Company Culture

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important?

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important?

Soft skills. It’s a term you’ve probably heard before. From executives and consultants, to Seth Godin and Inc Magazine, people are talking about the importance of soft skills so much it feels like a new diet craze.

However, when you take some time to investigate, it becomes clear that “soft skills” just means “likeable”, “conscientious”, or “admirable”. It’s a broad term used to describe almost all non-technical skills.

How Often Should You Train Your Employees?

How Often Should You Train Your Employees?

A consistent training regimen is important for you and your team. Effective training provides new hires and existing employees with the skills and knowledge they need to not only do their job but improve their performance. However, like many companies, you may not be sure how to train your employees, when to train them, and when to retrain them on previous skills.

Start Here. Now.

Start Here. Now.

It’s the end of 2018.  Did you achieve all of your objectives this year professionally and personally? Did you even have objectives for 2018? If you are honest with yourself, the likely answer is no.

The good news is, you get another chance in 2019.

The bad news is, your unproductive habits are ready to sabotage 2019.

Weak Debriefs Are Killing You

Weak Debriefs Are Killing You

In the book, Flawless Execution, author and former U.S. Air Force pilot James Murphy describes how the Air Force uses a continuous improvement process to reduce errors, casualties, and losses.

Two of his recommendations struck me – how the Air Force prepares for missions, and how they learn from them – the debrief.  I think the debrief is a serious weakness in most companies.

Pass Your Batons to Win

It was the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.  The American men's 400-meter relay team was in contention for the gold medal.  Superstar sprinter Tyson Gay reached back to grab the baton on the final handoff in their preliminary race, "and there was nothing."

The American women's 400-meter relay teams also misconnected on the final handoff in their preliminary race, mirroring the men's shocking defeat.  For the first time in Summer Games history, the U.S. left an Olympics 0-for-6 in the sprint races:  both men's and women's 100s, 200s and 400 relays.  (ESPN)

Have you ever "passed someone the baton" and your "race" was not the winner you expected?

Translation: Have you ever delegated responsibility to someone and the results were less than you expected?

Delegation.  The dreaded "D" word.

Stunning setbacks can be a motivator for GREAT Leaders to review and improve their process for delegating work. 

Delegation takes Systematic Power, the first strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP.  Delegating work is a system, not just a quick directive with assumptions from a superior.  Effective delegation is based on a process of transferring responsibilities between capable team members to achieve mutually agreed upon results by following your organization's best practices.

And... best practices take practice and systems, or your baton drops.

Take a moment to assess where there may be a baton drop in your delegating.  Are you delegating enough?  Are you delegating effectively?  Or are you avoiding delegating because it's just easier to do something yourself?  (Bad choice)

Here are the 7 steps of effective delegation I teach in our Certified LEADER course:

  1. The mutual objective
  2. The problem
  3. The team
  4. Authority & expectations
  5. Resources required
  6. Communication
  7. Deadlines

You are the delegator.  The person or people receiving the task are the delegatee.

Step #1 of 7:  The Mutual Objective

  • Is the objective clearly defined, measurable, and have due dates?
  • Have you helped the delegatee understand that receiving the task is not the end goal, but rather they are a steward of the responsibility, so a greater goal is achieved?
  • Have you engaged the "second brain" - the heart of the delegatee so the work is meaningful to them?
  • Are you reinforcing the mutual objective often?

Step #2 of 7:  The Problem

  • Is everyone clear about the problem that is trying to be solved before and during the work that has been delegated? 
  • Is the cost of not solving the problem clear?
  • Are the benefits of solving the problem defined?
  • Are the process and/or new habits to put in place to avoid the problem in the future defined, or mutually sought?

Step #3 of 7:  The Team

  • Does each delegatee realistically have the time to do it well?
  • Did you encourage the delegatee by explaining the reason why they were chosen?
  • Have you explained how the delegatee will benefit from completing the task with excellence?
  • What training do delegatees need to complete the task well?

Step #4 of 7:  Authority & Expectations

  • Does the delegatee have authority that matches their responsibilities?
  • Who is the team leader if there is more than one delegatee?
  • Are any approval processes clear, and in-writing?
  • Are behavioral expectations between you and the delegatee clear, and preferably in-writing?

Step #5 of 7:  Resources Required

  • What subject matter experts or other people are available to support the delegatee?
  • Where can the delegatee work and/or do they need help securing meeting locations?
  • Does the delegatee have all the equipment and materials necessary to complete the task?
  • Have the funding, outside services, other necessary activities been secured?

Step #6 of 7:  Communication

  • Is there a clearly defined follow-up schedule when the delegatee will communicate status to you?
  • Have you defined a schedule when you will touch base with the delegatee, especially if they miss their deadline to update you on the status?
  • What is the schedule to inform others?
  • Is the platform in place to track their progress, whether ConnectWise, SharePoint, Dropbox...?

Step #7 of 7:  Deadlines

  • Are there due dates / milestones with clear deliverables?
  • How are the dates being tracked?
  • Are the milestones in the best order of priority?
  • Have you defined what happens when a deadline is missed, and should that occur, are you prepared to ask questions, be respectful, and then act decisively?

This may seem like a lot, but once you get it in place it flows easily. Learn how to delegate effectively. Put the Systematic Power of process in place. Test, refine, improve your delegation systems. Teach them and grow.

Risking Your Comeback

One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers. The movie told a story that took place in 1951 in the rural southeast Indiana town of Hickory.  Norman Dale drove into town to replace a revered high school basketball coach who had died.   He was hired by Cletus Summers, the principal and a longtime friend, to coach the team and teach classes.

Earlier in life Dale had been a champion collegiate coach until he punched one of his players.  That got him barred from coaching college ball.  For many years he had hidden in the Navy.  Now he had been honorably discharged.

The coaching position in Hickory was a last chance for Norman Dale, who is played by Gene Hackman.

How about you?  Have you made some mistakes?

Have you made a BIG mistake?

It may surprise you, but my experience is most people have made at least one BIG mistake.

For those of us who recover and rebuild, by grace our legacy is typically not the mistake.  Instead, we are judged by how we apply what we've learned to more positively impact the lives of others.

The journey is long.  The battles can be ongoing.  At least for a time...

In Hoosiers, Coach Dale had to battle the disbelief of a teacher who was the guardian of the town's best high school basketball player, Jimmy Chitwood.  Jimmy had decided not to play due to grief over the death of the prior coach.  He refused to even speak a word to the new coach, even when Dale patiently tried to talk with him.

Coach Dale also had the burden of establishing boundaries and discipline for a basketball team of unruly high school boys.  The situation is further complicated by the fact it initially only has five players after two quit.  They didn't care to behave and show the coach respect.  A father brings one of them back, which brings the team to six players.

It was a small town.  The high school only had 161 students.  However, basketball was their passion.  A number of the men in the community felt firmly established as armchair coaches of the high school boys' basketball team. 

As Coach Dale tried to get his team in sync, they question his every thought, word, and action.

Even the student body chanted to have Jimmy Chitwood return to the team rather than cheer the players who were doing their best to represent the school.

It was Norman Dale's last chance.

If he failed, then he would never get another opportunity to coach the game he loved. 

He had the knowledge, experience, and skill to be a championship coach.  But his BIG mistake had detoured him into a tiny Indiana town that did not like him.

So what did he do?

He had the grit to stick to what he knew was right, admitted his mistake of the past when it came up, and kept pushing forward day by day.  He invested his life in the boys on that team.

If the story stopped there, it would be logical.  However it did not.

Hoosiers lets you see the humility of a tough warrior.  Without saying it specifically, Norman Dale was thankful for the grace his friend, Cletus, had shown him.  He extends grace to others.  You can see it by how he treats others.  He decided that someone needed to help a man who had fallen into the deep pit of alcohol.

The opportunity comes about when Cletus, acting as an assistant coach, had chest pains after an angry Coach Dale got ejected from another of their early season games. 

Dale needed a replacement assistant coach.  He decided to invite knowledgeable local former star basketball player Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch.  Shooter was the father of one of the players, Everett.  He was also the town drunk.  Even Everett was disgusted with him and would have nothing to do with his father.

Coach Dale put boundaries on Shooter, just like he did with the boys, although different.  Shooter had to be sober, on time, and dressed in a suit to coach with him.

Yet the team still struggled.

Coach Dale bet it all.  He was teaching the young men basketball.  More than that, he taught them integrity, reminded them of the value of hard work, and tried to give a hand up to a man who was in a deeper pit than himself.

Yet all appeared lost.  He started to lose his grip on the opportunity.

After just a few games the armchair coaches of the town called an emergency meeting to vote on whether Dale should be dismissed.  It looked bleak, but the coach held his ground.  He said he was proud of the boys on the team and he would not change anything he had done.

As the vote was being counted Jimmy walked in and announced he figures it's time for him to start playing ball.  The crowd erupted in cheers.  However, Jimmy had one boundary:  He would play only if Coach Dale stayed.  If the coach left, then he would not play.

Coach Dale won the vote.

Remember the importance of boundaries.

Did the team start winning?  Did Shooter stay sober?  Did Shooter and his son reconcile?  What happened to the other relationships in town?

You have to watch the movie.


First, a hero cannot do everything or save everyone. 

Are you trying to do too much today?

Second, our lives are blessed when we extend the grace we have received to others. 

Sometimes it is our turn to help.  A kind word.  A listening ear.  A smile.  Sometimes more.

Choose carefully. Once you choose help someone or a cause, then set boundaries.  Hold tight.  Stay true to the grace you are extending and the boundaries you establish.

The person you try to help may not make it all the way up on to their feet.  Your role may be just to get them out of the pit.

Consider the risk to your opportunity, your life, and the people depending on you.  Gamble only what you are willing to lose.

Norman Dale was willing to lose it all because he believed he was doing the right thing.

There is the story I heard years ago of a well-off couple who went on a mission trip.  They were so touched by the needs of the people that they gave, and gave, and gave... until they had no more.  But it wasn't enough.  The poor were still poor, but now the couple had joined them in poverty.

It is rare that is the best decision.

Good intentions cannot be the only criteria behind your decision to risk what you have to help others.  Balance your heart with sincere consideration of how a loss would affect people who depend on you, such as your family or employees.

Grace can be extended in small doses and still improve the lives of others. 

Practice grace with boundaries.

Third, last week I encouraged you to embrace 2017 as your comeback year.  This begs the question:  What's the one thing you will do this year that will make everything else easier?

You cannot be a hero to everyone or do everything.

However, there is one thing you can do, and do with excellence!

Identify that one thing and do something.  You will be glad you did.

Start with humility and grace.

If you have the time, watch the movie Hoosiers.

It's a fun story.  Unfortunately it is not true.  The real story of a small Indiana town's high school basketball team actually has some special gems of its own.  Click here to learn what really happened.

Uniters Wash Their Hands

Let me paraphrase an old teaching.  Then I can apply it specifically to leadership:

Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...

The phrase, “wash your hands,” jumped off the page at me late last week.  I had to pause and let it sink in.

When faced with “dirty hands” – a problem - “Bad Bosses” too often procrastinate, avoid the issue, blame someone else, and/or take shortcuts.

UNITERS must make a different choice, and develop better habits.

Everyone can be a leader who seeks to UNITE people.  However, this requires us to “wash our hands” by ethically engaging our team to resolve problems in ways that make the issue unlikely to return.

Working with and/or directing others to resolve problems is more short-term work, but less long-term pain. My theme this month is being a UNITER, not a Divider.

Which type of person, or leader, are you? The first takes intentional effort.  The latter comes naturally to everyone in varying degrees.

Washing hands is not my problem.  (My Dad was a cleanliness freak and a great guy.) Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...

The next command, however, is deeper.  Purify your heart is an ongoing issue because I am not flawless.  My thoughts are not always the best.  I make mistakes.

I am struck by the need to first “purify” our hearts rather than judge others.  When we do not hold ourselves accountable first, then we typically go straight to double standards.  That is not a UNITER discipline.

For instance, remember that person who was… Racing up the freeway and following your car so close that they were almost in your back seat?  Why was that jerk in such a hurry?  It was stressful and made you mad.

BUT, what about your behavior days before that when you were in a hurry driving?

Remember that person who was…  late delivering on their commitment to get you something?  That really messes you up!  How could they do that?  Don’t they have any integrity?

BUT, what about the deadline you missed recently, asked for an extension, and got it?  (Was that from the same person?)

Remember that boss, other employee, peer who is not treating you the way you want.  It can hurt your feelings, or maybe even make you mad.  Why do they have to be such a jerk?  Or so lazy?  Or whatever…?

BUT, what about when your tone of voice recently was sharp, condescending, or otherwise unpleasant?  When did you last say something negative about someone else in your workplace, and/or fail to compliment someone?

Your lack of appreciation triggered natural reciprocity.  This is the natural tendency to match someone else’s behavior.  (We teach this in our Workplace Drama course of Dave’s Charm School.)

This is just three examples.  I bet you have more.

Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...

What could this ancient exhortation mean for leaders today? I suggest one application is the following: Commit to be a humble person of integrity who is a consistent role model for your company values and standards.  This is a UNITER.

Here are 7 steps to “wash your hands:”

1.  Submit

When making decisions, discern if the true sense of your heart, emotions you feel, the words you will speak, and the actions you will take, fully demonstrate your company values and standards.  Submit your desires to, and unite others through the higher purpose of your organization.

2.  Resist

Know the triggers to your bad habits.  Do not be tempted into emotion or shortcuts.  Recognize when something motivates you to react in a selfish way.  Stop.  Breathe.  Respond by choosing a healthier path.  Resist the reaction.  Choose the higher ground.  Unite by intentionally responding, not instinctively reacting.

3.  Accept

Take full responsibility for your portion of mistakes.  (Don't accept blame on behalf of others.)  Work to develop new, more powerful habits to avoid those mistakes in the future.  Accept your part in the problem, at times without requiring others to do the same.  Unite by reconciling with a positive spirit.

4.  Apologize

Don't be afraid to express sincere sorrow for your mistakes.  Remove the burden of guilt from your heart...  and your legacy.  Apologize respectfully so you can move forward with greater freedom.  Unite by building bridges.

5.  Be humble

Avoid double standards.  Hold yourself accountable to your company values and standards first.  Do it even when others are not.  Consider the life wounds of the other party, the facts, and the solution more than the comparatively brief impact of the problem or the pain of their disrespect.  Unite with humility.

6.  Encourage

Enforce and/or encourage accountability with employees / coworkers.  Do this by reminding people of your company values, standards, and the expectations of others.  Remind yourself and others that, "This is the way we behave in our family."  Ask questions and be open to ideas with integrity.  Be firm on what boundaries cannot be crossed.  Unite with encouragement and your example.

7. Be Thankful

Express sincere gratitude for your blessings and what you want to encourage in others.  It may be something small.  Do not let a person's mistakes block their positive traits from your consideration.  Unite with sincere gratitude.

Wash your hands often.  It removes possible disease.  It also is a visual reminder of a higher calling to cleanse ourselves of our weaknesses first, develop the strengths of others second, and always be actively uniting our people in meaningful work.

Blind Commitment

Good intentions do not always make good law, policy, or even words or actions. Sometimes good intentions can lead to bad decisions, like going down a roller coaster without being fully secured in your seat.

Example: Airbnb is demanding their hosts and renters give up their First Amendment rights, or be dropped from membership.

On Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 8:37 a.m. PST, I received the following email from Airbnb.

The Airbnb Community Commitment

Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

What is the Community Commitment?

You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

How do I accept the commitment?

On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.

What if I decline the commitment?

If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.

What if I have feedback about the commitment?

We welcome your feedback about the Community Commitment and all of our nondiscrimination efforts. Feel free to read more about the commitment. You can also reach out to us at

The Airbnb Team

Sent with ♥ from Airbnb


Here was my reply via email to Airbnb on Sunday, October 30 at 12:15 pm:

Dear Airbnb,

I fully support your desire for people to “respect” one another.  However, your demand that all hosts and renters “…treat everyone… without judgment or bias” is illogical, unreasonable, and unrealistic.  It also violates America’s First Amendment free speech rights.

  1. Your Commitment requires your hosts and renters to lie, or lose their right to participate in your network.  Everyone who signs your commitment is lying.  It is so sad to see you strong-arming your community. The fact is hosts and people booking rooms ALWAYS are judging the hosts or environment they are renting.  No one accepts a person into their home, or purposefully rents a room/home from someone who makes them uncomfortable.Our heritage and beliefs spill over into our lifestyles, and we ALL make choices – including EVERYONE AT AIRBNB.(“Choices” are a form of “judgment” with “bias” to what we like. Choices are not necessarily prejudice.)
  2. I did not join Airbnb to be part of a political movement.  I find it offensive that you want to force your beliefs on me, and especially in a way that is false.  Your broad statements are impossible for anyone to truly live out. I will drop from your network if this Commitment program is enacted as it is today.Unlike many of your members, I will not sacrifice my integrity to bow down to your demands.  There are plenty of other businesses and networks where I can reserve a room without having to submit to your prejudices.
  3. Please note:  I work and have friendships with people that meet all of your criteria.  We have people of other races in our family.  I am loving and respectful with all of them.
  4. Your Commitment requirement reminds me of Nazi Germany, not the idealistic standard you purport it to be.  I hope it is well-intentioned, but the way it is currently written is arrogant, shocking, and disappointing. Part of the closing comments of your email states: “We welcome your feedback about the Community Commitment and all of our nondiscrimination efforts.”  I don’t expect you to agree with me.  Your Commitment verbiage indicates you will not be respectful of my thoughts.  Either I kowtow to your demands, or I’m out. Can’t you see the judgment and bias in your own Commitment requirement?  I hope you choose to edit your Commitment standard to only have the word “respect” in it.  Please do not require people to lie.  Drop the words “judgment” and “bias.”

FOOTNOTE: Please be leaders who bring people together in work that is both collectively and individually meaningful. Be careful to avoid Airbnb’s mistake. Never divide people based on a lie, even if your intentions are good. Only demand a standard when it is necessary, and your standards are based on truth.

In reality, Airbnb could have achieved its sincere objective with the word “respect.”

Stuart Crawford and the power of company culture

Yesterday I talked with Stuart Crawford (@Ulistic) about the power of company culture. Stuart is the CEO of Ulistic, a company that provides marketing and consulting services to managed services providers.

More money is lost in the I.T. services industry from poor company culture than any other reason. From my experience with helping leaders of these organizations, it is absolutely crucial to have a positive, productive company culture.

Consider what we have to say based on a combined 59 years of experience in the industry. I think you will be challenged by this conversation.