Tag archive for "employee engagement"

by Richard, Exemplars, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived

No Comments 08 September 2014

truett-cathy A mighty tree fell in the forest of business leadership today, with the death of 93-year-old Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. Truett was a pioneer, an innovator, and a true gentleman of character and courage. He improved the lives of millions, way beyond “sellin’ chicken”, and leaves a legacy that makes him a real standout in the annals of American business.

I’ll quickly dispense with the elephant in the blogpost and acknowledge that not everyone likes Chick-fil-A, whether it be their food or their values. But I’ll allow to speak for itself the fact that their supporters overwhelmingly eclipse their detractors. Just drive by any Chick-fil-A restaurant any day of the week (except, of course, Sunday, on which they’re closed), and you’ll see what I mean.

It was my privilege to meet Truett on a couple of occasions, while we were conducting leadership training for Chick-fil-A, and he was gracious enough to let me interview him in 1997, while Bill and I were writing our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk.


Here are 3 things I know about Truett Cathy:


1 – He was authentic. Truett’s faith was his life, and he uttered no apologies for it. He went from millionaire to billionaire years ago, but continued to teach a boys’ Sunday School class at his church until his health failed. You could count on his word. Many, many people did, and have built very successful businesses and fulfilling careers.

2 – He was a giver. In addition to his personal philanthropy, Truett’s company has given more than $68 million to more than 700 educational and charitable organizations in the last three years alone. Since its inception, the company’s Team Member Scholarship Program has provided more than $30 million to help more than 30,000 employees attend more than 500 different colleges and universities. Through its WinShape Foundation, it has invested millions in programs directed toward helping young people. And the company regularly donates food to people who are hungry, and provides organized relief for victims of natural disasters.

3 – He was a forgiver. Here’s a story we relate in our 2007 book, Contented Cows MOOVE Faster: It was told to me by Truett’s son, Dan, Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operating Officer, when Dan invited me to travel across the country with him on a whirlwind grand opening tour to the Midwest and California.

Dan and his father were walking around the original Dwarf House restaurant (the forerunner of Chick-fil-A) one evening, inspecting the premises. It seems that a gaze upward revealed a fresh collection of empty beer cans on the roof of the Dwarf House. As alcohol never has been on the menu of the Dwarf House, or Chick-fil-A, it was determined that, unfortunately, the spent vessels most likely came from an employee engaging in off-label activities on the job. As much as Truett didn’t like to think of any of his beloved employees drinking at work, he suspected a middle-aged fellow named James.

When Truett confronted him, he gently extracted a genuine confession. What happened next owes to James’s greatly improved judgment in having told the truth about the incident and to Truett’s exceptional maturity. Name any employer. Drinking beer on the clock and then littering the premises with the evidence would pretty much be grounds for dismissal without intervention from even the most liberal of unfair labor treatment folks.

Instead, Truett forgave James. James didn’t get a lecture about how wrong it was to drink on the job. Truett figured James was an adult and therefore knew what he did was wrong. He didn’t get fired. He didn’t get written up. He barely got a reprimand. He got forgiven. Which is not to say his deed got overlooked. By forgiving rather than firing James, Truett took the bond of trust between the two men to a completely new level, something that was not lost on James over the balance of his long career with the company.

Many prayers, including ours, are being said today for the Cathy family, and in thanks for a life well-lived. Godspeed, Truett.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Management

Getting Beyond the Rehearsed Blather in Recruiting

No Comments 11 August 2014

Last week I had a short, informal coaching conversation with an experienced, level 2 retail manager. Soon to be involved with staffing a new store, he was concerned about the recruiting process, and the fact that many candidates today show up with their promotional blather fairly well rehearsed, and a modicum of experience with behaviorally-anchored interview techniques. “I’m concerned”, he said, “that some of them are so well rehearsed that my BS meter may not go off, and I’ll wind up hiring a couple of bozos.”

I asked what, aside from character (e.g., the ability to reliably tell the difference between the company’s stuff and personal possessions) were the three greatest critical success factors he was seeking. His answers, in no particular order, were:

1. A self-starter – someone who sees what needs to be done and doesn’t wait to be told what to do.

2. Someone who, regardless of chronological age, is an adult. They show up prepared, don’t take more than their share of the oxygen in the room, and clean up their messes.

3. Someone who plays nice with others – it’s not always about them. They notice others,  listen, smile, care, and say thank you.

The rest, he said, he could teach them. I offered him four suggestions:

1. After a paper (resume or application) screening, begin the interview process via phone. It’s more convenient for both parties, and allows you to efficiently verify a sufficient community of mutual interest before getting dressed up.

2. Keep doing the behaviorally-based interviews, but listen more and a lot harder. In my experience, even seasoned recruiters do too much talking in interviews, consuming as much as seventy percent of the available time. The more unprepared they are, the more they talk. They don’t allow dead space (silence), which frequently prompts a job candidate to expand on a previous answer, or volunteer other information. Allow more time between interviews to give yourself time to finish your note-taking and reflect, before preparing for the next interview.

3. Build some simple “tests” into the interview process. I’m fond of leaving a gum wrapper or other small piece of trash on the floor in the doorway to my office – something the applicant will literally have to step over. Do they stop and pick it up, or ignore it? I suggested that he instruct applicants to show up for the interview, fully prepared, as if they were going to work a shift that day. His company doesn’t furnish uniforms, and it would be very easy for an applicant to stop in a store and ascertain the dress code prior to the interview, and then comply with it. And, as an additional way of checking preparedness, I suggested that he have someone call the applicant’s cell phone during the interview – to verify that it’s off, and to observe their behavior if it isn’t.

4. Finally, with respect to playing nice with others, I suggested that candidates who are still “green lighted” go to lunch with a group of three or four people who would potentially be their peers. It affords each party to examine the other in a different context.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things That Will Improve Employee Engagement

No Comments 03 July 2014

Recently I read a piece in the e-version of a major business publication which, by title and implication suggested that seventy percent of Americans hate their work. The piece used as its factual anchor the oft-quoted “State of the American Workplace Report” by Gallup, which suggests that only about 30% of American workers are truly “engaged” in their jobs, leaving 70% or so in one level or another of disengagement.

Without doing too much ballet on the head of a pin, let’s make a distinction, an important one. My strong belief, after a couple decades of effort in this arena, is that by and large, people don’t hate their work at all. In fact, most of us rather like our work. Some of us even love it. What we dislike, and what we have difficulty ‘engaging’ with is our jobs, that broader context within which our work resides, and does or does not get done. The “job” encompasses a lot more than the task(s) that we get paid to do. It includes the terms of the deal, the people we interact with and answer to, the support that we get (or lack), the culture that permeates and defines the workspace, et. al.

Indeed, satisfaction and engagement surveys, which our firm has done for longer than I care to admit, suggest that quite often the greatest source of disengagement stems from people and processes that keep us from doing our very best work. In other words, that utterly stupid purchasing policy, or clueless manager who frustrate, rather than enable our best effort are among the primary culprits causing us to disengage. If we didn’t like our work, or want to go home at the end of each day feeling that we made progress, that stuff wouldn’t bother us. But we do, and people and things that block our work progress do more than cause disengagement – they make us crazy! Following are three things that most leaders can do (or refrain from doing) to improve employee engagement levels:

1. Become More Intentional and Selective in Hiring: By most measures, the burner underneath hiring in this country has been turned from “Off” to “Low”, and recently to “Medium” heat. In parts of the energy and tech landscape, it remains on “High.” Ergo, it’s more important than ever that, beginning right now, we use methods and processes that yield more talented, more compatible people. Put plainly but crudely, our staffers (particularly the better ones) don’t want to work with turkeys. Few things are more disengaging than working alongside people who can’t do the work, choose not to, or just plain don’t fit in.

So, as we go about the process of adding staff, it is imperative that we find people who have a penchant for doing terrific work, and whom others want to work with. If they don’t fit the culture, do NOT hire them, regardless of how talented they may be. And, it is also important that we move more quickly to identify and de-select those folks, including managers, who fail to measure up. Doing otherwise is unkind and a disservice to all involved.

2. Get Serious About Learning and Development: Every dentist office is equipped with a sign that says something to the effect of: “Do I have to brush and floss my teeth? Only the ones you want to keep.” The same thing could be said for training and developing our workforce. Engagement surveys consistently tell us that one of THE most important engagement drivers is the opportunity to learn, grow, and yes, build your resume. Yet, owing perhaps to a formerly soft job market, the response from most quarters has been a big, collective yawn.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the realm of so called “soft skills” training, especially leadership development, which for too long now has been a DIY proposition. And it shows. We are now seeing people move into every level of management, including the C-suite, without the benefit of even a shred of training. Consistent with the recent shared ownership of the healthcare equation in the U.S., we would do well to engage our staff members in earnest discussion about their professional development, and work with them toward a more jointly owned development process that is uniquely tailored to them. Beyond getting a more engaged workforce, we’ll also benefit from much better execution.

3. Don’t Fool* With the Gravy: Legend has it that not long after he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain to Heublein Inc., Col. Harland Sanders began taking issue with some of the changes imposed by the firm’s new owners. Upon reaching a point of exasperation, the Colonel invited himself to a Heublein management meeting. When asked the purpose of his visit, he allowed that, for the $285 million purchase price, the new owners probably had the right to exercise bad judgment in changing store layouts and the menu, but, he nonetheless had five words of advice for them… “Don’t fool* with the gravy.” (*Legend also has it that the Colonel’s choice of verbiage was, like his chicken, a little spicier than mine.)

The lesson for us is that, as we continue to innovate, streamline, and economize, we must be mindful not to callously ignore the hard earned knowledge and opinions of those who are, and have been doing the work and who might, just might be able to prevent us from making big, expensive mistakes. Doing a better job on the listening front isn’t just a tool for avoiding mistakes though. Anyone with as few as five gray hairs in their head can affirm that one of the quickest ways to disenfranchise a workforce is to ignore (disrespect) them.

Better listening is a product of hard work as well as technique. A tip given to me not long ago is to try to “read” the words as they come off of someone’s lips. It’s akin perhaps to the advantage that great baseball hitters get by seeing the ball come out of the  pitcher’s hand and then tracking it all the way to the plate. Try it, I think you’ll like it.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.


Episode 3: It’s Vacation Time. Take Yours!


Episode 3: It’s Vacation Time. Take Yours!

1 Comment 02 April 2014

Earlier episodes:

Episode 1: What’s this thing called Employee Engagement?

Episode 2: Discretionary Effort Defined

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Bad Apples

No Comments 03 March 2014

bad-apple-smallRecently, in preparation for a long, 1200-mile road trip (nasty winter weather coupled with living in a high airfare market causes one to do things like that), I shopped for juice, fruit, and bottled water to take along as car snacks. While picking through the bin of Honeycrisp apples, I couldn’t help but notice that commingled with my objets du desir were some Red Delicious and McIntosh apples, together with bruised and indeed rotting Honeycrisps. Not wanting to spend time sorting the grocer’s fruit, I grabbed two Honeycrisps and moved on, rather than searching for more.

Not unlike my experience in the market, our customers come into contact every day with the efforts (or lack thereof) of mis-sorted, burned out, and mistakenly hired workers. As leaders, the quicker we can identify and deal with those situations, the better it is for all concerned.

We’ve all heard the saying that, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.”  There’s actually underlying truth to that statement. An apple that has been dropped or otherwise damaged gives off ethylene gas, which poses a risk to nearby fruit, thus reducing its desirable properties and shelf life. They may not give off prodigious quantities of ethylene gas, but workers who, by virtue of pace, preference, or behavior don’t fit the organization are equally toxic, and need to be removed. To those who might think that sounds rather cold and callous, I would submit that it is considerably more inconsiderate to ignore such a situation, and perpetuate the damage over a longer period. Indeed, the damage that accretes to that person’s coworkers, not to mention customers and your reputation as a leader are incalculable.

Sometime this week, I would encourage you to ask yourself the following questions, and then act upon the outcome.

  1. Who are my three best people?
  2. Why do each of them stay with me, and with this organization?
  3. Conversely, do I have anyone who clearly doesn’t belong here?

Hopefully, each of these questions will result in a meaningful conversation with the affected employees. In one case you’ll be asking how we can do more of what keeps the person here, and what impediments to their progress might be removed from their path. In the other, you’ll be admitting a problem that each of you knows about, and resolving to correct it before another week passes.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows



by Richard, Leadership

Customer Indifference is a Real Biz Kill

No Comments 27 February 2014

self absorbedWhat’s more toxic than incompetence? Deadlier than old technology? More surely fatal than being slow to market? It’s the remarkable indifference to customers that we all still see from some service providers, those who were nodding off during the part where the rest of us learned that that just won’t cut it anymore. Remember Eastern Airlines, anybody? In a few years, we’ll be asking the same question about K-Mart. And AOL.

For several years, our company relied on a spam filtering service now provided by Excel Micro. We didn’t choose them; we ended up there after they acquired the little startup provider we selected years before, a company that had a really effective anti-spam system, and responsive customer service. Everything was rocking along fine until earlier this week, while flying back to the US from Canada, I began getting notifications via my personal email that my regular (company) email was bouncing everything back. Because, with this system, all mail goes first through the anti-spam system, Excel Micro was my first suspect. When I tried to log in to the spam portal, I got kicked out – invalid password. No way.

The call to tech support went like this: 20 minutes on hold. Young guy who neither knew nor seemed to care why my email was broken. Finally determined that it was time to pay the annual subscription, but my credit card had a new expiration date, so it wouldn’t go through. Their solution? Suspend the account. They never got in touch with me, despite the fact that this is my email company, and they had my email address! Just cut off my email oxygen. That’s all. They figured I’d call them and fix things. I fixed things alright. The billing department apparently keeps bankers’ hours, so “there’s nothing we can do until morning.” Wrong again. There’s almost always something the customer can do. In this case, I went online, asked a few friends what they used for spam, found something I liked, and installed a 10-day free trial. It seems to be working beautifully.

This morning I called the billing department at Excel Micro to let them know they’d been fired as our service provider. Again, I was smacked to the ground with a wall of indifference, the likes of which we rarely see these days. After talking with several people, I couldn’t find even one who cared one hoot about either my email problem, or their customer retention problem. It was as though I had called to report a change of address.

I’ve never had any correspondence with Joseph Vaccone, Excel Micro’s CEO and Founder, so I don’t know how he feels about customers. But I do know that in most cases, indifference is modeled from the top.

The competitive landscape in your business, just like Joe’s, is probably too unforgiving to survive indifference to customers. There are just too many good service providers out there, hungry enough for a share of your business, that they’ll go to great lengths to astound their customers with great service.

When I can go online at Amazon.com, and click a button, and someone from Amazon calls me, in 2 seconds, then replaces my broken Kindle by next-day air; and when the Delta flight attendant takes the time to place a personalized, handwritten welcome note in my seat before I arrive, the response from the spam company (what’s their name, again?) stands out as particularly old school and unsustainable.

It’s not about your products, your services, your prices, or your catchy ad campaigns. It’s about people. The people who work for your customers. Are you, as a leader, at whatever level, setting an astounding standard to knock your customers’ socks off every day? Are you providing them with the means, the tools, the wherewithal, to do it? Do they know it’s important to you? Are you rewarding them when they succeed? And coaching them when they fail?

Or – are the people in your organization just going through the motions, like those I encountered at Excel Micro, with a remarkable indifference to the very people who enable the organization to exist?

Suggestion: find out. But not the way Eastern Airlines did.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Management

When Recruiting, Consider the Size of a Person’s Motor

No Comments 21 November 2013

streetcar-desireIn the earliest days of FedEx (or Federal Express as it was then known), I had two duties as an HR manager that occupied the lion’s share of my time… (1) Finding copious quantities of people (the right people) sufficient to maintain a near vertical growth curve, and (2) trying to get them paid before their patience with our little merry band wore out.

     Second things first. Due to a dearth of cash, and a relatively unsophisticated infrastructure (all the money was going to support revenue systems), new workers often went four or five weeks before seeing their first paychecks. It was neither deliberate nor funny, but at the time we joked about this being the FedEx version of a new hire probationary policy. If you made it thru the first month or so, we would finally get around to paying you.

     More to the point of this post, the first (and larger) focus of my attention involved seeing to it that my staff and I successfully recruited several dozen (or more) new teammates every week. Most were hired for Cargo Handler (package schlepper) or Courier (pickup and delivery) positions that were (and still are) the very heart of the company.

     After watching this process play out with hundreds of thousands of applicants and tens of thousands of new hires, I was left with some clear and distinct impressions. None of them were novel, or even new, but they were powerful. The most powerful by far was the absolute connection between a person’s desire to do the work and their ultimate success. Thinking back over that ten-year period, I can recall case after case where a nominally qualified applicant became an unqualified success with us due chiefly to their desire, the size of their heart. Yes, they were ‘qualified’ in the traditional sense, but desire was the super-qualifier.

     My reason for bringing it up now is this: Modern resume templates and recruiting software have no ability to express or detect desire, or measure the size of someone’s motor. Moreover, recruiters (and by extension their software) are primarily disposed toward ruling applicants in the initial search stages out of consideration based on an absence of linkage with select key words and phrases that are used as absolute search criteria. Hence, too often, the DNA of desire is left out of the picture.

     Don’t get me wrong. I am not (repeat, not) anti technology. In fact, I tend to be an early adopter. That said, every time I experience bland, lethargic, or indifferent service, which is pretty often, I wonder if the deliverer of that service didn’t have the heart to be there in the first place, or perhaps an uncaring management has daily poured cold water on that flame.

     Some suggestions:

  1. Do not let your applicant tracking system or other recruiting software be the only means by which an applicant is rejected from consideration. Just as the gold miners on the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush series occasionally re-run the ‘tailings’ from their sort process, do the same with your resume intake.
  2. Get personally involved with applicants earlier in the process. Yes, I know this puts extra demand on your time, but it is worth it. One way of accomplishing this is by doing group screening interviews, or inserting a telephone screening earlier in the process. Spread that extra effort by involving managers and those who aspire to leadership roles to a greater degree in the process
  3. Stop the ridiculous policy of rejecting as unqualified or unworthy those who are out of work. Contrary to popular belief in some recruiter circles, there is still a lot of talent and desire practically begging to get in the game.
  4. Take some chances with people who are minimally qualified, but evidence a clear penchant for learning, and a warrior spirit. I’ll bet you dinner that more often than not, they will work out.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Management

Discretionary Effort Is a Big, Dot Deal

1 Comment 29 August 2013

Since commencing research on what ultimately became our first book, I have taken a rather steely-eyed approach to the subject of employee relations. A data-driven sort, I suspect that, had that research not produced clear linkage between worker attitudes and corporate performance, I would have found something very different to do for a living. But it did, and thus work at the intersection of people and profit has been the main event around here for better than fifteen years.

With each passing month, set of quarterly earnings reports, and new worker engagement survey, there is further evidence that the nexus between people and profit is a big, dot deal. Witness Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report which suggests that lost productivity due to worker disengagement now costs U.S. employers in the neighborhood of $500 billion annually, or roughly 3.3% of our $15 trillion national economy.

Let’s just say for grins and giggles that Gallup’s math is somehow off by one-third on the high side (I doubt it), and that only half of the remaining productivity loss could effectively be captured through better management performance. That still leaves better than a 1% potential improvement in GDP on the table, and very much within our grasp. In relative terms, that would cover the entire defense-related portion of the recent eight year budget sequester, with enough left over to buy the U.S. Navy a couple of new Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The same principle holds true on an organizational level. For fifteen years we’ve documented, most recently in our 2012 book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk,  the outsized performance of employers of choice relative to their peers and market averages. As a case in point, the average annual total stock return for the twelve newly named “Contented Cow companies” during the period 2002 – 2011 was 10.7%, besting the broader market average by a whopping 9.7% annually, creating a wealth premium of approximately $70 billion annually. Nuff said?

In a recent presentation for University of Memphis School of Business students, I ventured that, over the next 20 years, discretionary effort, that extra morsel of effort that is applied exclusively at the will of the individual, will have greater effect on productivity and profits than the continued exploitation of technology. We’re not anti-technology mind you. In fact we tend to be fairly early adopters, but it seems unlikely that we’ll have another equivalent of the Internet invented every decade. Moreover, given that worker engagement levels are presently at sub-surface (whale poo) levels, let’s just say that there is a lot of low hanging fruit.

Here are a few steps wise managers and organizations are taking to improve worker engagement, and thus unlocking discretionary effort and better business performance:

1. Getting serious about personal development plans - For years (no, decades) most of us have paid lip service to creating and executing personal development plans with our staff. A funny thing happened as we began the climb out from the Great Recession. Workers at all levels began making it known in no uncertain terms that as long as they were going to have to provide their own job security, they expected more and better help in the learning and development department. Indeed, analysis of any legitimate engagement study reveals that learning and self-development are always among the top 3 engagement drivers. Aside from better developmental assignments, workers are looking for help with securing professional accreditation and KSA’s to make them more competitive for their next job (hint). As but one manifestation, overtaxed L&D organizations are turning with greater regularity to external coaches to  partner with high potential employees to help execute those plans. That is particularly the case with newly promoted organizational leaders (at all levels).

2. Reacting quicker to misfits and poor performers – Fans and even casual observers of Major League Baseball were witness to an unusual social drama this summer wherein two dozen or so players suspected of cheating via performance enhancing drugs were left twisting in the breeze for months as the league figured out what to do with them. In the interim, not just the involved players, but their teammates and fans grew highly agitated over the agonizingly slow pace of justice (about as slow as a Yankees vs. Red Sox game).

Taking a lesson from Major League Baseball perhaps, smart leaders recognize that being slow to move on people who either don’t fit or can’t / won’t perform is unkind to the person involved, and it poses a terrible drag on the morale and productivity of those around them. To be sure, really good leaders, the ones we call Leaders of Choice, are neither reckless nor callous about dealing with these matters, but once it is apparent that the situation is untenable, they act.

3. Getting better seed corn – Any good baker will tell you that great cakes start with great ingredients. That is as axiomatic in the workplace as the kitchen. If you want contented (read engaged), high yielding workers, it’s important to start with folks who have sufficient bandwidth, desire, and the capacity to be contented on your team. Over the course of the Great Recession and our climb out from its depths, many of us have not taken time to sharpen our sourcing and selection processes, to wit we could quickly be disadvantaged as hiring resumes (and it is).

Moreover, it has been so long since some of us were in a serious recruiting mode that we have missed much of a generational shift in the workspace. Consider, for example:

  • How mobile-friendly is your recruiting process (end to end)? For that matter, how candidate-friendly is it? (Remember, 138 characters + an RT can make a big difference.)
  • What have you done lately to establish, burnish, and take advantage of your employer brand? Are you regularly doing employee surveys to get feedback from the people who define that brand?
  • Do you have serious Millenial involvement in your recruitment process? Never mind involvement, let them run it.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows


Guest Post, Leadership

How to Gain the Leadership Experience Employers Want

No Comments 05 August 2013

Looking for LeadershipAlthough most of the posts on this blog are original, every now and then we like to feature articles we think would be helpful to you, our readers. We recently read one such article, and wanted to share it with you. It’s a great read on how younger professionals can gain the leadership experience so sought after by employers today.

Click here, and enjoy!



by Richard, Leadership, Think About It...

What Do You Think of Your Boss?

No Comments 30 July 2013

boss love hate

In January of this year, we conducted a survey to determine people’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings toward their bosses.

Those who subscribed to our free monthly “Fresh Milk” newsletter were invited to take the survey. That particular issue was received by about 3,700 subscribers, and 183 responded by participating in the survey, over a two-week period.

It wasn’t a scientifically conducted survey, but we think the results ARE useful, and instructive.

We’ve prepared a white paper outlining, in detail, the results of the survey, along with our commentary and some recommendations. You can download the white paper for free, by clicking here.

If you want only a high-level synopsis, along with the commentary and recommendations, read on.

The first section of the survey posed this question: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your boss on each of the following attributes? 1= lousy, 10=terrific

  1. Providing relevant information when needed
  2. Integrity
  3. Listening
  4. Fairness
  5. Showing respect
  6. Expressing appreciation
  7. Fostering teamwork
  8. Maintaining high standards
  9. Inspiring us to do our best work
  10. Holding people accountable
  11. Recruiting great talent

The highest rating went to “Integrity”, followed by “Maintaining high standards” and “Showing respect”. Bringing up the rear were “Fostering teamwork”, “Recruiting great talent”, and (in dead last place) “Inspiring us to do our best work”.

Having observed this, let’s consider something about the concept of “integrity”. Having integrity is, in at least one regard, like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. As mathematicians would say, having a little bit of integrity is an “undefined state”. The word “integrity” comes from the Latin word for “whole”, and you simply can’t be partially whole. Still, we asked the question, and included integrity on the same scale as the other attributes. On that scale, a 7 or above was considered a “passing” grade. But under the notion that you either have integrity or you lack it, you’d have to earn a “10” to get any “integrity credit” at all. While 66.5% of respondents gave their boss a passing grade, only 26.25% were willing to give their boss a 10. That’s disheartening, to say the least.

Percentage of respondents who gave each item a score of 7 or more


Next, we asked which of the 11 attributes their boss needed to improve the most. The top vote-getter, at nearly 20%, was “Holding people accountable”, followed by “Providing relevant information when needed” and “Listening.”

We asked other questions, and learned that, by and large, our respondents’ bosses were willing to get their hands dirty, two-thirds were comfortable telling their boss what they thought, and nearly as many felt that their boss cared about them as a person.

Only about 42% felt their bosses had a clue about what they (the employees) have to do to get their jobs done, only 36% have bosses who do a good job telling them how they’re doing, and only about a third have bosses who do things to help them in their jobs.

We couldn’t help but notice that more of our respondents like their boss (65.6%) than respect them (56.3%) or trust them (46.9%).

And when it comes to personality traits, our respondents’ bosses were more kind than heartless, and more cheerful than grouchy. Less than half (47.8%) are interested in their followers’ success, but 54.2% of the bosses are interested in their followers as people. 38.6% said their bosses demonstrated consistently good leadership; 64.1% rated their bosses as “competent”.

The last two questions in the survey were open-ended ones: What one thing would you change about your boss, if you could? And what positive quality about your boss do you appreciate most? The following “word clouds” depict the themes in the answers to these questions, with the most prominently appearing words commanding the most attention in the graphics.


What ONE thing would you change about your boss, if you could?















What ONE positive quality does your boss have that you appreciate most?











If we were to extrapolate the results of this survey to the workplace at large, then we could conclude the following:

* Overall, bosses treat their followers with a reasonable degree of respect, and conduct themselves with integrity, although their followers are hesitant to say they fully trust their bosses. Bosses tend to hold people to high standards, and are reasonably fair in their dealings with those on their teams.

* Employees notice and appreciate when their bosses notice and appreciate their work, especially when they express that appreciation. They also appreciate being left alone to do their work (autonomy), having their ideas considered seriously, and a boss with an open-door policy.

* Their followers would like some – but not all – bosses to spend a little more time with them. This should be meaningful time, though, and not time spent micromanaging them or their work. In fact, based on some of the survey results, we’d suggest that managers could spend more time learning how they can be of help to those on their teams, and then helping them do their jobs better.

* Overall, bosses know how to behave and conduct themselves around others, but some of the subject bosses sound like royal jerks. A few of the responses to our open-ended questions contained words that even we don’t want to publish here (or in the white paper), and the one or two anatomical references in those comments will be allowed to remain in the realm of your imagination.

* One of the most serious indictments of the subject bosses is that they fail to inspire people to do their best work. We’ve written and spoken extensively on the topic of Discretionary Effort – that extra increment of effort that people give to the job because they want to, not because they have to. It’s become clear to us that you can’t beat Discretionary Effort out of people. And you can’t buy it from people. You can only inspire it. If you, as a leader, aren’t getting enough Discretionary Effort from your followers, the first place to look for a solution may be at how well you inspire people to do their best work.

* Many bosses could do a much better job of holding people accountable, of listening, and of providing relevant information when needed.

* At Contented Cow Partners, we’ve long maintained that one of the most essential elements of any manager’s job is hiring the right people to serve on the team. In this respect, the bosses who were the subject of this survey fared particularly poorly. If that is indeed the case, these managers could make their jobs, and those of their current followers infinitely easier by constantly recruiting and then hiring top talent.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.


Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.


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