Appreciation and Strategy . . .

The words appreciation and strategy aren’t often found together.  Appreciation normally implies friendships and people doing nice things to one another.  Strategy, on the other hand, is often seen as hard-nosed business warfare.  The two words seem to come from different worlds.

This week my partner, Michael and I facilitated a three-day Enterprise Strategy Review meeting for one of our clients.  For the past four months this management team has worked hard to implement the elements of their new Go Forward strategy.  In many ways the execution of this strategy requires a fundamental shift in how they run the business and a new business model based on clear objectives and accountabilities.

And it hasn’t been easy.  As many of us know, strategy is a contact sport and to arrive at a workable set of strategic objectives and initiatives requires a great amount of analysis, insight, risk taking, discussion and debate.  And over the course of the past several months this team has engaged in numerous debates and sometimes heated discussions as they sought to gain alignment around a growth strategy for the company.

So this series of meetings marked the end of the first quarter and is a perfect time to review the results and the learnings of the past three months as well as to “stress check” the strategy.  A strategy is not a static document but a living tapestry of interconnections that must respond to changing marketplace conditions and opportunities.  So some 50 senior executives  gathered at one of their manufacturing facilities in France for an Enterprise Strategy Review.

The first two days were focused on reviewing past performance and progress on strategic initiatives and the third day to work on improving the strategy and the strategy execution process. And here’s where appreciation comes in.

On the morning of the third day, after the CEOs opening remarks, we decided to spend an hour on appreciation.  An hour?  I can already hear the comments from most of the executives and business people reading this blog.  With so much work to do and over $500M of revenue riding on this strategy, how can you take a whole hour for appreciation?

Because without a foundation of appreciation and gratitude, it is nearly impossible to have healthy constructive debate.

With a foundation of appreciation for each other, difficult discussions that may involve significant change to one or more departments are handled with greater openness, honesty and respect, all the while seeking out the required information to arrive at the best fact-based decisions.  With a mind-set of gratitude, changes are more easily implemented since gratitude often reduces the fear of change.

After an hour of giving and receiving appreciation from other members of the team, we took a quick break then launched into our meeting and even though we had some very thorny topics to address, they were handled for the most part with ease and grace.  Definitely not your “typical” business meeting.

And a healthy dose of sincere appreciation goes well with lots of other things besides strategy.  Try it at your next meeting.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Appreciation and Strategy . . .

  1. Interesting John…wonder if we (I) would have granted 1 hour on clock with meter running. I can see benefits. Wonder why it takes an outside firm to make it happen…Great post. You have me thinking (again)…


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