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 […]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Igniting Energy and Excitement at the Workplace

“Please tell me we aren’t going to do ‘trust falls’ today?” At the beginning of a recent strategic planning session, I was asked this seemingly omnipresent question. Whether it’s an acoustic guitar, trust falls or a rope course, there are many misconceptions on how we drive change or energy within our workplace. Trust is an outcome of a great place to work and culture helps to create that dynamic. I believe culture is something you can influence and it doesn’t happen in a 30-minute exercise; you build it over time, actions and authenticity.

Much is made about improving culture or increasing employee engagement. In fact, these are words we use on our websites to drive business. From my experience, the workplaces that have the most positive energy have intentionally created their culture and community and do it in specific and well-derived ways.

They allow employees to float and hope they come to work. Forward-thinking companies are making spaces for employees to move around and feel at home while achieving higher work related attitudes. The layout of office spaces is changing dramatically from cubicles to offices with open space. Collaborative and community space is now vital. Regardless of size, organizations that expect a lot from their employees and show ample amounts of recognition create an environment where employees don’t want to work from home every day—for fear of missing out on what’s happening. Space matters in this regard [...]

No Career Overlap

Let’s examine flaw number eight of the traditional performance management. Number eight highlights the lack of career development inherent within review systems.

A couple months ago, I sat down with a new employee to work on their performance goals for the year. As we looked at her draft goals, there was some confusion about what was an organization goal and what was a career goal. I explained, an organization goal is about pushing the organization to perform; the career goal is something you keep—a skill, an enhanced competency or a certification of sorts based on the individual interests.Many review systems don’t overlap with the person’s career. Smaller organizations are more limited by this than big companies where a department of people exists to train and build skill. In small organizations, a year is like a dog-year. We age prematurely as there is so much work to do and very little thought given to our future or career. In my on-going desire to gain discretionary effort from my team and my client teams, individual motivation needs to be galvanized [...]

Performance Management Flaw – Forgetting 10 Months of the Year

In our series that examines the flaws of traditional performance management, flaw number 7 highlights the Golden Gate Bridge Effect of the review cycle.

I have heard this explained a number of ways over the years. Recency. Organizational Amnesia. A phenomenon of performance reviews is that we remember those things that happened within the very recent past.

If you look at a Suspension Bridge like the Golden Gate from the perspective of the water, you get the normal workflow for traditional performance reviews. From the left, the first tower illustrates the beginning of the year—time to set goals. Then begins the drop-off—the point at which no one looks at performance. Do we not care about performance from February to November? 10 months of the year. Of course not, we just don’t care about the Performance Review system. The primary reason for that, in my opinion, is because the system doesn’t tell us how we are progressing as an organization or individuals. What if your performance review gave you updates on organization performance? [...]

An Overused Word Starring in your 3:00 p.m. Meeting — Alignment

If you make a living as a consultant, a solopreneur, a legal or tax advisor, or spend a portion of your day on a laptop at a coffee shop or sitting on conference calls, chances are that you use the word Alignment too frequently.

Alignment. Sounds easy. The reality is alignment doesn’t come in words, it comes in tools, systems, and communication. And it is far from easy to achieve.

A few years ago, I received a referral from a client. A nice compliment, right. So, the setting is mid-December and the prospective new client called and said we need some serious help with our performance review system. I was instantly flattered for the call and the referral. The predicament they found themselves in stemmed from a lack of alignment in their Performance Review system. They used ratings and tied their ratings to bonus payouts. For many packaged review and HR Information Systems, this is quite common [...]