Executive Insights

Check out the new blog post on the Apples to Apples blog. http://wp.me/p1eCp1-1k


January 10, 2010


Media Contact
Dan Paulson, InVision Business Development

MADISON, WI – “We’ve got to connect with that other global points of demand around the world if were going to have a prosperous and competitive future.” (Remark made 1/10/11 by Lee Swindall, director of consulting services for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership to In Business magazine.)

Following the announcement from Governor Scott Walker that the Wisconsin Department of Commerce will be significantly restructured (or even scrapped) to create a new cabinet-level department focused on economic development, the business community is now in a wait-and-see position with regard to new departmental functions. In the meantime, In Business magazine has partnered with InVision Development International to launch a 12-day Executive Summit to China for Greater Madison businesses that may once have relied on Department of Commerce trade missions to establish overseas business connections.

“The China excursion is expected to be the first in a series of trips to many parts of the world to help expand Wisconsin business opportunities,” commented Jody Glynn Patrick, publisher of In Business magazine. “Our interest in the project is to expand our state’s customer base to spur job creation here. We can’t lose momentum in this state; we’re all working to help Governor Walker in his mission to expand economic development opportunities, and this is one way In Business can step up to help our great state with that.”

The Madison delegation will depart Madison on May 17, and return May 28, 2011. The trip price is all inclusive (hotels, airfare, meals, translators, meeting rooms, baggage tips, tour fees,, etc.) and has been adjusted twice already — both times downward. “This isn’t a money maker for anyone but the participants,” said Patrick. “Every time we score another sponsorship in China, we drop package rates.” When the Chinese hotel agreed to discount $400/night hotel rooms to $100/night, the trip price was dropped accordingly. “In the end, our success will be measured in the number of new relationships or jobs created,” Patrick said, “so we want as many Wisconsin business folks to go as possible. We’re doing everything we can in that regard.”

The Wisconsin delegation will visit and tour Beijing. However, the primary destination is Tianjin (China’s fourth largest port city with a population of more than 10 million), home-away-from home to many Fortune 500 U.S. businesses like Airbus and OshKosh. The group will tour the Tianjin Economic Development area and meet with officials from the Tianjin Free Trade Zone.

Before leaving for China, trip participants will be schooled in Madison on how best to interface with the Chinese culture. Dan Paulson, CEO of InVision, noted that after arrival in China “they will be paired one-on-one with industry-specific Chinese business leaders, with tour opportunities of comparable enterprises there.” That is key, he said, because they will be given insider guidance for establishing their own inroads or partnerships. “We’re not just talking about manufacturing; a hospital administrator will be paired with a hospital administrator, economic development specialist with their counterpart, and so on; we are matching every participant who wants the [complimentary] matching service to have the best opportunity to learn and to create their own global network.”

Paulson, who owns a strategy and organizational development consulting company, agreed to partner with In Business magazine on the project after opening a branch in China in 2010. “There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to participate in a global world,” he said. “We’re talking about opportunities to grow a business here by locating customers there. This isn’t about off-shoring jobs. My interest is creating a Wisconsin cohort doing business in China.”

The delegation will visit manufacturing plants, real estate developments, and healthcare facilities in Tianjin, and travel on the high-speed rail system from Tianjin to Beijing. The group will also attend summit meetings with executive Chinese leaders, who will explain the ins and outs of building infrastructure or networks. And what would a trip to China be without tours of The Great Wall and The Forbidden City? Those are included, along with free time built in for personal exploration of the region.

Travel requires a passport and current tetanus shot; InVision will help participants secure the appropriate visa. Spouse or partner packages are also available. Applications to join are currently being accepted. Complete information about the trip can be found online at: http://www.growinchina.com/summit. Questions regarding the trip should be directed toward Dan Paulson: summit@growinchina.com or 608-467-0223.


About InVision Development International
InVision is a leader in the areas of strategy and organizational development, with offices in Madison and Tianjin, China. Dan Paulson is a strategist and speaker as well as a published author, and will be releasing his second book “Apples to Apples: How to Stand Out From the Competition” in Spring of 2011.

About IN BUSINESS magazine

IN BUSINESS magazine publishes a monthly business magazine and weekly e-zine (IBMadison.com) for the Greater Madison. IB also produces the weekday business radio program In Business with Jody and Joan on WTDY. Beyond print, it hosts business events and presents business awards such as the Commercial Design Awards.

It’s that time of year again. Whether by choice or mandated by your boss, goal setting and planning are often associated with the end of the calendar year. When I was in the corporate world, this time of year was a time when we set goals for the new year along with our expectations and deliverables.

While I was never a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I have many friends who treat this time of year as renewal. They set personal goals for the coming year with the desire of improving their lives. I also know many who have given up on the practice because of the poor results it produced.

Whether business or personal, change is a constant. Yet change is often treated as a difficult process that many people despise. In reality, not all change is resisted. All of us have gone through major life changes and in many cases even embraced them. Think of going to college, buying a home or getting married. Even though there may be some hesitation or fear, we still carry out these changes and accept the differences they make in our lives.

While making a change involves our rational mind, it also requires our emotional (and often not so rational) mind in order to take action. When you don’t include both minds, it will lead to another failed change process.

Change is really a simple process until our emotional mind get’s involved. It’s amazing how our emotional drivers can prevent us from doing things we know we need to do. Let me share a personal example.

Throughout my life I have been highly active. In fact, until college, I was a rack of skin and bones. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I not only put on the “Freshman 15”, I added an additional fifteen pounds to that. The best part is all of it was muscle. The change there started with taking a required phy ed course which turned out to be weight training. Through the first three years of college, I worked out regularly. I remained thin. It wasn’t until I graduated that my weight began fluctuating. As I entered the work-a-day world, less time was devoted to working out, and more was spent working.

Throughout the past eighteen years, I have moved in and out of shape. Usually the “in shape” changes were around events, vacations, marriage, etc. In the end, permanent change to remain in shape gave way to being out of shape.

Fast forward to 2010. A milestone in my life, and not a positive one. My weight had reached the highest point in my life. By summer of 2010 I tipped the scales at approximately 240 pounds. Not good. While I knew that this gain was unhealthy, I was not motivated to change it. My emotional side spoke to my rational side telling it, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m really not eating that much.”. Te little voice in my head helped me justify where I was at.

The breaking point was a recent trip to Canada. Over the past decade, I have done several camping trips. These trips are not a walk in the park. There are no motor boats, no electrical and no air matresses to keep you comfortable. It also involves a lot of work walking over rough terrain, paddling across large bodies of water, cutting wood, etc. While I survived, I was tired of being tired. The emotional side started to agree with the rational mind. Today, I have lost over forty pounds and am on the way to losing another twenty more. The best part is the changes I am making this time will provide me a better chance to create long term success.

The secret to making sustainable change take place involves much more than just doing things differently. It takes a shift in behavior. If you want to make a change permanent, you will need to utilize the following steps:

  • Connect both minds: the rational and emotional
  • Have a clear goal
  • Create a realistic plan to achieve your goal
  • Break your goal into “bite-sized” chunks
  • Know what to measure
  • Track your changes
  • Celebrate your success

Let’s go back to my personal goal. The biggest resistor to my emotional mind was not wanting to live on rabbit food for the rest of my life. I like meat, potato chips, cheese, ice cream and all the things they tell you not to eat. I made a conscious decision NOT to give up anything I enjoyed eating. There is something that happens to us mentally when we take things away. We want those things even more. By not giving up anything I enjoyed, I was able to get buy-in from my emotional mind to make the change happen.

Next was establishing a clear goal. My goal was to have a target weight of 180 pounds by February 1, 2011. It was measurable and a stretch. Most important, it had a deadline so there was a sense of urgency.

Now that I had a goal, I had to create a success plan. Focusing on losing sixty pounds would not work. Our mind senses failure when the result isn’t achieved fast enough. Instead, i concentrated on losing two pounds a week. After all, adjusting my target weight weekly using an achievable target is much easier and two pounds is a lot more achievable than trying to lose sixty. Now I only had to focus on what was necessary to hit my target in seven days.

Measurements for this goal were pretty simple. The rule of weight loss is manage calorie count and exercise. Until recently, meauring calories was not simple. Here using technology helped. With a free app. I have been able to calculate the daily calories I can have and incorporating exercise to allow me to adjust intake. The more I worked out, the more calories burned, etc. I also gave myself breaks. Weekends (specifically Fridays and Saturdays) were “free time” for me to eat more of what I wanted. Weekdays involved following the dietary requirements needed to hit my goal.

Tracking the changes are critical. This involved the scale. I needed to know if I was hitting my target weight each week. Results varied from week to week, but the focus was averaging two pounds. Some weeks I might lose five pounds, others I might lose a pound. Either way, I met or exceeded my goal when I averaged it out.

Finally, celebrating is critical. Enjoy the small successes because when they are added together, they create major change. Recognize the progress you are making. Seeing the changes happening made it OK for me to have a little more freedom on weekends to eat what I wanted. After all, moderation is the key here.

Whether these changes are permanent, only time will tell. This much I will say, approaching change this way has made tremendous improvements in the companies I work with. I am only practicing what I preach. My belief is that as long as I keep the focus, I will have made permanent change happen to create what I want. The best part is anyone can do it. A little commitment and focus applied to the steps included here will go a long way.

It’s amazing how many times we know the right thing to do, yet we fail to do it. I think w all have those times in our lives where we need to take action and we are reluctant to do so.

Over my career, I have been fortunate to work with quite a few executives and sooner or later we come to a point where they reach a crossroad. They have to make a difficult choice and are reluctant to do so. Our inability to make choices stem from fear and uncertainty. This can cost a company dearly because placing your business in a holding pattern can lead to lost sales, wasted time, and increased costs.

As leaders, we need to be able to make educated choices and act. Here’s some steps to help you:

  • Discovery: Why is this choice difficult? What is holding you back? Understand the reason why you are not willing to pull the trigger. Is it from lack of information, failure to see the ROI, fear of how others will react, or making a life-changing decision for someone else.
  • Work a Solution: once you know the root cause, you can begin working on a way to solve it. List your possible solutions. If it is related to a significant investment, what information do you need to determine if the investment is worth taking. If it is dealing with conflict, how will you engage the people affected by the decision in order to work through it rationally? If it is a change in staff, how can you make the outcome the best possible?
  • Get Advice: For some reason, people can be afraid to ask for help. It is perceived as a sign of weakness. Speaking with a mentor, colleague, advisor, or coach can help you work through theses challenges. Applying a little more gray matter can help you make a better choice.
  • Prepare: If it is a difficult decision that might create conflict, such as changing someone’s job responsibility, figure out a way to make the best of the situation. Address what questions they could ask. Know what their hot buttons might be. Figure out how to engage them in the conversation. Most importantly, figure out how to make the outcome, as negative as it may seem, the best possible. Many times it’s our own behaviors that create the negative outcomes we a trying to avoid.
  • Act! Work through your own insecurities and confidence issues and take action. If you are well-prepared, you will more often than not make the right decision. Remember, you control at least 50% of the situation. So make sure you are in control of you!
  • Follow Up: Be there and be accountable for your part of the decision. People will respect your choice if you are enrolled and don’t pass the buck. Stick to your word. Follow through on your commitments. Be visible. Communicate.

Throughout our lives we will make tough choices. Your character will be challenged from time to time. How you handle it is totally up to YOU!

Occasionally I share my space here with relevant content.  Don Ferguson, Ph.D, is a colleague of mine who has some good words to share.  I think in an environment that talks about change, this is not only interesting but relevant to today’s climate.  Read, enjoy, and if you wish to reach Don, his contact information follows this post.  Regards,  Dan Paulson

As part of my work with all kinds of relationships I often present to groups or organizations going through major changes.  What is often surprising to leaders and team members alike when going through a transition is that every change, good or bad, means something different to each participant and presents a threat to some or all members of the team.

I have seen teams, moving into beautiful new quarters, which nevertheless fell into in-fighting.  Team members may also demonstrate an apparently irrational negative reaction to a mild or even positive change.  It might be the loss of a group member, whether or not the group member was well-loved or problematic.  It might be a new group member who slightly changes the milieu.  But, if it can happen with relatively mild or positive changes, think what can occur during moves, mergers, lay-offs, etc.

Managers who are surprised by these responses are in danger of taking them too personally or reacting angrily.  They may feel like they have done everything right for their group, won the good fight and now are getting kicked in the teeth for their efforts.  The team’s reaction feels like a betrayal and the manager’s response might actually intensify the group’s dysfunction.

Here’s the thing. We’re all just human and change always represents possible danger.   You might be surprised at how often I have heard something to the effect of, “I may be allergic to the dust in the old building, fearful of the rats and catching colds due to the broken windows but at least I know where the pictures of my kids go and I am used to the pathway, on the stained carpet, past my friends to the coffee pot.  What is it going to be like when we are in this new monstrosity and my friends are even on a different floor?”  Okay, maybe I exaggerated the old building a little.  But the point is, we respond to change, moves, policy changes, comings and goings of staff, or other transitions, at varying levels of arousal. Some aspect of the transition which would not affect you at all might make me extremely anxious.  This doesn’t make you uncaring or me mentally ill. Our reactions are different for a host of reasons.   It does mean that savvy managers and team members will be aware of this transitional trauma and provide some room for people to get used to things in their own ways.

Individuals and groups respond to tension in some fairly predictable ways.  You may hear rather random or illogical complaining.  You may see tension displayed by the last person of whom you would expect it and emotional outbursts or shutdowns that seem disconnected to the immediate reality.  Change evokes a grief process, even when it is good change.  When challenged, groups may band more tightly together or sub-divide.  They might scapegoat a team member or manager.  There are other ways in which the group might display it’s response to the stress of change but you get the idea.

Managers and team members are best served by preparing for both the mechanics of the move but also the emotional fall-out.  When managers recognize that this is a normal human response and not a personal attack, they will be better prepared to facilitate and manage challenging emotionally charged reactions and keep the group on task.  If you begin to take it personally, you will be less effective and lose more sleep during the transition.  As noted in the movie, The Godfather, “it’s just business.”   The perhaps peculiar appearing responses of your staff and colleagues are mostly just normal and human.   They can be predictable and even helpful, in understanding your team.  Relax, observe and provide some room for individual responses, while maintaining the mission focus, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or mentorship.  This will feel less personal and dangerous if you have someone with whom you can talk about it.  If an employee’s response becomes too disruptive or disturbing it will be even more critical that you seek help from your Human Resources department, if you have one, or from other mentors or advisors.


Don Ferguson, Ph.D., psychologist and marriage counselor, formerly with Dean Health Systems has now opened Infinite Relationships, LLC in Verona, Wisconsin.  Dr. Ferguson has worked with relationships for over 25 years and has written a book for couples, entitled “Reptiles In Love”.  He has also presented to organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada on relationships and group dynamics. Infinite Relationships and Dr. Ferguson can be reached at (608)848-8000 or visited online at http://www.inrelationships.com.

I find a distinct difference between the clients who are successful and those who are not. It has little to do with their industry, occupation, the economy, or anything else other than their ability to take advice and apply it. Over the past eighteen years of my life in business virtually everything hinges on the person I am working with to be coachable. That willingness and trust to let go of their own ego and past beliefs in order to make positive change.

Coaching has been the buzzword for several years. I am sure you will find plenty of articles about the importance of coaching, why you should do it, etc. Personally I don’t care and I am not going to try to convince you of anything because the people who are coachable are the ones who understand its value. What’s more important to me is are you coachable? This is a question you should be asking yourself as well. Because if you are not then you are not working as efficiently as you could and you’re not as successful as you could be.

If you think you’re coachable, prove it!

  • When was the last time you accepted feedback that went against what you believed to be true?  How did you react?
  • Think of a time where you were given advice.  How did you deal with it?
  • When was the last time you reached out for help?
  • What happens to your mood when you are questioned about an action you have taken?
  • When was the last time you sought the advice of a friend, family member, colleague, or expert?

Many struggle with reaching out for help, and even when they do, they may not accept it.  Often the biggest obstacle to our own success is us.  It’s tough to recognize and even tougher to look at when you are forced to face the facts.  Either way, as a business leader you will need to admit you don’t know everything and seeking the advice of others is not a weakness but a smart thing to do.

So are you coachable?