Category Archives: Success Story

Sucess Story

Success Story: Newmont Mining Uses Influencer Training to Enhance Workplace Safety

The Challenge

Workplace safety has always been a value for global mining leader Newmont Mining Corporation. The company utilizes many proven safety practices such as investigating incidents and taking corrective actions, creating proactive safety standards for management, and providing standard safety and technical training. As a result, the company achieved an enviable Total Recordable Accident Frequency Rate (TRAFR), the industry measurement of safety incidents that occur on the job per number of hours worked.

Still, the company continued to experience fatalities and serious injuries and, in early 2010, Newmont’s board of directors requested that the executive leadership team develop a plan to work toward eliminating fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace.

This directive led to the creation of a Safety Task Force, which developed six recommendations. First among the recommendations was to focus on Safety Leadership Behaviors. This meant company leaders had to figure out how to change behaviors to ensure that choosing safer behaviors became part of the company’s culture.

The Solution

Read our case study to learn how Newmont Mining used Influencer Training to identify vital behaviors, improve safety, and get the right results.

Sucess Story

From the Desk of Joseph Grenny: Gratitude and Thanks

Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.


Crucial Conversations

One of the most humbling—and to me, sacred—experiences I’ve had over the past thirty years has been hearing stories like those of Laura and Jim below. I say “sacred” because I realize more fully now that when we founded VitalSmarts, our mission meant entering some of the most intimate areas of people’s lives. Our goal was to discover key skills and insights that would assist people in solving the important human problems they faced.

Since then, we’ve heard stories from many of the millions who have given us the privilege of entering those places with them. Through our work, we’ve been part of conversations between parents and struggling teens, couples on the brink of divorce, managers struggling with problem employees, and leaders agonizing over how to lead change.

To those of you who have offered us this honor, thank you. And to those who are just entering this wonderful community of learning and growth, welcome!

Warmest wishes,


Laura’s Story: Putting Family First

When Laura met with her father in April of 2012, she had no idea what a lucrative meeting it would be! They had a great relationship and she had no complaints about her childhood. But when they met that day he unburdened his heart about several incidents in her childhood that weighed on him.

As a teenager, Laura found a well-paying job and her dad directed her to buy a car using the money she earned. However, both of her sisters used the family car and did not purchase cars of their own until much later. As Laura prepared to enter college, she decided to attend a local community college while her sisters both attended universities with significantly higher tuition and fees. Laura was the first of her sisters to get married and she paid for her own wedding. However, when both of her sisters were married, her parents made financial contributions to both of their weddings.

Laura’s father handed her a check for $3,000 as a way to compensate her for these three areas where he felt she was not treated equally. Laura was taken aback by both the check and the issues that so greatly concerned her father. But the next thing he said blew her away—he told her he would give her cash every year until he felt she was fully compensated! She was very grateful, as finances had been a struggle recently.

A year passed, and it was now spring of 2013. April came and went without a check, then May, then June. Laura started feeling angry. She recognized that she wasn’t mastering her emotions and began telling herself stories about why her father had not kept his word. And, instead of facing the conversation, she merely dropped hints. But after completing training in Crucial Accountability, Laura decided she would not slip into awkward silence and instead used her new skills. After all, the compensation plan was her dad’s idea and she wanted to speak to her father in a way that would resolve the issue without causing a new one.

Laura mustered the courage to talk to her dad. She felt it was important to deal with her violated expectations without damaging their close relationship. She was living with a failed promise and needed to find resolution and understanding. Through the course of her accountability discussion, she explained her expectations and then allowed him the opportunity to explain his actions.

How Laura used her skills:

Describe the Gap: Laura identified what she expected to happen versus what actually happened.

Choose What and If: She unbundled the situation using CPR and addressed this as a content and relationship issue. Laura wanted her father to follow through on his promise, and she valued the relationship and herself enough to not want to experience this frustration again the next year.

Master My Story: She stopped telling herself negative stories about her dad and listened to what he had to say.

Make it Motivating/Easy: Laura reminded her father of his previous promise and held him accountable to it by addressing it with him.

Move to Action: They agreed on a plan for when she would receive the money and she followed up with a thank you call once she received it.

Because of the skills she learned in Crucial Accountability, Laura not only received the compensation she was promised, but she preserved her relationship with her father—something of infinite value.

Jim’s Story: Winning the Weight Loss Game

In November of 2011, Jim attended a training conference in Scottsdale, AZ. As it happened, David Maxfield, coauthor of Change Anything, was also there. Jim attended David’s presentation and felt it was one of the most valuable experiences of his life.

He received a copy of Change Anything and remembers eagerly reading it on his long flight home. He decided he needed to know more and signed up for a local Change Anything Training. He was so impressed by the change model he learned, he decided he would like to share this newfound knowledge with others. Even though he was not in a training role by profession, he received special permission from his manager to become a trainer and bring the course back to his team.

In the course of Jim’s learning, he decided to test the Change Anything principles in his own life. He began a personal weight loss journey that drastically improved his health, energy levels, and outlook on life.

At the author’s recommendations, Jim took a hard look at his default future. He recalled an experience in 1999 when his father underwent triple bypass surgery after struggling with several health issues; one of these issues was weight management. Jim had to sign the paperwork regarding who would be the decision maker if his father did not regain consciousness after surgery. Jim reflected on his own children—two teenage girls. Did he want them to face such an experience?

So Jim put Change Anything to the test. He found that his crucial moments were getting to the gym after work, his lunch selections, and what he snacked on before dinner. He recognized that getting motivated to go to the gym after work left room for him to make excuses not to go. For lunch, he often went with friends to a location that had a Chinese buffet, an Indian buffet, and a Five Guys Burger and Fries. He visited each restaurant at least once a week. He also noticed that he drank soda with his lunch and ate more food as a result. When he got home from work, he snacked on chips or cookies before dinner.
Jim focused on the following vital behaviors to counterattack these crucial moments. If he was going to fit a workout into each day, he would have to do it first thing in the morning. For lunch, he’d visit his company’s recently revitalized salad bar—keeping his head down and walking straight to the salad bar without glancing at the other tempting options. He also chose water instead of soda to accompany his meals. Before dinner, he made sure that fresh fruit and almonds were available to snack on.

Jim reviewed the Six Sources of Influence and found ways to plan for each.

Personal Motivation: Jim wanted to be around for his wife and daughters. He also wanted to stop taking cholesterol medication. In order to stay motivated, he kept pictures on his phone depicting his starting weight. He also created a personal statement, reminding him of how he felt when his father went in for surgery. He didn’t want his daughters to have to face a similar situation with him.

Personal Ability: Jim began using an online tracking tool called to assist him in tracking his calories as well as to better understand how many calories he was actually consuming. He finally realized what his mindless eating was doing to his health after seeing that one meal from his favorite burger joint totaled 1500 calories.
For exercise, he found videos he could do that were very structured, like INSANITY and P90X. He was much more motivated to complete his daily exercise because he didn’t have to go to a gym and try to create his own workout regimen. He was able to use the spacious workout facility at work before he reported to work for the day, ensuring he actually got his workout in.

Social Motivation & Ability: Jim’s wife was very encouraging and they planned a cruise for the following summer. He knew he wanted to be in better shape before donning a swimsuit in public. He also used the message boards on the where he read other’s contributions; he saw what others struggled with, and what methods they used to overcome those challenges.

Structural Motivation: As a reward for reaching his goals, Jim allowed himself a favorite dessert at the end of the week if he stayed on track. As he lost weight, he recognized the need for new clothing and bought nice shirts to reward his hard-earned efforts.

Structural Ability: Jim also used to track his weight loss. He entered his starting weight into the tool and made sure to weigh himself often in order to keep on top of any fluctuations he noticed.

Results: By using the Six Sources of Influence, Jim lost over forty pounds in eight months. More importantly, he no longer has to take cholesterol medication! All of his health numbers have improved, he has more energy, and his friends and family have commented on how much healthier and happier he looks.

Jimblackfront_after_150 Jimblackside_after_150

Sucess Story

Success Story: Emory University Uses Crucial Conversations to Resolve a Culture of Conflict

The Challenge
Something was missing. That’s what Wanda Hayes determined when she sought input from the faculty and staff of Emory University after arriving as the university’s new director of learning and organizational development. She was looking to enhance the university’s training offerings, and one topic kept coming up.

“I talked with a lot of our key stakeholders and it was clear people wanted more around conflict management,” she says. A formal needs assessment survey yielded the same result. So did feedback about an existing leadership program run in partnership with the university’s highly ranked business school.

“At every level, people said conflict management is what we need,” Hayes remembers. So she and her team started looking for a training component to add to the management and leadership development programs and to anchor the new general education curriculum they would soon launch.

Human resource staffers had used VitalSmarts Crucial Conversations Training at a previous healthcare employer and Hayes was pleased to bring the course to Emory University. “There are a couple of things that make Crucial Conversations stand out more than others,” she says. “It’s very action-oriented, not just information about conflict. And there’s a lot of skill practice in a safe environment.”

She was also impressed that the content, while hitting conflict management head on, doesn’t stop there. It was a perfect companion to the university’s year-long training program for new and experienced managers and supervisors, which covers setting objectives, performance reviews, performance problems, collaborating, and holding others accountable.
“Crucial Conversations addresses all of those topics, teaching people how to have effective conversations, stay engaged, and get results,” she says.

Emory began including the course in the new Manager and Supervisor Development Programs, then proceeded to roll out additional programs that included Crucial Conversations for administrative professionals. Later, Crucial Conversations was added to the existing leadership program for high-potential, high-level administrative staff. Ultimately, it was also included in a new year-long leadership program for faculty leaders. The course has become a cornerstone for programs that are designed for intact teams, as well as for general enrollment.
To build excitement for the new offering, the university brought in Crucial Conversations coauthor Ron McMillan, who conducted separate sessions with senior leaders across campus, human resource leaders, and faculty leaders.

With the course embedded in the University’s learning offerings, three members of Hayes’ team were certified to deliver the training. They teach the two-day course with seven to ten days in between to practice and complete assignments. By the end of 2012, close to 1,000 Emory employees had completed Crucial Conversations.

The Results
Read our case study to learn how Wanda Hayes used Crucial Conversations Training to increase employees’ and managers’ ability to better manage conflict, hold the right conversations, and get the right results.

Sucess Story

Success Story: VitalSmarts Training Helps Canadian Hospital Transform Its Culture

The Challenge
The staff at St. Joseph’s Health Care London didn’t talk to each other. Yes, they exchanged words, but when problems were serious and emotions were involved, many side-stepped core issues. Not only was this behavior unproductive and disrespectful for employees, it was potentially dangerous for patients.

The organizational development staff identified a training course that might help, especially in the interests of their main concern, patient safety. They also knew they needed an executive champion who could persuade busy physicians and nurses to participate. So they approached Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, a veteran family practice physician who was then the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. She agreed something needed to be done.

“Only 50 percent of meetings were productive,” remembers Kernaghan, who is now the hospital’s President and CEO. “We had a lot of ‘Groundhog Days,’ where we talked about the same thing and didn’t find common purpose or get to actions that were agreeable.”

Kernaghan describes an environment where people wouldn’t speak up and sabotaged decisions that were made in the real “meeting” that happened in the hallway after.

“People pushed through their agenda by using power words like ‘patient safety,’ ‘evidence-based,’ and ‘family-centered,'” she says. “The implication was, ‘If you disagree with me you’re obviously not patient centered.’ Essentially, others couldn’t speak up because they felt shutdown.”

She also observed the initiatives that grew out of those limited discussions were less effective, leading to “rework” and “I told you so” comments even though people hadn’t spoken up in the first place.

“We needed to not only teach people to be nice to each other, but we also needed to get results by teaching them how to follow up and follow through,” she says. “We knew that if we could transform the way we communicated, our staff would be happier and more productive, and ultimately, our patients would be safer.”

So when she was asked to champion physician training that purported to address those needs, she agreed, knowing that in order to be an effective voice, she had to be “integrally involved.” So she registered to become a certified trainer of Crucial Conversations.

The Results: Read our case study to learn how Dr. Gillian Kernaghan used Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability Training to earn accreditation with exemplary standing, improve employee satisfaction scores, and see a significant improvement in holding others accountable.

What St. Joseph’s employees have to say: Read this guest post to see other ways employees at St. Joseph’s Health Care London have used Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability Training to change their culture.

Sucess Story

Success Story: How Patty Loeffler and Her Family Lost 300 Pounds

When she first met her husband, Patty Loeffler was thin, active, and the picture of good health. But nine years into her marriage, Patty found herself 100 pounds overweight and a perpetual yo-yo dieter. She had joined and left Weight Watchers so many times that she was embarrassed to even consider going back. And yet, she knew she needed to make a big change. That’s why in 2012, she made the resolution to simply “get healthy”—and the timing couldn’t have been better.

In March 2012, Patty enlisted in Influencer Training by VitalSmarts. Already a Crucial Conversations certified trainer, she was excited to learn the Six Sources of Influence model for changing behavior. When prompted to identify a change challenge to which she could apply the model and principles, she selected her “get healthy” initiative. Shortly after, she received the newest book from VitalSmarts, Change Anything, which helped her further apply the Six Sources of Influence to her personal goals.

Patty started her “get healthy” change plan by identifying two vital behaviors that proved to be instrumental to her success:

1. Make a plan. Patty found planning to be essential. She not only planned her healthy meals, but also where she would go if and when she ate out. She learned where all the healthy restaurants and meals were in the city so she would never have to make a last-minute unhealthy choice.

2. Weigh daily. By weighing herself daily, she found that she could stay on top of her weight loss and most importantly, quickly get back on track if she started slipping.

Patty used all six sources of influence to help keep her vital behaviors, but she attributes the majority of her success to social motivation and ability. She says the social influence that was missing from her past diet attempts meant the difference between her success and the years of failure.

Patty recruited her husband and son to join her in her goal to get healthy. Like Patty, her husband also had a history of failed weight loss, and as a result, was pretty reticent to participate. But after Patty begged him, he agreed and they made a very serious commitment to each other that they would see the plan through to the end.

When Patty’s son came home from college that summer, she also recruited him to participate, and together the three found success in applying the model from Influencer and Change Anything. The Six Sources of Influence Patty identified to help keep her behaviors included:

Personal Motivation – Patty hung her skinniest jeans on her closet door which served as a daily reminder of what she looked like and how good she felt when she first met her husband. The jeans also reminded her that at the age of 53, her window of opportunity to change was closing as she may only face more health issues in the future.

Personal Ability – A key part of Patty’s plan included a nutrition program called Ideal You sponsored by her employer. At first, Patty was skeptical this would be just another failed diet plan, but this program taught her skills to control her diet with higher protein and lower carbohydrates and fats—skills she never learned before. There was also a phased approach which began by limiting her diet in the beginning and slowly adding in healthy foods as she learned to get her intake under control. The program also taught her effective strategies to maintain her weight loss.

Social Motivation and Ability – Patty and her husband faced every part of their weight loss journey together. They started by publicly announcing their diet at her daughter-in-law’s birthday party. This public proclamation lead to support from her entire extended family. Her husband also did most of the shopping under their approved dietary guidelines and they began exercising together and spent less of their time together watching TV or eating out at unhealthy restaurants.

Patty also garnered support at work. She teamed up with a few coworkers who also had a goal to get healthy and they spearheaded a transformation of their entire team. For example, they stopped bringing in unhealthy food to celebrate events and when they ate out together, they went to healthy restaurants. Patty’s family and friends never made her feel bad for wanting to choose healthy meal options. On the contrary, many actually thanked Patty for her example and motivating them to make their own healthy choices.

Patty also attributes much of her success in beginning an exercise regimen to the help of personal trainers who reintroduced her to exercise and how to do it effectively.

Structural Motivation – Instead of falling into old habits of rewarding herself with her favorite foods, Patty started going to the spa and treating herself to massages, manicures, and pedicures when she hit her weight loss goals. She was also really motivated to change by shopping for cute clothes she couldn’t fit into previously and the money she saved from giving up expensive and fattening fast food meals helped to offset the expense of a new wardrobe. Patty was also motivated to stick to her new diet because it was a plan she paid to be part of and she didn’t want to see that money go to waste.

Structural Ability – Early on, Patty decided to chart her weight loss. This strategy helped her to see her long-term success—which was a tremendous motivator during the weeks of plateau. She also changed her surroundings. She brought exercise equipment out of storage and placed it in her family room. She also got rid of all the junk food in the house. She even made changes at work. For the first time in her career, she began to use the on-site personal trainer and fitness center provided by her employer.

By using the change plan found in Change Anything, Patty shattered a long history of failure to lose weight. In just nine months, she lost an impressive 102 pounds. And, as it turns out, her weight loss impacted her life in even more immediate ways. After discovering a life-threatening illness months into her get healthy initiative, doctors told her that losing the weight was the best thing she could have done and possibly even slowed the progression of the disease thus allowing it to be discovered and treated at an early stage.

Patty wasn’t the only one who experienced such dramatic success. The social influences she learned about in Change Anything really made a difference not only for her but also for her husband and son. In the end, Patty’s husband lost 80 pounds and her son lost 100 pounds, proving that with the right plan, you really can change for good.

Sucess Story

Success Story: Nebo School District Uses Influencer Training to Improve Student Performance

The Challenge
J. Lynn Jones is a VitalSmarts veteran. An elementary school principal for sixteen years, he became a certified trainer in Crucial Conversations and used those tools to help his school boost achievement. When he was promoted to director at the Nebo School District in central Utah, he added a certification in Crucial Confrontations. He taught both courses to most of his 600-person staff and also offered them to other administrators, teachers, and support staff in his district.

But his biggest challenge in his expanded role was a persistent one. He was responsible for special education in the district and focused particularly on the special education teachers in its twenty-seven elementary schools. These are the instructors who give extra help to mainstreamed students with learning disabilities. And they didn’t have a history or culture of being accountable to progress their students.

“We had a number of veteran teachers who never had high expectations, and the kids never performed well. The teachers used the excuse that ‘these kids have disabilities’,” he said. “In the end, we weren’t seeing good instruction and we weren’t seeing good results.”

Of about sixty teachers, Jones was comfortable with only five or six of their results. But because he was not a career special educator, he lacked immediate credibility to shake things up by himself.

About the same time he came to this realization, he added another VitalSmarts certification to his credentials: Influencer Training.

The Results: Read our case study to learn how J. Lynn used Influencer Training to boost literacy rates and double the number of special education students released into the regular school system.

Sucess Story

What Happened: Influencing Unprofessional Dress

This letter was received in response to a question Joseph Grenny answered in the February 29, 2012 Crucial Skills Newsletter titled, “Influencing Unprofessional Dress.”

Dear Joseph,

I am the “CEO” of this company—that is, I am the superintendent of schools of a 5,000-student K-12 district and my challenge was to get the building principals to agree that impressions do matter to our “customers.”

In public schools, we have a rather unique situation in that one never knows where the parents are on the “dress for success” spectrum. Some (like Joseph and some who responded to his column) do not like ties and suits (very few of us do!) and argued for a relaxed, personal approach to dress. But that doesn’t work when it comes to interacting with parents who are more likely (given that they’re taking the time to actually visit you rather than call or e-mail) to have an issue and are quite possibly mad and ready to draw conclusions of one sort or another. The impression we create for those parents matters, so we have to dress the part.

However, my building leaders were often not setting a good example for the teachers in their school, and as a result, the entire building’s level of dress was unacceptable by most peoples’ standards. The occasional spirit day or casual Friday is totally fine and welcome in a school, but this was becoming the norm.

So I decided to engage the leaders in a conversation. At our leadership council meetings we first talked about our impressions of the teachers’ dress and then about how we could be role models for them. Addressing the teachers’ dress was a secondary objective—they are unionized and for such “initiatives” we need to get union leadership on board. I decided to first discuss and then decree that leaders start wearing a jacket and tie (or the equivalent for women). Now, school leaders definitely look more professional. I’m not saying they wear three-piece suits, or even a suit, but the norm is now to wear a tie, and that has raised the general level of dress quite appropriately.

In fact, I’ve started a conversation with union leadership about teacher dress. We’ll need to define terms such as “business casual” which means different things to different people, but there is consensus that such a term, once better defined, can and will help us get away from the ragged jeans and flip flops. I just cannot help but think how that type of dress harms our profession’s reputation and union leadership agrees, so perhaps we have some mutual purpose and common ground from which to operate when we begin step two of the dress for success campaign in our school district.

Thank you once again for the advice and for the ensuing comments from your readers. Very helpful to me indeed!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to share similar feedback about how the authors’ advice has helped you, please e-mail us at