Executives Train Via War Games

war games, executives

The Jenks Group’s war-game training on a movie set in San Diego. Photo courtesy The Jenks Group

The Jenks Group, a consulting firm based in Solana Beach, is using former Navy SEALS and a battlefield movie set to train senior executives.

 

 

What US Navy SEALs can teach your Executive Teams

Strategic Operations Skills Training

Strategic Operations Skills Training

 

KFMB Channel 8 News reporter Alicia Summers filmed and participated in our S.O.S.T. training. Here is FAST Team 8, they were awesome!! Back row left to right, US Navy SEAL Steve Bailey, Master Chief Ret., Dave Sweeney, Room 5; David Foos, Meeting Match; Craig Goldberg, 6 Degrees Business Networking; US Navy SEAL Mike Cheswick; Faisal Kohgadai, Meeting Match; Matthew Arena, TGG Accounting; US Navy SEAL Kirby Horrell; Front row left to right, Sharon Jenks, The Jenks Group, Inc. and Alicia Summers, Reporter KFMB Channel 8 News. You can watch the video here:

Not Your Typical Corporate Classroom

To learn more about the Strategic Operations Skills Training (S.O.S.T.) go to http://www.sosttraining.com and find out how this unique program can improve your organization when your team learns the 6 Game-Changing Skills taught by the US Navy SEALs and The Jenks Group instructors.

 

The Changing Face of Strategy

Blue-Ocean-Strategy

 

I think it is a safe assumption to say that business has never been tougher, more difficult to plan, and less predictable than ever before in our Baby Boom, business lives.  Many Chief Executives have done away with long term planning and instead have created the rolling eighteen month plan that they feel allows them to make faster adjustments on the fly.  While this might seem reasonable on the surface, it may carry some unexpected performance challenges over the course of time.

I was in a meeting with a very solid team of Senior Executives a few weeks ago discussing some traction issues they were challenged with as business was flat-lined and The Board had started to dig into operations a bit more than before.  The Team, normally aggressive and engaged, were frustrated and even a bit noticeably depressed.  We stopped the normal business process and just talked for a while about things in general when the VP of Operations blurted out that he had no idea where the company was going anymore and had no idea how to contribute.  They no longer had team goals and the company had done away with any formal planning process in favor of the fast-on-your-feet, plan in the moment management style.  Even the CEO was fidgeting in his seat as it had been his idea to try something new to deal with the uncertainty of the business climate.

Good CEO’s know that planning is important for a host of reasons; Great CEO’s know that over the course of time, planning and strategy will win the day more often than not.  There is however, a way to have your cake and eat it to and even eat it on the run if you have to!

If we are to get the gears turning again and play out some of the uncertainty we all deal with on a daily basis, there is nothing better than a solid dose of planning and strategic thinking.  The difference is in the way we plan and the way we execute; that’s where we have a lot of room to grow.  If you hired the very best people you could, and have surrounded yourself with “game changers”, there is one thing you need to understand.  Strength needs purpose. Having a strong team is wonderful; having a strong team with a goal makes you unstoppable.

There are three basic concepts that can help you take some of the uncertainty out of the future and get your team going in the right direction with purpose.

First, bring economics into your culture; Board Meetings, Executive Staff meetings, general staff meetings, lead the discussion.  If you do not know a lot about economics, see your Chair and ask for help because it’s not about your financial statements.  I follow three Economists on a regular basis and I have to tell you, they bring hope, clarity and continuity to your world.  Pick someone you like, someone you can understand, and someone who has a strong track record over a long period of time of solid predictability.   Working with your key executives, develop an economic outlook that allows your team to develop their respective budgets to a tolerance of three percent +/-.  That’s a six point split and should be able to cover most anomalies you could run into.

Second, get the team back in the saddle and give them meaningful time to think strategically about the economy, their business, and their industry.  The day-to-day grind is hard on people and in the kind of weird space we are in right now, they need to break away from the constant barrage of texts, emails, and people challenges and get up on top of it again.  As a CEO, set the direction of the organization, and also those timeless goals that create endearing culture and allow a team to focus their strength.  Set the stage with your goals, and have the team develop multiple strategic initiatives by which to achieve them.  This allows the team to select those initiatives that have the highest probability of being successful and leave the others in the war chest so that if things change they already know what to do.

Third, be relevant, always be relevant.  As a CEO, you need to be sure that you are relevant.  Are you deepening your relationships and are you out there finding out what’s going on?  Is your Board relevant?  Do they understand your business and are they bringing relevant value? Are they helping you develop yourself as a “game changer”?  Is your team relevant?  Are you helping them develop “game changing” skills?

If we are to get things back on track, we must not be afraid to step on a moving machine, and do so with flawless grace.

Ed Jenks is a 25 year veteran of the C-Suite having served as CEO in multiple turn-around management positions as well as a Master Strategist facilitating organizational planning for mid-tier companies.  Jenks is the author of CEO: Point Blank, and a Principle and Senior Strategist at Solana Beach based TJGI Consulting. 

 

 

How Does Your Boss Measure Up?

Exceptional Boss

10 Things Only Exceptional Bosses Give Employees

Good bosses have strong organizational skills. Good bosses have solid decision-making skills. Good bosses get important things done.

Exceptional bosses do all of the above — and more. (And we remember them forever.) Sure, they care about their company and customers, their vendors and suppliers. But most importantly, they care to an exceptional degree about the people who work for them.

And that’s why they’re so rare.

Extraordinary bosses give every employee:

1. Autonomy and independence.

Great organizations are built on optimizing processes and procedures. Still, every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micro-managed approach. (Here’s looking at you, manufacturing industry.)

Engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care when it’s “mine.” I care when I’m in charge and feel empowered to do what’s right.

Plus, freedom breeds innovation: Even heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches. (Still looking at you, manufacturing.)

Whenever possible, give your employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. When you do, they almost always find ways to do their jobs better than you imagined possible.

2. Clear expectations.

While every job should include some degree of independence, every job does also need basic expectations for how specific situations should be handled.

Criticize an employee for offering a discount to an irate customer today even though yesterday that was standard practice and you make that employee’s job impossible. Few things are more stressful than not knowing what is expected from one day to the next.

When an exceptional boss changes a standard or guideline, she communicates those changes first — and when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made, and what she expects in the future.

3. Meaningful objectives.

Almost everyone is competitive; often the best employees are extremely competitive–especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

Plus, goals are fun. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just work.

No one likes work.

4. A true sense of purpose.

Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turns a group of individuals into a real team.

The best missions involve making a real impact on the lives of the customers you serve. Let employees know what you want to achieve for your business, for your customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.

Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about and, more importantly, why to care.

5. Opportunities to provide significant input.

Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.

That’s why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions. They probe gently. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done. When an idea isn’t feasible, they always take the time to explain why.

Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued — and appreciated.

6. A real sense of connection.

Every employee works for a paycheck (otherwise they would do volunteer work), but every employee wants to work for more than a paycheck: They want to work with and for people they respect and admire–and with and for people who respect and admire them.

That’s why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if an employee needs any help — those moments are much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations.

A true sense of connection is personal. That’s why exceptional bosses show they see and appreciate the person, not just the worker.

7. Reliable consistency.

Most people don’t mind a boss who is strict, demanding, and quick to offer (not always positive) feedback, as long as he or she treats every employee fairly.

(Great bosses treat each employee differently but they also treat every employee fairly. There’s a big difference.)

Exceptional bosses know the key to showing employees they are consistent and fair is communication: The more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume unfair treatment or favoritism.

8. Private criticism.

No employee is perfect. Every employee needs constructive feedback. Every employee deserves constructive feedback. Good bosses give that feedback.

Great bosses always do it in private.

9. Public praise.

Every employee — even a relatively poor performer — does something well. Every employeedeserves praise and appreciation. It’s easy to recognize some of your best employees because they’re consistently doing awesome things. (Maybe consistent recognition is a reason they’re your best employees? Something to think about.)

You might have to work hard to find reasons to recognize an employee who simply meets standards, but that’s okay: A few words of recognition–especially public recognition–may be the nudge an average performer needs to start becoming a great performer.

10. A chance for a meaningful future.

Every job should have the potential to lead to greater things. Exceptional bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company.

How can you know what an employee hopes to do someday? Ask.

Employees will only care about your business after you first show you care about them. One of the best ways is to show that while you certainly have hopes for your company’s future, you also have hopes for your employees’ futures. – Jeff Haden

6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away: How To Recognize Them In Yourself and Change Them

Toxic behavior

 

 

In my line of work, I hear from hundreds of people a month, and connect with professionals in a more public, open way than ever before. Through this experience, I’ve seen scores of toxic behaviors that push people away (including me). And I’ve witnessed the damage these behaviors cause – to relationships, professional success, and to the well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone around him or her.

Let’s be real – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another (none of us are immune to it), but many people are more evolved, balanced, and aware, and it happens only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or once in a blue moon, it’s critical for your happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving badly, and shift it when it emerges.

The 6 most toxic behaviors I see every day are:

Taking everything personally

In the powerful little book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of taking nothing personally. I teach this in my coaching programs and my book Breakdown, Breakthrough as well, and there is so much pushback. “Really, Kathy – don’t take anythingpersonally?”

People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything that happens in life is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them. The reality is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them. I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide. So yes – don’t take anything personally.

Obsessing about negative thoughts

It’s very hard to be around people who can’t or won’t let go of negativity – when they dwell on and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life. These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s transpiring. Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another. Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that.

Treating yourself like a victim

Another toxic behavior is non-stop complaining that fuels your sense of victimization. Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no influence on the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck and small. Working as a therapist with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe. When you stop whining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim of fate, chance or discrimination, then you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept that reality.

Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others shoes

One of the most toxic and damaging behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly cruel and destructive to others just because they can. They tear people down online but in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a weapon. Cruelty, backstabbing, and ripping someone to shreds is toxic, and it hurts you as well as your target.

I had a powerful learning experience about this a few years ago. I came into the house one day in a nasty mood, and shared a mean, sniping comment to my husband about the way a neighbor was parenting her child through one of his problem phases. In less than 24 hours, that very same issue the parent was dealing with came home to roost in my house, with my child. It was as if the Universe sent me the message that, “Ah, if you want to be cruel and demeaning about someone, we’ll give you the same experience you’ve judged so negatively, so you can learn some compassion.” And I did.

If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks. Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all the same.

Excessive reactivity

An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you. We all know these people – men and women who explode over the smallest hiccup or problem. Yelling at the bank teller for the long line, screaming at your assistant for the power point error he made, or losing it with your child for spilling milk on the floor. If you find that you’re overly reactive, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality. There’s more to it that appears on the surface. An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – is critical.

Needing constant validation

Finally, people who constantly strive for validation and self-esteem by obsessing about achieving outward measures of success, are exhausting to be around. Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over, and constantly want to “win” over their colleagues or peers, are toxic and draining.

Overly-attaching to how things have to look and be, and to achieving certain milestones and accomplishments rather than going with life in a more flexible, easy manner, can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down . There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve or fail at today. It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning and applying, how you’re helping others, and the growing process you allow yourself to engage in.

Stop stressing over the particular outcomes like, “I need that promotion now!” or “My house has to be bigger and more beautiful than my neighbor’s.” Your desperate need to prove your success and build your self-esteem through outer measures of success is (sadly) apparent to everyone but you, and it’s pushing away the very happiness outcomes you’re longing for. -Kathy Caprino

Lost in Translation, Again!

Generations

 

Lost in Translation?  A great phrase. It means that words, once translated, can lose the original intent of their meaning.  Or for those who loved the movie, it is the name of the insightful and curiosity-piquing film by Sofia Coppola released over a decade ago.  Either way, people, we have something to talk about.  We’re missing something in our communication.

In the movie, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play mismatched souls who keep running into each other then begin a fledgling relationship.  Two different generations reach across the great communication divide to create meaning.  YES!  Oh, but wait, must it only happen in the movies?  NO!  Lest we get too excited, we must realize we do have issues when the generational communication wall is scaled.

It’s like we are talking in tongues thinking another generation understands our point of view.  We’re losing meaning in our communication because we don’t have the same meanings to start with!   Meaning is established by shared experience.  And, duh, we don’t share the same experiences, growing up in very different times.  End game?  Concepts are getting lost in translation.  We need to gen up (gather as much as information as we can) about the generations.

4 Concepts That Get Lost in Translation

 1) What Does Respect Mean?

The generational communication workshops I’ve conducted since 2007 tells me for older generations, it is about being acknowledged for status or effort.  For the younger generations it is about having their point of view understood without judgment.  We’re a little off here!

2) Mistakes?

In older generations, it could be grounds for dismissal.  For younger generations, highly influenced by the gaming culture, it’s a learning opportunity.  “What’s the big deal?” Oh, yeah, we have issues. 

 

 3) Trust?

“You have to earn my trust!” versus “Don’t you trust your own judgment…YOU hired me to do this job, now let me do it!” Ouch.

 4) Communication Choices

Why do Millennials choose texting and email over other communication vehicles?  One answer sums it up — “Text and email give me time to compose my thoughts.  I can see the content.  It gives me time to respond versus just react.” Wow, that blows what we might have been thinking right out of the water. 

Given my deep-seeded desire to illuminate generational thinking in an effort to enhance workplace communication, I am on a mission to rid ourselves of preconceived ideas and monitor our own personal bias as we communicate across the generations.  Here are my suggestions:

3 Things You Can Do to Get Your Message Understood

 1) You cannot think that everyone thinks like you. 

Now say this three times, memorize the mantra then create a post-it for your computer.  Everyone does not think like I do.  Get it?  You are judging people as if they were YOU.  I know you know this theoretically — but you may not be getting it emotionally.  Just keep saying it.  The old adage “Fake it ‘til you make it” applies here.    Resist the urge to add “ – and the world would be better off if everyone did think like me.”

 2) Don’t just walk away! Try again.

When you see that look in the person’s eyes that they really do not know where you are coming from when you communicate (or even worse, delegate), don’t just walk away!  Try again.  I know we are in an era where time seems more valuable than gold but we must make a decision.  Do you want to connect the first time or do it over and over again trying to get it right when your expectations aren’t met?  Make the investment.

 3) Tailor your message to the folks you are talking to.

After all, they do not think like you do so you must translate your thoughts into their lingo.  What does this look like in real life?

    • Use visual examples, modify those dry and boring BabyBoomer PowerPoints into something interactive and entertaining if you really want to connect with the younger audience.  (We do that for clients a lot!).
    • Use verbal examples that reference experiences that your audience can relate to and not just that you can relate to.
    • Use words that resonate with each generation.  You can find our more on that front from my May 20, 2013 article, 4 Communication Tips to Open Your Mind & Strengthen Your Vocabulary.

Conclusion

Look.  This translation stuff is tricky.  We think we are communicating because what we say makes sense to us.  In our fast-paced environments where we throw instructions like whiffle balls as we run down hallways, we are not only striking out but we are whiffing big time.  A lot of energy spent with not enough return.

We are missing a handful of key communication concepts about the sender, the receiver and the message. It’s Communications 101 with a generational twist.  Let’s be aware of the hazards of generational miscommunication and make a commitment to translate our concepts well as we send our message by keeping the generations of our receivers in mind.  -Sherri Petro

 

8 Things Truly Outstanding Leaders Do Without Thinking

Leadership

Once in a while you meet a leader who stands out — even in a room filled with skilled, experienced, successful people. She isn’t just remarkably charismatic. He isn’t just remarkably likeable.

You can tell, in an instant, they simply think and act and lead differently than most people.

But those rare individuals don’t become outstanding leaders overnight. While some are born with an aptitude for leadership, truly outstanding leaders are made. Through training, experience, and a healthy dose of introspection they learn how to make quick decisions. They learn to work with different personalities. They learn to nurture, motivate and inspire.

They learn to truly lead.

And in time those skills become automatic and reflexive. While great leaders do a tremendous amount of thinking, that thinking happens behind the scenes. In the moment, in the trenches, when people look to them and need them most, they act: swiftly, decisively and confidently.

Want to become a truly outstanding leader? Work hard to do these eight things naturally, automatically and instinctively:

1. Praise. It’s easy to tell when employee recognition is simply one entry on a very long to-do list. We’ve all been around people who occasionally — and awkwardly — shake a few hands and pat a few backs. No matter how hard they try to fake it, their insincerity is evident.

No one gets enough praise, so truly outstanding leaders see expressing thanks, giving praise and providing recognition as one gift that can never be given often enough.

Praise is almost like breathing to a truly outstanding leader: natural, automatic, frequent and, most of all, genuine and sincere.

2. Decide. Ideas are great but implementation is everything. Outstanding leaders quickly weigh, assess, decide, and then immediately act–because decisiveness and action build confidence and momentum.

That’s why making a poor decision is often better than making no decision at all. Mistakes can almost always be corrected. Even though you should always try, rarely must you be right the first time. Adapting and learning and revising so you get it right in the end matters a lot more.

Especially when you …

3. Take responsibility. We all make bad decisions. What matters is what we doafter we make those mistakes.

Outstanding leaders are the first to say, “I was wrong.” Outstanding leaders are the first to say, “I made the wrong choice. We need to change course.”

Outstanding leaders instinctively admit their mistakes early and often because they’re quick to take responsibility and because they desperately want to build a culture where mistakes are simply challenges to overcome, not opportunities to point fingers and assign blame.

4. Communicate. Business is filled with what: What to execute, what to implement, what to say and sometimes even what to feel.

What’s often missing is the why.

That’s why so many projects, processes and tasks fail. Tell me what to do and I’ll try to do it; tell me why, help me understand why, help me believe and make that whymy mission too … and I’ll run through proverbial brick walls to do the impossible.

Managers stipulate. Outstanding leaders explain. And then they listen — because the most effective communication involves way more listening than talking.

5. Set the example. Say you’re walking through a factory with the plant manager and you see a piece of trash on the floor. There are two types of people when that happens:

One spots it, stops, struts over, snatches it up, crumples it like a beer can and strides 20 feet to a trashcan to slam it home. He’s picked up the trash, but he’s also making a statement.

The other veers over without breaking stride, picks it up, crumples it up, keeps talking and doesn’t throw it away until he comes across a convenient trashcan. He’s not thinking about making a statement. He just saw a little trash and picked it up without thinking.

Simple example? Sure. But extremely telling — especially to employees.

Why? Employees notice what you do. When you’re in charge, everyone watches what you do. The difference lies in how you do what you do … and what that says about you.

Outstanding leaders do what they do simply because it’s important to them. It’s part of who they are. They care about go, not show — and, in time, so do they people they work with.

6. Give feedback. We all want to improve: to be more skilled, more polished, more successful. That’s why we all need constructive feedback.

Because they care about their employees, not just as workers but as people, outstanding leaders instinctively go to the person struggling and say, “I know you can do this. And I’m going to help you.”

Think about a time when a person told you what you least wanted to hear and yet most needed to hear. They changed your life. Outstanding leaders naturally try to change people’s lives. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because they care.

7. Seek help. At some point, most people in leadership positions begin to avoid displaying signs of vulnerability. After all, you’re in charge of everything, so you’re supposed to know everything. Of course that’s impossible. You can’t know everything about your job. Your employees can’t know everything about their jobs, either.

Outstanding leaders don’t pretend to know everything. (In fact, they purposely hire people who know more than they do.) So they naturally ask questions. They automatically ask for help.

And in the process they show vulnerability, respect for the knowledge and skills of others and a willingness to listen — all of which are qualities of outstanding leaders.

8. Challenge. Most leaders implement their ideas by enforcing processes and procedures that support those ideas.

For employees, though, engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care a lot more when it’s mine: my idea, my process, my responsibility. I care the most when I feel I am depended on — and given the authority — to make important decisions and do what’s right.

Outstanding leaders create broad standards and guidelines and then challenge their employees by giving them the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. They allow employees to turn “yours” into “ours,” transforming work into an outward expression of each person’s unique skills, talents and experiences.

That’s a challenge every employee wants to face — and one that outstanding leaders instinctively provide. -Jeff Haden

The Peter Principle: Why Incompetent People Get Promoted

Peter Principle

Have you ever looked at your boss and wondered “Who promoted you?” or “How have you not been fired by now?” If you have, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone — many of us have to deal with bosses that seem in over their heads.

The fact is, while your inept boss may drive you nuts, it may not even be his or her fault — or even the fault of your company for promoting your boss in the first place. Your unsuspecting employer had no idea that your boss would become a full-blown case of the Peter Principle in action.

So who is Peter and what did he do to make your boss so frustrating, you ask?

Well, Dr. Laurence J. Peter is a former professor who published a satirical book based around his theory that “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,” and that “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.” Or, basically: We do a job well, we’re promoted. We do that job well, we’re promoted again. This happens in succession until we eventually rise to a position that we can no longer do well — or our level of incompetence. There, we either stagnate, revert back to a lower position, or are fired.

While ‘The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong,’ was originally meant to provide a sort of absurd-yet-true comic relief to the overworked, the practicality and pertinence of the Peter Principle was not lost on the working world, and the theory has since become a hotly debated human resources phenomenon.

You Can Love a Company, But Can a Company Love You Back?

THIS ARTICLE IS A MUST READ!!!

company love

Since my first job selling television ad time in the early 17 century, I believed working for a company was about more than just cashing a paycheck. For me, there was always a very deep emotional connection to the place I worked. I was always proud to tell people where I worked and had great pride in the companies I worked for when I crossed the threshold every day.

It may sound naïve, but I was convinced the ‘company’ was this sentient entity that would always have my best interests at heart. I really did love it, and I believed it loved me back.

Years ago, when I had grown deeply disappointed in the company I worked for, my wife Heidi said something profound, “You can love a company, but a company can’t love you back.” She didn’t mean it as an indictment of all organizations, but as a realistic assessment that companies are collections of living breathing human beings. Some of the bosses you work for will live up to your standards and the values and direction of the corporation, but some will not. Things change, directions change. When they do, it’s time to decide if you can change to suit them, or if you need to move on.

I realized I did need to leave that company. I had been staying out of a sense of allegiance that wasn’t being reciprocated. I was going crazy watching my new leaders who I thought were headed in the wrong direction, and in turn I was driving those people crazy. It was bad for both of us.

Now, after a few decades spent consulting with some amazing organizations and leaders, what I’ve found is that while companies can’t love, great leaders and co-workers can. And those kind of positive relationships are fueled by deliberate, sustainable and vibrant corporate cultures.

The exceptional bosses who run these cultures care about their people, they challenge them with clear goals, cheer for their successes, and want them to be happy in their business and personal lives. When we find leaders like that, we typically go the extra mile and don’t want to disappoint. As the Clinton campaign might have quipped, “It’s about the boss, stupid.”

But then our boss gets promoted or transferred, and everything can change.

In its most recent research, The Gallup Organization estimates only one in 10 people truly have the potential to be a good manager. And yet in their paper “Why Great Managers are so rare,” the researchers estimate a manager accounts for at least 70 percent of employee engagement across an organization. Wow. That might explain why only 30 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. It’s as low as 13 percent worldwide.

So, what to do?

Obviously we must add value in our positions and be good at what we do. That’s a given. But what follows are three other simple things you can do to protect yourself from changes that will inevitably come in your company, so you can maintain a good attitude and positive career trajectory:

1. Surround yourself with good people.

People are the culture of a company, not the values or mission posted on a wall. Spend time with people who encourage you. Those who survive big changes often have several high-level mentors, who are not their bosses, who they can turn to for advice and who will have their back. They also choose a network of work friends as carefully as they chose their friends in their personal lives, and they nurture those relationships with time and effort.

2. Stay clear of bad bosses.

This may sound like officious advice, but it’s amazing how often individuals choose to go to work for a new boss without doing even the most basic of background checks. Bad leaders get into even the best of organizations, which means there are egotists and narcissists out there who feel lifted up when others fail, pit workers against each other, and relish in wielding unholy power. Before you accept a job with a new boss, ask a few friends who’ve worked with them about their reputation. Do they listen, do they care, do they develop others? Don’t think you can change a bad manager, you can’t.

3. Get some advice.

When things do get tough, or you are presented with an opportunity that looks promising, seek council. History’s most wise leaders all had councilors, and so should we. Seek the advice of people who have your best interests at heart: past leaders, mentors, and most of all friends and family. Trust their advice the most, just as I did with my wife Heidi. -Chester Elton

I’d love to read in the comments how you made it through a tough situation at work, or how you’ve tried to bullet proof your career against leadership changes.

Employees Quit Management, Not the Company

I quit

I have the opportunity to do a lot of Consulting for Companies – Big and Small Companies, Companies in several different industries, Newer Companies and Established “Dinosaur” Companies, etc. The point is, I have had the privilege of Consulting for just about every type of business there is out on the market. And there is almost always the same problem – companies are experiencing higher turnover than they should – generally speaking of course.

Cost of Turnover

The obvious immediate problem is the cost of replacing an employee. Dun & Bradstreet have a great article where they reference a study done by Institute forResearch on Labor and Employment at UC, Berkley. The average cost of replacing an employee is about 1.5 times their Salary. For instance, if you are filling a $60,000.00 position, with all costs incurred, it will cost your company around $90,000.00.

Instability for Customers and other Employees

When you have employees rotating in and out, and customers dealing with new people on a semi-regular basis, regardless of the viability of the company it gives the appearance of instability and a company that employees don’t even like. Turnover can be a huge cancer to your employees as well, as employees have to unexpectedly take on extra responsibilities or duties that they do not have the skill set for, yet are held accountable for their errors.

Cause of Abnormal Turnover

In almost every case, when an employee leaves a company voluntarily, it is Managements fault. Yes, there are the proverbial “nails in the coffin” which Management loves to deflect to – such as “they got offered more money”, “their work load is easier over there”, and on and on. But if Management was doing their job correctly, in almost every case none of these reasons would be enough to make them want to move to a different company.

How to Keep Low Retention

Every company is different, but these principles stay the same. Use these ideas and suggestions, but also build off of them and create custom policies that fit your company, your employees, and your companies “personality”.

  1. ALWAYS DO EXIT INTERVIEWS!!! Unless the employee is extremely hostile, make sure an immediate exit interview is done with employees that tender resignations to understand why they are leaving. And listen – do not try and persuade them that they are wrong. Just listen. For instance, even though you may know that a particular action is not happening, there may be an issue somewhere in the company where there is a “perception” problem which are making employees unhappy that needs addressed.
  2. Work Atmosphere – Work Hard, Play Hard. Create a fun atmosphere at work. Never before, especially in the US, have we demanded more productivity out our employees since we are competing in a Global Economy now. And guess what, it is tough on everyone and will run you into the ground if you let it. This is a great time to get ideas from employees – game room, relaxation room, fun “brainstorming” sessions (I will do a separate article on this at another time), daily competitions for particular KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators – Sales, Revenue, Net Profit, Calls, etc). I am a big believer in spiff’s for winning a competition or if an employee does something particularly outstanding) – whether it is a small gift card, cash, company gear – use your imagination.
  3. Knock Down The Wall Between Mid-Management and the “C” Level – One of the biggest problems are C Level Executives not knowing about problems. I am not letting C Level Exec’s off of the hook, as even though they have Managers to handle the day to day Operations, C Level Exec’s need to be “keyed” in on what is going on, and make sure that employees can confidentially come to you with an issue to be addressed before it becomes a bigger problem. But it is amazing how good some Mid-Management get at putting up a wall where if there is an issue, that employees find it difficult, if not impossible, to voice a concern that may need to be addressed.

This is just a start, and meant to keep you aware of the high cost of turnover and to be constantly improving the company to make people want to stay. No companies have zero turnover, but I have Consulted for companies with both high turnover and low turnover. For companies with a high turnover problem, if it is handled aggressively and correctly, you can turn around extremely fast. – Jacob Franklin