Our approach to manager development focuses squarely on what's important and what works. It's a practical approach based on timeless principles and a real-world understanding of what it takes to make good managers great.

By its nature, manager development is a discipline that involves a lot of moving parts, but the essence of our approach is simple: provide structure, guidance and tools that work.

The Workstone Forum

The Workstone Forum is the peer-group format at the heart of our programs.

We use the term forum because that's what The Workstone Forum provides: a place for managers to meet with their colleagues to discuss ideas, offer insights and share support. The format involves much more than “managers talking,” however.

The Workstone Forum provides a set of structures, processes and materials that work together to create a powerful shared learning experience—a learning experience that builds genuine expertise in the complex job of managing people and business.

Our programs are based on three simple principles:

  1. Practical learning occurs incrementally over time through ongoing practice and review.
  2. Practical learning occurs most reliably when people take personal ownership of their development process and receive guidance that meets them where they are.
  3. Practical learning occurs most powerfully in peer groups that enjoy rich communication and build mutual accountability.

In our programs:

  • Participants are placed into learning groups of four to six members.
  • The groups meet by telephone for 60 minutes each week. The sessions are led by a Workstone-certified Group Facilitator.
  • Each session is supported by a short reading that discusses best practices.
  • Each session provides practical techniques for applying new knowledge.
  • Most techniques are illustrated and supported with on-the-job tools.
  • The primary focus of each session is the current, ongoing work of the managers.
  • The managers share knowledge, build relationships, and support each other in their professional growth.
  • The Group Facilitator ensures that the group discussions focus on concrete business issues and measurable financial results.

Small Groups

At the beginning of a program, participants are placed into groups of four to six managers each.

Small groups:

  • Build energy and excitement
  • Focus attention
  • Guarantee participation
  • Create accountability
  • Intensify engagement
  • Multiply insights
  • Drive follow-through
  • Foster valuable relationships
In Workstone Forum programs, managers are not taken away from their work in order to learn. Instead, managers do their job during the sessions. As they discuss their work-in-progress, they find better ways to tackle the challenges that they currently face on the job.

Weekly Phone Sessions

Each group meets once a week by phone for 60 minutes.

Weekly phone sessions:

  • Keep managers on the job
  • Use time efficiently
  • Provide ease and flexibility
  • Encourage sharing
  • Deliver knowledge in right-sized, applicable chunks
  • Support ongoing conversations
  • Reinforce learning through repetition
  • Build mastery through consistent practice
  • Provide a venue for participants to take on and discuss Weekly Action Challenges

In our experience, telephone conference calls work better than video conferencing because the phone encourages more focused, in-depth conversations, whereas video conferencing adds distractions and leads to more “presentational” interactions. Also, phone calls are more convenient for managers—especially when traveling, when having off-hours calls, and/or when connecting across multiple time zones.

Group Facilitators

Each weekly session is facilitated by a trained Group Facilitator.

All Workstone Group Facilitators are experts both in business management and in professional development.

Group facilitators:

  • Establish a productive learning space
  • Ensure balanced participation among group members
  • Model important attitudes, habits and thought-processes
  • Guide the examination of important concepts and practices
  • Help participants discover important insights
  • Focus attention on finding practical solutions
  • Challenge participants to apply what they learn

In addition to providing our own facilitators, we also train our customers' managers to deliver our programs to their own people. For more information on group facilitator training, see Workstone Forum Programs.

Session Materials

Each weekly session is framed and supported by a short reading, usually two or three pages, and most sessions include tools to help managers do their job better.

The weekly session materials:

  • Show managers how to do their job better in clear, practical terms
  • Support valuable discussions about work-in-progress
  • Teach important management concepts and practices
  • Deliver knowledge in concise, useful “packages”
  • Rotate through a comprehensive series of essential management principles
  • Provide tools to help managers do their job better
  • Support a flexible, modular approach to tailoring programs for specific needs

What Works

On-the-Job Development
Small Groups
Weekly Sessions
Practice and Repetition
60-minute Phone Calls
Group Facilitators
18- to 36-session Programs
Tightly-focused Readings
Straightforward Tools
Actionable Assessments
Weekly Feedback Forms
Structure and Support

What Works

On-the-Job Development
Small Groups
Weekly Sessions
Practice and Repetition
60-minute Phone Calls
Group Facilitators
18- to 36-session Programs
Tightly-focused Readings
Straightforward Tools
Actionable Assessments
Weekly Feedback Forms
Structure and Support

Tools and Techniques

Every session focuses on useful techniques for managing people and business, and most of the techniques are supported by on-the-job tools.

Our programs do cover important business principles and management concepts, but they're not academic courses. They're on-the-job learning experiences that help managers do their job better—right here, right now.

On-the-job tools help managers apply new techniques immediately, and they guide managers in following best practices on a consistent basis. With consistent use, the tools help managers develop increasing mastery over time.

The tools and techniques address such topics as:

  • Diagnosing problems
  • Analyzing opportunities
  • Approaching situations strategically
  • Making decisions
  • Setting priorities
  • Planning activities
  • Allocating resources
  • Managing teams
  • Managing projects
  • Controlling costs
  • Minimizing risks
  • Fostering innovation
  • Improving service
  • Communicating effectively
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Negotiating
  • Selling
  • Presenting
  • Developing character strengths
  • Clarifying values
  • Career planning
  • Understanding different interpersonal styles
  • Accounting for differences in people's motivations
  • Building relationships with co-workers, vendors and customers

We don't try to change the way that people are. We show them better ways of doing things, and we give them tools and techniques that enable them to do great things.

18- to 36-session Programs

Our standard programs run 18 to 36 sessions in length.

18- to 36-session programs are ideal because they give managers enough time to:

  • Study a broad range of topics in depth
  • Develop nuanced understanding of complex business and management issues
  • Build genuine expertise and valuable habits through consistent practice
  • Develop lasting bonds with colleagues

The programs also last just the right amount of time to maintain strong engagement and focus throughout the process.

Weekly Feedback

We collect feedback about every session from every participant through an online form that can be completed in less than 60 seconds.

The form asks the participant to rate the session in a short list of key areas, such as the performance of the group, the performance of the facilitator, the value of the session materials, and the overall value of the session. The form also encourages participants to ask questions and offer comments.

Weekly feedback:

  • Maintains an open channel of communication with each participant
  • Enhances engagement
  • Allows us to adjust the programs as they run
  • Allows us to provide detailed, real-time reports about the performance of each participant
  • Ensures great results
  • Captures hard data about the managers' KPIs and financial performance to show the measurable benefits of the programs

Detailed Reporting

We provide detailed written reports to program sponsors after each nine-week series, and we're always available to discuss the performance and progress of the participants.

Each written report:

  • Provides detailed information about each participant's performance, experience and progress in the program
  • Shows the specific benefits and overall value of the program
  • Provides useful information about important issues within the company
  • Provides insights about which managers have the best potential for specific roles within the company

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Healthy Business Management

All of our programs and services share a common purpose: to help companies thrive through the use of healthy business management practices.

Professional athletes focus on their physical health as though their performance and their careers depend on it—because their performance and their careers do depend on it. To build and sustain successful careers, professional athletes need to be experts at maintaining their physical health. Strong physical health allows athletes to perform at the highest levels and to maintain a high level of performance across long careers.

Unfortunately, many people don't know how to take care of themselves very well, and they're not very healthy. They don't know what it feels like to be strong and healthy, and many times, they don't understand or even recognize the problems that they develop. They go through life feeling lousy. It affects everything they do, and they simply assume that “that's the way life is.”

Happily, the principles of healthy living are becoming more and more widely understood. Diet and exercise have become central cultural concerns, and medical science advances in leaps and bounds. The growing attention and knowledge about physical health provides remarkable benefits.

At Workstone, we work to promote a broader understanding of healthy business principles and practices, which can provide similarly dramatic and meaningful benefits. To achieve long-term success in the business world, corporate managers need to be experts at maintaining the health of their organizations.

What is healthy business? Healthy business means healthier relationships at work. It means teams working together in healthier ways. It means stronger engagement, clearer communication and better cooperation among team members. At the corporate level, it means higher productivity, reduced risk and increased profits. Simply put, a healthier workplace is a more productive and rewarding workplace.

As with physical health, the business practices of companies are often unhealthy without anyone recognizing the situation. Whether the associated problems are acknowledged or not, unhealthy business practices always have a negative impact both on the people and the financial performance of a company.

In our programs, we show managers what it looks like and feels like to run a business well. We give managers the knowledge and the tools they need to diagnose unhealthy situations, and we teach them how to make their companies stronger and more successful on all levels.

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Healthy Business Principles

Our programs are built on a foundation of nine Healthy Business Principles that describe the essence of great management. Each nine-week series of our programs rotates through the nine principles, with each session placing emphasis on a particular principle. Taken together, the principles form a model that we call the Nine Square.

The principles are straightforward and universal, and they provide a complete view of a manager's activities. They also provide an open framework that embraces and supports all other models of good business management.

The Nine Square in Practice

The Nine Square isn't merely a theoretical model. It's an important practical tool that creates awareness and leads to better action. The principles provide objective reference points for evaluating business situations, and they provide useful insights about problems and opportunities. Together, they provide a framework of understanding that enables managers to build strong, resilient businesses.

To get a sense of how the principles apply in practice, ask yourself the following questions about your workplace. Then, think about the ways that a fuller expression of the principles could benefit your company and your people.

Questions from the Nine Square

  1. “Is a sense of purpose present in my work and in my environment? Do the people around me work with a clear sense of purpose? Does our work feel meaningful?”
  2. “Am I granted the autonomy to feel ownership of my work and to do my work in a style that suits me? Am I granting the dignity and empowerment of autonomy to others?”
  3. “Does my work environment foster creativity? Does it encourage the development of new approaches and new solutions?”
  4. “Are resources being used to their fullest potential, or are they being hoarded and squandered?”
  5. “Do the people around me take responsibility for their actions? Do they assume responsibility for the well-being of the organization and for the well-being of each other? Do I know that they'll take care of things, even when no one's watching?”
  6. “Am I building and demonstrating mastery in my work? Do my colleagues and co-workers value mastery? Does this environment support and encourage the development of mastery?”
  7. “Do the people around me speak and act with sincerity? Do they really mean what they say and care about they way they affect other people?”
  8. “Does this feel like a good community? Do I respect and trust these people? Do we support one another and give each other the benefit of the doubt? Do we share knowledge and resources? Do we inspire each other and coach each other?”
  9. “Are the people around me reliable? Do they follow through and make good on their word? Do I know that they'll get the job done and come through for each other?”

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Twelve Box Implementation

Twelve Box Implementation

Our programs and services are based upon an implementation model that ensures great results. We've developed and refined the Twelve Box to maximize the impact of our work. It's worked so well for us that we now teach it to managers to make their own work more successful.

The success of any corporate program or initiative requires effective implementation in twelve key areas. The Twelve Box shows what needs to happen for any program or initiative to be successful, and it also highlights common problem areas.

For any corporate program or initiative to be a lasting success, the managers running it need to address all elements of the Twelve Box sufficiently.

They need to make sure that their people are motivated and capable, they need to provide a good plan, and they need to turn the plan into effective action. They also need to address each of those areas on three levels: the personal level, the social level and the structural level.

When corporate programs and initiatives fail, it's usually because one or more of the above areas have been overlooked. The areas that cause the most trouble are lightly shaded in the above diagram. Poor attention to social and structural elements routinely lead to underperformance and failures in training and development programs.

Our programs succeed on a consistent basis, in large part because they incorporate strong social elements and provide a clear, comprehensive structure.

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Influences and Sources

Our approach and our program materials incorporate ideas from recognized experts in many fields, including business management, leadership, education, psychology, philosophy, health & wellness, coaching, communication, sales, negotiation and more.

More than anything else, this is what sets us apart. We've built our expertise around taking the best ideas from many fields and giving them to people in a form that's accessible and practical. Our programs and services are a delivery system that allows people to absorb the wisdom of great managers through direct personal experience.

Here's a partial list of the authors that have informed our approach and the books that are discussed in our program materials:

  • Antonovsky, Aaron. Unraveling the Mystery of Health
  • Argyris, Chris. Teaching Smart People How to Learn
  • Argyris, Chris. Personality and Organization
  • Argyris, Chris. Increasing Leadership Effectiveness
  • Bacon, Terry. Selling to Major Accounts
  • Bandura, Albert. Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control
  • Bandura, Albert. Social Foundations of Thought and Action
  • Bell, Cliff. Customers as Partners
  • Bennis, W. & Goldsmith, J. Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader
  • Berg, Insoo. Working With a Problem Drinker
  • Botwinick, Chaim. Think Excellence
  • Burke, Kenneth. The Grammar of Motives
  • Burke, Kenneth. The Rhetoric of Motives
  • Calvin, Robert. Sales Management
  • Cameron & Green. Making Sense of Leadership
  • Capon, Potter & Schindle. Managing Global Accounts
  • Caproni, Paula. Management Skills for Everyday Life
  • Casserlly, Timothy. Learning from Burnout
  • Chester, Eric. Reviving Work Ethics
  • Cheverton, Peter. Key Account Management
  • Clutterbuck, David. Coaching the Team at Work
  • Collins, J. C. & Porras, J. I. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
  • Collins, Jim. How The Mighty Fall
  • Collins, Jim. From Good To Great
  • Collins, Jim. Level 5 Leadership
  • Covey, S. R. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Covey, S. R. Principle-Centered Leadership
  • Covey, S. R. First Things First
  • Covey, Stephen M.R. Smart Trust
  • Drucker, P. F. Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management
  • Francis & Woodcock. The Unblocked Boss: Guide & Activities
  • Francis & Woodcock. Unblocking Organizational Values
  • Francis, Dave. 50 Activities for Unblocking Organizational Communication
  • Francis, Dave. Managing Your Own Career
  • Francis, Dave. Unblocking Organizational Communication
  • Galbraith, Jay R. Designing Organizations
  • Gardner, H. Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership
  • Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence
  • Haneberg, Lisa. Developing Great Managers
  • Haneberg, Lisa. Two Weeks to a Breakthrough
  • Harris, Thomas. Applied Organizational Communications
  • Hartline, Michael. Internal Relationship Management
  • Heil & Bennis. Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of Enterprise
  • Kim & Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy
  • Kotter, J. P. The Leadership Factor
  • Kotter, J. P. A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management
  • Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. The Leadership Challenge
  • Krogerus, Mikael. The Change Book
  • Krogerus, Mikael. The Decision Book
  • Lee, Fred. If Disney Ran Your Hospital
  • Lehrer, Jonah. How We Decide
  • Leonard, Kelly. Yes, And
  • Lewis & Mills. The Pin Drop Principle
  • Maister, David. Managing the Professional Service Firm
  • Maister, David. Practice What You Preach
  • Maister, David. Strategy and the Fat Smoker
  • Maister, David. The Trusted Advisor
  • Maister, David. True Professionalism
  • Maslow, A. H. Motivation and Personality
  • McAdams, Dan P. The Stories We Live
  • McClelland, D. C. The Achievement Motive
  • McClelland, D. C. Achieving Society
  • McClelland, D. C. Power: The Inner Experience
  • McGregor, Douglas. The Human Side of Enterprise
  • McGregor & Bennis. Leadership & Motivation
  • McKenna, Patrick. First Among Equals
  • McKinney, Phil. Beyond the Obvious
  • Meier, Daniel. Team Coaching Solution Circle
  • Menkes, Justin. Better Under Pressure
  • Mintzberg, Henry. Managing
  • Mintzberg, Henry. The Five Minds of a Manager
  • O'Connell, Bill. Solution Focused Coaching in Practice
  • Palmer, Parker. The Active Life
  • Palmer, Parker. The Courage to Teach
  • Palmer, Parker. From Frenzy to Faith
  • Patterson, Kerry. Crucial Conversations
  • Patterson, Kerry. Influencer
  • Peters & Waterman. In Search of Excellence
  • Rackham, David. The SPIN Selling Fieldbook
  • Rackham, Neil. Managing Major Sales
  • Schein, E. H. Organizational Culture and Leadership
  • Schiffman, Stephan. The #1 Sales Team
  • Schneider, Andrea. The Negotiator's Handbook
  • Seligman, Martin. Learned Optimism
  • Senge, P. M. The Fifth Discipline
  • Sergiovanni, T. J. Moral Leadership
  • Signorelli, Jim. StoryBranding
  • Stone, Howard. Brief Pastoral Counseling
  • Taylor, Ros. Confidence at Work
  • Taylor, Ros. Confidence in Just Seven Days
  • Tracy, Brian. No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline
  • Ulrich, Dave. The Leadership Code
  • Vroom, V. H. Work and Motivation
  • Vroom, V. H. & Jago, A. G. The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organizations
  • Wheatley, M. J. Leadership and the New Science
  • Whiteley, R. C. The Customer-Driven Company: Moving from Talk to Action

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