You Hired Them – Now Keep Them


One of the major complaints my clients discuss with me is their ability to attract and keep their talented people. They go through the trouble and expense of advertising, hiring, training and developing their employees only to have them leave within a short time frame. Couple that with the fact that the unemployment rate is the lowest in 16 years and organizations find themselve scrambling to find qualified help when someone leaves.


They blame Millennials lack of loyalty for the turnover, when in fact there are a number of things an organization can do to engage a new employee. Here are a few options, some taken from Fortune’s great places to work,  to help a person feel a part of the organization from day one.

  1. Prior to them starting the first day, have the department head contact them and welcome them. Send them directions regarding where to go and have someone there to meet them day one to help them get acclimated.
  2. Orientation – In addition to the necessary paperwork, use it as a time to introduce your new employees to the vision, mission and values of your organization. RW Baird uses this time to share the values of Baird, then gives new employees ethical dilemmas to work through using the values of the organization. This starts integrating the values into their thinking and problem-solving processes from the very start.
  3. Introductions: Take time to introduce the new employee to others with whom they will interact. Some of the great places to work have an organizational chart with pictures on it to help acclimate the new employee.
  4. Mentor: New employees will be helped with assigning them a mentor. In addition, a boomer will be an excellent person as they understand how things worked prior to technology and it will be a good way to harvest some of their knowledge before they retire.
  5. Business Cards: Nothing is more frustrating than not having business cards for weeks after starting a job. Giving the new employee cards on day one is another way to communicate you are part of the team.
  6. Follow-up Communication: After orientation at Doctor’s Hospital of Sarasota in Florida where HR tells them, “Congratulations, you made it. We are very picky who we bring into our team, there are follow-up meetings at a month to answer any questions and again a few weeks later.


The first 90 days an employee works for you are critical in determining whether they will become engaged or start looking for their next opportunity. Help them understand the noble purpose of their work and how they are making a difference and offer regular feedback. This will give you a better chance of keeping them on and creating a loyal employee.


Relationship Breakdown 101


What causes a relationship to fall apart at work or at home? It normally does not happen overnight and it is probably not one thing that starts the collapse. Things normally start to break down little by little if people choose not to talk about issues as they arise. There may be a number of misperceptions which occur and it starts to chip away at the foundation. The key is understanding is to ask why the statement or behavior took place and to clarify the underlying cause. All too often it is misperceived and problems arise if no one chooses to clarify their perception of what a person meant.


The shift in a relationship occurs when we perceive something that took place and it influences the way in which we think about the event, or the person. Those thoughts form our attitudes which come out through our behaviors. All too often one of the people might even ask if there is a problem and the response is, “No, I’m fine,” when in fact they are not. Why are people so uncomfortable to talk about their feelings? The reason people do not want to clarify their feelings is they do not feel safe to do so. Either their prior experience has caused them to be leery or they do not trust the person with whom they would have to interact. For whatever reason, they do not choose to inquire and things start to break down. In order to stop the breakdown you have to be willing to learn how to find your voice and ask clarifying questions.


The key is to start small and find situations of little consequence with which to respond.

  1. Think through what you want to say. Try to understand if something else within you is fueling the feelings you are having, such as interactions with someone similar or in your past. Once you determine that you are willing to confront the situation, think of exactly what you want to say.
  2. Approach: As important as the words are your approach such as the tone of voice and what your body language is saying. Our emotions often come out in our tone as most people do not like to confront issues. At tone, someone will determine if you are for or against them.
  3. Expectations: Go in with no expectations. Especially if the behavior has gone on for an extended period of time. If you go in expecting an apology you may be disappointed if you do not get it. Make your expectation the fact that you are standing up for yourself.
  4. Be honest: Discuss your feelings about the current situation and do not bring up past issues unless it comes up through the conversation
  5. Clarify outcomes: Let the person know what you would like to have happen.


Depending on the outcome, determine your next steps. If the person says they apologize and their future behavior changes, make sure you reinforce it and recognize their behavior change. If it does not, you need to choose whether you want to stay in the relationship. Learn what you can about yourself from the interaction and move on.

Leadership Lessons from Football


Volunteering for the Champion Academy – Extreme Mentoring and Empowering Initiative, a groundbreaking Solution for Rochester’s Teem Crisis, has brought light to what it takes to become a leader. Roland Williams, an NFL Super Bowl Champion and founder of the academy, has returned to Rochester to help with the plight of young, economically disadvantaged youth who are faced with the relentless influences of drugs, and poverty. After a two-week boot camp to kick off the program, Roland travels from his home in California monthly to mentor these students into leaders. His results are nothing less than miraculous with 98% improved attitudes toward risky behavior and 95% have improved their attitude towards developing healthy relationships with others. Even more impressive is the fact that 82% of students have improved their GPAs from previous years, with 41 members receiving a 3.0 GPA and 10 members achieving a 4.0 GPA for the first time in their lives! So how does this relate to organizations and developing leadership behaviors at all levels of an organization?


Vision: First, there needs to be vision, that all understand and to which they can relate. At Champion Academy, the vision is to change your life, and that vision is constantly reinforced. Too often organizations have a vision, but it is somewhere in a drawer. Last week, a stated they could not find their vision and mission because they cannot find the chart paper where it was written when the leadership developed it! That is not a vision, as a true vision needs to be clearly known, reinforced and communicated on a regular basis. Is your organization’s vision and mission clearly stated and do your people understand their roles?


Goals: Champion Academy focuses on specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely outcomes of student performance. These include school attendance, improved attitude, community service, enhanced relationships with authority figures, and improved health and fitness. All tools to lead to the vision of a better life. The scholastic goal for members of the Academy is a 4.0., and students have made dramatic progress in this area. Successes are recognized and rewarded as a student work towards and meets their goal. Are goals clear in your organization? Are your employees rewarded and recognized for their efforts to meet their goals, or do they just receive negative feedback?


Support: Students at Champion Academy receive around the clock support through Facebook as well as backing through mentors and tutors. Champion Academy also offers resources to help students address current challenges which may interfere with their ability to reach their goals. In the workplace, too often supervisors are so focused on the bottom line or numbers, they forget to give their employees the support they need for long-term success. By taking time to develop a relationship with employees, supervisors will be better suited to help them succeed and in turn meet the goals of the organization.


Accountability: Students at Champion Academy are held accountable for adherence to program principles. Not only during group meet-ups, but also throughout the school year with Accountability coaches who visit them in school and community locations. Workplaces often fail in this area and create a culture in which finger pointing replaces accountability.  Two-way communication and clear expectations are necessity to help individuals understand the desired behaviors, and leaders need to hold their people accountable for their goals.


Motivational Environment: Motivation is intrinsic and although you cannot motivate anyone, you can create an environment in which they choose to be motivated. Not only do Champion Academy students receive daily motivation during the school year with a motivational reminder of the actions and attitudes necessary to succeed, they receive ongoing encouragement to help them succeed. Is the environment in which your employees work motivational? During cultural assessments, most often employees report they do not receive ongoing support or recognition for doing good work. Is your workplace environment motivational?


Success is created when you take time to create and communicate the vision for the future, identify clear expectations, give support and hold people accountable. When people feel cared for and supported the sky is the limit and nothing is impossible. Take time to assess your current state, then put in place the tools to help your people succeed and you will all be winners!


Sell Yourself First


To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent a couple of days in Watkins Glenn, NY. One highlight of our trip was hiking the gorge at Watkins Glenn State Park where the serenity of our hike was jolted by a shocking carving in a wooden railing. It stated, “8 days to the wedding, Jack and Jill (not their real names), 1 year to the divorce. Although this may have been written in jest, do we ever create a self-fulfilling prophesy by the way we communicate either openly or inwardly? Do we then act in a manner that causes it to come true? And what does this have to do with opening a business?


A self-fulfilling prophecy is a statement or a forecast that alters our actions and creates the outcome that we have imagined. Too often people starting a business do not have the confidence in their skills to help them successfully ramp up their business. If one acts in a manner that brings about unsuccessful results, does the person learn from the experience, or tell themselves, “See I knew I could not do it?” Whatever we tell ourselves will influence our ability to succeed. As my mentor Alan Weiss says, “The first sale is to yourself.”


Secondly, you must believe you have something of value to offer. Everyone who starts a business has doubts …. Everyone. When I started my business, I was unsure if I had the knowledge to help an organization and yet I had just completed my Ph.D. in Communication and had 30 years of experience in a Fortune 500 company! An early coach, Suzanne Evans said, “To every third grader a fourth grader is a genius. Do you have something you can help organizations with?” I said yes and have not looked back since. That does not mean that I do not have times when I question a decision, it means that I know I have something of value to offer my clients. Know what you have to offer and share it in a concise manner. Do you believe you have something of value to offer?


Third, you need to have the strength to deal with the down times and there will be down times. Dealing with the inevitable ups and downs of starting a business is challenging, and a key is preparing for the challenges you will face. Understand when you start a business you will have times of prosperity and times where you wonder if the phone will ring. According to Peter Geisheker of the Geisheker Group Marketing Firm, “You have to go into life and business understanding that problems are a fact of life and you will face them every single day. Every day, you need to keep yourself positive and motivated and see problems as just a part of doing business and a part of life. It is the people who can stay positive and understand that problems are just the speed bumps of life who achieve and retain success.”


Fourth, understand that you will make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and to take responsibility for any error. A good way to minimize any fallout from a poor decision is to quickly be accountable and tell your customer what you are doing so the error will not happen in the future, then you need to ensure that it does not. People will respect your candor and cut you some slack unless the issues continue which will negatively influence your reputation.


Next, you need to look the part. Everything you do communicates. The way you walk into a room, your handshake, your appearance, the look of your marketing materials … everything communicates. You have only 3 seconds to make a first impression and what have you told your prospective client in that time? Nothing, other than what they see. Although money is usually short with a startup there is no reason you cannot be nicely groomed. Take time to organize before going into a client. Know where your materials are and have at least two nice pens. Be organized and professional in your approach.


Finally, what are you saying to yourself as you enter the room. Ensure that you are positively thinking about the opportunity. If you think you can or you think you can’t you are right! A positive mindset coupled with a professional appearance will go a long way towards building a successful business you can be proud of!


Connecting Individual with Organizational Goals


What happens to people once they join a company? Do they engage or disengage and when does it start? Bill O’Brien of Hanover Insurance is quoted in “The Fifth Discipline” saying, “People enter business as bright, well-educated, high-energy people full of energy and desire to make a difference … By the time they are 30, few are on the fast track and the rest put in their time to do what matters to them on the week-end.” How does this happen and what occurs after day one that determines whether a person becomes engaged? When the goals of an organization are out of sync or contradictory to the goals of the individual people’s motivation shifts.


A key is to put the right person in the right position from the start. In addition, the organization needs to clearly represent themselves and the position so a prospective employee can decide if it is a good fit. Too often organizations need someone and hire a person to fill a position without considering if it is a good fit. If the organization’s goals are out of line with the individual’s goals, soon he or she will start to disconnect.


A recent interview with an employee found that the individual’s attitude has changed. She said, “If you had asked me the question regarding whether the organization’s values align with mine, I would have answered differently four years ago.” Upon taking the position, this person was very excited and loved her work. Since then, the culture of the organization has shifted so that it is in competition with her personal goals.


To keep employees engaged one needs to understand their personal goals and find ways to support them. A manager also needs to have ongoing communication and feedback while listening to the employee’s needs. Even when circumstances beyond the control of leadership occur, ongoing communication should take place to help individuals understand how issues are trying to be resolved.
Secondly, managers need to support all of their employees. Often people seen as high performing individuals and their manager gives them whatever they need to a succeed, yet others are treated differently. People will live up to your expectations 100% of the time and attitudes will be negatively affected if they feel there is favoritism. A manager may be giving feedback both consciously and unconsciously, and unaware of the messages they are giving their employees through their tone of voice and nonverbal behaviors. A manger’s expectations influence an employees’ performance, which is known as the Pygmalion Effect. This can create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the expectation an event will occur, increases the likeliness that it will occur. This happens because the manager inadvertently acts in a manner that brings about the effect in another, so it appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have your managers raise the bar with all of their employees and act in a supportive manner. Give them open and honest feedback and allow even their most difficult employees to change. Expect them to succeed and your chances will dramatically improve.


Create an environment in which your employees’ goals are encouraged and supported. What needs to happen is to create an organization in which open, honest communication is not only supported, but expected. When people start to communicate openly managers at all levels need to listen, otherwise they will shut down. Organizations need to identify employee’s goals and help the employee see how they fit in the overall organization, because when goals come together everyone wins!


Courage to Create Honest Relationships


The frustration in your coworker’s voice is startling so you ask “Is anything wrong?” “No, nothing” she said, ”Everything is FINE!” Too often fine is an acronym for something else going on and it stands for frustrated, insecure, neurotic and emotional!!We’ve all experienced times where someone chooses not to be honest about what they are feeling but why does that happen? Too often people either do not feel safe to be real or are afraid they will be judged if they share their truth. They may have been taught growing up that he or she were rebuked for saying what they felt. For whatever reason, they decide not to tell what is really going on with them and instead they pretend everything is fine.


People tend to put on a mask which hides their true feelings. The key to healthy relationships is to find people who will allow you to be honest and learn to remove your mask. A trusting relationship allows you to communicate openly and honestly. These relationships are a gift to both parties and often rare.


To remove a mask one first needs to understand why they developed it in the first place. These masks are emotional masks, which people hide out of fear the world will find out their truth. The fear that if they show up they will be judged for who they are. People wear a mask to hide feelings of sadness, inadequacy, anger, and pain, and their mask to the world to be more accepted. The thought of being vulnerable is too much to bear and yet, it is the key to transformation. Do you have any idea what the foundation of your mask is?


In order to develop healthy relationships, you need to learn that you are truly fine the way you are and a worthy individual. Although you fear other’s not accepting you, it is actually you that you need to accept and see as worthy. You need to find people who create a safe space where you can take your mask off and talk honestly about your feelings and perceptions. When you do not feel good about yourself, it affects how you perceive situations. You may put a negative spin on something someone does because you filter it through your low self-worth.


Unmasked communication is about developing relationships where open and honest communication is the expected and the norm. A relationship where both parties feel comfortable to take their mask off. Where it is safe to be authentic, and no conversation is off limits. Where transparency and vulnerability are encouraged and the relationship is built on a foundation of trust. To “unmask” your communication means making small changes which allow you to be authentic.

  1. First, find someone you trust and tell them what you are trying to accomplish
  2. Take chances by making small changes. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust who can give you honest feedback.
  3. Learn to trust this person and what they are telling you.
  4. As you become more comfortable try your new-found skill on others you trust
  5. Make sure the people with whom you share are ready for that honesty and start small.


By making small changes over time and taking an honest look at what you have to offer, you can build a foundation for healthier relationships. Small, consistent behavior changes over time will make the difference and dramatically improve the quality of your life.


Critical Leadership 101


Leadership development is crucial in any organization and absolutely essential for new leaders. Although the number one reason people quit their jobs is a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor, many organizations do not prepare these workers for their position. In fact, Workplace Leadership reports that 60% of frontline managers claim to never receive any training before stepping into a leadership role. This is especially vital when the peer becomes the boss. It is much harder for a manager to try to alter a poor initial perception, than to start off on the right foot. By investing in your people prior to them stepping into the role, they will start out with solid skills rather than having to guess at what will make things happen.


Out of fear, new managers often become the boss as opposed to a leader. To dramatically improve their ability to create productive teams, they will need to know how to deal with tough problems as they arise, and set ground work to minimize issues.


Skills needed to help your leaders develop relationships that work include:

  • Self-awareness: One must know themselves prior to leading others. They need to learn to manage themselves while leading others and this requires introspection and a clear understanding of yourself.
  • Communication: Too often new leader talks to employees instead of with employees. A key communication skill is improving your ability to listen. The people doing the job usually know more than anyone else about it. A better approach is to ask an employee about their work and how you can support them. When clear roles and responsibilities are given along with the tools to do the job, all parties benefit.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understanding yourself and how you affect others is the cornerstone of leadership. Our bodies are wired to overreact, so when you work to improve your ability to control your emotions everyone wins. Too often the emotions of a new manager come out in their tone of voice and it changes what people hear, and influences their relationship. Improved emotional intelligence allows you to improve your self-management through social awareness and allows you to productively manage your relationships.
  • Feedback: Communication needs to be timely and given in a respectful manner. New managers are often so worried about doing a good job, they jump on every error, and forget the positive feedback which dramatically affects morale.
  • Coaching vs. Discipline: When tough issues arise a good way to handle them is by coaching the employee. Communicate to understand why a problem occurred then give clear expectations about desired changes. Ensure that the person has all the tools and support to do the job, then let them know the consequences if they choose not to change, but not in a threatening manner. A time line and two-way communication throughout the process is helpful.


By giving a new leader the tools they need to be successful, and a mentor to help them through the initial stages, the transition will be smoother. Productivity will be less disrupted and morale will be enhanced, and everyone will be the winner.

Creating an Unmasked© Culture


What does it take to create a culture where people feel safe to tell the truth! It talks leadership who understand that people will only be honest if they are recognized for it and will not speak honestly if they are punished for it! The creation of an Unmasked culture begins from the top where leadership understands the foundation is a trusting culture where honest communication is expected and respected.


Many organizations have called me in to deal with people who will not communicate. I have had leadership discuss their frustration that they ask a question at a meeting with leadership only to have no on answer. In another occasion, I was in a board room presenting to a leadership team and all the participants in the room were focused on the CEO at the other end of the table to see his reaction. Later, they all agreed with him and did not bring up any concerns they privately discussed with me at a later date! What is in it for leadership to create a culture where people communicate openly and honestly?


To make the best business decisions, a leader must have the most accurate information about what is currently going on in the workplace. If people filter the truth the leader is not privy to issues that may impact their decisions. More importantly, this type of behavior leads to firefighting and blaming which does little to permanently resolve issues and stymies innovation. People will not be honest if they are punished for their open communication, so the way a leader reacts to information determines whether or not people choose to be honest.


In switching a culture, leaders need to communicate the change and then model the accepting behavior. If they react harshly even after telling their people that they will respect honesty, then the employees believe their behavior over their words 100% of the time. Leaders need to learn how to frame their conversations and then recognize people for their honesty before they will change their behaviors. It takes consistent behavior changes over time!


Leadership Fundamentals for New Front Line Leaders


Too often excellent employees are promoted without being given the skills to lead. A good employee does not a good leader make!!According to Harvard Business Review, 60% of new managers never receive leadership development before they step into a leadership role!! In addition, 79% feel that the lack of leadership skills negatively affects the firm performance.


New frontline managers often are put into the position of leading their peers which creates additional problems if they are not coached on how to create respectful boundaries. They either are too tough on their friends or let them slide which causes issues down the road. When new leaders are coached to have the necessary conversations, this creates employee relationships that work.


Some of the skills new front line managers need are:

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Goal setting
  • Communication skills
  • Feedback and delegation skills
  • Difficult conversation skills
  • Increased self-awareness and Emotional intelligence

With an investment into your new leaders, turnover and stress decrease, productivity increases and profitability soars. The number one reason people leave organizations is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Why not minimize that costly outcome!!


The Time for Autocratic Leadership


Autocratic leadership, according to Kendra Cherry, is “a leadership style characterized by individual control over all decisions and little input from group members.” Autocratic leaders exude absolute control over the group and do not rely on input from group members. They dictate how work is done and creativity tends to be discouraged. There are times however, when autocratic leadership is the key to survival. When a company faces a threat that needs immediate action or in essence when the building is on fire, there is not time for a group consensus. It can also be helpful in a small group where leadership is missing and the group needs to get back on track. In addition, in instances where the chain of command is of utmost importance such as a military operation where lives are at stake, autocratic leadership is important. In the long term, however, autocratic leadership can lead to low morale and finger pointing as employees work to stay out of the line of fire.


Leaders need to use this approach wisely as there are many of the drawbacks to autocratic leadership. Leaders who use this form of leadership can be seen as dictatorial and squelch creativity in a group. One client complained that none of the supervisors spoke up at meetings and when he asked a question it was responded to with a deafening silence. Upon interviewing the supervisors, they said that any response was met with a swift retort as to why their approach was wrong and how they needed to proceed. People quickly learn to keep their head low and say nothing. The morale of this group was extremely low and the level of trust had also been negatively affected.


When one person makes all the decisions without input from others in the organization many things occur:

  1. Multi-faceted problems: In today’s workplace problems are complex and resolving them from one perspective can lead to inappropriate solutions.
  2. Communication: One-way communication can lead to misunderstandings and multiple problems.
  3. Finger pointing: When people learn they will be reprimanded for any issue, there tends to be finger pointing instead of accountability and problem solving thus affecting trust within the organization.
  4. Stress: One superintendent who was under extreme duress resulting in physical problems told me, “Don’t you know my head is on the chopping block every Monday.”


To help create a more participative culture, leaders need to transition from more authoritative to an inclusive environment, and this requires a shift from managing to leading. In order to move forward:

  • Employees need a clear picture of the vision for the organization and their role in achieving it
  • Communication needs to consistently take place helping employees understand the how and why the organization is transitioning.
  • There needs to be two-way communication to help them clear up any misperceptions.
  • Leaders need to consistently model participative behaviors
  • Employees need to be recognized for offering ideas and receive feedback as to why or why not their idea can be utilized.
  • People cannot be punished for ideas. Great places to work understand that not all ideas will work, but should not punish employees for creativity.
  • Celebrations for transitions should become commonplace.


Changing a culture is hard work and transitioning to participative from authoritative is one of the hardest. Consistent behavior changes over time coupled with constant communication is the way to move your organization forward utilizing the strengths of a diverse workplace.