Care, Attention, Competency

Care, Attention and Competency (CAC), these are the watchwords of the client service model for one of my Vistage member’s business. This business is in the construction industry and as he explains, bottom line of what they deliver is service, not construction.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the progression (regression) from Better, Faster, Cheaper to simply faster and cheaper. So where does CAC come in? Perhaps as several of my readers responded, the bifurcation is already happening, certainly in the consumer world (think airlines premium seats/status vs. economy/discount seats), and beginning in the B2B world. If this is so, then in order to deliver better, CAC must become the standard.

What exactly does this mean? For me it means, we meet the customer where they are, we provide care, in the manner they want us to show it. We give them our attention when they ask, and not wait until they demand it. And, we remind ourselves that competency, while the baseline, isn’t enough. In fact, studies show that customers who receive care and attention are more tolerant of errors, because they trust we will resolve them.

In short, CAC begins with the Golden Rule, and reaches it’s full value with the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated. The alternative to the Golden Rule is the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Here are the questions I leave you with:

  1. Assuming the bifurcation is happening, where is your business on the continuum?
  2. Are you focused on Faster/Cheaper or are you seeking to differentiate by offering Better?
  3. How might CAC apply, or not, to your service delivery? And are you delivering by the Golden Rule or the Platinum Rule?


Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain


A couple of weeks ago, I had an experience that reminded me how true it is that we see the world through our own perspective. So much so that our experience, in the exact same situation as someone else, can be entirely different. And it’s not until we pause and sincerely try to see the world as the other person does that we can appreciate their perspective.

Here’s the story. A man I dated briefly, my first year of college, sent me a message through Facebook Messenger. At first, I wasn’t sure who the sender was, after all, this was more than 40 years ago. After a while I remembered, so I responded and said hello. He wrote back telling me he was glad to be in touch because he owed me an apology. Turned out, from his perspective, when I transferred to another college we had an agreement that he was to join me. He didn’t join me after all, he said, and he felt he had broken our agreement.

High standards he has for himself you might say, especially since he is still thinking about this after 40 years, that’s perhaps a topic for another discussion about letting stuff go.

Going back to the perspective subject, my memory of the situation was completely different. What I remembered was he did contact me and I had moved on; I wasn’t wanting or expecting to see him.

Who knows which perspective is what actually happened; perspective in this case is clouded by years. However, the fact that each of us remembered the exact same situation so differently, has stayed with me since our brief interchange on Facebook Messenger.

It’s a reminder to me to stop and listen and ask questions, to be sure I work hard to see the world as the people in my life see it. As a leadership coach, I must work to see every perspective, not just my own. Not easy and nothing important is easy, is it?

The challenge for most of us is we are busy moving forward, busy with our own perspectives and we just don’t take the time to pause. We assume, we challenge, and we see only what we believe to be so.

In this new year, what will you do, to try to see the world from someone else’s perspective?

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

Of Course I Embrace Diversity

How often do we hear people say that they embrace diversity, and then behave another way? As Ralph Waldo Emerson was fond of saying, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say”.

My sense is this happens because most of the time embracing diversity is easy. It’s not when folks are different from us that we are challenged, it’s when folks do something different that it becomes difficult.

As leaders, it is our job to create an environment that is accepting of everyone on the team so that the common organizational goals can be met. At the same time, in these polarized times, leaders are increasingly finding team members looking for those “doing differences” rather than looking for what they share simply by virtue of being human.

The questions that come to mind for me are:

  • how do we both set aside our differences, and at the same time embrace them, so that our organizations benefit from the broader thinking that diversity brings?
  • how do we know when to confront behavior that seems in conflict with our stated goals, or when to leave it be, because the behavior is simply based on life differences rather true conflict?

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

Alignment: What’s In It For Me?

By now, you may have heard about the Jet Blue experiment, the gist of which was… on a recent flight, they gave away a free ticket to anywhere Jet Blue flies, as along as everyone on the plane agreed on the destination.

Frankly I was surprised to learn that the passengers all agreed and tickets were given away; after all it is a random group of people with different travel experiences and desires. Upon reflection, I realized that what happened was every single person on the plane was willing to give up something to get something. While it might appear that it was, sacrifice for the greater good, what was really taking place was sacrifice for self-interest.

It caused me to wonder how leaders might apply this same social experiment to gaining alignment in their companies. Here are my wonderings:

  • Are leaders who clearly articulate their vision offering a similar choice of destination?
  • If a leader also offers the actions that go with the vision, is this the ticket?
  • When the leader articulates, what is in it for each person, individually, is that the route to alignment?
  • Has the Jet Blue experiment demonstrated the true definition of alignment? Is it simply I am willing to give up something to get something, and if that something is the same for all of us, we have alignment?

The challenge, of course, is getting all this down to a simple statement of the end game and what each participant must do to get there.

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

Is There A Place For Vulnerability In Leadership?


Over and over again, I have witnessed the power of vulnerability. A leader is up in front of the room and shows emotion, feels shame, and then discovers people are drawn to him or her instead. I have experienced the feeling myself, and I have been one of the people in the room, when the person in front was “real”.

After all, isn’t authenticity what showing vulnerability is all about? Simply allowing others to see and feel how we feel?

Giving them a chance to say, “me too” and empathize.

Brene’ Brown argues that one cannot have innovation and creativity without vulnerability. It’s the willingness to take risks that is at the root of our willingness to be vulnerable. Said another way, it is the courage to be wrong, and then wrong again, that leads to discovery, that leads to innovation.

And when a person who took the risks was wrong, and then wrong again, and then achieves success, shares their journey, the impact can be all the more powerful. Often when we look in the mirror, we see our vulnerabilities and when others look, they see our success.

We are all in transition, all on a journey through this thing called life. And we are each in a different place on the journey. When those of us in leadership roles, who may be perceived as “having it all”, share our real stories, we inspire others to join the journey.


Elisa K. Spain

Is Coaching For Me Or For My Company?


As a leadership coach, working with both CEOs and senior executives, I am sometimes faced with this question:

  • Is leadership coaching for the individual or
  • Are there specific results this individual is expected to produce for the company?

For CEOs, the answer to this question is usually easy, the development a CEO gains from coaching usually has a direct correlation with results in their business.

For a senior executive, the question is more complex, both for me and for their sponsoring manager.

As with most things, getting clear upfront about your intentions and expectations will yield better results. Here are some questions to consider if you are either the senior executive or their sponsoring manager:

  • Is coaching for your general professional development?
  • Or are there specific expectations that coaching is expected to address and that you will be accountable for?
  • What is the contract between you and your coach?
  • What is the contract between you and your sponsoring manager?
  • As the executive in coaching, how will I demonstrate or communicate progress to my manager?
  • As the sponsoring manager, how do I want to be kept informed of progress?



Leadership Quote: Success Is All About Growing Others…


December’s leadership quote:

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.

When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

-Jack Welch

While personal growth and development is lifelong, it is only through developing others that we achieve measurable results in our businesses. As a Vistage chair and leadership coach, I have the opportunity to observe every form of leadership. Here is what I see… it is those leaders that truly invest time and money in developing others that cross the dividing line from operator to leader.

No coincidence that nearly 20% of Vistage members produce annual revenue >$50mm; while less than 1.5% of US companies overall produce more than $25M in annual revenue and less than .27% produce more than $100M.

Elisa K. Spain



I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday because it is celebrated by all Americans, regardless of their backgrounds. While the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving is so meaningful, the “giving” part is equally so.

We give thanks on Thanksgiving, go to the mall on Black Friday, and browse the web on Cyber Monday. Now, we have a day dedicated to giving back. On Giving Tuesday (this year on December 2), nonprofits, families, businesses and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. In Illinois, Donors Forum, led by Eric Weinheimer (former member and friend of Vistage), is coordinating this initiative. They have one bold goal: #ILGIVEBIG, $12 million raised by Illinois nonprofits from 100,000 individual donors — in one day.

I also wanted to share…my matching gift opportunity.

Many of you know about my passion for The CARA Program, a true social innovator (the only social purpose organization nominated for the Chicago Innovation Award).
Right now, anyone who chooses to give to this mission, I will match that gift, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000 (total gift of $10,000).


To make a donation of any amount, click here.  (And, please add “Elisa Spain Matching Gift” in the comments section to ensure your gift is matched.)

Thank you in advance for joining me on Giving Tuesday with a donation to the Cara Program, or to the social purpose organization of your choice.

The Oft Unheralded Challenge Of Change


Leading change in an organization is full of challenges. Most of these challenges are associated with creating a vision, inspiring action, achieving buy-in, and sustaining the change. John Kotter, noted for his work on this topic, offers an 8 step process that offers an excellent roadmap.

I am noticing a 1/2 step challenge of change, that while banal, can derail a change initiative when ignored. This oft unheralded challenge is simply that everyone hears through their own filter, and therefore the actions we see are not the actions we expected. Obvious perhaps, and yet when leading change, we sometimes think that things are not happening the way we want because people are resisting.

  • Sometimes, they simply didn’t hear
  • or what they heard is different from what I thought I said
  • or they need to hear it more than once; 7 times I have been told is the magic number
  • or they need to do it more than once, or even twice, to “get it”
  • or we simply need to allow time for the change to settle in

So, next time, before calling out a “resister”, first pause and ask them what they heard.



Elisa K. Spain

Another View On Co-Accountability?


Last week, one of the members of my CEO group sent this Facebook post to the group. And, much like the comments on the actual post, there was a mix of “isn’t this cool?” to the cynical, “what if the person has never done anything positive?”

The discussion caused me to pause. Vistage speaker, Michel Allosso, talks about giving a person TSP: Truthful, Specific, Positive feedback. Do it enough, he says, to earn the right to give constructive feedback. While Vistage Speaker, Balaji Krishnamurthy, teaches us co-accountability: The key to a successful organization is when members of our team have expectations of each other and hold each other accountable for meeting them.

What this Facebook post says to me is, perhaps the answer is to combine the two. I wonder if in the story I told last week, the reason Southwest Airlines has both a collegial and a co-accountable culture is because they combine both TSP and co-accountability…

  • Imagine what would happen in your organization if you had both?
  • What one action step might you take today to begin a journey down this path?

Elisa K. Spain