this time?
  • Project forward momentum: Your story doesn’t end today. Describe where you are headed next from a professional growth perspective. What are you hoping to learn or achieve?

These and other best practices can help you build a professional brand story that is both engaging and authentic.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training. Our next Milwaukee class begins October 2015.

Barrier Removal

What Is Getting In The Way Of Success?

What can a leader do when productivity falters or performance drops? Whether we are talking about a team, a colleague, or even yourself, the first step to removing barriers to success is seeing the real problem. The Problem Analysis Framework is a simple tool for ensuring we focus on the right issue.


The Problem Analysis Framework asks two simple questions:

Does the person have the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to perform at the desired level?

Does the person want to perform at the desired level?

Depending on the answers, the barrier to success could be one of motivation, selection, training, or environmental factors. Learning to remove these barriers can help you keep yourself and your team on track for success.

To learn more about this and the other essential skills of leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training. Our next Milwaukee class begins October 2015.


Professional Development at Colectivo

FOCUS Training is coming to Colectivo's Prospect Cafe to provide Milwaukee’s emerging leaders a complementary professional development and networking opportunity.

The Accelerate Institute Preview is a 90-minute, interactive program featuring our training module on the Drivers of Motivation. This module will deepen your understanding of motivation theory and teach you how to improve results by applying the best motivational driver in any given management situation. 

And even better, free Colectivo coffee and pastry for all attendees. The best coffee paired with the best leadership development programs? That's leadership...caffeinated!

Space is limited so register today to reserve your space at this exciting event. 

July 15 - 5:30 PM

Mental Math for Motivation

Leverage Expectancy To Drive Action

Do you ever find yourself running some quick calculations in your head when you boss asks you to take on a new project or you are considering whether to get off the couch and head for the gym? Most of us do a bit of mental math to decide whether to take action – something Victor Vroom of Yale University outlined in his Expectancy theory of motivation.

One of the many topics Accelerate Institute trainers cover in our Motivational Drivers module is the management application of Expectancy theory. Here are a few tips:

Expectancy Theory

  • Understand the drivers. Expectancy theory combines three elements in the motivation “equation”. Each factor can be influenced by leaders to increase the end product – motivation.

Expectancy - will my efforts be successful?

Valence – will success actually lead to rewards?

Instrumentality – are the projected rewards desirable to me?

  • Manage expectancy. A low expectancy factor often has to do with low self-efficacy. As a leader, working to boost your team member’s confidence in a task can help correct for this barrier to motivation. Refer to our discussion of SLT here.
  • Build Valance. A low valence factor typically comes down to trust. If team members don’t believe the organization (or you) will deliver on the promised outcomes they are unlikely to drive ahead.
  • Fine Tune Instrumentality. A low instrumentality factor may be an issue of targeting. It is critical to remember that individuals respond differently to a variety of rewards based on their personality. One team member may love public praise, while another may dread it.

We can’t stop ourselves from doing the mental math of motivation, but forward-thinking leaders can manage the factors to move the needle towards action.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.

Tips for Preparing a Killer Presentation

Dale Carnegie said, “there are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” To ensure that your next presentation lands just the way you intend, careful preparation is a must.

One of the many topics Accelerate Institute trainers cover in our Essential Presentation Skills module is presentation design and preparation. Here are a few simple tips:

Presentation Prep

  • Research your audience. Knowing the size and demographics of your crowd will help you build a custom message that will be better understood and accepted. This may also help you anticipate potential questions from listeners. 
  • Prepare your call to action. A presentation should drive behavior and choice, not simply dump information into the minds of your audience. What is the end result you hope to achieve? What do you want your listeners to do with the information you share?
  • Bullets not paragraphs. When writing an outline or speech notes, avoid defining what you will say word-for-word (except when technical accuracy is critical). By writing in simple phrases or bullets you will help protect yourself from “memory freeze” in front of the audience.
  • Practice like you play. When practicing a presentation, act as if you are really standing before your listeners. Don’t stop and start over if you make a mistake – what would your real reaction be if the audience could see you?

Presentations are a very intimidating task for many professionals. But, with proper preparation and practice you can reduce the anxiety and increase the impact of your next presentation.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.

Time Management Tips from D. Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower spoke decades ago about the need for leaders to avoid letting the “urgent” take precedence over the “important”. That sage advice is just as useful to professionals today. Busy leaders juggle dozens of tasks, meetings, and projects that can distract from concentrating on core values.

One of the many topics Accelerate Institute trainers cover in our Managing Time module is managing priorities and tasks. Here are a few tips:

Prioritization Best Practices

  • Clarify your values. To focus on what is important you obviously need to know what that means to you. Remember that importance is often subjective – your boss, your coworker, or your customer may see things differently. 
  • Accept tradeoffs. While it can be unpleasant, you must acknowledge that conflicts between your priorities will arise. Considering in advance what sorts of tradeoffs you may need to make can help you react thoughtfully in the moment of conflict.
  • Reduce distractions. The urgent can often feel important. Ask yourself if that notification ping on your phone is likely to be worth interrupting a critical conversation with your boss. Turn off the sources of distraction when possible to mitigate the cost.
  • Plan and protect. To ensure you have the time to focus on the things that really matter this month, this week, or today, plan a block of time to do just that…before you schedule anything else. Then protect that time like the precious commodity it is.

The most productive individual can work hard every day and still make no progress towards their goals when they focus their effort on the wrong things. Strong leaders prioritize what matters most.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.

Top Talent In Organizations Demand Feedback

Want to keep your rising stars happy? Before you reach for the checkbook consider this…your best compensation option might be 100% free. The new wave of rising talent in the workforce is asking for one thing more than vacation days, bonuses, or company cars…they want feedback.

A recent SAP/Oxford study showed that Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees, with most reporting they would like direct feedback from managers at least every month. In the modern business environment, leaders need to be able to deliver performance feedback effectively. Here are just a few of the best practices our Accelerate Institute trainers cover in the Coaching for Results module.

  • Give feedback quickly and often. When feedback is immediate, the recipient is better able to integrate it into the context of the situation. Making feedback a regular habit develops a sense of trust and makes team members more likely to accept it.

  • Get specific. Generic comments like “good job” or “work on your attitude” can leave recipients confused or defensive. Sharing specific examples of the behavior you want to reinforce or change will help team members turn suggestions into action.

  • Model the behavior. Are you accepting feedback from others in the same way you would like to see them accept yours? By intentionally modeling an attitude of openness and willingness to change, you can encourage your team members to do the same.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that can be honed through study and practice. The best leaders master this skill to get the best performance from their teams.

To learn more about effective feedback and other essential skills of organizational leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training

Tips to Become an Etiquette Expert

We know that maintaining a professional image is critical for those in sales and other customer facing roles, but don’t forget that this personal branding is also important to any professional working to advance their career! A solid grounding in the rules of business etiquette equips you and your people to make the right impression in any situation.

One of the many topics our Accelerate Institute participants cover in the Personal Branding & Etiquette Experts modules is dining etiquette. Here are a few smart tips:


  • Be aware of the amount of time allotted for a professional dining event and clearly define your objectives for attending in advance. If you know you want to connect with the VP of Human Resources at this one-hour luncheon, you will take action early and be unlikely to miss the opportunity.
  • Consume your meal at a measured pace and in sync with your host or hostess. Waiting too long to begin or lingering when the rest of the group has finished eating and needs to get back to the office can be distracting. For example, if nobody in your party is ordering dessert you may wish to pass on the course as well rather than obligate them to wait on your crème brulee.
  • Balance eating and conversation to create a comfortable environment for all. Asking open-ended questions is a good way to encourage a conversation partner to speak and allows you time to take a few bites.

The primary purpose of professional dining events is networking, and understanding how to navigate these without faux pas can be a huge factor in building your personal brand.

To learn more about this and other important skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute.

Career Development: Mentors Hold The Key

Wouldn't it be nice if every emerging leader had access to sound advice, help with goal setting, and emotional support as they navigate their career? Mentors hold the key. Professionals who have a mentor experience improved satisfaction in the workplace and training environments as well as assistance in making important career choices. They advance more quickly and are better prepared for leadership roles. So how can a growing business leader get connected to a mentor?

One of the many topics covered at the Accelerate Institute in our Career Development module is building a professional network of mentors. Here are a few tips to share with emerging leaders in your organization:

 Find a Mentor

  • Carefully consider who in your network might make a good mentoring “fit”. To be successful, a mentor needs a compatible personality, the availability to work with you, and a valuable perspective on your career goals.
  • It can be intimidating to approach a potential mentor, particularly because it can feel like you are asking for a one-sided favor. Remember that mentors report significant benefits from these relationships such as increased loyalty and peer recognition. In fact, many mentors with whom we work tell us that they believe they grew and benefited more from the relationship than even their mentees did.
  • Research suggests that the most valuable situation is to be connected to a “constellation” of mentors. Consider reaching out to several potential mentors with a wide range of experience and strengths. This diversity of support reduces risk and multiplies potential benefits.

A strong mentor relationship can often be the difference between struggle or success as emerging leaders build their careers.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.

Drive: Unlocking The Secrets Of Motivation

How do the strongest leaders among us get their teams to take action, push performance limits, or make big changes? Human motivation can often feel mysterious, but the drivers of our behavior are better understood by science than many think. Equipped with the most current thinking on motivation, emerging leaders drive productivity and lead change in organizations.

One of the many topics we cover in our Building Strong Teams modules is human motivation. Here are a few key concepts from the Accelerate Motivation unit:


  • Self-efficacy is confidence in your ability to complete a specific task successfully.
  • Low self-efficacy lowers motivation and persistence. High self-efficacy drives higher performance and willingness to push through obstacles.
  • Leaders can build self-efficacy in others though social modeling (“If she can do it, so can you”), mastery experiences (“You did that other thing, you can do this”), and psychological persuasion (“I believe that you can do it”)

Self-efficacy is one element of Social Learning Theory that emerging leaders can put to work as they motivate team members to increase productivity and make important changes.

To learn more about this and other keys to motivating teams, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.