The Giants are 0-5

October 27th, 2017

As I write this, the NFL’s NY Giants are winless with five losses. ESPN sportswriter Bill Barnwell cites a number of reasons for their poor performance. You may not run a football franchise, but any business can learn from these reasons:


Drafting DisasterThe problems for the Giants start with one number. Of the 2016 playoff teams ranked by the number of players they drafted between 2009 and 2013 who were on their roster for at least one snap last season, the Giants were dead last with a mere four players. Barnwell points out that the Green Bay Packers lead the league in quality drafting over this period with 13 players still on the roster. They are followed by the Steelers with 12, and Patriots with 11. (The Raiders–with 6–are in the cellar with the Giants.)

Quality recruiting is key to organizational success. The US Marines are successful because of the high standard of their recruiting effort. They take people who want to be Marines, because that makes it easier to make them Marines. There is a proven process for this. Turnover rates are fairly well publicized. You can calculate yours and make the comparison. Of course, then you might have to face the fact that you are not as good as you think you are.


The Wheel of Cash To fill out his roster, General Manager Reese did what desperate teams do: He spent oodles of money in free agency. First, he pursued a bevy of mid-tier free agents with limited success, paying premiums to add replacement-level players. ‘Sound familiar? I cannot tell you how often I hear employees lament that, to get a pay raise, you need to leave the organization and then come back. We throw money at poorly-screened market hires, thinking they are the solution, even the salvation. But all too often, they don’t work out.

Your profitable growth is based on long-term employees who understand what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. They know the policies, procedures and values. Yes, you should always be looking to upgrade, and a market hire can be a great asset. But you don’t build greatness for the long term with free agents. And when you spend, you hit the P&L, leaving little room for other investments in people and equipment.


The False Hope of 2016 – The Giants got really lucky in a bunch of games last year. Much of their improvement between 2015 and 2016 came down to their performance in games decided by seven points or fewer. Both the 2015 and 2016 Giants were 3-2 in games decided by eight or more points, but the 2015 Giants were 3-8 in the close contests, while the 2016 Giants went 8-3. There was no reason to think they would continue to win nearly 75 percent of their close games on an annual basis. This year, they are 0-3 in one-score games.

Construction projects are subject to huge positive and negative variances across cost codes and activities. Somehow, they usually net to a percent or two positive or negative, and it all works out. But sometimes, firms simply fail to look more closely at critical activities, and they incur risk in doing so. Maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are at a certain activity because costs are being put in the wrong place. I just watched a presentation from a project manager on the real cost of punch list work, and it opened a lot of eyes in that firm. How closely are you willing to look at historical costs and the way you really do business?


What to Learn – Barnwell said it best: The biggest lesson from the Giants’ fall from grace is simple: If you’re a coach or an executive, be honest with yourself when you evaluate your team. If the metrics disagree about your team, as is the case with these Giants, you might want to re-evaluate whether you’re actually as good as your record says you are. The most common mistake fans make in evaluating their teams before the season is to count on everything that went right a year ago to stay right while all the problems get fixed. Organizations make the same mistakes sometimes, too.


          Benjamin Franklin summed it up this way: “One of the greatest tragedies in life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts’. He could write for ESPN today. Could he be writing about you?


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Look ‘Em in the Eye

October 27th, 2017

I learned a lot in the Marines. One of the things I learned was the importance of people. I also learned how important it is to pause from time to time and thank people for their contribution. And then there are the times when we need to do more than pause; we need to stop. Gene Duncan is a former Marine who wrote several books about his time in the Corps. His books are a collection of funny, sad, and poignant “letters” relating the experiences of two professional Marines, truthfully telling it like it was in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. As a young Officer of Marines, I learned from reading “Dunc.” Like you, I continue to learn from reading. Consider that you are reading this issue and I hope you will learn from it too.

He wrote about the importance of letting people know you cared. In fact, taking care of people is a chapter in my first book, No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win In Business. He cited Thanksgiving and Christmas as two times that deserved special attention. His advice was to form up your platoon and put the Marines “at ease.” Then walk through the ranks, talking to each Marine, asking about their holiday plans, making sure they were taken care of. Finally, he advised, look them square in the eye while shaking their hand, and say, “Thank you for your valuable contribution.” The first time I did this, it felt a little awkward–but it felt good also. It felt good because I could feel the connection with my Marines and I knew they appreciated my action. This appreciation leads to higher performance and deeper loyalty. The kinds of things that differentiate your business and make it succeed.

I realize you’re not going to put your people into platoon formation, but I do know that you can visit them in their workspaces or on the jobsite and extend the same courtesy and respect that I did when I talked to my Marines. You’ll be amazed at the impact this will have. You may decide, Christmas being so close to Thanksgiving, that you’d prefer to “spread out” your thanks. That’s fine; choose another important holiday when people will be away from work, spending time with family and friends. The day you select should be special to the members of your team. In our multi-cultural society there are other options. Your recognition on this occasion will make a positive impact on them.

A word of caution: don’t do this if you don’t believe it. If you are the type of leader who really does value your people and views them as important peers in the process of creating your product or service, then this will be well-received. If you view people as expendable production assets, and use this advice as a technique to motivate them, forget it–they will see right through you. Last year a client of mine did this for Christmas and he could not stop talking to me later about what a positive experience it was.

In closing, I want to look you in the eye and thank you for reading. I can’t set you up in platoon formation, but please accept my gratitude for your trust and confidence in me. Best Wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018.

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Speak UP

October 23rd, 2014

You need to communicate more. The people you work with and the ones who work for you want information, they want feedback. They don’t want to be left in the dark. No news is not good news, it is an opportunity for rumor and second-guessing. Over time a lack of communication and feedback can lead to indifference, apathy, and animosity. None of which are very sound motivational strategies! The solution to this lack of communication is to, well, communicate. Too bad that is a lot harder than it sounds. A lot harder!

First of all the construction world is not one of relationships. It is one of tasks. Getting things done is what creates value, not having conversations. But how else will you build capacity in your organization for the future if you are not having developmental conversations with people. I am working with a client and we have identified this as being an important issue. Nine months ago we identified the importance of giving feedback and having developmental conversations. We trained the senior leaders on how to do it. Nothing happened. I then did one on one coaching conversations with each of them to help them learn how to do it. They still delayed. We all agreed that it was still important. No action. More one on ones and finally these leaders are starting to have the conversations. Why so long to do such a simple thing?

We already identified the task nature of the industry as one reason. Another is lack of practice leads to lack of proficiency and that leads to inaction. Who wants to do something they are not good at? The remedy to this is to follow the mandate of Nike and Just Do It. No, you may not be perfect but the only way you can begin to get better at communication is to do it. One of the best books on the subject is Crucial Conversations. We teach a multi-day workshop based on the book but you don’t need to attend that to read a book. Another fine book is the The Lost Art of Listening. If you want to be a better communicator you can start by reading those books. Short of reading a book you can tell yourself to listen. Put away the technology, focus on the person. Listen for content and for meaning. Pause, paraphrase and repeat back what you heard. These are all simple and highly effective techniques to enhance communication.

Today in a planning session with a leadership team the subject came up again. The leadership team told the President of the firm they wanted feedback. I then asked how much feedback they gave to their people. Silence. How ironic that these people were saying they wanted feedback but weren’t giving it. So, we start from scratch and outline the expectation that communication is an important part of employee development, then we train and follow-up that the developmental conversations are happening.

Our human ability to communicate is a blessing and a curse. A blessing when employed well. A curse when we get it wrong. Any effort you make to be a better communicator is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

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What you Must learn from my summer vacation

July 9th, 2014

‘Remember in our youth the standard return-to-school “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay? This summer has given me several lessons that have value for you today.
The story begins with a local police officer knocking on my door at 9:00 one night, asking me about my brother, Billy. Of course, you know what happens next–I find out that Billy died in a motorcycle accident a few hours earlier. He was 57, divorced, with no children. He was a floor layer, a regular ordinary guy. Like you and your team members.
First lesson: we are in a business of relationships. Don’t let corporate purchasing and hard bid tactics make you forget this. While price is part of the purchase consideration, the quality of your work and the relationships you foster with your clients, customers, and co-workers are paramount. I first realized this as word about Billy spread through the grapevine and I received numerous calls, emails, and cards of condolence from across the country. These were unexpected and much appreciated.
I saw it again at his wake. Having worked his trade in the New York area for over 30 years, my brother was well-known. On that Memorial Day weekend, we were visited by many of his associates. Not just tile guys, but the Foreman from the Laborers, and a superintendent from a General Contractor, to name a few. There were even guys who had worked with our father in the business—and some even remembered when I had helped out on a few jobs, way back when! Connections between people—that’s what it’s about.
Next lesson: how is your health? Construction is hard work, yeah. But it isn’t a substitute for quality exercise and eating. Billy wasn’t in bad shape, but he wasn’t in good shape, either. He loved to eat; cooking was his hobby. He didn’t exercise. And he had coronary artery disease. In fact, he may have had a health crisis that triggered the crash. We don’t know for sure. But we do know that he was not taking care of himself and now, he’s gone. Are you taking care of yourself? (If not for yourself, then for those who love you.)
“Divorced with no kids” sounds like an easy estate to deal with, right? Well, it would be if
1) there had been a will (there wasn’t)
2) there had been up-to-date beneficiaries on his life insurance policy (his ex-wife is still listed, although that wasn’t his wish; he just “never got around to” changing beneficiaries even though they’d been divorced for several years), and
3) all his records had been kept in one place (not even close).

Looking through files and folders is never easy, but having to weed through pay stubs from 1986 makes the process even harder. I realized that my finances and directives are in a similar state of disorganization. I am currently creating what I call the Red Envelope, where all of that information is being placed to make the process easier for whoever needs to deal with it. We need to do this for the benefit of those around us. If you are a business owner or the head of a household, this becomes even more important.
By now, you may be fed up with my personal ramblings. But remember what my brother did for a living. He was a regular guy, he was just like you and the guys who work for you and with you. I am hoping you can learn from him so your team is better off.

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Where have all the graduates gone?

December 4th, 2013

The Washington Post recently reported that a growing number of colleges nationwide are scrambling to fill classes. This trend is driven by a declining number of high school graduates and rising concern about the price of education. While the elite universities continue to prosper, despite their nosebleed level costs, most all other institutions are feeling the pain. The number of new high school grads peaked in 2011 after 17 years of growth. That number will not reach a new high until 2024. The impacts of this are many. From people dropping out of the workforce to unfilled positions to unskilled workers these issues are real and demand new answers.

For the employers reading this we come back to the need to create a great place to work. The research on the payoff for that effort is consistent and compelling. The money invested in these sustained efforts goes to the bottom-line. Yet I regularly encounter people who don’t get it. The annual training event simply isn’t enough nor is the generic and low cost of living increase. People want real solutions. They want to be developed and they want to be recognized along the way. When is the last time you did a real pat on the back? When is the last time you offered compelling training that people look forward to? I get frustrated because the excuses are many. I get it. Times are tough but that is not an excuse. Heck, that is a reason to invest. That is why the new virtual training system from FireStarter,, is gaining fans. It provides users an educational experience that is not painful. It gives managers a tool to track, measure and monitor employee participation and engagement. The on demand interactive platform is bringing education to people who are traditionally overlooked. The platform is cost effective and user friendly. It is not the solution but it is part of the solution for developing your workforce.

In an environment where people are not going to college but looking for a career and for development the employer who provides education and opportunity is the one who will win the war for talent. The labor shortages of the past decade will look like a minor inconvenience in the coming years as boomers retire but there are not enough qualified people to step in. The problem is not going away. What new solutions are you applying?

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Deny your past, risk your future; Share your past, insure your future

November 25th, 2013

We all have relationships in our life that run out of gas. Sometimes there is a clear break and other times we just move on to different things and the relationship atrophies and goes away. We can all think of people we used to call best friends who today we have no idea where they are in the world. I just returned from watching the Notre Dame – BYU football game with my son and it occurs to me that the same thing happened for me with Notre Dame. I talked with some folks about it and they confess to a similar atrophy. I wonder where you stand on this.

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I am a graduate of Notre Dame. In fact, I was the mascot, the Leprechaun, in my senior year. So, by some accounts, I didn’t just go to ND, I was ND, to some people for a time. It was a wonderful time and then life goes on. I did a similar thing with my Marine experience. After I got out I worked to move on from that. I was out, period, and it was history. I was all about the future and that was my past. Writing my first book, NO YELLING: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win Business (which was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Entrepreneur magazine!) got me reconnected to the Corps. It got me a column with, it got me a position as a non-resident fellow at Marine Corps University, and it started an annual tradition at our house to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday with an open house featuring the traditional cake cutting with sword. The neighborhood kids love it, the sword and the cake! The adults love the cake, the food and the beer. I don’t wear my Marine Corps experience on my sleeve but I don’t diminish it either. It has found the right place in my life in the right proportion.

What happened to Notre Dame then? I guess it was a similar thing. I was about the future and that was in the past. I didn’t want to be one of THOSE fans who live and die with every win and loss. Go the watch a game watch for any major university at the local sports bar and you will know exactly what I mean. In the past decade I had visited three times the campus. Once to speak, once to do a book signing at the book store on a football Saturday (think WalMart on black Friday) and to take my daughter to the game, and then once to take my son to a game four years ago. I have season tickets to football but those are more for clients than for me. This time was different. My son is eleven. He is old enough to learn about the place and what it means to me (I was the first in my family to go to college). I took him to the Grotto and I prayed (ND aspires to be a force for peace as a preeminent Catholic University). I lit a candle, although I am not Catholic and had to explain why I did that and why it brought tears to my eyes (for a Marine I flew with who committed suicide). As we walked across that frosty campus our conversation even touched on the three part nature of our Christian God just as we came upon the mural of touchdown Jesus!

I feel the same emotions every time I return to campus but I don’t return often enough to sustain those emotions. Those emotions matter because they help me remember the values of my parents who helped me attend, the values of the university and, ultimately,  the person I am called to be. Most of you reading this did not attend the University of Notre Dame. That is not the point. As a business consultant I started this with the end in mind of calling upon business leaders to tell the story of their firm to their people. To have those celebrations, to tell about the bad times and the successes, about the people and the characters who have made the firm what it is. I am encouraging you to give people something to connect to and commit to. Why is your place of work any different that the one down the road? If you do not tell the story and give people a reason to stay then they will surely find reasons to leave. You have to work to create a connection. You as a leader must tell the story and cast the vision. It need not be grandiose but it need BE. Employees may connect to you personally because of your effort or they may connect to the larger organization if the story is well told. Certainly my connection to the Marines and to Notre Dame are not about a person.

I know there are some of you reading this who directly relate to the loss of connection with an institution that matters to you. As I said, I started this with my business readers in mind but I recognized the message was bigger than business. This message of remaining connected with the things and people that impacted us is vital for anyone. If you have read this far you already know what you need to do, who you need to call, where you need to go. Get it on your calendar, find a way to connect.

Go Irish…Semper Fidelis…Peace…

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Time for YOUR Kick Finish

November 7th, 2013

We all know the concept of a kick start. An extra effort to get the machine going. Then again, there is the kick finish too. Although we don’t put it in those terms like we do a machine we do talk about a “kick” at the end of a running race. That extra effort to dig just a bit deeper and drive toward the finish line. NOW is a good time for YOUR kick finish.

While I’m not sure what fiscal year you follow, I do know that 12/31 is coming soon. If this is the end of your fiscal year then it makes even more sense to find your kick, now, so the results are in before 2013 ends. Even if the results of your efforts are delayed, you get out of the blocks faster in 2014.

The first thing about this effort is you want to use it to rally the team. Post a scoreboard and make the results visible to all. There are so many things you can measure depending on what part of the organization you are working in. Sales can track calls or closes. Ops can track production. Accounting can track accounts receivable. Leaders can track how many employees they meet with to share the vision. You get the idea.

This time of year is usually the time that companies send food to clients. I did that once, just once. I remember going to a client office and seeing stacks of food, nuts, candy, sweets, etc in the break room. Yes, mine was there amongst the bunch but I’m pretty sure the exec had no idea I sent it as his assistant simply took the package, opened it and put it in the break room. Far better to write a personal note, by hand, and send it as thank you for the business. In this case I wouldn’t send it as a Christmas Card, there are way too many of them, start now and send a Thanksgiving Card saying you appreciate the business OR a New Years card saying you are looking forward to a new year of business. In this day and age a sincere thank-you that is written by hand goes a long way. Forget the card and go visit clients with nothing on the agenda except to see how they are doing and to say thanks. I did that a few weeks ago. Always a positive experience when you see a customer but you don’t have your hand out for more money. If you do want to do a gift make sure it matters to the person you are sending it too. A classic vintage of wine for a oenophile would be ideal

Get 2014 started now. Annually I buy a “bottomless cup” card at Brueggers Bagels. For $180 I get a free soda or coffee every day. Considering I go a few times a week for breakfast I easily end up with a 100% ROI. But they make the deal even better. If I purchase the card now, as I just did, it kicks in right away so I get a few extra months of free soda. For the analytical readers you might be thinking that isn’t a big deal since I already have the card and get the year free anyway. The renewal is redundant at that point. True, if I always went alone but I often have a child with me so until Jan 1 I get two free drinks.

I like this idea so I offered it to clients in my last newsletter and say it again here for those that don’t get/read the newsletter. Book now for 2014!. Do you need to use money from 2013 before you use it. No problem, like Brueggers, you can pay me now and I will give you the soda, and do the work, in 2014. I am doing a similar offer with my new interactive, virtual training system, for supervisors – like the commercial says, “who doesn’t like getting free money?” The VT system is new and I invite you to check it out, you can do free demo without even talking to me. How easy is that?

Let’s take a moment to check out the cost side of the business too. Maybe sales aren’t where they were supposed to be. What changes have you been meaning to make? And if you are hesitant to let someone go now that the holidays are here maybe you can put the plan in place now so you are ready to execute on Jan 2 rather than starting to plan on 2014 and waiting until February to make the changes. I just reviewed my recurring credit card transactions and found a couple of hundred bucks a month, A MONTH, that were redundant or simply no longer required. Do I really need the online backup for a PC that I stopped using 6 years ago and have had two new ones since then? Like the saying in Washington DC goes, a few billion here, a few billion there and pretty soon you are talking a lot of money. A few hundred a month adds up too.

I can procrastinate with the best of them. We all do it. This kick finish is a great way to get over some of your procrastination and delay tendencies. It is an even better way to make a positive and measurable impact on your organization while using precious little cash to make it happen.

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13 Keys For Selecting Your Online Training Platform

August 10th, 2013

Online training has come a long way in just a few years. It doesn’t have to be the clunky, ineffective, and painful process many of us have experienced. Technology, bandwidth, user familiarity/readiness, and lower costs have all converged to make today’s online training an integral part of any credible employee development program. The savvy contractor is aggressively integrating online learning into their training curriculum. This goes far beyond the now-expected online compliance programs in safety and other mandatory subjects. Previously hard-to-teach subjects, such as supervisory skills, are finding a new home online. The payoff is having a better-trained employee while maintaining production because you don’t shut the job site down for a few hours to bring the leaders in for training. While online training doesn’t replace face-to-face, it can reduce it and augment it.

I knew that the landscape was changing, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the landscape. In the past few months I embarked on a research effort to understand what is out there from a technology perspective and what is actually being used by contractors. I did user demonstrations on nine different online delivery platforms. I interviewed over twenty contractors across disciplines. My research with contractors and my experiences with the demos led me to the following conclusions. Let them be a
guide for you as you consider bringing online training into your company:


It is Not About the Technology. I admit, that sounds contradictory to the intent of this  article. However, technology is rarely about the technology; it is about what it enables us to do. It is about the return on your investment. The technology you select to meet your needs should actually train people and improve performance. Just as you make any
purchase decision based on the value you receive, so too, you should make this decision. In other words, this is not an IT or Ops decision, nor an HR or Finance decision. It is a corporate decision based on the needs of the organization.

Full-Motion Video – Is the instructor talking to you directly? Most online learning I have been subjected to is mind-numbing voice-over-powerpoint or a bad recording of a live presentation someone delivered. That is so 2010! Best of Class today features the speaker delivering content directly to the user who is consuming the program from their laptop or tablet.

Interactive Questions– What would it be like if the presenter asked you a question during the training that required an answer for you to continue? It would certainly be interactive and engaging. Just like in a live classroom where the instructor asks questions, in the best virtual classrooms the instructor asks questions, too. The way you answer the question would then determine the response you get from the instructor. For example, the instructor might be talking about planning and then ask, “Are you a Senior Manager or a field leader?” If you select Senior Manager, the instructor then tells you about the planning tools,
such as strategic planning, used at that level. If you select Field Leader, the instructor then talks about the daily huddle, for example.

Progress Quizzes – One of the best features of online learning is the ability to quiz the student in real time and assess progress. If they don’t fully grasp a concept, a good system will immediately take them back to the content they’re not strong
in, so they can see it again and learn it. Imagine giving a quiz after every learning module in a live training session. Handing out papers, having people progress at different rates, and grading papers make this rather impractical. Not so in the best online systems. In fact, quizzes are just part of the assessment process. A good system will allow role-plays and other progress
checks as well.

Content Structured for the Adult Learner in the Online World – We now know that the way we consume data and information in the virtual world is quite different than the real world. Yet, trainers continue to ignore these truths and structure their programs just like they have always done. The resulting courses are long and boring, which results in poor user satisfaction, a high abandonment rate, and no actual learning. The platforms that simply take the old and try to “make it new” simply by putting it online without conforming to the demands of the internet are a waste of money.

LMS for Users to Track, Measure and Monitor Progress – Most systems allow the user to track their own progress in the learning management system (LMS). This is helpful when a student needs to take a series of courses as part of a larger
curriculum or certification. Seeing all your grades in one place is convenient, also.

Other Language Subtitles – In our increasingly diverse society, it is important to make training available to students who are not fluent in English. Subtitles in their native language is the logical answer but one most programs do not support. If they do offer subtitles, it may come at a premium price. The best programs feature a simple “CC” button on the screen to allow a user to toggle on training in their native language.

LMS for Managers to Track, Measure and Monitor – We talked about the importance of the LMS for the user, but what about for the manager? Just as a manager wants to know how their employee is doing in the real world, they want to know about
their success or struggles in the virtual world, too. Not all systems feature an LMS that allows managers to track, measure and monitor progress. But with this capability, the manager can insure that the employee is in a Review, Repeat, Rehearse, Retain, Remind and Reinforce mode—rather than the more traditional Watch and Forget mode.

You Run Your System, if you want to – The ideal platform lets you choose how you want to interact with it administratively. You may want the provider to enter names of your employees, run reports, etc. Or, you may want to retain that for yourself as it allows you to be more flexible and responsive, rather than waiting for it to get done. With that said, should you decide to take on the administrative tasks of entering employees into the system and running reports, it has to be user friendly. A forty-five minute tutorial with accompanying fifty-five page workbook should be a warning sign that you are using a program that is not user friendly.

Cobrand platform – Employees like knowing they are using something that was created for them. Using the generic off-the-shelf version that everyone else uses sends the subtle message that neither the training nor the employees are very important.
Does your online platform feature a welcome screen custom-designed for your company? Is your logo there, along with a greeting from the trainer that welcomes your employees? It is possible, and it sends the message that this program is going to be different.

Optimal Streaming – Okay, I know little about this but I do know when it takes forever for me to watch a video that keeps buffering. Then there are the ones that never buffer and lock up after a few seconds. I don’t know how Optimal Streaming works, but I know that it works and you want to ask about it!

API Integration – Does the system allow you to interface with the data? Perhaps you have your own LMS already, and you want the training system to share data with it. This way you won’t need to deal with two LMS’s. Not all systems allow you inside. Maybe the best you can do is an exported report which you then need to format to import into your database or, even worse, you might need to enter the data by hand. Doesn’t sound like much right now but it can create big headaches if you don’t get this

Demo Without Calling a Human – In doing my research, I found that every time I wanted to do a demo of a platform, I needed fill out an online form and then wait to be contacted by a human. I was then walked thru a 45-60 minute webinar, at some time that was convenient to them, which was actually a sales presentation. I prefer kiosks and self-service. I don’t like sales presentations when I am not ready for them or don’t want to buy. A good system will let you take a test drive. It may not give you access to the entire online library of learning, but it will give you temporary access (a day or so) to get in, “kick the tires,” and
experience the platform.

Are you wondering if your competitors are delivering training online? Of the contractors I interviewed, forty-percent are doing some compliance training, like safety. Two of twenty, only ten-percent, were doing anything beyond compliance training. And these were just beginning to create programs. This is a huge opportunity for you. While all expressed knowing they needed to do something in this arena, most hadn’t done much. Those that did were on the bleeding edge of cost and often reinventing
the wheel. You don’t need to do that. I do think you need to make the move soon. First of all, the employee of the 21st century is ready for it. New employees will view you as a progressive firm that invests in people. Second, the cost advantage gained from effective implementation of a blended employee development curriculum is compelling. You train more people for less money. You maintain production while getting them trained. You make yourself more attractive to the next generation while educating all of your leaders. We are finally at a time where new technology is creating real value in employee learning.

Your key to recognizing maximum value is to get the right system. The tips outlined herein will point you in the right direction. Ask your training provider, or the potential technology provider, if they have these features. You may decide that some of them are not important for you. Any buyer would do that. The savvy buyer recognizes the payoff delivered from these features and reaps the benefits.


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Ongoing Development or has your train left the station?

August 1st, 2013

I am just back from the annual convention for the National Speakers Assn. This is the trade association for experts who speak professionally. We have four key competencies – Ethics, Expertise, Enterprise, and Eloquence. On any day there are multiple sessions to choose from on each of these. To start the morning and at lunch we have general sessions with some of the most thought provoking people of the day in business and the arts. In short, it is a BIG booster shot for me and for the business.

I attended several sessions about online learning as I am making a big move there. As much as I love to come to your company and speak face to face with your leaders, I know that model is increasingly challenged because of tight margins and production demands. It is tough to take people off line for a day at a time and I understand that. So, not to replace face to face but to supplement it and make it more effective I am soon putting content online in an interactive virtual training system. More information on this in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

The meeting was also an opportunity to reconnect with my friends in the business who live in other parts of the country. Great to share ideas and help each other get better at what we do. We cant do it alone.

It was a big investment to attend the convention and it was totally worth it. We must invest in ourselves or we will fall behind. Things are changing so much, so fast these days….You need not attend a convention but what books, or online courses.

If you don’t invest in you, who will? Don’t be left behind.

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You are born, you live, you die…

June 27th, 2013

Someone once said that your life is the hyphen. The hyphen being the small dash on your headstone that connects the date of birth to date of death. I just received two emails from clients. One heralding the birth of a son. The other communicating the untimely passing of a manager with three children under the age of 11.

I have always strived to live life with no regrets. In fact, that is the reason I applied to flight school. I had one chance in my life to make that application and I am glad I did. The impacts of that decision on my life are many. From going to Japan and meeting my wife, to surviving a helicopter crash, to learning how to do something so few people get to do, to teaching young aviators who later flew into battle in Iraq and came home to thank me for what I taught them. and the list goes on. There are other decisions I have made that have similar importance on my life.

Today I am faced with some decisions to make. Mostly mundane, certainly, and seemingly not of importance in the grand scheme of things. And it is that thought that presents the biggest risk and challenge for all of us. When faced with the mundane day-to-day things that comprise life we reduce them to unimportant and in that unimportant moment comes complacency and in complacency we miss opportunities to be grateful, to be of service, to be a good person. We miss opportunities to engage with others. We miss opportunities to be alive.

We are told that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think so. I think it breeds complacency. It is complacency that breeds contempt. As we take relationships for granted we don’t tend to them as we should and as they wither and wane the contempt creeps in. Just as weeds creep into an unkept garden so too does contempt creep into those places we allow complacency to reign.  As we take our job and our current status for granted we get complacent and we lose gratitude. Our performance declines. We view ourselves as having arrived and worth of status rather than working to keep our edge. People look at us and wonder what happened to the fire in our belly?

Conversely, we cannot live every moment as if it were a peak experience nor can we live in overdrive but we must be alive to the wonder that life offers us. There are opportunities for wonder and engagement presented to you every day. For my leaders reading this consider it a challenge to work on those relationships that don’t get the attention they deserve. On those visits to the job site do you invest the extra few minutes to talk to the crew or do you simply wave (if that) as you get back in the car? What about that young accountant who spends her days poring over invoices and spreadsheets? Have you thanked her for her efforts or are you leaving that to her supervisor who has less people skills than you do?

Remember that those two emails to me were from clients. How rewarding and special for me that clients consider me part of the family. But that place at the table didn’t come without work. It came with sincere effort and a dedication to service and value that defines me. I aspire to be a better businessman, a better citizen, a better parent, a better father. etc etc.

When I no longer strive is when I know complacency has set in. Should you see that in me please kick me out of it. When I no longer strive the hyphen becomes merely a notch in marble.

Today I am faced with some decisions to make…How about you?

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Derek Wortham
Vice President
H&H Insurance