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Bill Catlette

Bill Catlette

Bill Catlette, @ContentedCows is an executive coach and business author who helps clients build lasting competitive edge by eliminating blind-spots and improving leadership habits.

On Baseball, Long Hair, Married Priests, HR, and the “Department of No”

by Bill Catlette

03.12.17

 

The sports press was abuzz this week about something that didn’t involve balls, strikes, birdies, or 3-pointers. Rather, it was about hair, specifically the prolific red locks belonging to NY Yankees rookie Center Fielder prospect, Clint Frazier.

Since something like forever, the Yankees have maintained a strict personal appearance policy that prohibits players from wearing long’ish (below the collar) hair or beards. It’s about pride and professionalism, the “Yankee way” as they call it. It seems that, whereas Mr. Frazier had gotten the memo, he hadn’t gotten the message, prompting some ah hem coaching from team owner, Jennifer Steinbrenner, coach, Joe Girardi, even former Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, who still works for the team. Message received… According to Mr. Frazier, “Just after thinking to myself and talking to a few people, I finally came to the agreement that it’s time to look like everybody else around here.” Crisis averted, maybe.

A world away, Pope Francis allowed that maybe, just maybe, the Catholic church might be open to ordaining married men as priests. I don’t know whether that’s a white smoke or black smoke signal coming from the Vatican chimney, but I bet it has everything to do with recruiting, and a serious dearth of talent for those who would be priests.

Looking back on my early career as an HR professional, I distinctly recall similar business practices, if not outright policies being rather permanently woven into the fabric of the organizations I was exposed to: We mustn’t hire women drivers, our customer-facing employees cannot wear beards, I won’t even get into the dress codes. Some of this stuff was backed by sound reasoning. Some wasn’t. In retrospect, the thing that I regret is that, in too many cases, with good company I / we failed to ask the question that someone apparently put to the Pope, probably more than once:  Why not?

Too often, I’m afraid that we were simply serving as the “Department of No.” There will be no this. There will be no that. At the time, it was deemed the safer alternative. We served as a compliance function before the real compliance pros came along and turned it into an art form. Well intended as we were, I’m rather sure that we weren’t serving the organizations that were paying us all that well. Yeah, we were pretty good prophylactics, but I dare say that what the organizations often needed and wanted more was a curious, knowledgeable, thinking business partner. Today’s organizations are no different. They’re just moving a lot faster, and they need HR professionals and leaders with the courage to sustain valuable elements of corporate culture while, on a regular basis asking, “Why not?” 

 If you would like to take this topic to a different level in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.

 

With Healthcare Reform, Nothing Doesn’t Trump Something

03.11.17

As Americans, we’re more than a little interested in the current goings on with regard to “Repeal and Replace,” for several reasons. As with many others, it affects our business. Over the last ten years, we have doubtless done more work in the healthcare arena than any other sector. At the same time, not unlike anyone else who is aging (it beats the alternatives), we personally consume more healthcare services than ever. And, as a leader of a non-profit healthcare organization (@NFT), I have added incentive to stay abreast of the happenings in this space. Does that make us experts? Certainly not. Passionately, seriously interested? Absolutely. A few thoughts: 

“This is a big, f’ing deal” - As quietly whispered (he thought) into President Obama’s ear by Vice President, Joe Biden upon passage of the ACA the U.S. healthcare system is a big deal, a really big deal, at 18% of an $18 trillion economy. Healthcare expenditures for the average American are about $10,000. annually. It’s not just big, it’s very complex, with all kinds of moving, inter-related parts. Think giant Rubik’s cube that you’ve gotta get pretty close to perfect, or things go bad in a big way. With a small policy oversteer to the port or starboard, we could stall the U.S. economy, further degrade our anemic productivity growth rate, and / or unnecessarily endanger the lives of a lot of people.

New "Best Companies to Work For" List Revealed

by Bill Catlette

03.09.17

Last night, @AlanSMurray and the Fortune Magazine editors and journalists revealed for the twentieth time their annually curated list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America.”  The list is special to me, for two reasons.

First, my most significant employment experience prior to branching out on my own was at an early stage FedEx. Our HR team, took considerable pride in seeing to it that the company earned a high position on the early lists, and then took advantage of the reputational tailwind in our recruiting efforts. The source of the cover photo for this piece proudly occupies space in my office.

Second, and as importantly, since leaving FedEx, the most significant part of my work has centered on helping others appreciate just how profoundly the behaviors that make a company a great place to work impact the bottom line. Indeed, we’ve written four books on this very topic. I can’t tell you how proud I am to see companies that we’ve written about and bragged on in speeches and seminars across the globe continuing to earn this distinction, and indeed moving up the list. We’ve made many of them our own vendors of choice because they are just that good. Companies like Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott, Delta Air Lines, Mayo Clinic, David Weekley Homes, Publix, Google…

Career Enhancing Tips From 6 Prominent Female Executives

Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re going to do one thing that guys like us should do more often… Shut up and listen. To wit, here’s a link to a very good piece written by Grace Nasri for FastCompany - Six Female Execs On The Early Career Advice They Wish They’d Gotten. Enjoy!



Sunday, 05 March 2017 23:04

Leadership... It's Not a Position

Leadership... It's Not a Position

by Bill Catlette

03.03.17

 

Being appointed or elected to a position the duties of which include providing leadership does not in and of itself make one a leader. Leadership is a series of behaviors and actions, not a right or position. It stems from the earned consent of followers. In other words, even if we’re the boss on the org chart, followers get to decide whether or not we’re worthy of the moniker.

On a recent Sunday morning television program, mega best-selling author and journalist, Tom Friedman put a little finer point on that, reminding us that, “There is formal authority,  and there is moral authority.” Formal authority is position power that is bestowed by law, contract, or position that one has been elected or appointed to. Moral authority on the other hand represents “trustworthiness to make decisions that are right and good” (Merriam Webster). One is bestowed, the other is earned. One might give you the power to tell others what to do, while the other establishes whether or not they are likely to do it of their free will.

So how does one earn the benefit of the doubt, and the distinction as “leader?”

Thursday, 02 March 2017 17:51

The Hunt for a Better Boss

The Hunt for a Better Boss

by Bill Catlette

03.02.17

 

As an executive coach and former HR leader, I’ve had hundreds of people ask my advice on how they might get another job, or in some cases, a particular job. Does my resume look okay? Will you coach me on interview skills? Can I use you as a reference? Do you know anybody at ABC Co.who might be helpful to my candidacy?  

I’m not special in that regard. Everyone who works in this space is credited with having expertise that might help give someone better focus or perhaps an inside track on their job search. I’m not sure that we always live up to that expectation, but here’s what I am sure of: Too often, people are asking the entirely wrong question. Instead of directing the majority of their attention on the title that would be on their new business card, or the corporate name on the paycheck, they would do well to pay particular attention to the human being that they would actually answer to, and the others on that team they would be joining.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017 11:05

Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under Pressure

by Bill Catlette

 02.28.17

And the winner of the Oscar for Best Display of Grace and Class on Stage goes to... Jordan Horowitz, Producer, “La La Land.”  Standing Bravo!

Admittedly, I’m not much of a movie fan, evidenced by the fact that I had never even heard of any of the best films honored at this week’s Oscars.

But I know class and grace when I see it. Mr. Horowitz displayed both when he spontaneously re-gifted the Best Picture Award to its rightful owners, the producers and cast of “Moonlight” with the words, "I'm going to be very proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight.”

If there was ever a guy with justification to get a little cranky over having been publicly teased with the top award in his profession, it’s Mr. Horowitz. But he never went there. Contrary to the steady diet of attention seeking and bogus victory laps we’ve seen from some government officials of late, Mr. Horowitz seemed quite happy to redirect the spotlight where it belonged. No whining, no finger pointing, no crass comments. He praised the man’s work, handed him his award, gave him a hug, and got off his stage. And that, fellow leaders, is the example we should be setting in our own organizations.

Make it a great day!


If you would like to take this topic to a different level in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.

3 Steps to Being More Like the Leader You Always Wished For

by Bill Catlette

02.26.17 

 

Along the way, we’ve all observed and noted better (I hesitate to use the word, “best”) habits practiced by leaders we have come into contact with. I’m willing to bet that most of those habits are simple, straightforward, and have a high degree of commonality from one person to another. Here are three that stand out to me:

It Starts With Us, Not Them - We value being able to work in the company of someone who challenges us to be our best, someone who takes an interest in us, who listens to us, values our ideas, and tells us the truth. Someone who has high standards about work and conduct, but doesn’t burden others with their personal issues and neediness. They are eager to shine a bright light on the accomplishments of others, but don’t waste spotlight wattage by clapping for themselves. Selfies aren’t part of their game. You can do this. You just can’t do it if you’re going to be self-centered.

Sunday, 26 February 2017 00:27

How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

by Bill Catlette

02/25/17  Memphis

Urban mythology has it that teenagers, likely fueled by alcohol have, in the pursuit of fun, been known to enter a pasture, sneak up on a grazing cow and, through brute force upend the animal, pushing (aka “tipping”) it onto its side. Rural mythology, however, aided by people who have actually touched a cow with something besides a fork know that “tipping” a cow is a lot more difficult than the legend allows. In fact, tipping a Toyota Celica onto its side would be considerably easier. The Celica after all would at least hold still. 

And you’re wondering what on Earth cow tipping has to do with a management-oriented post. Fair question. For the last twenty years we’ve maintained that just as well cared for dairy cattle produce more milk (that’s not an AltFact), well led humans in the workspace produce more and better stuff (also a fact). We’ve done more than “maintain” that notion, we’ve proven it, and written three books about same.  If you’ll permit one more little extension of the metaphor, I will submit that there is a LOT more cow tipping that goes on in the workspace than in any pasture. Here are three ways that managers derail, frustrate, or prevent outright the best efforts of a contented (read, engaged) workforce:

Hanging Onto “Non-Producing and Misfit Cows, ‘er Workers” - Even after proving beyond reasonable doubt that they cannot or will not produce / behave as expected, many employees remain in position because their management chooses to avoid confrontation with the individual (or HR), doesn’t want to expend the energy to hire and train a replacement, or has fallen in love with them for other reasons. Managers then look to A and B players to pick up the slack. This thoroughly disrupts the “spirit of the hive” as others rightfully resent having to carry someone else’s load, and lose pride in what they view as a diminished team. Nobody gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “I want to go lose today”, or, “I want to hang out with losers.” By tolerating this behavior, management tacitly lowers its standards and disenfranchises its best performers.

Systemic Defects - Embedded in every (yes) work process are policies, procedures, methods, tools, equipment, etc. that are not working as expected, and as a result, they add friction to productive effort. Left untreated, this friction is demotivating to the entire workforce. By way of example, the next time you board a commercial aircraft, take note of all the extra effort that flight attendants must exert in order to shoe horn the over-limit and excess carry-on luggage into the overhead bins. Add to that the inevitable arguments with passengers, delays due to deboarding excess luggage, and the realization that this occurs on nearly every flight. If these ladies (mostly) wanted to work for a freight hauler, they would have signed on with FedEx. Your people are enduring comparable irritants. You would do well to spend thirty minutes a day discovering and dispatching these dispiriting productivity killers.

Bad Hiring - By hiring people who, by virtue of pace, preference, values and temperament are out of sync with the organization, managers are adding people who are easily “tipped over”. One misfit person in the right position amidst a hundred others can represent critical mass. Smart managers and smart recruiters take pains to put job fit requirements on an equal basis with talent, and to recognize and deal with hiring mistakes as soon as they become apparent.

If you would like to hear more about this topic in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.  

A Little Less Conversation (About Race), and A Little More Action Please

by Bill Catlette (title by Elvis)

 

First things first, I’m delighted that President Trump visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and afterwards made some solid statements about “bringing the country together” vis-a-vis race and anti-semitism. (Good job, @CraigMelvin) It’s a good step for him, one he’s been needing to take. Now it’s time to back up the talk. 

That said, I would submit that, generally speaking, we should have fewer rather than more “conversations about race.” Conversations about race in this country somehow seem to devolve to everyone doing their own little uncomfortable dance on the head of a pin. In reality, they aren’t conversations at all, but awkward sessions marked by lots of emoting and very little listening, resulting in bumps, bruises, and too little observable progress.

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