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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Practical insights to accelerate your growth in August


Thank you for being a valued member of my community! I hope you enjoy this fifth edition of my monthly newsletter, which includes timely insights to accelerate your growth. It also includes a special invitation for nonprofit leaders following the introduction.

If you're not already subscribed, please sign-up now. If you enjoy this newsletter, please share with one person in your network who may benefit.

Here are links to the first four editions:

July(1) Win with values, (2) How to get hybrid work right, (3) Vacation like a European

June(1) The mid-year review, (2) Sharpen your creative skills, (3) Win through failure

May: (1) Prepare for the next downturn; (2) Make better, faster decisions; (3) Embrace difference to improve performance

April: (1) The Q1 review, (2) Prime yourself for success, (3) Focus your innovation investments for impact

If you are curious about how we can partner to accelerate your growth, please don't hesitate to book your free consultation today. 


A special invitation for non-profit leaders

Your strengths of the past aren’t necessarily your strengths of the future. From radical shifts in donor priorities, to a dramatic increase in demand for those dollars, to extreme team burnout and turnover, the unprecedented challenges nonprofits faced during the pandemic will only continue to grow. If you want to increase your impact, you need to evolve your leadership.

Join me in this six-hour event to dramatically grow your leadership and impact. I’ll share actionable approaches to:

  • Improve your positioning to attract more donors, members, customers
  • Increase output and impact
  • Evaluate performance and course-correct
  • Cultivate a generative board of directors
  • Attract and retain high-quality talent
  • Master your mindset, so you can lead from a place of confidence, ease, and joy
  • Create a sense of passion and enjoyment in pursuit of the vision

Will we focus on Q&A throughout the event. I encourage you to send me questions in advance. To ensure a comfortable environment and high-value experience for all attendees, this event is open only to C-level executives/ senior leaders and only 14 spots are available.

What Alexandra’s clients say about her developmental experiences: 

“Alexandra is masterful in encouraging me to advance towards my goals and assists with formulating a plan. She leads by example which inspires me to face the fear of failure and unlock my true potential.”

“Alexandra has the perfect balance of professionalism, curiosity, insightfulness, and knowledge. Our work together left me more aware of how my mindset affected my outcomes, and how my actions contributed to achieving my goals. I accomplished so many goals and learned so much through working with her.”

“Alexandra was deft at working with the board, and always seemed to know when to push and prod us in the right direction. She has a keen understanding of strategy and she is a delight to work with.”

Event Details

Date: Friday, September 16, 2022, 8:15am – 3:00pm; Breakfast and lunch included

Location: The University Club of Portland; special group rates are available at two nearby downtown hotels for those traveling from out-of-town

Fee: $845 until August 12th; $995 thereafter

Links: event details and registration link


You need to adapt your strategy process 

When it comes to strategy, a stellar process can be as valuable as the product itself. Well-designed and -executed strategy processes:

  • Explore possibilities and challenge the status quo
  • Stress-test your value proposition and business model
  • Bolster leadership team cohesion and decision-making
  • Inspire and boost engagement across the organization
  • Drive action

To reap the benefits of a stellar strategy process, you need to adapt it to the unique needs of your organization and its operating environment. Most organizations are facing three major challenges within their operating environment today. Here’s how you can adapt your strategy process to transform each challenge into a competitive advantage:

Challenge 1: There’s no “new normal”

From a possible recession to continued labor market volatility to ongoing geopolitical crisis, uncertainty only seems to grow. Instead of trying to plan for a “best guess” at what the future might hold, plan for uncertainty. Not only will you be prepared to pivot when the unexpected arrives, but you'll be able to do so much faster than your competitors. 

In the strategy world, planning for uncertainty can take many forms from scenario planning to sensitivity testing to resilience planning (just to name a few). At its core, planning for uncertainty entails:

  • Identifying the most impactful drivers of change in your operating environment
  • Exploring possible future scenarios based on different configurations of these drivers
  • Aligning on a strategy likely to yield positive results under likely future scenarios 
  • Adopting contingency plans for less-likely, high-risk scenarios

I invite you to check-out my webinar on scenario planning if you’d like to deep-dive on this topic. I recorded it at the start of the pandemic, but the tools and examples shared are as relevant today as they were then.

Challenge 2: The Great Resignation continues

Despite economic uncertainty, the Great Resignation continues. Recent surveys suggest 4 in 10 employees plan to change jobs in the latter half of 2022. A well-designed strategy process can itself prevent attrition by boosting employee trust and engagement. If you'd like to use your next strategy process to retain top talent, include:

  • An all-employee survey to gather feedback on the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and strategic path forward. Not only do such surveys surface valuable insight, but they also show you're ready to listen. And employees who feel heard are more highly-engaged.
  • Strategy and innovation summits to generate novel solutions to the organization’s most pressing challenges and opportunities. When people are part of shaping the vision and plan for the future, they're more likely to stick around to help bring that plan to life. 
  • Clear communications that recap what you learned from your engagement, how you plan to take action, and why. You must report-back on your employee engagement activities to demonstrate follow-through and set the stage for accountability. If you miss this step, your engagement efforts may do more harm than good!

Challenge 3: Process fatigue is at an all-time high

Many organizations grew accustomed to the fast pace of decision-making and change spurred by the pandemic. And few are ready to return to a world in which strategy and planning take months, not weeks. But strategy can take months, particularly if you’re revisiting fundamentals like your vision, mission, and value proposition. The key to managing this tension is to design a process in which every step serves a clear purpose. Here are a few tips:  

  • Set the stage. Start with a clear why and framing questions. Why do you need to update your strategy? What questions will you seek to answer through this process? What will be the result? Then hone your strategy product and process to address your unique needs.  
  • Make employee engagement fast and easy by creating a single online hub for the strategy effort. That hub should include a master timeline for the strategy process, clear information about when and how employees can participate, timely updates, draft materials, and contact information for members of the planning team.
  • Engage a partner who can design and lead your strategy process. Not only can they help you trim the process fat, but they can also take on tasks that would otherwise distract your team and exacerbate burnout.

I’m working on a short course to help leaders set the stage for a productive and engaging strategy process. I would greatly appreciate your feedback in this short five-minute survey.


Don't kill your mid-level managers; they could be your biggest asset

One of the biggest organizational design myths is that mid-level managers are irrelevant. This myth stems from the belief that mid-level managers:

  • Prevent individual contributors from taking ownership and realizing their potential
  • Kill effective decision-making by filtering information and adding layers to the process
  • Kill good ideas by preventing them from reaching the desks of senior leaders
  • Dramatically increase labor costs without adding any real value

The attack on mid-level managers has been going strong for decades (who remembers Lumbergh from Office Space?), but really accelerated during the pandemic. Most companies centralized decision-making within the senior leadership team to enable a quick, unilateral response to the crisis. And this centralization yielded immediate results, including a shorter planning cycle, faster decision-making, accelerated transformation, and increased productivity. These positive results have led many to question, “do we even need mid-level managers?” 


I believe the answer is, “yes.” In fact, I believe mid-level managers could be your biggest asset. Here’s why:

1.  Organizations that eliminated mid-level managers paid a heavy price

In the 90s, several auto manufactures restructured their plans around autonomous and semi-autonomous teams. Once this change was running smoothly, they then eliminated the mid-level manager roles that had provided the leadership and connective tissue for these teams, which ensured they collectively operated like a well-oiled machine. The elimination of these mid-level managers led to disfunction across teams and a decline in performance.  


2.  Strong mid-level managers are your single most important tool to boost employee engagement and retention

Recent surveys by McKinsey, Microsoft, and SurveyMonkey show that the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, with 40% of workers considering a job change in the latter-half of 2022. The top motivating factors are growth opportunity, flexibility, and fair treatment. Strong mid-level managers can provide all three. The mere existence of mid-level roles provides tangible growth opportunities for ambitious employees. And strong mid-level managers can ensure each of their direct reports has the coaching, mentorship, and resource support needed to do their best work, which looks different for every employee.


3.  Mid-level managers provide critical expertise and leadership

Senior leaders should focus their time on enterprise, functional, and divisional vision, strategy, planning, transformation, and leadership. In most organizations, these responsibilities comprise a full-time job for senior leaders. So, smart senior leaders delegate corollary program and project responsibilities to mid-level managers.


Some argue that program and project management responsibilities could be delegated to strong individual contributors or self-organizing teams. But, as illustrated in the auto industry example, this rarely works for programs and projects that require significant cross-functional and cross-team engagement. In such cases, effective leadership is a skill in itself that requires expertise and experience. It is not appropriate to expect an individual contributor or self-organizing team to assume such responsibility without adequate training, skill-development, compensation, and recognition (i.e., a promotion to management!).


4.  Mid-level management is your best leadership pipeline

If you want stellar, committed leaders who bring a depth of experience and expertise, grow them. Mid-level management roles provide opportunities to reward, develop, and nurture rising stars in a safe, low-risk environment.


Mid-level managers can be your greatest asset if you know how to effectively support them. I’m currently working on a short, actionable guide to help organizations develop strong middle-management. Click here to receive a notification when my guide becomes available (my homepage will pop-up in a new window; no further action is required).


Take control of your mid career crisis

I’m sure you’ve heard of the quarter-life or mid-life crisis, but how about the mid-career crisis? Like its cousins, the mid-career crisis is defined by the sensation of feeling stuck in and dissatisfied with one’s life. In this case, specifically one’s career. Given the strong link between profession and identity for many individuals, mid-career crises are a leading cause of mid-life crises.

Mid-career crises are rarely discussed, so you may be surprised to learn that most adults experience a mid-career crisis. That’s because the mid-career crisis doesn’t discriminate by location, gender, job, income, or other major sociodemographic characteristics. We’re all equally susceptible to a mid-career crisis.

Just because a mid-career crisis “perfectly normal,” doesn’t mean you need to suffer through one. Read on to learn what causes a mid-career crisis, how to know if you might be in one, and what to do.


What causes a mid-career crisis?

A mid-career crisis is the result of missed expectations. Most people in their 20s are overly optimistic, expecting they’ll beat the average in career achievement. As we age, most of us do not consistently outperform our peers in title, compensation, and professional success. And, when we do, we find those accomplishments not to be as fulfilling as we had expected. Essentially, mid-life becomes a period characterized by the dual disappointment of unmet aspirations and lackluster achievement. 

How do you know if you’re in a mid-career crisis?

Some of my clients come to me in the throes of a mid-career crisis without even realizing it. Here are the warning signs:

  • You dread work
  • You begrudge your more enthusiastic colleagues
  • You have a short temper
  • You’re exhausted, regardless of how much you sleep
  • You’ve lost motivation to make a change

What can you do to prevent or combat a mid-career crisis?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t necessarily need to get a new job or bide your time and wait for these feelings to pass. That’s because mid-career crises aren’t the result of external circumstances; they’re the result of internal mindsets, beliefs, and cognition patterns.

So, if you want to prevent or combat your mid-career crisis, you need to focus internally. Try:

  • Setting goals within your control. Most people set external goals (e.g., title, compensation). This invariably leads to frustration and disappointment, as you become a victim of circumstances outside your control that impact your ability to achieve your goals. Instead, set internal goals (e.g., skill and experience acquisition) that will unlock external accomplishment, but are entirely within your control.
  • Changing how you compare. Comparison is a natural human instinct. We can’t help but compare ourselves to others. What we can help is where we go when we compare. Do we go to a place of judgement and shame? Or do we go to a place of learning and compassion? Next time you find yourself negatively comparing your achievements to those of others, refocus your attention on yourself by asking questions like, “Why am I feeling bad about myself right now? How true is the story I’m telling myself? What am I learning about myself right now? How can I apply these insights to improve myself and my life?” Then, recenter your attention on your own internal goals.
  • Working with a coach. If you’re struggling to make meaningful progress on your own, a coach can help. They can partner with you to rebuild your self-confidence, so you can begin making forward progress again. Once ready, they can work with you to create a new vision for your life, set achievable goals, and navigate the path forward with greater confidence, ease, and joy.
If you’re staring down a mid-career crisis, you don’t have to suffer alone. Let’s talk.


Opportunities to Partner

Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 

Coaching: You're ready to improve your life, leadership, and impact. As your coach, I'll work with you (and your leadership team, if desired) to clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results.


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