|Cramer, 60, is founder of The Cramer Institute in Clayton, where she and her 9-person staff champion a simple concept: asset-based thinking — an approach to life and business designed to leverage people’s positive attributes. Her company has found its way into some of the country’s largest businesses — Monsanto, Microsoft and Maritz to name a few.
More recently her book “Change,” (Running Press, $22.95), has brought her a broader audience. It opened doors at corporations that pay her firm consulting fees and her speaking fees, which run from $12,000 to $20,000 for an address, and she’s now on the road more. While most applied psychology focuses on treating dysfunction, Cramer, a licensed psychologist with a doctoral degree in the field, said she and her team use psychology to focus on effectiveness, particularly in business.”What’s the difference between average and above average? And above average and excellent?” she said. She works to help clients find the difference and help them get to the next level.
How did you come up with the concept of “asset-based thinking?”
About 2000 we were working on our branding and asking ourselves: What makes the Cramer Institute distinctive, and what makes people come back? We ask that question because some people look at us as a boutique consulting-coaching-training firm, and we have a broad range of large clients. I was perfectly willing to call it something else because I thought it was such a mouthful. But our clients picked up “asset-based thinking” quickly.
How do you put it into practice?
Our coaching process, our consulting processes, our training programs, all focus on assets in a person. When we’re developing teams, we’re always asking what’s working and how the team collaborates and innovates, and how can we augment those attributes. A banker might say you are not looking at the liability side of the balance sheet. All we’re doing is shifting the bias. We’re not eliminating a focus on weaknesses. If you have a real derailer (person or situation), you don’t want to ignore that. An asset-based thinker will use a ratio of 5:1 — five times more effort and emphasis on what’s right and the
possibilities than what’s wrong. I would say to the banker, absolutely scrutinize situations and make sure you recognize derailers. Treat them with an asset-based thinking approach and go beyond fixing the problem to exploring how the problem can build opportunities.
Your book, “Change The Way You See Everything,” is full of surprises, including backward lettering
on the cover. How did you develop the concept?
We wanted “Change” to be a don’t-miss experience. One of our fundamental principles is the way you see things dictates your mindset.
What’s more rewarding: your writing or consulting?
What’s most rewarding in either platform is when a person has an ah-ha and says asset-based thinking can get my team and me where we want to go.
How many days were you on the road before the book came out? How many days are you on the
road since the book came out?
Before the book came out, I was out maybe once every eight weeks. Now it’s once every two weeks. The length of the trip varies from a week to a couple of days.
When’s the next book coming out?
April 2008, that will be “Change The Way You See Yourself,” another business book. It talks about your power, influence and impact. People who are successful asset-based thinkers, even in a
downward spiral, will keep their eye on their target.
Is the current book profitable?
It is. What’s interesting is it peaked early and has stayed at that peak for 18 months. It’s sold more than 50,000 copies. I am getting royalty checks but I make about $1.98 a book.
What was your first job out of college?
After getting my degrees in psychology, my most significant work was at Central Institute for the Deaf in the speech and hearing research department. I was interested in learning how hearing loss
affected one’s thinking. I was there for about seven years while studying for my Ph.D. I was hired by Saint Louis University Hospital while in grad school to run what was then called The Stress Center
before I went on my own and started the Cramer Institute.
What influenced you growing up?
I went to Villa Duchesne for 13 years, from kindergarten through high school. Girls and women ran everything. I was able to see women in a leadership role. I may have later in life faced a glass ceiling,
but I never knew it was there.
Who are your role models?
I’m looking at everybody and figuring what there is to admire. I spend my life looking at people and finding what there is of value and asking about it. If you admire something in someone, you have it
What do you do to relax?
I’m running 3 miles, three to five times a week. I love to cook and I love to paint. Acrylics and oil are my media. I do figure drawing and landscapes.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
The same thing. But we’re adding more asset-based thinking books for kids because of interest from teachers. After a book for ages 9 to 14, we’re going to do a book for high schoolers, then were going
to do the little kids. I’ll be dedicated to the proposition that business and education can learn and benefit from one another.
WHAT THEY SAY…
“Kathy came with us to London last October where we were presenting a new concept to our team. A
consultant in London for the same meeting presented the subject matter in a negative way. Everyone
was down. Kathy followed him and used that as a jumping-off point for her asset-based thinking.
She turned the room around. She’s consulting with us on how we do grassroots innovation.”
- Tammara Combs Turner, senior program manager, Microsoft’s IdeaAgency
“Kathy has a deep interest and respect for the power of individuals and importance of asset-based
leadership. She’s contributed heavily to Maritz’s own advanced leadership development initiatives,
helping develop Maritz’s next generation of corporate leaders.”
- Scott Bush, director of marketing, Maritz Inc.
“I’ve represented her for 20 years. When she came to me with her idea to have a fully illustrated
book for a business audience without much text, I told her I didn’t represent illustrated books and
publishers were not likely to buy it. She told me it would give me a chance to meet a whole new
group of editors and publishers. She’s great at dealing with anything negative. She sees opportunities
where other people don’t.”
- Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency Inc.