Make No Bones About It; Communication Is Hard

Kirk Spock and McCoy

The Freudian Trio consists of three characters: one who acts emotionally and instinctively, one who acts with cold, passionless logic and one who reconciles the two conflicting ideals.

No TV show that I’ve watched applied this trio better than the original Star Trek series.

Bones was the emotional one. Spock the logical one. Kirk was the character that brought the two together.

Some of us, especially men, struggle communicating thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

This is an area that Leonard “Bones” McCoy excelled in.

At least on television. I can’t say how he was in real life – though I heard he was a gentleman.

I attended a seminar 15 years ago where I learned that I process ideas rapidly in my mind. So when I come out with a statement, people were often confused by what I said, and normally discounted my ideas.

I was normally left wondering why they rejected m y idea and I’d internalize the emotions.

At the seminar, I was shown that I needed to connect the dots for my audience so they could understand how I arrived at my idea.

Once I implemented this knowledge, conversations went MUCH more smoothly.

My ideas were accepted.

My confidence level took off.

We all communicate differently. We all expect certain to receive communication a certain way, and to deliver communication a certain way.

Communication styles affect our work life, friendships, parenting, and marriages.

Communicating well is crucial for relationships to survive.

I cover communication extensively in my group program being launched soon.

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Performance Issues That Blue Pills Can’t Fix

As I write this article, I’m sitting in a hotel room sick as a dog.

I’ve been sick now for over two weeks.

On top of my illness, I recently lost my dad suddenly to cancer, and am dealing with another family emergency.

It’s hard to maintain a tough exterior in the face of challenge but working for yourself forces you to move forward through difficult circumstances.

As an employee with sick leave, vacation time, and salary – I lived the high life so-to-speak. When I got sick, I was able to stay home, lay on the couch, watch movies, cough and choke and still get paid.

Owning your own business is different. You don’t get paid if you don’t work.

I’ve noticed in my few months of business ownership that my skin is becoming thicker as a result of having to keep going in the face of life’s curve balls.

As an employee… I might as well admit it… I was getting soft.

It was easy to lean on my benefits, and it was easy to see how it affected my performance over 11 years.

In the years where I struggled with my role, who I was, what I wanted, what I was supposed to do, or just not being busy enough, I had at least twice the sick time – if not more.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are many factors that impact employee performance.

Poor performance doesn’t have to be due to laziness, or a poor attitude, or some other horrible trait related to personality.

Your employee could be going through some tough times.

So what does that have to do with you…or your organization?

Well, that depends on you…and your organization.

In terms of managing people resources in your organization:

  • What is your vision for your business/branch/division and those you manage?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your limits?

These are just some of the questions I could ask to help you determine the actions you can take.

I will say that the best start is ALWAYS conversation. Ask and then listen.

Sometimes listening is kick an employee needs to get into gear.

Sometimes not.

Every situation is different.

That’s the beauty and frustration in dealing with employee performance issues. There are no pills that can easily fix these issues.

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A BIG NO-NO For Interviews

A man sleeping

The other day I was on Reddit, or as I like to call it “the goldmine for article ideas”, reading about interview experiences from around the world.

I found one that reminded me of something I witnessed a few years ago:

“Candidate brought his mom in with him – who proceeded to answer all the questions I was asking him until I asked her wait outside.

His only work experience was a paper route he kept for less than 2 months and mowing his neighbor’s lawn.

It was clearly an enormous effort for this poor guy to communicate in anything but one-word answers. In fact, he looked genuinely relieved when the interview was over.

Dude was 22 years old.”

Taking your mom (or dad – as I witnessed) into an interview is not a great strategy. If you’re considering doing that, I’m not the guy to help you.

My advice to you is: Go get a job and hold it down for at least 6 months and BEFORE YOU QUIT…have another job lined up.

As a hiring manager it tells me that if I invest time into training you, I’ll get some return on investment. It also tells me that I won’t have to go through the hiring process again anytime soon.

IF you can’t get a job…go volunteer somewhere to build “job credit”. Work hard so you’ll have a good reference for the next job interview.

I work with people who can’t seem to crack that next level of management. They’ve tried a few times but seem to keep striking out.

My approach is simple – I get a clear understanding of where you want to go, and then together, we plan out how you can get there.

In my program, I provide you with tools related to project management, people management, and communication strategies so you can put these new skills to work for you right away – on the job or in your next interview!

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I Hate Dealing With Employee Issues

Ever said those words?

I’ve muttered them a time or two.

Dealing with performance issues aren’t fun. Especially if you’re the type of person that prefers to share good news and bring people together.

But to be an effective manager, it’s part of the job.

The build-up to the conversation is horrid. You picture defensive behavior, hollering, screaming, and crying.

…and that’s just you in your office preparing.

As the time approaches, you attempt to calm your nerves by try to convince yourself using the standard DIY Help Gurus:

“Picture them in the nude”

“Picture having the conversation on a beach”

“Go to your HAPPY PLACE”

It doesn’t work.

They come in your office, sit down in the chair and….you freeze…or you mumble and stumble your way through the one-sided conversation until it’s over and you have no idea what just happened.

And the problem isn’t fixed, next day it continues.

Sound familiar? It sucks, doesn’t it?

Here are two changes to my approach that made all the difference: 
1️⃣ Write down the top 2-3 issues that need to be improved and have the list sitting in front of you during the conversation
2️⃣ Start the conversation with your observation of their performance during the time period and ask for their thoughts

From there, the conversation could go in any direction. I’ve NEVER had a performance conversation that went as planned.

Some conversations have been easier than others, depending on the topic and personalities involved.

I’ve found also that the older I get the more direct I tend to be as well.

Focus on the outcome you want rather than sharing bad news. Be clear up front that you want them to succeed and that you’re there to help them.

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How Valuable Are You , Dad?

Moms are caretakers.  Dad’s are providers.

That’s been the way of the world for centuries.  There are always exceptions to that “rule” but that has been the accepted family structure. 

Not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying that’s what it was.

But that picture has changed significantly over the years. 

Women have really stepped into the provider role, while still trying to maintain the household, which I know is stressful. 

Men have not accepted the change to their role as gracefully.  In fact, there is evidence that the younger men coming up are losing their identity because they aren’t sure how they fit in anymore.

When you’re hard-wired to provide and protect, and then told that you are no longer needed in that role it creates a certain level of anxiety.  You begin to ask yourself, “Why am I here?  What value do I bring to my family?”

Depending on your world view, the answer to those questions could lead to personal crisis.

If you’re a guy reading this article, I can confidently say, “You bring LOTS of value to your family.”

Ever see that video of the baby crying on his father’s chest and when his father hummed a deep-toned hum, his baby stopped crying and settled down?

THAT is a perfect illustration of the value a dad brings to the household.

Not money.

Not muscle.

A voice.

A dad’s voice can soothe.

A dad’s voice can calm.

It can focus.

It can create a healthy fear of consequences.

If you’re stressed because you don’t provide money or muscle at the moment, know that your voice has power in it. 

Your voice has value, so use it.

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The Power Of Our World View

I read a FB post the other day that got me thinking.

The author posted of her experience with surviving a major accident. Her point was: don’t try to bring a reason for an event in your life.

She maintained that she “just survived”.

She said she didn’t survive because “the world wasn’t done with her”. Her position was that she made it through the accident for no reason whatsoever other than chance.

It just happened.

Taking the position at face value, what would happen if we apply some simple logic to the assertion and expand the scope a bit…

If I just “survive”, then I must simply “arrive” [on this planet], right?

No special purpose or function. We’re just here.

AND… if one of us “just arrives”, then we all must just arrive for no reason, right?

We are a product of chance.

This is the position of those who believe there is no designer. If our world view is such that there is no designer, we must believe that we do not come to this earth with value and purpose.

Basically, we simply exist and it’s up to us to determine our worth, which is where the author of this post eventually headed.

WE get to decide.

WE’RE in control, which is what most of us want, right? CONTROL over our own lives.

Of course, the problem comes if you can’t decide or find what value you bring to society. Where do you turn to?

SO… what if there IS a designer? How are value and purpose impacted?

Generally speaking, a designer only designs and build objects for a purpose. There would be no point in building something with no purpose (and therefore no value). Creating an object with no purpose would be a waste of resources, right?

That said, right from birth we know we have a purpose. However, unless you were born with a manual in hand, the problem still exists of finding it.

With a designer in the picture, it isn’t so much as CREATING a purpose as it is DISCOVERING the purpose for which we were made.

Would KNOWING that you were made for a purpose and then embarking on a journey of discovery be more motivating than wondering if you have purpose and then creating your own?

I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing the knowledge of KNOWING WE HAVE A PURPOSE puts us on more solid ground if our journey gets difficult along the way. Do you agree?

AND really… are we giving up that much control?

If we believe we’ve been designed for a purpose that doesn’t exclude the ability to deny it and choose our own path.

Just words for thought…

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What Coaching Hockey Taught Me About Creating Value

I’m in my final year of coaching hockey.

My younger son graduates high school this spring, so I’ll be hanging up my whistle in March/April of 2019.

The boys I’ve coached over the years have taught me as much about life as I’ve taught them about hockey. There have been ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

This final year I’ve been extra deep in my thinking. I know this is it, so I guess I’m taking advantage as much as I can.

The other day, I was thinking about what parents, coaches, and players all talk about after the game: scoring that big goal.

We talk about how “sick” that shot was.

We talk about how the goalie got deked out of his shorts.

We talk about the slapper to top shelf where momma keeps the cookies.

And of course, we talk about the bar-down shot that could be heard for miles.

All the players want to be the guy that does one…or all…of those things.

They want to be the hero, because heroes are celebrated.

Heroes are sought after.

Heroes are valued.

What we don’t often talk about is the events that lead up to the bar-down.

The clean face-off win back to the D-man.

The tape-to-tape breakout pass to get out of the zone.

The slippery moves to get by two defenders for the dump-in deep into the offensive zone.

The battle down low that results in a pass out front…

…for the wrister that goes bar-down into the opponent’s net.

You take ONE of those events out and the puck stays out of the net.

But as soon as the puck crosses the line, it’s the final shooter that gets all the credit.

I could go even further with this story.

I could talk about the hours of dryland training that enables the players to do those things.

I could talk about the coaches that teach and the parents that support.

A team that celebrates the full play, is the team that wins; whether the scoreboard agrees or not.

Same goes for life.

If you took time to reflect on how you got to where you are at this moment; the skills you learned, your attitude, the help you accepted from others… would you be able to say to yourself, “Man, I worked hard to get here”?

If so, great. Go celebrate!

If not, why not start now?

It’s never too late. If you know its time for something new, but know what or how, I can help.

A good place to start is by joining my daily email group.

I help people be more valuable to the marketplace without sacrificing their family by sharing free knowledge and experience I’ve gathered over my 45+ years of life.

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Take-Give Management Theory

When I was a youngin’…a FEW years ago…I worked as a room service attendant in a “fancy” hotel near my home (ironically, I’m writing this article in a hotel room).

A very important guest arrived who was going through court proceedings and was there for multiple months…so the person wasn’t in a great frame of mind to begin with.

After a few days of room service and the odd mistake here and there a complaint was put in to management from this individual.

My supervisor at the time took us aside and raked us over the coals for doing a bad job. She then proceeded to tell us that she was taking over the order filling process and that we were to help her.

The next order that came in was huge. Apparently, we were feeding the entire legal team during legal proceedings preparation.

My supervisor took over as promised. She organized the delivery and we headed to the elevator to carry out our orders.

As we headed up, someone noticed that we were missing an item or two. She flew into a rage and blamed us for the mistake!

I was a naïve kid, but even then, I knew she was totally in the wrong, so I didn’t take to heart what she was saying. In fact, I chuckled in my head because she sounded like a fool.

I totally lost respect for her, as did my co-workers. Not long after, I switched departments.

Taking credit for team effort or giving hell for individual mistakes (especially your own) are definite no-no’s for leaders.

One of the basic rules of leadership is that the leader “goes down with the ship” (which is what makes hiring such an important process – you gotta find people you can trust).

Often, organizational hierarchy is illustrated with a pyramid, the peak being at the top. I saw a more accurate illustration a few years ago with the peak at the bottom.

The philosophy behind it was that leaders lead by holding others up…rather than tearing them down. A simple, yet powerful illustration.

To finish my room service story, I returned to the kitchen, retrieved the missing items, and delivered them to the room. I apologized to the client about the mistake and they assured me that it was not a big deal.

If you’re a leader who has seen this behavior in your subordinates, or an employee who has dealt with it first hand, I have all sorts of tips that can be delivered right to your inbox.

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Three Things NOT To Do In An Interview

A few years ago, I went to an interview for a director’s position that I wanted and felt I qualified for.

I knew the interviewers. We had a good rapport in the workplace.

It was the first time I’d interviewed for this level of management and I was nervous.

I solicited the help of a consultant who we had been working with us for the past year and a half to aid my preparation.

He guided me to put together a nice presentation for the interview.

When the interview day arrived, I picked out my favorite suit, put my “lucky tie” that my son made me when he was in pre-school, and brought in my Toronto Maple Leafs coffee mug with water to keep my throat moist and hopefully loosen the mood with banter about my favorite team.

The interview started poorly right from the beginning. I was told the presentation I had prepared could not be handed out because they had to score me based on what was said inside the interview.

Nervousness level 1000. Not the start I was hoping for.

Regardless, the questions began and I soon settled into a groove.

Everything was going fairly smoothly until I answered a question that caused one of the most important interviewers to shake their head in disagreement.

I blew it…and I knew it.

When the news came out of the winning candidate, I setup a meeting with one of the interviewers to get feedback about my interview performance.

Here’s some of what was said:

1) ALWAYS dress professionally. Regardless of whether you know the interviewers or not, dress for success. I had a suit on, but the tie my son made me gave the interviewers an impression that I was soft and unprofessional.

2) Don’t bring anything into the interview that indicated an affiliation with a team or organization. The comment to me was “You’re a Leafs fan. What if I was a Canadiens fan? I may not have hired you just because of that.”

3) Understand the interview process of the organization you’re interviewing with PRIOR to preparing for it. By attempting to hand out the presentation, I ended up looking amateurish and unprepared. I should have known that I couldn’t hand out a presentation to the interview board before going in there.

There are more tips I learned from this one experience, but I’ll save those for another day.

Well….maybe one more bonus tip:

Remember how I noticed the interviewer shaking their head after one of my answers?

To this day I feel my answer was the correct one and actually proved to be true in the end…HOWEVER…it wasn’t the answer they were looking for at the time.

The tip? Have as much organizational awareness going into the interview as you can. Know the company’s strategy as best as you can so the answers you give can be tailored to fit their strategic direction.

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