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Human Resources Today

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.

Murphy states the U.S. Air Force has perfected the debrief process so anything learned from one mission can be applied 2-3 hours later in another mission.

Pilots are required after every mission to candidly review the mission, consider what went right, discuss where improvement is needed, and clearly define changes to make in subsequent missions to improve success.

This debrief process is exalted in Air Force circles as the key to their 98% mission completion rate.

Now, in my work with Clients I find there are three critical, interdependent parts to successful service delivery:

  1. Plan
  2. Deliver
  3. Debrief

Most service providers are reasonably effective at planning and delivering.  However, any debrief is minimal because they move so quickly from ticket to ticket, project to project, and Client to Client.  When problems occur, the common approach is to glance at the documentation in their PSA, patch the issue, and rush forward.

Unfortunately, this is not an efficient way to operate. Problems repeat or expand, and too often the documentation lacks important details.

This is not an employee issue. It is a cultural issue and a costly procedural flaw caused by a weak system.

Instead of operating with a reactionary firefighter mentality, try implementing a debrief process for every project and major service ticket.  It will enable you to respond to issues more comprehensively so future efforts are more efficient and effective.

The Debrief Process

A transformative debrief process discusses the result of the project, what went right, where improvements can be made, and how to change processes, communication, and other aspects of future projects.

Murphy recommends a 7-step S.T.E.A.L.T.H. debrief process.  Let’s use his process, with my suggestions, as a baseline for you to implement a better debrief process in your organization:

Set the Time

I’m guessing your debriefs are either non-existent or pathetic.  The first thing to do is add debriefs to your project plans. Even small projects benefit from a good review after completion.  A comprehensive debrief is a critical part of your service delivery process.

  • Debrief meetings are mandatory
  • The time, place, and general agenda of the debrief is part of every project plan
  • During the debrief, schedule additional separate meetings for any strength or weakness that requires a more comprehensive review

Depending on the size of the project, the debrief should last a minimum of 10 minutes to a maximum of one hour.


Everyone in the debrief needs to feel safe when speaking candidly.

The first step to creating this open environment is to have a system for how debriefs are done.

The second step is to limit participation in debriefs to the people who were directly involved in the project, and when appropriate their manager.

The third step is before each debrief.  The leader of the debrief conversation is the role model for candor, humility, active listening, and decision making.

Therefore, assess your current state-of-mind before starting any debrief.  You need to treat others with respect, empathy, and kindness while facilitating clear, efficient discussion of the work completed.

If you are angry or emotionally stressed it can reduce the candor of the meeting’s conversation and damage relationships.  You cannot afford either of those losses.

Also, as mentioned above, the leader sets the tone.  Humbly admitting your mistakes, even when small, reinforces safety and encourages others to be equally candid.  Glossing over your mistakes or dismissing them destroys the debrief.

Execution vs. Objective

Limit the agenda and focus to the project completed.

Focus on the facts during the debrief.  What was the objective?  Did we meet or exceed all of the expectations for this task or project?  Was it on time?  Were the key metrics achieved?

“Yes” and “No” are the answers.  Respectfully avoid skimming over key details, allowing excuses, and indecisive conclusions.

Start by stating the objective and comment on where the project succeeded and where it could improve.

Analyze Execution

Get to the disease rather than dwell on the symptoms.  What happened?  Why did it succeed or fail?  Where can we make changes to be even better?

Were there internal gaps in communication, or with Client contacts?  Was time entry and documentation completed hourly or daily as work was completed?  Can the processes we followed be improved? 

Remember not to just focus on the negative.  The positives should also be evaluated to consider how to do more of what worked well.  This is building on your strengths.

People should not interrupt one another, or repeat what has already been said except to summarize a point and then add something new of value.

Every idea is welcomed, and reasonable extensions of ideas are considered.  The goal is continuous improvement where identified changes are then tested in upcoming projects.

Lessons Learned

Gather what you learned, transfer it to a shared server / cloud location for easy team access, and then apply what was learned.  This is critical.

Without this process, successes are forgotten, mistakes repeat and expand, and opportunities to bond your team around common, meaningful goals is lost.  (Along with a ton of profits!)

Murphy recommends each Lesson Learned is listed:

  1. Objective of the mission
  2. Result of the mission
  3. Cause of the lesson (symptom – good or bad)
  4. Root cause of the lesson (what truly caused the need for the Lesson Learned)
  5. Single Point of Accountability (SPA) – the key thing needing change to improve
  6. Time – when to implement the change, and when its effectiveness will be measured

Transfer Knowledge

Next, who needs this information, when, and how do you get it to them?

Be careful to complete each communication loop of a debrief.  There should not be silos of information, but rather one team with one plan pursuing one goal:  Flawless execution.

Knowledge without application has no value.  The Air Force applies their debrief Lessons Learned hours later in new missions.  You can do the same.  Apply proposed solutions right away so you can test their effectiveness.

The improvements you make based on your debrief meetings may prove to be the catalyst for growth and profitability you have been seeking.

High Note

First, cover the negatives and things needing improvement.

Second, review the positives and the potential positive impact of the changes that were agreed upon.

Last, but not least, remember to include sincere encouragement, gratitude, and recognition of great work.  Everyone wants to feel sincerely valued as a member of your team.  Closing with a sincere compliment to the group for their actions, ideas, conclusions, commitment…  amplifies their strengths and gives them added confidence to succeed in their next project.


Consider implementing a better debrief process.  When you think about the potential results, a well-run debrief has an incredibly high ROI.

And…  join me for a transformational deep dive into leadership in our 1.5 day Leadership 201 Workshop in the Spring of 2019 – a Varnex community exclusive!  Ask Tim Bynarowicz for more information.


It's Time to Train Your Leaders

Every year the effectiveness of your management team determines your results.

Managers don't just assign tasks and drive them to completion. They develop relationships with their team and counterparts. They comfort, console, instruct, and act as a guide. When your front-line employee encounters a crisis, the first person they turn to is not going to be the CEO, it's going to be their manager. The skills and wisdom of the manager will determine whether the crisis is averted or inflamed, and whether the employee is empowered or deflated.

As Victor Lipman says in his Forbes article titled 10 Reasons Why Companies Should Invest More In Management Training:

"An employee's relationship with his or her direct manager is the most important single factor in employee engagement."

That's just the first reason. There are nine more.

How much better would your team leaders be if they could get 6 months of one on one coaching and group training? From our experience, the improvement is palpable.

Alan Lawson, Service Delivery Manager at PICS ITech, found our Certified LEADER program to be transformational:

Alan Lawson

Service Delivery Manager, PICS ITech

I found that learning how to communicate with people through physical queues, good cop bad cop, delegation, accountability, and Sincere Gratitude gave me the most value.

As a very introverted person, I found this course invaluable towards guiding me through the maze of questions involving social interaction, engaging people, and learning the ins and outs of management. I highly recommend this course to everyone because I know that every person can find the value and be a 3Strand Leader.


This is just one example of how one manager improved their management skills. We have countless others.

Don't wait to train your management team. Whether it's an internal program or a formal, professional management training program like our Certified Leader Program, develop your managers now to make certain you hire the best people, achieve maximum efficiencies from your technical resources, and have a thriving company culture.

We only have 5 openings left in our Certified Leader Program that begins in early January. Click here to learn more and reserve a space for one of your leaders before the semester is full.

Register one or more participants before December 31st to receive $250 off the first month!

Strengthen your leadership team, including yourself, so 2019 will be your best year ever!


Steps to Make Tough Decisions

Tough decisions are job security for leaders. You must have strong problem solving skills and high levels of patience and determination.

If there weren’t tough decisions to make, then anyone could be a leader.  Difficult choices amidst twisted data points and emotions are normal, so don’t get upset by having to deal with drama.

What would you do in the following situations?


An employee is not meeting your expectations.  You have tried a variety of methods to improve their outcomes, but nothing works.  Do you fire them?


A 50-50 partner in your business is hurting more than helping your business.  How do you end the partnership without destroying what you have built?


You desperately need to hire someone to fill an open position.  You have limited candidates, maybe only one.  You know the best candidate is not ideal, but…  do you hire her/him and hope she/he exceeds your expectations?

I was recently teaching a Certified Leader class about 3Strands Leadership.  I explained the first strand, Systematic Power.  This is the foundation of leadership, that a leader is consistent, fair, and has great habits.   The six key areas of Systematic Power are how a leader:

#1 - Holds people accountable, starting with self-accountability

#2 - Makes decisions

And the 4 disciplines of a great manager

#3 - Hire

#4 - Manage

#5 - Develop

#6 - Retain

After reviewing these 6 areas, one participant mentioned they struggled to deal with stressful and difficult situations. Like when an employee needs to confronted about poor behavior, or there is a major crisis with a customer.

This participant asked for a system to make tough decisions.  I obliged.

Always Defer to your Values

People make decisions based on their values. Our values are defined in a three-step process:

(1) Our beliefs manifest themselves through our upbringing and experiences.

(2)  Our beliefs define what we consider to be truth, right, and wrong.

(3) Our definition of truth establishes our standards of integrity.

Our standards of integrity and our commitment to integrity determines our thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately how we make decisions. Furthermore, most people don’t take the time to consider where their values come from, or even what they truly are.

Great leaders have clear, specific, personal, and organizational values that provide boundaries for making wise decisions. When facing a difficult decision, always start with your values, personal or otherwise.

Practice Active Listening

Most of the time the initial quantity and quality of information given and considered by us is incomplete, negatively affecting our ability to make the best decisions.  There are important details, possible outcomes, and more that might be missing.

However, despite this obvious gap in the data, we feel pressure to decide quickly or postpone indefinitely.  Each of these approaches are habits of a weak leader.

Instead, when faced with a problem, you need to immediately begin to research, engage with people, ask questions, and practice active listening to discern the depths of a situation and how each possible decision affects others.  Do not fly solo.  Engage your team to not just understand, but comprehend the data and your options.

Great leaders ask great questions.

Have some sort of Deadline

It is too easy to let a problem linger, and never resolve the issue. When faced with a tough decision, commit to a deadline early in the process.

Obviously you don't want to rush a decision, and you cannot allow others to rush you. But you also don't want to go to the other extreme, which is waiting so long that you are procrastinating.  Excessive delay hurts people, relationships, and/or assets.

Sometimes it is unclear when the decision must be made.  In those cases, take some time to decide when the decision must be made.

Great leaders are timely with decisions.

Have Courage

Talk with people about the situation who are strong enough to say you’re wrong.  You need a combination of courage and respectful candor, and then the wisdom not to quickly dismiss anything that contradicts your bias or temptation.

When we ask people for advice, we must seriously consider what they have to say.  Their perspective may be exactly what we need, the spark for an idea that leads to improved clarification of the issue, possible solutions, and how those results may affect others.

Great leaders fully engage with wise counsel.

Utilize Systematic Power

Systematic Power is the first strand of 3strands Leadership.  One of the key applications of Systematic Power is having a consistent, fair, yet flexible process to make decisions. 

The process can be consistent, yet shorter for less complicated and/or time sensitive decisions. 

Being systematic builds strong habits related to best practices.  It builds trust with others.  It helps you better manage your time.

Great leaders are systematic in decision-making.

Pilot a Solution

Can you test your preferred decision in CRT mode?  CRT is at low Cost, with limited people Resources, and in a short period of Time.

Maybe you test your decision by posing it as an option to the person who brought you the problem.  Or, you may talk with people who have to implement or support your decision, and/or those who are affected by it.

Too many leaders make a decision and announce it as a new company standard.  This sets an expectation with others that the decision will not change, but then it does.  This can upset people who trusted the leader when he said something like, “From now on, this is our standard!”

I always recommend decisions are introduced as a pilot or test.  Why?  Positioning the decision as a pilot or test sets a more realistic expectation with others.  For instance, a new rule established as a test sets the expectation that it will change, improve, or fail within the test period.  They are comfortable with changes or having the rule replaced by a better one because it is their expectation.

Great leaders test decisions and leave room for improvement.

Avoid acting like a Helicopter

Too often leaders make decisions without properly delegating who is responsible for fully defining, implementing, and supporting them;  providing the resources to make it happen;  or the timeframes for completion and review of outcomes.

Instead, the leader flies in to the war zone, drops a package, and flies away without any follow-up or follow-through.

The solution fails.

The leader blames others.  However, in reality, the “helicopter drop leader” dropped a bomb by not engaging people, and did not follow-up afterwards to help people develop the new habits, systems, and tools to implement and support the decision.

Making a wise decision is important.  Systematically giving authority, providing resources, and following-up to build skills, acknowledge progress, and discuss improvements is even more important.

Great leaders stay engaged without micromanaging.


Success in a World of Narcissists

How do you hire and fully engage employees when we live in such a narcissistic world where emotions are considered equal to, or even more reliable truth than facts or logic?

Please note, when I say "employees", it includes every leader and owner. 

Thousands of years ago an old, renown teacher taught his students that you can observe someone's behaviors to determine whether they are filled with wisdom and discernment.  The 9 Attributes of Wisdom he encouraged you to look for are:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Self-control

Our hiring process should put everyone through a test drive, where we give them real work to complete to assess their timeliness, quality, and the way they work with others.  During the test the individual should exhibit at least some of the 9 behaviors above indicating they have some maturity and wisdom.  This confirms it is highly probable they can be a great team member and further strengthen your company culture.

However, most organizations do not test candidates for soft skills, quality of work, learning ability, and timeliness.  Then they get upset when a new employee fails in these areas.  Why do so many job candidates lack wisdom, which drives their ability to consistently achieve results?

A major contributing factor is adults and future generations are being taught a polarizing opposite to the 9 attributes of wisdom by too much of today's media and too many educational institutions.

For instance, one could argue the 9 Attributes of Narcissism encouraged by a lot of our media and educational institutions today is:

  1. Hate
  2. Low self-esteem
  3. Anger
  4. Impatience
  5. Selfishness
  6. Perversion
  7. Higher standards for others
  8. Bullying
  9. "If it feels good then do it"

Fake news reinforces whatever someone wants to promote.  It is commonplace today and designed to look like truth.  Yes, the authors of fake news lack integrity, but the issue goes much deeper.  The damage is people believe fake news is real because it validates the 9 Attributes of Narcissism.  Even after having fake news exposed many of those readers refuse to let go of the lies they read, heard, or watched that validated their negative judgment of others.

If you don't believe me, then just do an online search for "fake news."

Anti-Trump people may like this one

Pro-Trump people may like this article

Pick any issue or celebrity.  You can find an opinion article, podcast/radio show, or video where someone is exaggerating or totally distorting truth.

So… what do you do as a leader?

This situation is complex, however, here are some ideas to consider as a starting point:

#1 – Hire carefully.  Pose real-life scenarios to job candidates to see how they think.  Have them take a test drive of up to 1 week where they do actual work.  This enables you to see how well they apply what they learn, follow your best practice processes, relate to others, and own their mistakes.

#2 – Have a robust onboarding program for new employees that teaches them your values (how your people do work and make decisions).  Run them through exercises so you confirm they are applying your values to how they work.

#3 - Practice “Good Cop Leadership,” which is modeled after good cop bad cop negotiation style.  Leaders should always be the "good cop.”  The "bad cop" are your company standards, best practice processes, client expectations, government laws… Your role as the leader is to respectfully, empathetically, encouragingly come alongside employees when they make mistakes to discuss how can WE get through this/correct this.  Be firm on the boundary and refer to your "bad cops."  Be nice, but firm.

#4 – Train your people on soft skills on a regular basis.  Try a free subscription to Dave's Charm School and use the training material as the "bad cop."  Often times it's much easier to point out where people are making a mistake or not meeting company standards when you use a third-party as the bad guy.  We have Clients who subscribe to Dave's Charm School because it is the fastest, easiest way to train their people on soft skills, and using it as the “bad cop” enables them to have deeper, more transformational conversations about difficult issues.

#5 – Be a 3strands Leader and a role model of Systematic Power, Meaningful Work, and Sincere Gratitude.

Don't let untruths and emotions infect your company culture.  Teach your people new habits to overcome the temptations of bad habits.  Develop the 9 Attributes of Wisdom taught thousands of years ago to your people so your workplace can thrive.


Cousins, the Warriors, and Hiring

What happens to the taste of a stew when you add something fiery hot, meaty, and so overpowering that it can stand on its own?

Last Spring the Golden State Warriors, winners of 3 of the last 4 NBA Championships, announced they had acquired free agent DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins is 6’ 11”, 270 pounds, and started in the NBA in 2010 after one college season with the Kentucky Wildcats.  During his first season with the Sacramento Kings, Cousins was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.  From 2015 to 2018, he was named an NBA All-Star. He is also a two-time gold medal winner as a member of the United States national team, winning his first in 2014 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup and his second in 2016 at the Rio Olympics.

DeMarcus Cousins is a headliner, not a rookie.

So, what happens to the culture of a team when you add an outsider, who is the top player and recognized four times as one of the best in the world?

from San Francisco Examiner

Have you ever been able to add a headliner to your team?

Let’s assume for the moment that you have a championship team.  Most of us do not have a championship team, even if we are winning to some extent.  For this exercise, assume you are not just competitive, you are the top dog in your market. 

You are the best.  You know it.  The people on your team know it.  The numbers prove it.  Most people respect your accomplishments.


There’s that “big butt” that keeps showing up, distracting you from continuing your reign of dominance.

No team is perfect.  A competitor gets stronger (the Lakers acquired LeBron), then you get an opportunity to add someone who is arguably the best in their position when they are healthy.  Someone who is a “headliner.”

The possible rewards of acquiring a headliner are tempting, almost overpowering.  However, there are also serious risks to consider.

The Risk of Losing focus

"Focus" is such an ambiguous term, yet it's the all-encompassing word for a championship mentality. What’s the focus? 

For the Warriors, the primary target is to win a third consecutive NBA Championship.  It’s a BHAG (Jim Collins – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) and a ONE Thing (Gary Keller). 

A headliner can be a distraction because he brings ego, unnecessary drama, possible turf fights, etc.

Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr and the team can make it clear to Cousins that the team is more important than any single player.  Cousins is emotional on the court, some might say he is an egomaniac.  I don’t know how humble he is, or is not.

Keeping their focus on the team and winning, when Cousins fully recovers from his Achilles injury the Warriors may have checkmated their competitor’s attempt to overcome them.

The test will be to see how the team behaves when they are behind in a game, are getting what they feel are bad calls, or they lose a few games in a row.  Any coach or team can look great when they are winning.  A true championship team and coach behave well and remain focused when under pressure.

Weigh the risks, not just the rewards.

The Warriors are huge champions.  They are today, or are close to becoming a dynasty.

However, the focus needs to be on the road ahead, not looking at yourself or living in the past (the rearview mirror).

Long-term champions manage their ego so they still can make it from Point A to Point B without disaster.  Assumptions of ongoing grandeur are avoided as they keep winning step-by-step.

What are the risks of adding a headliner like DeMarcus Cousins?

  • Performance:  Cousins has been the premier big man.  However, statistics predict his performance could drop by 8% or more due to his Achilles injury last season.  He still would be strong, but he may not fully recover from his Achilles injury.
  • Injury:  What if Cousins gets another debilitating injury?
  • Emotions:  Could his attitude set him back?  He has 115 technical fouls and 14 ejections during his eight-year NBA career.
  • Friction:  Could Cousins’ attitude, or one or more Warriors player responses to him, cause friction and distraction?
  • Cost:  What if Cousins offends another top Warriors player and they demand to be traded, or there is another significant cost directly linked to adding this headliner?
  • Attitude:  Cousins is Dr. Jekyll now, but is there a Mr. Hyde coming?

Slow down.  Fully consider the risks AS A TEAM before adding a headliner.  Only move forward with unanimous agreement.

Some of the rewards are also significant:

  • Better:  Cousins could enable existing players to spend more time on their strengths.
  • Unpredictable:  Cousins might make it more difficult for the competition to discern the Warriors next bold moves, play-by-play and quarter-by-quarter.
  • Rewards:  If the headliner helps the Warriors win a third NBA Championship, then everyone gets richer - Higher revenue, market share, brand loyalty…

How do you pursue the rewards with what I call, a low CRT:

  • Cost:  You can afford the loss.  Cousins could cost as little as $5.3 million.  That’s a lot of money to most people, but spare change to the Warriors.  The investment is worth it.
  • Resources:  Every organization’s success is dependent on their people.  Get your people involved in the decision and determine how much of their time will be invested as your organization gives the headliner an opportunity.
  • Time:  Pilot the headliner.  Test her/him with your team beyond conversations.  Discuss typical scenarios.  Role play.  Hire the person for a day or week to test how she/he handles the reality of your world.  You can afford a short-term test.  If the headliner adds value then extend the test time.  If not, you have not lost much.

Don't disrupt the bond your people have

Most winning teams have a strong bond of respect and servanthood between players.  There are differences, but everyone understands their strengths and weaknesses.  Everyone understands how to work together as an efficient, effective group that is stronger as a team than as people working independently.

The Warriors shine in this area, and their coach Steve Kerr is an inspiring role model.

So how do you add a headliner to the mix when the current team is working so well?

from Daily Snark

First, all of your key team members if not the entire team, participate in the decision to add the headliner.  Why?  Because everyone, not just the boss, has to commit to make it work and help the headliner be a productive contributor who loves being on her/his new team.

One benefit with Cousins is that he is a known entity with the All Stars and Olympic players on the Warriors.  They have already played ball with him, and fully support the addition of DeMarcus to their team.

Second, a headliner can be the latest “shiny object” for many leaders, absorbing the majority of their focus, time, and energy to the detriment of the team who got them where they are.

If your team makes the decision to add the headliner, fully understanding the risks as well as the rewards, then everyone should be prepared to proceed as a team.  It should be clear to the headliner that she/he will receive equal attention, not more than existing team members.

Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors, is a former player on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  He has experienced first-hand what it’s like to be on a team with a dominant headliner, supported by other strong players.  Kerr has been able to do something uncommon by shifting his career from being a great player who now is a wise, humble, inspiring coach.

Kerr can pull this off, if he continues to humbly, respectfully inspire the members of his team to continue their focus on integrating their strengths for the best of the team, rather than one person’s statistics, publicity, or compensation.

The saying, “There is no ‘i’ in team” is especially true when you add a headliner to a cohesive team, or you have a team with multiple headliners and superstars.  The addition of Cousins means all five Warrior starters have been All Stars, and three of them are part of the top six scoring recordholders in the league.  Exciting, but not easy.


Do you want to grow your business more rapidly?  How about achieve significantly more profits?  Is a headliner your answer?

In most cases, the answer is “no.”  A headliner cannot help you, unless you are willing to make tough decisions about how you need to change, and the adjustments that need to be made to your organization.  Or, you already have a strong company culture, leadership habits, and best practices.  Then a humble headliner can help you transform good or great into the best.

DeMarcus Cousins probably couldn’t make the New Orleans Pelicans a championship team, or the Sacramento Kings.


Appreciating Your Team

A big part of engaging your team is showing them you appreciate their work.  You can do this in a number of ways.

In 1995 Gary Chapman published a breakthrough book titled, The 5 Love Languages.  The Five Love Languages discusses five ways to express and experience love in five different ways.  He has since written several versions of this teaching on how to understand the way you prefer to be loved / appreciated, and how to appreciate others in ways they prefer.

In 2012, he wrote, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.  To summarize, he recommends:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Tangible Gifts
  5. Physical Touch

These five "languages of appreciation" can be an excellent way to recognize and praise your team. However, there are a few nuances and tips I want to discuss.

First, be wary when utilizing the Physical Touch love language in the workplace

It’s too easy to make a mistake, or intentionally touch someone inappropriately.  A high five is usually okay, an arm around the shoulder is risky, and a full-on hug can go terribly wrong.  When the subject of appreciation comes up with our Clients, I usually refer to Gary’s 4 Workplace Languages of Appreciation, not 5.

Know thyself first

Look at the list of love languages above.  Which is your most preferred method of appreciation? And your second?  If you just don’t relate to the list or don’t fully comprehend the list above, then you need to read one of the versions of the book.  Don’t hide behind “That’s not the way I was raised” or “That's not my style”.  Think about the times when you have felt appreciated at work.  When did someone take the time to make you feel special and how did they do it?

Buy the book and read it, or at least listen to the audio version.  Study it with an open mind.  Learn how to improve your ability to respectfully engage with others.

Explain to others how you want to be appreciated

Do not assume other people understand how you want to be appreciated or expect them to read your mind.  Tell them.  The beauty of Gary’s work is he simplifies our preferences into five categories. 

Communicate to others, as appropriate, how you prefer to be appreciated.

Ask your people how they want to be appreciated

We have a wonderful appreciation survey you can download here.  Part of the survey asks them to confirm their primary language of appreciation. 

Make someone your Gratitude Guru. 

Appoint someone in your organization who is great at appreciating others, giving praise, and making people feel special.  This individual is the owner of affirmation in your organization to make certain everyone feels respected, appreciated, and valued.  Setup tracking of significant recognition.  Do it sincerely, equally, and respectfully based on each employee’s preferences.

Be a role model

Do not let busyness crowd out time for Sincere Gratitude, the third strand of 3strands Leadership.  Make your people feel valued.  Even if you delegate primary affirmation responsibilities to a Gratitude Guru, leaders still have to regularly value people in ways they prefer.

Finally, do not appreciate people the way you want to be appreciated

For instance, I know a leader who gives gifts and promises to be nice, but the recipients do not trust the person.  As a result, the recipients view the gifts as insincere bribes and the promises as untrustworthy.  They prefer two of the other love languages.

Why does this leader keep giving gifts and making promises?  Because that’s the love languages they are most comfortable using.  When encouraged to use some of the other love languages, this leader responded:  “Oh, I could never do that…”  Big mistake.

Would you communicate in Russian with someone who only speaks Spanish?

Would you try to relate to an Opera snob by discussing punk rock or salsa music?

Of course not!  Then, why would you speak a language of appreciation that is foreign, or meaningless to the other person? It may be easier for you to do, but it is repelling the person you seek to attract.

Try a different approach and you will be more effective.


The Real Cost of UNengaged Employees

Everybody has them, although a few of you may think you don't.

I'm talking about employees who do less than their best.

There are a variety of reasons for their behavior. It may be a lack of skill, poor communication, limited accountability or training, lack of engagement. Perhaps they do not like the work, or an unknown issue prevents them from being productive, like they are trying but don't understand how to be more productive.

These behaviors are the symptoms of a disease that you may never fully understand but every day you will feel its effects. When the disease of poor productivity shows itself through the symptoms of less effective behaviors you get poor results.

Our focus today is the cost of these behaviors.

Most of you are so busy that you grossly underestimate the cost of employees who are not doing their best.

Furthermore, your employees are often clueless about how much their poor behaviors coast. This applies to both the unproductive individual and the other employees who are negatively affected by their low productivity.

The Cost of Low Productivity

According to Gallup, 87% of your employees are not engaged at work. Employees who are not engaged are not fully productive. They lack initiative, motivation, and purpose, and often become easily distracted from their primary objectives.

Here is one way to calculate the cost of low productivity so your team members have a "wake-up" moment:

You have an employee who is part of the 87% who are not engaged. Let's say he is doing 80% of what he is capable of doing. We are not requiring perfection, but we are respectfully asking people to work up to their potential.

Your company pays this person a salary of $60,000 a year, or $28.85 an hour, including paid time off and holidays.

If this person is working at 80% of their capability then he is unproductive by 20%, or 8 hours. Those 8 hours cost your company $230.80 per week.

He is paid for 52 weeks of work, but let's say with holidays and paid time off he actually works 48 weeks. (I'm being conservative by not calculating the loss when he is not in the office.)

48 weeks x $230.80 productivity loss weekly = $11,078.40 lost annually simply because of poor productivity. 


Taxes, benefits and overhead increase that number by at least 15%. This makes the total loss $12,740.16.

You can add in several other costs:

  1. Lost opportunity cost to create new revenue or lower costs
  2. Revenue lost / costs incurred due to low productivity
  3. Stress-related costs to other employees and his boss
  4. Employee turnover due to increased workload to do his work
  5. His poor performance extends to others who follow his example

These are serious additional costs, but vary widely based on the role of the individual, the size of your organization, your industry, and the economy. You can play with these numbers if you like. For my purposes today I want to stay with hard numbers.


At a minimum your company has paid this one person $12,740.16 for work he did not do, yet is capable of doing.

What does that mean? You are going to pay another person to do that work.

So now, you pay another person $12,740.16 to do the work the first employee could not complete that year.

Oh... and the second person you pay also has an 87% chance they are not fully engaged at work. Let's say she is also 20% less productive than she should be.

This means you are going to pay her $2,548.03 for work she is not going to do.

Let's assume this only goes three levels. The third person that completes the work of the first and second employees works at 100% of their capability. Therefore the cost of low productivity is:

$12,740.16 - Lost productivity by the first employee

$12,740.16 - Pay a second person at the same rate to complete the work

$2,548.03 - Pay a third, fully productive person to fully complete the work

$28,028.35 TOTAL COST of one unproductive employee @ $60K salary. At this point, the ship is sinking!


That's just one person.

Gallup says 87% of your people are not fully engaged. That's 9 out of 10 people, even if their lack of productivity is unintentional.

The loss for an entire company is staggering. Approximately $252,2565 per year for a 10-person company.


Build Bridges Instead of Fighting Fires

Are you too busy fighting fires and keeping-up with tasks every day to deal with employee productivity issues? I'll bet you would love to add that $252,256 back into your bottom line (and more). 


Take a good, close look at your situation.

  1. Get away for at least an hour and think about your team. Do an ROI similar to my analysis above to calculate the costs related to low productivity. Include some of the related costs also if you feel that is appropriate.
  2. Look at your calendar. Where can you find time to develop a strategy, define a plan, implement the plan with accountability, and assess results weekly or monthly?
  3. Get real. If you lack the time to cure the disease of low productivity infecting your organization, then get outside help. Your clients call you when they don't have the expertise or time to solve problems that your team can. Why not do the same?

I do this type of work and would be happy to discuss your situation. However, you may want to hire someone else. No worries. Just do it.

Your bottom line is too costly to keep delaying the work to maximize the productivity of your people.

Share this with your leadership team. Ask for their input. Craft a plan to engage your team and avoid problems before they start.


Your Participation Trophy

Do you have employees who want special recognition, increased compensation, or increased freedom without responsibility or results?

One way to describe this perspective is they have an "entitlement mentality."

People complain the millennial generation has been ruined because they received trophies for participation, rather than results. I agree with the criticism.

The outcome of that foolish behavior is a child who never was on a winning team or performed at a top level, but was told she/he was a winner. This develops grownups who think they know more than others and deserve rapid advancement and rewards without significant contribution.

However, we should stop knocking the millennial generation. I have found people with an entitlement mentality across all generations. It is particularly prevalent in union workers today, but not limited to just those types of employees.

A room full of participation trophies, medals, and ribbons is a facade of accomplishment. It is a lie even the most sincere, well-meaning person can embrace without knowing it.

Sadly, I am describing myself.

I earned most of the trophies and awards that I received for participating in my sports activities. However, my parents raised me as the "golden boy." Because I had a natural inclination to work hard plus a sense of right and wrong, they overlooked a lot of my failures. I rarely had serious consequences. Their level of belief in me should have been reserved for a 4.0 student and top athlete.

I was constantly told I could do anything, but not taught how to be my best or held accountable to being my best. The result was inconsistent achievement and an unrealistic view of myself.

The ability to comprehend this issue in my life took years. I came to realize that I had been wounded in my youth, although loved unconditionally.

In a way, I sympathize with millennials and anyone who expects a participation trophy for every small accomplishment.

3 Tips for Managing the Entitlement Mentality

I have three suggestions for you to consider if you have an employee with an entitlement mentality:

FIRST, if you're dealing with a difficult employee, your approach might be the primary problem.

Generational and cultural gaps exist, you need to be able to adapt. You hired the person. You manage them. You are in charge of developing them. Their performance is largely dependent on your guidance.

So, try adjusting your style of management, and take ownership of their performance.

SECOND, before you nag or threaten them, start by learning more about their background (within legal limits). Talk to them, take them out to lunch and ask them about their hobbies.

You can use an assessment to learn about their most intense behaviors and most passionate driving forces. Our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments can help you with the behaviors and the driving forces. That's a major piece of the puzzle, but you still have to talk with people to understand where the person came from, and where they want to grow.

Talk with the employee to better understand their background. As you talk with them, consider how people in your organization can help the employee better connect their values and interests to their work. Figure out how to make the employee feel like their work is meaningful.

Meaningful work is the fuel that drives all significant accomplishment.

THIRD, enforce proper boundaries and expectations.

Is there someone with an entitlement mentality who has been on your team for more than 90 days? That's a problem.

Every employee should understand the boundaries and expectations in their role. You should have an on-boarding plan in place for new employees that spells out exactly what your company standards are and how the employee should meet those standards every day.

You should also have a process in place for dealing with boundary violations. Each time a company standard is not met, the problem should be addressed swiftly and effectively, especially in the first 90 days.

Your team will work more effectively and efficiently when everyone understands and appreciates your boundaries and expectations.


This weekend's homework: A Catalyst for Growth

Let's pickup where we left off last week...

From 1978 into the early 1980’s Lee Iacocca led an effort that saved Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy. One of the leadership disciplines he credited for helping achieve that success was every Sunday evening he would separate himself from the family to spend two hours in his study.

He was alone. No interruptions. No email. Iacocca credited this weekly discipline as a major reason he was able to stay focused on what was most important each week, and ultimately led the way to achieve his mission: Restore Chrysler’s profitability and market share.

Basically, Iacocca had a map to get Chrysler from where it was to where he wanted it to be.

You also need a map to get you from Point A to Point B, which is where you are today to where you want to be. The discipline of setting aside time to review your map and adjust the routes to your destinations is what I call Sanctuary time.

We teach about Sanctuary in our Time Management training in Dave's Charm School.

The core agenda for Sanctuary follows the acronym “MAP.”

Metrics: Did I meet or exceed all the metrics for my performance this past week?

Adjustments: Where do I need help, should research information, or make adjustments to stay on track?

Plan: What is the plan for the upcoming week? Define a simple W.I.N., which means “What’s Important NOW?”, to accomplish something significant that leads to achieving your major objectives.

I call this time Sanctuary because it is without interruptions. During Sanctuary, you do NOT open your email, instant messenger, or other communication apps. Place your cell phone face down to avoid texts. Do not answer the phone. Eliminate all distractions.

Similar to Iacocca, your big accountability meeting or Sanctuary time is weekly. This might be 20-30 minutes, or up to two hours like Iacocca.

The discipline of Sanctuary time is crucial to your success because little things make a difference.

Consider our Point A to Point B metaphor: What happens if you are just one degree off-course on your map as you are racing ahead with your plans? Is it really that big of a deal?

  • After traveling one foot, you'll miss your target by 2/10 of an inch
  • After 100 yards, you'll be off by 5.2 feet
  • When you are a mile out from your starting point, you'll be 92.2 feet off-course
  • Look at it this way, if your goal is to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which is about 400 miles, by the time you reach LA that one-degree mistake lands you 6 miles away from where you want to be

Iacocca is just one of many leaders who have proven the value of a focused, weekly accountability meeting to stay on track with the most important objectives.

Sanctuary time is when you pull out your plan to confirm you are on track to your destination. Being off track typically means you allowed yourself to be sidetracked into less important activities. This eats up your time, energy, and resources, which is deadly to your mission.

Slow down, ask yourself the following questions, and really pause to consider the reality of last week:

  1. Where have I been tempted to take a shortcut or compromise my values this week? Do I need help from someone I trust to stay on track?
  2. Am I doing what I love to do and is my strength, or spending too much time on areas of less interest, related to my weaknesses? Was this past week fun? Am I looking forward to this next week? If not, what needs to change?
  3. Did I meet or exceed the expectations of others for my soft skills as I interacted with them and made commitments?
  4. Was I a great role model for our company culture cornerstones - our mission, vision, and values? Can I state our mission, vision, and at least top-level values from memory? (Do it.) Am I living them out? (If not, why should anyone else?)
  5. Did I recognize people in ways they prefer so they were reminded I value each of them as members of my team? Or, did I hurt someone this week and I need to restore that relationship?
  6. Who did I overlook this week who might need my help? How can I check-in with them in a way that enables them to be candid about their need?
  7. Are there any strategic initiatives that need more of my consideration, including the development of my own habits? When can I schedule “stealth mode” time in my calendar – right now - to do that work uninterrupted?

Daily and weekly Sanctuary meetings for self-accountability are a catalyst for hyper-growth, personally and professionally.

Start this weekend!


A story of prizefighters and courage

A woman once told me this story...

My father managed prizefighters. If you ever saw the original Rocky movie, those were the venues. Smoky halls, inconsistent lighting, where the air is heavy.

These were not heavyweight championships, but strong men who needed the prize money and weren't afraid of going toe-to-toe with anyone.

I was a young girl at the time. I often joined my father at ringside. One night his fighter had a really tough match. It went back and forth, with each fighter looking like the victor only to have the gloved fists start flying again.

The fight ended. The crowd was uneasy, noisy, and nervous about their bets. After a brief delay, the referee was given the decision on a small piece of paper and walked confidently back to center ring, motioning for the fighters to join him. He then announced that my father's fighter had won.

The crowd didn't like the decision. They thought my father's fighter had cheated. Some started chanting, others jeered, and a growing number of them yelled threats. The decision cost them money, and they felt cheated. It looked like they would riot, and rip the fighter apart along with her father, his manager.

The fighter was scared.

So was I, a little girl surrounded by an angry mob.

My father turned to the fighter and me, and ordered us: "Follow me!"

Then he did an amazing thing. He marched right down into the crowd from the ring, with the two of us meekly following. Everywhere people were shouting threats. It was really scary.

As soon as my father reached the floor of the auditorium, a man blocked his way shouting he would hurt us. My father fiercely held his ground and pulled back his right fist to punch the guy. The guy backed off, fading into the blur of the crowd.

We took a few more steps.

Again, another man threatened my father since he was in the lead. Quickly my father pulled back his fist again to punch the man, and he quickly faded into the crowd. Still verbally threatening us, but unwilling to take on my formidable father.

We worked our way through the crowd that way, with my father only pausing briefly when necessary to threaten someone out of our way.

The overwhelming mob was overcome by focusing on one problem at a time.

I love this woman's story because it features danger, courage, and practicality. It reminds us to solve problems one step at a time.

Do you take on too much? Are you unable to complete all of your work? Perhaps you need to focus on one thing at a time.

Often that's the most difficult task, having the discipline to tackle your work in a methodical manner. It's why time management and prioritizing work are critical skills we teach in Dave's Charm School.

Discipline Fosters Success

One method of focusing your time is scheduling 15 minutes or more weekly of uninterrupted consideration. This time should occur at the beginning or end of your typical week, as Lee Iacocca did every Sunday night.

We call this time Sanctuary, and works by asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. Metrics: Did I meet or exceed all the metrics for my performance during the past week?
  2. Adjustments: Where do I need help, information, or adjustments in order to stay on track?
  3. Plan: What is my detailed plan for the upcoming week?

Force yourself to define a simple plan for each upcoming week to accomplish something significant that leads to achieving your major objective.

Remember, during Sanctuary time you do NOT open your email, instant messenger, or other communication apps. Silence and place your cell phone face down to avoid texts. Do not answer the phone. Eliminate all distractions. Just concentrate on and realign yourself with what's most important.

Do this regularly and it will help you achieve your big goal for the year.

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