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Updated: 2017-12-13T10:01:27.620-08:00


Is your business stuck in a rut…and it seems like there’s no way out?


Blaming the economy, the business cycle, your employees or customers is not the answer.Ever have this nightmare? You’ve fallen into a 12-foot ravine – the rain is pouring down and the walls are covered with mud.  Its dark, the wind is howling…and you are totally alone. You make one valiant attempt after another to climb out from this “fresh hell,” but every time you pull yourself up two feet, you slide back three.  You are frightened, exhausted and expect the worse.At this distressing point, you wake up in total relief that it was all just a nightmare.  But metaphorically speaking, many business owners find themselves in a business rut; far too often and try as they might, they can’t seem to get out of the deep pothole that obstructs their road to growth.  Their customers aren’t buying, sales departments aren’t selling and employees are not profitable.  What’s worse, the longer time spent in the rut, the more it becomes the norm…or business as usual.Just as you wouldn’t willingly live your life at the bottom of that ravine, neither should you be content to have a business languish.  The bottom line is you need to get out of that rut and grow.So, what keeps business owners in “the rut”?  It’s too easy to blame “the economy” for why a business isn’t performing the way it should; but when we’re in “rut” mode, the focus is often on the low-hanging fruit.  We concentrate more on price and less on quality and deliverables.  And the domino effect is that we then accept mediocre results from colleagues.Far too often, we do what is easiest and most familiar, rather than focus on developing new market initiatives that work, and cultivating deep quality business relationships.  It’s easier to blame the economy and the fact that people aren’t “buying” rather than demonstrating leadership and guiding the company out of the rut.  In fact, when the financial chips are down, that’s the absolute time for leadership and for business owners to do whatever is required to help their business grow.But remember…there’s a huge difference between organic growth and growth that is linked to a well thought out business plan driven by key performance goals; the former happens naturally and in its own sweet time, while the latter is controlled by you, the business owner. After all, why settle for 3% or even 5% growth when you could do so much better? With a vision-linked strategy and the right plan for your business, so much more can be achieved.  In future columns, we’ll explore specific ways to grow a business – ways that will free you from that dreaded rut.About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”Request your free CD presentation “Vision-Linked Growth by emailing an eye out for Jim’s new book “Grow Dammit” due out in the spring of 2012![...]

A Perfect Synthesis


(image) We recently came across an HR forum that had an active thread on the question of motivating and energizing the workforce. Of course, this is an old (though very important) topic but it seemed, at least in the minds of those that populate this particular thread, to have been revived by a new issue, namely, the under motivated, seemingly passionless hoards of recent college grads. “What’s to be done with this group?” The respondents to the thread had little to contribute by way of personal experience and it seems, for all the world, that a consensus formed around the current “best practices” in employee motivation and satisfaction. Clearly, this can’t be the way forward.

So, what is?

Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore this topic in depth. For now, we encourage your input either here or on our facebook page. In addition, we would be happy to publish a reader response or two.

HR-Meter 360 Feedback and Career Coaching Giveaway!


HR-Meter is giving away a Free 360 Degree Feedback assessment and an assessment review with a certified career coach!

You will be able to have up to 2 managers, 3 peers (coworkers), 3 subordinates (direct reports) and 3 clients review you in the following areas:

• Work Patterns and Productivity
• Responsibility and Initiative
• Communication and Team Work
• Leadership and Management Skills
• There will be comment fields available for each of these areas.

What you will get:

• A HR-Meter 360 Degree Feedback Assessment Report!
• Discussion of this report with a certified career coach!
• Show initiative at work
• Impress your boss,
• Anonymous, constructive feedback on your performance from your coworkers
• Develop a plan for your professional development.
• A push for your career!

But only the first 50 who register will get in!

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Feedback Culture?


Before engaging in a feedback process like 360 degree feedback, it is important to know whether your organization is ready to engage in this kind of activity. Do you have a feedback culture? Are you prepared to foster one?

(image) Maybe you've been looking and asking around. Maybe you've heard your competitors use feedback tools to improve performance and development. Yet, if you're thinking of engaging in a feedback process like 360 degree feedback just because your competitors use it, think twice. Organizations may choose to do a 360 degree feedback just because their competitors do. Or maybe to give the impression of openness and participation to employees, clients or recruits when, in fact, this is not a part of the organization's culture. Regardless, this amounts to using a tool or procedure for political purposes and is ultimately counter-productive.

If, on the other hand, your organization has a growing commitment to openness and feedback, then perhaps it's time. Just be sure you're going in for the right reasons.

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What about after Performance Evaluation?


Our colleagues over at HR-Meter are constantly asked questions like "but what are we supposed to do with the results?" and "where do we go from here?". These questions, of course, refer to performance evaluations, 360 degree feedback's and the like. These forms of feedback give employees a tremendous amount of information about how they have "performed" in the past, but organizations often find it difficult to translate that information into concrete road maps for future performance. It's certainly a tricky task and, unfortunately, it's often one that cannot be undertaken so "late in the game". What does that mean?

(image) By "late in the game", I mean something like "after the results are in" or "once the reviews are complete". If you've made it to the "late in the game" stage and then you're asking "where do we go from here?", it's to late.

The road map for future performance must be defined before the reviews even get started. We encourage organizations to create performance evaluation processes with future performance in mind. Measure things that can be developed, improved or avoided. It sounds simple, but it requires thought and foresight. For example, when your employee has his or her review, the take aways should always be a list of strengths and a list of areas for development. Future reviews need to focus on measuring the level of improvement in those areas for development as well as checks to ensure that strengths have not be sacrificed in the process.

The real bottom line is: a performance review is not just something we do once a year because that's how it is. Unfortunately, many people I talk to describe performance reviews as just that.

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The family business and its cast of characters


Last month we began a series on family businesses and the ways in which they are unique. We took a look at the problems that can surface when roles taken within the family unit contrast or sometimes trespass on those assumed within the business structure.This month, we’ll break things down further by exploring the perspectives brought to a family business by its “actors” – whether in a leading role, a supporting cast member or working behind the scenes.First up, a family member who is an employee but not an owner. Conflict could arise if someone in this category starts to feel a sense of inequality with family members who have ownership and therefore are in decision-making positions. They may feel left out and even resentful if not asked to participate in decisions that affect the company’s bottom line. It’s not always the case, but typically family members employed by a family business generally expect to be treated differently from non-family members.For the family member who is an employee and an owner, things can sometimes become quite challenging. This individual is typically the founder or chief executive of the business and as such must be able to successfully oversee the business while deal with concerns of family and non-family employees.Normally falling within the category of family member who is an owner but not an employee are siblings and retired relatives whose major concern is the income provided by the business. They may be resistant to certain business decisions if they feel their financial security could be adversely affected, even for the short haul.They may seem like bit players, but a family member who is neither an employee nor an owner can place great pressure on a family business. Typically falling into this category are children who may resent the amount of time a parent spends at the business. In-laws are also cast in this role. For example, a son-in-law could play a pivotal role in a family business without being directly involved as confidant to his wife, who is an owner.Non-family members who are an employee but not an owner may find themselves dealing with issues of nepotism and coalition building and the effects of family conflicts played out within the workplace.And there are non-family members as employee and owner. Stock option plans have made this category more commonplace among family businesses, particularly if the ultimate goal is to select a non-family member as successor. Employees who share part ownership want to be treated like owners, a concept that could prove difficult for family members/owners to understand and more importantly, accept.Regardless of its origin, when conflict occurs in a family business, it can characteristically be traced to a disparity in the goals of the individuals, the family or the business. One essential mechanism to both define and align family and business goals is through strategic planning – in essence a mission statement for both the business and the family that allows each element to complement the other.Next month we’ll zero in on business strategic planning and its critical function in formulating the policies and procedures of a successful family business. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="" style="border: currentColor; height: 35px; overflow: hidden; width: 450px;">About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check[...]

New Year's Resolutions for your Brand


Here are 10 things to try in 20111. BE COURAGEOUS, OFTENTake bold steps to stand out from the crowd. Reflect on 2010 and look at what you did well, and what you could have been different. Take courageous steps to help your brand stand out in 2011.2. REVISIT AND REFINE YOUR PURPOSETake the time to look back at your mission and vision and ask if you were living it in 2010. Look for places to bring it to life with your team and explore whether you need to refine it. Remember: the words aren't set in stone. If they're not resonating, rewrite and revise!3. SHUT UP AND LISTEN There's a lot to learn if you just take the time to listen. Make sure you ask your team for feedback, ideas and suggestions. Listen to your consumers and pay attention to research. Listen to what they have to say and act on what you've heard. Honest, unfiltered feedback is fuel for change.4. FIND AN ENEMYAn enemy gives you and your team something to push against–something to challenge. An enemy inspires passion! This year, define a clear enemy and rally your team. It could be a competitor, a trend or an element of your internal culture. No matter what it is, create a plan to beat it, share the mission with your team and go forth!5. STRETCH AND SET SOME BIG GOALSSet at least one wild and audacious goal for 2011–something you've never tried before. Outline the goal, share it with your team and challenge them to play their part in achieving it. Just don't forget to celebrate the small victories and successes on the journey.6. BUILD A PASSIONATE AND ENGAGED TEAMYour most valuable resource is your people. This year, weed out those don't contribute and aren't engaged. Replace them with active, passionate and energized people who will make a true difference to the rest of your team and your brand. 7. INJECT FUN INTO THE EVERYDAY One of the best motivators for your team is a great work environment. This year, start doing small things that make your employees happy. A monthly massage for a those who have put in extra hours or a weekly pot-luck for the team. Small gestures or events can make a big difference. And the benefits won't just stop with your team - they will show through everything that your brand does. Happy people equals happy brand.8. PLAN FOR LEARNING This year, make a commitment and ensure you company is continually learning and is inspired by the word at large. Create a program that allows your team to take classes. Host a "learning lunch" monthly with guest speakers. Injecting new thinking into your organization will energize your team and, ultimately, benefit your brand.9. MAKE FRIENDS WITH OTHER BRANDSPartner brands can be your best ally–whether they're in your space or not. This year, chart a "circle of love," identifying brands with similar values that you'd like to partner with in 2011. Set one member of your team with a potential relationship and have them explore how to collaborate. You'll be surprised by the results, even just the initial conversations you'll have about your own brand. 10. SAY THANK YOU AND SHOW THAT YOU REALLY MEAN ITAnd, lastly, do what your mother told you! Thanking people goes a long way to creating valued and appreciated fans–internally and externally. This year, find new ways to show you appreciate your team, your customers and your partners, in ways that truly make a difference in their lives. You'll be surprised and delighted by the results. allowtransparency="allowtransparency" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="" style="border-bottom: medium none; border-left: medium none; border-right: medium none; border-top: medium none; height: 35px; overflow: hidden; width: 450px;">About our Guest Author:Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, a design and innovatio[...]

Happy New Year!


Here's wishing you a happy new year!

The Cure for the Ailing Workplace


Research shows the benefit of compassionate communication within the workplaceWASHINGTON, DC — Compassionate communication within an office can help prevent workplace burnout, and promote healthier work environments. Sarah Tracy, Ph.D., Director of the Project for Wellness-Work Life at Arizona State University, has some tips for how managers can use compassionate communication to enhance the workplace.To create a better working environment, managers should encourage positive, compassionate communication between employees. There are three components involved when communicating compassion: recognizing, relating and responding.Recognizing refers to the process of noticing and understanding details about another person, in order to act appropriately towards them. This includes observing nonverbal cues, listening to what the others have to say, and opening oneself up to feedback. Managers need to ensure that employees are regularly interacting with each other, and are aware of nonverbal clues about possible suffering.Relating occurs when people identify, feel for, and connect with another person. Relating is fostered when employees are encouraged and rewarded to find connections with each other. This can also decrease the “us versus them” attitude they may have with peers and clients.Responding is when employees engage in communication or behaviors that focus on another person’s suffering or distress. This can be as simple as acknowledging the presence of someone waiting in line, or as direct as providing praise as a show of support. The act of responding has the potential to greatly improve unsavory workplace situations.“Workplace stress, bullying, and burnout are important issues that occur in many different forms throughout the workplace. They can lead to dissatisfaction and high rates of turnover among employees,” says Tracy. “Positive communication including energy, vitality, affection, and compassion can help improve employee relations at work.”Positive interactions have been shown to help decrease stress. Teaching compassion-related skills like recognizing, relating and responding, can help create healthy and successful work environments. allowtransparency="allowtransparency" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="" style="border-bottom: medium none; border-left: medium none; border-right: medium none; border-top: medium none; height: 35px; overflow: hidden; width: 450px;">About the author:Sarah J. Tracy is an Associate Professor and Director of the Project for Wellness and Work-Life in the High Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. Tracy was invited to write an essay for Communication Currents, a publication of the National Communication Association.To read Tracy’s essay, click here.About the National Communication AssociationThe National Communication Association advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry.The NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems.NCA is the largest national organization to promote communication scholarship and education[...]

Top 10 Human Resources Trends of 2010


"Challenging times inspire creative solutions, and the volatile economy has forged many changes in the human resources sector," says Jeff Fenster, founder of CanopyHR Solutions. "Businesses are trimming excesses in order to succeed, and that means human resources has become a more integral part of business planning than ever before."Stretching the Compensation Dollar. Although 2010 showed some signs of recovery, HR managed workforces that were considerably smaller than just a few years ago. HR's role in managing productivity through ancillary projects while maintaining employee morale and well-being was challenged by the parallel expectation that workers be twice as productive. Innovative HR professionals instituted creative programs such as gift card giveaways and lottery prizes to boost employee enthusiasm in lieu of raises and bonuses.Embracing Social Media. Social networking's undeniable impact hit the big screen in 2010, and it hit workplaces in a number of ways as well. Managers learned to be on the lookout for lost productivity as employees grew increasingly concerned with checking in with their favorite social networking sites. On the upside, savvy HR pros saw a shift in the landscape as hiring and firing trends played out online. Posts cost some careless employees their jobs as HR monitored Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Smart employees landed new gigs by harnessing the power of social networking to market themselves and share information about job openings. Policies were developed to communicate clear boundaries and expectations and to attract top talent with the latest tools-with some even canceling subscriptions to and shifting to social media recruiting.Keeping the Communication Lines Open-Especially Amid Health Care Reform Anxiety. Maintaining employees' trust in the company and its business decisions through the ups and downs of health care reform was a must. Smart senior management kept communication lines open to demonstrate accessibility and willingness to answer questions and address concerns as they arose. That applied not only to top-down communication, but to lateral lines as well. Human resources professionals were charged with bringing functional departments together; communications, legal, payroll, and IT departments-everyone had to communicate a unified message to maintain employee trust.Retaining Top Talent. When soaring unemployment numbers left many top performers handling increasing workloads for the same old salary, human resources departments had to focus on retaining company stars. Some of these high performers got antsy as compensation froze and expectations rose. Many continued to struggle with the lingering losses they've felt after company layoffs. This delicate situation required that HR pros soothe sore nerves and keep these folks from looking for greener pastures with creative incentives and sincere appreciation.Managing Three Generations of Work Styles. As young Millennials entered the workforce, companies had their hands full integrating three distinct generations: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The aging Boomers believe strongly in security and loyalty. They don't always see eye to eye with hard-working Gen Xers who have more of an independent streak. The Millennials shook things up with the attitude that if they don't like what's happening at work, they'll go home to Mom and Dad. This generational juggling was best handled with management training that stressed the characteristics of these disparate groups and how to motivate and inspire the most productivity from them. Succession planning also came into play as firms prepared for the replacement of retiring Boomers with less motivation to stick around now that they're feeling overworked and underpaid.Sharing an Ounce of Prevention. Healthcare reform drew [...]

End of the Year Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys


(image) When was the last time your company took a good hard look at itself? And I don't mean the books?

Looking for a great gift to give your employees this holiday season? How about a year end soap box? Some of the best consulting advice can come from in house. Our research has shown that organizations are significantly more likely to have a high acceptance of changes to day-to-day operations if those changes are the result of suggestions coming from employees.

Simply by implementing a year end employee engagement and climate survey can immediately improve:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee confidence
  • Employee performance and productivity
  • Employee - Managerial interaction
  • Over all morale

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Safety Incentive Plans


When examining your own safety reward program or when building one from scratch, consider the following guidelines: 1. Keep Rewards SmallMaterial rewards should not be perceived as the major payoff. The promise of incentives and rewards should only serve as reminders to work safely, and delivery of such rewards should be viewed by employees as a token of appreciation for performing the desired safe behaviors. If the focus is on the material reward, then the focus is not on working safely. A good rule of thumb is to try and equate the value of the safe behavior with the value of the reward. Therefore, giving away a $20 gift certificate to everyone who completed their observations for the month might be excessive.2. Involve WorkersInclude as many workers as possible in the construction, selection, and delivery of the reward system. By doing this, buy-in is generated up front and support or lack thereof will be evident early on so changes can be made prior to launching the program. Also, by involving workers, you are more likely to choose appropriate reinforcers rather than having management choose what they THINK workers would like. Here is a great link to an employee survey template.3. Specify The Behaviors You DesireBehaviors required to achieve a safety reward should be clearly spelled out and perceived as achievable by participants. If safe behaviors are not specified, then employees will not know what they need to do in order to receive the reward and interest will soon wane. Bad example: Receiving a reward if you haven’t had any accidents in the past year. Good example: Receiving a reward for achieving a percent safe goal for a behavior or set of behaviors on a checklist.4. Collect Data And Post ItProgress toward achieving a safety reward should be systematically monitored using checklist data, and publicly posted for all participants. If safety performance is not monitored, then it will be impossible to accurately determine which employees deserve the reward.5. Provide Meaningful RewardsCarefully determine the rewards given as a part of your program. If employees do not find the rewards meaningful, then the reward program will not be an incentive to work safely. Some organizations have done plant-wide surveys to determine what types of social, tangible, and work process rewards are meaningful to employees. 6. Never Penalize All Group Members For Failure Of One MemberGroups of employees should not be penalized or lose their rewards/incentives for the failure of one group member. Group rewards should be tied to the overall performance of the group, but some control must be in place to assure that each member of the group who gets the reward actually earned it.7. Give The Reward To Everyone Who Meets The CriteriaYou should design a reward program with this principle in mind. If you can’t afford to reward everyone who meets your criteria, you should reinvestigate your criteria. Everyone who meets the behavioral criteria you have specified should be rewarded. Otherwise, some employees who have worked safely will not be rewarded. These employees will perceive they have been punished. Some guidelines to follow:It is better for many participants to receive small rewards than for one person to receive a big reward. Example: An organization decides to use a lottery incentive program where there is a raffle for a television set, a stereo, or a vehicle; usually participants accumulate chances for the drawing and then at the end of a specified period of time, the drawing occurs. One person wins. The problems with this are:Everyone worked safely many times but was not rewarded.The person who won did so by chance.The focus might be on the big prize, not safety.One group (or individual) should not be rewarded at the expense of anoth[...]

The Advisory Board: A Powerful Tool for Business Succession


When it comes to business succession, the creation of an Advisory Board is a strategy that can produce many benefits for a family business engaged in determining the future.In general, family businesses utilizing an Advisory Board as part of their succession management process tend to thrive in size and profitability. And, not surprisingly, they also are inclined to have healthy family relationships and successfully transition from one generation of family ownership to the next.For most family businesses interested in implementing the Advisory Board strategy, the time required to prepare for an initial meeting will range from 6-24 months; this point cannot be underscored enough as it will take that amount of time to conduct the due diligence required to effectively utilize this vital consultative panel.Many architects and civil engineers will tell you the key to a successful construction project is mostly about site preparation work; the same concept applies to getting the family business ready to support the activities of their Advisory Board.The members of an Advisory Board are not family business consultants. An Advisory Board may consist of one or several objective and experienced business people who are unrelated to the business at hand. Impartiality is pivotal to the composition of an Advisory Board as an “outsider” can bring perspective to both the issues and opportunities that face the family business.It should be noted that Advisory Board members are not trained or experienced in dealing with family business dynamics. Those difficult family issues must be recognized and resolved before the Advisory Board can go to work. If these concerns are not dealt with honestly and thoroughly beforehand, the succession management process will be stalled…and at times completely derailed.A professional succession management program facilitated by a qualified financial consultant can help guide the Advisory Board process. As an example, the approach taken by Northeast VisionLink includes a structured, yet informal meeting for frank conversation about the history of the family business, its present situation and anticipated future – with the goal of opening the lines of communication to allow the family to think about working together as a cohesive group. Individuals may have varying personal goals, but with the guidance of a qualified consultant, the shared common objectives for the business as a whole will become more visible.One-on-one interviews with all family members involved in the business as well as key non-family members of the management team is part of the due diligence conducted by a financial consultant; these sessions provide individuals the opportunity to discuss their personal goals and aspirations as well as their ideas and concerns about the family legacy, all in a confidential manner. The interviews serve as the foundation for a recommended course of action or strategic plan by an Advisory Board.It should not be forgotten that an Advisory Board has a business orientation; that is to make the business more successful. The needs and goals of the family drive the strategic objectives for the business and, from a succession management perspective, gives the Advisory Board a framework to build upon.The next step is putting together a "to do" list for the family and for the business - and getting agreement on a time frame for completion. At this point, participants are in fact helping the family business create the infrastructure needed to grow the business for both the present and the future. This is also the time period when a financial consultant can begin to determine the composition of people that could be recruited for the Advisory Board.Part of the challenge of a financial consu[...]

10 Reasons Your Employees Hate You (Or at least reject you)


Here's a fun (though serious) list to ponder.

Being the boss comes with some great perks- a better bank account, corporate benefits, and a fancier title- but why, before you even hold your first meeting, do you get the sense your employees hate you? Unfortunately, more power comes with more problems, and Neil Giarratana, author of "CEO Priorities" and former CEO himself, offers 10 reasons your employees hate you before you even settle into your office:

1)Someone else had aspirations for your job, didn't get it, and concluded that the selection process had serious flaws.

2)Blame MUST fall on someone, and, because you're the biggest beneficiary of the company, you are the biggest target.

3)Your style of leadership or rumored future plans could be the problem. Even if you made NO indication of any future plans, rest assured the rumor mill is alive and well.

4)Someone in the company knows you from another company situation or from within the company, and got to know you during your climb up the ladder. His 'memories' of you are more like nightmares. He might have even worked for you at a previous company.
5) There are concerns you will bring in a new team and replace current management, which could involve new hires or people from your old company.

6)Your real or rumored lifestyle may offend certain people in the company.

7)You seem so different from their beloved previous leader that you can't be any good.

8)You come from another industry and don't understand what "our industry" and "our culture" are all about.

9)No one really knows what you're going to do, how you're going to act, or what policies you will follow, but everyone knows that in spite of that, it will be and has to be stopped.

10)You may already know an executive in the company and you may not think very highly of him. In all probability, he will know this, too, and be part of an 'undercurrent' problem you experience with him because he will be concerned that you will readily replace him.

In his book, CEO PRIORITIES (Career Press), retired international CEO, Neil Giarratana, shares "conduct and survival related" insights and recommendations aimed at providing future and current CEOs with the means to be on the positive side of that "popular opinion" equation and thereby reduce or eliminate the disdain factor so omnipresent in today's discussion of business leadership.

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Fear at 360 Degrees…


To unlock the power of the 360 degree feedback process a manager must either be well prepared to navigate through gap analysis and a host of comparative data or should be flanked by a coach throughout the debriefing period.

It is easy for a manager who feels untrained when it comes to giving feedback to fall into some of the common traps that have given the 360 degree feedback a bad reputation in the past.  Feedback that mentions “who said what” or focuses solely on the weaknesses of an employee without being careful to offer a balanced feedback may do more harm than good and be easily overwhelmed by the quantitative measurements. If the desired result of a 360 degree feedback process is to improve the behavior of employees or leaders, then it is vital that the feedback be as accurate, balanced and relevant as possible.

While all this sounds like common sense, are you able to distill the meaning of the results of a 360 degree feedback in a professional and constructive manner? Or do you find it to be a personal affair?

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you ever struggled with giving a balanced feedback?
  • Do you have an anecdotal vignette to share?


  • Partnering with coaches can provide long term benefits in the professional development of your employees, leaders and ultimately your organization.
  • Using 360 Degree Feedback tools that have been custom build for your organization can make all the difference.

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The reshaping of feminine leadership in a mixed gender environment


Continuing on the theme dedicated to Team Building, team Effectiveness and GroupThink we are highlighting a thought-provoking research conducted by the Bristol Business School at the University of West England that focused on the different leadership roles of men and women within teams. Specifically, the research question was ‘To what extent is leadership as a sense-making process impacted by gender? Using a pragmatic approach involving the use of induction, discovery of patterns, deduction and testing of theories and hypotheses, Grisoni and Beeby compared the interactions and results of teams comprised either by men alone, women alone or mixed genders.

(image) The research indicated that the essential conservatism originally associated with male professionals permeated all three teams indicating that men and women adopted teamworking strategies for sense-making that contained many similarities. The authors used “meetings” as part of their study because the modern business trend is to utilize team-based leadership that involves more meetings with increasingly growing numbers of women in senior positions.

The essence of the study can be distilled to the following: 
The gendered nature of meetings could be a barrier to the expression of feminine forms of leadership which typically entail ‘managing’, ‘facilitating’, and ‘influencing’ and would instead shape their leadership toward a more mixed gender scheme of ‘developing’, ‘nurturing’ and ‘managing’ attributes.

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you experienced a difference in single gender meetings vs. mixed gender meetings? 
  • Do you find that feminine leadership is reshaped by the mixed gender business environment?
  • How is male leadership affected by the increased number of senior female leaders? 
  • Are the male professionals morphing their leadership styles as well? 
  • Is this a desirable outcome for the teams in your organization?
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Grisoni, Louise, and Mick Beeby. "Leadership, Gender and Sense-making." Gender, Work & Organization 14.3 (2007): 191-209.

Ability diversity or cognitive diversity: what yields the most accurate decision-making group?


According to a study published on the Information Science Journal, it was proven through unique empirical research that while ability diversity decreased group decision errors by approximately 4%, cognitive diversity was much more effective as team decision errors were reduced by approximately 13% thus putting into question the popular belief that reliance on using more capable members to create high performance homogeneous groups may lead to better team decisions. The final conclusion of the study was that a much better strategy is to create groups of members that ‘think differently’ and cooperate to produce a group decisionSo, group composition really improves decision making? Certainly. Yet, the traditional approaches should be augmented. At a software tech firm, for example, forming coding teams that produce error free, innovative work would require more than just the lumping together of the brightest programmers and then setting them on a problem. It takes more diversity than that.A good first step for our software firm would be to compose the group from, say, two bright computer programmers, two physicists, and two mathematicians. This would give you a group formed from members with diverse abilities. Yet, according to the new research, this would only reduce the team’s decision errors by about 4% because their cognitive abilities are still so similar.What is needed is not only diversity of skills and high intelligence, but also diversity of thinking style. The most difficult trick of all turns out to be in identifying thinking styles. A good second step comes from the research of Professor Thomas Malone of MIT. Putting a few women on the team would improve the overall social sensitivity of the team thereby increasing its collective intelligence.Questions to ponder:Is your organization postured to make savvy team decisions or is their effectiveness limited by lack of diversity (ability and cognitive)?  How does the composition of group membership differ between most accurate and least accurate decision-making groups? Can you even identify your most and least accurate groups?Here is an interesting and related video:If you are struggling to find ways to identify thinking styles, one way is to examine management decisions. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="" style="border: medium none; height: 80px; overflow: hidden; width: 450px;">The research article cited above: West, David, and Scott, Dellana. "Diversity of Ability and Cognitive Style for Group Decision Processes." Information Sciences 179 (2009): 542-58.33[...]

Money, Markets, Stress and Productivity


You work hard to get ahead and ideally put yourself in a better financial situation and ultimately to retire to a comfortable lifestyle. You know that saving and putting money away is important and you do it when you can. You wonder if you are doing the right thing.You are bombarded all day everyday by the 24 hour news and the investerati that you need to do this and you better not do that. It’s confusing to say the least.Studies show that employees waste a lot of time. Some studies put the figure at as much as one hour a day. In addition, those same studies show that as much as half of that time is spent on personal finance. Opportunity cost or economic opportunity loss is the value of the next best alternative foregone as a result of making a decision.When employees choose to engage in activities other than work while at work, they have made such a choice. Besides the time and productivity decrease, it is virtually impossible to know what they may have achieved during that time. When the activity chosen at work is personal finance however, we can say beyond any reasonable doubt that they have chosen an activity which is not only detrimental to their employer but detrimental to themselves as well. While it is great to see people taking an interest, it is entirely unhealthy for a business to have its employees re-balancing their 401k, day trading, calling their stockbroker, stock picking and monitoring the stock market.And what’s worse is that it’s all likely to no avail since every study on the subject shows that passive investing beats active investing over any reasonable time-frame, especially given the lowering of index fund fees.Engaging in an activity at work that isn’t work is a waste of valuable productive time but to engage in an activity that has been proven to be counterproductive is hard to imagine but it happens every day in every office. The solution is simple. Consider the fact that over 90% of professional money managers cannot beat the simple S&P 500 index.There is an abundance of evidence that suggests that simply buying an index fund (either ETF or mutual fund) will not only save you a fortune in fees over a lifetime but increase your investment results. Furthermore, you will personally be better off as well having more time and less stress. src="" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:450px; height:80px;" allowTransparency="true">About our Guest Author:Scott Barclay is the author of ‘How the Investment Business Really Works’ ( and is a sought after speaker and workshop facilitator.Mr. Barclay worked for some of wall street’s biggest firms and knows how the investment business really works. He graduated from the University of Alberta in Psychology and Physics and has completed graduate work in both finance and organizational behavior from McMaster University and the University of Texas at Dallas.[...]

3 Tips for Executive Development


Leaders are suffering from their own business hangover. During our recent political in-fighting and economic uncertainty, businesses have had their nose to the grindstone striving to do more with less. Everyone was so focused on surviving and cutting, they're just now looking up and realizing they have no clear next steps, limited vision and no energy.

AmyK, who has worked with Martha Beck (Oprah's Life Coach, bestselling author and columnist for O), National Geographic, IBM, John Paul Mitchell Systems, to name a few, offers you, our readers, these t
hree quick and easy tips for executive development that any business leader can practice to immediately improve his/her leadership performance:
  • Focus on energy, not time. Time is a constant; energy is a manageable, renewable resource. What's sucking out your energy and what refuels it? Your answers will influence your strategy for energy management within the constraints of time.
  • Leadership happens one conversation at a time. Slow down and ask better questions. Focus on thought-provoking questions over reports. In meeting prep, devote at least five minutes to think of three to five questions that will lead to a more productive, more thought-provoking meeting. These five minutes will save you hours down the road.
  • Create internal alignment. Step back and ask yourself: What am I resisting? What am I judging? What am I attached to? Answer these three questions and you'll gain clarity, insight and a foundation for momentum.
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About our Guest Author:

(image) With over 700 presentations to 20,000+ executives in seven countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligent Activist and business strategist to leaders around the globe. AmyK is a former senior EVP of operations for a leading sales and marketing firm, director of education for Europe and Australia for a 900 million dollar consumer products company, and chosen member of National Geographic's Educator Advisory Committee. She is the winner of five Telly Marketing Awards and the Summit International's Award for Creativity (2008) and a featured guest on NBC, Fox and ABC for her brain-based commentary on current events.

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: The intrinsic benefits of Group Think


New Study by Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Union College documents how collective intelligence of groups surpasses the cognitive abilities of the individual group members and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

The authors of the study confirmed the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different types of cognitive tasks and that the effectiveness of a group can, in fact, be predicted in many situations. Because the effectiveness of a group is derived by how well its members work together, it was also proven that in groups where one person dominated, the group was less collectively intelligent than groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed. Moreover, it was noted that groups containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity (social sensitivity is how well group members perceive each other's emotions) and greater collective intelligence compared to teams containing fewer women.

By extrapolation, the study postulates that it’s possible to improve the intelligence of a group by changing its members, by teaching them better ways of interacting or by giving them better electronic collaboration tools. The bottom line is that it is not the individual intelligence that will make the group succeed, but how the collective intelligence is harnessed together with the right mix of social sensitivities.

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Questions to ponder:
  • Based on the findings of this latest research, how do you encourage group thinking in your business?
  • Or do you encourage it at all?
  • Do all of your teams look alike or are their demographics such that you too can predict the effectiveness of the group?
  • How do you help your groups to sharpen their thinking and therefore to improve their effectiveness?
  • Finally, do you have tools in place to measure the effectiveness of your teams?
We will be discussing these questions and more on our Facebook page.
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Workers Compensation "Payroll" Inclusions and Exclusions


Today we present an article on Worker Compensation Inclusions and Exclusions from our Guest Author: John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAIThroughout my work consulting with businesses in all aspects of Workers Compensation, I’m always asked a basic question about WC payroll, so I thought I’d elaborate for all. Most of us know that Workers Compensation premium is a function of rates and payroll by classification code. Because this is relatively straight forward, it’s easy to gloss over “what is considered ‘payroll’ for workers compensation purposes?”Incorrect payroll has a direct impact on Workers Compensation premium, and it’s critical that the correct payroll be used. Under-report payroll and you’ll have a large, nasty audit bill hit you 3 months after the policy expires (100% due in full, by the way); over-report payroll, and you drag down your cash flow throughout the year, and then have to claw for your money back at the audit.Below is a comprehensive list of the inclusions and exclusions for “payroll” as defined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI):Inclusions in payroll for Workers Compensation insurance:Wages or salaries, including retroactive wages. (Check with your insurance company auditor to have them provide state caps on individual weekly wage) Not capping individual wages is a common cause for over-reporting.Commissions and draws against commissionsBonuses including stock bonus plansExtra pay for overtime work, with exceptionPay for holidays, vacations, or periods of sicknessPayments by an employer of amounts required by law to be paid by employees to statutory insurance or pension plans (like Federal Social Security)Payments to employees on any bsis other than time worked, such as piecework, profit sharing, or incentive plansPayments or allowance for hand tools or power tools used by hand and used in their work or operations for the employerThe rental value of an apartment or house provided for an employeeThe value of lodging, other than apartment or house, received by employees as part of their payThe value of meals received by employees as part of their payThe value of store certificates, merchandise, credits or any other substitute for money received by employees as part of their payPayments for salary reduction, employee savings plan, retirement, or cafeteria plans that are made through employee-authorized salary reduction from the employee’s gross payDavis-Bacon wages or wages from a similar prevailing wage lawAnnuity plansExpense reimbursements to employees to the extent that employers’ records do not substantiate that the expense was incurred as a valid business expenseNote: when it can be verified that the employee was away from home overnight on the business of the employer, but the employer did not maintain verifiable receipts, a reasonable expense allowance, limited to $30 day, is permittedPayment for filming of commercials, excluding subsequent residualsExclusions in payroll for Workers Compensation insurance:Tips and other gratuities received by employeesPayments by an employer: (1) to group insurance or pension plans and (2) into third-party pension trusts for the Davis-Bacon Actor or similar wage law (pension trust must be qualified under IRC Sections 401(a) and 501(a)The value of special rewards for individual invention or discoveryDismissal or severance payments, except for time worked or accrued vacationPayments for active military dutyEmployee discounts on goods purchased from employerExpense reimbursements to employ[...]

Leadership Roles: a process of co-construction


A new research article published in Academy of Management Review suggests that leadership identities are assumed by individuals in an organization through a process of co-construction. The mechanism appears to work as follows. In their social interactions, individuals either claim, grant or, it would seem, assign leader and follower identities to themselves and, relationally, to their colleagues. According to the paper's authors, "through this claiming-granting process, individuals internalize an identity as leader or follower, and those identities become relationally recogn(image) ized through reciprocal role adoption and collectively endorsed within the organizational context."

It is not enough if every time during a team meeting, one member of the team takes it upon herself to delegate the majority of the tasks discussed to her peers. What is needed is co-construction. That is, in order for the team member who does the delegating to assume the identity of "leader", her peers must submit to the delegation; they must "grant" that the identity / role is appropriate through reciprocal adoption of the role of follower. By assuming the role of follower, they, in turn, confer a leadership identity upon the other. Thus, their roles are co-constructed. It takes two to make a leader.

How does this conceptualization of leadership challenge received wisdom on the topic of leadership development? Further, how does this affect our methods of identifying high potentials in the organization?

DeRue, D. Scott; Ashford, Susan J.. Academy of Management Review, Oct2010, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p627-647

You can also join the discussion of this topic on our facebook page.

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