Monday, December 21, 2015

Top 5 - 2015

2015 was a remarkable year in music! Lord HuronThe Tallest Man on Earth followed past successes with even better records. Legends like The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Built to SpillModest Mouse returned to the limelight. Josh RitterJason Isbell pulled hard on our heart strings. Even ELO put out a new album (and its really good).

If you are so inclined, check out 30 Trips Around the Sun by The Grateful Dead, It is the quintessential guide to their 50 year career.

Thanks to Frank Turner for releasing the recording of the most empathetic song ever written.

In the sacred space of the concert hall, a great many of our friends were taken from the world.

... all the more reason to create music and cherish every note.

Here are the Top 5 Albums of 2015......!

5. Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

"If you've got a spare half a million you could knock it down and start re-building"

Courtney Barnett is a force to be reckoned with. No one had greater expectations going into 2015 and the little lady from Australia delivered in spades... blowing minds across South by Southwest and further the world. All with a smile on her face, a magnificent personal style and monster guitar riffs. Feminists and jocks alike can't help falling in love with her!

4. Faith In the Future by Craig Finn

The Heroic Hold Steady Frontman returns with another solo record of heart tangling youthful rock ballads. How does a middle aged dude capture the youthful spirit (often from a female perspective) so well? If any of us knew we would be Craig Finn. The opening track captures the terror of parenting to perfection. There is not a better songwriter who receives less popular fanfare for his craft... and I bet he's OK with that. 

3. Disasters by Carlos Forster

"... Brother, What's It Like To Be Free...?"

My friend Carlos has been one of my favorite song writers for nearly 20 years. After the untimely demise of his band For Stars, Carlos returned to the scene a few years back... where his solo debut might mirror the self titled For Stars record, Disasters picks up where It Falls Apart left off. Deep meditations from far beyond where the waves break. Heart breaking tributes to fallen loved ones and heartfelt assurances to those Carlos has brought into the world. A remarkable accomplishment!

2. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens 

"...Did you get enough love, my little dove, why do you cry...?"

Prepare yourself before you listen to this one... Sufjan Stevens strips down to tell the story of the mother who abandoned him by her death bed recreating their kinship.  Last year, I called Benji by Sun Kil Moon the saddest record ever written... this album is 10 times more difficult to listen to.

... and through it all Sufjan Stevens seems to emerge stronger, forgiving and optimistic.

1. Back On Top by The Front Bottoms

In the midst of the doom and gloom of 2015.... the Front Bottoms emerge with the GREATEST PARTY ALBUM of all time! Amid the cautions of growing up is a youthful optimism that kids and their grandparents can in equal parts enjoy. 

Thanks For Listening!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wish You Were Here

I'm not a big fan of year end lists and I tend to be more Grinch than Santa Celebrator during the wonderful holiday season. That said, a question posed at a conclusion of a recent on-line chat got my wheels turning:

What Do You Wish For All Your Employees As We Approach The New Year?

Those of us who have been swimming through the HR Blogosphere can tend to get pretty intricate regarding our thoughts on Employee Engagement and the like. The above is a simple mission statement that I feel cuts to the core of what really engages people.

When creating workforce strategy that scales the globe it is very difficult to take into account the goals of each and every employee. Sometimes practicality has to eclipse the crystal ball.

What if engaging your employees was as simple as asking them the question above.

  • Performance Management is about Leadership Development not talent evaluation.
  • Transparency & Trust are the most important characteristics of any leader.
  • To manage one's career without understand their personal goals is a one way ticket to Resumeville.

What Do You Want? 
How often do we seek to understand our employees frame of mind before designing program initiatives.

~ Do you implement workforce incentives based on best practices?
~ How does that make your employee offering unique or intriguing?

Giving away cookie cutters makes you just another bakery.

The best performance management objectives I have seen lie within the metrics of the SCARF program. If you are not familiar with the technique, it allows employees to stack rank their personal objectives for organizational engagement.

Some people want a social life through work, others want to be left alone. Some people want to be promoted, others might want to work creative project team.

Knowing what people want (by their own direction) makes people much easier to manage.

Why Are Managers Afraid to Lead?
Leadership is an act of servitude. Some managers fail to recognize this. As a leader, one's obligation is to help people achieve their fullest potential.

People want to know on a daily basis the rung upon which they stand and how to ascend. Clarity breeds transparency which creates trust. With trust comes engagement!

Don't allow yourself to be an example of the "those you cannot do, teach" ethos.

Be Transparent, Build Trust & Help People Ascend!

Don't Forget to Remember,


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Engagement Remastered

Thanksgiving has come and gone. That time of year when family is so extremely important....

We gather our brood, put on our worst sweater and head over to Grandma's for the world's finest home cooking.... we have a few too many classes of wine, say what's really on our mind and storm off before the pumpkin pie is served.

We don't need a designated day to love our family, a certain day to bargain shop or a time to be told it is appropriate to give.

The best Thanksgiving I had in my life was with my friends at a Ben Folds Five concert, an entirely different state from my family... that doesn't mean I love my family any less, I simply don't need to be told how to love.

Let's apply this to Employee Engagement.

Is the sales rep who is at 300% of her quota but never completes her TPS reports less-engaged than the new hire with no revenue who is the first to turn in said reports?

Is the manager who's failing team loves him more-engaged than the top manager in the company (who no one can bare to talk to after hours)?

Is the young lady who loves programming with her headphones on less-engaged than the guy who gets up from his work space every 15 minutes to socialize?

People who are good at their job may be naturally skilled, seasoned, hard working, super-smart, and/or manipulative. A flawed personality and a big pay check make you an asshole but that doesn't devalue your contributions.

Some of the most delightful people I know suck at their job. Some of the most successful people I know are not the world's best conversationalists.

Recognition Cannot Be a Crutch
I know a programmatic manager who spends her allotted recognition budget to the penny every month. Each Friday she makes a point to block off 30 minutes in her outlook calendar to submit rewards and notes of recognition to her team. She does this to make up for the other 49.5 hours of the week that she abuses her staff. Her notes are not heart-felt but the rewards are redeemed as quickly as any other group.

The awards she affords are spent in spite of her leadership not because of it. 

If you ran a report she might appear to have the most-engaged team in the organization.

Passion is a Real Thing
There are people who love their job because they are allowed to split the office in the afternoon to pick up their kids. There are people who love their job because their manager takes an hour a week to help them start their own company. There are people who love their job because they are not called upon to attend happy hour with their team.

Reciprocity determines Culture! We don't all have to meet on the lawn to play football after work. Some times working for a company that trusts you to leave is all the engagement you need.

STOP Pretending Systematic Management Produces Results
Top revenue producers are not always the most litigious in submitting their expense reports.

At some point in our CRM driven, Big Data world we agreed to pretend that if a deal was written on a bar napkin, it didn't exist.

NEWSFLASH: tracking appointments, contacts and opportunities does not produce revenue....

Relationships Do!

That which you cannot measure is the secret sauce of your success.

If we could measure it, package it and produce you... you would!

In the end, you will fire those who are the best at meaningless tasks while the Lone Wolf defies the system with her every step closer to the bank.

~ Some have mature skill and wish to be left alone.
~ You can teach it but your audience needs to be trusted enough to apply it.
~ No one ever became CEO because their manager gave a passive speech about their ability.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, November 16, 2015

This Is Not A Math Test!

The odds may be stacked against you but what the odds don't know is this is not a math test... this is a completely different kind of test; one where passion has a funny way of trumping logic...

Numbers can be fascinating in the way they expand and draw back together, the avenues they create. I'm just not willing to live my life by a formula. Fantasy Football has taken the glory from the competition and made it a stat driven leader board. People measure their every step and moment of sleep. We cannot fathom taking action without a stack of number to validate our decision (or indecision so it seems).

What happened to romance? What happened to leaping into the unknown? What happened to glory?

Winning against the odds destroys logic... It is a profound opportunity to know that with each day the less-courageous can be made to look foolish.

Does anybody remember courage? Impulse? The joy of uncertainty?

Indeed, our lives are not to be lived lived by simple standards. We are called upon to corrupt the system by disagreeing with logic. It's called innovation, transformation, disruption.

Popular opinion is often wrong, numbers lie and beurocracy has been created by those protecting their lack of ingenuity.

Some times you have to be willing to try in spite of the odds. Those who rely on logic hate speadsheet tampering.

I am not now, have never been and will never be willing to be predictable!

Counter Thinking
Herb Brooks had a calculated method for beating the Russians, Namath threw a ton of passes in his super bowl upset, Muhammad Ali knew exactly what he has doing when he leaned back on the ropes in Zaire. Upsets don't happen by accident, the assumed lesser wins when they decide to change the rules of the game.

The first step to beating a superior opponent is meeting them at mid-field letting them know you are not afraid of them.

Shine a Light
"... all these people around you saying, "we've got so much further to go, it's gonna get worse before it gets better", I don't know if that's true..."

The above excerpt from Plastic Flowers by The Front Bottoms reveals a consistently ignored truth:

Tony Robbins doesn't own the market on self-help!

The Great Jerry Garcia himself had noted ones ability to find light in the strangest of places.

If you go to church for inspiration and you feel nothing, stop going! If your job sucks the life from you, quit! If you hate your boyfriend, break up with him. At the very least, find a way to knock an elephant on their ass from time to time.

Don't wait around for the logical choice to change your life. Fix it on your own.... It is far more satisfying to win a game on the field than by forfeit.

They Won't Remember You for Being Regular  
When we were kids we would gather on the side of the football field at varsity games. Naturally kids from the other side of town would come over to our side of the field and a game of football would break out. There were no rules, it was kids with uncompromising pride, fighting for one another. We'd competed against each other in the neighborhood for years now we were venturing out.... together.

I would yell at the top of my lungs for the older boys from my block as they crushed the out-of-towners. Time went by and at a certain point I took offense to men in opposing jerseys walking our sidelines. I dropped the ball in front of them and a game ensued. We butted heads for a few drives when I looked up to see the younger kids from my block cheering me on.... It was my time to lead and I wasn't going to let them down.

You are remembered for the times you stuck up for your tribe. There is no valor in letting your little sister suffer because you were too cowardly to stand up for what you believed in.

Numbers lie, rules were meant to be broken, heroes are made when the impossible is conquered.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ms. Misery

There is a lady who goes to my gym and she stands waiting for occupied machines. She does not have a purpose in her workout regimen, she is simply waiting for the opportunity to remove another person from their routine.

I know a woman who walks the streets in the dark. Each day she complains of motorists not affording her the right of way on the street where she cannot be seen.

A man stomps into the coffee shop each day and darts over to the half and half container in the general servicing area. His purpose is to bring it up to the counter to complain about it not being sufficiently filled.

These three people share a commonality:

They wake up each day miserable and seek to find someone to blame it upon.

The miserable are usually so because of choices they have made, choices they did not make or unfortunate circumstance. They have not confronted the elements of their short-comings because they deflect the responsibility for their lack of happiness. They take great pride in their misery and seek to spread it where ever they may go.

I know the lot in life of the miserable because I was their bedfellow for so very long.

There was a time in my life where I sought validation for my every effort by complaining about my misunderstood lot in the professional world. I fancied myself a Larry David type, thinking my negativity had intellectual charm.

Visit any barroom at quitting time and you'll find a few hundred people complaining about their jobs through the lens of liquid courage. They bitch about their bosses and co-workers until one of them walks in (and then they cower in red-faced reality).

How To Survive Life on Mars  
Those who survive in space do so because of their uncompromising positivity. Giving in to death on any mission may be as simple as disarming your helmet, but failure is never an option. Think of yourself alone, with limited resources and nothing but time to destroy your confidence. Most of those bold enough to explore the next frontier have found a way to survive.

Mental, Physical and Spiritual discipline are essential to survival here on earth as well.

Those Who Do Not Seek Credit
On Veterans Day, you'll see those pretending themselves Heroes while others do their best to find peace; here presents a metaphorical overlap into the corporate world.

Those who are really good at what they do seek not a trophy or a trip to the Bahamas. They just want to do great work, solve problems, use their brain (and heart) and have a little time to live their life.

You cannot make someone truly great by praising their effort. They either have it or they don't!

The Seemingly Impossible Process of Finding The Positive
Every time I think the old (negative) me is gone, he rears his ugly head. People are hard to deal with, rules are hard to follow and the climb to success often seems dictated by outdated process.

It's Really Difficult to Stay Positive. I struggle with it every day.

The alternative is to be the woman who takes your machine without using it, the man who insults the effort of who he feels to be the easiest target or the woman who walks the wrong way in the dark simply to insult the precaution of others.

They chose the easy route. They will die miserable and alone!

There will be times when you simply cannot find grace.... walk your dog, grab a beer or find a way to laugh.

Above that, here's what you can control:

Every day you wake up with a choice to rule the world or get your ass kicked:

- Bounce out of bed early
- Be willing to be uncomfortable
- Try hard and keep trying
- Never give up

Become a morning person. Find a way to appreciate Mondays. Tell those who work hard that you appreciate them.

Be willing to fight for what you believe in.

Know that love is at the center of everything... and if you haven't found it, don't stop until you do.

...You will find it...

Be interested in other people. Be a person who is interesting to know. Share your ideas and your resources.


Keep your religious and political opinions quiet.

Pray when you need to. It can't hurt!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Harvey Dilemma

When two team are competing in a Championship, neither of which you care about, you look for intriguing story lines. On Monday, a nation of casual observers discovered Matt Harvey... the barrel-chested embodiment of determination who was destined to save New York from their far-superior opponent from the Mid-West.

For 8 innings Harvey threw strike outs, fist pumped and sat with half his ass on the bench chomping at the bit to get back out there and compete. As he was called upon to leave the game after the 8th inning, he refused to be removed. He charged the distance of the dugout to tell his Manager that he was not leaving the game to the behest of his pitching coach.

As Harvey emerged from the dugout to pitch the 9th inning, the crowd erupted. The man known as the Dark Knight was here to save Gotham... the greatest comeback in sports history was in motion.

Until he failed.....

Sports pundits will look upon The Dark Knight's failure in front of the world as an act of uninformed bravery. Those pumping their shoulders at the onset of the 9th inning, were shaking their heads mere moments later.

There are millions who will blame the foregone championship on Matt Harvey.

I think him a Hero!

... with every triumph there is the story of courage, resilience, self-confidence & risk taking....

Most people sit back and deflect the responsibility of their teams destiny to another. It is simple (in so many ways) to rely on statistics to validate decision making.

The world needs more people who are brave enough to risk being called stupid because they believe in themselves.

Dare to Try
I've had success in a variety of fields simply because I was willing to try. It's that simple, if you put yourself out there you are 80% of the way there. Then, all you have to do is work hard.

You can call Matt Harvey stupid for extending himself into the 9th inning, but at least he was bold enough to try.

Nobody can eat 50 eggs...!

Stick Up for Yourself
Our success relies on the support of others. We spend a good chunk of our time convincing others to follow our lead. Sure, data is important in defending our proposal, but passion matters just as much.

The romance has been lost.

We want to protect our spot in the pecking order by doing the safe thing.

If you know you are the best option, don't allow your passion to be delegated to another.

Take the reins... LEAD!

Hold Yourself Accountable
There cannot be results without a measurable plan. You'll need to track progress every day. If you know where you are going you can be far more confident in your ability to succeed.

Your future is more certain if you put yourself in control. Part of taking control is owning your results... as well as your failures.

I talked to a young person recently who told me young people don't like the word "accountability". The word, he felt, was based in a micro-management ethos that threatened people into results. Makes sense, but there is a downside to that line of thinking........

If you rescue a dog you still have to feed it.

Matt Harvey would have been heralded as a hero had he won that game (even if the Mets failed to beat the Royals in the 2 remaining games). Now, he has to live with the results of his decision.

He bet on himself and he lost!

That is life, a moment of blind optimism squashed by reality.

The Data Behind the Decision?
Maybe Harvey isn't crazy..... The Mets closer had blown 2 saves in the series already, the Royals bullpen was far superior, the Royals bats were far better in the late innings, the series would be heading back to Kansas City for 2 more games and he was pitching well.

Maybe Mr. Harvey just wanted to complete the game to give the people of New York, and believers in the power of sports, something to believe in (in this otherwise failure of a series).

Instead he fed the doubters and came out looking foolish.

Simply because he believed in himself enough to try.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Debriefing HR Tech

The HR Tech Conference has become the most relevant event in the Human Resource industry! As we close the convention center doors on the 2015 #HRTechConf , here are a few thoughts on the state of technology in the HR space.....

Most Will Not Survive
As Human Capital Management becomes a key workforce priority, Entrepreneurs have flocked to the Employee Recognition space. In my 8 years in the industry, I've seen many come and go; there are those who have been acquired and others who have closed their doors. There are two reasons for this:

1. You cannot give away technology and turn a profit!

There are organizations who believed they could charge nothing up-front and no services fees; they failed. There is not a business in the world that can afford the human work hours it takes to implement a Global Technology Application without charging up-front and charging to maintain a platform.

2. You can't spend what you don't have! 

There are companies who think they can re-purpose the investment their customers make in their virtual currency. This bankrupts financial security and such strategy should be examined by every buyer. 

Paramount Relevance
HR Technology has never been more relevant! Now is the time!

There is so much opportunity to manage performance, socialize workforce planning and promote your internal talent base through technology!

Transparency in the name of the game in motivating today's workforce and HR-lead technology is the ultimate key to workforce evolution!

Most Vendors Are Still Missing The Point
No one cares about your product, your client base or your sales pitch.

Companies have problems.... Tech can solve them!

Your responsibility is to understand your client's business objectives from every angle.

HR Buyers hate salespeople! Understand the HR World and you can design without selling.

Props to Steve Boese and his team for facilitating another incredible event!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

That Which We Lost In The Fall

I recently sat with a friend complaining about the stress of work, parenting, husbanding and the like. The conversation progressed and we talked of a friend battling Leukemia, we then realized how frivolous our complaining had been.

We are healthy, well-paid, engaged in our work and in charge of a wonderfully imperfect brood.

How did our perception lead us astray?

There are people who mean well for us so they listen to our wailing and complaining... because that's what friends are for. We feel better having the excuses for our lack of effort validated but when we reflect upon the gravity of the situation, we know we can do better....!

So try and get better and don't ever accept less. Take a plain black marker and write this on your chest..... She drew a line across the middle of my broken heart and said, "come on now let's fix this mess" .... 

We Can Get Better Because We're Not Dead Yet!    

Are we to allow the feather weight of insignificant detail to weigh us down while others would give anything for an ounce of our strength?

Jobs will come and go, people will break your heart and you can find a meaningless argument in any public place.

We who gain fortune, earn it. Maintaining our commitment to success requires focus... and along the way we are called upon to interact with the less-ambitious. It is not our responsibility to highlight the inequities of others but to find a way to accept their faults and to lift them above.

Where more than one person meets in public forum there will be uninformed opinions, ignorance and cruelty. The more we avoid these things to preserve our sanity... the further we stray from our ability to help one another get better.

...I know you were carrying too much weight on the evening when you slipped away...   

There are those who have an inability to genuinely care for you because they are too afraid of making such an investment... or they are incapable of embracing the responsibility of friendship. To allow such people to have the slightest effect on a single precious moment in our lives is criminal.

There are people with whom you will be forced to interact. Hold their commentary for a brief moment and drop it in the trash on your way out the door.

We are all lost at one time or another. Some of us just have a harder time finding our way back. Some times we need a kick in the ass, some times we need a hug and some times we need a few moments away from advice.

You will not look back on life and wish you had completed the mundane tasks forced upon you by the less emotionally intelligent.

We Can Get Better Because We're Not Dead Yet!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Holacracy Debate

A long time ago I read an article about Medium's company culture. The piece introduced Jason Stirman and an approach to performance management know as Holacracy. Since then the debate regarding the merits of Holacracy has gathered significant momentum. Proponents of Holacracy seem to be realistic about the time this radical change in thought technology will require to fully take shape. Opponents of Holacracy seem to underestimate the strategic relevance of the process.

To this day no one has said it better than Jason Stirman:

And as soon as Zappos jumped on to the Holacracy bandwagon the haters crawled out of their consultancies to call foul. 

There are a few truths to this system that seem to have been ignored:
  • Holacarcy is highly strategic in emphasizing/tracking individual performance objectives.
  • Holacracy ignores bureaucracy and amplifies trust.
  • Holacracy is not corporate anarchy.

In time, some iteration of Holacracy will move from idealism to the standard. Here's why:

Strength Emphasis!
The workplace is competitive. We tend to take the wins for granted and re-tool with great intensity when we lose. There is no better example than the 2004 the United States Men's Basketball team to exemplify the basis for Holacracy:

It takes diverse skill sets to win when the competition is harsh!

You cannot have an entire team of forwards and expect the other functions of the game to care for themselves. 

Organizational success is predicated upon focused individuals accepting their role in producing an overall result. Without egos or the search for individual accolades; everybody wins! Titles sustained by egos have no systematic relevance to the necessary need for organizational evolution.

... Leader Do!

There is an inarguable truth in Corporate America:

Poor Middle Managers survive at the cost of the organization losing extraordinary talent. 

It is a revolving door through which any threat to bureaucracy is removed to keep from disrupting the status quo. Mangers manage out the organizations best talent, millions of dollars are lost in production costs and the corporate politicians maintain their place on the mantle. 

The Village Doesn't Require a Court Jester!
Hire great people, give them effective tools and trust them to succeed.

There is no greater accountability than that to one's self. Transparent goal setting and candid coaching are paramount to employee success.

Leaders Develop Their Legacy and Managers Control the Present to Preserve the Past.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Are You HAPPY Yet?

Over the past several years there has been a ground swell of advising toward Happiness at work. Starting with Tony Hsieh and further by vendors and consultants alike, this movement seeks to better engage people's personal interests and infuse it in their work. Employee Engagement, Work/Life Balance and Organizational Culture are all central points of emphasis in bringing smiles to the workplace.

My father would hit an employee over the head with a chair who came into his office asking for more happiness. Steve Jobs would tell an employee to hit the bricks who said they weren't happy at Apple. Any great coach would bench a player who sought greater happiness. Very few academic institutions highlight Happy Time in their syllabus.

So the question emerges....

Is the workplace really a place to seek happiness?

As we explore further a trend emerges. Happiness may be characterized as gleeful jubilation resulting from a dopamine overdose caused by the engagement of ones heart. Instead of floor boarding the dopamine drip, organizations may want to focus less on happiness and more on achievement.

We can throw parties, send employees on trips and wear pajamas to work... but nothing will get done. At some point between meeting rock stars and knitting classes, we've got goals to achieve.

Achievement provokes courage which allows us to accelerate. In the end, we all want to do work that matters for a cause we believe in and a leader who sets the tone for the future.

Work That Matters
There are people who relish the opportunity to receive a trophy in front of a room full of their peers, others are embarrassed by such accolades. There are those who bust their ass all year long to earn a trip to an exotic island, some would prefer not to go on vacation with their co-workers.

More than trophies, trips or even cash; people want to know that their time on earth has a purpose. When we sunset our careers we won't cherish the big deal we closed or the money we made... we want to know that we've left an admirable legacy behind us. Snap reactions to achieve short term results only serve to tarnish one's legacy.

A Cause We Can Believe In
What are we doing here... what are we trying to achieve? Is it making a difference? Do people look upon us with admiration?

You don't have to be sending shoes to poor children for your work to make a difference. All you have to do is care.... for your co-workers, your customers and anyone who might witness your demeanor while wearing your company logo.

Do you care enough to stay on the phone with someone until their problem has found a solution?
Would you stay late at work to fix a problem?
Could you bring your children to work and be proud to show them what you have built?

One Person to Follow
I recall the first CEO who genuinely inspired me.... he was not a lovey-dovey person. He was driven, competitive, creative, and astoundingly fair. He appreciated the effort of his employees, was proud of us when we won and held himself personally accountable when we lost. He took the wins with a wink and spent nights awake fretting over the losses.

You don't have to be a jerk to be a great leader, much to the contrary, but happiness simply cannot always be top of mind. There is not an inherent emotion within us that calls for recognition of our every professional feat; we want to earn our accolades. We don't want to show up at an office where people are napping, we want to be in place that inspires us to be better. We don't want bosses that are going to pat our backs and tell us it will be OK... we want to work for people who get upset on our behalf when we do not achieve our goals.

We are driven by achievement! We are engaged by work that is challenging. We are motivated to conquer that which was presented to us as impossible. We want to be better than our mothers and fathers and we want our children to achieve more than we do.

It is time to wake up and take Accountability for our responsibility to achieve greatness. No one is going to perform to a higher level simply because they are happy. No one ever hung a 12th place ribbon with pride. There cannot be progress without a determination to elevate the norm. Happiness may only relate to the satisfaction with the norm.....

Create the impossible. Drive yourself to be better. Don't waste your time waiting around for someone else to determine what will make you happy.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Mentality of Invincibility

In situations of competition we search for subtle differentiators.... the small things that take us a step further. With similar skill sets in place, what differentiates a winner from one who may not deliver when the chips are down?

One Word: Mentality!

There are people who always find a way. The people I know who have developed a method for repeatable success have developed a Mentality of Invincibility!

The elements of the Mentality of Invincibility?

Ignorance of Negativity

There are a few people I know who are so positive that I have at times questioned their mental stability. They are also massively successful!

We often acquaint positivity with naivety. We see someone smiling and assume they are unaware of the tragic world around them. When someone smiles at us on the street we spring to clinch fists.

It is far more difficult to be positive than to be critical. We can accept that one may possess an intricate mind and a wide-scope view of the world but still find a way to smile.

Indeed, positivity is a sign of courage not ignorance.  

A System and A Voice

Leadership is complimented by a system to predicate success and the ability to articulate what it takes to navigate said system.

If you have a dream but no strategy you are pissing in the wind.

If you cannot explain the positive impact participating will have on my life... I will not try!


People are allowed to try and fail as long as they have learned through the process. Learn from your mistakes or try something completely different and change the game.

To be a leader you must secure the trust of those who's followership you require. Trust is earned through having a system, the ability to explain your vision and a tireless work ethic for others to emulate.

Each day is an opportunity to change the lives of those with whom you interact. We seldom work to capture such moments.

People come looking for something to believe in. Who is going to step out and create it?

You've got the same tools as everyone else. You may just have to have a greater belief in your unique invincibility.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Because Self-Loathing Ever Solved Anything..........

I saw a film about a guy who was so consumed with creating an alternative reality that he overlooked the fact that he was the lifeblood of his organization. We all want to be CEO (or at least we think we do). We have ideas about what we would do if we were "running the show"... but we're not and we probably never will. So, there may come a time when we have to accept our role in our organization and perform it with exceptional grace.

The times I have failed in navigating an organization have usually resulted from a lack of patience. In politics, most lose their first election. Sports are filled with stories of failure creating the experience and courage to finally succeed. Many Entrepreneurs have developed and closed up to 10 companies before they finally found their extraordinary idea.

Sometimes we have to accept where we are before we can get to where we want to be. 

Our excellence reveals itself in supplementary roles that lead us to greater opportunity.

Your Life or Your Work
We've come to learn that time spent in the office can actually be less-productive than remote work. Meetings can be a time suck, we get caught up hearing about our co-workers personal struggles and when we actually need something our resources may be consumed in other work. 

I know, however, that structure is necessary to success! Work/Life Balance is now mandatory in creating meaningful work, but consider the following:

~ Do you hate your work because you don't have a girlfriend?
~ If your personal life was more abundant would you be more productive at work?
~ Is it your Boss' fault that you have trouble interacting socially?

Find It Within The Structure
There is a rule breaker in each of us. I always tell people that they can oppose any idea as long as they have a better one. If you oppose the system without an alternative, you are just complaining! No one ever gained anything through complaining.... save it for (un)Happy Hour.

We cannot be stifled by an inability to adapt. We need new ideas and the courage to try new things to stay relevant. There is a difference between Constructive Disruption and complaining through the virtue of inability.  

Navigating the Emotional Component  
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work so it's hard not to take our profession personally. In fact, if you are not emotionally invested in your work, you are probably a dispensable commodity. It may not be your organization's fault that you have failed to engage in your work

The key is to differentiate what is worth fighting for!

How often do we allow a mundane detail to derail a meeting? Then, there are times when we keep our mouth shut and hide our passion for the sake of harmony. 

How do we discern when it is time to put our flag into the ground?

Who is responsible for Employee Engagement: 
The CEO?
Middle Management?
Human Resources?

How About You Take Control
We can wait around for our Manager to tell us we are doing a great job. We could take that thing our CEO told us at a company banquet to heart. We can hold high our certificate of achievement.

OR.... We can take control of our own professional development!

There are things you have to do and things you want to do. My advice is to check the "have to dos" off your list so you can get to what you want to do.

If you do your job well, you will be rewarded.... with money, additional opportunity and an eventual promotion. If you are not receiving the aforementioned accolades or you are too impatient to wait for them.... Quit Your Job! If you are too cowardly to find a better job, quit complaining about the one you have.

Come up with a bold idea, build a network to support you and develop data to validate your proposed organizational development.... OR DON'T but stop telling us how you "would do things if you were in charge".

Work hard, be creative and find avenues for evolution.... then get a pair and be bold enough to share your vision!

Or Don't and keep your trap shut!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Creativity, Self-Expression & Professional Advancement

Let's cut the crap and be frank about Employee Engagement:
You ever feel like your being lied to? Is said Bullshit masked as a Best Practice?

Stop believing the hype and be realistic about what works, what doesn't, and what you can do that no other organization does.

It's Shiny & I Like It!
I love Medium because the platform is sexy. I love because the imagery drives the perception. I love Instagram because of the ability to photoshop regularity into awesomeness.

You can pretend there is no ROI to graphic design... but you are wrong. If your platform is clunky, no one will use it!

Everyone Sings!
There is an artist is each of us. We all sing in the shower! Everyone reading this post has pretended to be in a movie at one point in an average day. Admit it, you've done it.... and there is NOTHING wrong with that!

The dullest people in the world have a strong creative force (they have repressed it because the one time they tried to speak in front of a group, everyone laughed at them). There cannot be Innovation without Creativity! We face extinction every day and we figure out how to keep moving forward.

What Color is a 12th Place Ribbon?
If you know the answer to that question you have compromised your ability.

There is absolutely a way for everyone to win in the workplace. You don't have to be an asshole to be successful! The best Leaders understand that Leadership is an act of servitude.

We need to be authentic in our expectations. We need to push one another to live a life that is meaningful. Life is too short to allow 'best practices' to create a convenience-driven existence that is shrouded in quite desperation.

You Wouldn't Allow Yourself to Be Regular... So Why Do You Promote Programs That Turn Your Employees into Cogs in a Gearless Shit Storm!

Rise Up! Think Proactively! Put Work In!

... it will be hard! You stand to embarrass yourself and little failures are inevitable.

So Why Even Try?

If Not YOU then Who?

The workplace is evolving with whiplash intensity. Progress is based in a combination of bad ideas, failures and the willingness to be vulnerable. Success will no longer be a protected climb. Transparency is here.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Chasing The Gjallarhorn

Last week I quoted Jim Valvano's advice to be moved to tears every day. I was recently moved to tears in the seemingly most moronic of ways when an astronomical revelation of adulation was brought to my attention. Apparently, one of the greater achievements in playing the game "Destiny" is earning a Gjhallarhorn.

~ Why would anyone get so excited to receive a capability upgrade on a stupid game, you ask?
~ How much time is spent on such a meaningless achievement?
~ What type of lifeless douche do you have to be to get excited over such an innocuous event?

Without the slightest need to investigate the response to these questions, my only retort can be:


To hear excitement coming from young people inspires me to live a better life. To get back to what matters, to recreate the joy of accomplishment, to remember that there still can be joy in this napkin of a world. I'm not concerned that it took a little person six months to achieve the aforementioned badge of achievement. This accomplishment can be held as high as a trophy or any certification.... why not allow people a little bit of joy...?

As we grow older, pessimism replaces wonderment, uncertainty is replaced with predictability and the magic gives way to joyless process.

The question is pretty simple: How Do We Get It Back?

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Remember the Little League Championship, the speech contest you won, a movie you witnessed or that time you were overwhelmed by the beauty of the world around you. These things happen all the time, we've simply forgotten how to recognize them.

Before You Got Jaded
The world celebrates visionaries in ones. For every person crazy enough to change the world there are thousands who came up with an idea and were chastised for disrupting process. Others gave up trying new things because it brought them more work without adding to their credibility. In order to change the atmosphere you have to be creative, bold and resilient. Very few of us possess even one of those virtues.

Bystander Behavior
The responsibilities of the day fill our calendars from inception through sunset. We simply do not have time to laugh, cry or think. When the work bell rings we scurry off to forget what we have learned. We tend to find joy in things that disconnect us from our work. We live a double life of production without reward... supplemented by free-time spent complaining about our jobs.

It doesn't have to be that way....!

Chasing the Gjallarhorn
Occasionally, we are awakened from our disengaged work trance by someone who thinks different. Have you ever been knocked off your schedule through the positive force of another. That person who tells you your idea is not stupid despite your behest. That person who counters your complaints with a request for a better idea. That person who pisses you off because you know they are right.

...And then you take action.

Back a man in the corner long enough and he is going to come out swinging.

Find your Gjallarhorn!

... that achievement that would move you to tears (or at least laughter). That thing deemed impossible that can be conquered. That action that would implement enough change to silence your critics.

You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself, to try and fail, to propose and counter, to stand up for what you believe in, to rise against mediocrity.

... and they say video games are a waste of time....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leadership Simplified

Every Summer I have the pleasure to teach at the worlds elite Student Leadership Conference. It has become evident that Leadership training requires a new approach.

There is a Leader in all of us. Leadership CAN be learned. We cannot, however, teach Leadership in the same fashion we would economics. There is not an all applicable system that we can plug people into and spit them out as Presidential. Leadership requires courage more than process. How can we teach courage?

The Leadership Challenge
The new challenge we face in Leadership is debunking the dictator-driven operating system made popular by yesterdays micro-managers. In the same manner that selling is more about listening than talking; Leadership is an act of servitude.

A few elements to implement:
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The moment you corrupt your advice through disingenuous actions you have lost the privilege of influence.
  • Rally Around A Cause: There must be a common mission that everyone who serves the organization genuinely believes in.
  • Be Constructively Disruptive: You are allowed to challenge any idea as long as you have a better one.
  • Pass The Torch: Every Leaders goal for each of their team members should be to help them advance beyond their current role.
  • There IS Crying in Business: In the immortal words the great Jimmy Valvano, "be willing to be moved to tears (every day)".    

A Little Commonsense
It is not the content but the people who teach it. It is not the process but the people with whom you share it.

You can game plan and systematize all day long, but if your teachers do not genuinely believe in what they are preaching, no one will follow. Through the process we develop kinship.... human connection drives us forward. Put anyone in a classroom with a bunch of strangers and their greatest accomplishment will come not from passing a test but from passing along their goodwill.

An Inability To Accept Injustice
We are all moved by the fight for Civil Rights. Every great revolution starts with one person who identifies a wrong and is no longer willing to accept that way of living.

Reflect on your moments of courage.... my guess is that each of them began with your inability to accept the ignorance of others dismissed as tradition.

We can not stand by and allow naivety to be dismissed as progress.

No organization has "we've always done it this way" as a core value.

Perhaps our greatest oversight is in pretending that Leadership is an extroverts role. Every point of progress has been cultivated by someone who could not sit on their hands and allow walking in circles to be dismissed as determination.

Are you willing to accept the way things have always been?

Do you have a better idea?

What are you going to do about it?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 24, 2015

The Group Photo

Before our lives were documented and shared in real time there was mystery and romance. We took photos, had them developed and picked them up a day later. Picking up photos was an exercise filled with wonderment... much like receiving a letter in the mail or meeting a person with whom we feel a kinship.

We need not think in terms of digital photos replacing framed pictures. Facebook updates will not displace our need to call an old friend. There exists a need for nostalgia and mystery in the midst of all this turnkey interaction. A person is not a profile or a brand. You will not discover what embraces one's heart by reading an online resume.

Everyone can contribute to making your life better. You may just be too impatient to open the photo album.

Before there were selfies, there were group photos. There was a time that we cared to gather a group and document our time together as opposed to just taking pictures of ourselves.

The Wonderment?

I used to keep my photos in a Monkees lunchbox. On a Sunday afternoon I could open the box and see pictures of myself with thousands on people; the greatest joy in this exercise was remembering someone I had forgotten. Where had they gone? What had they become? Hopefully they are OK!

Self affirmation has never been easier to attain. You can post a picture of yourself in social media and 100 friends will tell you that you look great.... even if you don't. Branding yourself can be a great use of social tools. Pretending you lead a life that you do not will catch up with you.

The Group Photo

How much time do you take to embrace others as opposed to turning the camera on yourself. If narcissism fuels your success you may be in denial.

"Happiness not shared is wasted" - Chris McCandless

People are difficult: they have contrary opinions, egos and a limited amount of time. Too often we propose a meeting with an old friend simply to tell them how well we are doing (or worse to complain about our lives).

Your friends should see you laugh and you should be there to embrace them when they cry. If you cannot pick up the conversation where you left off 10 years ago... those people probably are not your real friends.

It is easy to "like" a photo or post a comment. It's far more difficult to travel 200 miles to see a friend before they die.

It takes far more time to make a few meaningful connections in life than it does to develop 100 followers online.

That which is easy is never sustainable........Open up the photo album.........

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 10, 2015

That Which We Choose To Accept as Gospel

Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management released their annual Employee Recognition survey.

It was conveyed that the top three challenges HR Professionals face are:
Employee Turnover
Employee Engagement
Succession Planning

... no real surprise.....

The problem is that surveys seldom tell the whole story. Here are a few potential questions to pose:

1. If you were responsible for putting together your company's Employee Recognition program are you are going to defend it's viability at all costs?
2. If you weren't, are you automatically prone to seek alternatives?
3. Was the survey worded to confirm program viability or to challenge it?
  • Human Resources professionals do not lack organizational strategy, but we are passive aggressive.
  • Surveys that seek to validate do not create actionable change management.
The problem is not your Employee Recognition Program, it is the intent that it has never revealed.

All companies have a reward and recognition program in place, but the degree of adoption is what is genuinely important.

If you do not seek to understand what sucks about your program it will remain a transactional "nice to have" not a critical organizational component.

Think about the last survey you took.... were you honest about the GAPs in your strategy or defensive of the choices you seek to validate?

Employee Recognition is merely the entry point to Employee Engagement... If recognition is the endpoint, engagement remains unattainable.

If you continue to believe that you can micro-manage employees, you are sadly mistaken. Your employees may not submit their discontent with the free lamp you gave them for 10 years of service on a program survey.... Glassdoor & other Social Media outlets may tell a different story.

Progress Measurement
More than a reward or cash, people want to know their opportunity for organizational advancement (in real time). You cannot wait until the end of the year to tell your employee she is doing a great job. Nor can you allow only the middle manager to be the ticket taker on the road to employee progress. 

Employees should have clearly defined goals. Completion of said goals should be broadcast to the masses. Corporate Citizenship should be valued equal to performance metrics in developing the leaders of tomorrow. 

Managers Masquerading as Leaders
Are your middle managers building their legacy or covering their ass? 

Scenario: Tom has been married 3 times and has kids in grade school and college alike. He'll be dammed if he is going to give up his place in the middle of the hierarchy. You are paying him $500,000 a year and each year he drives away 4 people who are more talented than he is. 

Either don't know...don't show...or don't care that your organizational future is being corrupted. 

If your door is open but your employees fear the implication of engaging HR, your managers may be protecting their point at the helm of the sinking boat. 

You can have a pot of gold at the end of the hallway but if no one is given a key to unlock the door your greatest benefits are gathering dust.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Live from #SHRM15 - Emerging Trends in Human Resources

We Did It! Certifications were earned, inspiration ignited, new products and services purchased, new reading materials acquired, t-shirts earned, new friendships forged and new employment opportunities extended.

Dear Friends, The 2015 SHRM Annual Conference has now concluded.

You can find my coverage of the event here:
Snap Shot (Day 1)
Knowledge (Day 2)
Inspiration (Day 3)

This was the best of the 8 SHRM conferences I have attended for a few reasons:
1. Speakers were informative and inspiring.
2. The Exhibitor Hall was light of Swag and heavy on meaningful conversation.
3. Attendees were purposeful in their networking and astoundingly positive.
4. The SHRM Staff and Volunteer Core did an AMAZING job with Meeting Logistics.
5. The SHRM Bookstore was full of relevant material.
6. The Smart Stage afforded snap shot insight from some of the best thinkers in the industry.

As we head home to share what we have learned, I feel compelled to advise the trends I see developing in HR!

Fewer Employee Recognition Vendors
In years past, companies thought that developing a platform, buying gift cards in bulk or reselling trophies would engage employees. The idea of copy catting legacy vendors to turn a quick buck has proven a failed strategy. In recent months we've seen Grass Roots cease US Operations and Achievers acquired by The Blackhawk Group.... hundreds of other Employee Recognition vendors have tried and failed to succeed in the industry.

Employee Engagement partnership requires:
1. A large group of smart, creative human beings seated all around the globe.
2. Technology that is scaled, integrated, protected, social, and mobile.
3. A robust choice of achievement mementos.
4. Consultants that design impactful initiatives specific to your workforce (and your workforce only).
5. The ability to measure with precise efficiency the Return on your program Investment (and to re-scale accordingly).

6. A variety of services ranging from:
a. Social platforms
b. Learning assistance complimented by e-learning technology
c. Meeting support
d. Analytics
e. Workforce consultation with real time measurement.
f. The ability to correlate Customer Satisfaction with Employee Engagement ratings.
g. Assistance in making re-sellers part of your organizational strategy.
h. To track and measure the excellence rating of EVERY employee.      

The aforementioned is really difficult. It takes years of experience, a large workforce of diverse talents and Business CAPITAL that is constantly re-invested into improving the business.

The End of Dictatorships
The generations in the workforce are growing together and learning from one another in an effort to improve the work experience. Most organizations still consider the annual performance review part of their management process... it will not last. Advancements in technology have made it possible to measure and share employee progress in real time. The manager to employee relationship is now assisted by the socialization of each employee's progress report.

Baselines That Create Roadmaps
At #SHRM15 there were learning sessions filled with data that were boring and highly-energetic speakers that didn't make a single point.

The solution to our Engagement Crisis needs to start with hard data and well-designed initiatives. We must then use frequent face-to-face socialization of each employee's specific goals for success. Our leaders need to be interactive, vulnerable, personable and collaborative. Leadership is an act of servitude.

Technology is the starting point. Human Beings have to carry the torch into the workplace (with the willingness to get burned).

In summation:
- Only the truly excellent can execute HR Services Partnerships!
- Performance reviews as we know them WILL change drastically!
- Holacracy is coming... and it WILL work!

See you next year at #SHRM16 in our nation's capital.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debriefing Day 3 @ #SHRM15

A poetry slam, swanky Marcus Buckingham sware' and an 80's jam couldn't keep me from waking up at 6am to hustle over to the HR Capital of the Universe. I step into the Vegas heat, my heart pumping pure mini-bar, then jump into a bus blasting a Rico Suave / Maria Maria mash up at 10,000 watts. It's Day 3 at the SHRM Annual Conference and there is no time for Tom Foolery... We've got knowledge to consume.

What a better way to wake up than with HR's Global Ambassador of Awesome Mr. Steve Browne. Steve has been advocating his love for HR for years in social media and through his hard-fought human connections. He is simply one of the most giving people in the profession.

Mika Brzezinski brought a delightfully empowering message to the female dominated crowd. Her lipstick also matched her sweater (I think you get extra points for that).

In an unfortunate incident J Hud's Crew decided to sound check during Jason Lauritsen's Smart Stage presentation. I hope he throws swag left over from the Exhibitor Hall on stage during her set.

Bryan Wempen Wrote a Book... you should buy it!

The Day Crescendo-ed with a presentation chalk full of data and strategy from Brendan Browne of Linked-In. Not for the less strategic HR Pros, this session was ultra-precise in the step-by-step process of using data to find talent.... and executing the recruiting plan.

So there you have it from one Browne to another and everything in-between. It was another truly inspiring day at the SHRM Annual Conference. I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to be part of the SHRM Blog Squad! It's been a thrill of a lifetime to write, present and brainstorm with all of the talented positive thinkers in Las Vegas this week.

One More Day to Go!

Dave Kovacovich