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Author Archives: Joe Denner

Giving Thanks for the Fallen Warriors

Were you able to attend a Memorial Day parade or flag folding ceremony on Monday? I’m sorry to say that due to other priorities this was the first time in a few years that I have not.  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  Memorial Day is one of those holidays that I took for granted for way too many years. But as I have aged (somewhat like a fine wine) it has grown in its importance to me. It’s become more personal because my grandfather gave his life in the service of our country many years ago, when my mom was only twelve.   I never had the privilege of meeting this great man, but I’ve heard a lot about him from my mom and other family members. I’ve admired his picture and, as young boy, I had the opportunity to visit the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, AZ where a monument in his memory was built.   All five of my sons and I are a part of the Civil Air Patrol, which is the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force. Because of our participation in this organization, many of them have been involved in flag folding ceremonies as well as presenting the colors over the years. No matter how many times I attend one of these events on Memorial Day, it’s always a very moving experience.   My grandfather’s story is an example of true servant leadership. He trained pilots for the Air Force and one day a routine training flight went awry. As the plane landed something went wrong and the plane’s engine caught fire. As the crew scrambled to evacuate the plane my grandfather’s seatbelt jammed. One of his fellow crew members attempted to assist him. My grandfather ordered him to exit the plane. The crew member obeyed the command and thankfully his life was spared. Unfortunately for my grandfather, the plane exploded with him still inside. All of the other crew members made it to safety.     I know you appreciate the service and sacrifice of those who have served in our military. Many have given their lives to secure and maintain the freedoms the people of this nation, including you and me, have enjoyed for more than two centuries.   Let me encourage you to make sure you take the time to stop and thank the men and women you encounter along life’s journey who have donned the uniform and sworn to protect this great nation. And, next year, let’s both commit to setting aside the time to watch the parade and listen to the speeches offered by veterans whose simple desire is to honor their friends and comrades who paid the ultimate price that we might be free.   Question: Who would you like to honor in regards to Memorial Day this year? [question]fallen-warriors[/question]  
Seize the day!

Five Keys To Hiring The Right People

When was the last time you had to fire someone? How’d it feel?  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  I can be pretty emotionally detached when I need to. But, terminating employees has never been easy for me. Those who find it easy might want to do some soul searching (or go see a counselor).   I still remember the time I fired a guy who absolutely deserved it. He actually threatened his manager by saying, “I oughta kill you!” The decision to release him from the company took all of about two seconds. It was a no-brainer.   But when it came to sitting down and actually terminating him, my stomach was in knots. I didn’t feel an ounce of remorse, nor did I waiver in my decision when he pleaded for mercy. But I still felt sick. I’m sure you know the feeling.   I’ve learned over the years that there is one good way to minimize these types of experiences as well as the enormous financial cost that comes along with it. Hire the right people and keep them.   Now that’s a lot easier said than done, obviously. No one is batting a thousand here. Statistically, most are well under fifty percent in terms of success. But there are definite steps you can take that will raise your success rate significantly.   Let me give you five things you need to do to considerably improve your track record in hiring the right people. In this game there are no guarantees, but following these guidelines has enabled me to establish a success rate of well over 70% in the last 10 years.
 

Steps in the Right Direction

1. Clearly define what you want. Too many companies feel a need, throw together an ad and start interviewing. That’s a sure way to fail. This deserves time to reflect and involve others. Sit down with the key stakeholders and determine exactly what you need. What you come up with will often be markedly different than what you originally thought.   One other important element here is to create and document a Performance-Based Job Description. This takes the standard job description and adds three key elements:  
  • The key business metrics that will define the person’s success
  • The behavioral traits and attitudes that will allow this person to fit the team’s chemistry
  • A snapshot of what a successful first 90 days looks like
  All of this work enables you to craft the kind of interview questions that will help you find what you’re looking for. Remember, if you aim at nothing, you’ll get it every time.   2. Have a well-defined, documented process. A lot of managers are shooting from the hip. They jump into the process haphazardly, doing it one way this time and another way the next. This leads to inconsistent results. If you aren’t following a proven process it’s very easy to overlook an important step.   Map out your process and walk through it with everyone who’s going to be involved. Make sure each person understands their role and the overall picture so they see how and where they fit in. Allow people to ask questions and check for understanding until you’re confident everyone is on the same page.  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  3. Ensure there is alignment with your core values. Don’t rely too much on the person’s resume or experience. I learned many years ago from one of my mentors that it’s much better to hire for attitude and train for skills. You want to find people that hold to and embrace the values that are most important to your organization. This is essential in building the kind of culture you want.   While the person may need a basic set of skills to be able to do the job, the best person for the job is not necessarily the most experienced person on the market. I’d much rather find a person with less experience, but just the right values and attitude. This cements the chemistry of the team.   We all know what it’s like to have a person who is a high performer, but is a cancer to the culture. It’s far too painful and costly.   4. Spend a liberal amount of time with the candidate. I’ve talked with too many managers who hire office, management or even executive level staff after only spending an hour with the person. That’s not nearly enough time to identify whether or not this person meets your requirements, especially if you’ve done a good job with #1 above.   I recommend that every hiring manager spend at least 3 hours with a candidate for non-labor positions. A person can only act for so long. Eventually the facade will come down. But you have to be willing to spend enough time with them for that to happen.   I also advise that the last hour or so be done in an informal setting, such as lunch or dinner. I especially recommend you take your spouse or significant other with you and have the candidate do the same. This will often allow you to see another side of the person than you’ve not seen up to that point.   5. Involve the right people. Don’t fly solo on this. Be humble and wise enough to involve other key stakeholders, such as those who will be peers or direct reports of the new hire. Especially involve those who firmly embrace your core values and those who bring a very different perspective to the table.   Listen closely to these people and don’t write off their concerns, even if you’re enamored with the candidate. If you trusted them enough to involve them, pay attention to their feedback.  
Clearly identifying what you want is the first critical step towards success.

Joe Denner

   

Don’t Miss These Bonus Items

Read my blog post titled, “Three Reasons to End the Interview Immediately” and listen to my podcast titled, “The Seven Biggest Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring.” Both contain key pieces of information that’ll help you raise the level of your hiring game.   Once you have the right folks on board it’s important you do two things. Keep them and shape them into a great team. In regards to keeping them, see my blog post called, “Four Ways to Keep Your Best People from Jumping Ship.”   Now it’s time to build a winning team. I detail three critical aspects of this in my video series, “Three Keys to Building A Great Team“. It’s free for a limited time. Click here to watch it now.   Question: What’s your biggest challenge in finding good people? [question]hire-right-peopl[/question]  

Seize the day!

How to Show Appreciation In A Way That Makes A Lasting Impact

We had a great time last Saturday as three of my sons graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. It was a fun trip, though it included a two hour visit to a local urgent care facility for a couple of stitches. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you know my son Jon, “enough said.”  
Image Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  As you can imagine there was a lot of congratulating and applauding that took place throughout the trip, but especially at the commencement. All of the celebratory shouting, hugging, and hand shaking got me thinking about a topic. It’s probably one of the most important topics we can consider if we want to be leaders who have significant influence with those we lead.   Significant influence is a powerful lever for creating high levels of engagement with our team members (or family members) and that is what leads to outstanding performance and results.   I remember early on in my leadership journey hearing repeatedly about what truly motivates people. What surprised me was that money was usually not in the top 5 (of research studies). Another thing that surprised me was when one of my mentors told me that appreciation and recognition were almost always #1 and #2. I found that hard to believe as a young leader. But the last 15 years have confirmed the validity of that again and again.   You may have noticed that I listed appreciation and recognition separately. They are distinct. The basic difference is that appreciation is typically given privately or one-on-one. Recognition is public.   I learned many years ago how important it is to know which one people prefer. I actually had a team member who really disliked being publicly recognized. I might even go so far as to say that he hated it. He disliked it so much that if I were to have recognized him publicly I’m confident it would’ve had a negative impact on our relationship.   The other pitfall I have fallen prey to, and have witnessed countless other times, is appreciation expressed poorly. Because of how the feedback was delivered, in some cases, it even wound up having a negative impact.   Give me 30 more seconds and I’ll give you two quick ways you can give appreciation or recognition that will create maximum impact.
 

Hitting the Target

Most of the time when we think about showing a person appreciation we think of saying things like, “Thank you” or “Great job!” The problem is that while the sentiment is nice, this is one of those times that “it’s the thought that counts” might actually not apply.   1. Be specific about what they did that you appreciated. Hearing “Great job!” feels nice for a few seconds. But often people are left wondering what you meant. Let’s face it. The people you want to appreciate do a lot of things. Which one did they do a great job with? What was it about what they did that you really liked?   The more specific you are with your appreciation the more likely you are to get the behavior repeated. If you aren’t specific you might actually end up leaving the person frustrated because they don’t know what you appreciated. And they aren’t likely to ask.   Saying, “Thank you” is nice, but doesn’t take much effort. Taking the time to clearly think through and then articulate what you appreciated adds tremendously to the weight of your gratitude. It’s a simple, but powerful difference.   Here are two examples:
  • “Bob, I really want to thank you for the amazing detail you provided in that report for me on the fabrication department’s productivity.”
  • “Susan, I really appreciated how you handled that frustrated customer this morning. You were patient and walked them through the situation with great care.”
  2. Clearly identify the positive impact or value of what they did and for whom. It is just as important to tell them how their action or behavior had a positive impact or added value. Don’t assume they are aware of all the benefits that were derived from what they did. In many cases they won’t be. Take the time to be thorough.   Additionally, be clear about who benefited from their actions. There will be many cases where they lack full visibility to the depth or breadth of the impact.   Even if they are aware of all these things, hearing about them from another person is meaningful and rewarding. Just as with the previous point, the fact that you took the time to think this through and share it with them speaks volumes about your true level of appreciation.   Here are two examples connected to the previous point:
  • “The details were extremely helpful because they uncovered some important flaws in our process that could easily have been hidden by numbers reported in summary. If it wasn’t for that report I would have made an incorrect decision on how to proceed. I thank you. Our stockholders thank you. Well done!”
  • “Your ability to handle that customer was witnessed by a number of your co-workers. You perfectly modeled our values and that really helps to reinforce the kind of culture we want here. And, it also allowed me to stay focused on a task that really needed my attention. Thank you!”
 
Showing appreciation is one of the most effective ways to boost your leadership impact.

Joe Denner

   

Maximum Impact

This is decidedly one of the best ways to increase the effectiveness of your leadership. American poet Maya Angelou is famously quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Authentic, timely and specific appreciation is a great way to make people feel valued and important. That creates long-term value for you, your team, and all other stakeholders.   Question: What do you need to say to someone on your team or in your family to show appreciation? [question]how-to-show-appreciation[/question]  
Seize the day!

Don’t Miss This Time With Your Family

This is a big week for our family. On Saturday we will have three sons who are graduating from college. Yes, you read that right. Three. All on the same day. All from the same university.     It’s going to be really fun to watch the three of them cross the stage to get their diplomas together, one right after the other. You don’t see that every day.   As I’ve shared my excitement with people over this momentous occasion I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how this came about. No, there are no twins. And, no, no one flunked out of another school.   There is a perfectly reasonable (and actually pretty cool) explanation, but that isn’t what’s important to me right now. What’s important is that we drink in this experience together and celebrate what’s been accomplished by these three fine young men.   I want to emphasize the part about drinking it in and celebrating. The reason is that I don’t always do that very well. So maybe this blog post is a little more for me than it is for you. You be the judge.
  I’m a pretty goal-driven, task-oriented person. I’m running pretty hard most of the time and actually enjoy it. I have a hard time slowing down and smelling the roses. This is a weekend where I definitely want to smell the roses, or whatever is growing in that part of the country.  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  I want to drink in the time with my family as we walk the campus, buy souvenirs at the bookstore, eat, swim, and whatever else we decide to do with these couple of days. This is a rare and amazing event we are about to experience and celebrate together as a family. There will be priceless, never-to-be-repeated moments and photo ops around every corner if I pay attention (and have my camera ready).   What do you need to slow down and enjoy in the coming weeks? What is your attitude about that thing, person or event? In the past there have been events that I didn’t enjoy to the extent I could have if I had chosen to have the right attitude about it.  

Quick Favor

My son just put together a commercial for the upcoming release of my management training product. It is only 90 seconds. Would you take a look and give me some feedback. We would sure appreciate it.   Question: What do you need to slow down and enjoy in the coming weeks? [question]url[/question]  
Smell the roses!
(a more relaxing way of saying, “Seize the day!”)

This ONE Thing is Holding You Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s May already. You and I are already one-third through the 2nd quarter. I hope your year is off to as good a start as mine is. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of unpleasant and painful bumps in the road, some of which you may have read about, but all-in-all I’m pleased with the direction things are heading.  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
  There is one thing that has been on my mind quite a bit over the last six months and I’ve been waiting for the right time to engage with you on it. It’s a subject that weighs heavily on me, and I’m pretty sure weighs even more heavily on you.   Do you remember watching Sesame Street when we were growing up? They had this segment with a little ditty that started like this, ”One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”   Unless you’re a solopreneur, or a very rare exception, there’s a good chance that there is someone on your team that doesn’t belong.
 

One Of These Things

You know exactly who I’m talking about. The bigger problem is that everyone else on your team knows exactly who I’m talking about and they’re waiting for you to do something about it. Every month that passes by without you doing something to remedy the situation serves to erode your team’s trust in your leadership.   You know they need to go. Yet you hesitate.   There are a lot of reasons. Some of them are financial. Some of them are mental or emotional. Maybe you can’t imagine how you’re going to get along without them. Maybe you’re just not sure how you’re going to replace them. Maybe they’re related to you and you’re wondering how Thanksgiving is going to look after that.   Many of the reasons you delay have a measure of validity. On the other hand, I’d like you to consider what it’s costing you to hold back.  

What’s It Really Costing?

Here’s a quick exercise. Add up:
  • the time you spend trying to figure out what to do
  • the time other people are spending talking about the problem or wondering when you’re going to do something about it
  • the time you spend listening to other people complain about the problem
  • the time others spend working around or compensating for the problems with this person
  • the lost hours (productivity) that’s arising from the erosion of your team’s trust in you
  Now take your salary, or an average salary for all involved, add on the all the fringe benefits costs, including payroll taxes, and calculate the hourly rate. Then multiply that hourly rate times the total number of hours that you came up with above.   Next, add the cost of replacing other good employees who have left or will leave because of this person.   What’s the total? The number is astronomical and will only get much larger. And that’s only the financial cost.   In addition to all that, I want you to consider the mental and emotional energy you are expending on this problem. Is it really worth it? Is it really a smart business decision to hold on to this person?  
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
 

Close To Home

I know that family businesses are especially hard hit by this dilemma. In those cases it’s not just the factors I mentioned above, it’s the real damage that can be caused to family relationships. One thing I would ask you to consider is whether the relationship you have with this family member is authentic or is it fabricated because you’re not being honest about your feelings toward them.   Some of my clients have had to deal with these very issues. There’s no sugar coating it. It is unpleasant at the very least and indescribably painful at it’s worst. But leaning into and dealing with it is the best thing for everyone involved. Everyone.   Let me encourage you not to delay any longer. Make the decision, create your plan, and take the first step. It won’t be fun, but you’ll back on this years from now and be glad you did it.   Question: What is the very next action you need to take to get things rolling? Don’t share you answer. Just think about it and then move forward.  
Seize the day!

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