Building Trust Builds Confidence

It has to start somewhere.

Let me tell you about one of my first jobs. I was in college and working part-time at a call center. This wasn’t intended to be a career path for me, but when I graduated, they offered me a job. That’s when I discovered I had access to some great leaders and mentors. I can tell you any number of stories about how they motivated and inspired me – but here’s one of the most important lessons I learned.

After a few months in my first leadership role, I found myself in my manager’s office for one of our weekly touchpoints. He said I was playing it too safe and that wasn’t why they hired me. Besides being a brilliant leader, he was also very observant.  And he was right.

I was nervous.  While I had full confidence in my ability to perform the role I had been given, I was afraid of making a mistake.  Of being judged.  That’s when he said something that has stuck with me ever since.

It’s About Risk

“There is only one type of leader that never makes mistakes.  It’s the leader who does nothing.”

Then he told me about the biggest mistake he ever made in his career, and how his manager worked with him to learn and grow from it. He encouraged me to take chances and not be afraid to make a mistake myself. He convinced me we would learn from any mistakes and become smarter and better for having made them.

For him to open up and share his worst work experience with me showed his vulnerability and transparency. And most importantly, it showed he wanted me to trust him as much as he trusted me. The point is you can develop loyalty by showing loyalty. That’s how you build trust. 

Think about how much time and money you could save if you create a work environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing opinions and having honest, transparent discussions!

First Impressions: How Does Your Company Look to Candidates?

As with Online Dating, Your Company’s First Impression is Everything!

f you’ve ever tried online dating, you won’t be surprised to learn it’s all about the first impression. At that initial meet-up at the coffee shop or on a Zoom chat, you have to be on-point because you likely won’t get a second chance. It’s the same for companies looking to hire top talent. Even with the Covid-19 crisis, the job market today is competitive and it’s likely the candidate is speaking with four or five other companies.

Does Your Online Presence Give the Right Impression?

So you have to make a connection quickly. How do you do that? It starts long before the interview process. Your organization must be seen as a place people want to work. Are there things in your job posting that really help people understand what you’re providing to your customers in terms of products and services? How old is that job description? Your pool of applicants might be small because a competitor has a “compelling” job posting. It’s not sexy because it’s all glitz and glamour. It’s compelling because it’s appealing to somebody who wants to do that type of work with a progressive and successful organization.

What are the behaviors you truly value? If you say you love innovative, involved employees at every level and the candidate just wants “a job” and to be left alone, making those values clear will stop you from wasting everyone’s time.

Putting a consistent, systematic hiring process in place is a must. You need to have a standardized approach for every interview and every touchpoint. Candidates will talk to each other and if their stories are different it’s potential fuel for people to say you have “issues” in your company. Do you have managers who say, “Oh I don’t need a standardized process – I just sit back, meet the person and we have a conversation.” That personal approach might be okay if you’re a small business owner hiring three people and that’s all you have. However, as you get to scale, that can be perceived as preferential treatment – and you can get burned.

Get The Right People for Your Business-Soft Skills Matter!

The Individuals You Hire Impact Your Existing Staff.

If there is anything a business needs to consistently get right when building effective teams and a winning culture, it’s recruiting. The individuals you hire communicate clear expectations regarding performance to your existing staff.

In the recruiting process, successful companies look not only at an applicant’s skills and experiences but also at their personality, drive and motivation. Understanding what will fit best with the existing team is critical. That means the hiring manager should have a clear picture of the needs of that team and how the recruit will fit within that group. From my perspective, in many situations, passion and drive can exceed the value of skills and experience.

 Reassess and Be Flexible

For example, look at the situation facing many organizations today. Right now, there are thousands of fantastic people in the job market looking for work due to layoffs. They are more than willing to provide significant value to employers who have stayed in operation throughout the global pandemic, even if it is a short-term value! Businesses need to reassess their expectations as it relates to commitments around employment timelines. Having a short-term superstar is definitely better than having a role unfilled due to passing on that hire while looking for a longer-term team member.

Can an Outside Recruiter Help?

Sometimes traditional methods of recruiting can be limited ineffectiveness. If your candidate flow is weak, or if you are not getting the specific characteristics you need in applicants, an outside recruiter can be extremely beneficial. An outside recruiter can leverage a broad range of connections and other resources to find the candidates with the skills and characteristics you need to fill your specific job role.

 An outside recruiter also uses a thorough, formal and consistent recruiting process. That allows the hiring manager, and in some cases, key members of the team, to more effectively assess the “fit” of a candidate. Depending on the situation, or the organization’s strategic direction, the candidate with the best resume may not be what a team needs.

Do You Need to Bulk Up Your Business?

Do You Need to Bulk Up Your Business? Strength Matters

Maintaining a good level of physical fitness while improving our overall health is something we all aspire to achieve. But do we have a similar commitment when it comes to the health of our workplace? If you think of “bulking up” in the sense of working out, and the impact that has on us physically, we don’t gain overall muscle mass and strength through one workout, focusing on a single area. We work the entire body over a sustained period of time in order to achieve the results we want.

From my perspective, we need to take the same approach at work – “bulking up the business” through professional development with an intense, widespread and committed focus to strengthen core competencies across the entire organization.


It’s not difficult to get started. I recommend beginning with a simple gap analysis looking at where your company is today compared with where it needs to be in the future. The future could be next week, next year or next decade. In short, where are you now and where do you need to go?

Look at your mission statement and core values – and once you’ve ensured a solid alignment exists there, look closely at how your business, and everyone in it, get things done. Do they align? How do your employees feel about that alignment? Most importantly, understand what forms of professional development work best for solving certain types of issues. Do you want to increase employee morale, engagement and loyalty? Develop leaders for the future? Build your reputation in the community? Increase productivity? All of this and more can be achieved with the right type of professional development!


Professional development doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. I would argue instead of asking if you can afford it, you should ask if you can afford not to do it. Professional development takes many forms, and I suggest the most effective forms of professional development take place outside of the traditional classroom learning space that some immediately think of when they picture skill training and development. It’s not always a big dollar or time investment. Mentoring, problem-solving, process mapping and improvement, participating in an organizational task force or project team are great examples of professional development and continuing on-the-job education that one could argue should be a requirement in any industry.


All professional development investments should be matched with clear operational measures to determine success. Think about what you’re developing, how enhancement in those skills will positively impact certain aspects of your organization’s inputs, outputs, etc., and compare results in key performance metrics before and after the development occurs. I think you’ll find your newly “bulked up” company will be on the road to a healthy future.

Their “Why” Is the Reason They Stay – Tips for Employee Retention

What makes an employee stay versus leave an organization defines retention.

Every employee has different reasons for doing what they do each day, or their “why”.  The list is huge, but there is one that truly hits home when it comes to employee retention; connections.   Connections take the form of healthy relationships with their peers and leadership, in addition to being able to connect how their own role fits into the broader mission of the organization that they are a part of.  Employees need to feel that their work effort and contributions to the organization are valued, and rewarded, appropriately, and the organization must understand that “value” is more than just a dollar figure.

Show Them That They DO Matter

At all levels in your organization, there needs to be an equal level of respect and open communication. Protect the employee assets by investing time and effort into building strong connections on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.  Increase their overall value to themselves and to your organization by investing in their training and development. Giving them an opportunity to grow in the business and to achieve the goals that they have in their lives today will only make for great things in the future. After all, getting an amazing two years with a fantastic employee can be much more valuable to your organization than 10 years from a not so fantastic employee.  Ensure that the time they spend with your organization is as valuable as it can be, from all perspectives.

It’s also important to know that a team member’s plans can and will change, depending on the value that your organization provides to them.  Many top team members have started with an organization and planned on using their time there as a “stepping stone” to something else. Decades later, these same people are leaders in the organization.  What changed? The team members’ perception of the value provided to them by your organization, and more than likely, the strong connections they have built with the organization and the people in it.


How can you determine the value proposition for someone looking to join your team?  While a good interviewee will work hard to ensure that every answer they give you is what you want to hear in order for you to offer them the position, a good interviewer knows how to ask the right questions to get the information they need. In order to increase the chances of getting a true understanding of an applicant’s skill sets and of their willingness and ability to perform within their organization’s environment, you have to know what questions to ask and how they pertain to your company specifically. Ask questions that will elicit answers that will help you to determine how that individual will fit in with your organization’s culture.

What Really Makes the Difference

Now that you have them, how do you keep them there, and performing at or above expectations?  It goes back to the value and connection piece. Feeling valued and respected by your colleagues can make your job worthwhile, but what matters the most is the feeling of value and respect you receive from your boss and the leaders of an organization. Even in situations where I felt valued by my peers or by the people that I was leading, the most impactful drivers that kept me present were the connection I had with my leader. Feeling valued by them, having a high level of mutual respect and trust present between us, and feeling confident that my contributions to the mission and vision of the organization were appreciated was what made the difference.

Retention by itself isn’t what most businesses are looking for.  If you have zero turnover while your organization underperforms or otherwise struggles to provide value to your clients, you’re “retaining”, but at a major cost.  Likewise, losing underperforming employees to an influx of highly engaged, innovative, and connected employees could be exactly what your business needs. Basically, you have to know what it is that you want to retain, and what you want to lose, in order to achieve the mission and vision of your organization.


Putting Your Plan Into Action

Before you ask “what can we do to improve retention?”, ask yourself “do we have the right people today?”, and work backward from that answer to determine where to focus your efforts.  Having a strong culture in place BEFORE you decide to focus on the heavy-lifting of process improvement, retention strategy, goal alignment, and a host of other big-ticket initiatives, will only make those changes easier to implement and ensure sustained success over the long haul.  Businesses are like fingerprints, in that no two are exactly alike, which means that every business is going to have environmental, cultural, or systemic opportunities that will require a unique approach.

Internal Networking As Professional Development – Optimizing Information Exchange & Enhancing Relationships

Outside of a “networking event”, does networking have to be an event?  Absolutely not, and if that is how it is being approached, reevaluate! What about networking within your organization?  What is the value on that front?

Networking is the method used for exchanging information and developing professional relationships through interactions.  Regardless of your skill or comfort when it comes to the practice, networking is a major conduit or “fiber”, the delivery medium, for communication in the business world.

One of the best ways to take the edge and formality off of networking is to integrate it into your business, top to bottom, as a means of ongoing professional development with ALL members of your organization.  In doing so, you shift the perception of networking from something that is done externally with industry peers in other organizations, or with potential clients, to something that is required to optimize your business.  So why is networking critical internally? While it’s easy to see that a networking strategy could improve your chances of landing a job or finding new clients, there is a more basic aspect of networking that can be applied internally to a business.  When networking becomes a key part of an individual, team, or organizational-level professional development plan, a great deal of opportunity for improvement is created.

Let’s look at how networking as professional development works at various levels in an organization.

Front-Line Networking – Critical Information Exchange & Relationship Building

At the front-line level, whether that front-line is on a production floor, in a sales office, or with some other internal team in your business, knowing how individuals perform their jobs, what interdependencies exist, or other aspects of the business workflows, are all critical to optimizing outputs and improving existing processes.  Then add in the value of understanding individual motivations, work styles, communication preferences, and a host of other aspects of how people think and operate. It’s difficult to argue against team members in entry-level or front-line positions putting in the time and effort to understand all of those information points. Networking is how that gets done!

Making networking part of the individual and team-level development plans are great ways to ensure accountability, clarity for results, and that your staff is coached on how to effectively get the information they need to excel in their roles and to do the best work possible.  Team members that understand how the “big picture” works for their whole organization, AND how their own role plays into that, are much more capable of thinking “big picture”, which will begin to add strategic thinking into their daily work effort. They’ll have a more thorough understanding of their peers’ and direct leaders’ operating styles, and have much more efficient feedback channels for them to utilize as they perform their core job functions; the dividends paid from the investment in networking are significant.