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Daily Dairy from Contented Cows

by Bill Catlette

1/24/17 4:48P Memphis

Despite unprecedented increase in the amount of digital labor-saving technology applied to our commercial processes, the U.S. rate of productivity growth has effectively been sawed in half over the last decade. You heard that right, microchips and poor productivity in the same sentence. Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen has declared this trend “a key uncertainty for the U.S. economy.” That’s about a 6.3 on the Fed-speak Richter scale.

While many are in pursuit of the next gleaming digital means to cut humanoids further, or even entirely out of the process in the interest of raising productivity, we’ve been stumbling around looking for (and finding) what world class process observer and branding expert Martin Lindstrom might term small data solutions… scraps and insights that are lying right at our feet that can be picked up and applied right now, many of them for free.

Like what? How about better ways of leading people so that they actually want to part with some of their discretionary effort in the workspace and thus contribute at a higher level. No capital expenditure involved. Here’s one:

Less Selfies, More Ussies

Bill Catlette

As a leadership coach, I work with managers up and down the ladder, helping them refine and capitalize on their strengths, discover hidden (to them) weaknesses, and rehab or minimize the impact of the latter. In a world that seems bent on becoming more inwardly-focused, where everyone is running for their next gig, one thing that we seem to be spending more time and emphasis on is maintaining steadfast focus on three core aspects of this thing called leadership:

On Being the New Sheriff

By Richard Hadden

As of noon today, for those of us in the US, there will be, as we say, a new sheriff in town. Based on the popular vote, more than half (about 54%) of those who voted in November's presidential election were disappointed in its outcome. But the Electoral College vote is what counts, quirks and all, and so there we have it.

Because I've not been asked to proffer advice to the incoming president, I'll refrain from doing so. But the rest of us - those who don't have our names on skyscrapers - often find ourselves, willingly or otherwise, put in new positions of leadership, taking over from someone else. Here are some things that will help make that transition work better, when you become the new boss:

ALL Millennials are...Different

By Richard Hadden

Years ago, I participated in a diversity workshop that featured an exercise called "All Iowans are Naive", the object of which was to expose the fallacy of stereotypes. And fallacious they are. I have two close friends who hail from the state of Iowa, and both are exceptionally savvy. Other combos in the game were things like "All Scots are stingy", "All men are mechanically inclined" and "All women like to shop". Those who know my wife and me, know at least one exception to each of those broad generalizations.

I know that there are those who hold onto these (and other) tired old stereoptypes, without regard for their inaccuracy and uselessness. But most of us know better than to give voice to those views, at least in commercial company.

So, why then, is it seemingly OK to think (and say out loud) that all people born between 1977 and 1994 all think, act, buy, and work in the same way? They don't.

Leaders Are Optimists

by Bill Catlette

Owing to ever tighter budgets, higher expectations, and a skinny but distracted workforce, the practice of leadership in today’s workspace is difficult enough. We unnecessarily add to that burden and materially hamper our effectiveness when we fail to maintain a positive outlook. How so? Because negativity saps our own energy, and people won’t follow a pessimist very long or far, because it saps theirs, as well.

Think about it. Reliable engagement surveys tell us that our people are less connected than ever to the organization. Job quit rates are rising, causing a lot of our staff to wonder if this is the time they should make a move. If people are trudging into work only to deal with a leader who sees every glass as half empty, it makes for a long day. Conversely, as Mary Lou Retten put it, “Optimism is a magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”

Just happy talk? No. We’ve all been around long enough to realize that there are days when you eat the bear, and days when the bear takes a big bite out of you. That said, as leaders, at any rung of the ladder and in any organization, we must find a way, without sacrificing who we are, to be “a dealer in hope”, as Napoleon Bonaparte put it. Three suggestions in that regard:

  1. Practice good self care. Attend to your own health. It’s hard to be upbeat when you’re tired or ill. Take breaks during the day. Get up, go outside, take a walk (or run). Adopt a hobby that requires total concentration and still offers relaxation (e.g., fly-fishing or flying). Establish a buddy system with a friend where you will call one another out, and offer a friendly ear or shoulder when needed. If you need to talk with a professional, do it.
  2. Take steps to surround yourself with positive people. The whole atmosphere changes when negativity is reduced. Be careful how much mindspace you give up to negativity. As Robert Tew put it, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent. Kick them out.”
  3. Create a bucket list. It’s amazing the positive energy you can get from anticipating doing one of your bucket list items. I’ve got one that I actually put on my LinkedIn page just to force myself to do it, and it’s coming up in a couple weeks. Look out NOLA!

Great Cakes Start With Great Ingredients… Hiring Strategically Still Pays Off

by Bill Catlette

In what little 'me time' she has, my wife is an avid baker. As such, she has long maintained that "great cakes start with great ingredients." That axiom is every bit as true in the workspace as it is in the kitchen, most especially when it comes to management talent.

I was reminded of this in a conversation with Junior Lacayo, an Atlanta area Marriott hotel exec. In discussing the approach at his property to filling the management bench, he indicated that, because of a strong promote from within preference, candidates for every job at the hotel are viewed as (and screened for being) future leaders. To wit, no job is filled until the successful candidate has passed muster with the hiring manager and the entire management chain up to and including the property's GM.

In the same vein that a PowerPoint® deck is not a presentation, and a GPS is not a trip, recruiting is not an app or a job board. To be clear, we’re entirely onboard with using technological aids to enable recruiting processes, but if you desire a discerning process that consistently yields people with the requisite talent and organizational fit, when and where you need them, a lot of skillful human effort is still involved.

If your business is at all labor intensive, here are some tips to bear in mind when it comes to recruiting:

  1. Make sure recruiters are armed with job profiles that are completely up to date and based on performance characteristics that have proven instrumental to success – recently. These can be gleaned from a combination of analytics and the considered opinion of a wily veteran or two. Challenge education and experience requirements that are more than a couple years old particularly hard, as much has changed.
  2. Expand your sourcing channels. Just as farmers know that you can’t expect to farm the same ground for the same crops year after year, recruitment sources need to be cultivated and rotated. Moreover, as Ross Perot has suggested, “Eagles don’t flock – you find them one at a time.”
  3. In view of the fact that the decisions about who winds up on your payroll are perhaps the most important decisions any leader makes, make sure that your business leaders at every level are well-skilled in this area. I’ll wager that a lot of your managers have never learned how to do an effective employment interview (from the hiring side of the desk). Further, if such decisions are truly important to the organization, make sure that quality of hiring metrics show up on every manager’s performance rating criteria, and that there is significant money at stake.
  4. Lastly, stop disrespecting your recruiters and instead show them some love by making sure that they have adequate tools (and yes, technology) to work with, but even more importantly, that their efforts and contributions are appreciated. They have a tough job that is getting tougher by the day. If you really want them to be focused and fired up, make sure that they have some serious outcomes-driven cash at stake.

Good luck, and happy hunting.

As a leadership coach, I work with managers up and down the ladder, helping them capitalize on their strengths, discover hidden (to them) weaknesses, and rehab or minimize the impact of the latter. In almost every case, these leaders find that there is more work for them to do in at least one of the following areas. As an emerging leader, some effort on your part now, while you’re still in a formative stage will pay great dividends to you.

Less Selfies, More Ussies

Being a leader is not about you. Repeat, it’s not about you. Rather, it’s about them…  the team, the mission. In that vein:

Money magazine says 2017 is going to be the best job market in years.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers says things are going to be a bit flat.

And ManpowerGroup says to look for a 16% net increase in employment this year, which is a little less than last year.

Since they can’t all be right, it’s probably wiser to focus less on what the whole economy is going to do, and more on what - and specifically whom - you need to fuel the growth of your enterprise. Just realize that, regardless of whose predictions are most accurate, you’ll probably be up against some pretty aggressive competition for talent.

There is no more important function for a manager to perform than that of deciding who does, and who does not, get to play on the team. So getting it right matters. A lot. And yet one of the greatest frustrations we feel in our practice, whether it’s while coaching leaders, training them, or conducting employee surveys, is how often managers are getting it wrong, and living to regret the choices they make. Or don’t make.

Why is this happening? Because they're using irrelevant filters.

Bullying seems inescapable in modern life, whether the context is school-aged children, adults in the workspace, or newly elected politicians behaving badly. The associated consequences and handwringing prompt us to take a swing at it, at least as far as the workspace component is concerned.

What Bullying Is and Isn’t: Bullying is the misuse of power, (physical capacity, knowledge, wealth, position, et. al.) to intimidate, coerce, or demean another. In a nutshell, it is behaving unacceptably simply because you believe you can. Bullies come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and hairstyles, without partiality to Carhart or Armani suits; the factory floor, cube farm, or corner office. It’s an accretive behavior that, left unmitigated, can become habitual and dangerous, even to adults. It is seldom kept a secret for long.

Sometimes, reminders of important lessons come in the most peculiar forms.

I’ve long known that one of the best ways to truly understand a concept is to teach it to others. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” Modern behavioral scientists call it “the protégé effect.”

I became a fan of Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers recently. Not for what he did during his game-time 30 minutes with a football in his hand, admirable as it was, but for what he did and said with a microphone in his face in the televised press conference following his team’s win over the Detroit Lions. 

In the interview, Rodgers was effusive in praising his team, with a heavy “We : I Ratio” describing their accomplishments, giving named shout-outs to at least thirteen individual teammates, and more expressions of affirmation than I could count. Rodgers wasn't just throwing handfuls of gold stars into the locker room so everybody could have one, though. His comments about the behaviors being commended were as well targeted as his game-time passes.

Nearly everyone who steps into a leadership role at any level is asked to do many more things than can possibly fit on their plate. They’ve got essentially four choices: Say no to some things, negotiate others off the plate, delegate, or gag. Some might say there’s a fifth option; that we can always multitask. As a general rule, I don’t accept the notion that it is preferable to stop doing one important thing really well to divert to doing two or more things in a half-hearted manner.

Let’s say that you’re to undergo thoracic surgery, and your experienced, highly rated surgeon also happens to be an accomplished chess player. Are you going to have any problem if she chooses to play a game online with one hand while her other, scalpel wielding hand is inside you? Thought so.

Two days before New Year’s day, I walked into a Kroger grocery about five miles from my home to pick up a few items. I should have known better. The parking lot was quite busy, and the store was packed with frenetic shoppers playing a nonstop game of chicken with one another using shopping carts, and scooping up all manner of items, most notably shrimp and champagne. Maybe the economy really is getting better?

Within two minutes of being in the store I couldn’t help but notice that the atmosphere didn’t quite match up with the cart bumping and competitive shopping. Things were somehow calmer. And then it struck me. Every single Kroger employee that I got within 30 feet of, and there were a lot of them in the aisles, offered a friendly greeting followed by, “Sir, can I help you with anything?” or something to that effect.

One of the things that stood out to me was that it seemed much more real than rehearsed. And then, I discovered the cause of this treatment, together with the reason why this particular store is by far the best-managed Kroger store I’ve been in, and I’ve been in a LOT of them.

Most of us are occasionally called upon to make a business presentation… Presentations to seek authorization or funding for a project, to report on performance, to pitch a product or service, demonstrate expertise, the list goes on. These presentations can have have serious business and career consequences, yet few of us have been trained to do them. Perhaps because we don’t especially look forward to the task, we often wait until the week, maybe even the day before, and hurriedly assemble a PowerPoint® deck, then hope that there is somehow "magic in the clicker."

There isn't, ergo we shouldn't be too surprised to see puzzled looks on the faces of some audience members, other faces that are peeking not so surreptitiously at their devices, and hearing still others squirming in their seats while we talk. That is an awful feeling. We've all been there, and we’ve lived to tell about it, but what about our message? What happened to it? What did it to to or for our career arc?

Shortly after writing my first book (with co-author and business partner, Richard Hadden) and beginning to do paid speaking gigs, I resolved to get better at it. Following is a short list of precepts that have benefitted me. I hope you find some of them helpful:

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