Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 5 - 2014

There are those who say rock n roll is dead and others who say they don't make them like they used to. Some believe that in order to find a nickle in the couch, you have to do a little digging. Don't kid yourself, a plethora of amazing music was made in 2014! We are all witness if we choose to be.

Beck returned with the companion to Sea Change, Strand of Oaks emerged with a collection of Dinosaur Jr. meets Son Volt rock/folk explosion, Run the Jewels gave jabbing hip hop a right hook, Mimicking Birds reminded us of Sunny Day Real Estate, Real Estate put out an amazing record, and a contributor to Nada Surf delivered the most heart warming song of the year.

Here are the top 5 albums of 2014:

There are still bands that write albums not singles, The Hold Steady have had a concurrent theme running through 7 albums. Even more impressive is a 43 year old mans consistent ability to capture the youthful spirit and musics unavoidable impact on the colors in life's portrait. The Hold Steady encompass a sharks and jets mentality in loyalty to our undiscovered local music heroes (nowhere more prevalent than in Minneapolis). We also get the additional joy a the circus coming to town to change our lives with one hour of entertainment. The Hold Steady should forever be enshrined at the 7th Street Entry.

This is the saddest record ever written.....

If Grrr was a blip on the radar for Bishop Allen, Lights Out may be the end of their career. Lack of notoriety aside, this infectious little pop diddy will assuredly finds it's way into a few car commercials if not Where's Fluffy 2. Hooks aside, Bishop Allen is grounded in every note of their composition, in equal parts bouncy and confident. A wonderment of pop sensation under-toned with an introspective lyrical script. 

More deliciously cute pop.... We've been waiting for 3 albums to call TPC a one hit wonder. If you think these boys are incapable of depth try the 9 minute opener. Epic, thrilling and filled with relentless hooks.

Like Ben Gibbard and John Darnielle, Conor is one of those indie rock song writers that is continually taken for granted. The truth is, He is simply the finest song writer of our generation! This album is full of introspection and indecision which is a refreshing break from those who have it all figured out. Conor has released over a dozen albums since his teen age carnation of Bright Eyes ranging from country rock to eletronica, Upside Down Mountain brings him back to his roots. Easy to listen to but hard to hear.

Thank You for Listening!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

3 HR Trends in 2014

It's been an interesting year in the world of Human Resources: The certification debate rages on, talent management is evolving at whiplash pace, generational diversity has created a roller coaster of succession planning and the social space has never been more populated with educated HR advisors.

In truth, HR remains the organizational pipeline to employees, managers and executives. It is commonly overlooked that HR is the only organizational department with such an influence on company success.

We all know nothing happens quickly in HR, but here are a few ever-developing trends that inspired my heart in 2014.

Behavior Change Management
Now more than ever change is paramount to organizational success. We all know we need to adapt with the times and we are all too lazy to confront the issue head on. Here come the apps...

I'd specifically site the impact that FitBit and like-minded behavior change apps have had on the way we work in 2014. On any given day, I am getting up from my desk several times to ensure I am supplementing my 10,000 step goal. I've taken on the challenge because it is measurable and easy to access. I compete with my co-workers (and my wife) to top the leaderboard at the end of each day. Through a simple application (and a group of willing participants) we have created a cultural challenge that engages our employees in healthy competition.

Well-guided behavior change application works with wellness, performance management, and employee engagement alike.

Game Mechanics
Did somebody say the G word? No, I said two words that have been Behavioral Economics principles since we stamped loyalty cards at the super market. The truth is, game mechanics have made a distinct impact on the way we work (see above). Through game mechanics we can create a challenge, measure our progress daily and create metrics for elevated career development with each challenge we conquer.

There's an app for that too.... we do need stinking badges (badly)!

Soft Skill Enhancement
HR knows better than to play in management's sandbox when it comes to performance management. Who would have known that this adversarial battleground would have created the greatest opportunity for partnership from HR to our business units.

With staffing and training becoming exceedingly costly what would it mean to keep 25% of our exiting talent in-house? Turnover can be productive to idea generation and can combat motivational plateau but that doesn't mean we should allow superstar talent to leave for our competitors. Employees don't leave companies, they leave managers.

By making the elements of SCARF and Corporate Citizenship a faction of performance measurement we open up opportunities across our organization. Through multi-pronged performance enhancement programming we can help identify the soft skills that make a failing sales executive a leader in the project management function.

I know no idea is original and these revelations may seem like old hat to our smarty pants readers. I always appreciate the opportunity to point out how we are making a positive impact instead of sighting all the stigmas a fraction of our population continue to validate.

Here's to a powerful and productive 2015!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Time Is All We Have

"I'm just replacing a man that came before me and one day the world is going to see another man replacing me that's just the way it's gotta be... It's always been that way"
- an excerpt from Dark Side of the Moon by Chris Staples

In the film American Beauty, Lester Burnham was taken aback when someone asked him how he was doing. He hadn't been asked that in a while. That's just the way it's gotta be; the older we get the less we need. It's great the way that works out. I cannot tell you how many hours of sleep I have lost fretting over senseless concerns. Getting old sucks because your body slows down, but your mind and your spirit accelerate. Many people have suggested that I would look back at my demeanor in a moment of stress and laugh about it, I always do.

My son performed in a theatrical production recently. His performance was celebrated. On the ride home he confessed to me that he knew his lines but he was still nervous. I told him that in anything he does for as long as he shall live he should hope to maintain that feeling. If we are not concerned with the implications of our actions we're probably living a carelessly. To be carefree is a sign of confidence... To be careless is a sign of submission. I would never want anyone to give up on their dream for fear they were incapable of achieving it.

"I want to love you, I want to pass it on. I want to give and give until it's all gone. I want to know you while we have the time because that is all we have to leave behind"
- an excerpt from Dark Side of the Moon by Chris Staples

How much time do we waste assuming we know one another? Isn't it wonderful when someone asks you a question that sets you aback... Even if the question is as simple as "how are you". We waste a lot of time being polite, we waste even more time being impolite. One begets the other.

There are people in all of our lives whom we have given up on. Some times with all the effort life takes we simply cannot dedicate our limited free time to someone who makes our existence more challenging. You may have had to tell your friend they were being an asshole to free them from their funk ....or maybe they just needed a hug...? Life is difficult and things pile upon us if someone doesn't show us a snap shot of the roller coaster we've chosen to ride. Fortunately, life is a movie not a collection of snap shots. Others only see fragments and cast judgement accordingly. Nod to the advice of those who are willing to provide it.... But if you only submit your photo album to a few observers your series will not be renewed.

People rely on people. Even if you think you have nothing to lend, there are those who want to hear what you have to say. Then you start making a difference and if you have influenced one person, you will want to influence another.

Like roots in the ground the things we teach are far reaching but seldom seen.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pick A Fight!

We tend to segment our organizations: by generation, by department, by location, by tenure.

Our organizations have employees and managers and executives who are drawn together by the purpose of the companies we represent... We all want the same things: success and happiness. We are all far more similar than survey data tends to reveal.

We Can Do This.... because we can!

Stop: Fighting among yourselves!
We compete against the marketplace and our competitors, why do we feel it necessary to fight among ourselves? Friendly competition in the workplace fuels our success but prioritizing personal goals over organizational goals kills progress.

If you need help you should find people within your team to compliment the skills you do not possess. The causes we represent are built upon the collective energy of many personalities that together can do something they cannot do alone.

Life is difficult enough... don't make it harder by being unwilling to seek from others what you do not have.  

Start: Trusting!
Does it seem like everything is a negotiation? We have to convince people with whom we want to work that we are capable of helping them. The goal is not to self promote but to prove your worth through hard work, creativity and genuine intent!

There are people in companies across the world that are not sharing their knowledge for fear that when they release it, they will not longer be relevant. I'd like to think that the more people we are able to teach, the closer we get to immortality.

Plant the seed and let the roots extend!

Start: Fighting the Good Fight!  
That which you cannot avoid caring about should fuel your professional mission every day! It is OK to enter any given day with a bit of a chip on your shoulder, but you should use that edge for good! Anger is driven by energy and YOU choose how to use that energy. Regret breeds dishonesty which creates anger. Anger has never solved anything.

Remember all of the great things you have achieved: the big deal you closed, the championship you won, the spelling bee you won, the time you were student of the week.... whatever it might be, remind yourself of all your positive achievements and let that lead! 

Don't get caught up over-analyzing your mistakes. There are some things you simply are not good at... Concentrate on the areas in which you are uniquely skilled.

Engage your heart and let the unavoidable importance of your mission lead!

We Can Do This... because we can!

Don't Forget to Remember!  


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


"with great power comes great responsibility" - Spiderman's Uncle 

I teach six year old females how to play soccer. We have 3 rules:
1. Focus
2. Focus
3. Focus

The old adage is true, everything we need to know about business we learned in youth sports.

We sure have come to expect a lot from our employers in this day-and-age. We want extra vacation, more money, the ability to work from home, yoga, happy hour and an on-site guru. These luxuries have distracted us from the primary responsibility of our employment: Winning!

As I always tell the young people I coach: we are here to have fun and there is nothing more fun than winning. Our effort in our profession should feed our happiness. Nothing will make you more happy than achievement. 

To be given a thank you for showing up is nice, but are you OK with nice? To be told you have done a great job when you haven't is reassuring but you know if you actually deserve the accolade. 

The Holidays are a time when people let their guard down and say thanks for all they have. This season of distraction is also very difficult to navigate. 

Focus on Grander Goals
I once heard a CEO say that he would be much more successful if he didn't have to deal with people. No such luck! Our comrades are competitive and they take pride in their work... along with this comes condescension, the need to be validated and whole lot of emotion. If we invest too much in the little battles our character is revealed and our ego can get the best of us.

In any situation it is important to remember what the ultimate goal is and to give ground in the little battles. It is OK to allow people to win an argument for the sake of moving toward the ultimate goal. Over time, those who choose confrontation are revealed incapable of handling greater responsibility.

Be Flexible, Not Indecisive      
The best professional relationships I have are without nonsense. I would rather you tell me 'no' in the first minute of speaking with me than to pretend to be polite for a year only to come to the same conclusion. 

It is beneficial to be willing to listen more than you talk. It is even better to have a direct solution to a problem. If we are incapable of letting one another know where we stand, we will all sink into the quicksand together. 

Perform Above Expectations
In sales we are acutely aware that every suggestion made to management is followed by an audit of where we are on the ranking report. If you haven't sold anything, no one gives a shit about your earth shattering ideas to change the world. 

Regardless of your occupation, you have a goal to hit. Every goal is crowded by the emotion of co-workers, bad advice from management, and complaints from all angles. 

You have to hurdle all obstacles on your way to accomplishing the goals established for you. None of it is easy, but nothing worth doing is. 

Stop asking for entitled benefits and start producing. No one owes you anything. You will recognize this when you conquer expectations and take control of your own destiny. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Giving Tree

A long time ago I worked at a Gas Station in Bellevue, Michigan. During a particularly boring graveyard shift a man came in looking for a cup of coffee. He looked a bit agitated. I told him we didn't have any coffee. He looked at the pot behind the counter inquisitively? I meandered over to see the pot. I opened a cabinet below, looked at the various tools to assemble a cup of Joe, and then stepped back. I heard the man say, "you've never made a cup of coffee have you?". What ensued next was an unexpected glory!

The man stepped behind the counter with me and showed me how to make a cup of coffee. He laughed as I poured the grains into the filter and we talked about life while the coffee brewed. Just two guys in the middle of the night talking over coffee. The guy chuckled with delight as I fumbled through the process and left with what he proclaimed the greatest cup of coffee he had ever tasted. It seemed he was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach someone something (he may not have had the opportunity to do that for a while). His agitation had subsided and he walked out whistling.

We always examine what engages people. Is it money, rewards, technology...? The example above reveals that people have a mutual appreciation for one another. Too often our predisposed frustration replaces teaching opportunities with confrontation.

People want to learn and to teach and to be given an opportunity to grow.

Last week we discussed the possibility that our character may be revealed through that which we are willing to do for free. Life is full of necessary evils (things we have to do). But, what do you want to do, and why not go do it?

By the virtue of the above mind frame, can engagement not be defined by the opportunity to give? Isn't there something pretty wonderful about that? 

Don't give me a catalog of outdated gifts in reward of my achievements. Give me the opportunity to conduct a class for the organization on the sociological significance of The Streets album "A Grand Don't Come For Free".

If I have 10 calls today that are creating opportunities and driving meaningful objectives, I am not only engaged but energized! I don't need a ping pong table or an espresso machine or to take a walk or even to eat. Give me a purpose and the tools to amplify its meaning and I will teach others to engage in it.

Now engagement has become advocacy!

We don't want gifts or more money. We want to be part of something we believe in and the trust to bring it to others.

~ Know what your employees need to succeed.
~ Design a program that helps them measure progress every day.
~ Reward achievement with new opportunities.
~ Never run out of new opportunities.

Have we forgotten how easy it is to help others??? 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Passing Time

I would venture to guess that our true character is measured by the things we do for free. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have with people that start with a raised eye brow. People simply cannot believe that a salesman would help someone without asking for something in return. I do it a lot.

My profession is only a part of my existence: I coach youth sports, help college kids get jobs, conduct Human Resources training and occasionally provide advice when asked... I've never been paid for any of it.

Long ago, I worked at a booth at a prominent Human Resources annual conference. I far prefer being a conference attendee and/or volunteer. In my sales career I have done everything I can to be viewed as a peer to my buyer. It takes research, listening skills and empathy. I understand why people don't like sales people; I don't either.

The only thing I dislike more than sales people are people without sales training trying to sell something. Everyone is trying to sell something.

What do you do for free? Are people surprised when you offer to help without holding your hand out?

Time Spent
I feel at this point in my life the most valuable asset I possess is time. The recognition of time as a valued asset provokes a study in what (and to whom) one devotes their time.

Are you chasing that big deal simply because the pay off would be huge? Do you pursue certain business partnerships with the knowledge that they will never happen? Why bother! Your time is as valuable as any CEO's. Use it wisely.

I See Your Cards
I sat next to a person in the press room at a conference. This person exclaimed, "I'm not going to a presentation, I'm here to sell something". So dangerously mislead! If you are not willing to invest in your buyer's mind frame, you will never provide value to them.

I was interviewed by a person recently for a radio show. Every question asked was accompanied by five comments before I could even answer. Don't pretend to be interested in me if all you are really here to do is hear yourself talk.

The social space is full of hacks! People who pretend to possess what all of us can get for free.

You would drop everything for your kids. You would quit your job if your spouse got ill. You wouldn't ask for compensation for coaching your kid's team.

Think About It!

The things you do for free are rooted in your life's true passion. If you are truly passionate you should share what you know to allow what you care about to germinate. Your ideas are not sacred. Everything has been thought of.... how you carry those ideas into the world is what matters.

Regrets surface when you are unwilling to put the work into something you believe in with all your heart. Regrets hang like ugly chandeliers... you cannot face a day without walking under them!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


One part of qualifying candidates for sales jobs today is their number of "connections" on LinkedIn (and other social networks). One's presence in the social space can be a game changer.... it's also really easy to game the system. You might have 1,500 connections on LinkedIn but how many of them would drop everything to meet with you? How many people in your network have any relevance to your occupational development? If you contacted your LinkedIn connections one-by-one how many would reply, "how do I know you"......?

A Rolodex is one thing. Genuine connections are something completely different. The only thing worst than a sales person is a person who has no sales training trying to sell someone something. Long ago, Keith Ferrazzi introduced vulnerability and generosity as concepts of genuine connection in the social space, he nailed it! Having been in sales for nearly 20 years, I can identify an impostor from a mile away (most of them are not in sales). 

It is not the number of contacts you have in your network, it is how you utilize your privilege to interact. Most people are surprised if you are able to network without asking for something. 

Got Hugs?
Want to identify the real difference between a business relationship and a true partnership.... when you meet your contact in the lobby do they hug or shake hands?

It matters... The greatest contacts I have in business have been in the trenches with me: I have held their hand in an airport bar when they found out their wife had cancer, I have put my hand on their shoulder when their son failed to report to court (again), I've buried my head in their shoulder to hide my tears when I found out my mom had cancer (again). That's the real stuff, most of us can hide it, when we don't feel obligated to hide... we are home!

How many genuine connections do you make each day? Not friends added to your network but genuinely human interactions. Will he or she with whom you meet be willing to share a personal detail with you? Would they explain their lack of concentration on their failing marriage (and ask for your advice)? 

It is easy to watch your top performer succeed... It is far more difficult to make an ugly duckling a swan. Most leaders bank their points with their top performers and give up on the ugly ducklings only to dismiss their responsibility to their failure. 

You hire people, and when you do, you take responsibility for their livelihood. If your employees fail, it is your fault! The good lord gave us all free will, most people will abuse it if you give them too much rope. 

Priorities and Privileges matter. Your job should be your #1 priority.... raising your children is a privilege. Let's not confuse the two. 

Your measure of success are the lost souls whom you have given a home, the ship to which you have affixed a rudder, and the number of hugs you receive every day!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rowing The Doldrums

Life has it's fair share of unfortunate set backs: people get fired from their jobs, athletes get injured, people fall out of love and with every triumph there is a failure. The victories are often met with a sigh of relief while the losses bring upon a pondering of our possible misplacement in this world. Winning is glorious, losing sucks, but our greatest misfortune is to be ignorant of either.

I have the unfair self-inflicted lot in life of being incapable of accepting failure while being unable to give myself too much credit for my successes. Frustration, sleepless nights, and intense self-analysis are all bed fellows in the mind of a perfectionist... the lack of ease a vestal to continual progress.

It is too often that we put too much emphasis on the little things and fail to celebrate life's simple beauties. If your job was lost what would you do? If an injury ended your sports career what lessons from the field could you relay to other elements in your life? You can spend 20 years perfecting a craft and an unfortunate accident can take it away from you. Some times a little luck trumps years of preparation. With all this in mind there is only one thing left to do...


Some of our prayers are unanswered, certain goals are not met, and there are times when we feel we are out of options. More often than not the bad things do not happen. There are times to pray, times to cry, and some times you just have to pull up your boot straps and move on.

Joy is a Strategy
I enjoyed reading INC's listing of the 10 greatest sales people of all time. Most of them were not the obvious choice and the characteristics they shared were not slick talk or negotiation tactics. The people who are best at what they do are so because they love what they do.

Great Chefs can make me care about the culinary arts, amazing designers can make me look at fashion in a different light, if you believe in a cause with unflappable commitment... I will join you.

Bounce Out!
Lack of certainty makes our failures harder to accept, relationships harder to mend, and grows greater distance to our goals. Far better than tossing and turning in your bed is to get up and find the solution.

Most people who are unhappy are so because they failed to try. The fear of risk can marginalize us all into a life of compromise. There is no joy in compromise and no glory in settling for second best. If you are not pursuing your every activity with your fullest effort you are wasting your time. Our time here is fleeting and too precious to be a vestal to tears and complaints.

Opportunity Doesn't Knock
There are two types of people in this world: those who seek progress and those who are content with being just OK. There are people who devote 10,000 hours to building a skill that never get promoted. There are others who have had countless opportunities that they squandered because they were unable to get up when they first fell.

Nothing will be handed to you, you have to find it. Challenges will come upon you and if you are not totally dedicated to your craft, you will fail. If you cannot accept failure your misfortunes will overwhelm you. Then you stop trying... and life sucks!

Every day should be accepted as a gift. We should take on every challenge knowing we have as much a chance of failure as we do victory. We should have a system to plug into that will ensure our chances for success exceed those of failure. We should be willing to try hard enough to win and then we should try even harder.

Put yourself out there! With every victory comes the confidence to know you can. If you win over and over the habit becomes a skill.

"everybody's gotta learn some time" - Beck 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Scarf For The Winter

There is no silver bullet for performance management: not an app, platform or systematic flow chart. It turns our that managing performance is as much about knowing your people as it is knowing the metrics of their performance. So, how can we engage a variety of personalities in one scaled process? Let's review the SCARF formula for employee motivation:


... it's pretty simple, if you understand which of the above mentioned characteristics are of the greatest (and least) priority to each of your employees, your line of vision into their motivation will be greatly enhanced. Have your employees stack rank what matters most to them and manage accordingly.

Some employees are seeking a promotion (status). Be proud enough to help your best performers get to the next level in the organization and they will stay forever. Some people just need to know that their job is important (certainty). Great mangers help their employees understand that their achievements benefit the organizational mission. Some people just want to be left alone (autonomy). If you've given them the tools to succeed you can leave them to their own devices and they will perform....over and over again. There are people for whom work is an extension of their social network (relatedness). Loving the people with whom you serve make the hard times a little easier and the victories that much sweeter. There are those who want to know that the playing field is level (fairness). You can dispel water cooler banter by proving that each person has the same opportunity to accelerate to greatness.

What Are You Fighting For....?
Managers get a lot of shit! Certain vendors think starting an employee revolution is the key to employee engagement... the SCARF method rivals that formula for disaster with strategic certainty.

So then, it is time for employees to make some decisions:
What Can You Do At Your Organization That You Cannot Do Anywhere Else?

If you cannot answer the question above, you should quit your job! If you don't believe that the company you are currently working for can help you do more than anywhere else... you are wasting your life!

Are pats on the back important to you? Do you really value trophies? Do you want to stand in front of a bunch of people to be praised for your excellence?

If you know you are performing to the peak of your ability you do not need a trophy, public praise, or validation. Get a pair! Own your actions and fear not failure!

You should be driven by the knowledge that you are capable of achieving what no other person ever has. If you are concerned with what the past has deemed possible, you are probably not all that capable. Those who suck at their job are those who need to be validated at every turn in the road. It's a job, diffuse the emotion and get to work!

Managers cannot manage if their employees refuse to believe that everyone is working for a common cause. We are all in equal parts responsible for our engagement at work. Some times we need a hug and some times we need to bite our tongue and get to work.

Let's Go To Work!

Don't Forget to Remember!