Archive for December, 2006

Costco Staff and the Effects of Punitive Feedback

Posted on December 28, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

My husband and I were in Costco last night stocking up on snacks and supplies. As we were standing in the checkout line, our checker said to his co-worker “So, you got called into the office huh? How bad was it?” The man who had been “invited” into the office didn’t say anything, but the checker wouldn’t leave him alone about the visit. The checker kept saying things like: “They never call us in when it’s good news.” “Any time someone gets called into the office, you know it’s gonna be bad.” “It’s like they don’t even notice the good stuff we do.”

As though this conversation among staff wasn’t enough, the customers in line became part of the conversation. The woman in line in front of me related her own tales: “When I worked as a waitress, getting called into the office was the worst. You knew you were in trouble when that happened.” The conversation just kept going.

To the credit of the man who had visited the office, he never said a word about what had taken place. He just did his job and let the others talk.

So what’s the point with this blog entry? The point is this: employees in too many businesses rarely hear any praise for what they do well each and every shift. Instead, their interactions with the office are usually of the punitive variety. No wonder “management” is seen as the big green evil monster!

I know most managers are busy–too busy to do all their own work and too concerned with getting called into their own boss’s office. So the thought of adding “compliment” sessions to their already over loaded days is something most managers simply will not stomach.

But consider this: people work hard for managers they respect. How can managers earn the respect of their staff? By acknowledging their efforts, noticing when they go out of their way to get the job done, and interacting with them in positive, consistent ways. When managers understand the benefits of this sort of management style, they reap the benefits in that when they DO have to discipline someone that discipline is more often received as a growth opportunity as opposed to a spanking.

If you need some tips on how to give positive feedback to your staff click on the Articles link and read “Feedback: Good and Bad News.” Then send me your thoughts and questions about how to make positive feedback a part of your management strategy.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of receiving only punitive feedback, I’d like to hear how that affected your work and your work environment. Send me some comments!

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A Very Merry Christmas

Posted on December 25, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Unofficial Musings |

I hope you’ve had a very Merry Christmas! Mine was lovely–time with family and time out in the snow.

My husband and I went snow shoeing today to enjoy some of the winter loveliness that graces us in the Sierra Mountains. We took a trail just on the west side of the Donner Summit and across the highway from Boreal ski resort. The day was beautiful, but the winds were exceptionally high. Our intent was to make it to Andesite Peak, but we didn’t go that far. At one point, the wind literally spun me nearly off my feet!

I was standing with my left foot and snow shoe planted in the snow on a path that followed a curve to the right. When I picked up my right foot to move forward a step, the wind caught me and spun me to the left. Had my left snow shoe not had a good grip on the snow, I would have fallen down a small hill to my left. Wow! That was some gust!

We’re looking forward to more snow shoe adventures this week as we enjoy the rest of our holiday. Enjoy yours, and have a safe and lovely New Year!

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In the Spirit of Christmas?

Posted on December 22, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Unofficial Musings |

I heard a news story on our local all-news radio station yesterday about a book that promised “insights” into the effects of gift giving. The subject of the story was book whose author describes how giving gifts benefits the givers. In this supposedly research-based book, the author “discovered” that people who gave gifts … and here’s the key … without expecting anything in return receive great benefit from the act of giving. Duh.

Okay, what are most people after? Quick ways to improve their lives. This author is a slick marketer–either that or he’s paying a slick marketer. What better way to sell a book than to promise great returns to the readers in terms of getting something they want. And what better timing than at Christmas–the season of giving.

The commercialism of Christmas offends me. Sure, I like getting gifts. And I like giving gifts, too. But when the focus is on giving in order to get, well that’s just wrong.

Okay, back to the book. What really bugs me about it is that the author is supposedly telling us something we didn’t already know. And he’s saying his book is based on research, which is a major selling point for many readers. It’s this kind of publicity–air time on the radio and probably some television stations–that sends books to the bestsellers lists without the book having any right to be there. I’m thinking of another book I read some time back that was a total waste of time: Blink. That book got so much hype in the media; so people like me bought the book because it promised such insightful information. Ugh. It was a total waste of my time. I shared it with a colleague of mine, and he had the same opinion.

So, is it just me? What books have you gotten sucked into because of the hype and then discovered the book was a total waste of your time?

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Yesterday WAS a Great Day!

Posted on December 21, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

I told you about my brother-in-law yesterday–he wakes up each morning and says “Today is going to be a great day!” Yesterday, I started my day with the same words. And guess what? It WAS a great day! I was energized, productive, and smiling all day long. And I really had a great day!

Guess what I said this morning when I got up? Yup, those same words. Because I enjoyed yesterday so much, I want today to be another great day. Of course, I’m not treating this phrase as a talisman to ward off negative circumstances in my life. But I am making a decision about how I plan to have my day turn out.

Think about this in terms of working with staff and customers. If we decide each day that this day will be great, would it be easier to cope with the irritants that crop up during the day? If we decide each day will be great, unpleasant people have less influence on how we respond throughout the day.

As managers and leaders in our companies, we must set the example for those we lead. And if choosing to make each day great helps us manage ourselves better in our conduct with those around us, we can’t help but improve our impact in the workplace.

I’m choosing to have another great day. How about you?

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Choosing the Right Attitude

Posted on December 20, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

“It’s going to be a great day!” My brother-in-law starts each day with these words. Why? Because he’s learned the power of choosing his attitude.

Circumstances happen during our day and events occur that have the ability to change our view of how the day is going. For instance, consider a rather ho-hum day at work. You might be plodding through your tasks with no particular joy or energy; you’re just getting through them. And then something good happens–perhaps you receive a compliment from someone you trust and respect. Perhaps you get good news about something in your personal life. After that, do you perk up? Does your attitude get a little sunnier?

This attitude shift occurred because of your reaction to some external event. However, if we say it takes an external event such as an unexpected compliment or some good news to give us that sunny attitude, then we are saying we are controlled by those external forces. In truth, we choose to respond differently as a result of that external action or event. And if we can choose a positive response in those situations, why can’t we choose a positive response in other situations?

We can. And my brother-in-law does. By starting each day with a positive commitment to the day being great, he is choosing how he will respond to the situations he encounters during the day. Each of us has the ability to do that. Just as each of us has the ability to choose to respond negatively to the events that occur during our day.

This morning before getting out of bed I said out loud, “It’s going to be a great day.” And it is. No matter what happens, today will be great–because I have the ability to choose my attitude in response to the events that are going to occur today. And since I’ve chosen to have a good attitude, most likely the people I encounter will experience someone who is a tad more pleasant than she was yesterday. And hopefully I’ll be able to handle the situations I encounter with a better attitude–regardless of what they are. I’ll let you know!

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Seriously tacky business: using email to deliver bad news

Posted on December 16, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

A friend of mine has entered the job search and is doing extremely well in representing herself to companies. One company invited her to interview and even had her back for a second interview.

My friend has followed up–appropriately–with thank-you notes after each interview. Her communication with the prospective employer has been via phone and in-person contacts. She’s been a bit anxious while waiting to hear the results of her interviews.

Can you believe the company sent her an EMAIL telling her they’d hired someone else? That is seriously tacky.

I know email is the trend in business communication these days. I often use it myself to communicate with my clients and prospective clients. However, when it comes to delivering bad news—using email to do it is just down right tacky.

In my book, 5 Critical Communication Vehicles, I explain at length why I think email is over used and over rated. In a nutshell, email is the cheap-and-easy alternative. It is NOT the best alternative.

This company could have made a much better impression on my friend had they given her the courtesy of a phone call … or even a politely written letter. As I said to my friend, if they deliver that kind of news in an email she wouldn’t have wanted to work for them anyway. They don’t understand the importance of the relationship to the success of their business. Ugh.

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Very unique, and other misuses of the English Language

Posted on December 13, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

I was listening to Joe Hart on Reno’s KRNV News 4 last night and heard him say, “One donor had a very unique way of delivering turkeys.” Okay, to me hearing things like “very unique” causes the same reaction as others get when they hear finger nails on a chalk board. Yup, wow!

Now, I know Joe is reading what the show’s producers have written for him and placed on the prompter. I know this because I’ve been in the television studio as a guest on one of the news programs. I know the pace at which news is being delivered to the newscasters and that they don’t have time to course-correct when they see wording like this on the prompter. But here’s the problem: people in the viewing audience assume the problem is Joe’s since he’s the one delivering the news and is the news expert.

So, because of a producer’s error Joe’s credibility is damaged–and his skills are seen as less than expert.

Joe isn’t the only one in the media who falls into this trap. I’m amazed at the number of locally produced commercials that contain all sorts of grammatical problems. For instance, how many times do you hear “I” used in place of “me”? Wow! All the time in local productions. (If you need some help understanding just what problem I’m referring to, click on the Articles link and read my article “Me, Myself, and I.”)

As a manager or leader, the team you want to lead is watching your every move. Scary, isn’t it? But it’s true. And there are members of your team who know how language is supposed to be used and will catch these sorts of faux pas. When you make a language usage mistake and they catch it, they might not tell you they caught it; but your credibility will decrease in their eyes. And it’s very difficult to lead a team when the team doesn’t believe you are qualified as a leader.

Am I over the top here in terms of emphasizing the consequences of using the language incorrectly? Some of you will say yes. Others of you–who understand how language is used and can catch inconsistencies–will agree with me whole heartedly. And for people like you, it’s just down right fun to catch mistakes on the radio and TV!

In case you don’t know the problem with using the phrase “very unique,” here’s a quick lesson: “Unique” means one of a kind, no other like it. When someone puts the adjective “very” (meaning “absolute or complete”) in front of unique, they are in essence saying something is “completely one of a kind, absolutely no other like it.” If something is one of a kind and has no equal, how can it be even more that? Impossible! This is called redundant writing–and is just plain wrong.

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Job Benchmarking: why you should do it

Posted on December 12, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development, Staff selection |

Companies spend lots of money when looking for the right talent to fill an open position. Considering the costs of: a) time spent deciding that a position needs to be filled, b) time spent composing the right advertisement to find potential candidates, c) money spent advertising the open position, d) time spent reviewing resumes, e) time spent interviewing potential candidates, f) money spent hiring the candidate, g) money and time spent orienting and then training the individual–companies can spend thousands of dollars on this process. And for what? Often to find out the person they hired isn’t a right fit for the job after all. And then the process starts over again.

Add to the thousands of dollars in investment the frustration that occurs throughout the organization when this scenario happens more than once, and you’ve got a situation that needs changing! Job benchmarking–the process through which the actual activities, behaviors, and attitudes required for the job are identified–helps cut down on the time, money, and frustration the typical job search costs. Benchmarking the jobs in your organization help you not only know what to look for in new talent, it also helps you make sure you have the right person in each position within your company.

Why is this important? Because it costs so much more to hire new talent than it does to move talent within your organization to more suitable positions. It may be that a “problem” employee isn’t really a problem at all when that employee is put into a job that is more suited to their behaviors and attitudes!

Clients who work with me to benchmark their positions experience greater satisfaction with the candidates they bring in to fill those positions. But don’t take it from me; listen to what a client has to say:

“The benchmarking process helped us figure out the values and behaviors we needed in the job. The interview questions generated by the benchmark helped us ask each candidate the same questions to make the playing field level. We used the assessments to choose the candidate that was best qualified for our environment and the demands of the job. Benchmarking this position was a worthwhile process, and it strengthened our selection criteria.” Rhea Gustafson, President, Pro-Dex Astromec, Carson City, Nevada.

When I work with you to benchmark your jobs, I gather information from the stakeholders in your company–those people who have experience with the job and who have a vested interest in making sure the position is filled with just the right person. After identifying the specific activities, behaviors, and attitudes required by the job, the stakeholders complete a brief, proven, research-based assessment to compile the specifics needed in the job.

We use the results of the assessment to then:
-write the job advertisement
-review potential candidates
-interview the candidates
-verify that candidates’ talents are suited to the job

The result: clearer picture of the requirements of the job, more accurate job advertisements, better qualified candidates, more suitable hires, and … reduced costs associated with the hiring process.

Job benchmarking is critical to the success of any business. To find out more about how to employ this process for your company, give me a call at (775)544-8479. I’ll show you samples of benchmarking reports and help you decide whether benchmarking will benefit your company.

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How can I find the job that’s right for me?

Posted on December 8, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Staff selection |

Or … “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” Are you thinking it’s time for a change in your career? Are you wondering whether the job you have is really the job you want? A client of mine, Kelley, is making changes in her career. She’s known for some time that a move was on the horizon, but now that she’s taken the first step in making that move–leaving her most recent job–she wants to be certain she finds a glove-like fit in her next one. Here’s Kelley in her own words:

“I knew I was good with people, but what I did not know is the relationships I form drive me. I also found out that I like rules, guidance, and performance reviews. In my last position, I did not have any of those. It made perfect sense why I was feeling so much discord in that company.

“The career assessment we did together helps me when I go on interviews: I can show my prospective employer–in black and white–why I’m a good fit for their organization. I would recommend this service to anyone who feels like they are lacking guidance in what direction they should take in their career. I’m going to step out of my comfort zone (what I know) and into a different comfort zone (what I need). Tracy, the tools you have given me will improve my future career choices and ultimately my happiness. Your assessment is going to change the course of my life.”

Those are lofty words and ones that warm my heart. In my experience, being in the wrong job is one of the most exhausting things a person can do. Every day is a struggle; each task is a mountain. But when we work from our passion, the job becomes play and we are filled with energy.

As a Certified Professional Behavioral and Values Analyst, my job–the one that energizes and fills me with energy–is helping people like Kelley discover their passion. Once we know our passion, it’s much easier to make career choices that fit that passion. If you’ve been thinking about making a change in your career and want to find out more about the assessment tools I use, please send me an email at

In my next blog, you’ll learn how assessment tools can also be used to help motivate and grow your staff. You see, one doesn’t always have to change jobs to find career satisfaction. Sometimes it’s just changing how we see the job …

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A Laser-like Focus: the best way to keep procrastination at bay

Posted on December 7, 2006. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

I’m relearning something I’ve known but have to be reminded of: when I procrastinate it means I’ve lost my focus. When I lose my focus, I become distracted by all the little things. The little things take on an importance they don’t deserve and draw my attention away from the things that truly are important.

What causes that loss of focus that results in procrastination? It’s different for each of us. Just two of my triggers are:

  • Fear of my ability to be successful with a project.
  • Perfectionism (closely tied to the first trigger)–you have no way of knowing how many blogs have been in my head but never made it to this site because I wanted them to be perfect!

Struggling with these two triggers causes other things in my life to be distractions, thereby causing me to lose my focus. The result of that is procrastination. A sure sign that I’m dealing with a trigger is irritation at my office space arrangement. If I’m feeling stressed by the work I need to get done but am unable to focus on it, my office really starts to bug me! I’ll start rearranging files, straightening the book shelves, and shopping for organization systems. And when I run out of things to do in my office, I start looking for other areas to put order to–like the trunk of my car!

So is this loss of focus a problem? You bet. Imagine you work for a manager who loses focus on your projects when you need that manager’s help the most. The manager may end up missing your deadlines, giving you additional projects rather than allowing you to finish your current tasks, and procrastinating with items or information you need.

What if you are that manager? The first step to dealing with this situation is to recognize that you are procrastinating. The second step is to ask yourself why. What is it about the project or person that is causing you to lose your focus? Once you recognize the cause, you can begin creating a plan to overcome the cause. Caution! Creating a plan to overcome the cause can become a procrastination device!

I’ve read two excellent books recently that have helped me regain my focus in this particular area. The author is Patrick Lencioni and the books are The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you choose to read these books as part of your holiday gift to yourself, start with The Four Obsessions. Doing so will help prepare you for implementing the ideas in The Five Dysfunctions.

What are you reading that’s helping you stay focused?

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