Consulting Conversations Blog

Consulting Conversations

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

 A Conversation with Consultant LaVern Yutzy- Effective, Competent Boards

Many non-profit organizations are encountering challenges and opportunities as they seek to carry out their mission and maintain a viable business plan.  In a rapidly changing environment, a high functioning board in partnership with competent management is essential.  An effective, competent board is a critical part of this equation. 

Boards can increase their governance capacity by paying attention to how they govern.  This is the task of a dedicated Governance Committee, which focuses on developing and strengthening governance practices that make a high functioning board possible. 

Perhaps the most basic responsibility of the Governance Committee is the cultivation and recruitment of new board members.  This is an ongoing process and entails the cultivation of relationships with persons who may be considered for future board assignments.  Boards who invest in building a pool of prospective board members may have a list of 40 or more potential board members to consider.  For further information about recruitment of board members click here. 

Additional tasks often assigned to a Governance Committee include:

  • Overseeing the annual Board self-assessment process and ensuring that a plan for strengthening the board is in place. 
  • Arranging for peer mentoring for new board members for the first two years of their board involvement.
  • Facilitating Board officer continuity.  This may include proactively recruiting new board members with board leadership abilities. 
  • Overseeing the process for orienting new Board members and redesigning the board orientation process as needed
  • Ensuring that a board member job description is available.
  • Monitoring trends and best practices in corporate governance and recommending changes as appropriate.

High functioning boards aren’t just possible, they are essential.  Competent boards are the result of intentional and ongoing efforts to strengthen governance practices.  Additional information about potential duties of a Governance Committee is available here.

LaVern Yutzy, Consulting Associate

MHS Consulting

For more information please contact us at


A Conversation with Consultant Lee Schmucker - Leading With Engagement

At a training program about engagement, a healthcare employee stated:

When I receive a call to work on my day off, I first ask -- who is the team leader today.  If it’s Kim, I’ll rearrange my plans and will be there.  I’d do anything for her.   If the other person is team leader, I’m busy and can’t make it.  She makes work miserable.

This story illustrates the ongoing Gallup research that managers have a significant impact on engagement:  People leave supervisors, not organizations.”  Employee engagement continues to be low.  According to Deloitte 2019 Human Capital Trend, 73% of employees are not engaged. 

Imagine the cost of disengagement.  Imagine the impact on your organization if the engagement level doubled. Or tripled?  What would be different for residents/clients/customers?  For work teams?  For the employee experience?  For retention?  For the organization?

Want to increase the level of engagement?  Deloitte’s 2019 research challenges organizations to  move from focusing on “work experience” (task oriented) to focus on the  “human experience” of working here. 

“In order to create an enduring relationship, be social in nature, and create meaning, experience must come from and be focused on the individual. And that’s where prior attempts at addressing this issue have fallen short and where a future path can be forged.”

Engagement is fostered by a culture of empowerment.  Creating an empowering culture is a journey starting with the leadership team making a strong commitment to a holistic approach.   Supervisors at all levels are key to connecting with employees and fostering empowerment.   Here are guidelines for unleashing the potential of supervisors, managers, and leaders:

  1. Take a holistic approach
  2. Focus on vision and foster ownership in the transformational journey
  3. Commit to a multi-session program that is focused  on progressive learning, application and accountability
  4. Foster a safe environment through trust
  5. Facilitate self-awareness through profile assessments
  6. Expand awareness of how one’s behavior may impact others and learn strategies for maximizing talents and empowerment of others
  7. Align everything -- policies, expectations, rewards, etc. -- to reorient focus on a vision of empowerment and engagement
  8. Integrate a support system, such as feedback, coaching, encouragement, and praise for progress and growth
  9. Hold people accountable for changed behavior that aligns with vision and values
  10. Be courageous; be bold

MHS Consulting has resources to assist, design, and/or facilitate a journey toward empowerment and engagement:

  • Assess your current workplace culture
  • Facilitate a process to create a shared vision for the desired workplace culture 
  • Design and/or deliver a holistic supervisory/leadership development process
  • Administer behavioral profiles:  Everything DiSC® (a Wiley brand) focused on these areas:  Workplace relationships, Management, Productive Conflict, and/or Work of Leader
  • Facilitate a team experience that uses “The Five BehaviorsTM of a Cohesive Team” (a Wiley Brand) assessment and post-assessment

Fostering engagement and empowerment starts with providing the tools and experiences that transform supervisors/leaders; in turn, they transform the human experience at work.  Imagine multiplying the number of  “Kim” leaders in your organization by investing in their development and growth.   

Lee Schmucker
MHS Consulting Associate
Want to continue the conversation?  Email MHS Consulting


A Conversation with Consultant and CEO Karen Lehman - Leading With Courage
January 8, 2019

It is hard to put down on paper all the “a-ha” moments I had while at the Holleran women’s retreat on November 27-29. To have 60 women representing the top senior living organizations in the country—including women leaders from influential industry sponsors—was a 2018 highlight for me. Being with so many open, brave, confident, sincere, smart, and collaborative women in one space for over 48 hours was truly powerful!

On the first day, we heard a challenging and thought-provoking presentation from keynote speaker, Lois Kelly. The following day we enjoyed insightful input on senior living from several participants who provided a panel discussion on current trends and opportunities for strategic consideration. Later, a different panel shared from the heart about personal obstacles they overcame during game-changing times in both their personal and professional lives. I think the absolute greatest part of the retreat was the energy, synergy, and connectedness that we all felt with each other.

Lois Kelly asked us to consider how we cultivate an adaptive-thinking organization and find personal meaning amid demands of leadership. She had us consider traits such as bravery, honesty, enthusiasm, and perseverance—all of which lead to increased courage. With short videos, group discussion, and personal reflection, I gained new insights into my personal and professional self: how self-compassion and self-kindness increase my ability to be resilient, and how resiliency and the capacity to change—to adapt—is critical. Thoughts influence words, and words influence behavior.

Given the “#MeToo” movement and post-Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, many women are taking a new look at systems and ways of working in the business world. What we may have accepted or tolerated in the past is now viewed with clearer eyes and little or no tolerance. Paying attention and speaking up about our instincts, perceptions, and feelings is now acceptable, even expected. Women should be working in a business setting that promotes empowerment, equality, and collaboration. 

As a leader and a woman, I recognize a need to serve in a greater capacity as mentor and model for leaders coming up, and I will take my place. The nature of our MHS work in health and human services attracts a higher percentage of women than men, and that is why there is a greater need in our arena for women to sponsor and encourage women. Lifting each other up in times of need, supporting each other, and challenging each other when the tough questions need to be addressed: these are all ways in which we make ourselves and each other better, more authentic and courageous leaders.

Karen Lehman

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


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.