Saturday, August 16, 2008

Top 10 HR Documentation Killers

You've been sued by a former employee and now you're facing the music in court. You're not worried, though. You've documented why you fired the guy, and you're sure that once the judge sees it, he'll be singing your tune.

Shock of shocks! Your documentation is found wanting, and now you are ... wanting $20,000 to pay the judgment against you!

What went wrong? Recently, our sister newsletter, HR Manager's Legal Reporter, published a list of items that sink HR documentation. Here are the top 10:

1. Unsigned Or Undated Documents.
This is the number one failure in documentation. Sign and date everything! Have the employee do the same.

2. Illegibility.
You didn't go to med school, so leave the scrawl to the doctors. In court, neatness counts!

3. Late Documentation.
Judges and juries look askance at disciplinary or other reports written weeks or months after the incident they describe.

4. Inaccuracy.
That document looks perfect, but the facts are wrong. Even one error makes the entire document suspect.

5. Unsupported Conclusions.
Don't write, "Worker X was drunk" without documenting the reasons you think so, e.g. "liquor on breath, slurred speech." Statements by objective witnesses will buttress your conclusion even more.

6. Waffling.
If Mike isn't making 200 widgets per hour, don't just write, "Mike's performance must improve." The judge will ask, "Improve from what to what?" Be specific.

7. Don't Make Excuses.
Statements such as "You failed-but I know we've all been pushing hard lately," may win you a nice guy award, but it won't win your case.

8. Don't Lie ... Even To Be Nice!
Saying someone was let go due in a layoff rather than for cause, if there was cause, can backfire big time in a wrongful termination suit.

9. Be Consistent.
If you've written up Sally for an infraction, you'd better have written up everyone who did it. Otherwise you're open to a charge of discrimination.

10. Don't Over Or Under Focus.
Writing up every tiny infraction makes you seem petty. But writing only the job-ending incident makes you appear emotion-driven.

Of course, all of the above should not be practiced just by you but by everyone in your organization. That's especially critical if you are in a one-person or very small HR department, as you can't be watching everyone at once. For this, and other HR matters, you need a resource that does the watching for you.

Plain Talk Makes Sales, Fancy Talk Makes You Sound Lame

How does your prospect perceive your words?

New? Engaging? Valuable? Exciting? Compelling? Or are they boring, time-worn clichés that have your prospect mentally yawning and turned off?

You may think your industry buzzwords, sales jargon, and catchy phrases make you look "hip," even smart. Wrong, paradigm breath. In fact, they put you in a deficit position. When you wax worn out words, your prospect is downsizing your order.

In her book, The Voice of Authority, Dianna Booher covers ten communication strategies every leader needs to know. These strategies are so transferable to salespeople it's scary.

Here's what Dianna has to say about the way you speak:

"If a phrase starts to roll off your tongue, shut your mouth; consider it a cliché--probably a phrase so overused that the meaning has long since been lost." Dianna writes, "Instead, aim for originality and specificity. For starters, here's a list of bureaucratic buzzwords that muddy messages and mar your image as a clear communicator and straight shooter:

- No Brainer (meaning if you don't see it as clearly as I do, you're off your rocker)
- Enhancement (an improvement too insignificant to charge for but worth touting; often confused with body parts)
- Value-added (anything you can't charge for because the client doesn't value it enough to pay for it)
- Incent (prodding people with money, freebies, coupons--whatever it takes to get them to do something they're not inclined to do on their own)
- Core competencies (as opposed to core incompetencies?)
- Initiatives (long, long ago, they were called goals and plans)
- Thought leaders (as opposed to those who lead the unthinking morons?)
- Optimization (the process of making things better and better--as in cooking, flying, making love, making stealth missiles, making movies, building skyscrapers, counting votes, applying makeup, charting sea turtles)
- Solution (solid dissolved in a liquid or a mathematical proof hidden inside all products and services now offered by all corporations around the world)
- Alignment (identifying where the rubber doesn't meet the road in goals that are supposed to be running parallel to yours)

- Deliverables (paperboys and girls used to ride bikes and carry these)
- Rightsizing (Nordstrom does this free of charge if the clothes are pricey enough)
- Moral clarity (when you decide you can't get away with something without being fined or jailed)
- Impactful (newly coined term meaning packed full of potential to be hard-hitting--in the mind, heart, pocketbook, gut, mouth)
- Robust (fat, wealthy, expensive, complex, healthy, meaningful, deep, feisty; can be applied to people, philosophy, technology, equipment, training, strategy, food, religion, research, vegetation, medicine, light bulbs, laughter, beer)
- Branding (making livestock so it doesn't get lost or stolen; marking dead stock in inventory that hasn't sold in years with a new "look and feel" so that it finds its way to market again)
- Methodologies (in more primitive times, this was methods or the way you do something)
- Technologies (yet undiscovered wizardry from the netherworld)
- Bandwidth (refers to anything you want to limit, as in "that's outside our bandwidth")
- Seamless (meaning, I don't know where the heck my job ends and yours starts, so we can pass the buck if necessary)
- Platform (horizontal structure that supports all systems, people, brands, and philosophies)
And it's not just speaking. Stringing these terms together in paragraph after paragraph from document to document makes written communication as bland and meaningless as verbal communication. Take a look at this excerpt from an annual report of a Fortune 10 company to see if you find anything thought provoking:
Our industry is constantly evolving. The industry has globalized as the world's economies have expanded. Partners and competitions change. New opportunities are larger, more capital intensive, and often in remote areas or difficult physical environments. Business cycles fluctuate, but our long-term view provides us with consistent direction. Finally, technology has improved the methods we employ and the results we achieve in meeting the world's energy challenges.
Any great revelation here? Nothing specific. Could have come from any energy company in the market--or remove the word energy and you could insert it in just about any annual report. "Bland. Boring."

Not only does someone in corporate America write drivel like this – someone else reads it, likes it, and approves it. Pathetic.

by Jeffrey Gitomer

4 Common Sense Ways to turn BAD Engagement into GOOD Engagement

Who can argue with the value of engagement?  The primary issue, as Fay undoubtedly experienced in her research, is that while lots of people talk about engagement, they have a hard time defining what they do to improve engagement in their organizations.

Which begs the question - Can your front line managers really drive employee engagement in your organization?


The easy answer is yes, but as with many obvious easy answers.... the question is how? or what next?

The dilemma is especially true if you have a wide range of talents and capabilities among your most entry-level supervisors, which most of us do.  Some managers naturally have the gift that comes with instincts and experience, while others struggle.  In other words, they might be in over their heads a little bit initially, which means you get that cute "deer in the headlights" look when you try and talk about "employee engagement."

That's OK - check yourself and understand that every time you say "employee engagement" to an entry level manager, you sound like a consultant who's never managed people....

So, how do you help maximize employee engagement (and the resulting productivity and retention) with your group of front-line supervisors? 

Try these four simple concepts your managers can get their heads around:

Don't Hire Clock Watchers. As simple as it sounds, if having employees who are truly engaged is important to you (and it should be), you need to start with your hiring process. If you simply look for skills and experience, you'll often miss the behavioral cues that identify a candidate with a high probability of being fully engaged (or fully disengaged). To beef up your selection process to screen for engagement probability, include behavioral interview questions ("Tell me about a time ...") that ask for clear examples of when the candidate has displayed the behaviors and traits listed in the Gallup research (the standard of engagement measurement, listing 12 traits of engaged employees).

If a candidate struggles to give you relevant examples related to those traits, there's no reason to think they'll be fully engaged as a part of your company. You're not Houdini. Move on and find someone who has displayed engagement traits in other workplaces.

2.    Start With the Chiefs, Not the Indians. You won't be able to hire a team totally made up of engaged employees, and you can't just throw a banner up that says "Employee Engagement Month" and think that can be your engagement strategy. Employee engagement starts at the top. You need managers and supervisors who understand the keys to engagement and who can help you create a work environment that fosters the engagement traits listed above. In short, your managers have to be coaches. Invest your first engagement dollars in training for your leadership team.

3.    Offer Involvement & Choice to Draw Out the Fence-Sitters. Read the reams of data on engagement, and you'll find that common ways to engage employees include offering involvement in decision-making and providing autonomy and choice when possible. Not rocket science, but most organizations aren't set up to offer a lot of that. You'll have to be OK with change and also OK with losing some control. That's the cost of engagement.

4.    Coffee's for Closers. Last, but not least, if you want to create an environment that fosters employee engagement, reward the engaged with all the premium projects and cool work your shop has to offer. Don't send mixed messages and give grumpy loners the sweet gigs because they have the skills and it's the easy thing for you to do. Take the time, be patient with the results, and reward the engaged with the available project perks. Over time, you'll be glad you did.

Remember!! Be gentle when talking to managers about engagement - they've got a lot on their plates, and you sound like Tony Robbins when you talk about engagement without giving them ideas of what they can do to maximize the concept. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

Changing Lives

Some years ago I attended a self-improvement seminar and the speaker was Jim Rohn. He said, "Everything matters in life, some things a little and some things a lot, we just don't know which is which." And I believed him.

Now if I may, I would like to relate a personal experience which occurred when I was a motorcycle officer that strengthened this belief and taught a young man that everything in life does indeed matter.

I was a motorcycle officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and I was working speed complaints out of West Traffic Division. On the 6th of January, 1986, I was working a speed complaint on one of the streets in the hills of Bel Air. It was around 9:30 in the morning. I was stopped at the base of a hill and had set up my radar on the handlebar of my motorcycle and was watching the traffic coming down the hill.

This was a residential area and the road was narrow with numerous curves and was posted at 25 miles per hour. I had just finished writing a couple of tickets when I heard the audio on the radar, looked up the road and saw a small sports car coming down the hill. I glanced at the digital readout on the radar unit and saw that the car was traveling close to 50 miles per hour. I stepped out into the street and waved the driver over to the curb.

The driver was a young man in his early 20's on his way to UCLA for a morning class. I told him why I had stopped him and started to write him a ticket. He, of course, didn't want the ticket and tried to talk me out of it. His name was Christopher and he was a good kid. But he was trying his best to get me to not write him a ticket. Never rude, always polite, but determined to convince me to let him go.

We bantered back and forth, he would raise his voice in support of his position, but I calmly explained why he should get the ticket. When he saw I was still going to write him the ticket, he asked me, "What If I had not stopped, you were not on your motorcycle, would you have chased me?" I replied, "Most likely not".

About this time, I heard the audio on the radar and noticed that the digital readout registered 52 miles per hour. I looked up and saw a young man coming down the hill on a motorcycle. I stepped out in front of him and waved him into the curb. He was going too fast and passed us, but he was slowing down. I walked towards the motorcycle rider and my back was to Christopher.

The motorcyclist had turned around and was coming back to me. The he suddenly made a quick U-turn and sped down the hill. I turned around and walked back to Christopher and said, "Well, one got away."

He said, "I waved him on".

I said, "What?"

He said, "I waved him on."

I replied, "Oh, no! You should not have done that."

He had a puzzled look on his face and asked, "Why not, it won't matter?"

I told him everything in life matters, some things a little and some things a lot. We just don't know which is which. The look on Christopher's face clearly indicated to me that he did not believe me. I finished the ticket and we talked a little more about life and philosophy, then Christopher went to class and I went to court.

Three days later, I was back working that same area and had three cars stopped. While I was writing the tickets, I noticed that a car coming up the hill had stopped across from me. There were three or four guys in the car. It was obvious to me that they were waiting to talk to me.

I finished the last ticket and the driver of the car got out and walked over to me. He had a very sad look about him. I could tell something was bothering him. As he approached me, he asked, "Do you remember me?"

"Yes," I replied, "you are Christopher."

He then said, "You taught me a valuable lesson the other day when you told me that everything in life matters. I didn't believe you then, but now I do."

"How do you mean?" I asked.

"Do you remember the boy on the motorcycle?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied, "I do remember him."

"Well," he said, "he was my roommate and that is why I waved him on. I thought I was helping him. After he turned around he made a wrong turn and went down a street, which ended in a cul-de-sac and hit a large planter in the center of the cul-de-sac. He died instantly. You were right when you said everything in life matters."

I was shocked and found it hard to believe, even though I had been with LAPD for 18 ½ years. We talked for a few more minutes. I expressed my sorrow, we shook hands and then we both left.

I rode to the station in Venice and looked up the traffic reports for the 6th of January and sure enough there it was. I still could not believe it. I mentioned what had happened to another officer whose was in the station at the time. His response was that the kid deserved to die for fleeing the scene; I thought this cannot be happening; I don't want to be like him.

As police officers and especially motor officers we are suppose to be saving lives, not pleased because some kid made a bad decision and died. Over the next several days I gave a lot of thought to this situation and my life in general. I decided I didn't want to be a police officer anymore and I needed a change. So I resigned in February 1986 after 18 ½ years with LAPD to pursue my passion, network marketing.

I thought that I should listen to my own advice about how everything matters and look at this situation as an opportunity to make some serious changes in my life. I've never regretted leaving LAPD even though my business plans didn't quite work the way I had hoped back in 1986. But over the years they have and I have had a successful network marketing business since 1995.

Could now be the time for you to make a life change? If it is, I would encourage you to do so. Based on my experience you will not be sorry. I will be 65 in September 2008, I'm in great health and could not be happier.

By Duane Spears

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Judge Not The Blessings

My friend Jackie hated having Nancy as her manager. She thought her to be cold, insensitive and overbearing and had, in the past, tried twice to get transferred to another department, but to no avail. Nancy was apparently a favorite with her employers, and since Jackie was both new to the area and the job, she felt she had no strings to pull. This only served to irritate her more.

Then one evening while she was working late to finish up a quarterly report, Jackie felt suddenly sick to her stomach and was on her way to the restroom when she collapsed in the hall. The next thing she knew she was being placed on a gurney and wheeled out to a waiting ambulance. In the sea of faces hovering over her, the only one she recognized was Nancy's, and in the blur of activity, she could feel Nancy squeeze her hand and hear her say, "Don't worry, Jackie, I'm here. I won't leave you."

It was a promise Nancy kept. Over the next few days as Jackie, a newly divorced mother of two, lay in a hospital bed, coming to terms with the damage done by the stroke she had suffered. Nancy not only stopped by to see her two and three times a day, offering never-ending words of encouragement and bringing mail and get-well messages from co-workers, but also stepped in to see that Jackie's two daughters were cared for and that every aspect of Jackie's life was kept running as smoothly as possible in her absence.

When it was necessary for Jackie to leave the hospital and be placed in a rehabilitation facility, Nancy again made all of the arrangements and visited daily, and when Jackie was finally allowed to go home, it was Nancy who made it possible for her to travel to and from physical therapy each day until she was, at last, fully recovered and able to return to work.

By the time I met the two women, over a decade had passed. They still worked for the same company, though Nancy was about to retire, and Jackie was now the manager of her own department, a promotion she had earned the year following her life-changing stroke. It was obvious to everyone that the two women were the best of friends. I was a new hire for the company and learned about their history together when they invited me to lunch.

At Nancy's retirement party a couple of weeks later, I was standing next to Jackie as her dear friend was receiving accolades from the rest of her co-workers. Jackie looked at her and then whispered to me, "Can you believe I used to hate that woman? And if it wasn't for her, I'd probably be dead. Goes to show we never know who among us is an angel, doesn't it?"

None of us really knows about the people we decide to hate. We label them wrong and ourselves right and in so doing never realize that we are building a wall of separation that only grows stronger with time. We truly do block the angels from our midst. It is not until circumstance throws us together, as it did Jackie and Nancy, that we realize how very much we need one another and how very alike we truly are.

As a young girl living with my grandmother, any time I criticized another person in her presence, she would ask to see whose shoes I was wearing, a blunt reminder that unless I'd walked in that person's shoes, I had no right to judge. It was also a signal that I should stop talking and start thinking differently.

Even today, I sometimes catch myself looking down at my feet when I feel tempted to criticize. "Who am I to judge?" I'll ask myself in the next breath, realizing as I do that I have no idea what the target of my critical focus is really going through.

Of course, that doesn't always stop me, and sometimes the judgment tumbles into my thoughts or words and takes up residence before I even notice. But through my own self-experimenting, I have noticed that when I succeed in suspending judgment and allowing myself to look at others from another perspective, my joy increases. Judging others, I have discovered, does not let joy in. Stepping away from judgment does.

In the long run, all judging others really does is bring pain and block us from our ability to offer love. We were born to give, to bless, and to be a blessing, but when we are sitting in judgment, we can't. As Mother Teresa pointed out, when we are judging others, we have no time to love them. It is only in suspending judgment that we open our hearts to unconditional love and empower ourselves and each other to be the best that we can be.

An Excerpt from "May You Be Blessed" by Kate Nowak


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Care and Keeping of Customers

The first question of any business is to understand WHAT business you are in.

Most people think McDonald's is in the restaurant or hamburger business, but many analysts through the years have observed that they are actually in a variety of businesses. They are in the real estate development business. They are in the entertainment business. And most of all, they are in the customer service business.

Every business is first, last, and always in the business of providing superior service to its customers.

It costs a fortune to attract a new customer. The time, money, energy, anxiety and effort to get a new first-time customer in the door is a huge expense. No business has the resources to attract and serve only new customers. The key to profits is in keeping and serving the customers you already have.

Some studies show that it costs up to 85 times more money to get a new customer than to make an additional sale to an existing customer.

No matter what other business you are in, your first business is in keeping and serving and partnering with your customers. It's called customer retention. Sometimes it's called "up-selling". It goes by many names, but the principle is the same: Nurture and keep your customers!

Customer service is about reliability and it's about relationship. It's about trust. It's about the quality of your product, but even more, it's about the quality of your service before, during and long after the sale.

Perspective for Adults

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's or even the early 80's, probably shouldn't have survived childhood.

Our baby cribs were covered with brightly colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids or locks on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable!

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms. We had friends! We went outside and found them.

We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these things. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out any eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors!

Test scores were not adjusted for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected.

The idea of parents bailing us out if we got in trouble in school or broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the school or the law. Imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors, ever.

We had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility --- and we learned how to deal with it. And you're one of them!

The Keys for a Successful Career Fair

Preparing for the event has me thinking about the 10 hours I will be spending in the career booth. Ah, the career booth. During my time there, I will probably shake 400 hands. Some firm, some not, some clean, some snot, and about 80% of them will come unprepared.

Here are some suggestions for people attending a career fair:

  • Be Prepared. Please don't come up to me without a resume. You're at a career fair, for crying out loud. Do you really expect me to remember you by the time the day is over?

  • Dress Appropriately. You want to look professional, but you don't necessarily want to stand out. Dress business casual. You don't need to wear a suit (especially not at a conference like SIGGRAPH). But, you certainly shouldn't look like you just walked off the street.

  • Confidence...but, not Arrogance. You're selling yourself here. You have 60 seconds or less to show me that you are someone who should be speaking to my hiring managers, who just happen to be at the same conference and who also happen to be on speed dial. Have faith in yourself.

  • Know About My Company! You can get a list of companies attending beforehand. You should know what we're working on. This way, in your pitch, you can be emphasizing how your background will help my company. You should be the one talking. If I have to take up time telling you what we do, the conversation will not be very memorable, on my end.

  • Breathe Mints. Not joking. Career fairs are pretty up close and personal. I end conversations quickly if I don't like being close to you.

  • Network. Very important! You are at a conference full of professionals in your industry. Meet as many as you can. Go to the parties. Get business cards. Plus...the same recruiters in the booth will be spending their remaining time in town outside of the career fair at those very same parties.

Creativity Does Not Require Genius

Based upon an independent survey of advertising and marketing executives, which was reported in USA Today, there are three common misperceptions about creativity:

1) That the Time of Day When People Tend to be the Most Creative is at night,

2) That the Common Causes of Creative Block are lack of inspiration and concentration,

3) That the Best Way to Prevent Creative Block and Keep Ideas Flowing
is to focus harder on the task at hand and talk to others to gain their perspectives.

The truth of the matter is that most people are more creative in the morning. Most of us do not work better under a tight deadline. And taking a break is the best way to avoid creative blocks.

Notice I said most people. Everyone is different. Beethoven poured cold water over his head when he sat down to compose music, believing that it stimulated his brain's creative process. And no one ever doubted his creative genius.

In my case, I'm sharpest in the morning after a good night's sleep, or when I'm exercising. But ideas hit me at all times during the day and night. That's why I always carry a pen and paper with me, or keep a small recorder nearby if I can't take time to write. If I get an idea during the night, I have a pad of paper and pen on my nightstand, and I get up and write it down. Sometimes I even call my own voicemail at the office to jar my memory in the morning. I don't trust it to memory alone. I hate to waste an idea, even if it doesn't turn out to be great when exposed to the light of day.

One of my favorite cartoons in the New Yorker magazine showed two assistants preparing for a sales meeting in a conference room. One says to the other, "And don't forget the little pads in case one of them has an idea."

Like many people, I don't think well when I'm hurried or under pressure. I tend to go a mile a minute, but I think better when I'm relaxed. Did you know that some truly creative people spend their most productive time looking out the window? They are thinking. It's one of the most important things we do.

Of every study known to mankind, not one - zero, zilch, nada - says there is a correlation between IQ and creativity. This is good, because it means every one of us can become more creative.

When I Speak to Groups, I give them this Lesson

If I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar, we each have a dollar. But if I give you an idea and you give me an idea, we both have two ideas.

Thomas Edison, who was awarded more than 1,000 patents, was a prime example. He said, "The ideas I use are mostly the ideas of other people who don't develop them themselves."

visited Luther Burbank, the famed horticulturist, who invited every guest who visited his home to sign the guest book. Each line in the book had a space for the guest's name, address and special interests. When Edison signed the book, In the space marked "Interested in," Edison wrote: "Everything!"

That was an understatement. In his lifetime, Edison invented the incandescent light, the phonograph, the hideaway bed, wax paper, underground electrical wires, an electric railway car, the light socket and light switch, a method for making synthetic rubber from goldenrod plants and the motion picture camera. He also founded the first electric company.

Edison refused to let his creativity be stifled. He was curious about everything. See a connection?

"Ideas are somewhat like babies," said the late management guru Peter Drucker. "They are born small, immature and shapeless. They are promise rather than fulfillment. The creative manager asks, 'What would be needed to make this embryonic, half-baked, foolish idea into something that makes sense; that is feasible, that is an opportunity for us?'"

I like that thinking. It validates all my little scraps of paper and two-word dictations, among them my best ideas in infant form. Developing them and watching them grow, seeing where they go from a little seed—and seeing what other bright ideas grow right along with them—that's what gets my creative juices flowing.

by Harvey MacKay

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Can't Remember Names!

Question: I ran into someone I've met at least a dozen times and I still couldn't think of her name. How do I learn to remember names?

Answer: That's okay, Mary, I mean, Melissa, I mean ... er. It happens to everyone. The first step to name recall: Pay attention, says Scott Ginsberg, author of The of Approachability. When we meet someone, we tend to focus on ourselves and on making a good first impression instead of concentrating on the other person, he says. Try this:

1. Say the person's name aloud once after being introduced and then again at the conversation's end. While you're chatting, repeat her name a few times in your head as you focus on her face. People remember what they see three times better than what they hear, says Ginsberg. By connecting a face to a name, you'll be more likely to remember it next time.

2. Create a mnemonic device with a facial feature, such as "Paul has a protruding chin."

3. Write the name down after the conversation, along with how you know this person.

If you're caught in a name-forgetting situation, honesty is always the best policy. Try: "I feel terrible. We've met five times but I still can't remember your name." Then do your best to remember it in the future.

Quotes By Liz Smith, Jeremy Kitson, Ruth Casey, Carole King

"Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do."
--- Liz Smith

"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for,
it is a thing to be achieved." --- Jeremy Kitson

"It only takes one person to change your life - you." --- Ruth Casey

"You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, and show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better; You're gonna find, yes, you will, that you're beautiful as you feel." --- Carole King

Actions Still Speak Louder Than Words

Too often we talk about what we are going to do "someday" while we actually do very little to make our dreams come true. We talk and dream and set goals and plan. We budget and visualize. We do everything, in fact, except take action.

We all know that only action changes things. One of my favorite slogans is that "Nothing changes until something changes." I love the reminder that even a small step in the right direction can have huge implications! And, I love the reminder that only action will make our dreams come true.

We are blessed to live in a time when we can have or do just about anything we can imagine. You can go to law school or medical school--yes, you really could! You can make a fortune, start a foundation, travel the world, raise happy children, run for office, publish a book, start a business or become a hermit and live in the woods. If you can imagine it, you can DO it!

The only catch is that you have to actually make it happen.

I see at least three popular tools that are routinely used to avoid taking action. They are good tools when used properly, but we mis-use them to stay in our comfort zones, change nothing, and wonder why our dreams never come true.

First - We Set Too Many Goals: I'm a huge fan of goal-setting and I even wrote an ebook about the process. I use goals in my business and personal life, and I encourage my clients to set goals, so don't mis-understand me here.

The problem is that we set goals instead of taking action. We plan and talk and set dead-lines, when what we should do is get to work and "go for it". Losing weight is not a goal! It isn't even a long-term project, it's about walking around the block, skipping desert or whatever is right in your situation, and doing it today. Never set goals when it's simpler and more powerful to take direct action!

Second - We Wait for the Right Time: Yes, "there is a season for every purpose under heaven" and timing can make a huge difference. But we mis-use that truth when we refuse to take reasonable action while we wait for a "better time," or for the moon and stars and our checkbook to be in alignment. It's an excuse, folks! There will never be a magical "right time" to start a business or start a family or start a savings plan.

The time is NOW! Take action, do what you can, move in the direction you want to go. Stop procrastinating and move it!

Third - We Look for "Leverage" so we can make big, dramatic progress. Now, of course big steps forward are wonderful! They are fun and exciting and leverage can make everything easier. No one doubts that! But that is no reason to avoid doing what you can, where you can, right now.

In fact, too often the "big steps" are scary and then we find even more reasons to avoid them.

In most things, I'm a huge fan of "baby steps" and have written about taking the smallest, safest, least dramatic step you possibly can, so long as you take it today. Take small steps, just take them!

Find and use a goal-setting routine. Goals are vital to your long-term success! Just don't get so lost in the process that you forget to look up, get up, and get into action! The same is true of timing and taking huge, bold steps when you can.

Action always speaks louder than words or plans or goals. Only action gets stuff done! Take small steps, but start today. Call someone. Read something. Open a savings account. Invest a dollar, take a walk, talk with your kids. Whatever it is, just do it! Before you go to bed this evening, take some real, measurable, positive step (no matter how small) in the direction you want to go. Then tomorrow, do it again.


"The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. What ever your goal, you can get there if you're willing to work." -- Oprah Winfrey

"A person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder." --
Denis Waitley

"Goals. There's no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There's no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there's no telling what will happen when you act upon them." --
Jim Rohn

"If you want to reach a goal, you must 'see the reaching' in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal." -- Zig Ziglar

Monday, August 11, 2008

Planning a Workshop - Organizing and Running a Successful Event

Anyone who has ever planned a workshop will tell you that it's a big job. And planning a good one? Well, that takes organization, focus, and a lot of creativity.

Running a workshop is useful whenever you need a group of people to DO something together, rather than just report on what they've done. Examples include bringing experts together to solve complex problems, designing sophisticated processes that need the input of many different people, and making decisions that take into account the views of different individuals and groups.

Some people HATE going to workshops. Done wrong, they can be a huge waste of time and money. However, if they're planned well, they can be incredibly valuable for everyone involved. This is why advance planning is critical.

So how do you prepare for a workshop that will be not only relevant and productive, but memorable as well?

Before the Workshop

Follow these steps to make sure your workshop is a valuable experience for everyone:

  • Step 1: Define the Goals

    Every workshop must have a goal. Do you need to improve your company's hiring procedures? Do you want to teach managers how to be better organizers? Do you need to do some team building with a newly formed team?
    Many workshops are a waste of time because there's no clear goal kept at the center of the discussion. Without this clear goal, there's really no point in getting people together.
  • Step 2: Decide Who Will Attend

    Knowing who will attend directly relates to your objective. For example, if your workshop's goal is to develop a detailed solution to a problem, then you probably want 10 or fewer key attendees. If your goal is centered on education, then you might be happy with a much larger group, which divides into smaller groups for discussion.

    Make a list of the people who need to be there. Try to be as specific as possible, but leave a few openings for last-minute additions.
  • Step 3: Choose the Right Location

    If you have 10 attendees, then the conference room down the hall will probably be just fine. But if you have 50 people, you may have to find an outside location that's large enough.

    Think about the logistics and practical details of your workshop when you choose the location. Will everyone be able to see your visual aids? If you need a certain technology, like teleconferencing, will the location support it? Are there appropriate facilities for breakout sessions? Will everyone be able to reach the venue? Will you need to organize accommodation for people who are coming from a long way away? And what catering facilities does the venue provide?
  • Step 4: Create an Agenda

    Now that you know your primary objective and who will attend, you can start to develop an outline of how you'll achieve the workshop's goal.
    • Main Points - Create a list of main points to discuss, and then break down each larger point into details that you want to communicate to your audience.
    • Visual Aids - List the visual aids, if any, you'll use for each point. If you need technical support, this helps the people providing it to determine where they need to focus their efforts.
    • Discussions & Activities - Take time to list exactly which group discussions and activities you'll have at which point in the workshop. How much time will you allow for each exercise? Make sure your activities are appropriate for the size of the group, and ensure that your venue has the resources (for example, seminar rooms) needed to run sessions.

Remember, the more detailed your plan, the more you'll ensure that your workshop will run to schedule - and be successful.

  • Step 5: Develop a Follow-up Plan

    The only way to find out if your workshop was a success is to have an effective follow-up plan. Create a questionnaire to give to all participants at the end of the event, and give them plenty of opportunity to share their opinions on how well it went. Although this can be a bit scary, it's the only way to learn - and improve - for the next time.

    It's also important to have a plan to communicate the decisions that were reached during the workshop. Will you send out a mass email to everyone with the details? Will you put it on your company's intranet? People need to know that their hard work actually resulted in a decision or action, so keep them informed about what's happening after the workshop has ended.

During the Workshop - Getting People Involved

Once you have a solid advance plan, figure out how to bring some excitement into your event. You know the topics that you want to cover, but how will you make the information fun and memorable for your team?

Getting everyone involved is key to a successful workshop. If you stand up and talk for three hours, you're just giving a lecture - not facilitating a workshop. Everyone needs to participate.

Creating group exercises is different for each workshop. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Many people are nervous about speaking up in an unfamiliar group. If you plan group exercises, keep the size of each group small, so people are more comfortable talking and interacting.
  • Mix up different types of people in each group. For example, if several departments participate in your workshop, don't put members of the same department in their own group. By encouraging people to interact with other departments, they can learn to look at things from different perspectives.
  • Determine how you'll record the ideas from each group. Will participants shout them out while you write them down? Or will they write down their own ideas and then give them to you? This is a small, but important, detail that's often overlooked.
  • If you have five or fewer groups, spend time allowing the entire team to evaluate the ideas from each smaller group. This is a great way to narrow down your list of ideas, and let the good ones really shine.

Remember; spend as much time as you can create fun and interesting group exercises. These will likely keep everyone interested and participating.

Overall Workshop Tips

Here are some more ideas for running a successful workshop:

  • If you plan the meeting, you may want to facilitate it as well. Learn how to do this effectively in The Role of a Facilitator.
  • Start the meeting with a few Icebreakers to get everyone relaxed and comfortable.
  • If your workshop's goal is to address a difficult or sensitive topic, it's especially important to get the group comfortable before starting. One way is to tell a story that's loosely related to the topic before you begin discussing the difficult issue.
  • Sometimes, not everyone has to stay for the entire workshop. For instance, the CEO might be too busy to attend the whole session. Identify which sections your busiest participants need to attend, and suggest in advance when they might want to arrive and leave. They'll appreciate your consideration.
  • Where possible, avoid holding your workshop after lunch, between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. For many people, this is their slowest, most unproductive time of day. Your group will probably be more energetic if you schedule the event in the morning or late afternoon. (If you have to run the workshop in the early afternoon, make sure there's plenty of strong coffee available!)
  • If your workshop's ultimate goal is to make a decision about something, the more people who attend, the less likely it is that you'll reach a decision. Here, try to keep the number of people attending to a minimum (for example, by issuing minutes after the event to people who are just interested.) It's also important to become familiar with the different strategies for team decision making. See our article on Organizing Team Decision Making to learn more.

Key Points:

There's no doubt that planning a great workshop is a lot of work. But if you spend time thinking through the details, everyone will get full value from the event.

The workshop's goal should be at the center of all your planning. Creative exercises will get everyone relaxed and involved, and don't forget to follow up afterward: Although it can be scary to hear what people really thought of all your hard work, it's the only way you'll improve your next event.



Nuclear Power & Horse, Cow, Deer

Prakash Karat, the Communist Leader, was seated next to a little 5th grade girl on the airplane when Karat turned to her and said, 'Let's talk. I've heard that flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.'

The little girl, who had just opened her book, closed it slowly and said to the stranger, 'What would you like to talk about?'

Oh, I don't know', said Karat. 'How about nuclear power?'

'OK,' she said. 'That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first:
A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat grass, the same stuff. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?'

Prakash Karat turns towards Yechury in dismay. Thinks about it and says, 'Hmmm, I have no idea.'  

The little girl replies:  "Do you really feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you don't know SHIT?"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Do We Explain Wide Differences in Pay?

How do we manage a disparity in pay levels? We are raising pay rates for employees to be more in line with our competitors. However, this hasn't eased our recruiting difficulties very much. In addition, management is considering raising pay yet again for new recruits, but we are understandably concerned that such a move would make pay for new workers nearly equal to employees with two to three years of experience. This would also affect the pay of people with even longer tenure. Obviously, whatever we decide will affect both our retention of high performers and our recruitment of top talent. We don't want to get hung up on this issue, but feel caught in the middle. Is there a way out that satisfies all sides?

Ans: From how you have described your situation, it sounds as if you may need to hold off on making further pay changes until you have determined the root causes of your recruiting difficulties. It would appear that your efforts to make compensation adjustments were unsuccessful in addressing the problem. Don't compound the error by trying to fix the problem in the same way twice: i.e., by throwing good money after bad. This means stepping back, gathering a team of interested individuals and doing some basic analysis and problem-solving relative to your difficulties with recruitment and (potentially) turnover. Ask yourself some basic questions, such as:

Is our problem with recruitment or with retention or both?

Where are the problems with our recruiting process? Are candidates willing to stick with
the process right up until they get the offer letter, or do they drop out long before this


Do we have significant turnover in the first six months of employment? Do we have

turnover of high-performing employees?

Are we losing longer-service employees or is turnover mainly concentrated with shorter-

service employees? Do particular departments experience higher turnover than others?

Are employees constantly complaining about pay levels in general, or is pay

disenchantment mostly among new hires?

In asking and answering these questions, you will need to gather as much data on recruitment and turnover as necessary. Then for each question, you'll need to research why. Once you dig into this analysis, you may find that the problems are not even related to compensation; this may simply be a symptom or an excuse for deeper problems. Don't accept employee complaints about pay at face value; there may be more critical but underlying issues. Most people do not leave organizations—or refuse to join organizations—because of pay. They simply use this as their excuse as it is an easy one to use and generally shuts off any argument. The important point is to find out why each of the issues or problems you uncover has become an issue or problem. You then can move to develop effective and targeted solutions. The problem-solving process is time-consuming and detailed, but it is worth the effort and could save your company from wasting valuable resources.

The bottom line here is that your company may not have to raise pay uniformly across the organization. If you have specific new hire/experienced employee compression issues, by all means deal with them as part of the solution, but do so selectively. In addition, when was the last time your company did an organization-wide market analysis of compensation? It may be time to recalibrate your pay ranges against your labor market or product/service market competition.

You also mentioned retention of high performers. In this matter your company will need to consider several factors. Can you appropriately identify your true high-performing employees, or do your managers evaluate everyone as "exceeding expectations"? Are the high performers receiving commensurately larger pay increases than the average? Are they recognized for their accomplishments in nonmonetary terms? Are they held up as examples of the types of behavior you need from all employees? On a longer-term basis, are they provided with the right career development attention and opportunities?

Finally, your company may also want to consider a variable pay program that provides bonuses or incentives based on specifically defined corporate or workgroup goals. These are important components of any program for rewarding and motivating high performers and can assist in successfully dealing with retention and pay compression.

How Do I Design Effective Technical Training

How do I create an outline for a new training initiative that focuses on product knowledge, selling skills and branding? This is a technical training program intended for delivery by district or regional managers.


Ans: Designing and implementing an effective training program requires a systematic, phased approach to ensure that the needs of your client and other stakeholder groups are achieved. A commonly used template for developing training is the ADDIE model. Your training initiative would be particularly well served by this model because you have to address three different learning areas and will have SMEs (subject matter experts) delivering the training, rather than seasoned trainers. Both of these points can make the training rich and effective, but will require a comprehensive approach to design to achieve that.


The ADDIE model involves five steps:


Analyze: First, clarify the objectives of the training and align them with the business strategy. Also, agree on the scope of the training program (e.g., the number of people and geographical reach), as this will inform the delivery methods you choose. Key pitfall to avoid: In some cases, training is the wrong medicine for a symptom that is caused by poor role design, inadequate communication or ineffective recruiting practices. This can be avoided by first performing an organizational needs analysis.


Design: As you design, think about how the participants will transfer the learned skill into practice on the job. Consider that effective training involves roughly 70 percent on-the-job experience, 20 percent coaching and mentoring and 10 percent formal training. You will also want to be sure your plan fits your budget, and determine how you will measure success.


Develop: Create the training guides for participants and facilitators, and build the infrastructure for delivering them (e.g., technology tools). Also, consider developing an assessment to identify participants and a communication plan to address the concerns of program stakeholders.


Implement, or roll it out.


Evaluate: Collect feedback and analyze the effectiveness of your training initiative. Applying Kirkpatrick's model of training evaluation, you can do this with various levels of complexity from simply finding out whether participants liked the training to assessing the return on investment.


The ADDIE approach will ensure you have designed effective training. But for your specific needs, I want to highlight a few additional points. Because your training has a technical component, it is critical for you to identify and engage technical workers, such as sales and marketing leaders. Strategic technical leaders can help you prioritize technical training needs, while technical experts provide key input into the design and development of training material. Since the training will be delivered by district or regional managers, it is essential that you incorporate a "train the trainer" program to help your SMEs become effective trainers. You can design the most comprehensive training program, but if your trainers can't deliver it in a way that achieves the learning objectives, it will ultimately fail.