Two Forum Exercises, Two Lasting Lessons

Kathy McDonough joined The Commonwealth Institute five years ago to participate in a Forum and benefit from peer feedback and support. But when her facilitator introduced an exercise to write a “Focus Report,” McDonough grumbled.

“I thought, ‘I won’t use this. It doesn’t apply to me,’” recalls McDonough, president and chief executive of Community Health Network Inc., a staffing firm in Holliston that provides nurses and physical therapists for homecare and hospice agencies.

Nevertheless, McDonough completed the exercise of identifying the most crucial measures that impact her business. And she’s thrilled with the results.

By drafting a one-page summary of metrics that give an instant snapshot of her firm’s performance, she gains an invaluable tool to track her business. It works so well that she shares the key measures with employees so that everyone focuses on what matters most.

Every quarter, McDonough updates the group on her report that she calls a “work-in-progress.” Other members do the same, exchanging feedback and tweaking their measures accordingly.

A more recent Forum exercise further strengthened McDonough’s leadership. Two years ago, each member articulated the values that drove their business.

“Developing the verbiage around your values helps you and your staff make decisions and talk to customers about what you’re all about,” she says.

When a client attempted to renew a contract at a lower rate, McDonough had already established one of her values—to provide exceptional service rather than chase business at any price.

“The Forum exercise helped me say, ‘This is why I can’t decrease our price,’” she recalls. “I can respond from a stronger place now. It’s a differentiator for us.”