Consulting Conversations Blog

Consulting Conversations

An ongoing dialogue full of advice and observations from our exceptional team of consultants.

A Conversation with Consultant and Managing Director Alisa Miller 
October 5, 2018

MHS Consulting works with clients during many different phases of executive transitions: succession planning, interim placement, executive search, and coaching. We often find that, while planning and preparation for the transactional aspect of the executive transition are anticipated and thought out, the more personal dynamics of transition are overlooked.

“There’s little information available on the personal and psychological dimensions of transitions from the vantages of the outgoing CEO,” says Rick Stiffney, MHS Consultant and former CEO of MHS. Strategies to off-board and onboard executives are developed, and advice is to “end well” and “exit gracefully.” But what, exactly, does that mean? What does it look like for individuals, boards, and organizations?

Exiting leaders have the responsibility to not only prepare the organization for transition, but to prepare themselves for the next stage. Boards need to ensure they have developed an on-boarding process that clearly defines roles and expectations. And at this year's LeadingAge National, we will be exploring this important topic.

“How well an executive leaves a position is one of the most important and critical leadership legacies an executive can give to an organization and to the incoming leader. Ensuring a positive and smooth transition requires a deep understanding of how to exit gracefully with great thoughtfulness,” says Karen Lehman, current CEO of MHS. “Our session will explore the important emotional and intellectual work needed to prepare for executive transition.”

What do you think is often overlooked during executive transition? Join us in Philadelphia for an in-depth conversation with past and current leaders, experienced consultants, executives, and board members who will discuss how they navigated their own transition. Our session will be held on October 29 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. We hope to see you there!

Alisa Miller

MHS Consulting Managing Director

Want to continue the conversation? Email with your thoughts and observations. 


A Conversation with Consultant Emerson Lesher - Strategic Positioning: When is it Time for Boards to Consider this Option? 
July 9, 2018

There are often times in the organizational life cycle when it is helpful or necessary to consider a new strategic position for the organization. A new strategic position may be needed when the organization is not able to keep up with regulations, has decreasing revenue streams, with the transition of a long-term CEO, even with best efforts the number of persons served is declining, or when the mission is no longer relevant or vital to the original target group served or the larger community.

Exploring a new organizational “strategic position” is different than routinely developing new multi-year “strategic plan.” Strategic position usually takes a more comprehensive approach and there is a sense that more fundamental change is needed for the organization to be effective in carrying out its mission.  Adopting a new strategic position is not just approving a continuing set of plans or goals based for the current operations, but helping to “position” the organization to serve in a way that is mission-driven, financially sustainable, and forward directed.  It is also more than “repositioning” a campus or older building.” Repositioning a campus and building may be part of a larger “strategic positioning” initiative but, goes beyond bricks and physical space.

An exploration of strategic positioning often includes these types of considerations and questions:

  1. Is our mission and vision still relevant and vital, or have we accomplished what the organization was originally formed to accomplish? How should the mission and/or vision change for the next phase of organizational life?
  2. Is the current business model sustainable for the next 5 to 10 years, or do we need to transition into a new business model?
  3. Do we have the leaders, programs, buildings, relationships and operational infrastructure to accomplish our mission and serve our target group?
  4. Does the target group we have served in the past still need or want what we provide? Do we need to change the target group or serve then in a different way?
  5. What are we willing to give up, cut out, or start anew to serve our mission and /or be more sustainable.
  6. As a faith-based organization, how is the Spirit working in new and different ways to which we might respond more effectively?

At least every five years, it is good governance for boards to take the lead in asking this question: “do we have the best strategic position possible for this organization, or is this a good time to explore whether the current position is effective for the next five to ten years?”

It takes trust, courage, and hope to look at strategic positioning, but strong boards will engage their CEO in this important effort, and the organization will be better prepared to accomplish its mission.  

Emerson Lesher, PhD
MHS Consulting Associate

Want to continue the conversation? Email with your thoughts and observations. 


A Conversation with Consultant Dana Smiles 
June 11, 2018

When I enter a community as a consultant, the first thing I assess is the strength of the leadership team. How do we hire talented and skilled leaders at the outset? We focus on their personal traits. Excellent leaders are passionate. We need to find out what they value, and how they react to stress. Are they persistent, yet kind? Do they have a vision, and an idea of how to turn that vision into a reality? We can teach skills, but we can’t teach passion. We can only mentor a leader if they have substantial personal traits to lead according to our mission.

The second thing I assess is if they have been given the tools and resources to mentor the employees who report directly to them. The ability of the leadership team and their sense of urgency to mentor middle managers is an essential goal. If we are to engage our employees in a way that will create satisfying jobs for them and improve our success as a community, this must be a priority.

A task of equal importance is for the leadership team to share openly their management skills with their middle managers. That includes anyone, like those who have informal supervision of employees who work directly with our residents, families and the community. These employees are in their position because of their skills, and basic management training for them is crucial since they have the most opportunity to impact our residents and families.

Through training and mentoring, we can share how we as leaders create an environment of trust and credibility. This will build a bridge between upper leadership, middle management, and direct care employees, resulting in a cohesive team that is working towards the same goal. Then, any employee engagement programs that we implement will be more effective because the employees will be working in an atmosphere of respect and trust.

Dana Smiles
MHS Consulting Associate 

Want to continue the conversation? Email Dana with your thoughts and observations. 


A Conversation with Consultant and CEO Karen Lehman 
May 8, 2018

As I step into my new role as CEO of MHS, I’m most excited about getting to know each of our member organizations—learning the mission and vision of each community and understanding their hopes for the future. I’ve already gained new insights through the member visits I’ve conducted over the past few days, and I truly believe that by attentively listening we will learn new ways of thinking about MHS and how we might better serve our members in the future.

I'm also excited about the strategic direction our consulting group is taking under our new Managing Director, Alisa Miller. As we assess our core services and constituency, I’m looking forward to what new opportunities might be on the horizon. Having been an MHS consultant and now serving as MHS CEO, I’m appreciating this new perspective that allows me to walk in the shoes of our member organizations CEOs. Understanding dynamics of both the board table and C-suit has equipped me to support our clients in uniquely empathic ways.

But what does all this have to do with you? As MHS Consulting clients and potential clients, I want you to know that there is tremendous depth in our practice beyond what is easily visible to most. The qualifications and experience of MHS consultants is incredible. We have persons who carry an in-depth understanding of challenges to organizations, and we have built a team that is more capable than ever of authentically meaningful work.

I truly believe the reason our Consulting team adds so 
much value for our clients is because this work is in our hearts. It's not about getting the job and winning the contract; for us it’s about bringing out Anabaptist, faith-based lens to everything we do and treating every client as though they're our one and only. It’s evident to me that the people who choose to work with us know they're going to get personal service, which in turn makes them wonderful to for us to work with!

So I thank you for taking this MHS Consulting journey with us. I have high hopes for our future and am looking forward to sitting down to talk with each of you soon. In the meantime, be in touch with our Consulting office anytime at or 574-534-9689.

Onward together.

Karen Lehman

Want to continue the conversation? Email with your thoughts and observations.