Archive for the ‘Hiring and Retaining Great People’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Build Your Bench Strength Without Breaking the Bank

Kirk Kramer writes in the HBR Blog: Many social enterprises start small and grow fast. This puts a premium on the need to develop, or recruit, talented people who can take on evolving roles and responsibilities. Yet planning for future leadership needs falls between the cracks at most social enterprises. Leaders plead lack of time and money to make development a priority. If you are among them, be aware that neither excuse holds up under close scrutiny. What you really need is a change in mindset.. Read the full entry at

PostHeaderIcon Are Your Employee Evaluations Worth the Time and Paper It Takes to Do Them?

According to Denis Wilson, writing in Fast Company, annual evaluations “build up pressure and make feedback sessions feel like indictments. And most importantly, they do little to alter behavior and improve performance and productivity, which should be your goal.” If you’ve read Three Signs of a Miserable Job (if you supervise, manage, or lead—you must) by Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite business authors, Lencioni asserts that there are three things often missing for most employees that create a great deal of dissatisfaction.

Immeasurement refers to an employee’s desire to know how their performance will be measured. It also hinders clarity regarding where to focus one’s time and attention. Irrelevance refers to an employee’s lack of understanding how their work and performance contributes to the company’s overall success. And anonymity refers to an employee’s feeling of generally not being known.

The boom-surprise-explode cycle of typical annual performance evaluations does little to alleviate these three conditions, although when done well and thoughtfully they can help. Instead, consider how you can transform an annual evaluation into an ongoing conversation that provides regular feedback on performance requirements derived directly from corporate strategy;  promotes alignment with corporate culture; and for those who manage or lead provides important feedback on their number one job—the performance of the teams they lead.

With the turning of the calendar, this is a great time to consider a change in this area. There are many tools available. Our favorite is Evaluate to Win, based on the work of Vistage Member Lee Benson in Phoenix and on the management operating systems designed by former GE CEO Jack Welch.  To read the complete Fast Company article, simply follow this link

PostHeaderIcon Try Before You Buy

No, I’m not talking about hiking shoes or test driving a new car. I’m talking about test driving a prospective employee–and not the way most of us think.

I’m talking about an idea I first heard when Brad Remillard of Impact Hiring Solutions spoke to one of our two Tucson Vistage International Groups. At that time, speaking of job candidates, he talked of “putting them to work before you hire them.” Brad and his partner, Barry Deutsch discuss extraordinary hiring ideas, particularly when looking for senior staff in their book “You”re Not the Person I Hired.” This notion of putting them to work before they’re hired does not refer to paid or academic internships. It refers to what some would call a simulation.

For example, say you are recruiting for a new CFO, and one of your corporate goals for the year is to increase free cash flow 20% by year end. While we certainly care about what our candidates have done in the past that relates to goals like these, I maintain that what we really want to know is this: “How are you going to do this here!” Some argue that the candidate doesn’t know enough about the company to answer that question, or that the question might surprise them. That’s fine. This is simply a keyboarding test on steroids. Give them extra time during the interview, or give them a few days to come back a present. The point is this.You don’t want to find out that this is not the person you thought you hired after you hire them. You want to find out during the interview process exactly what you are buying to avoid the extremely costly mistake of choosing the wrong person for the job for any number of reasons.

There’s a pretty good article on the notion of using simulation as part of the interview process in the latest issue of Psychology Today. For another month you’ll actually have to buy the current issue. You can find Barry and Brad’s great book on  hiring here.

PostHeaderIcon Build Rapport with Challenging Customers or Employees

This week our two Tucson Vistage CEO groups hosted author, speaker and trainer Abe Wagner speaking on Increasing Motivation and Productivity. Wagner’s presentation is based on a foundation of Transactional Analysis and Neurolinguistic Programming. In 3 hours he presented and demonstrated tools that, with a  little practice can be used to build rapport as a solid basis for difficult conversations with clients, employees or family members. Among the many topics he covered was the concept of channels: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. We learned that practically all of us rely on a mixture of all three, and that all of us also have a preferential channel–one that we will go to in times of stress.

Why is that important? When communicating with others and attempting to first build rapport one technique for reaching rapport quickly is identifying and matching the preferential channel of the other person.

Wagner, author of Say It Straight or You’ll Show It Crooked, and The Transactional Manager identified seven techniques that focus on one particular approach he calls The Map of The World. In essence, these are techniques to help see the situation from the perspective of the other.  They are:


  1. Paraphrase
  2. Check and Paraphrase
  3. Asking Questions
  4. Brief Responses
  5. Making Sounds
  6. Non Verbal Clues and
  7. Touching.

Much of this is framed in Wagner’s model of Ego States. These states are interesting in that some are constructive and some quite the opposite. They include:

  1. The Nurturing Parent
  2. The Critical Parent
  3. The Adult
  4. The Natural Child
  5. The Defiant Child

Most of us move in and out of these states regularly. Some spend more time in the destructive states than others. The key according to Wagner is to respond to attack, defiance, and aggression from one of the “blue states,” those being the Adult, Nurturing Parent or Defiant Child.

Wagner is typical of our great Vistage speakers who present information founded in solid, analytical theory who are able to distill that theory down into usable, practical techniques and models. If you’d been in one of these two meetings you’d be much better equipped to deal with the world than you were on Monday. Find much more information in either of his two books.



PostHeaderIcon Time Span and the End of the Story

About 18 months ago, Vistage speaker Tom Foster spoke to my Tucson Chief Executive Group about a concept called Timespan. It is based on the work of Elliot Jacques (pronounced Jakes), a professor at George Washington University. To parphrase my understanding of  Timespan, it defines the ability of an employee to understand the implications of his or her actions a certain amount of time into the future. It also describes the amount of time an employee can work without additional supervision or reassignment. According to Foster, and much to the dismay of many supervisors and managers, Timespan is more or less innate, meaning that you cannot take a production worker with a timespan of a few days to a strata of a senior manager, which may require a timespan of several years. Mismatching timespan is the proverbial square peg in a round hole, except the pets are people and the result is non-performance, frustration or boredom.
For many of my Tucson CEO members, this talk was on of the most impactful of the five years our Tucson Vistage CEO group has been meeting. As one CEO said, “This explains a lot of things I haven’t been able to get my arms around!”
The following excerpt is from Tom Foster’s blog. Read the full entry here. 

“I don’t understand,” Roger shook his head. “If Brad would just start earlier on these longer projects, things would be under control, and he wouldn’t be cutting unnecessary corners which compromise project quality.”

“Why do you think he procrastinates until the end?” I asked.

Roger shook his head.

“Because,” I continued, “he cannot see the end until he is two months away.

PostHeaderIcon ‘How Can I Motivate My Gen Y Employees?’

“How can I motivate my Generation Y employees?”

If you’re a CEO over 40, this question has probably perplexed you in recent years. You are seeing new, young and clearly talented employees integrating into your companies. Yet, they’re different than any other generations of employees you ever had to deal with.

Between 16 and 31 years old, “Generation Yers” (or Millennials) are typically described in the hundreds of workshops my company has conducted over the years as unengaged and entitled, while technological savviness seems to be the sole positive.

Below are a few concrete steps you can take to reap the benefits of a younger force:

Review Process

According to the Labor Department, the average Millennial has a two-year tenure with his or her current employer — meaning, these are employees that aren’t likely to stay with you for an extended period of time.

Therefore, using a yearly review process with a hypothetical raise 12 to 14 months after the date of hire makes more sense to a boomer, whose average tenure is around nine years, than it does to a member of Generation Y.

And let’s face it, business cycles are faster today than they ever were before, so a quarterly process will be more attuned to the current needs of your company than a yearly one.

SurveyMonkey has a built-in 360 tool ( that, for a few dollars a month, will do the leg work of a cumbersome paper-based review, while providing you with valuable information on your employees, and yourself too.

Instant Rewards

Do not hesitate to carry a few $20 Starbucks gift certificates and reward them on the spot for a job well done. This will appeal to the instant gratification Millennials are used to.

Office Environment

Open-floor plan, low-walled cubicles, plenty of meeting rooms both formal and informal (cafeteria or employee lounge) — that’s how to get the most energy flowing into your company.

Without remodeling your office, you can still break the monotony of office life by having “Dress-up Mondays” to encourage employees to come with their most formal attires, or “No internal e-mail Fridays” to encourage employees to talk to each others, either directly or via phones.


Your average Generation Y employee is using e-mail with close to unlimited storage, and has constant access to all of her or his pictures and personal files via mobile phones and tablets. They don’t expect less from your company. It goes beyond looking uncool or dated. It’s about harnessing that social collaboration and transform it into productive, work related collaboration beneficial to your business.

Cloud computing will allow your business to deliver such collaborative tools without the up-front capital costs and probably lesser monthly expenses than you can manage on your own.

Check out those leading providers:

(The last two link to videos that will make you rethink your current collaborative system.)

Work Site

A client company was looking towards making working from home available to their employees a few years back. The company decided to ask its employees first what they thought about that opportunity, and second if they would indeed work from home if offered.

Looking at the results by generation was eye opening. The majority of boomers expressed resistance to the idea, citing the need to actually physically leave home behind during the day and the fear of missing important meetings. Millennials were evidently more enthusiastic about the concept, although the term home was misleading in that case, as they expressed opportunities to work from a coffee shop or a friend’s house.

The keys to a successful work from home integration is to monitor the output of your employees and to make sure the vast majority of the week is spent in the office, where impromptu meetings will happen that will contribute towards homogenous company culture and higher socialization.

Core Hours

We advise our clients to have core hours, typically 10 a.m. 3 p.m., during which meetings are scheduled and all employees are expected to be available. This schedule accommodates workers who need to leave early to pick up kids after work or beat traffic as well as those who are stretching their college life and simply can’t function well early in the morning.

This guideline goes hand-in-hand with a strict meeting policy of 30-minute increments, with agenda and deliverables and without electronics. Computers are to be used for note taking and remote participation only.

And remember, if you are a CEO belonging to the Boomer generation (50 to 66 years old), you have longer managerial span and experience to handle Gen Yers than Gen Xers (30 to 50 years-old) do. And if you still have a hard time dealing with Gen Yers, you might take comfort in the fact that Gen Xers will have to work with them for an even longer period of time.

This topic and more are included in the Vistage Connect™ peer advisory sessions. Learn more.

Philippe Cesson is CEO of CESSON 3.0, a marketing and training company based in California, with offices in San Diego, New York City and Miami. Cesson’s speciality is helping companies succeed in social media, bridging the generational divide and “Navigating the New Normal.”

PostHeaderIcon Where Are You Setting the Bar?

Where Are You Setting the Bar?

I had the privilege today of spending an hour with Ron Clark, who is known as America’s Educator and is the recipient of America’s Teacher of the Year Award. A best-selling author and guest of Oprah’s, Ron talked first about going into some of the nation’s worst schools and instilling a work ethic and respect for education that some of the best schools would envy. Later he talked about raising funds, in some cases $5 at a time, to build a school in Atlanta that embodied all of the principles he had practiced on his path to that achievement.

One of his practices remains at the front of my mind. He spoke about having classes with a few great students who, because of their natural ability were not used to having their limits tested. He also spoke about the legions of mediocre and poor students who were simply left behind. His solution, which he practices to this day, is to teach to a level that stretches even the great students, and insist that entire classes rise to that standard.

It made me think about the average workplace and the way in which we assign work and choose staff for our most challenging projects. I think it’s worth asking ourselves: “Am I consistently raising the bar to the level of my highest performing employees, or am I setting the bar lower as a level that all or most employees can attain?” In his book, “How to Hire A Players,” Eric Herrenkohn asserts that the best way to convince A Players to leave, is to tolerate mediocrity.

So ask yourself, “Where am I setting the bar in my company or organization?”

PostHeaderIcon How to Retain Four Generations of Workers

Today’s workforce consists of four generations, each with a different set of goals, aspirations and values.
  1. Veterans. Born prior to 1946, this generation makes up 7.5 percent of the current workforce. They value hard work, responsibility and rank/status.
  2. Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, “Boomers” represent 42 percent of the workforce. They value teamwork and competence.
  3. Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1976, “Gen-X” comprises 29.5 percent of the workforce. They value family time and life balance. They work hard, but they don’t live to work.
  4. Generation Y. Born between 1977 and 1986, “Gen Y” totals 21 percent of the workforce. They value individuality and mobility. More than any other generation, they embrace technology in the workplace and their personal lives.

To retain Veterans and Boomers, do the following:

  • Focus on the “what” and “how.” Tell Veterans what to do, tell Boomers how to do it.
  • Ask for their ideas and input.
  • Set very clear performance goals and expectations.
  • Value their age and experience.
  • Focus on the big picture and long-term.
  • Don’t micro-manage.
  • Recognize and reward their long hours and hard work.
  • Offer flexible schedules for those who don’t want to retire but no longer want to work full-time.

To retain Gen-X and Gen-Y employees:

  • Provide plenty of training, mentoring and feedback.
  • Explain the “why” of every assignment.
  • Hire managers who excel at building relationships.
  • Create an environment open to diversity (people and ideas).
  • Offer a competitive salary based on work, not seniority.
  • Provide recognition, respect and responsibility.
  • Explain the big picture of what your organization does, where it is going and how each individual fits in.
  • Provide opportunity regardless of age or tenure.
  • Respect their individuality (e.g., tattoos, hair color and body piercings).
  • Surround them with talented peers.

PostHeaderIcon Handling Traumatic Events in the Workplace

When we employ lots of people, stuff happens. Get some useful tips on when it does.

Handling Traumatic Events in the Worplace

PostHeaderIcon Control is an Illusion

Control is an Illusion: Thinking Outside the Traditional Marketing Box

By Rebel Brown

Do you think you have control of your brand?

If you answered “yes,” you might want to think again. That’s one of the biggest Gravity beliefs around.

In the 21st Century, our audience controls our brand. Why? Because we no longer control the information about our business, and our brand, in the market. That’s a fundamental thought-shift that we must make to power our business success.

How Did We Get Here?
Even five years ago, we still were the primary source of information for our audiences. We controlled most of what they heard and read about our products, services and expertise.  We were able to manage their perceptions of our Value simply because we were the keepers of the information. We painted the pictures we wanted our audiences to see – and so we controlled our world. It had been that way forever – even after the web.

But then the world shifted, thanks to Web 2.0.

Today’s buyers can research, compare, select and purchase products and services without our ever  knowing they were looking to buy.

Buyers can chat among themselves, share stories of our performance (or our competitors’ performance) and we most likely don’t even know they had the conversations.

A vocal customer can change our brand perception in an angry set of clicks.
Whether we like it or not – our customers control our truth.  Trying to control their perspectives with traditional Me, Me, Me marketing approaches will backfire every time.

In believing we can control our brand – we  run the risk of alienating our markets.
Our brand perception is created based on the perceived Expertise and Value we deliver, applied to real world problems and opportunities.  Clarity in marketing can support that delivery – but even the best marketing will not defend poor quality or delivery.
The opportunity to market our way out of poor value or lacking expertise has come and gone. Get used to it.

So how do we shift our marketing think in a world where our buyers are empowered?
The first step is to recognize that we are no longer the center of the universe as a source of information.  Our buyers and markets create and share the information that creates and evolves our brands.  Period. We may influence by chiming in – but we do not control.

We do however control the value we deliver — and therein lies our power. When we empower our teams to share our expertise and value in real-time, relevant conversations – applying it to real-world buyer problems and opportunities, we can and will impact our brand perceptions.  When we empower our customers to share their experiences among themselves and with prospects – we impact our brand – assuming we delivered value.

It’s time to shift our marketing approaches – from traditional Me, Me, Me focused campaigns and promotions to interactive conversations and relationships.  That’s where we’ll find our marketing power in today’s world.

What are those shifts? Here are a few to think about:

• From product focused to engagement focused thinking. Traditional marketing hinges on promoting products and their value to our markets by sharing Me, Me, Me based information in a controlled fashion.  That’s the kiss of death in today’s world.

Instead of creating product messages and then pushing them out to the world – we must empower our people to apply our expertise to the specific customer or prospect conversation that’s on the table, focusing on solving a problem instead of selling a product.  When we focus on sharing our expertise and educating our prospects – without pushing our product – we create credibility and influence within our markets.

• From static content to interactive conversations. Traditional marketing focuses on content strategies and plans that drive long-term editorial calendars, blobs of content and a focus on sharing what we want to say. So here’s a question for you. How can a blog you outlined three months ago in an editorial calendar possibly be relevant to today’s audience conversations? How can that 20 page whitepaper that took six months to outline, write, tune and get through legal channels be compelling for current discussions?  As fast as our markets shift today — they can’t!

By shifting our content focus – from blobs of big content that are stale before we share it to smaller, interactive snippets of relevant, timely information – we empower impactful, relevant conversations with our audiences. We also empower our marketing messages to adapt in sync with our markets, keeping our stories and evidence continuously refreshed and compelling. When we adapt our definition of “content” to better match the conversational, real-time needs of today’s buyers – we begin to relevantly engage with, and create relationships with, our audiences.

• From social media as a marketing channel to social media as a community. Traditional marketing think focuses on pushing our messages out to the world. That’s old school Gravity!  Yet as much as we protest, for many of us social media is still acting as yet another channel for push. We claim to be listening and conversing, even as we create six month blog calendars, craft social media promotions and develop social media campaigns. Sounds just like push marketing, doesn’t it?  And that’s why this is one of the biggest shifts of all – because deep Gravity has set in.

How to Defy it? Imagine creating a social media community made up of prospects and customers who actively converse and share their experiences around your business and its value. A community where you empower your customers to discuss your value, suggest improvements, brainstorm new approaches and excite your prospects.  A community where you lead by sharing expertise and educating, not selling and promoting.  Imagine the goodwill, interest and loyalty created within that community, not to mention the powerful market feedback for future offerings and value. Through engaged communities of happy customers we have our best opportunity to manage our brand perceptions.

Traditional marketing and branding think is as stuck in Gravity as the dinosaurs were in the tarpits. It’s time we all accepted the truth.

Control is an illusion, a very dangerous illusion for today’s world.