Monday, November 24, 2008

Three Legged Stool Of Employee Development

Click to enlarge


By Lee Hopkins

Being known as a 'natural' at interpersonal communication is not just a gift that a select few enjoy. We can all enjoy the reputation of being 'a great communicator'.

Simply focus the conversation on the other person. This takes the pressure off you—you don't have to be a witty bon-vivant to be a great communicator.

Avoid interrogating your new acquaintance, and if you are really nervous, do your best to control twitches and jittery movements. And (best hint coming...) ALWAYS slow your speaking rate down. Nervousness makes us talk
too fast.

Here's a great 'rule breaker': instead of sticking to the 'respect someone's privacy and personal space' rule, when you meet someone for the first time, give them a good look right in the eyes.

It's well known that when we look at someone we find attractive, our pupils dilate, a phenomenon that the other person instinctively picks up on. Well, that phenomenon can also be put to good use in our business dealings, too. Notice the other person's eye color, say 'great' to yourself, and you'll find yourself involuntarily smiling. The other person will pick up on your mood.

While 'being yourself' is always a good thing for relational honesty, try and disguise your inherent pessimism and bad mood from new acquaintances.

Even though you know you are just 'having a bad day' or a bad half-hour, the other person will probably decide that you are a 'full-time whiner', an impression and reputation hard to shake.

A bad mood will spread contagiously, bringing down the other person too. Better to start off positively; you can always let them see your 'other' side on another day...

Adjust your posture, voice, and gestures to those of your new acquaintance. Establish rapport by mirroring their head nods and tilts. Speak at their pace and volume level. You'd be surprised by just how many different 'voices' a successful salesperson uses in a day—they spend a large amount of time mirroring the other person's gestures, voice, language, pace, intonation, and volume.

He's talking about his new Holden Commodore; you're thinking of your new Impreza WRX. Or she's talking about her latest small win at the office and you're thinking about the new $1M account you just landed single-handed.

Which do you reckon will be more impressive: you gloating about your wins and toys, or you letting the other person have their 15 minutes of fame?

Good manners, as well as psychological research, dictate that to impress your guest you should always keep at the forefront of your mind the question, “How am I making the other person feel?”

Actively encourage others to talk about themselves, and respond genuinely—without bringing it back to yourself.

Use flattery sparingly but powerfully by focusing on the other person's achievements, not their personal attributes. Even if they suspect you might be brown-nosing, they will still get a warm glow from a well-directed compliment. “You have a great eye for color; I really like how you have put the office decor together” is more flattering than, “Nice office.”

Remember, there's very little that is unfixable in our interpersonal business relationships. There is usually always another chance to fix false first impressions.

Let's say you arrive at a meeting late, having just copped a parking ticket from the previous appointment. Your mood is not, as they might say, triumphant and glowing. Instead of responding appropriately to a new acquaintance's polite greeting, you mumble a grumpy 'yeah' and drop your laptop bag unceremonially into a nearby chair.

Okay, not a good start. But step outside the room for a moment, take a deep breath, count to seven (ten is too long a pause), re-enter the room, and look your acquaintance in the eye. Apologize and explain why you are out of sorts. You might even want to turn it into a joke by saying something like, “I see you just met my evil twin.”

And remember to cut others some slack if they make a bad first impression on you, too!

About the Author:

Management psychologist and skilled communicator, Lee helps both businesses and individuals communicate better for better business results. Recognized as one of Australia's leading business communicators, he is hailed worldwide as a leading thinker in online business communication strategy. He is at the leading edge of Social Media/Web2.0 developments. For more information please visit


There's too much bad news in the business section these days. Stocks are down. Companies are cutting back. People are being let go. Don't take chances with your career—take action to make yourself indispensable!
Companies never want to lose their most valuable employees, and often, managers will go to great lengths to protect their top performers. What follows are a few inside tips from senior managers about what makes an indispensable employee.

More than anything else, managers want employees who get the job done—people who finish projects on time, on budget, and exceed expectations. The following are characteristics of top performers:
• They consistently deliver measurable results.
• They don't waste other people's time.
• They understand the company's goals.
• They know their role and the importance of doing their job well.
• They know how to prioritize and stay focused.
• They put the customer first.
• They do whatever it takes to get the job done.

While results count most, having the right attitude is extremely important. What's the right attitude? Here are traits managers look for:
• People who focus on results.
• Problem solvers who seek solutions.
• Champions who take initiative.
• People who accept responsibility and don't blame others or circumstances.
• Positive people who don't complain.
• People who aren't afraid to take risks.
• Those who do whatever it takes to get the job done (we did repeat this one!).

Indispensable employees almost always fall into one of two categories: leaders and team players. Leaders are invaluable when it comes to providing direction and motivation. But great team players are equally valuable when it comes to getting things done. Here's what makes someone an ideal team member:
• Willingness to be honest – they don't withhold information.
• Assertiveness – they challenge others without being confrontational.
• Contributors – they share ideas and opinions.
• Exceptional communicators – they can write, speak, and listen skillfully.
• Multi-talented – they have a variety of useful skills and expertise.
• Flexibility – they are open to new ideas and willing to make changes.
• Willing to lend a hand – they pick up the ball when a team member needs help.
• Creativity – they actively look for new ways to get things done.

Every business wants to improve its results consistently, and they also want employees who continually improve themselves. It's a fast-paced world—skills and knowledge become outdated all too quickly. Indispensable employees are always looking to learn new skills and expand their expertise. Want to improve yourself? Here's what you can do:
• Update your technical skills.
• Take on new projects that will challenge you.
• Seek additional responsibility by taking on projects you can manage.
• Look for opportunities to get cross-trained.
• Join professional organizations.
• Read trade journals to stay up to date on your industry.
• Study your competitors' websites to see what they're doing.
• Improve soft skills, including management, leadership, and communication.

Darwin had it right. Those who are the most fit are those who survive. In today's corporate world, nothing can eliminate your risk of being caught in a downsizing effort. But by taking the steps to make yourself indispensable, you can greatly increase your job security—and make yourself even more marketable!

Friday, November 14, 2008


Looking for a great way to earn that raise or promotion? Get on your manager's A-List.

It's a simple fact: if you consistently show your manager that you're doing a great job, you'll progress further, faster. Start by finding ways to get noticed and separate yourself from the pack. To help, try using these techniques to create a lasting positive impression:

When in doubt, especially if you or your manager is new to the job, err on the side of clarity. Ask questions when things are unclear, as opposed to making dangerous assumptions (what's “soon” to you may not be “soon” to your manager).

Provide your manager with regular updates about your projects and plans. Be careful, though, not to go overboard – ask him directly if you're providing enough information or too much.

The phrase “under promise, over deliver” may be an oldie, but it's still a goodie. Don't shy away from new challenges; just make reasonably sure you can hit an objective before taking on the additional responsibility. By consistently delivering high quality work in a timely manner, you will undoubtedly gain your manager's attention.

If you don't already know them, learn your manager's pet peeves – and avoid them.

Find out what his priorities are – and incorporate them into your own (e.g., if your manager is a numbers guy, quantify all your results). Anticipate his needs by providing what you know he'll want before he asks (e.g., if you know your manager will ask for three quotes before approving a purchase order, get all three before approaching him). Show him that you understand the issues he faces and you're sure to make your mark.

Hey, stuff happens. Everyone makes mistakes. But if something does go wrong, view it as an opportunity to set yourself apart from chronic excuse-makers. Own up to the problem or mistake and come to the table with potential solutions. Your manager will appreciate your ability to think for yourself and manage a difficult situation.

Observe how your manager communicates with you and mirror his preferred method: if your manager likes email, use it; if he prefers voicemail, phone in your updates.

When possible, keep office hours similar to his: if he's a morning person, start coming in a little earlier; when he's working late to meet a deadline, offer to stay and help.

Last but not least, emulate the way he dresses (i.e., level of professionalism). If you want to impress the manager, start dressing like one yourself.

When you celebrate a departmental success, send a congratulatory email and copy your manager. The gesture will draw
attention to your project's success as well as your leadership skills.

During more stressful times, strive to maintain a positive attitude. For every two complaints or suggested improvements you make to your manager, point out eight positive things. Your consistent optimism and enthusiasm will not go unnoticed.

Examine your department to identify weaknesses, process gaps or other potential problems. Approach your manager with ideas for overcoming these challenges and take responsibility for seeing the project through.

Alternately, if your manager comes to you with an idea for improvement, respond to it constructively. Instead of throwing up roadblocks, keep an open mind and brainstorm ways to tackle the project together.

A manager will notice a talented employee who demonstrates his desire for excellence by occasionally sticking his neck out. So when the time is right, make a bold move. Volunteer for a difficult assignment or challenge the “status quo” to improve work processes. Your courage and enthusiasm will increase your visibility and earn the respect of your manager and co-workers alike.

Sources used to write this article:

Heller, M. How to Impress
Your Boss.

Six Ways to Impress Your Boss.

Steen, Margaret. 10 Habits that Bosses Love.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


If you looked into a crystal ball…what would you see?

Consumer spending—up. Government spending—up. Inventories—low. Factory orders are surging. Money is cheap. The stock and housing market is booming. And talent is available. Sound too good to be true? Well it happened in 2002 right after the big dip in the economy following the last recession. And if history repeats itself, an upswing may be just around the corner.


Throughout the past century, businesses have had a habit of becoming too lean during a downturn. So when the economy picks back up, they have trouble getting back on track.
Want to ensure you're ready for growth? Then keep following the lessons you've learned during the last several months:

During a recession, businesses scrutinize every expense. Why stop when profits increase? While you shouldn't be pennywise and pound foolish, you should continue to treat every expense as an investment. If the investment won't yield improvement in your efficiency, cost structure, or ability to service customers, don't make it! Some of the smartest places to put your money in the coming months include:

• Technology enhancements to improve productivity
• Infrastructure development to increase capacity or operational flexibility
• Product developments to better satisfy customer needs
• Process improvement to increase efficiency
• Training and employee development
• Sales and marketing

Set a goal to become the lowest cost producer of the goods and services that best satisfy your customers' needs. In manufacturing, they call this lean thinking—eliminating all waste from production processes. The goal is not to become the cheapest—it's to become the most efficient producer at the level of quality your customers want. At the same time, focusing on process helps to drive improved consistency, which is one of the most important drivers of quality.

Leverage can be essential for capital projects, but avoid having too much of a good thing. Did you know that five of the last seven recessions were "double dip" recessions—two periods of decline with a brief rebound in the middle. Protect yourself by borrowing no more than you can comfortably repay in three to five years assuming zero to moderate revenue growth.

Profit is no excuse for poor performance. Key indicators are those metrics that predict future performance in your industry. Unlike financial statements, which are backward looking, key indicators allow you to forecast future results. While every business is different, key indicators to watch may include:

• New Orders — the pace of orders can show the direction your business is heading
• Inquiries — the volume of inquiries is a measure of future results as well as the effectiveness of sales and marketing activities
• Conversion Rate — a measure of the market and the productivity of your sales efforts
• Days to Pay — an indication of your clients' financial health
• Quick Ratio (A/R divided by A/P) — watch for trends to see how well you're managing cash
• Service Request / Customer Complaint Volume — an indicator of product and service quality

Want to know the dumbest statement ever made by a CEO — and this is an actual quote: "We're so busy right now that we don't want any more new customers." This comment was made by a CEO in 1999, and guess what, he got his wish—he went out of business shortly thereafter.

Every day your business is headed in one of two directions: up or down. It's obvious, but it needs to be said—you always need new customers. While advertising traditionally increases during good times, sales efforts often get less aggressive as more time gets spent servicing existing clients. Avoid the temptation to turn sales people into service reps, and instead, increase quotas as the economy improves and invest the revenue into developing your capacity for service.

It's funny—and sad—how many businesses had to be reminded to focus on building client relationships during the recession. Strong client relationships are a critical asset in any economy. Don't wait for business to get better to go out and look for new ways to help your customers. Get out there and find out:

• What you do well and where you can improve
• The challenges your clients face and how you can help
• The new products and services your customers are going to need
• New contacts you can work with inside existing accounts
• New applications for your products and services at each customer site
• What you can do to win a 100% share of each customer's business

No question, it's tough to stay positive and optimistic during a slowdown. But it's essential. Negativity spreads and can eat away at the core of your culture. Regardless of whether business goes up, down or sideways, find occasions to celebrate. Reward people for their results. Recognize them for their efforts. And constantly give them a reason to smile and feel good about the future. Optimism is contagious—it breeds excitement, a willingness to work hard, and it gives customers more desire to work with you.

Monday, September 1, 2008


by: Gregory P. Smith

When an employee quits, many times they don't quit the company—they quit their manager. I validated this fact in a survey which showed in 46% of the cases the main reason people quit their employer was because of their first-line supervisor; a painful statistic when you consider how difficult and expensive it is to find and train good people. To make matters worse, businesses are stupid to do nothing about it.

In my mind, it is an honor as well as an important responsibility to become a manager. When I use the word, "manager," I am not necessarily referring to a job title, but talking about the "role" of managing people.

A manager's job is not easy. The demands are difficult. Many bosses are doing the jobs of two or more people. Employees expect more; some are plain difficult to work with.

Many businesses do a poor job selecting and training managers. It goes without saying those that do a good job selecting and developing their managers will enjoy higher productivity and lower employee turnover. However, most often the employer is at fault for not giving them the tools, training, and support to succeed.

Just because a person shows potential or has a degree does not mean they will be good at managing others. Many are skilled technicians, but unfortunately are clueless on the art and science of managing people.

Some businesses practice what I call "spaghetti management." They pick a bunch of people, promote them to managers, then throw them on a wall like spaghetti, and see what sticks. This is not the fault of the individual manager, but the employer's. Without training and support, most new managers will fail. This is one of the main reasons people today run like the plague to avoid becoming supervisors and managers.

Sure, some managers are tyrants and no amount of training is going to change them. But at least good businesses recognize their mistakes and provide additional training, or find the errant manager a job somewhere else.

Good businesses place people skills as a vital part of their performance management system. For example, Synovus Financial has been listed in the "Top 100 Best Places to Work" for several years. They have a commandment that says, "A manager's most important role is to serve, grow, and inspire his or her people—with no exception." This requirement had a positive impact on the bottom line. Not only did their employee turnover rate drop, but also their market capitalization grew from $2.2 billion to $8 billion in four years.

I went into the Army after college to learn how to be a good leader. My first boss was a great mentor and teacher. He was an experienced veteran and a former Special Forces medic in Vietnam. He was the type of person who always put the needs of others before his own interests.

As the lowest ranking member of my battalion, I had to pull duty on the worst day of the year—New Year's Eve. I worked all day and then I was up all night. You can imagine what mischief 500 soldiers can get in. Finally, Saturday morning arrived and I could not wait to go home. The phone rang; it was Joe, my boss. He wanted to know if I had made any plans for lunch. He and his wife had prepared something and he wanted to bring it over to me. Today, I don't remember what the food was, but it was a meal I will never forget.

That one small act of kindness crystallized in my mind what leadership was about—caring for those you lead. That act taught me more about leadership than all the degrees and diplomas hanging on my wall.

Here are a few suggestions to consider in your management development program:

• Establish key competencies your managers should possess and demonstrate.
• Have company executives share their expectations with your managers.
• Consider using a 360-degree evaluation on top management.
• Hold managers accountable and responsible for retention.
• Have HR train managers on reward and recognition.
• Provide the support and tools to help managers do their job well.
• Start measuring turnover and apply the cost to the bottom line.
• Conduct post exit interviews to discover the real reason employees quit.
• Complete an individual retention profile on every employee.
• Conduct an employee satisfaction survey at least once a year.

About the Author:
Greg Smith's cutting-edge keynotes, consulting, and training programs have helped businesses reduce turnover, increase sales, hire better people, and deliver better customer service. As President of Chart Your Course International he has designed and implemented professional development programs for hundreds of organizations globally. He is a former examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest award for business excellence. He has authored eight informative books including 401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees. For more information, visit or call (800) 821-2487 or (770) 860-9464.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bridging the Gap

Managing Workers from Different Generations
by Kathleen Foley

Four distinct generations of employees are currently at work in companies across America, all with very different attitudes, expectations, and management styles. Business owners and managers are challenged with learning how to maximize the potential in each age group, while encouraging them to work together to achieve common goals.

The oldest age group, those who are old enough to remember World War II, have been called the “Greatest Generation.” While most of them have retired, they still comprise about 6.5 percent of the workforce – some in higher management positions, some acting as consultants, and others in part-time positions that enable them to earn a few extra dollars to supplement retirement income.

For the purposes of this article, we will consider the three younger generations that constitute the bulk of the workforce. The Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, represent about 41 percent of the workforce. The oldest boomers are now reaching retirement age. Although Generation X starts in 1965, human resources experts place the ending birth date for this generation anywhere from 1977 to 1980. Gen Xers, as they are called, represent about 29 percent of the working population. The youngest group, those born anywhere from 1981 to 2001, are called Generation Y. They comprise about 22 percent of the workforce.

A Changing Workplace
Two converging trends are transforming the American workplace, according to Doug Beckley, CEO of The Beckley Group, a management consulting and business training company based in Las Vegas. “Demographics are changing the workforce, as boomers approach retirement age and younger cadres move into the workforce,” he noted. In the United States today, between 8,000 and 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 60 every day, and they are being replaced by younger people who will create profound changes in what the employment pool will look like in the future. “Gen Y will constitute 45 percent of the workforce in a few years,” said Bob Daniel, owner of PrideStaff Las Vegas, an independent franchise of the national PrideStaff network. “They are entrepreneurial and very tech-savvy. They value 24/7 communication, and 30 percent of them are non-white.”

The other trend is that the workplace itself is changing. Companies no longer expect people to stay with them for 40 years and enjoy a company-paid retirement plan. So-called “job-hopping” from one employer to another, which used to be seen as a negative, has now become the norm, especially among younger workers. In fact, staying at one job for a long period of time may now be seen as a sign that an employee lacks ambition.

In order to understand the perspective of each generation of employees, it is necessary to look at what the American workplace was like when its members first began their careers. Boomers started working in the 1970s, when people still believed that if they got a good education, worked hard, and were loyal, their employer would provide them with a job until retirement, and then take care of them with a pension plan. “Command-and-control leadership was the norm. [Boomers] didn’t make demands. They waited for their bosses to notice their hard work and reward them in due course,” reported Carolyn Martin of RainmakerThinking, Inc., which has published several books on the changing American workplace.

Gen Y is a generation of latchkey kids, whose parents were both working when they were growing up, leaving them to manage very much on their own. Martin pointed out that they were also the first generation to be told they would not be as well off financially as their parents. Because they grew up hearing news reports about government corruption and corporate scandals like Enron, “they understood from day one of their working lives that large institutions couldn’t be trusted to make good on long-term promises,” explained Martin. “So, for short-term sacrifices, they demanded immediate gratification. They remain the consummate free agents.”

Members of Gen Y grew up with technology, and in fact, they can’t remember a time before the Internet. Like their older siblings, they don’t expect to remain with one company for long, and they are also very entrepreneurial. “Although Baby Boomers were taught to win at all costs, they raised their children, the Gen Yers, to believe that competition is overstated,” said Daniel. “When Gen Yers were playing sports as children, everyone got a trophy for participation. This naturally shaped their thinking”

What Do They Want?
When hiring and retaining employees, the principal factors to be considered include compensation (both wages and benefits) and working conditions. In both these areas, there are vast differences between what the generations consider desirable.

As Beckley pointed out, “All employees want to be well compensated, but the difference is the type and structure of compensation they want. For example, health insurance is important to everyone, but it has a higher importance among boomers because of the reality that they need it more. It is less valued by Gen Y, because they are still at an age when people think they’re bulletproof.”

Because boomers come from the perspective of long-term employment, they are more likely to value some type of profit-sharing, or to ask a potential employer, “How many years do I have to work before I’m vested in the firm’s retirement plan?” On the other hand, members of Gen X and Gen Y don’t plan to remain with any one company very long, so they are more attracted to higher levels of short-term income.

Connie Johnson, managing director of Talent Framework, a human resources consulting firm based in Reno, noted some of the characteristics of each generation that recruiters can use to attract them. “While Baby Boomers want benefits such as insurance and retirement plans, they also value title, position and authority,” she said. “They feel they’ve earned the corner office. Gen Xers are used to being independent, and they value freedom and flexibility. Gen Y wants to have their dream job right now. They want to start at $40,000 to $50,000 a year, get plum assignments and meaningful work without having to wait in line or ‘pay their dues.’”

Employees of all ages appreciate flexible work hours and work-life balance, but boomers, because they were trained at an early age to put the company first, are much less likely to ask about work arrangements. “Boomers are more likely to put in the hours and grind out the work,” said Beckley. “Gen Xers crave flexibility in how and when they work. They may be able to get more done in less time by using technology to make themselves more efficient. If they complete their work at 3 p.m. because they are more efficient, they can’t see why they shouldn’t be able to go home early.”

In Daniel’s opinion, Gen Yers are not as concerned about wages and benefits as they are about the work environment and the social aspect of interacting with co-workers. He said, “They’re more likely to tell a potential employer, ‘I’d like to work for you, but I need to be off from 2 to 4 every Thursday.’ A boomer would never say that. If the employer won’t give them the time off, they’ll find another company that will. They value flexibility in work hours, including working from home, and they want to know upfront about vacations. Those things are more important than a benefit program they might never use.” Generation Y is also socially conscious, and its members value jobs that will have an impact on their community or on causes such as global warming or saving endangered species.

Managing the Generations
In order to be effective, a manager must understand how the generations are different, and how to compensate for their weaknesses and make the best use of their strengths. “For boomers, the most important things are loyalty, work ethic, commitment and self-reliance,” said Beckley. “Gen X and Gen Y value creativity and personal gratification. They like challenges, they like to be flexible, and they like to use technology to be faster and more efficient. The differences between older and younger workers can create a recipe for tension and potential conflict.”

“Boomers believe in order – there’s a process for everything. They like a very structured environment,” said Daniel. “When they were growing up, they were taught that you got an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. If a manager tells you to do something, you don’t ask why, you just do it.” Johnson noted that many boomers are workaholics. “They’ll brag about working 10 or 12 hours a day, which younger employees can’t understand,” she said. “Young people are likely to think that working long hours is a sign you’re not getting your work done quickly enough.”

Independent-minded Gen Xers are often concerned with building up marketable skills and experience that will make them valuable contributors to any workplace, according to Martin. She advised managers to tune in to their obsession with training. “Although they don’t plan to stay with your company for more than a few years, by offering good training programs and flexible work arrangements, you may be able to hook Xers into a long-term employment relationship,” she said.

“Gen Y values fairness above all,” said Daniel. “They don’t subscribe to the idea that ‘He who has the gold makes the rules,’ and they don’t believe in doing what the boss says just because he’s the boss. They are achievement-oriented and they absolutely love a challenge. They have seen the success of all the young people who have become rich by forming their own companies, and many of them believe they’ll be millionaires by the time they’re 35. One of their great strengths is that they are able to think outside the box.”

Creating teams of mixed generations in which everyone contributes can help people of different ages learn to work together, said Johnson, who encourages managers to “create a reciprocal learning and teaching environment” that includes mentoring and reverse mentoring. “Younger workers love being seen as having unique expertise,” she said. “For example, if we are trying to recruit employees, a younger worker may show us how to use Facebook or other online services instead of the traditional means of recruiting. Boomers have what we might call ‘tribal knowledge’ about the company. They know what’s been done in the past and why systems were set up a particular way. They know the company history and the long-time relationships with established clients, and they can pass on this valuable information to younger workers.”

Creating workplace teams can be difficult for managers dealing with employees who have different concepts of the value of teamwork. “Boomers believe there’s no such thing as a team. Everybody is out for themselves,” said Daniel. Because Gen Xers are so independent and goal-oriented, they often prefer to work on their own. In addition, according to Johnson, “Gen Xers are direct and frank. They have not learned tact and diplomacy,” which can create problems working closely with others. In contrast, experts say Gen Yers prefer to work together. “Gen Yers don’t want to leave anyone behind,” noted Daniel. “They appreciate a team-oriented environment.”

Once managers understand the differences between the generations of workers, they need to promote tolerance and communication, and facilitate an environment where they can all work together, according to Beckley. “A good manager makes sure the groups understand each other,” he said. “Get them to talk with each other and share experiences. Encourage communication and understanding. Put it on the agenda of a staff meeting if you have to - it’s that important. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstanding and conflict.”

Customized Coaching Styles
An important part of managing employees is mentoring them, in order to transmit knowledge and also to groom them for advancement within the company. Not surprisingly, the different generations see coaching or mentoring from different perspectives. “Boomers and Generation X don’t want to be coached,” said Daniel. “They may see attempts to supervise them as micro-management.” However, Gen Xers do see the value of training, since gaining skills can add to their “toolbox.” Gen Yers appreciate coaching and mentoring, according to Daniel. “Remember, this is the Nintendo generation,” he said. “Because video games reinforce success with constant rewards, they are used to getting immediate feedback. They want to be measured constantly and get real-time feedback, not annual reviews.”

Training Tomorrow’s Leaders
Corporations used to expect employees to start at the bottom of the corporate structure and move into positions of authority over the years. This system of long-term employment provided a way for people to receive on-the-job training in management and leadership so they were prepared to assume higher-level positions when an opening occurred. In today’s workplace, the average worker changes jobs several times in his lifetime, and may even move from one industry to another one that is totally different. This presents a real problem for management concerned about succession planning.

“Managers must groom and cross-train younger employees to move up to the next level of management, so they will be ready to fill the future needs of the company,” said Beckley. “This is not being done to the extent it should be. We’re not taking the time to think long-term, and that presents a real concern. It’s a big project many managers never find the time to do, especially in public companies where they need to produce results for shareholders each quarter.”

Johnson added, “Very large companies have structured leadership programs, career ladders and formalized mentoring, but small to medium-sized companies don’t have these resources. Many of them may not be cross-training their employees.” She noted that when people job-hop from company to company, they don’t get the experience of following through on long-term projects, from its planning phase, through implementation, to assess its impact on the company and decide what could have been done better. “Frequent job changes give you less chance to see the big picture,” she noted. Johnson also pointed out that, while younger employees are concerned with building a “toolbox of skills” they can take from one employer to the next, they often lack people skills, which are honed from years of face-to-face contact with others in challenging situations.

Beckley advised managers, “Planning is a critical element in success, and your long-term strategy should include succession planning. One way to ensure you will have enough future leaders is to create a workplace that contradicts the notion that long-term retention is impossible. You need to create an environment where people feel and act like they’re partners in the business.”

Kathleen Foley is a freelance writer based in Southern Nevada.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

MARKETPLACE: Boosting opportunities

Minority businesses and entrepreneurs bolster economy, create jobs, observers say


The Las Vegas Valley is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity, with a near-constant stream of accolades anointing it one of the nation's best markets for startup businesses.

And a fair number of businesspeople flocking to the city for new opportunities are minorities.

Experts say boosting opportunities for minority business owners bolsters the local economy because many minority entrepreneurs run the kinds of smaller companies that create most of Nevada's jobs.

What's more, supporting local companies keeps money in the local economy, as smaller businesses based here fill needs that out-of-state corporations might otherwise take over, said Carlos Gomez, business development director at the Latin Chamber of Commerce. Helping minority businesses find success also expands the supply for goods and services, thus improving competition and reducing costs, according to the Nevada Minority Business Council. And the gains in jobs and tax revenue limit the need for social-service programs, the council added.

Helping minority businesses succeed requires understanding the obstacles and advantages they experience today.

Las Vegas holds some advantages for minority entrepreneurs, observers say.

Thanks in part to MGM Mirage's emphasis on diversifying its vendor base to include more minorities, businesses across the city show greater interest in reaching out to minority entrepreneurs, Gomez said.

"MGM Mirage is pushing the envelope to get minorities involved, and we see more companies that are more open to working with minority-owned businesses," Gomez said. "There are more opportunities."

Some of the city's larger businesses also set aside specific percentages of vendor work just for minorities, and that helps minority providers win contracts. It can be easier to snag a contract when you're not competing with bigger, more-established companies, Gomez said.

Nordstrom, for instance, recently conducted a project preview event to help local minority construction companies learn about the company's bidding process.

Vida Chan Lin, vice president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, agreed that minority owners of businesses in Las Vegas have many chances to leave their mark.

"There are more minorities in Nevada now, and I think there is opportunity for everyone," she said. "If you can figure out where you belong, the opportunity here is great."

Minority entrepreneurs in Nevada still face obstacles, though.

Tops among those issues is financing. Many ethnic business owners are first- or second-generation Americans, and they often lack the extensive credit histories that more-established residents claim, Gomez said. The shortage of credit experience makes obtaining business loans tougher, and it can also curb access to insurance, bonding and other operational essentials.

For Phung Jefferson, a Las Vegas attorney and owner of Law Offices of Phung Jefferson, financing proved the biggest stumbling block to opening her firm in 2003.

"I think, as a minority, I wasn't afforded the same access to financing that nonminorities had," Jefferson said. "I don't want to say, 'It was because I'm black.' I'm sure there were other factors. But with the bigger institutions, I wasn't able to qualify. The avenues available to me weren't as open as those for nonminorities."

Communication hurdles block the way for some companies as well, Lin said, as many first-generation minority entrepreneurs speak English only as a second language. Las Vegas also lacks the communications infrastructure of bigger cities on the coasts, where established Asian-language radio and television stations help connect business owners to the consumers who need their goods and services.

Competing for labor with megaresort operators challenges Asian business owners in particular, Lin added, because hotel-casinos experience high demand for employees who can communicate with visitors who speak Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

For other minority entrepreneurs, harmful stereotypes linger.

"There are segments of society that render me at a disadvantage just because of the way I look," said Lonnie Wright, the black owner of Shetakis Wholesalers, a food distributor that posts more than $70 million a year in sales serving local hotel-casinos and the Clark County School District. "It doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes. African-American males have been somewhat of a poster child for ill will in our society. So when you're out there, even if you're educated, you still run up against people being a product of their environment. But you need to learn to navigate past that, and you have to develop tolerance so you don't have a chip on your shoulder. Excuses will not cause you to be successful."

And those major corporate diversity initiatives don't always pay dividends for smaller minority enterprises, added Cedric Crear, president of Crear Creative Group and a member of the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education. That's because many companies with diversity programs often fulfill contract objectives by giving one or two larger minority operations big contracts, frequently in construction.

"If you dive down into it, is it one minority-owned company getting a $4 million contract or 10 different companies getting pieces of a bigger $4 million contract?" Crear said. "It's a quicker, larger chunk that can be bitten off at one time. It's easy to say, 'Hey, we gave out $50 million in contracts,' but it was for three construction companies. There are other companies besides construction."

Minority entrepreneurs also have "huge challenges" in networking, and in grappling with the "unfounded perception" that they can't provide the services bigger businesses seek, Crear added.

Jefferson agreed that minorities struggle with networking and access to major local corporations.

"It's about the circles you travel in," she said. "Minorities aren't always traveling in the same circles as nonminorities, so we have less exposure to bigger companies. In this town, it's about who you know, not what you know. If you know the right people in the right circles, you have access to people who make decisions. If you're not in those circles, you don't have access. You're out there pounding the pavement and knocking on doors."

To succeed despite hurdles, Crear recommended that minorities considering launching a business work toward solid credit histories to help secure financing. They should also be willing to put their own money into their startup. He urged entrepreneur hopefuls to stay positive and keep trying: When one bank Crear had connections with turned down his application for an SBA loan, he took his business plan to a second lender who guided him through the process and loaned the funds.

Jefferson suggested looking outside traditional banks for business loans. She found her financing through the Nevada Microenterprise Initiative, a program that helps small startups launch. The group's $10,000 loan to Jefferson made the opening of her practice possible.

Minority business owners must make sure they don't give bigger companies an excuse to avoid working with them, Crear said. His business, for example, is licensed to operate in states including New Jersey, Arizona and North Carolina, so no prospective client could deny him a contract based on limited market reach.

Jefferson also recommended minority hopefuls finding a mentor who successfully started his own company, and tap him for advice on getting going.

Observers said they have high hopes for the future of minority business ownership.

The younger generation "is not being indoctrinated and programmed with the types of prejudices and stereotypes my (baby boom) generation grew up with," Wright noted.

Also, Lin said, young minorities have a distinct advantage their more-seasoned counterparts sometimes lack: technological savvy. That enables them to use computers and the Internet to conduct more advanced research, develop extensive business plans and tap into greater resources for financing and networking.

Regardless of minority status, though, the secret to doing well is still the same for any business, Gomez said: "Like any type of reward, success comes from education and vision, plus hard work, hard work and hard work."

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at or 702-380-4512.

Monday, May 5, 2008


By Craig Harrison

In the Star Wars movie's famous bar scene you knew, by appearance, what zany character was sitting beside you. Each character had a distinctive look. Yet in today's meetings you may have no idea the constellation of characters that you're meeting with. That's because their normal outward appearances belie often-troublesome behavior. Use this article as your guide to the crazy cast of characters you're likely to encounter in your meetings. Whether or not you're armed with a light saber, you'll nevertheless be equipped to do battle with these oft-destructive forces who subvert meetings with their bothersome behavior.
The Monopolizer: This person thinks he or she is the only one with wisdom on subjects. The monopolizer believes everyone else is there to hear him or her speak, and so they do, incessantly. They don't appreciate that meetings offer an opportunity to hear from many. They prattle on and on, arrogantly acting as though their ideas or beliefs are inherently more important than others. Sadly, other people shy away from contributing, intimidated by the monopolizer's stranglehold on the meeting. When facilitators allow this, it sends a message their rudeness is sanctioned. The facilitator or even other meeting participants should indicate an interest in hearing from others in the meeting, to remind the monopolizer that others can speak as well as listen.

The Tangent Talker: This person hijacks the topic of the group by taking discussions off on tangents—topics unrelated to the issue at hand. One minute you're on topic and the next minute you're in “left field” as your agenda topic has been taken to a tangent. Your meeting chair's ability to recognize and refocus is essential to a productive meeting. “Let's remember to confine ourselves to the topic at hand” is a good way to get back on track. Alternately saying, “Let's try to avoid tangents” also labels such behavior as contrary to the group's aims. As well, you can “park” extraneous items in a “parking lot” list where they're noted, if only to be addressed later.

The Devil's Advocate: Let's face it, there's one in every crowd and most meetings too. This person seems to relish taking the opposite tack. Whatever the argument being put forth, this person delights in taking an opposing view. It's sport for them, an exercise in opposition. The more unpopular the stance the more exciting their challenge. Often they begin by saying, “just for the sake of argument…I believe the opposite is true….” While there's value in looking at issues from multiple points of view and avoiding groupthink, the Devil's Advocate applies their technique to every issue, every argument and every conversation. Hold on to your Agenda and get comfortable. This could take a while! A good chair can praise this person's ability to do this while simultaneously indicating its inappropriateness given time parameters or previously agreed issues.

The Cynic: The ultimate naysayer, this person has a Masters degree in negativity. Adroit at the phrase “it won't work” they are skilled at deflating and defeating whatever motion is in motion. “Can't be done.” “They'll never buy it.” “We tried it once and it was a failure.” Their motto: just say no. Challenge these people to think like The Devil's Advocate and suppose for just a moment that things could work. Use the common conflict resolution tool of asking them to embrace the other side's view as if it were their own, and argue that side's position.

The Fence Sitter: Known for their paralysis by analysis, these characters are unable to make decisions. Despite being in a deliberative body, they are conflicted by multiple arguments, and can't “pull the trigger” when it's time to make a
decision in a meeting. They provide fodder for the Devil's Advocate, the Cynic and other characters with their ambivalence. Whether they are afraid of being wrong, or of disagreeing with someone else, or just going on record, they are a meeting monster for their inability to move the action forward. Try to cajole them to action. Remind them they have a vote and were invited to use it. Ask them their opinions on matters to draw them out and get them on record.

The Brown Noser: There's likely one in every meeting. The person who is so obsequious, bending over backwards to ingratiate himself or herself to the boss, the meeting leader or other power broker. They're so busy currying favor with others they subvert whatever true feelings they have about issues to “kiss butt.” They are seen to be in the pocket of the person they're kowtowing to. Ultimately, they are seen for who they are and become predictable. Try to elicit their ideas and preferences before asking others as a way of drawing them out.

The Pandora's Box Opener: These meeting monsters just have to tackle issues that are emotional, touchy or are “hot buttons” for others in the meeting. In every meeting there are topics sure to strike a nerve, to provoke an emotional reaction or enter the group into a quagmire. These people lead the entire meeting into areas that provoke frustration, animosities, and often resentment too. Once this box is opened, it's hard to get its issues back in the box. Discussions of salaries, promotions or personal styles often stir up issues that hijack meetings. Even worse, some culprits reopen issues from earlier in the meeting that have already been resolved. The best cure: a firm “let's not go there” from the meeting's facilitator. Other phrases like “let's cross that bridge when we get there” or “that's a hornets nest we don't need to disturb” labels certain subjects out of bounds.

The Attacker: As children these people were bullies. Some haven't grown up! The attacker deftly mixes negativity with personal attacks, challenging others' ideas with vigor. Without regard to hurting others' feelings, the attacker uses a confrontational style to object to others' ideas and go against the flow. Sadly, sometimes they don't even realize they're attacking. A good facilitator can refocus them to be positive, to remove the sting from their words, and avoid an adversarial approach. All meeting participants are entitled to stop the meeting when attacked personally. Ad hominem attacks are attacks against one's person. People can criticize your actions or beliefs, but you don't have to tolerate attacks against who you are as a person.

The Joker: Don't let their good nature fool you, Jokers can be meeting monsters. Their constant joking has the effect of diminishing others' serious ideas or suggestions. Their infusion of humor can belittle others' motions and makes it difficult for some to be taken seriously. There is a time and place for joking. While we all like a good laugh, constant joking disrupts a meeting and distracts attention from where it should be. A meeting chair can designate several minutes at the start or middle of a meeting specifically for humor. When it crops up elsewhere and is deemed disruptive, the chair can remind people the time for humor is passed or forthcoming, so as to control it.

The Robots: Yep, these meeting monsters are actually cell phones, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDA's), and laptops. Each distracts their owner and others too as they intrude on participants' attention spans during meetings. It's gotten so bad now cell phones contain cameras within them…just what meetings need. A good meeting chair will create ground rules for meetings, including turning off these gadgets at their outset. It's hard to compete with human distractions, let alone electronic ones as well.
As you can see, meetings are full of characters. You should study the behavior in meetings, including your own, to better understand your style of interaction. The character of your meetings will surely be affected by the characters in your meeting. May the force be with you.

About the Author:
Professional speaker Craig Harrison builds credible, confident communicators and stellar sales and service organizations. For more resources surf his website Craig can be reached at or by phone: (510) 547-0664.

InnovationsBrought to you by PrideStaff – a trusted partner™

Saturday, April 12, 2008


The pace at which we live is making us sick. Most of us are so busy, we "don't have time" for friendships, recreation, loafing, or rest. If we sleep very long at night, we awaken to a morning rush to get ready to go to work. We join the "rush-hour" traffic. We hurry to arrive at the job on time. By the time we do arrive, we are ready for a morning break...almost too tired to work.

Not only are we speeding through daily life at a frenetic pace, the current rate of change that is going on around us is so rapid, if we attempt to "keep up," we run the risk of exhausting ourselves. It seems we even "burn out" in
a hurry.

I work with many people who are feeling pressured to do more than ever before, and in less time. In their attempts to accommodate the pressure, their work becomes inefficient, and they overwork, become irritable, resistive, and demoralized. Their bodies are stressed, and they more easily become sick...a cold, flu, or worse. More than three quarters of the problems for which we seek medical attention are related to the speed and stress with which we function.

We do indeed seem to be suffering from what Native Americans once called "hurry sickness." We are so busy running in multiple directions, meeting endless deadlines, and participating in so many activities, that even our thought races. Peace of mind is forgotten. A serene internal environment is lost. And internal chaos becomes "normal."

For those of us who have forgotten how to slow down, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Remember, pressure
    is contagious.

    But, so is ease. You may wish to place yourself around people who are easy going, relaxed, and peaceful. "Hang out" with those people who are balanced themselves. Watch them and learn from them how they function.

  2. Train your attention to focus on one
    thing at a time.

    This skill is referred to as "single-pointedness." Many people are planning in their minds the next four or five activities they want to do while actually doing something else...mindlessly, or at least without attending to what they are doing at any given moment. Learn to put all of your attention on the activity you are doing right now. Let everything else wait.

  3. Periodically "check
    in with yourself."
    Monitor your tension level, your breathing pattern, your internal state. Even in the midst of a high-pressure situation, you can become aware of how you are inside, without anyone else becoming aware of what you
    are doing.

  4. Give yourself permission to
    "take your own time."
    Will disaster strike if you don't move faster? Will you work more efficiently if you rush through everything? Notice that when you speed through, and finish quickly, you never reap the benefits of the activity itself. There is usually personal benefit derived from being active. But when you speed through the action, you miss out on such benefit.

  5. Set the pace for
    any given day by reading inspirational books for the first half hour after getting out of bed.

    Or use that first half hour to meditate, review your blessings and appreciations, and repeat affirmations which stabilize and refresh your spirit.

  6. List daily activities that really need to
    be done.

    Simplify your activity level. Prioritize what is really important. Remember that your own balance and peacefulness is primary. Everything else is secondary.

  7. Make wise choices about what you put into your mind, into your body, and into your relationships.

    Fill your mind with positive thought. Fill your body with nutritious food and clean air. Fill your relationships with warmth and laughter. You have a lot more power and influence about the quality of your lifestyle than you
    may believe.

  8. Finally, keep in
    mind the outcome
    you desire.

    Learn to make choices and decisions with your desired outcome firmly in mind. Do you want to be stressed out and ill in a month? Is that your desired outcome? Or would your preferred outcome be a state of balance, health, and well-being?


We do not have to suffer from hurry sickness. We can maintain an internal environment which is serene, even if chaos reigns outside ourselves. Make your goal a peaceful internal state, and instead of hurry sickness, you may just develop "leisure wellness."

Share blog on LinkedIn