Stress can be a killer.  We all realize that.  We also realize that some stress in our lives is absolutely essential.  The workaday world can swallow you up sometimes.  Our day to day lives at work are almost consumed by a culture of doing.  Most managers are consumed with deadlines, meetings, metrics and profit. This isn’t all bad but can overwhelm the working staff.

How can you take the edge off at work and diffuse the stress monster?  Take a look at some of these tips and see how you can apply them.

Bring Snacks

My go-to snacks: ready-made protein drinks, protein bars (find some that you actually enjoy), seasonal fruit, beef jerky with a side of cheese and almonds.   Other people enjoy other kinds of nonperishable snacks (dried fruit, juice boxes, or pretzels).  

Give Yourself Some Credit

Create a “to-do” list of things you want to accomplish either tomorrow or this week, this month…decide the time frame that works for you.  Prioritize the list in a manner that makes sense for you.  As you finish each one, pat yourself on the back for completing some task or achieving an accomplishment.  That will “rev up your momentum” for taking on the next one. 

Tame Your Email

Think about the source of some of these emails.  Are any of them automated?  If they are, can you conceivably get away with unsubscribing from them?   I have a friend that always complains that no one acknowledges receiving his emails.  Guess what?  Most folks don’t have time to!  If it’s your boss that’s a different story but for the most part you’re better off just moving on.  The alternative is to just reply with “received” as the total message.   Another thing if you find yourself ping ponging back and forth on a topic, maybe it’s time to pick up the phone.

Get a Head Start (or just on time)

Leave home 30 minutes earlier than normal. Studies find that the less rushed you feel in the morning, the less stressed you'll be for the rest of the day.  What I find works best for me is to set things up the night before so that all I have to really worry about is waking up on time!

Stretch your legs

Stand up, stretch in place or if your can, take a walk.  This is especially important if you have a sedentary job. Your back (among other areas will thank you). Sitting hunched over a desk for hours can cause serious aches, pains and muscle tension, and this takes a serious toll on your productivity and your health. Avoid staying in one position for hours. Do some simple stretches at your desk, and stand up and move around every hour to keep your body and mind energized.

Get Away From your Desk — and Eat Lunch

Have you ever worked around folks who never seemed to leave their desk? Sure you have.  Me too.  Unless it’s raining, I always make it a point to get outside during lunchtime.  If no other reason than to just breathe some fresh air. And don't even think about skipping lunch that is bad news on a whole different level.

Make use of a “Perspective Reminder”

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own problems that they seem way more important than they really are.  Then, we receive a reminder of someone who is battling issues that dwarf ours.  That can help put everything back in perspective.  I promise you, after taking a “big picture” perspective, things don’t appear so bad.

Reasons make the difference

What is really important to you?  Think about your personal life: your spouse or significant other, your children, international travel, a new car.  Recall the times in your life when you were having the most fun.  It’s almost like taking a mini-vacation and it helps us remember why we even work in the first place.   

Posted in Management, Personal, Society, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Marshawn Lynch

It’s the week before the Super Bowl and by now I’m sure all football fans have heard about Media Day and what happened regarding Marshawn Lynch.   For those who don’t know, Marshawn Lynch is the star running back of the Seattle Seahawks.   The Seahawks are competing against the New England Patriots in this Sunday’s Super Bowl. 

All season long Lynch has been “complying” with the NFL rule that mandates he speak with the media.  Basically it means that the media is afforded post-game access to the players as well as weekly locker room access among other things.  He complied by repeating the phrase, “I’m just hear so I won’t get fined” 29 times. 

Mr. Lynch is someone who would rather not speak to the media.  He just wants to play football.

The important note is that it’s the NFL that is fining Lynch, not the Seahawks.  It brings up the question, “Should the NFL stop forcing players to speak to media?”

What does this have to do with you?  Well, think about it.  If you manage a workforce, you no doubt have team members that don’t want to participate in certain company activities.  How you manage such situations will impact your relationship(s) with your team members going forward.

Here is what I mean: Marshawn Lynch is paid to play football.  He does that exceptionally well.  In fact, if it wasn’t for him the Seahawks would not even be in the Super Bowl.  The success of the Seahawks bodes well for the NFL as a whole.  Now, is it that important to force players to do certain things when there is so much more to be gained by ignoring the insignificant issues and focus the more important ones?  I know egos are involved and no one wants to be viewed as “weak” by letting the other person bully them but I learned a long time ago to pick my battles. 

Why not put your team member(s) in a position to shine where he or she feels more comfortable?

One way to accomplish this could be to stage tasks into small bite-sized segments.  We’ve all heard about eating an elephant one bite at a time. This strategy is so basic yet underutilized for some reason.  In an office environment, it is all too common to toss large complex jobs at our colleagues and wonder why we receive so much ill-will in return.

Another strategy could be to show a little light at the end of the tunnel.  What are these unpleasant duties going to lead to?  Will your team have the opportunity to build any useful skills from this?  Many tasks become easier over time as people improve their abilities.  It’s bad enough that unpleasant tasks tend to distract workers from their regular duties. Workers often have to learn new processes or dig up information that has long-since been discarded.  Provide some idea of what will be gained from all of this.

Where’s the prize?  You’re putting your team member(s) through some unpleasant tasks.   They need to receive something tangible on the other end.  What would be an appropriate reward?  Well, that depends on the person. How well do you know your staff?  The reward needs to be appropriate for the recipient.  

How do you work with your staff to get them to comply with tasks that they find unpleasant?

Posted in Management, Society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment



"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."  – Peter Drucker 

When I look back at all the organizations where I’ve worked, the one constant that I remember hearing is, “We are starved for leadership.  We need leaders around here.” It is quite obvious  that leadership is a pretty valuable commodity.  It also seems to be in pretty limited supply.

The interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that although I’ve heard many managers and executives mention how badly they desired leaders and those with leadership qualities, I can’t recall anyone ever providing a clear-cut definition of what it was they wanted.  I’m sure other employees had to be perplexed as well.  I mean, how are we supposed to emulate something that has not been clearly defined?

Let’s take a look at what it is and how we can develop more of it within our organizations. 

If I had to make a guess, I’d say I that what executives and managers are referring to when they mention leadership is really proactive behavior; someone who is willing to take the initiative in addition to being responsible for producing results.  In my mind a leader is someone who studies a situation, decides upon a more suitable destination, assesses the current status, comes up with, or solicits feedback from others and then plots a course to get there.

A leader has to identify a direction and then inspire others to follow their vision.  In addition to setting the direction, leaders also need to shepherd the team through the inevitable challenges that crop up as they strive toward the grand prize.

Taking the initiative.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed something that wasn’t right and went ahead and fixed it.  If I mention it to someone later on, they mentioned noticing it, but did nothing about it.  Leaders jump in and tackle problems.

Process Improvement.  Solving problems, looking ahead, and engaging in the process of “kaizen” – the practice of continuous improvement.  A leader always asks, “Is there a better way to do this?”

Ability to change direction when necessary.  A leader should not be so stubborn as to cling to a path or direction that isn’t working.

Humility.  Can you accept criticism?  How well do you receive input from others?

Guts.  Political will.  Taking an unpopular position.  When I think about being a real leader I ask myself, “Who is willing to take on an unpopular position and fight the good fight no matter the consequences?” Dr. Martin Luther King is a great example.  He risked and ultimately lost his life for what he believed. Take gun control.  After each mass shooting tragedy there is the predictable hand-wringing but in the long run nothing ever gets done.  Why?  No political will.  

Putting the interests and well-being of “team” (followers) ahead of their own.  Wow.  This is a big one.  We’re all one big family during the good times but when things get dicey sometimes executives have been known to take action to save themselves to the detriment of others around them. Remember the Captain of the Costa Concordia?

A compelling vision.  This goes back to my comment about identifying a direction.  Does your staff truly feel, embrace and understand your vision?  This ties in with an ability to communicate effectively.  In the beginning when you start a new project, it’s likely that you’ll have lots of enthusiasm for it. However, as time goes by it can be difficult to find ways to keep your vision inspiring after the initial enthusiasm fades.

Sense of Humor.  I’m friends with a married couple that I met at my old gym.  I was talking to the wife and she told me that one of the things that attracted her to her husband was his sense of humor.  She knew it would come in handy during the rough patches in their relationship.

Think of how important this attribute is in a leader.  The team will take on the personality of the leader. Can you guide your team without panicking or stressing out?

Honesty.  Do I really have to explain how important this one is?

Delegation and Identifying strengths.  How adept are you at identifying the strengths of your team, and capitalizing on them? Do they have everything that they need in order to succeed?  Finding out what each team member enjoys doing most (and does best) is the key to delegation. And delegation is a key component of maximizing your efficiency as a leader.

Creativity.  I think this one is a “nice to have” and not a “must have” for a leader.  If your team has more creativity than you and you are able to let it flourish, everyone wins.  An exception would be if you had to make a not so obvious decision.  Can you think outside of the box and make it work?

Ability to Inspire others.  Good professional sports coaches are experts at this.  We’ve all heard athletes say, “I’d go through a brick wall for that guy.” Team members need to feel that their hard work is leading somewhere.  Are they invested in the accomplishments of the company?

What effective examples of leadership have you noticed in your work career?  What worked? What didn’t?




Posted in Management, Politics | Tagged | 1 Comment


IMPROVING THE ONBOARDING PROCESSWe’ve all been there.  You walk through the employee entrance of your new employer with a combination of excitement and anxiety.  What is this place really like?  It’s your first day on the job.

You’ve done your research on the company and of course you’ve gone through the entire interviewing process so you at least you have an idea of what the work environment might be like, but now comes the moment of truth.  The moment when the “rubber meets the road.”  Will this organization actually “walk the talk?” Will you actually enjoy spending each day with your new manager (and co-workers)?

I still remember my first day on the job at a former employer.  They had what I believe was an exemplary method of onboarding.  The entire first week was dedicated to acclimating all new employee(s) to the company, its’ history, and how it operated.  We also spent about an hour each with key members of various departments.  The departments were chosen based upon what role that department would play in our new jobs.  In this way we not only got an opportunity to learn about the company, we were made to feel welcome and had the opportunity to meet their new co-workers.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was with how well that onboarding process was handled.

On the other hand, I also remember a completely different onboarding episode.  This particular employer seemed completely disengaged with my arrival.  It was almost as if I’d come in off the streets and interrupted their workday.  A co-worker pulled me aside the first day and provided some pointers regarding various places to eat in the area.  It wasn’t her job.  She was just being nice.  It would have been even nicer if it had come from the company itself.  Needless to say, I was left with a much less favorable opinion of that company.

There are few things worse than being dumped into a work area with an empty desk, few or no supplies, very few functioning office tools and co-workers that are “too busy” to be bothered with you.  Excuse me.  Why did you hire me?  Maybe I should come back at a more convenient time.  Nothing could ever give off a worse initial impression in the mind of a new employee.  It amazes me that this sort of scenario ever happens.  We all know the old saying, “You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.”  Onboarding is a critical component of how companies manage their talent.  I’m sure that all companies are aware of how expensive employee turnover is.


For companies that want to improve their onboarding process, here are some key things to consider:

1. Have the proper office tools available and functional on the first day: A desk, a computer, and an e-mail address for starters.

2. Try not to overwhelm new employees with information on their first day.  They are likely already stressed enough.

3. Provide new hires with a welcome message from key manager(s) along with details regarding the onboarding process BEFORE the first work day.

4. If possible, go over information regarding employee benefits, in person, BEFORE the employee’s first day of work.

5. Any unique details that would not be immediately obvious to someone who wasn’t already working there such as how to enter a secure building, where to eat, what time to arrive on the first day, etc.

Organizations exert so much effort to identifying, selecting, negotiating and ultimately hiring talented individuals.  It would be a shame to spoil it all on the first day of work.

Posted in Management | Leave a comment


Hiring processThe baseball playoffs are in full swing.  As of this writing, the Cardinals are facing the Dodgers and the Red Sox are going up against the Detroit Tigers.  At this time of the year it is mandatory for the other 26 teams to take stock of what they have done right and where they have fallen short.

In light of this annual ritual I was listening to a sports radio host talk about the Yankees and the salary of their second baseman, Robinson Cano.  Now, to be sure, Robinson Cano is one of the best players in the league but the host questioned whether at $15 million dollars per season, he was really worth it.  The main reason for even asking the question is that the Yankees did not qualify for the playoffs this year.  Now, of course this isn’t the fault of Mr. Cano, and the Yankees don’t lack for money but it is a question worth asking.

Winning baseball vs. profit baseball 

The way I see it there are two competing goals at stake.  One is putting together a winning team and the other is putting butts in the seats in order to make a profit.  Of course, some organizations have done a great job of both.  Most however, have no such luck.  Big-market teams, like super wealthy companies tend to be flush with money but do not always produce winners.  Smaller-market teams, like small budget firms have it especially tough.  Each is forced to be much more price-conscious, and the business of signing free agents literally has become an exact science.  What about the corporate version of acquiring talent? Well, that process is far from a science.

Take a look at the chart below.  It represents a snippet of the performance of several major leaguers in 2013.  Basically, what I did was compare the statistical performance of some high-priced players against the performance of a few players from the more budget minded Oakland Athletics:

                   Batting Avg.       Hits        HR          RBI         Defensive Ability           Salary

Robinson Cano      .314                 190         27           107               Decent                     $15M

Josh Hamilton        .250                 144         21           79                Excellent                   $17M

Albert Pujols           .258                 101         17           64                Excellent                   $16M

Josh Donaldson       .301                174         24           93                Excellent                   $492.5K

Coco Crisp              .261                134         22           66                Excellent                   $7M

Brandon Moss          .256                114         30            87                Decent                    $1.6M

                                  Wins     Losses         ERA       WHIP       Salary

Johan Santana               6              9             4.85        1.33         $25.5M

Cliff Lee                       14             8             2.87        1.01         $25M

Barry Zito                      5             11            5.74        1.70         $20M

Bartolo Colon                18             6             2.65        1.17         $3M

A.J. Griffin                   14            10            3.83        1.13         $492.5K

Jarrod Parker                12             8             3.97       1.22          $495K

WHIP=Walks + Hits per innings pitched.  A WHIP near 1.00 or lower over the course of a season will often rank a pitcher among the best in the game.

The main reason I even present this information is to make the point that some teams have become quite adept at getting a bigger bang for their performance buck.  And that gets back to my question about winning teams vs. profitable teams.  What are the real goals of the organization?  Are there any lessons that corporate managers can glean in terms of hiring new employees?  Perhaps the requirements and skills that most organizations have come to value are not the ones that make an employee a real winner.  How can we come up with new ways to evaluate talent in the workplace?

General Managers are tasked with making real contract decisions that have serious implications for their organizations and fan bases.  They make a regular practice of identifying and assessing player talent, obtaining said talent, and forming long-term strategies for their respective teams.  A good draft can set their team up for the next several years.

Now think about the corporate world.  Think about the criteria that managers use when deciding upon a potential hire.  Is that criteria a true test of who will likely become a top performer?  When you hire a new employee what skills do you highly value?  What skills are you willing to pay a premium for?  How much are you willing to pay for a particular skill?  That is what the book, Moneyball and the study of Sabermetrics is all about.  The big difference between professional sports and the corporate world is that there are no lifetime performance statistics on each worker readily available to all corporate hiring manangers.  Can you imagine that? 

Corporate hiring managers have a similar mission to general managers of sports teams.  They (along with their co-workers) have to decide who to hire and many times who to fire.  They also have to create a work environment and overall package that is attractive enough to retain their best talent.  As a result both general managers and hiring managers have been forced to take on the role of speculator to their job descriptions.  Somehow they must accurately assess the financial value of each player (worker) relative to their skills and what they could potentially bring to their new team (organization). A bad hire, like a bad contract can damage your team (company) for years to come.

Buyer's remorse, anyone?







Posted in Management, Money and Finance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


customer serviceHow do you provide world-class customer service that satisfies your customer base? One way is by establishing a standard of behavior as it affects your customers. Why is it so difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a customer and try to provide them with same sort of experience that YOU would like to receive?  A second element is to make sure that all company team members are pulling on the same rope. If the boss makes it a priority you can bet your bottom dollar everyone else will as well. A third element is to make sure that your company’s computer system is top-notch. There is nothing as frustrating as being on the phone with a customer and being unable to retrieve the necessary information in order to answer their questions.

 I used to work with an organization that performed scientific equipment rentals, leases and direct sales.  Our CEO always stated that he wanted our company to be, “The Most Customer Service driven Test Equipment Company in the world.”  If we was representing the organization that way to other executives we understood that we’d better not make him out a liar.

Consider for a moment what could possibly go wrong with regards to delivering scientific equipment throughout the country for people to use on a contractual basis.  There is no shortage of challenging scenarios: downtime credits for units that stop working, equipment exchanges, meeting shipping deadlines, pricing discrepancies, etc. Suffice it to say we had ample opportunity to provide stellar customer service.

Performing a customer needs assessment. What does your customer need from you in order to feel taken care of?  Some customers can be unreasonable in their demands but by and large most customers just want: 1) To receive the product or service that they ordered, 2) They want to receive it in a timely manner.  If they cannot receive it in a timely manner they would like to be notified and kept up-to-date as to when they can expect to receive it. 3) When something breaks or there is a problem with the service the customer needs to feel confident that the situation will be rectified ASAP.

Establishing and meeting quality standards for services.  Who will establish the level of customer service that you attempt to reach? Let’s be clear: There are different levels of customer service and someone has to make the call regarding whether “okay” or “good” is good enough.  One thing that has stuck with me is that a former CEO was resolute that there had to be a human at the front desk.  He refused to have a machine or foreign call center answer when his customers called in.

Effective evaluation of customer satisfaction.  Do you contact your customers regularly and solicit their feedback? Have you established measurable standards that will determine whether customer service goals are being made on an incident by incident basis? Trust me.  If you keep your customers on hold for a long time (i.e. any amount of time over 30 seconds) the feedback is liable to be less than stellar.

One thing is certain. If you can deliver excellent customer service in addition to offering a quality product or service, your customers will stick with you come hell or high water.  And isn’t that the reason you are in business in the first place?

Posted in Management, Money and Finance, Personal, Society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


interviewing cartoon

The next time you are asked to interview for a position, it might help to remember that the person interviewing you is likely just as anxious as you are.  And with good reason.  If they hire you and things don’t work out, guess whose neck could be on the chopping block? An interesting point that I discovered is that the hiring interview is not a very effective way to choose an employee.

I was reading the classic, “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles and was shocked to read about the results of a survey conducted several years ago.  Mr. Bolles referenced the survey among a dozen top United Kingdom employers.  In the survey it was discovered that the chances of finding a good employee via interviewing was only 3 percent better than if names had been picked names out of a hat! In addition it was noted that if the interview was conducted by someone who would be working directly with the candidate, the success rate dropped to 2 percent below that of picking a name out of a hat.  Finally, if the interview was conducted by an “human resources expert” the success rate dropped to 10 percent below that of picking a name out of a hat.  Imagine that.

If that is in fact, the case, it might be a good idea to approach the job interview from a different perspective. An article that I read recently stated that if you have a solid performance review form, you have a solid structured interview form. I thought that was a very interesting perspective.  I assumed the writer’s thought process is that if you take a look at how your top performers score on the company’s performance review, you can take those “hot button” areas and probe your candidate.

I talk to a lot of people these days about work related issues and I am astonished by the number of companies that apparently DO NOT implement performance reviews.  If you are not providing regular feed back to your staff, how do they know whether they are performing up to par or not? I wonder if performance standards are even introduced as something to be strived for.

I took a look at an old performance review of my own to get some idea of what markers would be useful in uncovering a strong candidate via the interviewing process.  This particular review form has 6 factors: Job performance, Job Knowledge, Interpersonal skills, Attendance/Safety, and Management Skills.

By asking open-ended questions of job candidates it should become easier when you compare their answers against how your best performers grade out in the same areas.  Examples might be, “Tell me about the approach you take to meet your assigned deadlines?” or “Give me an example of a time when you had to accept feedback from your superior.  How did it make you feel?” 

Today’s job market is so hyper-competitive companies can ill-afford to misfire when it comes to attracting and hiring the best candidates. Today’s mantra is the all too familiar, “Doing more with less.” The job market is constantly changing and evolving into something that is a bit foreign for participants on both sides of the interviewing desk.

One of the best ways to understand the nature of the changing labor market is by talking to the co-founders of HireArt ( Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”

The way HireArt works, explained Sharef is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt culls through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.

The HireArt method is obviously closely aligned with the agency model that we are used to.  By using technology I hope that they can be beneficial in bridging the gap between what employers are looking for and what employees are seeking.

What do you think about the interview process in today’s job market? Can you think of ideas that would be a great benefit to both employers and employees in getting what they want in today’s environment?



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do CEO’s Make Bad Managers?

Manager_LeaderThere was a Forbes article that I read online recently stating that CEO’s tend to make really bad managers.  It is not at all unusual for great Leaders to make bad managers.  After all, leadership and management are two very different skills.  Think of all the instances where an innovative leader creates a fantastic business but lacks the skills to manage it on a day-to-day basis. Having a great business idea is wonderful but having the ability to manage the growth phase(s) of your enterprise calls for a completely different skill set.

Can a great leader also be a good manager?  Of course it’s possible but highly unlikely. A good manager helps their business (or department) navigate today’s challenges while good leaders prepare their organizations to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities. Corporate America has a habit of taking a performer with strong technical skills and promoting that person into a management role.  Furthermore, that same worker could conceivably be promoted even further into a leadership role.

It might be a wiser option to determine if a strong performer has the traits of a leader or a manager before deciding which path to promote them on. You know the old saying about being promoted to your own level of incompetence. Leaders can exist at any level within an organization.  On the other hand, just because someone is working at a senior level, that does not necessarily mean they are leaders.  Management is more about overseeing well-established processes.  Leadership is about vision and looking towards the future. 

Annmarie Neal is the author of Leading from the Edge (ASTD Press, 2013) and she states, “A leader is somebody who sees opportunity and puts change in motion. A manager is somebody who follows that leader and sees how to structure things to create value for the company,” she says. “I’ve found that the best leaders weren’t really good managers. Yes, they understood the discipline, but they weren’t the best accountant, or the best technical person, or the best brand manager. They can do it, but they have a way of [thinking about the issues] at another level.”

Differences between managers and leaders

Managers administer; Leaders innovate

Managers focus on systems; Leaders focus on people

Managers maintain; Leaders develop

Managers rely on control; Leaders inspire trust.

Managers have an eye on the bottom line; Leaders have an eye on the horizon.

Managers imitate; Leaders originate.

Managers are “steady as she goes”; Leaders want to head in another direction.

Managers inspire confidence; Leaders make you believe you can do the impossible.

Managers determine how to walk the path, step by step; Leaders visualize the path to follow.

The best managers tend to thrive on being detail-oriented whereas leaders tend to thrive as big picture thinkers. The very things that allow one to excel at one discipline tend to hamper the ability to excel at the other.  Another factor to consider is that leaders and managers must be graded using different paradigms.  Grading a manager is easier, in my opinion, because much of what a leader does concerns pursuing uncharted territory.  How can you grade someone who is doing something on one else has every attempted?

It seems to me that the most important thing for an organization is to have both great managers AND great leaders within. It is not necessary that both traits reside in the same individual, just that both traits reside within the same organization.  I read a quote from Dr. John P. Kotter stating, “At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.”  I agree with his position. What do you think?

Do you believe managers must also be great leaders? Does it matter?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



What is company culture? How would you define it? Are you able to recognize it while you’re in it? Every company says the right things when asked to define its’ culture but as the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding”.  How does the organization really behave? Who actually gets promoted, rewarded and who gets let go? Those are just a few of the tell-tale signs of what a company really values.

I just read an article stating that Enron had the following words written in their corporate lobby: Integrity, Communication, Respect, Excellence.  Can you imagine that? A company whose very name has become synonymous with greed, scandal and malfeasance had those words as defining their culture.  It just goes to show how important it is for a business to “walk the talk”.

Company culture tells a prospective employee what a company is like to work for.  It also provides daily feedback to those currently employed about what the organization values. Company culture can include the company mission, values, ethics, expectations, goals, and work environment. Some companies have a team-based culture where a low-level employee can participate in discussions with executives, while others have a more formal “chain-of-command” style form of management. A company’s core values have to become guideposts for how they make decisions.

Here are a few examples of opportunities where a positive company culture can be created:

Empowering your employees. Your staff has to feel that their opinions matter and further that they matter; both as employees and as people.  Think about it. When someone you care about doesn’t listen to you, how does it make you feel? Do you solicit their feedback? Are any of their suggestions implemented? Sometimes it can even be worthwhile to incentivize employees with bonuses when they provide ideas that either save money or increase revenue.

Volunteerism. What sort of corporate citizen is your company? How does your organization interact with the larger community? Being connected to volunteering is a great experience and morale booster for the entire company.  Blood drives, tutoring and local schools, neighborhood clean-up projects, are just a few examples.  Some companies actually provide paid volunteer opportunities for employees.

Addition by subtraction.  As I said earlier, a lot of what you value gets communicated by who you keep and who you terminate.  In my career I’ve witnessed companies hanging on to employees who were complainers, alleged sexual harassers, and trouble-makers.  The sooner you get rid of such people, the better. In addition, it communicates to one and all the type of behavior that is expected.

Recognition. Recognizing and acknowledging employees for a job well done.  On many surveys employees state that recognition is even more satisfying to them than money.  At first blush this sounds like heresy but proper recognition is a HUGE motivator.  What do I mean by “proper”?  Avoiding the sort of award system where everyone receives one.  In order be truly meaningful there has to be a measure of exclusivity. 

Fun at the office. Do you want fun to be a part of your corporate culture? I’ve been involved in some really creative events at the workplace: Carnivals on site, Casino night at the office(after hours of course), having a night at the races (at a local track), etc.   There have also been fun events during office hours: “Tea Time” where department members meet for 30 minutes, one member brings snacks for the group and we would sit around and talk about any interesting subject other than work.  Another creative outlet was to take another 30 minute time frame during the week and play a game such as Pictionary or Taboo and provide small prizes for the winner(s).  These events were never mandatory and employees always looked forward to these short diversions from work.

Advancement opportunities. One of the most frustrating things that I’ve dealt with in my career was the curtailment of training and development opportunities.  Usually, around the same time it’s normal to notice advancement opportunities drying up. You can just imagine how employees’ enthusiasm would begin to wane in this sort of environment.  To be fair, the economy is usually the primary determinant in these types of situations, so just having work is a blessing.  It’s important to remember that when employees have hope for a brighter tomorrow they will buy in 100% to what they do today.

Reinforcing culture through hiring practices.  This is becoming more and more common. I wrote a blog about this several weeks ago. These days, more companies are placing more emphasis on new hires being a fit rather than on their technical skills.

Mission of purpose. What is the overall corporate mission and how do I fit into it? Employees want to feel that their work efforts are contributing to something bigger than themselves. If you can communicate what the overall mission is and then find an effective method for letting your employees know how their jobs contribute to that goal, you will be well on your way to building a thriving workplace.













Posted in Management, Personal, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Discovering Great Talent In Today’s Environment

Interviewing Magnifying GlassWhen it comes to interviewing, both parties have a right to be nervous. The person conducting the interview is likely just as anxious as the candidate is.  And with good reason.  If a person is hired and things don’t work out, guess whose neck is in the noose? I have been told that the cost of a bad hire is approximately 5 times that employees annual salary.  Plus, the hiring interview is not always a very effective way to select an employee.

I was reading the classic, “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles and was shocked to read about a survey conducted several years ago.  Bolles referenced the survey among a dozen top United Kingdom employers.  In the survey it was discovered that the chances of finding a good employee via interviewing was only 3 percent better than if they picked names out of a hat! In addition it was noted that if the interview was conducted by someone who would be working directly with the candidate, the success rate dropped to 2 percent below that of picking a name out of a hat.  Finally, if the interview was conducted by an “human resources expert” the success rate dropped to 10 percent below that of picking a name out of a hat.  Imagine that.

These days, the hiring game is more intense than ever.  You’ve got high unemployment which means that a lot of really qualified people are available.  In addition, there are always employed workers who are on the lookout for an even better opportunity.  Add to that, employers who are a bit hesitant to hire, until they absolutely have to.  Even then, many do not want the best candidate, they want the safest candidate.  Now to my way of thinking, the best candidate IS the safest candidate.  But I guess it really boils down to the perspective of the interviewer.

One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt ( Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”

The way HireArt works, explained Sharef, is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt sifts through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which then chooses from among them.

That certainly is one novel method for discovering new talent. If you’ve read the book, “Moneyball” or follow baseball at all, you no doubt have heard of the practice of using Sabermetrics in order to uncover hidden talent. If you haven’t heard about Sabermetrics, in a nutshell it’s simply a way of using statistics to track areas of a players’ game that traditional scouts would never even think to look for.  One thing’s for sure: anyone who comes up with a reliable method for uncovering talented candidates that everyone else is missing out on, will be able to write his or her own ticket.

As I’m writing this post I came across an article where the author stated that if you possess a structured review form, you have nuts and bolts to create an interview form.  The more I think about it, the more since it makes.  Success leaves clues.  What success patterns can you glean from what your successful employees are doing? Think about what you’re really looking for in the position to be filled. Try not to focus so much on finding “purple unicorns” and instead concentrate on finding the best employee for the open position that you have.

Remember, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Posted in Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment