Collaboration is Key

I learned at an early age that working together is the best way to get things done. My baby sister was born on a freezing Tuesday night in February. As Dad traveled for work, Mom sank into what we now know was post-partum depression. I was the oldest child, and it fell to me, at age ten, to take over. How the heck was I going to do this?

With lots of help. I learned quickly how to mix formula, change and clean cloth diapers, and take care of a newborn. I enlisted the neighbors to pitch in for grocery shopping and home-cooked meals. I made sure my six-year-old brother go to kindergarten, and when he returned, that he watched our three-year-old-sister. Mom was in bed for almost three weeks, until one morning she got up, got dressed, and became Mom again.

That experience was an early lesson in the power of collaboration. Fast forward a few years to when I was promoted to my first important leadership position. I was a thirty-something in charge of 12 sites and 1,400 employees (as well as 2,000 contractors) for a financial services company. I literally could not handle it all on my own. So what was I going to do? After a few sleepless nights of sheer panic, it came to me. Do it the way you’ve always done it. By fostering collaboration.

Despite warnings from (mostly male) mentors who thought command and control was the only way to go, I fostered collaboration. I hired the best people I could find—most of them women, who like myself, were used to collaborating—and empowered them to run each site. Then I coached them to foster collaboration within their sites, and within their work teams, and so on down the line.

We also collaborated across the aisle.

In financial services, sales and operations often see themselves as adversaries. I’m an ops girl, but I always thought this infighting was, frankly, stupid and counterproductive. We all wanted the same thing, right? To sell, process, and underwrite as many loans as possible.

Once I had the authority, I led my team across the aisle. We created professional friendships. We established a cross-functional leadership team. We cross-trained work teams. Once we cracked open the silos, innovation grew astronomically. We developed new products, new methods, new techniques. Our productivity soared. That year, our region won the aptly named Bridge Award for the most effective collaboration between sales and ops companywide.

            When I opened my own business in strategic HR consulting, I remembered that lesson. From the start, my mission has been to preach the gospel of collaboration. I coach clients to create workplaces built on collaboration and celebration. I counsel clients to treat their employees as they would A-star clients. Collaboration is the “Yes, and…” of business management, the missing ingredient of the secret sauce. When businesses promote collaboration, only good things happen—workers stretch their limits, they grow and succeed, and so does the business.

That’s all nice and fuzzy, you might say, but If collaboration works, why don’t more businesses do it?

Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that collaboration isn’t “manly” enough, isn’t powerful enough, doesn’t show the proper authority.

I see that as a good sign, though, a sign that things are ready to change. We should honor this fear, and collaborate with it. Working with fear stretches our limits, takes us out of our comfort zones, allows us to take risks and create new things. Because one thing I know is that with collaboration, we can overcome fear and, in the process, release the creative energy locked in the siloes of traditional corporate structure, buried in the minds of workers held captive in those same siloes. Once set in motion, like a chain reaction in atomic physics, the energy of collaboration is awesome to behold—it expands into all corners of the company.

Can you imagine a world where collaboration is the normal way of doing business? Where we all cooperate with each other, listen to different viewpoints (even those we disagree with), encourage others to think outside the box, try new things, and break out of the mindset of fear that limits us all. I can, and it is my mission to release the energy of collaboration client by client. I foster collaboration not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing.

As 2018 gets underway, we all are striving to set goals and take those first steps to meeting them. Structure for Success is no different. Our biggest goal this year is to expand. We aim to work with more clients this year at a higher level, and to provide more services.

Hiring is still our core offering, but the more we hire, the more we realize that hiring is as much strategic as it is tactical. How will your next employees get your firm where you want it to be—this quarter, this year, in the next five years?

At Structure for Success, we work with you and your team to strategize your next steps, plan your workforce for your short- and long-term goals, and hire the brightest ROCK STARS to make it happen.

If growth is on your 2018 to-do list, don’t wait. Schedule your consultation today.

You can help us meet our goal, too.

Do you know other business owners looking for strategic growth? Please refer them to Structure for Success. We are a word-of-mouth business, and our best clients are those recommended by trusted friends, colleagues, and clients. There’s a level of trust established from the get-go.

For these referrals we say thank you. We truly appreciate your trust and opportunities! We promise you won’t regret it—we strive to make you look good, too.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

My January best practice tip builds on all the hard work you put into creating your Year End Strategic Plan. Didn’t get that done? No problem! There is still time to review what worked and didn’t work for your business last year and to create a custom blueprint for 2018. Strategic plans are living documents, and at their most effective, they change, evolve and grow with your business as the year progresses. Strategic Plans are not chains holding you down but wings to launch your business as high as you want to go.

What else should be on your strategic To-Do list for the beginning of the year? Employee manuals. Do you have one? Is it updated. Every business, regardless of the number of employees, should have an employee manual and should budget to update it yearly. These manuals are not just a list of rules and regulations. They are an opportunity to create and record the business culture you truly desire. Updating your manual is a fantastic opportunity to revisit your mission and value statements and share them with your staff. And most important, they are an opportunity for you, as the CEO of your company, to establish your performance and office expectations.

What are your expectations? My January tip is to re-visit your stated expectations and reflect on whether they are still relevant to your business and culture. After you truly reflect on their relevance, ask yourself if these expectations are clear and understood by all your staff. Have you shared them—clearly and directly—so everyone is on the same page? I always observe that if you find yourself saying, “They should already know that,” the problem is your message, not your employees. Even good employees are not mind readers. Make your expectations clear and put them in writing.

Maybe you aren’t sure if your expectations are clear and well-understood, and you need an objective outside perspective. Structure for Success is here to assist! We specialize in bringing you that outside perspective. We take a look at your employees, your processes, and your culture to make sure they are in sync with your goals and expectations.

Don’t let fear paralyze you. Change can be good. Now is the time to set the pattern of excellence for the New Year.

Contact Wendy at Structure for Success, LLC, to schedule a time to discuss your how to establish your goals and aspirations for 2018, and how to translate them into actionable business expectations for your employees. 

Remember Proposition 206? The one that requires all businesses with at least one employee to provide paid sick leave effective July 1, 2017? 

Another important provision of Prop 206 is an incremental increase in the minimum wage for hourly employees. As a result, the minimum wage in Arizona increased from $8.05 to $10.00 on January 1, 2017, and is scheduled to increase again to $10.50 on January 1, 2018.

What does that mean for your business?  

As of 2016, 58.7% of the workers in the United States were paid hourly. If all or some of your employees fall in this group and are currently paid minimum wage, they get an automatic raise for the New Year. If this is the case, you may have some work to do for 2018.

To stay in compliance and make a smooth transition, be sure to do the following:

·        Include the wage increase in your 2018 budget

·        Communicate with your payroll manager and employees which employees will receive the increase

·        Update your employee records to reflect the new wage

·        Revise your policy handbook to reflect the changes

·        Don’t forget about the paid sick leave in your updates (if you haven’t added that already) 

Do you want to be absolutely sure you’re in compliance with the new regulations? Contact Structure for Success today to schedule your Year-End HR Tune-Up.

We’ll provide checklists of what you have to do, or, better yet, we’ll do it for you. Structure for Success offers several protection plans depending on the services and number of documents you need. Onboarding materials, employee forms and handouts, policy manuals, and templates customized for your business are just a sample of what we can provide.

Don’t let the ongoing Prop 206 changes catch you by surprise. Schedule your appointment today.

Did you say 2018? Where did 2017 go? More to the point, how did it go? Did you hit all your business goals? If you did, congratulations. Set even higher goals for next year.

But if you didn’t, don’t beat yourself up—build yourself up. Now is the time to figure out what got in the way of business success last year and how to change it in the coming year. We at Structure for Success are experts in strategic planning and hiring and will help you do just that.

Many people set intentions and make resolutions in their personal lives, but here’s a chance to do it for your business. What do you want your company to look like in 2018? Is it a year of growth? Is it a year of regrouping? Of refining your business model or reshaping your brand? Maybe all of the above. There is no right or wrong answer. Each business is different. What each business does need to do, though, is take the time to plan for the New Year. Year-end strategic planning is the perfect way to define—or redefine— your direction for the next year and to figure out what resources you have now and what resources you will need to reach your goals and dreams for 2018.

Here’s my Year-End Tip. The first step in planning your future is to assess the present state of your business. This can often be the hardest step in the process. Some of us see our business how we WANT to see it, not how it truly is. Without the objectivity and courage to take that hard, honest look at our business structures, the strategic planning process may never get off the ground.

How does a business owner come to this steely-eyed objectivity? With the help of Structure for Success, LLC. We specialize in conducting an objective assessment of your business structures with particular attention to building your team—who does what for you now and how well. And then the next step. Who do you need to take you to the next level? Strategic planning and hiring.

Don’t let fear of the unknown paralyze your business. Plan for the future and build yourself up with Structure for Success.

You’ve taken that last exam and marched proudly in your college or grad school graduation. You’ve had jobs before—waiting tables, stacking boxes, checking out groceries or clothes—but not a career. You’ve sent out a few resumes because that’s what you do, but nothing has come of it. Are you ever going to be able to pay those student loans on your own? Rent? Groceries?

What do you do now?

Invest in yourself, that’s what. For $500, Structure for Success’s Early Life Invention Program provides four coaching sessions and a revamped resume and cover letter to get your career off the ground.

Our coaching helps you:

  • Discover your passion—what gets you out of bed in the morning—and transform it into a career
  • Formulate a step-by-step plan to begin your career
  • Give yourself permission to succeed

Your revamped resume and cover letter will:

  • Position your degree, skills, and experience for your dream career
  • Catch the eye of hiring managers
  • Make you look good even to your parents—and yourself

You’ve put in the work. Don’t stop before you’ve started. We’ll give you the lift-off you need.

Call us at 480-773-3064.

Many of us are under the assumption that communication is just talking to people. It is so much more than that. For example – communication is about listening as well as speaking. This is important in both your personal and professional life. You can learn, re-learn and perfect these skills with some practice.

For professionals in the workplace it is a fact that employees who possess exemplary listening skills are valuable members of the workplace. Effective listening skills can help you further your career in many aspects. They can improve your customer service relationships, improve relationships with your peers and supervisors and prevent misunderstandings that can happen due to poor communication. I recommend holding regular workshops with your employees to assist them in developing their skills. Below are some exercises to help you sharpen listening skills.

Duplication Exercise

Duplication is an activity that can show employees how their listening skills may need improvement. This activity can make listening skills tangible. This activity can demonstrate how well they listen. Ultimately it can assist them in developing their overall listening skills. This activity works well with multiple participants. Tools needed: pencils, paper and at least 4-5 employees.

All employees must sit or stand in a line. The first employee in the line writes down a phrase on a piece of paper. Then this same employee whispers the phrase to the next employee in line. The next employee must whisper the statement verbatim to the following employee, then the next, and so on. Once the statement reaches the last person in line, it is this participant’s job to repeat the statement out loud as it was passed to them. The point of the activity is to see how the original statement changed by the time it reached the last person in line.

Verbal Instruction

Verbal instruction is an activity that can help employees measure how well they receive information verbally. Put employees into groups of four or five people. Mix up the groups with employees which they normally do not associate with. Each group is to nominate a “listener.” This person will receive instructions from the rest of the group. The objective of this exercise is for the listener to translate or apply the instructions given to them verbally into a diagram or chart. For example, group members instruct the listener to draw a square with a circle in the middle. The listener carries out the instructions on a whiteboard according to how they interpret the instructions. Repeat this exercise until everyone in the group has taken a turn at being the listener.


Have you ever noticed that no two people interpret verbal information the same way? This activity is to get your employees to see how well they can summarize information. For this activity you can keep all of the employees into one large group. The facilitator reads a short story and chooses an employee to paraphrase the story. Repeat this with different stories and several different employees. After each summary, other employees can give their personal interpretations of what they heard.


Practicing improvisation techniques will help your employees improve their listening skills. This activity will allow your employees to spontaneously respond to suggestions or phrases provided by the facilitator. The activity begins with the facilitator making a simple statement such as “I went to the market yesterday,” or “My car just broke down.” Each employee provides a statement or phrase that cohesively adds to the storyline. The purpose of the activity is to create a meaningful and organized story by listening to the statements of each preceding participant.