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Human Resources Today

Leadership is a choice between two roads

Decades ago the poet Robert Frost wrote a wonderful poem, The Road Not Taken. It begins by describing a choice a traveler must make when faced with a fork in the road. Frost’s poem begins with:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

It's a wonderful poem, and it illustrates an important type of choice presented to every leader. Namely, to stick with a well-worn path, or try something different. As the key decision makers, we move from one “fork in road” to the next every day. 

Leadership is all about decisions.

One challenge, and often the most seductive fork in the road, is choosing between reacting or responding to information.

Both a reaction and a response are normal, but which is more productive?

It depends on the situation.


Reactions occur quickly, often instinctively, with limited prior thought or consideration of consequences. If we are not careful, many of us have emotionally-fueled reactions based on wounds, rather than chiseled wisdom.

We come to a “fork in the road” that requires a decision and we instantly make a choice.

The resulting joy or pain from our choice affects our relationships, productivity, and profits.


In contrast, responses are reactions delayed so information can be processed. 

A leader delays words or actions to ask questions, gather facts, consider the nuances of the situation, and formulate a choice of the best path to take at a fork in the road.

Knowing the difference

Reacting often leads to mistakes based on assumptions. In contrast, responses connect past, present, and future data to validate or replace assumptions. The result is often a much better road to travel.

Be especially wary of stubbornness or what can be called “strongholds". These are situations where we allow partial-truths to embed themselves in our brain as habitual reactions to certain types of situations and people. 

Strongholds lock us in, blind us to the truth, and emotionally force us to choose the wrong road.

Our true destinations can only be reached when we develop good habits that give us balance in life, such as owning our own mistakes and weaknesses. 


Are you reacting to problems or responding to them? Usually when I pose the same question to a leader, they already know the answer.

If you're not sure, here's a few examples. Ask yourself, are you trying to:

  1. Be a role model by sacrificing integrity, taking shortcuts, and rushing every decision?
  2. Build someone up by tearing them down?
  3. Heal wounds by being judgmental, bearing grudges, and seeking revenge?
  4. Serve others by focusing primarily on your own wants?
  5. Consistently be your best when you are mostly spontaneous?
  6. Experience deep meaning by being led by your desires rather than serving a cause greater than yourself?
  7. Develop relationships and commitment through hate and/or neglect?

This is a "Road of Reactions", all too often chosen by leaders unaware of their bad habits. This leads to a lot of unnecessary drama, lost productivity, wasted time, millions in losses, stress, and other damage.

I encourage you to take the “Road Not Taken” by most leaders. Develop habits of wisdom chiseled through your life experiences. Whenever a problem or a crisis rears its head, take some time to think critically about the situation as a whole. Only then will you choose the “Road of Responses” more often and reach your desired destinations easier, faster, and in more fulfilling ways.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost in its entirety is:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

You are choosing one road or the other constantly every day.

The question is: Are you choosing to respond calmly and reasonably, or are you reacting based on bad habits?


A Simple Exercise to Measure Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Do you want a real assessment of your performance?

Here is a simple exercise to get a glimpse of your current leadership strengths, weaknesses, and impact of your company culture. It takes less than 5 minutes.

First, jot down each list by hand, on your mobile device, computer, or print this and fill-in the blanks.

What are the 7 most important “things” one employee – a superstar, average, or struggling team member - wants from you, her/his manager, and/or your company, listed in order of priority?

List them below in order of priority. Place an "X" next to the frequency each one typically occurs.

Although they may share similar desires, each employee probably wants different things. When you focus on one person, it helps you consider how best to engage that individual. If you prefer, make a list for all of your direct reports, everyone on a team, or all employees in a group.

Now, flip the equation

How are you, their manager, and/or your company, fully engaging this individual or group of employees in a meaningful career?

List the 7 most important things you do for them in order of priority. Place an "X" next to the frequency each one typically occurs.

What are we looking for?

HOW you are engaging employees is equal to or greater than WHAT they want from their boss/employer.

In order for this to work, you need to remove all of your assumptions about how engaged your people are and list the real ways you, your leaders, and company are meeting their work-related needs.

Now, find out if your lists are correct

Your lists are probably inaccurate, but don't worry, there's a simple way to check. Simply ask the employee or group of employees to do the same exercise.

Do NOT share with them the two lists you wrote above before they write their own versions.

Ask them: What are the 7 most important “things” you want from me, your manager and/or our company, listed in order of priority?

Again, flip the equation

How am I, your manager, and/or our company fully engaging you in a meaningful career? List the 7 most important things we do for you in order of priority.

Compare your assessment to those of your employees. There will be differences, however, the key is to resolve them.

Understand the Differences

Differences between managers and employees is a common theme in troubled companies. They are most often due to a lack of Systematic Power, my first strand of 3Strands Leadership. Systems and processes are likely missing, broken, or need updates.

These systems are what I work on each week with Clients, as individual leaders or as an entire organization.

Here are some common gaps in an organization’s Systematic Power:

Inconsistent accountability

Leaders are often poor role models and they don't realize it. They have good intentions without a solid game plan, and it prevents positive results. This leads to excuses, and the ensuing drama kills any opportunities for consistent, sustained growth. Furthermore, any lack of integrity can magnify this problem until the company implodes.

Different standards

Many companies have competing internal standards. The result is an “us vs. them” mentality, whether it is between management and staff, or different work-groups. It destroys productivity, progress, and the ability to make tough, fair decisions in a reasonable time-frame.

A poor or non-existent hiring system

A poor hiring system cascades poor performance throughout a company. People are hired who do not match the needs of the position, or your culture, and it costs time, money, stress, and lost opportunities.

Lack of regular training, starting at the top

Companies often fail to train their employees on a regular basis in hard skills and soft skills. The result is a flourishing of bad habits throughout your organization. Poor productivity not only thrives, but is defended or accepted as reasonable.

What's the solution?

The solution to these problems is to first understand the areas in which your company is currently struggling. Use the surveys above to get started.

A little employee feedback can go a long way.

Once you have a measurement of your strengths and weaknesses you can take action. Expand on your strengths, while minimizing your weaknesses.

Do your employees love your pay-for-performance plan? Awesome. Do a quick review to make sure it is working properly, and confirm it's effectiveness with your team.

Do your employees want more feedback from management on their performance? Implement it. Get on a schedule of providing regular feedback to your team. Whether it's regular reviews, or a weekly habit of brief conversations, give them the feedback they need.

Take one step in the right direction and you'll be ready for another one.


The ONE Thing Webinar Series - Part 4 - 3 Commitments and 4 thieves

The fact is you are your biggest obstacle. Gary Keller believes there are 6 lies and 4 thieves holding you back from pursuing 3 commitments that lead to a meaningful life without regrets.

Considering Gary's wisdom takes no time.

While you commute or workout, listen to my four podcasts that share highlights fromGary's book, The ONE Thing. If you hear something intriguing, then look at my presentation decks and/or buy Gary's book.

The ONE Thing will improve your life. Possibly in significant ways.

Anyway... You will be glad to know that today we wrapped-up our review of The ONE Thing. As I hinted in the subject line of my email, two of the five chapters covered were The Three Commitments; and The Four Thieves. However, there was much more than that:


14.- Live by Priority

15.- Live for Productivity

16.- The Three Commitments

17.- The Four Thieves

18.- The Journey

The ONE Thing webinar #4 of 4: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT

Dave's ONE Thing #4 from MANAGEtoWIN, Inc. on Vimeo.

Check out our discussion of earlier chapters below. You can also consider our folder of recent webinars.


On February 5th, the 1st webinar of this series discussed:

1.- The ONE Thing

2.- The Domino Effect

3.- Success Leaves Clues


4.- LIE #1 – Everything Matters Equally

5.- LIE #2 – Multitasking

The ONE Thing webinar #1: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT


On February 12th, we discussed LIES #3-6:


… We discussed LIE #1 (Everything Matters Equally) +LIE #2 (Multitasking) last week

6.- LIE #3 – A Disciplined Life

7.- LIE #4 – Willpower Is Always on Will-Call

8.- LIE #5 – A Balanced Life

9.- LIE #6 – Big is Bad

The ONE Thing webinar #2: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT


On February 26th, we produced our The ONE Thing webinar #3 of 4:


10.- The Focusing Question

11.- The Success Habit

12.- The Path to Great Answers


13.- Live with Purpose

The ONE Thing webinar #3 of 4: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT


Dealing With Shame

What decisions have you made recently based on your shame?

Probably more than you realize.

One of the definitions of shame on is, “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

Shame is a painful emotion responding to a belief we have failed in some way. It can motivate us consciously, for instance if we become embarrassed. This is a relatively minor form of shame.

I am writing to challenge you to go deeper.

The shame that blocks us from being our best is typically more subversive. It is buried deep behind strongholds (false beliefs based on emotional wounds) and affects our decision-making subconsciously.

Brené Brown shared an interesting story from her book, Rising Strong, about shame on her blog this week.

If you are willing to face the shame of your past mistakes, or current belief in yourself, one option is to go through the process of a RAIN meditation. 

Here is a 4-step process and link to the Mindful website offering this advice:

The key reason we experience shame is because humans were designed with a sense of right and wrong. Otherwise, anything goes and shame would not exist.

We have shame because our brain constantly assesses our self-worth against the standards existing in our DNA, established by our parents, and/or developed through our life experiences.

Shame can be resolved in a healthy manner, such as the RAIN process above where you acknowledge the shame; stay with it for minutes or hours; forgive yourself, and if applicable, ask for forgiveness from others; and then move forward learning from the experience and not repeating the mistake.

Is shame potentially motivating some of your decisions, behaviors, and actions?

I suggest the answer is, yes.

Here are some examples of how shame could be negatively affecting you:

Anger / Blame Others

We may understand someone else's mistake and how it hurts others because we have made similar errors ourselves. One common response is for us to project blame and anger onto them, partly as a scapegoat for the punishment we feel we deserve. This is a defensive response to our disgust or disappointment with ourselves.

Anger is more comfortable to experience than shame. (Psychology Today)

Unfortunately, transferring our shame to another person is a form of self-deception. This decision, which is often unconscious, relieves some of the symptoms of shame-based pain and discomfort temporarily, but does not heal the disease of our shame.


Unresolved shame can motivate some people to medicate their pain with alcohol, drugs, overeating (physically abusing yourself), obsessing about your image through over-exercising or other harmful activities.

Feeling Not Good Enough

Another common response to shame is intense competition to prove you are good enough. Unfortunately, the goal of achieving peace and inner joy by being the best can only be temporary. They need to prove yourself never ends until you take the time to go through the process to "peel back the onion" to the point where you reach your shame and resolve it.

Anticipating the Pain

People with unresolved shame may anticipate, rightly or wrongly, that they are about to be judged as inadequate. This motivates them to strike first before being hurt (again).

This may drive them to manipulate the self-esteem of the person they expect will hurt them. They may use insults or other actions intended to hurt that person so they can feel equal or superior to them.

Once again, these behaviors do not eliminate the shame. This meanness only distracts the shamed person away from the pain of their past mistakes. There is no resolution, restitution, or healing.

Low Self-Esteem

One way to consider shame is as an example of powerful deception. Remind yourself the best lies are based on a shred of truth. Yes, you made a mistake. However, was it really a wound that feels like it can never heal?

The intent of shame is to take you out of the game by making you feel inferior and motivating you to live in the mistakes of your past. This keeps you from focusing on the meaningful experiences of your past, the blessings of today, and the potential available in your future.

What should you do?

Shame is a rattlesnake in your garden. Kill it.

Invest time to candidly identify past mistakes that cause you shame.

Spend time alone in a safe place to consider each mistake, remind yourself of how you were trying to do your best at that time, and own each mistake.

Focus on where to go from here, including how to stop allowing shame to dictate your decisions, relationships, and results.

One option is to work with a professional to help you through this process. That is not my expertise. The advice in this article is based on what I have experienced personally and observed in others throughout my life. This commentary is for informational purposes only.

You can win this battle against shame. Start with a reality check. Work through the process. You will emerge stronger, but it is a process you must journey through. It is similar to a caterpillar that has to work its way through the process of emerging from a cocoon on its own to experience the joy and fulfillment of being a butterfly.

Painful. Difficult. Yet, life giving.

You can overcome shame. I cannot help you as a therapist or professional counselor, however I am encouraging you as a fellow leader.


The ONE Thing Webinar Series - Part 3

How well are you focused today? Are you looking forward to your day with joy?

If you could be better focused, or happier, then listen to or watch this morning's webinar on chapters 10-13 of the book, The ONE Thing:


10.- The Focusing Question

11.- The Success Habit

12.- The Path to Great Answers


13.- Live with Purpose

If you want to make fewer mistakes, and achieve your dreams faster, then consider our discussion of these chapters.

February 26th, The ONE Thing webinar #3 of 4: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT

Dave's ONE Thing -- 3rd of 4 Webinars from MANAGEtoWIN, Inc. on Vimeo.

Check out our discussion of earlier chapters below. You can also consider our folder of recent webinars.

From February 12th, we discussed LIES #3-6:

LIE #3 – A Disciplined Life

LIE #4 – Willpower Is Always on Will-Call

LIE #5 – A Balanced Life

LIE #6 – Big is Bad

The ONE Thing webinar #2: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT

On February 5th, the 1st webinar of this series discussed:

The first three introductory chapters

LIE#1 - Everything Matters Equally

LIE#2 - Multitasking

The ONE Thing webinar #1: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT


The ONE Thing Webinar Series - Part 2

This morning our webinar covered LIES #3-6 from the book, The ONE Thing.

If you truly want a better 2018, listen to this webinar and scan the PPT deck to learn what others are saying is life-changing wisdom.

The ONE Thing - Discussion of insights with Dave (2 of 4) from MANAGEtoWIN, Inc. on Vimeo.

Today we discussed:

LIE #3 - A Disciplined Life

LIE #4 - Willpower Is Always on Will-Call

LIE #5 - A Balanced Life

LIE #6 - Big is Bad

Access the files via these links: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT

You can also consider our folder of webinars.

On February 5th, the 1st webinar of this series discussed the first three introductory chapters, and LIE#1 - Everything Matters Equally; and LIE#2 - Multitasking. You can access those files below.

ONE Thing webinar #1 of 4: Video | Audio | PDF | PPT


Save $50,000 or more

Where's the $50,000?

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has said to replace one bad hire can cost up to 5X the annual salary of executives and top contributors.

This means if you hire someone for $50,000/year, then making just one better hiring decision saves you $250,000.

Does that sound high to you? Then conservatively, let's say the loss is 20% of that number. This still means every bad hire costs you $50,000, or about one year of their annual compensation (a lot of experts agree with this amount).

But... how do you hire better people? How can you avoid a bad hire in the first place?

You have to learn how.

Join me 8am-noon on Wednesday, February 21st at Microsoft's Glen Allen offices near Richmond, Virginia for a 4-hour workshop on how to Hire The Best (and avoid the rest).

In just 4 hours you will learn my most powerful hiring secrets I have proven over the past 45 years. Come and learn my Hire The Best system.

How much is it worth to you to answer these questions better?

... Where can I find more candidates for my openings?

... What questions should I ask in a phone interview?

... How can I get the candidate talking outside their "hire me" script?

... What is the best way to interview someone?

... What homework should a candidate do between interviews?

... How can I discern a good from a great candidate?

... How can I confirm a candidate's true behaviors and motivators?

... How can I get candidates to choose my company vs. other job offers?

... What is the best way to get references to talk, and be honest?

... How can I get people to accept your offers, AND show-up their first day?

Don't miss it. Register here

I will answer your specific questions so you can hire better people. I guarantee your satisfaction, or we will return your workshop fee.

The Harvard Business Review says 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Can you really afford another bad hire?

Don't wait. Register now, before we fill all 22 seats!


The ONE Thing Webinar Series - Part 1


Win the battle against your Army of Orcs

Every day we have too many options. However, the more you focus your time, the clearer you see the masses against you.

There are the urgent tasks and requests screaming at you for attention.

There are the family and health requirements that you want to do to experience love, joy, and good health.

There are friends who struggle to find time in your calendar for fun and laughter.

There are projects and tasks to improve something in your career, team, and/or organization.

And then... there is your ONE Thing, that special opportunity to accomplish something to make everything else easier or unnecessary.

Yet, this activity gets pushed aside most easily.


(warning: spoiler alert!)

The photo above is Aragorn, the man who would be king of Gondor, in the final episode of the movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. He is making a final stand against the army of Mordor, a foul horde of orcs and goblins and trolls.

Aragorn and his allies have fought long and hard over many months against the evil that seeks to keep them from living a long, fulfilling life.

Are you in a similar battle, consciously or subconsciously?

Is your schedule overflowing, yet unfulfilling?

Are too many days lost to fighting fires, rather than building something meaningful that lasts?

Are you driven by past wounds to prove yourself or somehow compensate for one of your mistakes?

These are some of your "orcs". These are the challenges, put in front of you by yourself or others, consciously or subconsciously for one purpose: To destroy you.

How do you fight your orcs?

Aragorn leads his allies into battle against insurmountable odds. There are tens of thousands of orcs, yet only a few thousand men with him.

Not exactly stacking the odds in his favor, eh? Sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions.

In this case, Aragorn is trying to distract the army of Mordor while Frodo and Sam climb Mount Doom in an attempt to destroy the One Ring.

But let's assume that Aragorn is not trying to become the poster child for suicide missions.

How could he possibly win a battle against such odds?

Notice one thing: Aragorn and his men can only fight one orc at a time. Yes, he may slash two with his sword, moving in an arc from one to the other. However, his focus has to be on what is in front of him.

One at a time. One foe must be down before he can move on to another.

So it is with you, as a leader. (If you are breathing, you are a leader). The challenges you face cannot be tackled successfully all at once. You must focus on one domino at a time.

Try this approach:

  • Pause at a time when there are no distractions from people, email, etc.
  • Focus this daily time in brief Sanctuary - confirm you are focusing on the most urgent task
  • Make it a habit by scheduling regular time in your calendar to reflect, evaluate, and focus

Pretty soon you will find that Sanctuary is a longer look at your battlefield, and a boon for your productivity. Are you heading in the right direction? Are you pursuing the "flag" you really need to capture, or are you chasing an illusion of achievement that is actually less important?

To win your daily battle against your unique army of orcs, it takes focus, commitment, and comprehension of what is truly most important.

We are going to discuss this more in my upcoming webinar series below.

Reserve your seat now!

I am leading four complimentary webinars at 6:00 a.m. PST Mondays, February 5, 12, 26, and March 5. Recordings will be available on our website after-the-fact.

This webinar series is inspired by one of my favorite business books, The ONE Thing, written by Gary Keller, the founder of Keller-Williams Realty.

We are going to start with Gary's premier question:

"What is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"

Gary's ONE Thing approach is awesome, it is a great starting point for anyone interested in being all you can be. I have some tools that can help you achieve your ONE Thing more systematically, easier, and more consistently.

Register here. Join me bright and early at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time for wisdom that will change your life. (Applying The ONE Thing is changing mine).

By the way, we just released an update to Dave's Charm School - soft skills training that is a REQUIREMENT for any business. Sign-up by clicking the link below. We offer a 14 day free trial.


4 Hour Hire The Best Workshop at VISIONS 2018

Whether you have hundreds of applicants for your jobs, or none, you still have to make the right decision about whom to hire.

Learn how.

For the first time years, I (David Russell) will be teaching my popular Hire The Best system in-person, in a 4-hour workshop on February 21st prior to the popular VISIONS 2018 Conference in Glen Allen, Virginia.

We only have room for 22 people.  Your hiring questions will be answered. We will have time in this workshop to respond to plenty of specific questions.

Seats will go fast.

This is a unique opportunity to learn how "to get the right people on your bus," as Jim Collins said in his classic business book, Good to Great.

You will LEARN:

  • The entire HIRE the Best system, including...
  • How to RECRUIT in Good Times & Bad,
  • How to QUALIFY Dr. Jekyll from Mr. Hyde, and 
  • How to ENGAGE New Team Members in a Career.

Click here for the event brochure, or register below.

Do you have specific questions about hiring? Do you need to work through some interview scenarios or another common hiring challenge? Bring it to the workshop. We will give you answers and one or more options to try.

Get more information

Register Now!

Are there holes in your hiring system? Do you not have a formal hiring system at all?

Hiring haphazardly is too costly.  Join us to develop the framework and many of the key best practices for your new and improved hiring system in just 4 hours.

Learn proven methods to Hire the Best and get some new ideas about hiring that you never knew before.

See you in Glen Allen on February 21st!

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