Sending Mixed Signals to the Staff


You got to love the senior manager that just yesterday preached to the team the virtues of treating people with respect, even pointing to the ever present value statements on the wall, and ripping your face off today for something that happened. What the heck?


Nothing to see here, this is Corporate America on most days of the week.

Get used to it. “Do as I say and Not as I do.”


While I published two books on how to have a productive learning function, I’d be a lot richer if I had come up with another culture book with some new idea for how to motivate and get everyone on the same page. CEOs would be lining up to buy all of their managers a copy of my book, and no doubt I would be engaging in some pointless, yet very expensive workshop to train their leaders. Everyone would be hyped for a couple of months and then only Sherlock Holms would be able to locate the enthusiasm that once existed.

It is very trendy to spout from on high the latest ideas, and jump head first into an implementation with no outcomes. It makes everyone, (including the board of directors) think you are engaging people. At the same time you are leading the new direction, you fail to monitor behaviors. When people are told one thing and they experience another, the energy dissolves away quickly.

Like lawmakers that pass new legislation to fix one problem while ignoring the five other problems the legislation creates, managers often implement processes that do the same thing.

I know a company right now that struggles with hiring even basic roles, so current staffs remaining are stretched thin keeping up on the work being short staffed. Yet management adds work to the teams that one could argue would challenge full staffs to complete, to already overworked people, because it supports their new initiative. No one thinks about the effects on existing staff, just their newest initiative. Team members start to quit, and HR fails to alert anyone because it means throwing a curve that will slow down the new program.

How does this happen? People are scared to send up yellow flags let alone red flags. Management has made it clear “we are here to support you” while in reality they don’t want to hear about anything that is negative. I know of a CEO that was called in to fix an ailing company that was full of mixed signals. His solution was simple and direct. In the course of 90-days he evaluated all senior managers and fired a whopping 90% of them and replaced them with people he knew walked their talk. It has been almost a year since then and the company is back and doing good.

So if you tell someone to act a certain way, it isn’t hard to succeed. Model the behaviors and hold people accountable.



Our HR Is Incompetent – Now What?


Way too many small to mid-size organizations have to live with incompetent HR. Either someone is wearing the HR hat and knows little to nothing about HR, or someone has the full time role and is in over their heads.

And before any of you lose sleep or want to comment about the obvious, not every company has incompetent HR. I’m talking here about the ramifications if you do, and what can be done about it.

I’ve seen too often a clerical role in HR gets advanced simply because of tenure. A prime example is a marketing administrator was helping in HR and they asked if she would like to stay on permanently. She always wanted to get into HR and took advantage of the chance. She was one of two HR assistants reporting to the HR Supervisor. Within 2 years, the supervisor had left and so did the other assistant that was the supervisor for a brief time. The new HR Manager became the last one standing. 17 years later she is the VP of HR with two assistants. She is a bit more aware of the HR function through time and exposure to events and attending annual conferences, but hardly competent.

In the last 14 years I’ve been consulting for the HR & Training worlds I have run across way to many people that run HR and are in over their heads but somehow explain all the problems their lack of competency creates as part and parcel of the HR world. Yet there are also a ton of competent HR leaders out there that would never have allowed such chaos to exist.

So maybe your HR department struggles with recruitment and even the most basic job search is a challenge. Or how about behavior issues, employee relations and resolutions when problems arise, can this individual respond appropriately? Are they a strong support to management for employee performance improvement or are they quick to terminate? Or maybe they seem out to lunch all the time and everything is over their head all the time.

Those that know me might think I would recommend training, but actually I would recommend a demotion if you want to keep them in HR, hiring a replacement, or a total job reassignment to another part of the company. They are not in the right job, and you either start over their training, or give them new opportunities. In any case, if your HR is incompetent, replace them immediately!

If you are not ready to make the needed changes, at least cut your personal losses by selling your company stock. I’m not giving investment advice, only trying to make a point that your company succeeds on its human employees, and they succeed with strong HR support. It is like a big dominos game and you are going to lose it all if your HR employees and especially leadership are weak.

I know one company that is regretting their previous excuse of hiring better talent as too expensive; as they are now settling a multi-million dollar lawsuit over EEO, ADA and Workplace Harassment with a single employee. Guess what happens when the other employees get wind of the payout? You might hope this was an isolated incident, but it was not.

Lastly, don’t wait until things get this ugly. If your HR Manager struggles with recruiting an entry level person and 90-days later you are still waiting, chances are good this person is incompetent. Find them a new career path and help you company succeed.

Are You Afraid of Vacation?


In every company in the country you can find at least one person who is afraid of taking vacation. They for one reason or another are afraid of even staying at home (staycation) and being away from work. What are they afraid of if they are gone for a week? Why does the company allow employees to skip taking time off to rejuvenate?

Let’s begin by briefly reviewing the benefits of simply not going to work for a week, even if you stay at home and go nowhere else. A change of scenery does a body good and cleans out the brain fog that develops from routine. Breathing different air, and just changing up the daily activities brings a fresh perspective to life.

However, if you can break away from work and go somewhere, even if it is local places like shopping, eating a few meals out, the park, the library or a museum can open the mind to different things. At home projects in the yard or around the house often uses a different skill set and can check off a few items on the to-do-list making us feel productive.

Going somewhere, whether by car, bus, train, plane or ship can transport us completely away from routine and free us up to see the bigger picture and how we fit in, or maybe introduce us to a change. Many times people come back from vacation and begin looking for a different job or begin training for a new career.

Organizations benefit from employees being gone for a few days as a reminder of what people bring to the table. People that are always around are often taken for granted, but in their absence people realize the value of others and how essential they are to the daily workings of the company. In very rare incidences, companies will discover issues being hidden by the absent employee, but even bad news can be good news if discovered.

I happen to love cruise vacations. I have sailed on over 40 cruises, and each time they bring new experiences and memories. But aside from the great food, unpacking one time, entertainment and interesting ports of call, I find that everything is being taken care of and I can just go along for the ride.

With a cruise, the hardest part of the trip is getting there. Every time I step on board, I feel the tension leave my body. Someone else is transporting me for the week. Someone else is cooking, cleaning, and providing me with things to do. I simply make choices and go do them. While many want Wi-Fi, I choose to disconnect for the week, and don’t even watch the news on TV.

When I get home, I find very little happened, very little changed, and I just step back into the routine, looking forward to my next vacation. We plan out a year or two in advance for all time off, so I always have something to look forward to.

So why don’t you take your full vacation every year? What is stopping you? What might you be afraid of? Let’s plan your next vacation and fill up the memory book. Drop by and start exploring the possibilities!

Everyone Loves a Sale; Except Those That Can’t Make Decisions


Whenever you see a sale that is short, like a 24 hour sale, or maybe a 48-hour sale, it is usually a good sale because it comes with a very short timeframe to make a decision. Since most people struggle with decision making, they will often spend quite a bit more to avoid being forced to act quickly.

In the past year and a half selling travel (cruises, tours and resort vacations) I have been frustrated by the few and far between really good offers that come up and with it a short time to market. Yet these short timeframe deals have saved my clients a lot of money when I can get them to act quickly. I find that most of the time though, my clients will procrastinate beyond the sale date and lose out.

It is the same in corporate purchasing. When the shoe was on the other foot and I was negotiating with vendors for a lower rate, or added perks to my deal, often it came with a limited time to purchase. Depending how many more hoops I had to clear internally before being able to say yes, I could lose out on savings because I took too long to commit.

Organizations that empower people to make decisions without fear of termination often have a robust and energetic workforce where things are always moving quickly, including decision making. This environment often saves money because they can act quickly.

I felt so bad recently when a client passed up an offer on a cruise because he took too long to make up his mind, and when he finally got around to being ready to book the ship was full. Not only was he going to be paying full fares by waiting, he landed up missing out completely because he waited. Now we are looking for a comparable cruise and everything available is costing more.

Then there is the school of thought that some people simply are not motivated by a sale price or added perks. They purchase off the rack at full retail pricing without bothering to ask about pricing. If these people exist, I have not yet met them.

Friends at Work are Far and Few Between

not a friend

When I look at the many people I am connected to in professional social networks like LinkedIn, I am sometimes amazed at how few I could call a friend. Over our professional careers we meet and work with a ton of people, but very few earn the status of friend.

I define a friend I can trust with very confidential information. I define a friend as someone I support and they support me with endeavors we each are working on outside of work. And maybe this is too obvious, but I also define a friend as someone who has my back and would never stab me in that back.

Maybe you have a different way to define friends, and I encourage you to write down your definition so it doesn’t shift based on emotion. Then compare your definition to the people in your network. My guess is you will have a markedly smaller list of friends compared to the massive list of contacts and associates.


Why am I talking about this issue?

I have recently experienced challenges with people I thought were friends. These were people I have supported, and yet when I need them to support me I have been confronted with the reality they are nowhere to be found. And this is 100% my fault to expect an equal Quid Pro Quo from people I support.

I have a need, something that made me a valuable asset as a training professional, to help others. So I am always finding ways to support the goals of others. Yet very few people see the need to return the favor. I am writing this blog to spare you some of the heartache I have felt by suggesting you never expect anything in return for the support you give.

I’m also keeping a better record of those who support my efforts, so that my time is available to help them first. People that come to me for help in getting a job, a referral, a free bit of consulting (I’d be rich if I’d gotten paid for all the free time) no longer get my services first. Frankly I’m tired of being used and getting nothing in return from so many folks.

Friends, like I have said, never stab you in the back. But a piece of advice for those that do stab you is not to seek revenge. It is hurtful I agree. But holding that hurt inside, or worse seeking revenge is by far more damaging. Turning away and letting God deal with the injustice is a much better solution.

Now while I don’t believe I have included my faith in any previous blog, this is one area where I can testify to the many opportunities I have been given to seek revenge for an injustice from someone I thought to be a friend or associate that suffered a worse outcome than anything I could have ever done because I turned it over to God.

So for the dozen or so people that showed their true stripes this week, I forgive you. But for the record, you are also being moved off the official friends list for good.

YES, I would still like a full time job!


For the past year I have been devoting a lot of time to building a new travel business I can run in my retirement years, but I have not given up my desire to continue HR & Training Consulting work, or even a full time gig for the right opportunity.

I was taken aback last week when I recruiter emailed me asking me if I was still interested working full time. As a consultant for the past 12 years, I had given up hope that a company could see the value in the diverse experience consulting work provides. Most recruiters are looking for only people currently working in a full time role, so this call was a pleasant surprise.

I spoke with the recruiter yesterday, and found out more about the role and the company. The role will not be that challenging, but I had also seen this role open on and off for the past several years. It just begged the question as to why no one was staying very long. The answer was that the management team was challenging to work with, but the recruiter was aware of a previous management team I had worked with once in my past. She felt that experience told her I could handle this team.

I laughed out loud. Honestly, the group in my past she was referring to was quite a challenge to say the least, and I had survived. I also learned a great deal how to work with people like this and agreed to look at this opportunity.

So while I have the requisite professional experience for this role, and a hundred others for that matter, I am usually summarily dismissed from a search or an application because I am not currently full time. “Hear Ye, Hear Ye” – That is a fatal recruiting error in finding the best talent. You are missing talent that your management team needs.

Back to the recruiter that I opened with, I was impressed with her ability to read between the lines of my profile/resume. She knows what kind of skills this role needs and there are many people she could call. However, she realized that success means the ability to work with her management team far outweighs the ability to perform the job. With me, she said, she thought I had the ability to be successful on both fronts.

I have researched the management team, and spoke with a person who I know worked for this team and I hope I get an interview.   But in the meantime, YES, I would still love a full time job! Your referrals are appreciated.

You can be a better person if you know what’s going on


Have you ever stopped to realize that you can be a better person if you know what is going on in the lives around you? At work you can interact better with people whether they are your peers, staff, senior managers or customers if you know what each of these people are going through on the job and in their personal life.

This epiphany came to me this morning when I realize the value of a card I sent a client telling them I was thinking about them during a difficult time they are going through. But honestly, if the client had not felt comfortable telling me that their family member was ill, I would never had known, thus a card never would have been sent. I was only able to act because I had information at hand.

I remember managing individual staff that seemed out of it and/or unfocused, and instead of jumping to performance management 101, I focused on the person until I learned the root cause. I often made accommodations to help them through their challenges, but the offset was it allowed me to be a better person as a result.

Too often we have our noses stuck to our phones reading about one thing or another and forget we are getting information we can act on that builds our individual relationships. But the point I am trying to make is having information is the first step. Sometimes it is fed to us through an application and other times we need to seek it out through conversations.

Once we have information, do something with it!

I attended a company picnic recently and met a lot of people. Yet three of them took a little time to have a short conversation with me. I swirled around in my mind the content of those three conversations and a few days later reached out in LinkedIn to invite them to connect. I used the “Note” section to thank one of them for remembering something I tried to do for them at a past company. To another I thanked her for the impact she is personally making on the lives of employees in her division. And to another I offered help to engage his son in an organization he could benefit from and this man wanted him to join. Not only have I improved these three relationships, I did it with some personal impact.

So the next time you are talking with someone, find out something about what is going on in their lives. Then find a way to deepen your relationship with them using what you have discovered.