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ACE Blog

Because the mission of ACE is to foster 'Success through Collaboration', the Membership is resolved to promote internal communication and to enable interchange. One effective means to accomplish these objectives is through Blog activity to broaden the audience for thoughts, activities, and successes. 

This forum enables the members to share expertise and learning regarding topics of interest to the consultant community or to call attention to key work and current activities. However, areas of focus and expertise are better displayed in the Member Directory.

  • August 09, 2021 4:06 PM | Tove Rasmussen

    To be released soon.

  • July 26, 2021 4:45 PM | Lisa Whited

    Times have changed.  

    Since COVID-19 caused a mass exodus from offices in March 2020, 47% of employees who have been working from home would rather quit than go back to the office full time. However, many employers want their people back in the office – and many bosses want them there five days a week. In what could be a rude awakening for company leaders, 94% of employees say they would like to work remotely 1 to 4 days a week.

    Employees’ resistance to returning to the office is not surprising. People proved that they could be productive while working remotely; money is no longer the only compensation employees expect from employers. They want choice of when and where to work.

    And there are good reasons to change with the times.

    Employees experienced improved productivity while working from home. Prior to the lockdown, primary complaints about the office were 1) noise, 2) constant interruptions and 3) no quiet places to focus to escape distractions. Working from home gave people the peaceful, productive spaces they craved. Of course, not all home working situations are equal – home-schooling parents and employees with roommates did not have quite the same experience.

    Approximately 40% of jobs can be accomplished remotely at least some of the time. Leesman, an organization which measures workspace performance globally, has one of the largest databases on workplace effectiveness and workspace performance. Leesman has data showing that employees ranked their productivity while working at home at 83% whereas they ranked productivity while working in an office at 64% (pre-Covid).

    Most employees indicate they want to spend some time in the shared office – socializing, collaborating, and connecting with colleagues. They believe that the office can better support activities that require learning and brainstorming. The results of a recent client survey showed that 60% of respondents would use the shared office for collaboration and 72% would use their home office for heads-down work. When in the office, 53% indicated they also needed places to focus and do independent work.

    Bricks and mortar aren't all they are cracked up to be.

    Here are some known facts about office space:

    • Before COVID-19 workstations and desks were empty 40% to 60% of the time.
    • Private offices were empty 73% of the time.
    • Commercial buildings contribute 39% to carbon emissions.

    Office spaces are often vacant because many of the tasks performed by knowledge workers allow people to be mobile – they are in meetings, off site with clients, sitting in spaces with colleagues talking and brainstorming, or sitting in a quiet area (when they found one!) using their laptop. Employees no longer need to be tethered to one place in an office and they often welcomed that ability to roam. Employees were instinctively finding their own means of escape, not from work, but from working conditions.

    A possible solution: shared space.

    What do new work habits and empty spaces mean for the role of the office in the future? If employees can embrace the idea of sharing workspaces with other people, then there is a world of possibilities for businesses. Let’s pause right here – because this one idea of sharing desks often opens a tsunami of objections.

    We share many things in our day-to-day lives. We share bus, train, and plane seats. We share library books, church pews, restaurant tables and shopping carts. In our homes if we live with others, we share kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms. In our offices we share meeting rooms, lunchrooms, and restrooms. There are four things we never share: our toothbrush, our bed pillow, our cellphone, and our desk.

    Once we recognize that we do not need to have a workstation assigned to us, and if we are provided a variety of spaces to choose to work from (including private focus rooms in the office, window seats, sit/stand desks, library zones, lounge areas, and home offices) then we can reimagine a workplace that has a smaller footprint, and allows us to better connect and collaborate with colleagues.

    Having a desk assigned to you in 2021 is not sustainable. It is as crazy as expecting the supermarket to provide you a shopping cart with your name on it for your use only. I hear the cries of, “What about the photos of my family?” and “I want to personalize my surroundings!”

    Your family and friends matter, of course, but how about putting their photos on your screensaver? You want to express your personality? Awesome – create a personality wall that includes images and information about all of your coworkers in a space where more can view it (this expression can be physical, and it can be digital).

    We know that 80% of people worldwide are not engaged in their work (Gallup Poll). Research shows that connection to purpose is an intrinsic human motivator. It may not be glaringly apparent where you are employed, but you are part of a company that is working hard to make a difference for others. The vision and mission of the organization that you are devoting your waking hours to should inspire you and make you feel like you are contributing to that goal. This is why installing story walls in an office is such a great way to provide a visual reminder for anyone in the space. Story walls are not “brag” walls to attract clients and customers; they are creative expressions of how the company is making a difference with its work – illustrating the organizational values and purpose – and exist solely to inspire employees.

    Less space translates to lower cost and a smaller carbon footprint.

    Remote work can result in significant overhead savings for businesses. A global insurance company recently determined that it could save 82% of its real estate expense by embracing hybrid work and downsizing its real estate portfolio. As commercial buildings contribute so much to carbon emissions, both in their construction and in their operation, using less space can also be good for the planet.

    Imagine this: an office that is beautiful, one-half to two-thirds the size of its previous version, and where people leave the space at the end of the day feeling more energized and engaged than when they arrived. Envision a business that exceeds profitability projections, has its highest retention and engagement numbers, and contributes to achieving a net zero outcome.

    That stuffed bear collection on your office bookcase? Sorry, that needs to go. Not only is it collecting dust, but wouldn’t a little kid somewhere in the world benefit from having a lovable stuffy?

    Rethinking the purpose of the office can engage employees, build community, and improve your bottom line. Now is the time to create the world of work that is better for the planet and great for people.

    #   #   #

    Lisa Whited is founder and chief transformation officer of Workplace Transformation Facilitation based in Portland, Maine. She is also a senior associate for Advanced Workplace Associates, a global workplace change management consultancy, based in the UK. Lisa’s first book, “Work Better. Save the Planet will be published in the summer of 2021.

    Find links to Lisa’s presentationsBuild Community and Drive Innovation with Remote Work” (Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Growth Basics for Business, June 2020). “Is the Hybrid Work Model a Sustainable Model?” (WorkInSync, July 2021).   Check back for a link to her ACE presentation last month.

    Lisa will participate in a panel on The Modern Workplace August 25, 2021 at the MaineBiz Small Business Forum.

  • May 17, 2021 1:06 PM | Carrie Green (Yardley) (Administrator)

    coming soon.

  • February 24, 2021 3:49 PM | Carrie Green (Yardley) (Administrator)

    In the age of virtual meetings, no one seems to think twice about hitting the record button. When a recording captures a prepared presentation, though, it is important to respect the author/presenter’s copyright in the material.

    What is a copyright?  A copyright is a legal right granting the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.  Note the plural: a copyright is not a single right; it is a bundle of rights.  The owner of the copyright has the rights to:  

    Copy the work

    Distribute the work

    Display the work

    Perform the work; and

    Adapt the work.

    These rights are independent.  If an author gives someone the right to copy a long passage from a book, that does not mean that the author has granted them right to distribute the copy, to read it aloud to an audience, to set it to music, or to hang it on a wall.  Each of these would require separate permission from the author.

    What is a Creator?  

    Every time an original work takes on a new form, the person transforming the work becomes a creator for purposes of copyright. A performance is considered a new “original” work, even though it is derived from the work of another author. The same is true of a recording of the performance.  The performance and the recording are both considered “derivative works,” a term of art in copyright law.  The original author controls who can make derivative works.

    Therefore, authors are creators, presenters are creators, and recorders are creators.  They have copyrights as follows:

    The author of the speech has copyright in the speech.
    The presenter has copyright in the performance.

    The recorder has copyright in the recording.

    What does this mean to creators of derivative works, such as presenters and recorders?

    Practically speaking, the author of the presentation must agree that the presenter can perform it.  The author and the presenter must agree to record.  The distributor (often the organizer) must have permission from the author, presenter, and recorder to distribute.  

    Internet Realities. 

    Content can now be captured, edited, and distributed with a few keystrokes.   New content is always in demand. There’s a lot of unlicensed content floating around the internet, being linked, copied and pasted with reckless abandon.  

    We won’t explore the ins and outs of working with highly compensated speakers – they have agents for that.  However, it is not that difficult to stay on the right side of copyright law if you are an organizer, nor is it particularly difficult to exercise reasonable control over your content if you are an author or presenter. 

    Real World Advice.

    Remember that once content hits the internet, it is very hard to get the genie back in the bottle, and this is where you need to focus.   The last thing presenters and organizers want is viral infamy, so it is in everyone's interest to agree what content will be uploaded, and how it will look before clicking “Post.”

    • Talk about the issues up front.  At most local business presentations, the speech's author is also the presenter.  The organizer and the presenter should always have a candid conversation about how the content will be used.  Most speakers will agree to recording, but increasingly they want to know where it will be posted, and how it might be edited.  They may want to know if the organizer intends to charge for access, or if access is limited, who it will be limited to. 
    • Be proactive.  Presenters: If you show slides, brand them.  If you provide downloadable material, brand it.  If you present from a remote location, brand your background.  Organizers:  Think about co-branding.
    • Write it down.  Many organizers have a standard presenter contract. It should cover recording and distribution rights, revenue sharing, co-branding requirements, etc.  Frequent presenters should have their own standard agreement.  If your primary motivation is to get your name in front of new audiences, and not money, your contract can be straightforward and unintimidating.  Think about how you want audiences to see you and make sure you retain reasonable control. 
    • Be flexible.  Both creating the presentation and getting it ready for distribution are hard work.  Appreciate the contributions of your better half.  Do not automatically reject requests because they are not your usual deal.  You might pick up some ideas you’ve never thought of.  A mentor once told me that “every deal is an opportunity to review your forms.”   
    • Content is valuable.  Presenters should ask for copies of the recording for a copy of the recording, and for permission to recycle it as a derivative work for your own purposes.

  • February 08, 2021 1:31 PM | Rick Pollak

    How to Eliminate Zoom Gloom

    Virtual meetings don’t have to be boring. Concise and compelling content is what captures and keeps the attention of a remote audience. This blog post will show you successful strategies to run virtual meetings that leave the participants energized instead of exhausted.

    Two of the major causes of Zoom gloom are:

    1. Lack of direction
    2. Content overload

    Here’s how you can improve both the management and presentation content of your remote video meetings.

    A Made in Maine Success Story

    Marty Grohman and Adelaide Taylor at the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech) have successfully pivoted from in-person meetings to virtual events. Their expertise in hosting live events with multiple panelists and Q & A sessions helps them plan virtual meetings that keep their audience engaged.  

    E2Tech meetings have multiple speakers in multiple locations. To avoid communications glitches, they plan practice rounds with each speaker using the setup they’ll be using during the meeting. The speakers also rehearse sharing their slides to prevent surprises the day of the event.

    Marty and Adelaide also coach their speakers on how to become effective remote presenters. They make sure presenters have their webcam at eye level, their phones muted, and their pets and kids far away from the camera and microphone.

    Their advance direction results in virtual sessions that replicate the “buzz in the room” of their live events.

    How to Declutter Your Virtual Presentations

    Direction isn’t enough to cure boring presentations. The secret to giving an interesting virtual talk is to distill everything you want to say into just what needs to be said. Cutting the information clutter and making your point quickly and concisely will engage your audience more effectively than asking poll questions or asking for “thumbs up” emojis. 

    Your slides need to be visually appealing and easy to understand. Putting only one idea on a slide is a good way to keep your audience engaged. Showing a barrage of boring bullet points on a single slide will tempt your remote audience to check their e-mail or head to the fridge. Once you lose their attention, you’ll have a hard time getting it back.

    When I’m coaching speakers for TEDx talks or business presentations, I ask them to define their big idea and call to action (CTA). Here are two questions to ask yourself or your speakers to help structure a compelling talk:

    1. If you just had one thing to tell the audience, what would it be?
    2. When you finish your presentation, the audience will (fill in the blank)

    Once you’ve determined your big idea and CTA, the next step is to work the three “cons” into your presentation.

    Connection, Context, and Contrast

    Here’s how to use connection, context, and contrast (the three “cons”) to develop a presentation that makes your audience care, remember, and act.

    Connection is an effective way to give your audience a reason to care. When you explain “what’s in it for me” from their point of view, you’re letting them know you understand and care about their situation. When your material focuses on the audience instead of yourself, you’ll build trust and get them to remember and care about your big idea.

    Context is a powerful tool that helps your audience understand your big idea. Using analogies and metaphors that reference a concept familiar to the audience are a good way to explain your material. When Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPod, he didn’t mention the size of the unit or the number of gigabytes in the hard drive. Saying “a thousand songs in your pocket” was a successful use of context to explain his big idea and get people excited enough to follow his CTA to buy the music player.

    Contrast and context are a dynamic duo. Once you’ve established context, you can use contrast to differentiate your solution from the status quo. The stronger the contrast you show between before and after, or with and without, the higher the probability the audience will follow your call to action. If your contrast isn’t compelling, chances are they won’t act on your big idea. Presentation materials (slides and stories) that effectively contrast your big idea with the status quo will help convince the audience that following your CTA will help them achieve their goals.

    Are you using all three “cons” when you’re presenting? Are the speakers in the meetings you’re running connecting with the audience and using context and contrast to explain their big idea?

    Your Call to Action

    There’s a lot you can do to eliminate Zoom gloom. Using the strategies in this blog post will help you run virtual meetings that engage your participants. If you provide direction and help speakers declutter their content, you’ll end up with a smooth-running virtual meeting with clear, concise, and convincing presentations.

    Rick Pollak is the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring virtual presentations. He coaches speakers for TEDx talks, executive presentations, and technical workshops. Rick is a member of ACE, and president of ACE’s sister organization, Boston-based Society of Professional Consultants. He can be reached at

  • December 28, 2020 2:16 PM | Tom Renehan

    Why is it important for the leaders and managers in any organization to use coaching as part of their leadership style? There are a growing number of organizational leaders who recognize the importance of coaching in their companies. They see that effective coaching by leaders at all levels will empower, engage and develop employees. According to a 2016 survey by the Human Capital Institute the business case for a strong coaching culture is higher employee engagement and higher revenues.

    What Will Prohibit a Coaching Culture?

    Many will tell you that they do not have the time to be a coach. The red flag here is your managers are telling you they do not have the time for the people for whom they are responsible. If managers do not have time for employees, they (employees) know and feel it which can lead to a disengaged team. Another reason is the lack of accountability. If the leaders of an organization want a coaching culture they need to:

        Develop the skills themselves.

      Provide professional development for all leaders to learn coaching skills.

      Hold all accountable to use the skills (hint, put it on their personal     development plan).

    In other words, one just cannot say we want a coaching culture and expect it to happen. Finally, some leaders or managers will not be able to add coaching skills to their leadership style. Effective leaders would take appropriate action as their company permits for these non-responding individuals.

    What Are Coaching Skills?

    The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has identified eleven skills to be an effective coach. Some top skills are, establishing trust, asking powerful questions, being open, flexible and confidant and practice active listening.

    For the leaders and associates establishing trust will be the foundation for a solid coach/coachee relationship. Leaders build trust by being honest and supportive, show the team that you genuinely care about them and by being competent. This will promote open communication and constructive feedback for both.

    A leader who is asking powerful questions is helping associates discover their own insights. Asking open ended questions to get the other party to speak and being comfortable with dead air (allow time for responses) are both good practices for effective questioning. Powerful questions are simple but meaningful and should always have a purpose. Michael Bungay Stanier author of The Coaching Habit focuses on seven questions leaders can use to help their teams.

    The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?

    The Awe Question: And what else?

    The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?

    The Foundation Question: What do you want?

    The Lazy Question: How can I help?

    The Strategic Question: If you’re saying “yes” to this, to what are you saying “no”?

    The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?

    A leader who is open and flexible is showing employees that their way is not the only way. In other words, these leaders are receptive to other thoughts and ideas and they do not have to have all the answers.

    Great listening skills are essential for a coach! Many of us have learned that active listening is making eye contact, nodding and appropriate responses show you are engaged in the conversation. In addition, great listeners will ask clarifying questions to promote understanding. This will create a deeper conversation and result in the associates feeling that they have been heard.

    Coaching Culture Conclusion.

    Implementing a coaching culture, like any cultural change, will take time. The senior leaders must invest in the employee’s development with the appropriate training. All stakeholders must be held accountable. Senior leaders need to walk the talk and become coaches themselves, all leaders in the organization need to be held accountable to practice the coaching skills they have learned and employees must own the coaching the receive.

    Over time in your organization, you will see that the leaders will understand the difference between coaching, which will empower people to find their way and directing, which will require specific actions.

    Tom Renehan, of Tom Renehan Coaching and Leadership Development, is a Certified Professional Coach working with individuals and groups to improve their leadership skills. He is also certified in Leadership Effectiveness 360, an assessment that measures 22 leadership behaviors. He can be reached at  He is based in Yarmouth, Maine.

  • December 14, 2020 11:46 AM | Francis Eberle (Administrator)

    What’s happened to creativity?

    A client asked me, “Our team has settled into the routine using video for meetings, although everyone seems to be either tired or a little irritable. They are productive, but what can I do to get their creativity back?”

    Productivity is good, isn’t it? Some studies have shown that video meetings can be more productive than face-to-face meetings.  Virtual work skills – managing media-based interactions, establishing communication norms, building social rapport, and demonstrating cooperation – enhance trust within teams and increase performance.

    Where’s the disconnect?   Work gets done, but the team lacks energy or creativity. Team members are not engaged.

    The root of the problem.

    Two factors are at play.  First, the human connection is missing.  Video meetings jump right into the task without socializing. There are no greetings, chit chat, physical taps to say “Hi,” or side conversations before and after the meetings.  There’s sensory deprivation:  no smell of coffee, perfume or even body odor.
    Second, the physical environment never changes.  Those quirky human interactions, and “time away” from our work areas create mental space to clear the mind.  Creativity jumps into that space.

    Productivity isn’t everything.

    Creativity is important.  Today’s challenges are both complicated and complex.  Technical challenges are complicated, but their solutions are linear.  Complex challenges are multidimensional; they are messy, unstable, unpredictable, and ill-defined. They require strategic and innovative thinking, and the solutions cannot be found in a straight line, requiring multiple people or organizations.   They require creativity.

    Connected leadership is a term I use to describe sharing and engaging others as leaders.  Connected leadership facilitates innovation, creativity, and develops new interactions and wide-ranging ideas.  Diverse teams are better teams.  As a leader knowing when to step up and when to step back and let others lead begins to allow for more thinking from others. 

    Several recent studies by Google3, ADP, and Gallup have found that when people in teams are engaged, they are more productive, more creative, and happier.

    Hacks to promote creativity and engagement.

    Thinking differently builds resilience, flexibility, learn and be creative; these are all good for business.  These skills of the future can be developed.  

    Preparing agendas for different types of interaction requires different planning. Mix up meetings so not all have the same level or kind of interaction. Interactive meetings are more inclusive and engaging for all members of a team.  And that encourages creativity.

    Here are some things you can do to promote creativity on your team in video meetings. 

    1.      Simplify the Number of Digital Tools. Stick with one or two platforms to minimize glitches.   Learn them well.   Resist the allure of new technology; your team members will thank you if they do not have to learn a new platform every few months. 

    2.      Individual AND Group Brainstorming.  Group brainstorming is over-rated.  Individuals can be more effective than groups in generating new idea, if you give them time to think. Have your team members brainstorm individually before a meeting and bring their ideas to the meeting.  Start with the full list of ideas, brainstorm some more, then prioritize them.  Seek contribution from all of the members of the team.

    3.      Create Opportunities to Connect.  Remember you are working with humans, and humans need to connect. Design a variety of groupings, breakouts, of people.  Let them be together for enough time to express their ideas and to chat.  Bring them back, discuss the ideas.  Send the ideas back to the groups. Mix them up to discuss if time allows.  

    4.      Encourage Transition Space. Provide transition time between meetings. End them early.  Don’t meet on Fridays.  Take lunch breaks away from screens.  Encourage team members to make a clean break from the work day.  Rather than respond to email, suggest that they “commute” back to personal time by doing what they need to distinguish personal time from work: cooking, spending time with family, yoga.  Let them know it’s fine to take a walk around or go outside and walk if time allows. They shouldn’t feel compelled to stay glued to their screens; they can stand up and walk away from their workspaces when they feel stale.

    5.      Loosen up. The possibilities are endless:  costumes, screen shots of silly faces, stories of embarrassing moments of video calls.  I saw a photo of a leader wearing h a funny hat and expression; it became a team meme – with stickers.

    6.      Adjust Timelines.  Spread sessions over several days so the team can think about the task between sessions. Rather than strive for 100% productivity, understand that some tasks take longer without face-to-face communication.

    7.      Diverge and Converge.  Zooming in and out is great for planning and thinking about strategy or goals.  Zoom out for a couple of sessions.  Ask “What else?” at least three times. Then rank the ideas for as a way to solve the problem.  Take the top three and zoom in.  Focus on each idea and explore it in depth.  If one seems best, zoom out again to predict the larger implications of the idea to the company, customers, and partners.

    For more about creativity and team dynamics contact

    Read more about connected leadership in my new book:  Connected Leadership, engaging your workforce to lead themselves. Aloha Publishers.

    Further reading:

    Dulhigg, Charles and Graham, James. “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” NewTimes Company, 2016.

    Ferrazzi, Keith. (2014). Getting Virtual Teams Right. Harvard Business Review. December.

  • November 28, 2020 2:37 PM | Dana Morris-Jones

    John Shorb co-authored this post. 

    Great leaders are not born with mystical qualities.  Leadership is about the ability to take advantage of opportunities to develop yourself and rise to the challenges you are handed. Contrary to conventional wisdom, leadership is not about ambition, charisma, or gaining power.

    Hallmarks of an Effective Leader

    Effective leaders have certain tried and true qualities in common:

    ●        Self-knowledge: Awareness of personal predispositions and preferred styles, use of self-knowledge to inform choices and decisions, being open to feedback

    ●        Culture: Understanding the importance of culture, ability to create organizational culture based on values, and establish consistent practices and policies to reinforce it

    ●        Alignment: Clarity about the organization's purpose and values, ability to align structures and practices with values, and build relationships across and within all parts of the organization in support

    ●        Motivation & Engagement: Understanding what motivates people to do their best work and ability to create culture and practices that create those conditions

    ●        Building High Performing Teams:  Ability to align mission, goals, roles, practices and relationships to maximize team effectiveness

    ●        Leading Change: Recognition that change is constant and having the ability to adapt, able to engage others in accepting and implementing change including communication and conflict resolution

    Leadership is learned…….

    Jim Collins, a highly regarded expert in the leadership field, says under the right circumstances – with self-reflection, a mentor, a significant life experience – the seeds of leadership begin to develop. The problem is, how do you create those circumstances if they have not come to you?

    ……Therefore, it can be taught.

    This was a question posed by alumni of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ business development programs.  “Business founders who had gone through other MCE programs were telling us ‘It’s lonely out there’, says Skip Bates, Senior Vice President of Bangor Savings Banks and Director of’ Main Street Banking. He joined the MCE board last November. “They need trusted colleagues confronting similar issues, and access to leadership expertise.”

    “MCE’s programs are designed to offer a continuum of care from early-stage startups to national distribution,” according to Tom Rainey, Executive Director of MCE. “A leadership program was an obvious next step for us.” At the same time as these ideas were forming, staff of the newly launched University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center (Maine Center) wondered how they could best support growing businesses in Maine and provide development opportunities for their leaders. The Maine Center brings together programs in law, business, policy, and public health to provide interdisciplinary educational opportunities for graduate students and Maine professionals.

    The Visionary Leadership Program (VLP) is a collaboration between MCE, Bangor Savings Bank, and the Maine Center and launched in early October. Through monthly virtual meetings, the VLP builds a strong peer group for emerging business leaders, develops leadership skills and tools for today’s business challenges, and introduces participants to experienced Maine business and thought leaders. Facilitated by Skip Bates and Alexa Dayton, COO at the Maine Center, the sessions feature a lineup of leaders from the Maine business and leadership communities. The pilot cohort has 16 members representing a range of sectors and businesses from across Maine.

     “Strong leadership drives the economy, and leadership can be cultivated through a combination of information sharing and experience sharing,” said Alexa Dayton. “VLP is an approachable program, designed for growing Maine businesses. It’s responsive to what the participants need to know to be successful Maine leaders and for their businesses to excel.”

    Learning through Experience

    The experiential aspects of the program are critical. One goal of the VLP is to help each participant take advantage of their current situation to move closer to that ideal by exchanging past experiences with one another and continuing to use one another as a sounding board as they apply what they have learned. Participants work together to apply concepts as well as complete assignments related to their own business situations.

    Marada Cook, General Manager of Crown O’ Maine, participated in the first Cultivator class, and accepted the invitation to be in VLP’s pilot cohort. Crown O’ Maine is a Kennebec County business distributing product for a network of independent, small to mid-scale food producers from Maine.  “We care a lot about our employees’ experience. I’ve learned more about the different strengths people are showing through their actions, and how to interact with those people in ways that enhance their natural strengths and talents. 

    “My classmates’ experiences are also valuable because our businesses are quite different.  We do one-on-one meetings with another business leader between the sessions.  Crown O’ Maine is a wholesale distributer, but other businesses in the program are retailers. Our customers are retailers.  This is a good opportunity to explore my customers’ perspective through the eyes of a business owner/manager.” 

     “I am honored to be part of this conversation,” says Kerem Durdag, President and CEO of GWI, guest presenter at the November session.. “The pilot group members share experiences, work together to solve real problems, and have volunteered their businesses as classrooms.  They are forward thinking, candid, and are experts in their fields.  VLP provides tools, space, and expertise to help them grow.  I believe, firmly, that theirexperience here will put them in a position to address larger socialchallenges. They are the business leaders we need.”

    Learning to Lead is a Continuing Journey

    Becoming a strong and effective leader is a lifelong pursuit that is never complete. The opportunity to explore and reflect on what that pursuit looks like for oneself, along with a cohort of other leaders, is invaluable. This pilot program will be the first for Maine business leaders who want to further their growth toward leadership greatness, with more to follow.

    Dana Morris-Jones and John Shorb have been principals of The Delphi Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting firm, since 1998.  They will be VLP guest presenters in February 2021. Reach them at or, or 207 883-2333.

    Other Visionary Leadership Program presenters include Kim Pope, David Pease, and Bob Montgomery-Rice from Bangor Savings, Tara Jenkins of Conscious Capitalism, Richard Bilodeau of USM, Steve Musica from Lean East, and Sam Fratoni of Maine Angels.

  • November 16, 2020 4:32 PM | Deleted user

    Finding reliable short-term help for your business can be a daunting task. While a skilled professional member of the gig economy can be one option, an intern can potentially serve you well – if you know how to use their talents effectively.

    Make a plan

    The first step to incorporating and using new talent effectively is developing a detailed understanding of your organization’s needs. Are there specific projects or initiatives that you need help with? What steps will be required to finish them? Breaking a project down into pieces can be a useful exercise, for you, too, and will help you identify areas where you can enlist help.

    Say you’re developing a stakeholder report. You can’t hand off that project to an intern wholesale, but by putting together an outline of the needed pieces, you’ll be able to select areas where an intern can help with research, information assembly, or other tasks.

    A solid understanding and documentation of what you want an intern to accomplish is key to a successful experience for both parties, says Renee Kelly, assistant vice president of the Office of Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Maine and one of the coordinators of the Innovate for Maine Fellowship program, which connects Maine’s best and brightest college students with exciting, growing companies in the state for meaningful internship experiences.

    “An internship is not the same as hiring an employee,” says Kelly. “It’s about a learning experience for the student. Employers shouldn’t expect to find someone who can do everything right out of the gate – part of your responsibility in hosting an intern is to mentor them and teach them and guide them.”

    That mentoring, teaching, and guidance requires active participation from the employer throughout the internship experience.

    “If you want your intern to be engaged, you need to be engaged with your intern,” says Emma Wilson, co-coordinator of UMaine’s Innovate for Maine program. “Most employers want to offer a great experience to an intern, but other demands can get in the way and interns tend to get stuck doing low-level work when they’re capable of much more. Employers who plan projects and organize check-ins around deliverables and goals create a much better and more efficient experience for the intern and for themselves.”

    This is especially important in the COVID-19 era, when an intern may be hired from afar to work remotely.

    “When your intern is not working in your physical office, it’s even more important to establish plans with milestones and connect regularly in a one-on-one virtual meeting,” says Wilson.

    Goal-setting and regular check-ins are key to ensuring that expectations are well understood. Employers should focus on communicating clearly and encourage interns to reiterate assignments to verify that important details have not been lost in translation.   

    Experience not (always) required

    Though you may feel you need a more experienced worker, there are some surprising advantages to incorporating entry-level talent, such as an intern.

    “Interns bring a fresh perspective that can really add value versus being locked into a traditional way of doing things,” says Kelly.

    In addition to helping employers innovate, interns can grow into roles or help reshape them.

    “Sometimes employers don’t realize that an internship can help them develop someone who can hit the ground running,” says Kelly. “It may start out as a short-term need but hiring an intern can help you define or redefine a role and nurture talent for the long term. Productive internship experiences build goodwill and a sense of investment that’s hard to replicate.”

    Finding talent

    Now that you’re armed with some strategies to make effective use of an intern, how do you find one and bring the person on board?

    Colleges and universities are a great place to start, says Kelly, and winter is an ideal time to recruit.

    “You want to start early,” says Kelly. “Students are already exploring their options and starting your own planning process now ensures you’ll be able to onboard your intern swiftly so they can get right to work.”

    Programs such as Innovate for Maine can help employers not only find talent but manage the HR logistics around hiring and training that individual. This can be especially helpful for startups and small businesses who can benefit most from an intern but may lack the hiring infrastructure enabling them to bring a new person in easily.

    “A program such as Innovate for Maine helps identify strong candidates, provides training, supervision and mentoring throughout the internship, and handles all the paperwork, including around payment,” says Kelly. “For early-stage companies or even established businesses, these services can really streamline the process and ensure the employer can focus on providing the best experience possible.”

    To learn more about Innovate for Maine, please visit the program website.

    This is the fourth and final post in ACE’s Blog Series on the Gig Economy.  Our next series will be on Leadership.  It will begin on November 30, 2021 and will run through January 2021.

  • November 02, 2020 9:58 AM | Carrie Green (Yardley) (Administrator)

    As my colleague, Terry Johnson, noted in the first installment in ACE's Gig Economy series: “From an employer’s perspective, independent contractors, hired on a project basis, and free to take on other gigs, may make more sense than a full-time hire in a bad economy.” That having been said, it’s unlikely that employers look at a downturn as an opportunity to replace their workforces with a fleet of contract workers. Moreover, there are legal limits on when it can be done.

    There are serious consequences to misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor, and classification is not always clear-cut. The IRS weighs twenty (20) factors to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.  State laws vary on matters such as workers compensation and tort liability.

    There’s good reason to be cautious. In general, though, these are the usual hallmarks of an independent contractor:

    • The worker is responsible for a result, as opposed to a series of incremental tasks, and is free to determine how the result is achieved;
    • The worker has a skill set, achieved through education or experience qualifying her in a trade (electrician), profession (optometrist), occupation (hair stylist), or business (distributor);
    • The worker keeps profits associated with accomplishing the result cost-effectively;
    • The worker is free to hire or contract with others to assist in accomplishing the result; and
    • The worker is free to offer her skilled services to others, provided she fulfills her contractual obligations.

    Under these circumstances the worker, in most cases, could be an independent contractor or could also be hired as an employee.  At this point a business can look at economics, which will obviously include matters such as insurance, access to benefits, withholding, and payroll taxes, as well as the potential cost of misclassification.

    An employer does not need to be so risk-averse that it automatically puts every worker on the payroll. The legal rules allow a fair amount of flexibility in staffing a project and assembling an expert team.  To take advantage of this flexibility you need to ask a second question:  Who should be the employer?

    Shifting Employer Responsibilities by Contract

    Temporary Agencies

    A temporary staffing agency is a simple example of an alternative employer, and the business model has been around for a long time. Typically, the agency acts as an employer, and is responsible for payroll, payroll taxes, wage and hour requirements, and other legal employer responsibilities.  The agency and the business have a contract where the business pays a set hourly rate for the services of an agency employee, inevitably at a higher rate than if the business had added the worker to its own payroll.

    The temporary agency is both an employer AND an independent contractor in this scenario.  It can provide workers to other businesses.  It can re-deploy its employees once it has fulfilled its contractual obligations.  If it can keep its direct and indirect costs down it will be profitable.

    Creative Variations on the Theme

    With the Gig Economy’s expansion, the staffing industry has developed creative variations on the traditional “temp” theme.

    Ed McKersie, founder of ProSearch, a staffing and recruiting agency in Portland, says that his firm has been increasingly involved with skilled freelancers, particularly in information technology.  ProSearch effectively acts as a matchmaker.  As McKersie describes it, gig workers come to his firm, his team evaluates the skills and experience of that worker and matches them with the staffing needs of the firm’s client, but not necessarily as a “temp hire” or permanent placement.

    Custom-Built Back Rooms For example, if your business is quality winter wear, your suppliers are far away, and a significant portion of your sales is online, you rely heavily on IT, but it’s not your core business.  You may not be able to create an in-house tech team to meet your needs.   Nor do you want to manage a tech team of independent contractor specialists because, quite frankly, you wouldn’t know where to begin.

    Instead, you might consider contracting with a business that has access to a wide variety of IT workers, has the expertise to assemble them into custom-built teams, and coordinates their efforts to deliver the services you need.  The workers might be employees or independent contractors, they may work part time or full time, but that is not your problem to solve. 

    Project Staffing. Besides contracting for a custom-built backroom, an outsourcing strategy can also apply to projects demanding a high degree of expertise across several disciplines.  In this case, the contractor might retain an experienced project manager, then work with the project manager to identify and recruit gig talent to staff the project from a well-vetted portfolio of skilled professionals.

    Note that the service the business buys in these cases is not expertise in a particular profession or trade, but rather the ability to assemble and manage a team that requires different kinds of talent, and the ability to correctly classify employees and contractors, and to serve as an employer when legally required to do so, without risk to the client.

    Before the COVID pandemic, Upwork, a leading digital platform, projected that by 2027 more than half of U.S. workers would be self-employed.  An employer does not need to stretch definitions of employee and independent contractor and risk liability for misclassification.  As the gig economy expands, we can expect to see more creative approaches to allocating employer responsibilities contractually, and honoring employees' legal rights. 

    This is the third installment in the ACE Blog’s series on the Expanding Gig Economy.

    See previous Gig series blog articles:

    Maine’s Expanding Gig Economy, by ACE President, Terry Johnson

    Preparing Yourself Financially to Join the Gig Economy, by Allison Bishop, CPA

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