This is Our Last Year in Business!

th0b9pl8dyFor many companies, making the decision to close the doors forever is by far the hardest decision the leadership ever has to make.  This has been the case for my own consulting business as I made that decision today myself.

For over 11 years I have been an independent consultant trying to build a sustainable business of helping companies build and rebuild their training functions so they work better and return on the investment.

During this time I have been blessed with partnering with some of the most humble and talented leaders in several different industries, as we worked together to improve their training operations.  Together we made a difference, and I will always be grateful that our paths crossed.

However, most of the time I have talked myself blue trying to encourage leaders to do what is best for their employees and ultimately their companies.  Conversations that fall on deaf ears has been a weekly agenda item for me for far too long, and I just can’t do it anymore.

A year ago I started to look for work in the corporate world and even though it doesn’t seem possible, I am both over qualified and underqualified for roles because I have been a consultant for too long.  My competition is younger and thus cheaper to hire, and since too many organizations don’t really care if training returns on the investment or not, I see the reasoning behind hiring people that cost the least.

So today marks the end of this blog.  I’m tired of preaching to an empty room most of the time, and not making a difference.  This is also looking to be my last year in business too.

My very best to all of you!



Why are we still connected?

Are you connected to people in LinkedIn that you don’t know, have never talked to or even exchanged an email with since the day you connected?  Are there connections that don’t return your phone calls, emails or texts?  What about the people you have asked for help, information or an introduction, do they come through for you?

Lately I have been wondering why I am connected to people who don’t want to play in the sandbox with me.  It could be that I have done something or said something that has alienated me, and yet maybe I have done nothing wrong.  Like most people it take a lot to go in and disconnect a connection.  Not that it is technically hard, but it is emotionally hard to make that decision.

I have taken to going through my list of connections and asking myself if we should stay connected.  The answer is easier when I have asked for anything and I get a zero response.  When I may have connected with them because of their role within a company, industry or field but that has now changed, I take a second look to see if it makes sense to stay connected.  I ask myself if we were not connected, would I be sending them an invitation to connect today?

Some folks I realize are into collecting connections.  They are shooting for a large number of “followers” to show how vital they are, or how much people need their words of wisdom.  The greater number of connections gives them a good feeling about themselves.  I am not one of these people.

Several months ago I realized I had a large amount of people who I used to work with at a former employer that is now out of business.  In some ways, connecting in LinkedIn was our way to remain together.  There is even an alumni group that many joined too.  Yet I connected to obtain future consulting work from the company this particular group of people went to work for.  While most returned emails, and phone calls, and a few even met with me face to face, their focus was different from the one we had at the old company.  I didn’t see us ever working together, so I sent each of them a message asking if we should stay connected.  About half said yes and the other half didn’t reply.  So I disconnected from the ones that didn’t reply, and I have yet to hear from them

So I think it makes sense to sort through and weed out your LinkedIn contacts.  The clutter often makes it hard to find the people you want to work with and the people who you delete no longer have to read your daily updates.  Sounds like a win-win to me!


Respect and Appreciation

While I normally devote this blog to directions I wish managers and leaders to take, today I am targeting any reader.  But especially those readers who are dependent on others for financial support.

While this includes anyone living with someone who is financially supporting any or all of their expenses, it includes all employees earning a paycheck.  Everyone getting something from someone else needs to learn and practice the concepts of respect and appreciation.

We in the HR world love to lecture managers that they need to respect their staff and demonstrate appreciation.  Yet managers are not the only people in an organization that need to show respect and appreciation.  Every single employee needs to show maximum respect and visible appreciation for having a job.  Stop taking everything for granted and realize that although it is not a perfect world, this employer is providing you an opportunity and a financial gain.

If you are living with family or friends because you cannot afford to live on your own, it ruffles more than my feathers to see attitude being tossed into the faces of those providing assistance.  Adults that move back home because they hit a financial low expect to take over and run their parent’s home.  Children and young adults that live off their parents and then show little respect for the support, and forget appreciation find themselves feeling entitled to life-long care and feeding.

Yet for those employers, parents, siblings and friends that are being disrespected and unappreciated, if it is allowed to happen you may be enabling the behaviors by not requiring better treatment.  If I ever told a manager which way to stick it, I fully expect to be fired.  If I am not, then my manager is telling me it is okay to show disrespect.

If I keep paying for my adult child to live at home without paying expenses and I find that I need to follow their rules in my house, then I need to understand I am allowing it.  If I am sending a check to my kid every month to pay for living expenses and yet I’m told to keep my nose out of their lives, then I need to stop making payments to the ungrateful.  Too many parents put up with entitled children living off them for fear of losing the relationship.  Parents need to understand that being a parent deserves the same level of respect and appreciation from their children as any other interpersonal relationship.

Bottom line is that we all need to remember to respect those we interact with and show appreciation for what we are receiving.  At the same time, when we are giving of our time and resources to others we must hold these people accountable to a proper level of respect and appreciation or we need to cut the checkbook off.

For Sale By Owner

When you think of the phrase “For Sale By Owner” what first comes to mind? Maybe when selling your house, car or other large item. I guess it could fit anything we own and have the right to sell, and we are not getting help from anyone else to sell it.

Last week someone in my inner circle who likes to kid me, connected the efforts of a consultant like me marketing services to a For Sale By Owner advertisement. Upon a moment of reflection I laughed, and said I guess I am advertising my services that way. I am the product, and since I charge for my services I am “For Sale.”

I find it odd that when I worked internally, I never saw myself as the Chief Selling Officer for training. I was meeting a need the company had with a performance solution. I and my team did this over and over again and we kept our jobs, earned our paychecks and we made a difference to the success of the company.

So why is it so hard for this same process to work outside of an internal role? When I was a salaried person I got paid every two weeks. Granted I worked hard for my paycheck, but did I really need to? I would have been paid anyhow, at least until it dawned on someone that I was not doing anything. And yet as an external consultant, managers expect all sorts of free consulting, free advice, free products and they call it testing you out.

I find myself being asked to speak at conferences every so often for travel and expenses only, no speaker fee. I’m told they don’t have the money and want me to write it off as a marketing expense. That works sometimes when the audience actually buys my services after the engagement, but most of the time that is a long shot. Conferences are being promoted with sizeable fees to attend, and the organizers are the ones making money. Without the speakers there would not be a conference.

The whole concept of the occasional free speaking engagement, free consulting is that it will come back to the consultant in the form of business. After all, having expenses is only cool when they reduce the taxable earnings. But what happens when the expenses exceed the earnings?

If you were selling your house as a “For Sale By Owner” would you let people live in it for a week to see if they liked it? Or if you are selling your car, would it be okay if they took a 3-day test drive and drained the gas tank? My guess is your answer is absolutely not. So why should I keep working for nothing?

An HR Manager told me a few months back that she likes to pick my brain. I must have been having an off day because without thinking I said, “I’m glad you think I’m valuable, but the sample tray is getting empty.” Ding! She said, “my word, I have been abusing your kindness.” I let that comment go without a response. I wonder if it will make a difference.

In the mean time, let everyone you know that in addition to a truck I have for sale, I am also selling my services – “Jim Hopkins – For Sale By Owner!”  (And I need money for both the truck and me)

100 Postings – Where Now?

About two years ago I started writing a weekly blog, primarily to think through some of the many issues facing corporations large and small that I have been working with, and spreading the ideas to a wider audience.  Today marks my 100th posting, and if you had asked me two years ago if I could write 100 blogs I’d have said not a chance.

While I have tried to use these postings as a way to encourage those that are not doing by sharing stories from those that are doing I believe I have touched only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the areas of management, leadership, customer service and workplace issues.  The amount of topics seem plentiful for at least another 100 blogs.

Yet I am seeking feedback from those willing to share where I should concentrate my efforts.  A few have told me that the blogs that poke fun (in humor) about those lost leadership souls, and ineffective HR are the most fun and that I should write more of them.

Others have said I tend to avoid the “Lousy Leader” that should be called out as the threat they are to our civilization.  Yet in the process of writing a book on lousy leaders I found the topic depressing just to think about the winners I’ve had to work with.  Yet in truth there are days when I would like to write with more “kicking butt and taking names” as the theme.

Others still tell me to avoid the typical “feel good leadership” as no one really reads them, and those that do aren’t changing to become more in alignment, so why bother?

I feel like I am at a cross-roads and could use some feedback as to where my readers would like to see me concentrate for a while at least.  If you are uncomfortable commenting, then send me an email at


Telling The Truth Won’t Kill You!

In the current political environment you would think that telling the truth would somehow be the end of life for the very people lying their butts off lately.  I’m so tired of listening to “the spin” and trying to figure out what people are trying not to say, that I long for the days when people just told the truth.

The sad part is that most of these professional liars are so into their version of the truth that they have convinced themselves that they are being truthful.  Even when they are confronted with annoying little things like facts they ignore the conversation and start in again with an even more exaggerated version.

Okay, sadder still is the vast amount of people listening that are being duped into believing the lies!  I want to just yell at everyone to stop lying and just tell the truth.  Face up to reality and let’s fix the problems.  Leaders should be leading in a positive way, and stop all this finger-pointing.  As my good friend Linda Galindo would say, “it is time to take personal accountability!”

So for those of you that are fearful that telling the truth might kill you, I’m pleading with you to try first and see how your relationships actually improve when people trust you more.  And for the politicians seeking a vote, you might be surprised how obtaining trust will help.

The Guy In The Glass

Sometime around 1985 I was on a Holland America Lines cruise to Alaska when I heard the Cruise Director, David Lawton, read a poem called “The Guy In The Glass.”  After a couple of days the words stayed with me and I asked for a copy that I just found this week.  I would like to share it with you.

The Guy In The Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for a day, go to the mirror and take a look at yourself and see what that guy has to say.

It isn’t your mother, father or wife who’s judgement on you must pass.  The fellow who’s verdict counts most in your life is the guy staring back from the glass.

You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum and think you are a wonderful guy.  But the guy in the glass says you are a bum if you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on your back as you pass.  But you’re final reward will be heartaches and tears if you’ve cheated that guy in the glass.

What’s Wrong with Burning a Few Bridges?

Conventional wisdom tells us to never burn a single bridge in our professional lives because you never know when you might need that relationship again.  I firmly believe that there are going to be circumstances and people who nearly require you to burn the bridge so you will never need to work with those people again.

I’ve been working for the past 35 years and I initially followed conventional wisdom and did whatever it took to part ways on a positive note.  There are times when the reason I was leaving was more than a promotional opportunity, more money, or a shorter commute.  These are all the generally softer ways of giving notice.  They are often spoken in truth, but many times they are used to cover up the real reasons to avoid burning bridges.

As time progressed, I thought it would improve circumstances if I shared the issues that caused me to consider other opportunities, more money or a shorter commute.  I had candid conversations with Human Resources during exit interviews, explaining the challenges with processes and particular personalities that cause concern and issues in the workplace.  I have spent the past 22 years in learning development, so my core was telling me that people can’t improve until they know that there is a performance gap.

Looking back, I would say that each of those times when I was honest and doing what I thought was helpful, I burned a bridge.  I’m not talking about toasting the wood a little; I’m talking about a five-alarm fire, nothing but ashes when I left.  There was no walking back over that puppy after I was finished burning it.  The people I left behind never spoke with me again, and I’m left to wonder if that is really such a bad thing?

Out of the dozen or so people who would sooner slit their throat then say hello to me, I have to be honest doesn’t bother me in the least.  These were folks that the word ethical wasn’t even in their dictionary.  Underhanded, manipulative, rude and down right mean are better descriptors of their personalities.  I hated working for them at the time, and after leaving I felt a rush of relief at never having to work with them again.  Although it was not my intention to burn a bridge with these people, the fact remains that I did, and the primary benefit was to never hear from them again.

When they say we are only separated by about six people from each other at most, (six degrees of separation), it does cause a reduction in referrals and future contacts that might cause these people to question if they should begin a working relationship with you.  Recently I suffered the opposite of that type of disconnect when someone contacted an old manager to find out what kind of training professional I am and what it would be like to work with me.

I know that this must have been this guy’s dream come true to work his magic by telling this new contact what a nightmare I would be to work with.  He said, “Jim is a purist when it comes to training and needs to do everything the right way.  He plays by the rules and Joan of Arc has nothing on him when it comes to ethics.  It makes it challenging to work around him because he is such a goody two shoes.”

Well thanks to these comments, I have a new client that shares my servant leadership style and ethical code.  What my old manager was trying to do was clue in his friend to how difficult it will be to work with a person like me, and at the same time selling the attributes the new client was looking for in a working relationship.

Now I will be the first to admit this situation was a fluke.  Most of the time when you burn a bridge that person will have a negative influence over anyone asking about you, not to mention that they themselves will never work with you again.  When I began consulting 6 years ago I was heart-broken that a particular person wasn’t giving me the time of day or throw me a bone’s worth of business.  At first I struck it up to the fact that he was still angry that I resigned and my replacement was not producing the same results I had.  I had watched this guy lash out at others that left before I did and his vindictive nature was well on display most of the time.  It should have been no surprise to me that I was getting the same cold shoulder, but it did.

This manager and I worked well together and although it was a strained relationship initially, over time I figured out his style and met those needs in my work performance.  He was angry over my leaving because as he said, “I don’t want you to go.”  I had a difficult time explaining why I was being called to strike out on my own and go from a reliable income to complete uncertainty as a self-employed consultant.  While financially it was not the best decision I’ve ever made, it has brought me innumerable benefits I would not have collected if I had remained.

One of these benefits has been the realization that burning a bridge forces you to find another route.  Without the easy ability to rely on old relationships to fund my new consulting business, I was forced to find new relationships early on and not wait until after the well went completely dry.  In some cases caustic people who I hated to work with in past jobs will no longer be a part of my future.  These folks will never again poison my spirit or cause me undo irritation because I need their job or as a client.

While I might have gone along with conventional wisdom in my early working years and left no bridge unburned, I’m glad to look back at a few I burned on purpose and realize that it was for my benefit that I can no longer connect with those people again.

What bridges have you burned in the past that you are glad you did?What bridges are still in place that should have been burned down?What do you think is wrong with burning a few bridges?

[Originally posted at on 2/17/12]

A Time of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  It is a time that Americans come together and give thanks for their blessings.  It is a time to help others that are less fortunate, and of course a time to eat more than your body should consume in a week let alone a day.

I recently heard a paster comment that it is easy to be thankful for all the good that is happening to you, but that we should be thankful for all the bad that is happening to us too.  “For God is in charge of all works in our life for our good.”  We may never know, nor should we always be trying to figure out how it all works together for our good, just trust in faith that it is.

This means to me that I’ve been a little remiss in my list of things to be thankful for.  It also helps me on my mission to be more accountable for my actions if I am not blaming others for things but being grateful for my circumstances.

There must be a reason that people don’t return phone calls and emails.  There must be a reason that decisions are avoided or delayed and sales are not closed.  There must be a reason that my cat appreciates my words more than clients.

I am thankful for all that has gone well in my life without a doubt, and I am going to be making a serious effort to be more grateful for all the other obstacles too.  It won’t happen overnight, but with your help or without it, I will make Thanksgiving a year-long activity.  (Accept for the eating, as I have to lose some weight this year too!)

Lacking The Time To THINK

I attended a webinar today presented my Lisa Bodwell, the CEO of FutureThink on “Hitting The Reset.”  She began with a staggering statistic about the lack of time we have to think these days, a strategy that allows creativity and problem solving.  She said the results of the research was a whopping 5% of our time is spent in the “thinking” mode.  It is no wonder we can’t dig ourselves out of this economic recession, depression or whatever you want to call it.  We need new ideas and positive changes and that requires time to think.

This was my first experience with FutureThink and Lisa Bodwell.  If you have not taken a serious look at the company and their training techniques, run don’t walk to their website!

The ideas that were expressed in the webinar are not ones I feel comfortable sharing in this space because of copywrite issues.  Yet, I can tell you I walked away with my mind clicking and truly jazzed at some of the possibilities if we could get people to think more often and empower them to change some of the things that get in our way of being productive and problem solving.

So rather than take anymore of your time reading this blog, go to and start thinking differently right now!