In-Synk Blog

This blog is all about my latest insights into growth, strategy, and execution.

Can ROI on Coaching be Calculated?

How to Calculate ROI on Coaching - by Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Can ROI (Return on Investment) be calculated when it comes to coaching? It’s important to me for my clients to get a tangible return on their investment in my services. Therefore, I have an annual Return on Coaching meeting with my clients. Sometimes, we have a ROC meeting more often if the value I’m providing isn’t crystal clear. It keeps me honest and keeps our relationship healthy.

Mathematically, ROI on coaching is easy to calculate.

You take the fees invested in coaching for the time spent coaching and divide that into improvement achieved measured in Revenue or Gross Profit or Net Profit for the same period. I recently calculated this for a client I’ve been coaching for about two and half years. I did the back-of-the envelope math and realized my client reaped a 5371% ROI from my coaching. Pretty damn good, right?

However, doing the same calculation a year and half earlier, after only working with the company for the first year, the number came out as zero. Even though we had successfully attacked and overcome so many obstacles and opportunities, the improvement in revenue and profitability was totally flat. We were rebuilding the business. Although we had turned the company around, the payoff was still to come. The math calculation made no sense.

Why keep going after a questionable math calculation?

To make sure the coaching was working and paying off, we listed all the accomplishments and initiatives we had worked on. They were then scored from 1-5 based on impact upon the company.  This confirmed that momentum was building, and it was good to continue the investment in coaching. The payoff for all the coaching in the first year started coming to fruition and resulted in the 5371% ROI listed above. Our work in the past year a half is building on all of that. I can’t wait to do the math next fall.

Return on Investment when it comes to coaching, whether you calculate it mathematically or with a scorecard, should be looked at regularly to make sure your coach is delivering.

I’m proud to say that I’m regularly delivering a healthy ROI on my coaching.

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Reminding About Your Core Values Enough?

Core Values and Reminders for Business Teams and Growth - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

If you are interested in building a culture strong enough to create a competitive advantage, you have to be constantly be reminding the team what your core values are. This goes way beyond putting them on a poster and talking about them in your daily and weekly huddles. I’ve talked about it before in a previous blog post, 3 “R & Rs” for Building a Strong Company Culture. Take a look at it; that will get you started.

Now, I want to take the idea one step further.

What do you do when someone just isn’t getting a core value and that’s causing problems?

Core values aren’t something you can manage really. Team members have them, or learn them and live them, or they don’t. So my suggestion, from Pat Lencioni, is this. For the person who just isn’t getting it and violates a core value, take time to remind them what the core value is. Then remind them of your expectation on how to live that value the next time a similar situation comes up. Also, remind them why this is important. Do it in a matter-of-fact manner. Keep reminding them each time it comes up. And re-reminding them, and re-reminding them.

One of three things will happen:

  1. The team member will get sick of all the reminders and change the behavior.
  2. The team member will get sick of all the reminders and start looking for another job.
  3. You will get sick of doing all the reminders and decide to free up their future.

I think it’s a pretty good way of communicating the importance of  your core values. Remind! Remind! Remind! until someone gets sick of all the reminders.


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Six Book Recommendations for 2018

What Book Should You Read for Better Business in 2018?

Time to tune up yourself and your team.

Time for my book recommendations for 2018. Books that will make you a better leader, make your team better, and improve your entire organization.

Four that I’ve read:

  • The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holliday – If you can imagine, it’s a daily devotional (like a daily prayer book) that focuses on the teachings of the Stoic Philosophers. Five to ten minutes a day with an entry for every day of the year. It will settle your mind, help you think bigger, and give practical perspectives on the challenges that you face daily. I do it everyday first thing in the morning. No matter what.
  • The Coaching Habit, by Michael Stanier Bugay – Teaches you a stack of seven questions to ask of people who are asking for your help or advice. They work, and they make your teammates become critical thinkers.  Helps them think through the solutions instead of you giving it to them. I have them written out on my whiteboard so I don’t forget them and can instantly access them on a coaching phone call.
  • Jobs To Be Done, by Steven Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber – This book and its methodologies will give your marketing people, and your entire team, a deeper understanding of why your customers buy.  It’s about the larger job they are trying to do with your solution or product not the features and benefits. It’s what your brand should be built around.
  • The Ideal Team Player, by Pat Lencioni – As I’ve always said, read anything he writes. This one is another one of his business fables about the attributes of the ideal team player, how to identify them, and how to leverage them to build a better team. If team work is truly important in your team.

Two that I’m going to read:

  • The Metronome Effect, by Shannon Susko – Susko is a fellow Gazelles Coach. Verne Harnish says it’s the perfect complement to Scaling Up, so it is on my list.
  • Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive in Leadership & Life, by Kevin Lawrence – This is also by a fellow Gazelles Coach. You can’t take care of your business and others unless you take care of yourself first.

And of course, there is my book.  😉

Beyond reading these books, consider a tune up with In-Synk,, and get your company and team moving forward faster in first quarter of 2018.

Does Your Team Shift with the Tide?

Does Your Team Shift with the Tide? - Michael Synk - In-Synk Coaching - #GetInSynk

Do shifting tides cause shifts in your team? There seems to be a pretty obvious answer to the question. Of course they do.

We all know intuitively and factually that about the only thing we can count on in business is change.

Things change.

  • The economy
  • Technology
  • Customers
  • Tactics
  • The market
  • Prices
  • Costs
  • Failures

All these things change and shift around, and we constantly monitor these changes and make adjustments to take advantage of the changes or to protect ourselves our enterprise from the changes. The companies that deal with change the best tend to be the leaders.

Yet, although this is pretty obvious, I often see leaders underestimating how the changes affect team members. The people on the team are the ones who have to implement, react to, overcome, and often just live with the changes. All of this impacting them in a variety of ways. Leaders feel the impact quite personally, but they often miss, or forget about, the same impacts on the team.

The biggest impact can often be on motivation. One huge motivating factor in life is how one feels about the impact they are having on the progress of the organization. Another big motivating factor is how much control one feels that they have over their work. Finally, another important motivating factor is that of having the feeling that one is part of something bigger than one’s self.

Change, if not acknowledged and communicated effectively, eats away at these motivating factors.

When there is constant change, or a big change (especially downturns or failures), it’s time to up the ante on communication about the the changes. The communication needs to be especially focused on including the team on how they can adapt to, or help with, the change. They need to be involved in setting new directions in responding to change.

That way, they can feel that they are making an impact, that they have control, and that they are part of something headed in the right direction.

Don’t underestimate the shift in your team caused by the shifting tides in your business.

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Dorothy Day House, The Rockefeller Habits & Giving Back

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss how I’ve been able to use Rockefeller Habits to help miracles happen in Memphis.

Watch the video or read the transcript, but there are a few lessons and reflections here. One of them is how could Rockefeller Habits and a one-page strategic plan help your business, non-profit or for profit? How could this help a do-good organization you serve? Also, what are you doing to help the community?

Gil Bonwit:

As many of you know, you use the methodology of Rockefeller Habits Gazelles in your businesses. I used it in my businesses and realized it was effective, so we teamed up to bring it into the do-good world, as Bob Chapman said, the nonprofit world. Hundreds of organizations already use those tools. Our BHAGs had 1,000 nonprofits start using those tools with the thought is if they could each be three percent better, what kind of impact could we have on this world, and this is a gift we can give them. We’re really proud of two people, Mike Synk, who’s a Gazelles coach, and Sister Maureen, from Dorothy Day House. They’re going to tell you a little about some of the impact that these tools have already had in their organization.

Michael Synk:

Good morning. Recently, one of my friends asked me a question, “What’s the most important one-page strategic plan that you’ve ever worked on?” And my answer is the Dorothy Day House. What I want to ask the CEOs and the coaches today, rhetorically, is to think about what your answer to that same question is. Maybe more importantly, another way of asking it, how can you bring the Rockefeller Habits to the charities and for-good organizations that you have been asked to serve?

In 2011 my good friend, Sister Maureen, asked me to serve on the board of the Dorothy Day House and be its first chairman. I said yes, and Sister Maureen said, “Yes, we’ll do a one-page strategic plan.” So, I’m just gonna review some of the things that we came up with in our strategic plan. Our purpose, inspired by the gospels we enable homeless families to stay together and empower them to gain independence. I’m gonna go over the core values. The Poor Are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him. Personalism; we have  care and concern for each individual family. Hospitality and Trust in God; we are people taking care of people. Personal Accountability, and We’re a Home.

Then it was very easy to talk and determine what our core competencies or our core strengths were.

One of them is we have this covenant. It’s a simple covenant with house rules, and the rules are followed by all Dorothy Day House residents. Another strength is our volunteer web. This past year, over 400 volunteers served the Dorothy Day House and the families as we’ve helped rebuild their lives. Finally, our board is incredibly committed. All the members of our board are donors and volunteers before they join. One of our first ROCKS that we determined we had to work on was raising awareness about homeless families because homeless families are kind of hidden in each of your cities. The second ROCK was we had to get the message out about a special house in Memphis.


Sr. Maureen Griner:

So Dorothy Day House opened in 2006. It was five years later in 2011 when we decided it was time to get serious about the future. We asked Michael Synk to serve as our board chair. As a Gazelles coach, he said, “Let’s start with this strategic plan.” Anybody who’s done one of those one-page plans knows that the BHAG is a big part of that conversation.

Our BHAG in 2011 is in 2022 there will be a Dorothy Day Village with a capacity to help 20 families at a time. We started with that one house helping three families. Our BHAG was huge. We thought Mike was crazy.

Today in 2017, we’re in the midst of an expansion plan. We launched a $5 million capital campaign a year ago. At this moment, we’ve raised about 1.6 million, which seems absolutely impossible. We’re headed for the impossible. These are the houses that we’ll be purchasing. The first is the one we opened in 2006. We opened another in 2016, and the final three will be opening in 2018, 2019, and 2020. That will get us up to 3, 4, 7, 10, 13 families, and we’re still two years short of that BHAG. We’re going to make it for 20 families by 2022.

I think we’re really proof that the Rockefeller Habits work for nonprofits. So many times, nonprofits just live in today and don’t think about the future. Our work with Mike forced us to have a goal that was so far ahead, we couldn’t imagine. It really inspired us to move forward.

Miracles are happening in Memphis.

We encourage you to pass on those Rockefeller Habits and your work to nonprofits. They need those tools to move to the future.

Questions, Quotes, and Notes

questions, quotes and notes from ScaleUp Summit by Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Heads are still swirling around a bit from my “Think Week” at the Scaling Up Summit held in St. Louis. Rather than trying to explain it all for you, I’m going to list the questions, quotes, and notes that are on my mind. Let’s ponder them together.

Verne Harnish Quotes:

  • “Strategy is head hurting work. We have the answers, but we don’t know the questions.”
  • “Marketing is the #1 constraint to Scaling Up.”
  • “Insufficient data is the #2 constraint.”
  • “The CEO’s job is to press the ‘EASY BUTTON’; make things easier for customers to buy, for staff to do their jobs well, and for partners and vendors to help you…”
  • “CEOs should be talking to customers and employees most of their time.”
  • To find talent, go to an adjacent industry that people make less in.”

Ryan Holliday (author of The Daily Stoic, The Obstacle is the Way, and Ego is the Enemy) Quotes:

  • “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
  • “Whether it is the best or worst time to be alive, doesn’t fucking matter.”
  • “Successful people learn warnings are wrong and dangerous.”
  • “Ego is never needed to accomplish anything. It’s the Disease of Me. Egos Chase Colored Balloons.”

Quotes and notes from all the others:

  • “What job is your customer trying to get done by hiring you, buying your product, or using your service?” Steve Wunker, author of Jobs to be Done. 
  • “Focus without perspective is a form of blindness.” Steve Wunker
  • “The Three Ps Process of writing doesn’t work: Procrastinate, Panic, Pray.” Josh Bernoff, author of Write Without Bullshit. If you write a lot you need to read this book.
  • “The 11th Commandment: Thou shall not take yourself too seriously.” Sam Zell
  • “You talk to generalists, but you buy from specialists.” Brandon Dempsey of goBRANDgo!
  • “3HAG – Three Year Highly Achievable Goal.” Shannon Susko, GI Coaches new “Execution” Thought Leader
  • “CEOs don’t listen to the wisdom of Flight Attendants (when demonstrating oxygen masks) and don’t take care of their needs first.” Kevin Lawrence, GI Coaches new “People” Thought Leader
  • “All of us are only two events away from mental illness.” Kevin Lawrence
  • “Rather than thinking ‘I’m right,’ ask yourself ‘How do you know you are right?” Brad Giles, Gazelles Coach from Down Under, on how to remain humble.
  • “When someone on the team isn’t living your Core Values, your company is running like an engine that is missing one cylinder.” Jerry Fons, Gazelles Coach, Wisconsin
  • Dare to be bad at something in order to dare to be great at something.”  someone paraphrasing the core message of Uncommmon Service by Frances Frei. This will be my next book to read.
  • “CFOs complicate things too much, and 80% of them don’t understand their roles.” Lynn Hartwick, Gazelles Coach, Pennsylvania
  • “Create your own pre-suasion. Be of service. Stop trying to solve things or help things. Notice how to be of service and serve.” Jeff Redmon, Gazelles Coach, Minnesota
  • “Strategy is defining what you won’t do.” Kaihan Krippendorf, GI Coaches new “Strategy” Thought Leader
  • Thinking about the Fosbury Flop. First they ignored him, then they laughed at him, then they competed with him, then they copied him. The Flop won out.

My Questions and Quote:

  • “What’s the most important one page strategic plan (OPSP) you have ever worked on? Don’t include your own business. Mine is the Dorothy Day House (DDH). What charity or do-good organization are you a board member of that would have a greater impact for society if they had a OPSP? Why aren’t you leading them through the process?”

More to come.

Is Your BHAG a 3 Lane Swimming Pool?

Is Your BHAG a 3 Lane Swimming Pool? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Some background on this rather obscure BHAG analogy.

BHAG is a term from Jim Collins’ books, Built to Last, and Good to Great and referenced in his other books and articles. It’s also used by many coaches and business gurus. BHAG is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

If you want to grow significantly and consistently, it helps to set a BHAG for your company. You want it to be ten plus years out, difficult to accomplish, and inspiring to the team. Something they can aspire to achieve that makes a difference. It also needs to be based in market dynamics and conditions.

I hope your BHAG isn’t a three lane swimming pool.

I swim four days a week at a workout facility near my home. It has a three lane swimming pool. Although I enjoy swimming there and appreciate the convenience and the impact the workouts have on my health, I regularly walk out scratching my head. Why a three lane pool? Who builds a three lane pool? It’s impossible to host swim meets or swim team practices with only three lanes. When a couple of lanes are used for water aerobics or swim lessons, only one lane is left for individual workouts. Too many swimmers have to share the lane. This makes workouts difficult at best; so people wait or leave.

The rest of the swimming facility is beautiful and modern. But by only building three lanes, the mission of the workout facility is limited. The impact the place can have on the community is restricted. None of these restrictions would exist if they had built a four lane pool.

So many BHAGs are limiting in the same way. They restrict one’s company to only one way of doing business or making an impact on the world.

Make sure you don’t build a three lane swimming pool when creating your BHAG.Book Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Inward or Outward: Where’s Your Next Rock?

Inward or Outward, Where Are You Looking for Your Next Rock for Business Growth? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Where are you looking for your next opportunity for business growth?

Strategically, are you looking inward or outward to determine the next rock to move?

The strategy experts (myself included) love to look externally to the market. We enjoy examining the ever-changing world to define the next strategic move for the company. It’s fun, stimulating, creative, and challenging. Your strategic plan ultimately must address the challenges your core customers face in the world. We have to be looking externally, or outwardly, to create great strategic plans. After you identify these external issues, address or solve these challenges and you’ll be able to grow significantly.

You’ve identified an outward Rock, but what’s next?

The harder part of strategic thinking, and planning, is identifying the internal obstacles. Not only must you identify them, but you must also address them. Internal obstacles prevent your organization from acting on the external opportunities. The internal obstacles have to be addressed to be able to work on the external opportunities that exist for your company.

Don’t forget to be constantly moving the sand, but you want to organize your rocks. Most of the time, the inward rock must move before working on the outward rock.

You can’t look externally without looking internally. You’ve got to do both. In my experience, it’s usually the internal obstacles that prevent growth. Make sure you are looking inward to find rocks not just outward.

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Aren’t Sales & Operations Supposed to Argue Each Other?

Are Operations and Sales Supposed to Argue with Each Other? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Do you ever wonder about your operations and sales departments?

This morning a client I’m coaching commented in an offhand manner, “Why are my sales people and operations people always arguing“?

I stopped him right there, after all we were working on a different issue at the time. However, I said “Aren’t they supposed to be arguing with each other“?


That’s right. There is supposed to be tension between these two. In fact, I would put both department managers in offices next to each other and make sure they argue with each other.

Okay, “argue” might be too strong a word. There should be tension between the two, and regular communication between the two areas is necessary for success. The better expression would be “productive conflict.”  You want it to happen regularly. Why?

Sales people will naturally want to sell more than operations can currently deliver. Operations will naturally want to avoid the risk that innovation brings. By having regular productive conflict, the two sides will push the other to be better at what they do.

A long time ago, I heard a speaker say something on this topic that I’ve always remembered. “You can’t have your sales people selling snowblowers when your company makes lawnmowers. Conversely, don’t you want your company to learn how to make snowblowers in addition to lawnmowers if they have that ability and the opportunity exists.

The sales team has to understand the limitations of operations and constantly push them to expand those limitations. The operations team needs to understand the demands customers put on the sales people.

Get your sales team and operations team productively conflicting with each other regularly.Book Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Shouldn’t We All Do a Think Week?

Have your own think week - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk - ScaleUp Summit - St. Louis - 2017

Have you heard about the think week?

Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with embrace learning, constantly reading, participating in round tables and workshops and webinars. I do it as well but am heavier on books than the other two. The reason we do it is that the world is changing. Our businesses and markets are shifting, and we acknowledge that we need to keep investing in our own education to stay fresh, relevant, and ahead of the game.

I don’t know about you, but all the learning can take it’s toll. Right now I have three business books open at the same time, feeling compelled to complete them to stay ahead of things for my clients. At the same time, I have clients to coach and serve that compete with the learning for my attention. It’s a yin and yang thing. At some point, I have to say “enough already.” I close the books for a while.

What we really should be doing is having a think week or two each year.

Like Bill Gates does.

Bill piles up all the books and reports and articles and videos that he can’t get to but thinks are important. Then, once a year he locks himself away and plows through all that he’s set aside. In doing so, he not only learns useful information and data, he makes connections between all the ideas that have been set aside, multiplying the his learning quotient. Shouldn’t we all be doing this?

But, we aren’t Bill Gates are we?

Our businesses might not be cruising along like Microsoft. They may not be able to afford to being on autopilot for a week. We might not have the leadership teams beneath us to carry on like Bill does. We might not even have a place to go to lock ourselves away with the books, articles, and videos. What are we to do? We know we could use a think week.

Let me tell you what I’ve been doing to get my Think Week in each year. For the past 8 years, each spring and each fall, I’ve attended the Scaling Up Summit (formerly known as the Gazelles Growth Summit). Each Summit consists of two days of keynote addresses given by recognized thought leaders (serious authors) curated by Verne Harnish (Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up). These leaders deliver the latest, greatest, and most effective learning in which CEOs and entrepreneurs need to take part.

It’s a bit of a fire hose, but it sure knocks out a bunch of books for me. It also guides me on which ones I really need to read next.

The Fall Scaling Up Summit is on October 17th and 18th in St. Louis. Click on this webpage to get an attendance code that you can use to get a $345 discount on the summit fee. Register this way, and I’ll come by your table and give you a copy of my book, Rock & Sand, as my gift to welcome you to the summit.

Make the summits a habit, and unleash the growth from your business.

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