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.

3 Tips to Un-Suck Your Assessments

Talent Assessments are a process, not a single activity.

We had a situation recently where a help desk candidate took one of our Talent Assessments.  The results look good in the report, but the results were wrong.

We identified the contradiction and recommended the Client not hire the person.  They were very pleased that we saved them from hiring a great actor, instead of a true superstar.

If they had simply been buying the online assessment without our consulting service they would have made a costly mistake.

Do your DISC or other type of assessments "suck" but you put up with them?  Are they inaccurate, or do you wish they told you more?

How could the results be wrong?

Our online Dual Perspective Service assessments confirm a person's behaviors and driving forces / motivators, with a "Sales" version for sales professionals and another "General" version for other employees or job candidates. 

We also have a Triple Perspective Service that integrates confirmation of the person's work competencies to further increase the accuracy of the report from 80-85% to 90-95%. 

Probably 25-50 million people have taken these assessments that you can order on our website.  This is powerful validation of the different versions of our online assessments.

Yet in this case, the online assessment results were wrong.  To be candid, this is not the first time this has happened.  The good news is our proven process catches these errors and helps our Clients make better decisions on more realistic data.

The reason the online assessment by itself failed is that some people answer based on what they think they are, versus who they really are. 

Sometimes this is because the job candidate or employee is trying to manipulate the results of the report.  In the situation I mentioned above I believe it was simply the job candidate thought he behaved differently than he actually did.

Have you ever had an employee who thought he or she was better than they actually were on the job?

Yes, we have been there, done that too. 

Therefore we have a process to avoid repeating that mistake.  It hurt too much, and cost a lot of money and time when it happened earlier in our careers.

TIP #1

If you just order a DISC assessment to consider a person's behaviors, then you lack insights into the driving forces / motivators that make them behave that way.  You are actually missing the most important information.  You have to understand and appeal to what motivates a person for them to improve. 

Managing by reacting to their behaviors is significantly less effective than understanding and intentionally engaging them based on their driving forces / motivators / values.

It's like you are addressing the "symptoms" of a problem, rather than the "disease."

TIP #2

The power of assessing someone's work behaviors, motivations, and competencies is a combination of three activities:

1  -  Your online assessment is weak.  We are surprised at how many of our competitors' reports are incredibly generic and lack depth.  We are convinced the organization that provides us with our assessments is the best value in the world for a comprehensive, accurate report.

2  -  You have a weak or incomplete process for a job candidate or employee to complete the online assessment, and confirm its results.  Too many companies just have someone take their online assessment instead of follow a complete process to gain a full perspective on the person.

When you fail in this area it's like buying a new 3/8 inch drill bit because you need to drill 3/8 inch holes.  However, you only drill halfway through the wood each time you need a 3/8 inch hole.  The initial hole in the wood looks great, but because you do not complete the process it does not help you achieve your goals.  It is an incomplete hole that is not used.  It only provides momentary inspiration. 

3  -  You do not consistently apply what was learned in the assessment process after it is completed.  Too many people pay for an assessment and find the results interesting, but then do not ever look at them again, or apply the results to help individuals prosper.

TIP #3

The people who advise you on the results of the assessments are a key factor in whether the results you get are accurate. 

I encourage you to get real.  Most of you could be getting a lot more for the money you are spending for online assessments of job candidate and employee work behaviors, driving forces / motivators, and/or competencies.

If you are not are ready a Client of our Talent Assessments, then we are willing to give you one for free to experience the process.  Just email us at info@MANAGEtoWIN.com.

If you prefer not to use our assessments, then please consider my advice above to strengthen your process and achieve a much higher ROI from your evaluation of job candidates and employees.

I hope your 2017 is off to a strong start.

Dave's Dirty Dozen Email Rules

We launched Dave's Charm School, 14 soft skills training courses, on a monthly subscription this week.  Check it out…

Jeff suggested I give you a taste of the Communications 101 course by sharing (my) Dave's Dirty Doesn't Email Rules.  Even if not every one of these rules work for you, it is a lot easier to edit my list than to start with a blank piece of paper to define some email standards or best practices in your organization.

1.  Communicate based on their preferred style.

Adjust your writing style to the way the recipient of your email prefers to receive information.  If you don't know what that is, figure it out in advance.  (Our Clients confirm preferred communication styles using our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments.)

2.  No hiding – speak, do not write negatives.

If you have an issue with someone then talk with them in-person or by phone.  No flaming emails.  When we are experiencing difficulty with others there is a high sensitivity to written words.  Therefore verbal conversations are best.  If necessary, follow-up after the verbal conversation with a brief, respectful email to confirm key points.

3.  Subject line – clear;  update it;  does it need to be a “hook?”

Be brief.  Be clear.  Motivate.  The subject line of your email can determine whether or not your communication is read at all.  Do you need it to be a hook to motivate someone to open your email?  As you go back and forth with someone and the length of the email gets longer and longer… update the subject line as the focus of your comments change.

4.  Copies, blind copies, delegation, and sharing.

Only copy people on emails who absolutely need to be informed.  Blind copies can come back to bite you, so use the BCC option discriminately.  Forward emails to others only when appropriate and you would be comfortable if they were doing the same thing with your communications.  Consider the cost of a BCC becoming public.

5.  Be brief.

Be brief.  Be bright.  Be gone.  Use attachments and links to limit the length of email body copy.  Have verbal discussion when interaction is needed.  Use email for notes, and or confirmation of details, action items, and agreement.

6.  Format information for scanning, not reading.

There is too much to do and not enough time.  Design your communication to be scanned rather than read.  This will take you longer to compose your email, but demonstrate respect to the recipient, increase response, and improve productivity.

7.  Taking action should be easy – links…

If you want someone to do something online or download data, it is your responsibility to take the time to provide accurate links for them to consider the information.  Check your links before sending.

NOTE:  If you are slightly OCD… after you check the link the color of the text for the link may change the purple.  Does this bug you?  You can select the words again, click to enter a hyperlink, and simply click Save / OK to refresh the links in your email in blue-colored type.

8.  Never say anything you do not want in the newspaper & “complete delete.”

Email never dies, unless managed by an unethical politician.  Choose your words cautiously.  As my eighth grade English teacher used to say, "Peruse your verbatim carefully” before clicking the Send button.  A wise person chooses to avoid risk and save some comments for a verbal conversation at another time, if at all.

9.  Use drafts, proofread, and auto spell/grammar check.

Draft important emails and then set them aside for at least 30 minutes, if not overnight.  Proofread several times.  Do a spelling and grammar check.  If you sense that someone else should proofread the email for you, but you do not want to take the time or have another excuse...  If there is not a risk for that person to advise you, take the time to get their opinion.  Usually that voice encouraging you to get their opinion is trying to save you from unnecessary drama.

10.  Professional signature.

Have a consistent professional signature for everyone in your organization.  There are many ways to do this.  We recently started testing Calendly to help automate the process of setting appointments.  (I often have to edit that line of my signature.)  We used to have a legal disclaimer at the bottom, but dropped it.  Here is an example of my signature (not formatted well due to this app):

11.  Schedule time to do email.

I turned-off notifications of every email coming into my Inbox years ago.  I now limit my time each day to consider email, although at times I will pop-in in for brief bursts of Inbox review in-between meetings.

How do I have time in-between meetings to do this?

In our Charm School course on Time Management, I teach you to schedule your meetings to end 10-15 minutes before the hour.  Finish your meetings on time.  Then you have space to check email, grab something to eat, visit the restroom, or do something else before starting your next activity.

12.  Respond quickly – clear Inbox daily.

The goal each day is to clear your Inbox.  I use folders to save emails for future reference.  Quick, brief responses are fine.  Sometimes your quick reply may be only to commit to get something done in a later time.

No response is UNACCEPTABLE if the email is from someone you know.


Of course, I could go on.  However, this should give you plenty to consider.  I hope you found these tips helpful and can apply them to save time, avoid drama, and improve relationships moving forward.

Good intent. Bad law.

NOTE:  My comments below are to remind you of fair, equitable hiring and compensation practices, not to get political.  I feel this discussion is important and hope it does not offend anyone.  It is frustrating when government employees and politicians who get paid huge pensions and retirement benefits that are underfunded (debt), and operate under deficit spending, feel they know more than business people about how to run a business profitably.

As leaders, we have to implement systems, define policies, and build a culture that is more than good intentions.  We have to do things that are efficient, effective, and create opportunities for our company, employees, partners, and community to prosper.

Good intentions are not enough.  Here is an example of good intentions, but terrible implementation.

Are there areas in your business where you are making a similar mistake based on good intentions?

Have you heard the news?

The State of Massachusetts' politicians and government bureaucrats want to remind you that they are smarter than business people. 

I am talking about the fact that this week the State of Massachusetts passed the Equal Pay Act, an effort by politicians to remove "perceived pay inequity" in any way.  Men versus women...  People of one heritage versus another...  Homosexuals versus heterosexuals...  or maybe you are currently underpaid in your current job.  (According to whom?)

Please do not misunderstand me.  I agree with the intent of the law.  Nevertheless, it has a minimum of two major flaws that will cost Massachusetts businesses millions of dollars:

#1 - The law is impossible to enforce fairly.  How are they going to track what is actually discussed in job interviews or between managers and employees?

#2 - This law is a financial "pot of gold" for contingency lawyers looking to make a quick buck.  Just consider the potential "he said, she said" lawsuits that are going to hit Massachusetts companies based on attributes of the Equal Pay Act that goes into effect in 2018.  Here are just three of them:

  • You may ask a job candidate for confirmation of their current or prior compensation, "...including benefits or other compensation or salary history only after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee."  (What happens if you accidentally ask during your final interview?  Apparently, you are toast.)
  • Companies cannot prohibit workers from telling other people how much they are paid.  (Why would you do this anyway?)
  • The law requires equal pay not just for workers whose jobs are alike, but also for those whose work is of "comparable character" or who work in "comparable operations."  (Who is going to define what is comparable?)

Reminder:  The law gives workers the right to sue companies directly for violations.

Again, I agree with the intent.  Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage/salary. I just hate laws that are unenforceable and throw fuel on the fire of antagonistic contingency law firms. There is nothing in this law that creates jobs.  There's plenty in this law that may eliminate jobs or motivate businesses to move out of the state.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  What should you do?

#1 - Become informed.  You can start by reading the text of the law and/or this NY Times article, which is biased in support of the law, and/or other information about the law.  Discuss the impact of the law on your organization with your HR attorney.

#2 - Adjust your approach.  One of the three most important questions I recommend be asked of job candidates in the initial phone screen is, "What are your compensation requirements?"  I do NOT give legal advice, but it appears my question does not violate the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act...

NOTE:  The NY Times believes the law requires "...hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront..." when interviewing.  I do not see that in the law, but maybe I missed it.  Bureaucratic legalese is not a language I speak fluently.

As an alternative, you could just state the salary range and ask if that matches their objective.

If you currently ask a job candidate specifically what they are being paid in their current job, then change your wording to my question or something legally appropriate.

The reason you need to know what they want to earn is because you must protect your time during the interview process.  If their compensation requirements or desires are outside of the range you are planning to pay, then you need to not proceed with the interview.

#3 - Confirm later.  My understanding is this law allows an employer to request confirmation of the person's current and/or compensation after giving them a job offer.  I suspect this means if they accept, then the candidate agrees to release the information or confirm it in some way.

However, do you really care?  If you structure your compensation so people are paid based on performance then who cares what they made before?  If they perform for you, then you are getting a good value - it is a WIN-WIN relationship.  (We do not ask people to confirm prior compensation at MANAGEtoWIN.)

Maybe we need to help leaders become better leaders rather than be burdened by ineffective laws...?

#4 - MOST IMPORTANT - Pay people fairly.  Wherever your business is located, always pay people fairly and be ethical in your hiring practices. 

Please forgive me for discussing something that involves politics. 

I just have a short fuse with governmental micromanagement through unenforceable laws that are catalyst for unnecessary legal fees.  These types of laws waste time, money, and distract us from generating new jobs and fulfilling careers for others in our communities.

My primary concern is your approach to hiring and compensation consistently demonstrates integrity and is effective in growing your organization.

I hope you're having a record setting 2016.

Expose the Actors! Hiring and recruiting webinar with Todd Billiar of VAR Staffing

Have you wished you had interviewed a job candidate better? Here is your chance to learn our inside tips along with those of Todd Billiar, super recruiter. In the long run, every new hire costs you 1X-2X their annual compensation even if you fire them after six months. Your primary gamble is the interview process. Interview like a pro to expose great actors and convince superstars to join your team. Interview un-systematically and it costs you a minimum of $10,000.

Check out this webinar to hear two experts explain how they make certain the people they hire will be long-term, top performing employees.

Check out all our videos on Vimeo and download the files/PPT for this webinar on Dropbox.

7 Questions About Retention

Today completes a journey through 7 questions on each of the key areas of leadership:  Hiring, management, development, and retention of top performers.

The 7 questions in each of these areas is meant to be an opportunity for self or group accountability.  Why?

  • Only when your employees are fully engaged can your clients consistently have great experiences being served by your company.
  • When leaders are spending too much time replacing staff then you are wasting time, losing money, and missing opportunities.
  • In regards to retention, studies have concluded the cost of losing an employee is 1X-3X their annual compensation when you take into account the full impact of the loss.

I encourage you to ask questions during our free webinar on interviewing job candidates at 3PM Tuesday, December 2.  Register here.

Here are 7 questions every leader should ask about how you are retaining top performing employees.   In particular, make certain you ask these questions about your most productive, profitable, and personally fulfilled people, but ideally you consider how well each employee is being retained:

#1 Meaningful Work:  How well is the employee's work aligned with their unique work values?

If you are using our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments, then how well are you appealing to their two most intense work values, and the statements they confirmed are the best way to work with them?

When is the last time you reinforced something they did on the job as it relates to their core values?

When is the most recent time you gave them an opportunity to work on something that specifically related to their core values, and did you communicate that when discussing it with them?  How did it go?

Meaningful Work is the second strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP.

#2 Strategic Plan:  Yes, I am back at this again.  Does each person have an employee strategic plan - a job description on steroids - so they are focused on achieving meaningful work?

Did they help write it? Are they staying up with it - goal review weekly, expectations review as needed, but no later than quarterly, and career path review quarterly?

#3 Follow-up:  Are you consistently following-up with each employee?

Are they on track with their employee strategic plan? Have you followed-up and followed through, as Frank Ernesto of NDSE would say, on every commitment you have made to each employee?

When was the last time you confirmed you are meeting their expectations as a manager, as defined in their strategic plan?  And confirmed they are meeting yours...

#4 Retention Interviews:  Have you done an informal retention interview with each employee during the last six months?

This is an offsite coffee meeting or meal, or during a drive to a client or golf game.  It is NOT a list of questions to ask and check-off, but is is a crucial check-in to confirm they are fully engaged, their expectations are being met, and they feel part of the team.

Email me if you want my list of sample questions.

#5 Value Them:  How have you reinforced each employee is a valued member of your team?

Sincere Gratitude is the third strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP.  It is critical that you regularly, properly, personally, and sincerely appreciate your people.  Some of this is formal recognition, but much of it is how you follow up with people, encourage them SINCERELY, and compliment them indirectly in front of others.

#6 Incentive Pay:  Do your employees have opportunities to earn unlimited compensation based on their performance?

Every employee should have 25% or more of their compensation based on performance.  There should be no limits to their pay when they over-perform.

Years ago I was working with Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club member companies.  One of them wanted to hire their first sales person.  We discussed compensation.  I suggested top performing sales people earn $100,000 or more.  He replied, "Oh no, we would never want a sales person to earn that much money.  We are thinking more like $60,000."

I do not think their company repeated as a Presidents Club member the following year...

In contrast, at the same time another Presidents Club member was paying a young sales rep in his twenties over $400,000 for blowing his quota out of the water.  Why not?  The commission plan still made certain the company made its profit.

Sales people examples of performance pay are easy, but everyone should be paid on performance and rewarded generously when times are good.

#7 Proud Parent:  Do you have a true story about each employee that boasts about how proud you are of them?

Why not? Let your people hear you speak highly about them and their accomplishments.  Do not repeat the same story over and over again, but give them confidence you are a "proud parent."

Think about how much you like it, even when it is embarrassing, when someone you love or admire speaks well of you. Do the same.

If you do these 7 things well as a manager, then you significantly increase your ability to retain top performing employees.

Don't wait.  Take Sanctuary time this weekend to answer these 7 questions and act upon your answers.  You will be glad you did.

7 Hiring Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Quick stories from hiring I was NOT involved in...

"He didn't act like this in the interviews," my Client complained.  Oops...  He had hired "Dr. Jekyll" and got "Mr. Hyde."  

Another Client hired a tech in another state without meeting him in-person.  Weeks later he called the tech to say he and a sales rep would be in the area.  Could they stop by and meet?  "You better not come by my house.  I'll call the cops.  You have no right to come anywhere near here.  You better not..."  Oops...

The candidate was stellar during interviews.  My Client warned he would run a background check on him.  Is there anything the candidate wanted to alert him to that might come back in the report?  "No.  Nothing."  The report came back that he was a sexual predator, had done jail time, had a DUI, and more.  Oops...  Thank God for our background check company!

Here are 7 questions every leader should ask about how you hire people, that surprisingly very few people do ask:

#1  Quality of Hire:  What type of people do we want to hire?

Most leaders have not defined a standard for the quality of people they are willing to hire.  Do they want only top performers, good people, average folks, or just anyone who can fill a seat to join their company?  The result is they overlook warning signs of weak performance during the hiring process, and reap the pains later.

#2  Systematic Power:  Do we have a clearly defined hiring system, and are we following it every time?

Most leaders have a sketchy hiring process at best, and rely on gut feelings to hire people.  Too often the hiring process is rushed, and then you tend to miss warning signs that someone is not a cultural fit or lacks critical technical or soft skills.

#3  Strategic Plan:  Have we fully and clearly defined the job?

Most leaders explain a job rather than provide a full written definition.  One of our most popular LEADERSHIP Essentials Service is helping Clients develop employee strategic plans for each person's success.  These also give you an edge in the hiring process when superstars are considering other offers.

See a sample here.  Let me know if you want to discuss how it works.

#4  Promoting Opportunities:  How do we promote our jobs so we are attracting people who are not looking in addition to qualified candidates?

Most companies can improve their job promotion activities.  Always have open jobs on your website.  Promote on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites.  Do you have a system to consider and properly manage interns or recent college graduates?  Do you have a network of 50 or more people you can easily contact to communicate new openings?  There is more...

#5  Talent Assessments:  Do we have a way to confirm the candidate's core work behaviors and values/motivators?

Anyone can hire a person, but shrewd leaders use tools to clearly confirm whether a candidate is a match for the position, get job candidates talking outside of their "first date" script, and test their skills.  

Bill Bonnstetter has said, "If a job could talk, it would explain precisely what was necessary for it to achieve superior performance."  The problem is jobs do not talk, so we have to do our due diligence.

If you have never tried our Talent Assessments, which most of our active Clients use before they hire anyone, then email me.  I will let you experience one for free if you contact me by October 30, 2014.

#6  Background Check:  Do we complete a background check on every person before they start working for us?

This is cheap insurance.  NEVER hire anyone without a background check.  I have lost $1.5 million on a hiring mistake that could have been avoided with a simple $125 background check.  Only check people you are hiring, not all job candidates.

If you want a great online background check partner, email me.  I will send you the company we use.

#7  No Emotion:  Is our employee turnover too high because we are hiring the wrong people?

I have a growing number of Clients who hire me to interview their top candidates before they finalize their interview process.

I give their top candidates our full Talent Assessment plus Summary, interview the candidate, and then tell the Client whether I would hire them, interview them more, or NOT hire them.

Why go to this expense ($499 for one;  $399 for a bundle of five)?  Because I am not trying to fill a seat and have no emotion in the hiring process, I often catch behaviors and motivators of job candidates they miss.  Every time my advice protects them from a bad hire, they save at least $10,000 if not the first year's compensation for the position.

You can order this service on our Talent Assessment page (please use Chrome or Firefox to order - we are having problems with IE).

Ask yourself these questions.  Congratulations if your answers are good!  But are you and your people consistently living it out?  (I hope so!)

Don't wait.  Take Sanctuary time this weekend to answer these 7 questions and act upon your answers.  You will be glad you did.

The Flawed Rose

After high school my girlfriend, Terry, joined the Ice Follies.  (I went to U.C. Berkeley.)  In her second year with the show Terry earned a short solo to the music of Second Hand Rose.  

She left the show later that year, but in our 37+ years of marriage I have moved from buying her 10 dozen roses her opening night in San Francisco to a single red rose.  The single rose is a reminder of our young love.

Last Thursday I was driving through San Francisco and picked up a rose for Terry.  Days later it drooped.  I thought it was dead.  I pruned it, put it back in the vase, and went to bed for the evening.  It was full of life in the morning, but that afternoon was drooping again.

I pruned it again, and it revived again.  (Does that remind you of some employees?)  It began to bloom, but it is flawed. For some reason part of its bloom is missing.  In the lower left you can see the brown leaf that is typically only behind the rose.  The petals are missing so it shows.  

Roses are stunning.  They improve a room and brighten people's days. They have a wonderful scent.  A rose reminds you of something positive.


What do you do when that "rose" of an employee turns out to be flawed?

  1. Thorns:  Every employee has issues, just as roses have thorns.  Period.  You can overcome or avoid their thorns when you know your employees primary motivators and preferred behavioral style (our Talent Assessments).  Then you can work with them intentionally to reinforce their positive traits and avoid their negative attributes.
  2. Flawed:  Every employee is flawed like this rose.  Sometimes the flaws are very clear.  Other times weaknesses are hidden for a while... Leaders better engage employees when we focus on strengths and improve weaknesses to a competitive level.  Do NOT try to make a weakness a strength.  We achieve more with less effort, and our people are happier, when we focus on aligning job responsibilities with their strengths.
  3. Surprises:  This rose is missing part of its bloom.  This flaw was hidden from me when I bought it.  Our people surprise us too.  Any leader can inspire a team when profits are high, our group/company is growing, and people are getting along.  GREAT leaders are prepared for surprises and overcome them because they know how their people prefer to work.  They help others work together in ways that balance their individual needs, the preferences of others (coworkers, clients, vendors), and the objectives of the company. This means we have to be a 3strands LEADER who is systematically engaging our people in meaningful work as we constantly reinforce sincere gratitude for their contributions in ways they appreciate.
  4. Prune:  This rose needs pruning to thrive.  So do our employees.  They are not robots or a dog who will sleep 16 hours a day and be happy.  Employees need our Systematic LEADERSHIP - consistent engagement to remain focused, grow, and achieve.  We have to help them feel good about pruning dead habits, wasted time, and poor behaviors so our people love what they do as much as possible.
  5. Replace:  Sometimes the rose I give Terry lasts a very long time, but at some point it is always time to get a new one.  This is not a bad thing.  The rose has served its purpose and it is time to move on.

It is a similar story with our employees.  At some point they need to move on to something else in life, maybe retirement, but in the meantime we have to work systematically to keep our team fully engaged.

This requires everyone to have clear, measurable goals and defined work behaviors.  We always gain when we inspire people as a 3strands LEADER, including having a clearly defined hiring system to hire Dr. Jekyll, not a great actor who turns out to be Mr. Hyde.

Thriving roses.  Fully engaged employees.  This is our primary responsibility as leaders.

Pruning, Always Pruning

It was February 2000.  A large IT vendor agreed to fund my dot com start-up with $10 million.  Twenty days later we were ready to go with $2 million in the bank. 

The problem was the dot com mantra was "grow fast", and I had already seen first-hand that growing fast is a delicate process and can easily turn into a disaster for a new company.  However, they were paying, so we set aside what I had learned and tried to hire and grow according to the IT vendor's strategy for us.

It was not pretty.  We made good progress, but also had a few rough setbacks.

One year later the IT vendor shocked us by cutting off the remainder of our funding.  Things had changed at their company, they were shutting down their fund.

Again I had been given an opportunity to learn a lesson.  Since then it has become clear that growth is good, but a healthy organization requires constant pruning of people, projects, and activities.  Cutting away unnecessary tasks and vague objectives are critical to achieving big T.A.R.G.E.T. goals.

Since that dot com turned into a dot bomb I have dedicated myself to developing a more systematic approach to how leaders hire, manage, develop, and retain top performing employees.  I am convinced that leaders and organizations who follow this systematic approach benefit immensely. They achieve a strong company culture, provide a superior experience for clients, and maximize profits.

To achieve these objectives requires constant pruning.  In gardening, different plants need to be pruned at different times of the year.  Here are some ways to prune in your company so you can grow beyond your past and into your potential: 

  1. Start With Yourself.  We all have bad habits.  Work on better understanding yourself.  Identify 1-3 bad habits you have and how to change them.  Build it into your schedule.  Get help from a coach, mentor, or coworker.
  2. Refine Your Schedule.  What projects, people, or interests are taking up your time, but not producing great results?  This can be a constant battle, and it creates a need for constant pruning.  Respectfully and professionally start pruning your schedule.
  3. Evaluate Your Hiring Process.  Sometimes you hire people who do not consistently perform at a high level.  Zappos now pays $4,000 for a new hire to quit in their first 90 days.  Why?  It is cheaper to get someone to leave than have to work with a cultural misfit and act like they can be part of their winning team.
  4. Simplify Your Offerings.  You might sell and/or support too many products or services.  It's time to consider to selling and/or supporting fewer product lines.  Make it worthwhile for your clients to switch to your preferred platforms AND fine tune the specific product offerings within your key solutions.  For instance, do not offer 5 good managed services offerings.  Instead offer 2 or 3 great ones.
  5. Streamline Communication.  Try harder to communicate briefly via email, notes, or text.  It's best to compose an email that is short and concise, even when referring to a complex subject.  Instead, save those lengthy, detailed discussions for a verbal conversation. Take notes if necessary, then move on to the next task.
  6. Adapt Your Communication.  In addition to keeping things brief, you will save time and build stronger relationships when you adapt your communication style to the preferred communication style of the other person, AND appeal to their values, not yours.  This is the basis of our Talent Assessments and a major reason they are so popular.

I could go on, but then I might need to prune this blog post...  :)

Day 126 | Why Do They Join...

When people join your company for a long-term career instead of a short-term job they often join because they believe your mission offers them meaningful work, or your vision is aligned with where they want to grow in their career, or your values are consistent with their beliefs.

Why do they stop performing well?

  1. Their relationship with their manager, or others, is poor.
  2. Their expectations (#1-3 above) are not met.
  3. You hired Mr. Hyde instead of Dr. Jekyll.  

What can you do about it?

  1. Demonstrate Systematic Leadership - be consistent, but not consistently bad.
  2. Inspire them with Meaningful Work - work that appeals to them.
  3. Regularly express Sincere Gratitude for their contributions.


  1. Did you take Sanctuary time over the weekend to improve your focus?
  2. How did you do on your 3Strands last week?
  3. Have you defined your 3Strands for this week?
  4. By 9:00 a.m. this morning you should have 3Strands emails from each of your direct reports.

Stay on track.

Fire All of Them

Let me build on something you have heard before, but have not recently taken the time to fully consider over a cup of hot chocolate, coffee, tea or a healthy smoothie...

Here is what you need:

  1. A list of all your employees
  2. Their written 2014 goals
  3. Your answer to this question:  If I fired every one of my employees, who would I be excited to hire back?

Then you have to ask yourself two additional questions:

  1. How much is it costing me monthly to keep the people I would NOT hire back enthusiastically?
  2. Is the problem the employee(s), or me, or both?

Take 30-60 minutes to do this exercise today or over the weekend.  You will be glad you did.  If you need help confirming letting someone go is the right decision, how to put them on a performance improvement plan, or creating a better environment that hires superstars and motivates people to perform their best...  contact us.  We can help.


  1. How did you do on your 3Strands this week?
  2. At the end of today or at least before 9:00 a.m. Monday take Sanctuary time and hold yourself accountable to this week's 3Strands and define your 3Strands for next week?

Stay on track.

What Irritates You Most?

A standard interview question I ask is, "What irritates you most when working with Clients?"

This can give you great insights into a job candidate, but also it is a great question to ask your employees on a regular basis.  And don't let them blow the question off.  Drill down to candor...

McLane Intelligent Solutions is an extremely well-led organization in Temple, Texas with a strong company culture.  They are members of our LEADERSHIP Essentials Academy and I interview their top candidates as part of their hiring process after they complete our Talent Assessment Service.  

Recently I was speaking with a person interviewing for a help desk position with McLane.  He had served in the military for 11 years and done three tours of duty.  I asked, "What irritates you most when working with Clients?"

He paused, and then replied, "I just take it in stride.  They are paying and so you just...  I don't take it personally.  It is what it is.  I help irritated people all the time."

Think about it:  He did not say it, but there is a strong possibility that after all he has experienced during 11 years in the military and 3 tours, someone upset because their computer is not working is nothing by comparison.  This guy has perspective, a rare trait in many people today.

Are you hiring superstars, or just good people?  This is a decision you have to make, and then a discipline you have to follow consistently.  My conclusion at the end of our complete interview is that this gentleman is a superstar for McLane.

I suggest you consider asking this question often.

And do not forget... TODAY IS FRIDAY!  A basic part of an Accountability Culture is consistently completing your weekly 3Strands so you are making regular progress on your most important 2013 goals each week.  

Do not forget to hold your people accountable too.