Do you eat your own cooking?

Do you ever find yourself using the same little expressions too frequently?  I’m not entirely sure if this is a reflection on getting older, possessing a simple mind or reading too many leadership books, but regardless of the source, one of my “little expressions” is about ‘eating our own cooking.’  Let me explain. I like […]

Named on 100 Best Companies to Work For

Employee Strategies is honored to be named one of ’100 Best Companies to Work For’ by Minnesota Business Magazine for 2014. Not only do we create great places to work, we are honored to be recognized as a great place to work. Now in its third year, the list honors Minnesota companies that set the standard for employee well-being.

The “100 Best” were selected by an independent research firm employing various research techniques — including an anonymous online questionnaire filled out by the employees of each company — to determine which companies in Minnesota excel in the areas of work environment, employee benefits, and overall employee happiness [...]

Leave Your Baggage Behind

Leave Your Baggage Behind is a piece featured on Intereum’s blog site, The article and video kicks off a beginning to a new relationship with Employee Strategies and Intereum.

Human behavior is complex. We work with individuals from all walks of life and spend hours upon hours trying to understand their behavior and how it relates to a leader, a purpose, and a workplace. Within our discipline of Organization Development, we, in effect, become like medical doctors of the workplace. While this simile falls apart the more you unravel it, it works to explain some basic premises of our work. Essentially, our clients present a problem and we work to address that problem or the root cause of the symptom that may exist a few layers below the surface.

A few years ago, we had a client that was moving across town. By outgrowing their existing space, it became necessary to find a bigger office. The move and the senior leader were met with some serious resistance. The leader couldn’t understand why. In his mind, he saw an expensive new office with more collaborative space, furniture that wasn’t forty years old, and closer proximity to some fun restaurants. The logic didn’t add up and he couldn’t understand why his team wasn’t excited about the move. So, he called us [...]

From Game 1 to 324 and Everything in Between

2013 Vikings Final Game Playbook | Feature of J. Forrest | By Mike Wobschall and J. Forrest

This past Sunday marked the final game at Mall of America Field, the stadium the Vikings have called home since 1982. Many fans have seen many great moments in this building. But J. Forrest, a passionate Vikings fan from Minneapolis, can lay claim to a unique feat: He was in the building for the first Vikings game and he will be here for the final Vikings game in the building. Forrest has been gracious enough to share his thoughts on this feat and all the memories he and his family made while watching games in this building.

Vikings final dome gameWhether it was the cold or the crowd or perhaps my persistence, at some point my mom relinquished her Viking ticket and let me assume the regular seat next to my dad. We said “Farewell to the Met” in December of 1981 while wearing moon boots and snowmobile suits. Our game day rituals were about to change [...]

Employee Evaluation Systems

Now we are in the fourth quarter and the most dreaded employee event is upon us. The annual review! You know the conversation or monolog about how you did or didn’t do well at your job this past year. Lovely. There is so much to assail when reviewing the review process…does anyone actually formally review the review system? Generally, we keep what we have, for the fear of the unknown is a powerful deterrent to change.

year end reviewAbout 12 years ago, I was in the midst of inventing the IPAD (The Individual Performance and Development) Review tool for a local organization with about 12,000 lucky employees. During our research, we uncovered a fairly common practice by some very reputable organizations. The practice was to stack rank employees—similar to a Class Rank system currently used in schools. Often times, these organizations would then cut the bottom 10% of the stack’s ranked list. This practice was outlined in exquisite detail in a Management book of the late ‘90’s. It sounded like a good idea until the fired employees got together and noticed some common trends in their ranks —mainly they were part of a couple of protected classes. Oops.

Unfortunately, these practices have not ended. Let me start by saying, I think Microsoft could have used my help. I could have explained to Microsoft’s management that stack ranking employees from best to worst is not a good idea. It does not increase revenue and does not foster collaboration [...]

Life Happens on the Edges of our Responsibilities

We’re all busy, except when we’re not. In these modern lives, we will drive ourselves nearly senseless trying to balance pretty much everything that we choose to care about: Family dynamics, work deliverables, personal bucket lists all fit here. Within this melee of busyness, we sleep. So, we find that increasingly, we are either going or we are sleeping. Does it have to be that way? Is there a limbo where we can be going just a little bit, or enjoy more of the “chill moments” of life right before sleep? I won’t tell you that these times exist, but I will make some suggestions on ways to answer the question for yourself.

Some People’s Kids

Children. Progeny. Kidlets. Time vampires. That’s right, regardless of Facebook’s continual posts to the contrary, not everyone is super psyched to lock into their children’s every breath each day. It’s doesn’t mean you love them any less either, but there’s a way to enjoy parenthood without deferring everything else.

A) Talk to your kids sometimes like you’re talking to anyone else. Just take a normal tone with them that’s not coddling, condescending or conceding. This creates a little less of an environment where you’re “parenting” and more of one where you’re simply getting things done for the day.

B) Give a kid some credit here. Rewards and feedback in the workplace are pretty similar in nature to how we should treat our smaller ones. Think about throwing the classic break-room-ice-cream-social for when your kids achieve a breakthrough or long-term effort. Not as huge as a birthday party, better than a pat on the back.

C) Focus group, except with stuffed animals. Get a little insight into the cognitive essence of your next generation by taking an hour to have them answer questions posed by someone else while you watch. We all know they act differently around others than they do their parents. Then, act on the info you were gifted [...]

Setting Goals

Easier than it sounds.Goals

Setting organization goals is something I have seen even the best and brightest leaders struggle to develop over the past 15 years. What tends to happen is that the process and formulas become so cumbersome and nuanced that even the goal writers themselves hardly understand what has been captured. At Employee Strategies, we have a few truisms—one of which, is an Einstein quote, “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year-old, you don’t understand it yourself. “

Our lesson learned: Keep it simple.

What are the ideal goals for your organization? The answer resides in the power of focus. In sports we have very identifiable goals like winning the World Series. But at work, winning isn’t always that clear. Many times, the leaders go on retreat and come back with what they believe to be the best path. The game of Telephone Operator starts to dilute the goal message the minute the team leaves the retreat.

Our lesson learned: Consistent & clear communication on results is vital.

What do good goals look like? Take a look at NASA and the space program. In 1961, President Kennedy set a goal to send a man to the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off that lunar lander, right on to the Moon’s surface. Kennedy’s goal setting was far more detailed than his predecessor. Eisenhower set what he called a goal, but was really more a strategic intent—To Be the Leader in Space Exploration [...]

You and Your EQ

Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence in his groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ”, which was released in 1995. Fast forward almost two decades and we’re still discussing the core principles of emotional intelligence “EI” or “EQ” (as opposed to IQ) as the competences that matter most in having a successful career and life.

However, discussion is cheap. Development is priceless. I’m here to talk about what we can do to become more skillful at work and home using EQ, the overall framework. But first, let’s define what the heck we mean by emotional intelligence. The fine folks at testing service MHS define EQ as:

“A set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”

That’s good, but a bit verbose. Here’s how I’d sum that up – “EQ is your ability to see and manage emotions skillfully.” While cognitive intelligence is important for a baseline of functioning to understand and convey information, being skilled at managing emotions is what leads to a more fulfilling career and life.

Your EQ ability is THE differentiator between simply getting by and thriving in relationships. The foundation of this perspective is rooted in neuroscience. Today we have boat loads of studies of the human brain that prove how impactful our emotions are in our decision-making, relationships and overall happiness. The good news is that you can develop your emotional intelligence. In other words, unlike IQ your EQ is not fixed AND emotions are contagious, you can impact others with your adeptness or ineptness in managing the emotional roller coaster we call life [...]

How to Attract and Retain the Next Kirby Puckett — or Byron Buxton

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This past week, my family went to Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge for a 12-person family reunion of sorts. Although we all live close, schedules and moving parts make long visits a rarity. Over the course of four days, you can get caught up on all those questions you wanted to ask at the birthday party but didn’t have time. One morning, I visited my mom’s cabin and was pleased to see my almost teenage niece, sister, and brother-in-law enjoying an earnest discussion on why the Minnesota Twins seem to be a minor league team for the All-Star Game rosters. A hot cup of coffee and a chance to talk about the Twins roster sounds like a great way to start a day! We had a really fun discussion about past player trades, increasing salary demands and expectations for the many talented rising minor league stars in New Britain, Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. Are we really going to lose Byron Buxton before we get to know him?

As the owner of an HR consulting firm, I am frequently asked the questions, “How do I keep my best young talent? What are they looking for? What can we provide that other companies don’t?” Although not all companies may be able to find and hire the next Lisa Grimm, named to The (Real) Power 50 by Minnesota Business magazine, there are three things young, talented people are looking for. Lisa shares with us her focus, “When I was approached by space150 to lead PR efforts, I assessed three things: Culture, its mission and vision, and how my vision would be supported from a leadership perspective. In addition to being able to actualize my purpose, which is very important to me, strong leadership within the organization I work for has been the hardest thing to find in my career thus far — and I crave it so much. As a really passionate person that can get pretty far in an autonomous environment, I have so much to learn, and therefore seek opportunities that offer superior and diversified knowledge and experience from both my peers and bosses. The lack of both has been the common denominator in me moving on from prior roles [...]

Confessions of an Occasional Flosser

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I do a decent job of visiting my dentist every 6 months. While I am walking out of the dentist wishing I had chap stick and wondering why my gums are so tender, I almost always schedule that next appointment. It’s the right thing to do. What I don’t normally do is start myself on a rigorous flossing plan 6 months before my next appointment. Generally speaking, I wait until a month before my appointment to get serious about my flossing. I try to rally. Rallying is something that we all do in many aspects of our work and life. We get off track and then squeeze our efforts into the last few moments before the event. It can work, but one area it doesn’t work is in planning a meaningful retreat for your organization.

As we head into planning season, my advice for you is — don’t wait. Get started now! If we were to develop our ideal scenario for our best retreats, they have three common threads: Time, simplicity and an outside perspective [...]