DeGroote Consulting

  Creating Dramatic Change


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To Get Engagement, Go To the Source

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

This week I received another influx of questions from FSS and ROSS Coordinators around the U.S. asking why clients weren’t engaging in their programs. Giving advice from afar can be tough, but this tip works 90% of the time, so I thought it worth sharing. I offer it with a warning though: You’re Gonna Need a Thick Skin.


You see, when we don’t know the answer to a problem, we try to come up with all sorts of ideas before going to the source. There’s no shame in it; it’s how humans solve all sorts of small issues super efficiently every day. But tough and consistant problems call for a better approach. In this case, I suggest going to your FSS and ROSS clients directly; and that’s where the thick skin comes in. To do this right, we’ll need a bit of planning. Here are a couple smart approaches:


1. Develop a Questionnaire. This allows clients to give you valuable data without feeling pressure to be “nice”, but it does requires asking the right questions to get usable info. For example, if we want to know why people are ignoring our program, we can ask in different ways. Can you spot the better of these two?


Question #1: What would you improve about the FSS or ROSS program?


Question #2: What are the most stressful issues in your life right now?


The first question tasks them with solving a problem and asks nothing about their life. The second question says, “We care about what’s going on with you.” and instantly gives you information about what kind of classes and services you’ll need to incorporate into your program to make it relevant. If you use this to guide the rest of your questions you’ll get very useful feedback. You might even provide an insentive for returning them, like a $5 Starbucks card.


2. Create a Focus Group. This is a great way to get immediate feedback. You’ll need a few things to pull this off:


a. Good Food. It's just the cost of doing business. People come running when there's a free meal.


b. Two time slots. To accommodate hectic schedules, we need to offer both a day and evening event. Usually those not working come during the day and the employed in the evening. They have different needs, so gather info on both to make this worth your time. And make it more than an hour or so.


c. Good Marketing. Make sure the emails, mailers, and in-class announcements make it clear this will be fun and actually make a difference in how the program runs in the future. For example: Free Dinner for FSS Clients Only! Come Tell Us What You Want in Your Program!


d. Questions and Note-Takers. Have 5-6 questions to ask the group, and as they talk have 2 people (1 staff, 1 client) take notes to get as much info as possible. The 2-person note taking perspectives will provide incredible insights. This is where that thick skin comes in. We're bound to hear some negative responses, but keep in mind our goal is to gather valuable data. Instead of arguing our perspective, simply affirm them with comments like:



  • Thank you for sharing that.
  • Good point. I didn't realize that, thanks.
  • Can anyone else relate to that comment?
  • We appreciate your honestly, thanks.


You're not saying they're 100% right, you're keeping them engaged and building their trust in you.


e. Positive Attitude. There's always one in the crowd...the angry, never-happy attendee. I deal with this by setting rules up front: make your comments brief and helpful...I ask everyone to agree on this. Allowing one negative person to rule the conversation can quickly turn the crowd. So I establish early on that I'm serious. If someone steps over one of these boundaries I quickly reel them in. Polite, but firm. On the flip side, I keep it light with a good attitude, a couple good jokes, and thank them again and again for sharing. This ensures they show up for similar events in the future.


Once we gather our info, the really important work begins....using it! I’ll talk about this in my next post, so stay tuned. If you haven’t noticed, my blogs are written on a bi-weekly Friday schedule. Occasionally (like this holiday weekend) I post a couple days later.


One of the most fun parts of doing this work are your emails and comments! I can’t tell you how great it is to hear about your programs and all the ways you attack problems. This October I’ll be in Kentucky working with a new FSS team, so if you’re going to be in the area feel free to message me if you’d like to meet up for coffee. I’ll do my best to work it into my schedule.


So give these tips a try, and let me know if they help you get more clients in the door. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!



To Get Ahead, Get Noticed

Posted on July 16, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

This 4th of July I invited friends over and we got to talking about our work. My friend’s daughter had recently graduated from college and found a job. She began to lament about her colleague who had just received a raise. I asked her why she hadn’t received one and she had no idea. She went on to tell us that her co-worker had made it his mission to raise more money for the program than anyone else...and he did. He also made sure everyone knew about it. Our poor college grad was still at a loss as to why, after all the long hours she had logged and the extra work she did for her program that she wasn’t offered a similar reward.

Remember the days when we still thought the world was a fair place?


Rather than lecture her on her on the ways of the world, I decided to explain her colleague’s “win” another way. Before I go on, I must say that it’s not just the young who have this problem. I have seen my fair share of middle-aged colleagues who burn the candle at both ends for their employer only to be passed over for promotions and raises. So here is how to earn what you deserve:


1.Specialize, Specialize, Specialize! Did you get that? Generalists are a dime a dozen, but specialists are seen as important.Becoming the go-to person in your department, agency, city or State has so many benefits. The first thing it does is get people talking about you. It’s like having your own personal marketing team all over town. Another great perk are the opportunities that come your way. To do this, find an aspect of your work you enjoy and naturally excel. The guy who got the raise in the story above chose fundraising. Then dive in. Read everything you can on the subject, take classes, workshops, find mentors, earn your degree.

2. Inject Your New Skills Into Your Work: Begin experimenting by using your new-found knowledge to help achieve your department or agency outcomes. No need to tell everyone how great you are yet; simply begin implementing changes. Learn what works and what to let go of. Once your successes start piling up, it’s time for the next step.

3. Get Out of the Office: With success under your belt, connect with the outside world. Offer classes to others in your field. This allows you to cut your teeth on your facilitation skills while alerting everyone that you have valuable knowledge. Another option is to find your way into an industry publication...being part of the “news”can be a shot in the arm for your career. Here’s an idea...apply for award nominations in your field. Even if you don’t win, being nominated is a great way for people to become familiar with you and your skills; don't forget to mention this to your boss. You can even volunteer to lead a city or county project where your new talents can shine. The point is to show your skills to others outside your agency. This is the time to reach out to colleagues at partner agencies to schedule lunch dates, offer assistance on their projects, and ask for mentorship. This is a different type of networking built on relationships.

4. And Finally, Toot Your Own Horn (Tastefully): There’s a fine line between promoting your worth and bragging; if in doubt, go for tasteful. Bring as much value to your team as possible while making sure leadership is aware of your worth. You might schedule a time to meet with your supervisor to introduce ideas and let her/him know about the training you’ve completed. Another option is to seek out community leaders your own agency’s leadership admire and ask them if they would consider mentoring you. Never underestimate how much being valued outside your office makes those inside take notice as well. Track your successes and goals for your department; bring them to your next review. If it’s been more than a year since your last one, ask to get one on the schedule. This is the time to ask for the raise you want.


It takes a bit of time and effort to pull away from the herd, but it's totally worth it. I’ve used all of these ideas at one time or another with great results.I’d love to see how they help you earn a great living doing the work you love. Here’s to those of us who dare to thrive!

To Get Ahead, Get Uncomfortable

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Working on a new project for my training company has been scaring the hell out of me lately. Everything about it is new, and I began to wonder if I was going down the wrong path. But then, just as my confidence began to get shaky, one of my favorite mentors gave me the swift kick I needed. Her name is Barbara Stanny, brilliant author and financial coach.

Here I break down one of her best pieces of advice for those of us who occassionally need someone to remind us how growing pains work:


1. Get Uncomforatable. Barbara Stanny often says that change isn’t hard, it’s just uncomfortable. She’s right on the mark. I’m used to pushing out of my comfort zone, got that covered....or do I? I got into the habit of pushing “safely” out of the zone. This new project required me to call in the big guns...all my mentors, all my tribe members, all my courage, all my new partners, all my worst fears. Once completed the project will be profound, but I was having to learn a entirely new skill set...this left me feeling like a novice. Not cool, I thought. I needed to get back to where my strengths shone. But this is how we develop them...ugly and unsteady at first, then slowly they become our new normal. Barbara’s advice reminded me I was just where I needed to be...uncomfortable. This happens right before the break through.


2. Make the Stretch. The “stretch” is how Stanny describes our reach for greatness into the great unknown. Anyone familiar with the Hero’s Journey understands this is simply part of human nature. We want something that’s difficult to become, aquire, or achieve. In order to do this we must reach deep within to find where our confidence and skills top out and stretch past them. I needed to stop resting on my laurels and work to get better in areas uncharted.


3. Don’t be the smartest person in the room. It’s easy to feel confident when you’re the big fish. You’re on top of the pyrimid, no one can touch you. But putting ourselves at the bottom rung in a room full of experts forces us to remember that learning doesn’t have an end point. Stanny’s advice is to constantly gets us into learning mode...this is how we find new ways of working around those challenges that keep us from getting where we want to go. Stay small or grow’s our choice.


So here’s to all of us who are daring to venture into the great unknown to find out just what we’re capable of!



To Get Ahead, Trust Your Gut

Posted on June 13, 2015 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently my own gut was tested when a mentor questioned a big career decision I had made. She didn’t really question it as much as tell me I made the wrong choice. I value her opinion on many a topic, so her dramatic reaction didn’t go unnoticed. That said, my gut told me I had made the right move. Unfortunately, that didn’t keep my stomach from turning to knots for two days as I decided whether to take her sage advice or listen to my own.


If you’ve ever been in a spot where your good judgment has been called out, you know the sinking feeling and self-doubt I’m talking about. Did I miss something in my research? Have I been over-confident or arrogant? Did I just blow a great opportunity or lose the respect of a person I admire? Who do I think I am? Maybe I should have played smaller. Pretty standard stuff. So what to do?


The first step is the toughest: resist the urge to curl up in defeat and play small. Instead, I’ve found a few tips that not only get us through the tough patch of doubt, but leave us feeling more powerful and sure-footed:


1. Find your curiosity and use it.


When my mentor questioned my decision, I got quiet fast. I listened to her arguments and didn’t try to defend my choice. I was interested in understanding exactly what she was reacting to. When she was finished talking I asked her a few questions calmly to clarify. Sometimes we’re so taken aback by someone’s reaction that we hear parts of what they say and fill in the rest with our imagination…it’s in our best interest to see if they have a point worth taking into consideration without telling ourselves it’s a personal attack.


2. Check in with your gut a second time.


After listening to my mentor’s argument, I realized that she had brought up points I had already considered before making my choice. I had thoughtfully weighed how to proceed, and checked in with my gut or intuition (the culmination of my experience, education, and research) to determine the best road for myself. This review of my decision-making process confirmed I hadn’t made a hasty choice; but had used experience and logic to chart a course…always a sound combination.


3. Gather feedback from more than one trusted ally.


A mentor, boss, friend, spouse, parent, or co-worker is a person with their own world view. When one of them questions your judgment, it’s helpful to get a couple other opinions to round out the feedback you’re receiving. After the strong reaction from one mentor, I called on another and ran my decision by her as well. She was a trusted adviser with 40 years experience in my field and wasn’t afraid to give an honest opinion. She seconded my choice and gave me examples of how she had made similar decisions in her own career. While I usually trust my gut, my confidence had been shaken, and this was the affirmation I needed to continue doing so.



Nurturing our intuition or gut takes time…it doesn’t happen overnight, and even when it becomes second nature we sometimes need a bit of validation to give us the confidence with future decisions. I did follow my gut with this choice in the end, but I needed some support to do so.



The next time you wonder if your gut has led you astray, you may decide to try these methods on for size; I’d love to hear how they work for you




Here’s to those of us strong enough to put a healthy dose of trust in ourselves!




To Get Ahead, Outsmart Perfection

Posted on June 5, 2015 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

This week I began filming updates of my training video series. As I began editing the footage I realized how critical I was of my each and every facial expression, the set, lighting, my hair, the script, my teeth, my outfit…the list was endless. Ever felt this way about your own projects or appearance? Yeah, I know. We can be ruthless.

For many years the standard I set for myself was one of perfection, and I was always befuddled as to why I fell short. People tell us it’s unattainable, and that seemed just fine for other people. But I felt it was frankly irresponsible of me not to look or produce work that wasn’t flawless.

It was a tough lesson to learn. I even got a counselor involved. She instructed me to bake a cake that was misshapen and flawed. My assignment was to then carry it from my car, through her office building for strangers to see. I followed her instructions to the letter and made the perfect “imperfect” cake. Obviously I had a lot of work to do in this area.

Eventually, I noticed that even the people I admired most made lots of mistakes and slowly I began to cut myself a little slack. It’s taken years, but these days I’m much better at stopping this train wreck of negative self-talk in its tracks.

If you’re anything like me, this quest for perfection can seep into our work lives as well, squashing creative genius and ruining any shot at joy. Here are a few tips passed down to me over the years that have helped me set realistic success markers:

1. Stop comparing yourself or your work to anyone else. Really, stop it now. Immediately. There’s no way to win that game. First of all, there will always be someone better than you, so you always lose. The trick, I’ve learned, is to only run the race against yourself. This is the only comparison that leads to us triumphing and feeling great about it. When I want to get better at something, I look at where I was six months or a year ago. Then I work to become the better version of me. I will never beat Gwenyth Paltrow in any comparison, but becoming the best version of Maggie DeGroote is SO possible.

2. Let your first few tries look ugly. I learn by repetition, so when I was younger it mortified me to try anything new, because I failed so horribly the first 5 or 6 times. But once I got the hang of something I excelled. So after years of feeling like a failure, it finally occurred to me that if I just assumed the first few tries would look terrible, I’d save myself years of self-doubt. It worked. And my creativity has soared…it’s amazing what we’re capable of when we give ourselves permission to be human.

3. Let people know you’re new at this. Now when I’m ready to try something for the first time I alert people around me that my first few stabs will be messy, so they know what to expect. It’s been fascinating to see that most people appreciate hearing they’re not the only ones that aren’t perfect the first go round. In fact, I’ve found it creates a sense of trust between co-workers and friends.


Btw, these are great tips to share with your FSS participants as they try on new ways of interacting with the world. Once they realized perfection isn’t on the menu, they have a tendency to engage with much more enthusiasm.

After taking my own advice I looked at my video footage with a much more realistic eye and realized they were actually quite good…flaws and all.

So give these tips a try and let me know what you experience. Here’s to allowing ourselves to be the imperfect humans we’re meant to be!




Do the Thing That Scares You

Posted on May 29, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

“We must do the thing we think we cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt


This is truly my favorite quote of all time…and for good reason. Successful people understand the fastest way to the top is to push through fear. This doesn’t mean they aren’t scared, it means they bite the bullet and move forward regardless.


In my own life I’ve come up against that wall of doubt on many occasions, and when I was younger I often let it get the best of me, literally. My best ideas and my bravest moments where left on the drawing board for fear of failing and having all my worst flaws exposed.


These days I’ve learned to assume a thing is possible until I know for sure it isn’t. This allows me to investigate with confidence and move forward with less trepidation. So here are a few tips I’ve gleaned over the years that make this road a bit smoother. They may help bring your braver self to the surface next time success is calling and you’re shaking in your boots:


1. One is a lonely number.

Going it alone is a recipe for failure. Successful people know that bringing in a partner, mentor, or trainer is essential to tackling the seemingly impossible. They help us get unstuck with a new approach. Recently one of my mentors helped me overcome a huge fear with one 30-minute chat. She taught me to change my approach and I took on my fear with great success.

2. Assume the world is conspiring to help you succeed.

One of my mentors, Darren Hardy, recently wrote about being “Inverse Paranoid”. A couple weeks ago I feared calling a new contact…they hadn’t got back to me, they seemed disinterested in my work. I considered not making the phone call only to face rejection. Then I remembered Darren’s advice. I assumed they were trying to figure out a way to bring me in to train their staff and my tone on the call completely changed. Guess what? They WERE trying to bring me in…but had funding challenges. My change in attitude changed their mind; they asked me to send a proposal anyway and they'd somehow find the money.

3. Daring Greatly.

Brene Brown’s book took its cue from the “other” great Roosevelt, Theodore. He said, “The credit belongs to the man…whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Good god, it doesn’t get much better than that. Brene’s book encourages us to be vulnerable. This is the opposite of weakness, she says. When we need courage to do what we fear will gut us, we simply change our expectations. Perfect is not our friend…sometimes our first try isn’t pretty; mine usually isn’t. Once I learned this life rule, taking risks got a whole lot easier. My goal became to take a thing on as best I could and do it better the next time around. Much less pressure!

I don’t have enough time to tell you how these tips have changed my life. The time I worked up the courage to live in Switzerland by myself at age 24….the great job I left to start my own business…reaching out to re-connect with family after 20 years. I hope they serve you just as well and allow you to take on those challenges calling your name. Here’s to all of us daring greatly in 2015!




To Get Ahead, Get a Mentor

Posted on May 22, 2015 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

We all know the importance of mentors for children, our FSS clients, and even elite CEO’s, but did you know that having a mentor (or two or ten) yourself can be your own secret weapon to a successful career?


Many years ago I stumbled into my first mentor by accident, and it forever changed the course of my life. I learned so much from a new friend over our weekly coffee dates I began researching the theories she mentioned and implementing them into my nonprofit program. My career took off, and I haven't looked back.


Since then I’ve added mentors in nearly every area of my life. I take time in choosing them, listen to their sage advice, and thank them profusely for sharing their wisdom. Mentors are people who already have something we want…the career, the marriage, experience, confidence, style, income, parenting style, degree, skill set…you recognize it in them and feel that slight pang of jealousy. “I wish I could do that.”


The first step is realizing it’s ok not to know how to do everything yourself. Successful people know that asking for advice is the best way to the top. Here’s how we can use this strategically in our own lives:


1. List what you’d like to look different in your life.

This puts your brain on notice that you’re looking for people with specific skills. Brain scientists understand that we only see what we’re looking for. It’s called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), and it’s why we notice every Honda Accord on the road once we decide to buy one. You’ll be shocked at the mentors who show up once you begin looking.

2. Once you notice a potential mentor, wait.

Survey their behavior a bit longer to make sure they have integrity and a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Nothing will derail your goals faster than bad advice from someone who looked successful at first glance, but turned out to be a train wreck. We’re not going for flash here. As Cesar says, we’re looking for calm assertive energy. If they pass your test, take time to notice exactly what it is you admire about them and write it down. When you ask them to be your mentor, mention these very characteristics.


3. Ask people you think are out of your league. This can be really scary, but it’s how we get to the next level. We talk with people who show us how to become better by doing the things we think we cannot do. A good mentor can see your potential before you can…so make sure you invite people into your life who have blazed a trail you can’t even imagine walking yet. This is especially true of career mentors.


4. Meet regularly and add more.

Ask to meet 2-4 times per year to bounce ideas and brainstorm with you. This sets expectations, but also holds you accountable to meet regularly. Before you make a big decision, set up a coffee date and ask their advice. If you’re feeling stuck, shoot them an email and ask if you could run a challenge by them. You’ll quickly discover that no one person is an expert in everything, and you’ll want to add more mentors for different areas in your life.


5. Pay attention and get out of that comfort zone.

Remember that you chose these mentors to show you how to get better, not stay the same. So when they give you sage advice, unless it goes against every moral fiber in your body, push past your fears and go for it. And remember, no one likes to be asked for their opinion only to have you contradict them, so ask your questions and then stop talking. Listen to what they say and literally take notes. This is how they know you appreciate them.


6. Look for mentors in unusual places.

We often make the mistake of thinking that the only worthwhile advice comes from people earning six figures or writing their tenth NY Times Best-Seller. I have found the opposite to be true. Sure, some of my mentors are NY Times Best-Sellers, but the ones who have had the most profound impact are people you’ve never heard of. I learned a long time ago that some of the best advice came from “average” people…the modest master-facilitator, the quiet professor, the supportive supervisor. But keep in mind books, blogs, and websites are also great “mentors” in their own right. Every few years I read the same financial book and learn something new each time. It’s about how valuable the advice is and less about where you find it.


You may find it easier to begin with a more distanced approach at first, so here are a couple "mentors" to get you started. Check out their websites, blogs, and books...they are epic advice-givers who are sure to push you to the next level:



  •  Darren Hardy: 


He offers smart, no-nonsense video messages delivered to your email daily for FREE.


  • Barbara Stanny:  


She offers Monthly Money Mondays, a FREE call-in session to answer your questions on career and finances.


So try a few of these on for size and let me know what you find; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the changes that come about once you begin reaching out. Btw, this advice is just as valuable for your FSS clients, so feel free to print this out and share it with them. You may just become THEIR newest mentor!



5 Steps Every FSS Client Must Complete

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I hear it all the time from FSS coordinators and leadership:

“Why don’t our clients just do the work?! We offer them great classes, we give them referrals to resources, and they still aren’t making the leap off the voucher!”

I hear you loud and clear…you’re frustrated. And you’re not alone. Here’s a piece of information that may get you seeing your clients AND yourself in a whole new light.

A while back one of my mentors gave me some insight that changed forever how I looked at my program participants. It’s called the 5 Stages of Change. Have you heard of them? It goes something like this:

Before humans (our clients, you and me, celebrities, world leaders, pretty much everyone) make a change in their lives, we must go through the 5 Stages of Change:

1. Precontemplation: Simply put, in this stage we aren’t aware anything is wrong. We’re happy as a clam smoking, charging clothes on credit cards, living on the Section-8 voucher, etc.


2. Contemplation: In this stage we’re starting to get uncomfortable. The smokers cough, our dodgy credit score, frustration with annual recertification…you get the picture. But we’re not ready to do anything about it yet, we’re just starting to feel the pain so to speak.


3. Preparation: Now we’re thinking in terms of “what-if”. What if I wanted to quit smoking…would I use the patch, chew the gum, talk to my doctor? What if I wanted to be self-sufficient…would I qualify for college financial aid, what kind of job could I get that would pay the bills?


4. Action: This is where we dip our toe in the water and take the leap of faith. We get the prescription for the nicotine patch, we make an appointment with the college advisor. In this stage our progress is still fragile…we’re trying our new decision on for size to see how it affects other areas of our life.


5. Maintenance or Relapse: This is the crucial stage of success. We either incorporate the new habit or mindset, or we relapse back to our old ways. The good news is that we are now aware we aren’t happy with the way things are, so we only go back to Stage 3.


Now why is this important when dealing with our FSS clients? Well there are several reasons:

1. Relevence: Each of us has to go through EVERY one of the 5 steps for each change we make. You may be pushing your clients to take action when they’re still in stage 1 or 2. Can you see how your call to action would fall on deaf ears if they haven’t reached the “what-if” or toe-dipping stage yet?


2. Effectiveness: When we take the time to understand which stage our clients are experiencing at the moment, it lessens our frustration with them. They’re human, just like us. If we gauge where they are right now, we can tailor our message to help them get to the next stage where progress is much more likely. In addition, you can track progress in an entirely new way. If you can get a client from stage 1 to stage 3…well that’s a big accomplishment. In the past, you might have overlooked this crucial step as a blip on the screen. But using this method you’ll be able to see huge shifts in attitude for the important achievements they are.


3. Engagement: I gave this type of information to my clients when I had my own FSS program. Once they understood the process they immediately began to ask themselves questions about the stage they were in. You can actually develop a questionnaire to help them. My program participants loved exercises like this where they could learn about themselves…most adults do. They also appreciate that you took the time to give them a tool they can use over and over again in their lives, and they begin to look to you for more ways of learning about themselves.


So give this a try with our own clients and let me know what you find. I think you’ll see increased engagement from participants, and maybe even a little change in yourself as well!



FSS Staff: What's Your Biggest Challenge Right Now?

Posted on April 30, 2015 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

When working with my FSS teams as a consultant, the first thing I do is the good, bad, AND the ugly. I listen to their crazy ideas that just might work, their frustrations, their dreams for their program. It's the most important first step in any relationship. When people feel seen and heard, they immediately relax. Only then can we begin to do great work together.


From time to time I call out to FSS Managers and Coordinators around the country to ask what challenges are on their plate at the moment...what problem just won't go away no matter how hard they've tried...and I listen.


One of my best tips for solving a nagging problem is to talk with other people outside your everyday tribe. Get out of your comfort zone and strike up conversation with people you've never met. And then listen to what they have to say. This is how you learn about techniques that never occurred to you. Get out of your own head for a'll be surprised at what you learn!


So in the spirit of listening and learning with our fellow FSS teams around the country, I'm sending out this question to you:


"What is your biggest challenge right now?"


Here's to listening to a larger tribe and learning something new!



Why Martha Stewart is Ruining Your FSS Program

Posted on April 14, 2015 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (4)

Does it ever feel like you just can't get people interested in your FSS program? You're not alone! This morning I was chatting with an amazing FSS coordinator on the east coast who runs a knock-out program....but she couldn't fill all her slots. Sound familiar?




There ARE a few things we as coordinators can do to help people see FSS as the chance of a lifetime. The first step is to ask ourselves this question....




Are we using the "Martha" or the "Oprah" approach in our program?




There are two ways of trying to help people. The first is giving information. The second is much more effective...transformation.




You see, if I want to know how to bake a cake I go to Martha Stewart's website, get the information and I'm done. It's a one-shot deal. There's no transformation. That's not the's set up with her as the expert and me doing what she says. I can't relate to her...she's too perfect and she's happy retaining her status as the expert.




But Oprah....well that's a different story. She says she's just like us...she has flaws and she's learning to overcome them. She's our peer she says, she's on the same journey as we are. She brings in books and experts and makes it fun to learn. It's all about transformation. Yes, she may be a few steps ahead of us, but we can relate to her...she's imperfect and "learned" her way to becoming a billionaire...we see her as a mentor, not an expert.




For some this may seem a bit woo-woo at first, but outcomes don’t lie. Using this method with my own FSS participants produced clients who:




• Earned $30k / $40k / $50k+ per year


• Earned undergraduate and graduate degrees


• Funded savings AND retirement accounts


• Embraced healthy relationships


• Paid off large amounts of debt


• Became homeowners....without foreclosure


• Turned in their Section-8 vouchers


• Became homeowners.




Not just a few of them....a LOT of them. Not just the "easy" clients....the tough ones too.




Interestingly, most FSS programs have a MARKETING problem. Our programs often give off the "Martha" vibe instead of the Oprah feel. Here are a few ways to adjust that:




1. Your Website


When working with FSS teams, one of the first things I do is check out their website.




• Does it list all the program requirements instead of creating a vision?


• Does it make finding info about FSS easy?


• Does it give a phone number and first name of the coordinator to TALK with?


• Does it require filling out a form to get information?


• Is it just a list of outcomes?




Potential participants are worried they don’t have a shot in hell of changing their circumstances. They're looking to us to inspire them. We can use our website to start this process.




• Use videos of previous clients talking about how FSS helped them achieve a life they never thought possible.


• Get rid of "passive barriers" like filling out forms to get basic information


• Post stories of people who overcame huge hurdles to eventually turn in their voucher.


• Post a (friendly) photo of the FSS coordinator they will be talking to when they call




2. The Invitation


In person is always best. I found that hosting inspiring orientations to be one of the most effect ways to invite people into FSS. These days I work with FSS teams around the country, and one of the things I do is show them how to create an orientation that leaves people THRILLED to enroll.




Here are a few tips to help turn a “Martha” orientation into an “Oprah” event:




• Invite 2-3 “mentors” to share their own story with the group about their journey from Section-8 to self-sufficiency


• Use music to set the vibe


• Include inspiring videos


• Use words and body language that draw people in rather than push them away…this is not an office presentation, we’re here to inspire. If this doesn’t come naturally to you just yet, you can watch videos online of inspiring speakers and study their methods. Here’s a tip, watch a Martha Steward video and do the opposite!




3. First Impressions


This calls for a tough look in the mirror. We're "selling" the possibility of a life of thriving, and if we're not able to create that for ourselves, potential clients can smell it a mile away. Here’s where the rubber meets the road.




• Are our own finances in order?


• Are we earning what we’re worth?


• Are we contributing to our own retirement account?


• Do we have our own mentors we meet with regularly?


• Are we taking responsibility for our own mental health?


• Are our own relationships healthy and drama-free?




We don't have to be perfect, we just have to be actively working on these areas. This gives us personal insight into what our clients are challenged with and they sense that...even in the orientation.




So go out there and try a few of these on for size....I'd love hear about your challenges and success.


Here's to all of us brave enough to try something new this year!