Managing Stress While Building a Successful Business

What can you do to manage the daily challenges and stresses that come with starting and building a business?

David Cox | July 09, 2019

Managing stress – The negative impact of daily stress

Building a small business means coping with stressful situations daily. As stress continues, it hinders the ability to focus or think clearly. The inability to think clearly can lead to bad business decisions that can negatively affect your business’s growth and development. The more stress you experience, the more frustrated and impatient you may feel, which can increase your stress even further. Likewise, the adverse effects of increased stress will prove detrimental to the business, and your health if this increase remains unchecked.

Managing stress – Three coping strategies

You cannot eliminate stress from building your business, but you can adopt practices that will help you better cope with its adverse effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health. I recommend you start with the following three strategies, all of which are 100% within your span of control:

  1. Learn to say “No”

    Learning how to say “No” to a prospective customer is extremely difficult for most new business owners. When starting and building a business, it seems logical that almost any client’s project could offer the potential for a long-term relationship. However, these requests are not always opportunities. Unfortunately, saying “Yes” to everything will prove costly and eventually overwhelm your schedule.

    You’ll soon find that taking on every job is not healthy for you or your business. Some projects may seem to be better opportunities from a financial perspective, or because they might open “doors” for you in the future. Remember: It’s not an opportunity unless it’s worthwhile for both you and the customer. It’s essential to understand that saying “No” is sometimes in the best interest of your business.

  2. Focus on progress rather than perfection

    Successful business leaders realize they’ll never operate their business flawlessly. Perfection isn’t as necessary as continuous steps of development. So, as long as you’re improving, whether as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, and as a leader, you’re moving in the right direction. If you continuously stress about the need for everything to be perfect, you’ll burn yourself out before you ever achieve your goals. You need to strive each day to deliver exceptional results, but you shouldn’t set impossible standards for yourself or your business.

    You also need to learn how to embrace failure. Starting and running a business means that somewhere along the line, you’ll make mistakes, and even the best ideas and plans don’t always work out. The key is to evaluate your actions and decisions objectively, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.

  3. Create routines

    Successful business leaders develop workable, efficient routines that help them set priorities and accomplish their goals. They give structure to your life and workday. They’re also an excellent tool for reducing stress. You don’t need to plan a minute-by-minute schedule, because the lack of flexibility would soon overwhelm you. However, you should develop routines that can give you a more structured approach to accomplishing the work you do each day.

    So, if you’re feeling stressed out about work, have a routine in place to adjust your thinking towards a more positive mindset. Imagine how much less stress you would feel if you eventually surrounded yourself with routines, productive thoughts, and positive people.

Managing stress – It comes with the territory

You understand that building a successful business requires an incredible amount of time and effort. It requires financial investment, choosing which innovative ideas to implement, and taking risks essential to achieving long-term success. Regardless, you need to learn how to manage the challenges that “come with the territory.” It is imperative to learn coping strategies that can make your responsibilities a little less stressful. Doing so will help you enjoy building a successful business, maintaining better health, and never taking for granted the people who mean the most in your life.

10 Essential Characteristics for Earning Respect in Your Organization

If you believe people at work will automatically respect you because of your accomplishments, position, or family relationships – nothing could be further from the truth

David Cox | June 25, 2019

Earning respect: Why is it important?

Earning respect is essential to your job success and career opportunities.

You may be a business owner, working to increase quality and productivity. You may be a middle manager seeking further advancement. Perhaps you started as an entry-level employee a few months ago, and are now under consideration for your first promotion.

In any case, you’ll need the respect of those with whom you work to succeed and continue your advancement.

Best selling author and professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman, said it this way, “It boils down to a simple formula. REPUTATION + CHARACTER = RESPECT. You earn the RESPECT of others when your public REPUTATION and private CHARACTER are above reproach. And you’ve got to have both.”

In short, if you want the respect of others in your organization, you’re going to have to earn it.

Earning respect: 10 characteristics that will support your efforts

How can you earn the respect you need within your organization? How can you build an outstanding public reputation and demonstrate exceptional personal character? Well, the people you work with are likely to respect someone who models the following characteristics:

  1. Honesty
    You need to be straightforward and truthful about yourself and in your interactions with others. Never misrepresent your skills, abilities, and experiences. These things have helped shape the person you are today. Don’t make promises flippantly. In fact, when you make a promise to someone, treat it as if it’s a binding contract.
  2. Authenticity
    Take pride in who you are and the person you’ve become. Don’t be intimidated by someone else’s opinion or if others disagree with you. Moreover, make sure that you are what you claim to be – nothing more and nothing less.
  3. Integrity
    Working with people reveals your level of integrity. As such, you need to maintain high ethical standards. Likewise, set high standards in your conduct towards others. Honor your organization’s policies and procedures, not because you signed an agreement. Do so because it’s the right thing to do.
  4. Fairness
    Choose to build long-term relationships rather than settling for immediate gains. Strive for win-win outcomes in disputes. If you don’t, and the solution isn’t mutually beneficial, no one wins in that situation. All parties will work to keep a mutually beneficial agreement. Moreover, maintain “The Golden Rule” and treat others the way you would want them to treat you.
  5. Tolerance
    Stay open and receptive to ideas, beliefs, and cultures other than your own. In the process, learn to remain objective. Consistently try to consider all sides of an issue rather than forcing your personal opinion on others.
  6. Humility
    Stay modest about your achievements. Learn to feel comfortable in your skin and quietly proud of your accomplishments. Furthermore, never assume the credit for any success. Instead, be willing to share the credit with everyone involved.
  7. Compassion
    As you progress in your career, strive to treat others with kindness. Always remember your beginnings and give credit to all those who helped you along the way. Thus, be willing to help those in need of some support or a second chance.
  8. Knowledge
    You may be a brilliant individual, but don’t give the impression that you’re a know-it-all. Make sure the managers and employees who work with you know they can count on your job-related knowledge. Furthermore, keep learning and continue to improve your knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  9. Personal responsibility
    Take responsibility for your career rather than feeling your employer owes you something. Choose to be proactive at work. Set your goals high and make the commitment and sacrifice required to succeed.

    What’s more, accept the consequences of your choices. Specifically, if things go south, don’t blame others or make excuses. Instead, make other choices while remaining positive and getting the job done.

  10. Quality associations
    Carefully choose the people and organizations with whom you associate. Do so knowing that you win or lose the respect of others based on the company you keep. Therefore, refuse to compromise on the character of your associations, even for the sake of sales or bottom line profits.

Earning respect: It begins with you!

So, if you want to earn the respect of those with whom you work, it’s essential that your reputation and character remain above reproach. Adopt the characteristics that will help you earn their respect.

Sure, you’ll make some mistakes, and you even may lose some support along the way. However, overcoming your mistakes represents another opportunity to earn the respect of those around you. One thing is sure; you’ll always know that you gave your best effort to build your reputation and character. In the final analysis, that effort deserves respect.

Managerial Leadership Skills for a Competitive Workforce

Here are nine skills that will help managers distinguish themselves as leaders in a 21st-century workplace

David Cox | June 11, 2019

Managerial Leadership: The criteria for selecting managers is expanding

More organizations are augmenting the traditional criteria for advancement to management roles in an increasingly competitive business environment. Obviously, technical skills, past employee performance, and tenure are all crucial factors, but they’re no longer sufficient for determining management potential.

Successful companies are trending towards assessing whether or not candidates can effectively lead a team before advancing them to a management position. In other words, advancement to management will be based, at least in part, on leadership assessment, rather than an assumption of such capability.

As such, what do you, as a new or current manager, need to learn that will better enable you to manage a team and distinguish yourself as an effective leader?

Managerial Leadership: What skills do prospective and current managers need to develop?

Here are the nine skills that will help you manage more effectively and reinforce your leadership to drive better results.

  1. Integrity
    Managers who lack integrity also lack effectiveness. The reason for this is that effective managers lead by example. Technical proficiency, past performance, and adequate tenure will never make up for lacking integrity. Good leaders not only do the right thing; they are truthful and reliable. Moreover, they maintain a reputation for transparency in actions and decision-making.
  2. Team building
    Managers must select the best people for each job regardless of gender, ethnicity, or other factors. A good leader can develop an inclusive workforce. Obviously, they shouldn’t let their personal feelings negatively impact their willingness to hire the best people and get the job done.
  3. Positive attitude
    If managers don’t respect the company and its leaders, why should their employees? Managers need to be champions of the organization. They need to support the direction of the organization. Likewise, they need to promote that direction to their employees enthusiastically. Doing so is particularly important when an organization is transitioning or working through change.
  4. Communication
    Managers must be able to communicate their goals and expectations effectively to get the most out of their teams. A good manager makes sure everyone understands their role and the expectations for that role. Clear goals and expectations keep employees engaged while working towards something bigger than themselves.
  5. Listening
    Listening is essential to effective communication. Managers need to genuinely listen to their employees and not just hear what they want to hear. Listening is key to building solid relationships with employees because it lets them know that you value them. When employees feel valued, it encourages them to participate and contribute.
  6. Flexibility
    No two people are the same. Everyone’s style of working is somewhat different. Flexibility is an essential skill for managers to adapt their management style to the diverse styles of their team members. Undoubtedly, flexibility is the future of the workplace. Moreover, managers need to be able to oversee employees beyond the workplace, with more and more people choosing to work remotely.
  7. Delegation
    Delegating work-related tasks to the right employee is an essential skill for today’s managers. The broader the manager’s scope of responsibilities, the higher the risk of failure, unless they delegate to their team members effectively. Managers must figure the best person for the job from their team, and then trust the person they select to get it done.
  8. Decision-making
    Problems arise in every business or organization. Good managers understand they will be judged by how they solve those problems. Subsequently, managers need to make tough decisions quickly.

    It’s essential that once made; those decisions are then implemented, to achieve the desired results. If not, leaders must be willing to act quickly and change course. Leadership is a series of decisions; if you make a bad decision, respond with a better one.

  9. Collaboration
    It’s imperative for today’s organizations that they share information across all departments and levels. Often, a lack of collaboration leads to power struggles, disruption among team members, and lowered productivity. Managers must be able to promote the sharing of information by unifying teams, setting shared goals, and incentivizing a collaborative work environment.

Managerial Leadership: Create an “X-factor”

Smart companies looking to develop a more sustainable future will include managerial leadership in their training programs. Doing so will give them a stronger pool of candidates to promote from within the organization. However, if you’re looking to distinguish yourself through managerial leadership right now, don’t wait for your employer to offer such training.

Applying managerial leadership skills to your management responsibilities will help you create an “X factor” that will distinguish you from other managers. It’s a factor of credibility needed to lead your team in accomplishing its goals and making continuous improvement.

Blog Post Value: Growing Your Audience

Do your blog articles offer anything of value that matters to your potential audience and successfully attracts their attention?

David Cox | May 28, 2019

Blog Post Value: How to stand out in the crowd

A blog post value focuses on what your article offers readers. Specifically, the reason your article matters to them. Then again, if you discover an overall blog post value that repeatedly gains attention, it may help you plan more articles that will continue to attract a growing audience.

Generally speaking, your blog is competing for attention. The Internet, to be sure, is an increasingly crowded online market and growing every day.

As of a few minutes ago, according to, the Internet has over 4.2 trillion users throughout the world and includes over 1.6 trillion websites. What’s more, there have been over 5.2 trillion search requests on Google today (and the day isn’t over).

Therefore, if your goal is to grow your audience, you must gain the attention of enough Internet users to find your targeted group. Sure, posting online is an efficient and low-cost strategy for gaining attention. Nevertheless, doing so is no guarantee that anyone’s going to read your blog article.

Your interests are not necessarily of value to your readers

As a third-party blogger, I accept certain facts about blogging. For instance, if you want to gain the attention of more readers, a blog article may suggest solutions to a problem, or arouse curiosity. It could also provide a reader with helpful information. Perhaps you’ve written the article to inspire or even entertain an audience. Regardless, your blog article must provide some value. Otherwise, there’s no reason for anyone to read it.

The critical mistake made by many bloggers is writing articles about their interests or what’s important to them. Consider the following examples:

  1. Businesses owners often blog because they want to sell products and services
  2. Non-profit executives may blog to publicize their organization, their cause, or ask for donations
  3. Individuals may blog to promote themselves, their beliefs, or their opinions
  4. Others may blog to advance topics related to their specific role, or the industry they represent

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with any of these examples. However, they may not be of immediate importance to your readers. In that case, the articles probably won’t help you find and grow a target audience.

A blog post value attracts an audience

As stated, a blog post value focuses on what your article offers your readers. Thus, I recommend you develop your blog post values considering the following questions:

  1. Who benefits from this article (your target audience)?
  2. What value do my articles provide for my readers (solutions, information, instructions, education, how-to steps, etc.)?
  3. How am I trying to influence my audience (advice, support, wisdom, encouragement, counsel, etc.)?
  4. What action(s) can my readers take?

Blog Post Value: Expand your audience, and increase your following

As I have said, if you want to grow your audience, posting online is an efficient and low-cost strategy for gaining attention. However, if your articles fail to focus on the value you offer your readers, it’s unlikely you’ll attract a sufficient audience.

Therefore, you must consistently blog to provide value to your readers. As a result, you can better hope to expand your audience. As long as you continue to provide value, the individuals you attract are likely to become your loyal followers.

Self-confidence Supports Greater Business Success

Three practices that can boost your self-confidence and help you achieve further business success

By David Cox | May 14, 2019

Self-confidence is an essential factor in business success

There is an inevitable connection between self-confidence and business success. Those who struggle with inadequacies, whether real or imagined, often find it difficult to succeed. In contrast, confident individuals stand tall and proud as they manage stressful situations.

Likewise, when they speak, others listen because a confident person inspires others around them. It should come as no surprise that confident people are often more successful in business than those who are not.

How can you build greater self-confidence?

If you need to develop your self-confidence, here are three practices that could yield significant results.

Set goals for further progress

Setting and achieving goals is an excellent way to build your self-confidence. Set realistic, achievable goals that will further the growth of your business. Your goals should be specific and measurable with a target date for achievement. If not, they’ll be little more than good intentions, which are unlikely to accomplish anything.

It may sound simplistic, but you should strive to frame your goals positively. If you do so, focusing on what you can do rather than on what you can’t, you’ll find your goals more strongly reinforced in your mind.

Keep track of your achievements

Start a notebook and write down each achievement along with the reason you feel it’s significant. You may have closed a massive sale, opened a new account, successfully negotiated a finance agreement, overcome a setback, or resolved a problem with a customer or client. These achievements, along with any words of praise and encouragement you received from your clients or superiors – write them down in your notebook.

On days when you feel down – and those days will come – flip through your notebook and re-read some of your achievements. They will serve as a constant reminder that you are capable and successful. You can learn to accomplish anything. Moreover, you’ve already proven your ability to succeed.

Practice positive self-talk to encourage your progress

If you want to build your self-confidence, you need to start managing the “self-talk” that goes on in your mind. Specifically, you need to eliminate your negative self-talk.

Positive self-talk is practical and constructive. For instance, if you have regrets about your past, consider the following. “My past is my history. Obviously, there’s absolutely nothing I can ever do to change it. Likewise, I can’t do anything about my mistakes or failures of the past. However, my past is not my destiny. I can learn from those mistakes, determine not to repeat them, work to do a better job, and build my credibility.”

You may feel your life, and business experiences didn’t turn out the way you envisioned. Regardless, it’s time to forgive anyone you’ve blamed (including yourself), let go of the past, and move on. If you insist on being stuck in the past, that’s your choice, but you’re only hurting yourself.

Building your self-confidence: An investment in personal and business success

You need self-confidence to face the challenges and uncertainties of a competitive business environment. If you feel you lack confidence, maybe it’s time to act. Set higher goals, track your achievements, and practice positive self-talk for a better and brighter future. As you do, your self-confidence will grow along with your business.

How long does it take to build your self-confidence? Some people need only 2-3 months while others may take six months or more. You’ll notice a difference in yourself within a matter of weeks. I guarantee you’ll be proud of what you achieve in business and the more self-confident person you’ve become.

Organizing for Business Success Begins with You!

Four lists business owners use to manage their time and advance their business

David Cox | April 30, 2019

A well-organized business owner gains a positive reputation

There are numerous tools and systems available to support better time management. Unfortunately, too many business owners understand the details of their business but cannot seem to grasp that a lack of organization can sabotage their success.

You started a business, and you need your network of clients, prospects, and supporters to have confidence in you. Unfortunately, if you become known for being disorganized – no one is going to have confidence in you. That’s not good for you and could be disastrous for your business.

Four lists you can use to become a well-organized business owner

I recently re-read an article written for Forbes Magazine by business coach and author Dan Kennedy. He describes four types of lists which he believes every entrepreneur needs to use for improving self-organization and earning the confidence of those around them.

To-do list

You’ve probably tried working with to-do lists in the past. Maybe you tried it for a few days or a few weeks, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t “work” for you. Here’s a different approach: Make it part of your evening routine.

In the mornings, you can quickly become immersed in unplanned activities. In the evenings, things have settled down, and as your stress level reduces, your mind begins to clear. Evenings are an excellent time to work on your next day’s to-do list.

Write down the things you need to do this week and group them by day. I keep a weekly to-do list rather than a daily list and have found it to be much more efficient. Kennedy recommends prioritizing each item on your to-do list as, A (Priority), B (Important), and C (Good). So, even if you can’t get everything done, you’ll likely accomplish your top priorities.

Daily schedule list

Keep a calendar printed with each day divided into 30-minute increments for listing and planning your daily schedule. You can take items for this list from your to-do list, and the only difference is that with a calendar, you can block specific time frames for your tasks and appointments.

Take today’s items from your to-do list and schedule the highest priorities (A’s) into the prime-time slots of your day. Add the B’s and then C’s anywhere they’ll fit. You’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment whenever you get to check-off an item as you get it done.

Calls-to-return list

Make a daily list of the phone calls you need to return. Write down the caller’s information, a quick note about the nature of the call, and the specific item(s) you want to address. Again, use the A, B, and C priority approach if you have a lot of calls to return. Doing this will help you develop a practice of returning calls in the order of their importance.

Meeting planner list

You’ve probably experienced being in a meeting or on a conference call only to find later that you completely forgot the most important things you wanted to discuss. You’ll never experience that problem again once you start keeping a meeting planner list.

Whenever you think of something to talk about at your next meeting, write it down on your meeting planner list under his/her name. You’ll then have an agenda of what you want to discuss.

Practicing effective time management is the mark of a business professional

A business owner can’t afford to claim expertise in their field but lack professionalism in terms of organization. The reputation of your business will never exceed that of your own.

A business owner can’t afford to be “time management resistant.” A failure to organize is potentially a formula for disaster. If you start and maintain these four lists for a month, I‘m confident you’ll see progress in your effectiveness and efficiency, in the response of your clients and customers, and the advancement of your business.

Business Success – The Ripken Way!

What business lessons can we learn from the “Iron Man” of Major League Baseball?

David Cox | April 16, 2019


I recently read about an interview that took place at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Summit between the Chamber’s Senior Executive Vice President, Suzanne Clark, and former Major League Baseball (MLB) legend, author, and coach, Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ripken retired in 2001, following 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles as a shortstop and third baseman. During his phenomenal career, Ripken compiled 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 runs batted in (RBIs). He was also a two-time Gold Glove Award winner for his fielding, a 19-time All-Star, and twice named the American League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

On September 6, 1995, Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game, surpassing the record of Lou Gehrig that had stood unchallenged for 56 years. Ripken ended his streak voluntarily in 1998 at 2,632 games and will forever be considered the MLB’s “Iron Man.”

In 2007, he was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, after receiving 98.53% of all eligible votes.

The Ripken Way

Since his retirement from Major League Baseball, Ripken has written 30 books, championed charitable causes, and purchased three minor league baseball franchises. His mistakes, lessons, and success from playing professional baseball inspired him to expand on the lessons he learned from his father, Cal Ripken, Sr. [Ripken Sr. spent 36 years with the Baltimore Orioles organization and was well-known for teaching minor league players how to “break-in” to the big leagues.]

Ripken created a youth baseball company out of teaching these lessons in what is now known as “The Ripken Way.” The organization’s vision is to “Elevate every player’s potential on the field – and in life.” The following are among those lessons.

Learn from failure

Ripken said, “Hitting in baseball, you fail seven out of ten times, even if you’re great. You’ve got to figure out how to deal with failure.” He asserts that “You make mistakes and the most important thing – just like in sports – is that you learn from those mistakes.” Ripken encourages entrepreneurs and young leaders to embrace failure because he believes “it’s where the magic happens” as we learn how to overcome setbacks.

Reduce pressure

Ripken encourages parents to think of ways to “reduce the pressure,” rather than add to it, which is a good lesson for anyone who manages people. Learning how to reduce the tension between employees will help them succeed.

Treat everyone fairly

Ripken worked with numerous managers in his 21-year career in the MLB. He described the importance of learning how to treat everyone fairly but not necessarily as an equal. How we treat others is worth our consideration because in business we’ll experience substantial differences among employees throughout an organization.

Look at yourself objectively

Ripken also said, “To compete against yourself, you need to make an honest evaluation of who you are, what you’re good at and where you’re deficient,” which is advice for entrepreneurs and anyone in the business world. Ripken reminds us that we’re often competing against ourselves in striving to reach our goals successfully. Understanding this allows us to play to our strengths, which is essential as a player, a business owner, or an entrepreneur.


Ripken uses “The Ripken Way” to provide a strong foundation for kids to learn that while it may be a simple game with a bat, a ball and a glove – what you do in the game, you do in life. As such, Cal Ripken, JR continues to coach for an unwavering commitment. It’s a commitment that calls us to be and do our very best.

The Solo Business Startup

What do you need to take your small business from startup to profitability?

David Cox | April 02, 2019


According to, the number of freelance entrepreneurs in the U.S. has reached 57.3 million. Some experts forecast these solo business owners will outnumber traditionally employed workers in a little more than a decade.

The persistent growth of startups justifies consideration of what is needed by solo entrepreneurs to make these ventures successful.

Skills, traits, and knowledge

We often hear that you need to be courageous and a risk taker to launch and run a new business. I would add that a little insecurity is also helpful. Insecurity can drive you to focus on developing some of the skills, traits, and knowledge that are integral to the future success of your business startup, such as:

Successful freelance entrepreneurs persist through tough times because of their determination to succeed. They don’t merely thrive on reaching their primary goals; they also enjoy the journey. When you’re persistent, you feel driven to work hard, and remain committed to doing what it takes to make your business a success. You’re not interested in “taking shortcuts,” because you’re willing to put in the time necessary to deliver exceptional quality in your product or service.

If you’re going to do everything in your business the same way, all the time, you could miss opportunities for further development and some exciting results. You need to objectively try new things so you can discover what works best.

You also need to enrich your life with new experiences. Doing so could be as simple as talking to new people, taking a class, or getting involved with professional groups online. Each unique experience can become a source of ideas that can lead to opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Learning shouldn’t stop with earning a college degree or a particular certification. A life-long learning process should be the continuous pursuit of a solo business owner.

It’s necessary to keep up with changes in technology, developments in your industry, marketing processes, communications, customer services, trends, etc. In addition to reading and other formal learning opportunities, consider reaching out to knowledgeable people; seeking out those who achieved success in your field to ask for their opinions and advice.

You cannot grow a business and provide exceptional customer service unless you are an effective communicator. However, beyond skills in oral and written communications, you must learn to listen effectively.

Active listening encourages people to elaborate and share more. It requires you to pay attention to the motivations, reactions, and interests of others. You also need to be aware of non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language.

Active listening also helps you avoid appearing as self-promotional or arrogant. You want to build a reputation of prioritizing the interests of others over your self-interests.

Many freelance entrepreneurs have suffered business losses and failures. Rather than look at these occurrences as terminal, they’ve chosen to look at them as valuable learning experiences. They remain optimistic, but they also adjust quickly and move forward. Persistence is essential to your success.


Finding a successful path for your new business is rarely the result of a single idea or a formula for success. Solo business owners who persist in finding the right combination of skills, traits, and knowledge are more likely to discover a path resulting in profitability and sustainability.

If you focus your attention on developing the skills mentioned above, you may not only experience greater success in your startup; you may also experience greater joy in the journey.

When Employees Start a Business

What changes in mindset are essential when you decide to go to work for yourself?

David Cox | March 19, 2019


You often dream of working for yourself. You picture quitting your job and building a successful business where you make the decisions, set your schedule, and determine your priorities. You’ve known others who’ve “taken the plunge” and started a business. Some succeeded, and some failed, but you’re confident that you would be among the success stories.

A new mindset

There are some significant shifts in your thinking that need to happen before you leave your employment to become an entrepreneur. The following are a few transitions in “mindset” you’ll need to make as you prepare to launch your new business.

You’re a business owner

You need to stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like a business owner. You’re not a web content writer; you own a web content business that helps clients gain more traffic, leads, and sales. You’re not a graphic designer; you own a design firm that creates well-optimized websites that your clients love and search engines favor. To shift your mindset from an employee to a business owner, you have to change the image in your mind of who you are and what you do.

Your clients are not your employers

You’re not trying to “get hired,” you’re trying to develop new business. You’re not looking for a job, you’re offering specific services, and you’re seeking clients who can benefit by working with you. Start by creating a profile that describes your ideal client and then focus your marketing and networking efforts in that direction (the subject of another article).

Understand and communicate your value

Stop worrying about what you’re going to charge and start focusing on the value you can provide for your clients. As an employee, you work on a salary or hourly rate, and it’s common to overlook the value you bring to your employer’s customers.

As a business owner, you’ll price your services based on your level of expertise, the time it takes to complete the project, and the value you bring to the client. Yes, you should consider what others are charging, but salary and fee surveys shouldn’t be the only determining factor in what you charge.

Once you understand your value (experience, skill, expertise, etc.) and can communicate that to potential clients, you won’t have to be as self-conscious about whether your rates are too high or be concerned about competitors who charge less.

Like it or not, it’s still your responsibility

How do you feel about sales calls, networking events, or sending out invoices? You either need to figure out how to get good at these things or determine how you’re going to get them done. If you don’t like promoting yourself or your services to prospective clients, how are you going to develop new business?

You’re responsible for figuring out how your essential tasks are going to get done. As a small business owner, you’re not only responsible for a few essential functions; you’re responsible for all of them.


Transitioning from employee to entrepreneur involves more than just quitting your job, filing some legal documents, and setting up a website. The most significant challenge for the aspiring entrepreneur may be the change in mindset necessary for you to go from being an employee to launching a startup that eventually becomes a profitable, sustainable business.

A 21st Century Perspective of Entrepreneurship

What behaviors distinguish entrepreneurs beyond the size and scope of a business venture?

David Cox | March 05, 2019


I recently read an article in which the author insisted that those who launch businesses as consultants, freelancers, and sole proprietors are “not” entrepreneurs. He didn’t feel these individuals had taken sufficient risks in terms of capital investment, financing, facilities, equipment, and employees to justify referring to their startup as an entrepreneurial venture.

Are you working as an independent consultant or freelancer? Did you organize your business as either a sole proprietorship or an individual member LLC? Do you define entrepreneurial activity by the size of your investment and the level of risk you’re taking? How you answer these questions determines whether you consider yourself an entrepreneur.

A different perspective

In the fall of 2016, my wife and I launched a business that has evolved into a service that provides blogging, copyediting, and web content for our clients. Since my wife has a full-time job, we organized our startup as an individual member LLC, for which I am officially the registered member.

Our business is one of over 50 million self-employment and solo startup ventures in the U.S. today. We did not take out a loan or borrow against our retirement savings. We self-funded this undertaking and adjusted our business model until we found a combination of services that helped us achieve sustainability.

I am convinced that we demonstrate entrepreneurship daily by our behavior rather than the size of our investment. I also feel our progress better reflects a more widely-practiced 21st Century perspective of entrepreneurship.

Acting like an entrepreneur

I first considered this perspective in early 2018 after reading an article by teacher, author, blogger, and business coach Seth Godin titled, “The Four Elements of Entrepreneurship.”

Godin stated that since entrepreneurship is “a verb, an action, a posture… then, of course, it’s a choice.” He then went on to describe what people do when they act like entrepreneurs.

  1. They make decisions about operational investments (risking time and money).
  2. They invest in activities and assets that are not a sure thing.
  3. They persuade others to support a mission without a guarantee of success.
  4. They embrace (instead of running from) the work of doing things that might not succeed.

Godin’s view reflects a perspective rooted in our nation’s history. It’s the same entrepreneurial spirit brought to the U.S. by our earliest farmers and merchants as they sought to earn a living by selling what they produced from the land, products they made by hand and providing skilled services.


It’s easy to get hung up on “risk-taking” and the size of one’s investment, but as Godin says, “If you’re acting like an entrepreneur, you don’t feel like you’re taking a huge risk.” Risks are what happens in poker, a zero-sum game with limited participants, where you can’t win unless somebody else loses, and you’re never in control of the game.

We’ve learned that when you act like an entrepreneur, your control of the game expands. Once you discover a product or service that you can deliver to a definite market, offer exceptional service, and have the wisdom to utilize the four elements (listed above) in your venture, the growth of your business is inevitable.

Think Before You Start Blogging

What do you need to consider as you pre-plan a successful blog for your website?

David Cox | February 19, 2019


American scholar and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ancestor to every action is a thought.”

I believe that blogging is the website owner’s primary tool for consistently building a target audience on the World Wide Web. Even with a professionally designed website and proper attention given to SEO, without a source of quality, updated content, your site will appear abandoned and search engines, including Google, will eventually drop it.

A successful blog begins with pre-planning. Your willingness to take the time necessary to think about what you want to accomplish with your blog will make the difference between a successful blog that attracts a growing audience to your website, and one that merely gives you a by-line and satisfies your ego.

In this article, I want to consider two critical factors in pre-planning a blog for your website. Specifically, these factors are your assumptions and the goals you want to achieve.

Begin with your assumptions

Read through the following statements and decide which would make your list of initial assumptions as you consider including a regularly scheduled blog on your website.

  1. You have access to a website and can start writing blog articles whenever you’re ready to commit to this task.
  2. Scheduled blog articles are an excellent source of updated material that results in more frequent indexing by Google and other search engines.
  3. If your articles are frequently updated, they give visitors more reasons to return to your website.
  4. There has been an investment made to develop the website, and the cost of monthly hosting and other maintenance is on-going.
  5. Web designers encourage their clients (website owners) to begin blogging because failure to do so is a missed opportunity.
  6. You may not have the knowledge necessary to launch and continue a successful blog.
  7. Finding the time to write blog articles in addition to your other regular responsibilities may prove challenging.

Listing your assumptions will help you address the realities of your circumstances. Assumptions that a blog will lack a positive impact on your website or that your site does not have adequate space for a blog are groundless excuses.

Determine your goals

People start blogs for many different reasons. Some people hope to make extra money, start a new career, or create another source of income. Some blog to promote their business on the web or sell their services. Others blog to distinguish themselves in their industry or career field.

However, the reasons some people blog may be more personal. Some bloggers are looking for a creative outlet. Others are looking for an online journal or a place to express their thoughts. Some may want to share baby pictures with grandparents on the other side of the world.

Most website owners are entrepreneurs who maintain a blog because they want to attract a larger audience for what their website represents. Regardless of your specific goal, identify and record what it is and make sure your articles will help you achieve it.


Awareness of your assumptions and your specific goals is essential in pre-planning a blog that will eventually support the greater success of your website. If you’re concerned that you may not have the time necessary for writing regularly scheduled blog articles, professional assistance is available –

Attracting an Audience to Your Website

Why is your website’s blog essential to the long-term success of your online venture?

David Cox | February 05, 2019


As of this writing, reports the number of websites on the World Wide Web at just under 2 billion and increasing steadily every minute. The challenge for every new startup in this burgeoning field is to stand out and attract visitors, some of whom will be part of your target audience.

When someone discovers your site, the content needs to be relevant, and of such quality, they’ll want to come back. As the owner of your small business venture (and your website is a business venture), blogging is an essential factor in your web strategy to reach your target audience over time and firmly establish your brand.

Attracting your audience

You are an entrepreneur. As such, you are the essential element of your new brand, and it’s never too early to start promoting the value of your expertise, insights, and ideas. Great products and services are necessary, but not a guarantee of startup success. I recommend that every entrepreneur/website owner start blogging regardless of their products and services to take advantage of the following benefits:

  1. Blogging can improve your website’s search engine ranking
    New and relevant content offered on a regular basis is a critical factor in your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) for Google and other search engines. If you post original articles of value on industry sites and include internal links to your site, it’ll be indexed more frequently, and its scores and visibility will go up.
  2. Regular blogging can help you improve your writing
    Good blog articles are short and concise messages. Writing in this style is essential to effective business communication. I’ve spent nearly 30 years in business and read venture proposals and found that even executive summaries can ramble on for many pages without a clear message. Practice makes perfect, and the number of visitors you attract will tell you whether you’re on target.
  3. Blogging can help you discover mutually beneficial business relationships
    Blogs are an efficient, low-cost way for potential business partners to find each other. These relationships include customers, clients, mutual promotion opportunities, potential employees, financial investors, lenders, equity partners, and others who can help your business grow.

    Your reach with a blog is much broader than traditional advertising. It’s never too early to start gathering prospective customers and building your brand. You may even find additional revenue streams, including speaking engagements and consulting, to supplement the startup phase of your business.

  4. Blogging can be a positive step toward using social media more effectively
    Every blog entry needs to be posted on social media and link back to your website. You’ll learn how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites. You may eventually decide you want to produce podcasts or YouTube videos. Customers these days expect to find your information where they are, not where you are.


If used effectively, a blog can help you and your website become “discoverable.” It can enable you to reach your target audience and convert a percentage of them to customers/clients. We refer to this approach as “pull marketing.” If you provide value to your audience, some will be “pulled” to you and your website to view your message and consider your products and services.

If you’re still unsure about starting a scheduled blog or concerned that you may not have time to maintain this commitment, contact your web designer or for more information about our blogging and content services.

Thank you for reading!
If you were able to gain value from this article, I would genuinely appreciate your sharing it with your network.

You May Be Ready to Start a Business

What indicates your readiness to launch a business and possibly improve your chances of success?

By David Cox | January 22, 2019


Do you ever think about starting your own business? The thought of taking your idea, developing an initial concept, and launching a startup that becomes a profitable operation sounds exciting! It’s possible to succeed and eventually build a business that could be even more secure than working for someone else. However, in the field of business, realities are inescapable.

According to the Startup Genome Project, the percentage of startups that scale up too early could be as high as 70%. They also indicate this may explain the 90% failure rate among business startups.

If you scale up too quickly, it means you’re expecting too much progress, too soon. You may make a little money doing something you’ve enjoyed as a hobby, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to start a business. Even if you’re doing something that’s starting to generate a “part-time” income, that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit your job.

You may be ready to start a business, if…

How do you know whether you’re ready to start a business? A couple of years ago, Sujan Patel, a co-founder of Web Profits and MailShake, contributed an article to, in which he suggested the following nine indicators of readiness that could improve your chances of success:

  1. You’re passionate about your prospective new venture

    Passion is often overrated. It’s not enough to make your new business successful, but it’s essential to your enthusiasm and commitment.

  2. You have a product or service with good market potential

    A great business opportunity exists when what you offer meets a sufficient market of paying customers. Before you quit your job and start a new business, be sure that your product or service has adequate market potential. If a sufficient market doesn’t exist, starting a new business won’t change this reality.

    I strongly recommend your startup plan include a professionally designed website. If you provide visitors with up-to-date, valuable information on how what you offer benefits them, it could help expand your market possibilities.

  3. You’re ready and willing to learn

    Some of the most transformational business lessons you’ll ever learn will come from your mistakes, but you’ll receive other lessons in the form of criticism. If you are resistant to these interactions, a successful outcome may be a long-shot.

  4. You can face the fear of failure

    The fear of failure can paralyze you in business. We all feel this fear to some extent, but if you can’t face it, you’re not ready to start a new business.

  5. You have some financial savings

    You can start some businesses with very little expense. However, it does take time for a new company to grow and become successful. If you have some money saved or have another way to access funds during your startup phase, you’re more ready than someone who’s drowning in debt, or whose back-up plan is purchasing lottery tickets.

  6. You have experience within the industry of your startup

    The more experience you have in the industry you’re going into, the more ready you are to begin an entrepreneurial venture. If not, consider taking a side job in this field to gain experience before you quit your current employment.

  7. You have a lot of business experience

    A great mechanic shouldn’t necessarily open a garage. There are many additional demands on business owners beyond simply doing essential, job-related tasks. If you already have a substantial background in business, you’re in a much stronger position to start your venture.

  8. You’re good at managing your time, tasks, and schedule

    People often want to start a business out of frustration (I don’t like my boss, I dread my daily commute, etc.). However, do you have the skills, capabilities, and self-discipline required to manage yourself? Starting a business demands self-discipline. If you know how to effectively manage your time, tasks, and schedule on your own, you’re much closer to being ready than if you need to rely on others for help with discipline and motivation.

  9. You understand the risks of starting a new business

    It’s possible that you’ll fail. It’s possible that you’ve vastly overestimated the potential of your idea. It’s possible that you’ll never be very profitable. It’s also possible (though unlikely) that you’ll grow so substantially, you’ll be overwhelmed. If you already understand those risks and know how to manage them, you’ve significantly reduced your learning curve for starting your new business.


If these indicators are positive, you may be ready to plan your venture and move forward. If not, consider them as prerequisites before you invest in launching your startup. These indicators are worth your consideration if you want to be among the 10% whose startups become successful and eventually provide a secure financial future.

This Could Be the Year!

What bad practices do entrepreneurs and small business owners need to abandon in 2019?

By David Cox | January 08, 2019


As much as I enjoy the NFL playoffs and college basketball’s March Madness, I’m the first to admit that one of the most exciting days in American professional sports is the opening day of the Major League Baseball season.

Millions of loyal fans will fill ballparks throughout the country on March 28 of this year to show support for their favorite team. It’s the day that all pro baseball fans are confident, optimistic, and have nothing but good things to say about their favorite team’s players, the manager, and even the “front office.”

Regardless of what happened last year, pro baseball’s opening day begins with a sense of hope for these die-hard fans. There’s an excitement in the air you can express in one sentence: “This could be the year!”

Entrepreneurs and small business owners understand that feeling because it’s the same way they feel about their business as a new year begins. However, the old axiom is true: “No progress occurs without some change.” So, if you want your business to be more successful in 2019, what are you going to do to make that happen?

Five practices you need to stop in 2019

Countless articles and books promote good practices you can start to achieve further growth and development in your business. Instead, I’d like to suggest five bad practices you need to “stop.”

  1. Stop hanging on to plans and ideas that didn’t work out.

    You may have spent a lot of time and money on ideas and plans that didn’t produce the results you expected. I can assure you that investing more time and energy will not make them any more successful.

    Sometimes things just don’t work out. There is nothing to gain in bringing an idea that didn’t work into the new year unless you want to waste more time and money. Move on and devote time to your next “big idea,” you know, the one that might work.

  2. Stop spending time on projects and functions that don’t pay anything.

    Whether you’re a contractor or a consultant, monetizing your time and your talents is a primary responsibility. You’ll never have a successful business and enjoy the life you want if you give your time and skills away without compensation.

  3. Stop trying to “go it alone.”

    You need to find a mentor and build a network of peer professionals. You’ll benefit from a professional in your field who can provide occasional guidance and sound advice. It can be beneficial to have a mentor who is more experienced and more successful than you, to help you reach your goals. A network of peer professionals may be as close as an online professional association, trade association, or a social media group.

  4. Stop complaining about your lack of business achievements.

    I’ve heard entrepreneurs and business owners complain about economic conditions or blame customers for lack of positive outcomes. I’ve seen individuals invest vast sums of money in their startup in hopes of success, but fail to achieve anything because they didn’t set goals. The goals you set need to be specific, measurable, and achievable, with a deadline for completion.

  5. Stop including negative people in your inner circle.

    Complainers, naysayers, and other negative people come in all shapes, sizes, and categories. How about those close to you? Do they support and encourage your efforts, or do they always have a problem, complaint, or a negative remark about anything you’re working to accomplish?

I’m not suggesting that you avoid anyone who criticizes or disagrees with you. Your success may depend on your willingness to listen to objective opinions and adjust as necessary. I am suggesting that if you’re around too many negative people, it may be beneficial to build a new, more positive network of professionals. Choose your closest friends from among those who encourage rather than discourage you.

“This could be the year!”

Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach, Consultant, and the author of “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” stated, “What keeps good leaders from becoming even better is not that they don’t know what good behaviors to start, it’s that they are in total denial of the bad behaviors they desperately need to stop.”

The practices you need to stop may not require any financial expense but may call for the courage to acknowledge a bad decision, change course, or risk offending someone. I encourage you to begin 2019 with the willingness to make the changes necessary to accelerate your progress. If you do, you may be surprised how much you might achieve.

I wish you the best of success for 2019!

Working on the Holidays

What can you do to make working on holidays a little more bearable?

David Cox | December 18, 2018


Many will be working on holidays. While millions will enjoy the holidays at home or visiting with family and friends, many will not have this opportunity. Can you imagine what would happen if every medical professional, uniformed service member, the and other first responders insisted on taking off on holidays? The reality is that many employees work for businesses that never close. These dedicated individuals will be on-the-job and available if we need them.

Lynze Wardle Lenio is a freelance journalist and blog writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. She wrote an article detailing several suggestions for people who are scheduled to work on the holidays. I want to share a few that will hopefully prove helpful in making your holiday work schedule a little more bearable.


Working on holidays is often unavoidable, and you may have few options to negotiate. Still, you could ask your boss if you can work from home. If that’s not an option, ask about splitting a shift so that you only work half of the holiday.

And if you have to be in the office the entire day, ask about getting an extra day off over the next holiday to make up for it. The promise of a four-day weekend over New Year’s or a few days to visit your family might make working on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day a little more bearable.

Reschedule the Holiday

Large families, with children and grandchildren who require significant travel time to gather in one place typically reschedule the holiday to accommodate as many family members as possible. If you are scheduled to work on a holiday, you can take a similar approach.

There’s no real reason that you have to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November or Christmas on December 25th. If you know that you’ll have to be at work during a holiday, consider asking family and friends whether they would be willing to reschedule their holiday plans to accommodate your work schedule.

If they can’t reschedule for another day, consider planning a post-holiday event. You might be surprised by how many friends would enjoy a chance to share their Thanksgiving leftovers at a post-Thanksgiving potluck or take a break from family activities and have a December 26th holiday movie marathon. If you can creatively schedule an opportunity to experience the holidays with family, friends, or even by yourself—you’ll feel a little less like you missed out on all fun.

Avoid Social Media

You’re at work on the holiday, and possibly feeling a bit lonely and bored. You may feel it would be a good idea to log onto Facebook or spend some time scrolling through Instagram photos. Unfortunately, checking your social media communities while at work on a holiday is usually a big mistake.

Looking at pictures of everyone else celebrating with their families and relaxing after a big holiday feast while you’re at work is a formula for depression. Instead, if you need a break, go for a short walk or grab a snack. If you take periodic breaks, you’re more likely to stay focused, have more energy, and avoid the self-pity that comes from looking at pictures of your friends having fun without you.

Accomplish something

What’s worse than working on a holiday? Working on a holiday and being so discouraged, distracted, or preoccupied that you don’t accomplish a single thing. It’s especially challenging to be productive if you’re the only one in the office, or if you want to be with family and friends, but you’ll feel much better about being at work if you make the most of your time there.

Write a list of tasks you hope to accomplish during your shift and cross them off one-by-one as you complete them. Not only will you feel productive, but the time is guaranteed to go by much faster than if you spend the day sending text messages and imagining the food you could be enjoying.


Nobody wants to get stuck at work over a holiday, but sometimes the situation is unavoidable. If you can find other ways to celebrate with family and friends and make the most of your time at work, you can get through these holidays without feeling deprived or cheated.

Work, Life, and Holiday Stress

How to stay productive and maintain balance during the holiday season

David Cox | December 04, 2018


Employee stress typically increases during the holiday season (November and December). Studies show that many businesses involved in customer and client services may see anywhere from 6% – 22% increase in work-related activities during this period. Additionally, busy employees must also include travel planning, gift shopping, children’s events, family gatherings, parties, and other activities. Suddenly, schedules that were already full now seem overwhelming, which further increases personal stress.

Another source of work-related stress during the holiday season occurs as co-workers, colleagues, and managers may a be away on vacation. It’s challenging to get things done and maintain a high level of productivity when you’re “short-staffed” during a busy season.

Balance during the holidays

I recently ran across a list of suggestions offered by a staff writer with (sourced from Forbes,,, and that included the following nine ways to stay focused on the job, maintain high productivity, and still enjoy the holiday season:

  1. Take a few days off
    If you have a few vacation days available, take the time to do a little shopping or enjoy a day with family and close friends. Taking this time will give you a chance to refresh and recharge during the busy holiday season.
  2. Clear your mind
    Get your tasks and projects, both personal and professional, on paper and stop stressing about whether you’ll remember everything you need to do. Once you see all your commitments and the things you would like to do, decide which to drop and which could wait until the new year.
  3. Start working on year-end projects and personal tasks early 
    Start your holiday shopping earlier than you have in the past, and get a head start on any upcoming projects at work. This way, when you’re busy with office activities and planning family gatherings later this month, you’ll have fewer items on your to-do list.
  4. Don’t take your work home 
    You have family obligations during the holiday season. When at the office try to set clear and reasonable goals for what you want to accomplish. Then, commit to a “stop time” and go home. The holidays will be more enjoyable for your entire family if you can leave work behind and enjoy your time with them.
  5. Work-Life distractions
    While at the office, don’t try to cram in shopping at lunch or buy gifts online. When at work, focus on work. Take care of personal holiday tasks on your time. This focus will yield better results in both areas and keep you from trying to do too many things at once.
  6. Take care of yourself physically
    Exercise more, not less, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Sleep more, not less. Thirty minutes more a night can make a big difference. Also, watch what you eat and drink – the increase in sugary foods and alcoholic beverages will impact you the next day at work, both mentally and physically!
  7. Beware of over-commitment
    Requests for your time and assistance, invitations to parties, special events, and other functions are numerous during the holiday season. Keeping focused and maintaining a good work-life balance sometimes means saying “no.”
  8. Remind yourself to stay focused at work
    The trick is to forget about “seasons” and focus on “today.” Is today a holiday? If not, behave as you would in September. Follow that procedure every day you work. When it’s an actual holiday or vacation day, forget about work and have fun.
  9. Holidays are a time for celebration
    The holiday season should be a joyful time of the year. If you choose to increase your stress level during the holidays and fail to manage your obligations and commitments, remember – it was your choice.


I hope these tips will help make your holiday season more enjoyable. You deserve a joyous experience this year. By you managing your time wisely and avoiding overcommitment, you can create a less stressful and more memorable holiday experience.

Who Takes Their Employment for Granted?

Why you should give thanks for your job and the employer who selected you

By David Cox | November 20, 2018


Thanksgiving is a time of year we reflect on all we’ve received. You may feel you’ve earned everything you have, but you are undoubtedly the beneficiary of opportunities worthy of your gratitude. These opportunities may have come by way of colleagues, family, friends, teachers, mentors, and others who supported your growth and development.

The opportunities your job provides

I’ve noticed many employees who readily express appreciation for career advancement or long-term financial security, but often fail to give thanks for the job from which they experience those positive aspects and the employer who selected them.

In addition to those mentioned, other positive aspects of a job may include:

  1. Compensation – The capacity to help your family maintain a standard of living
  2. Supportive relationships among co-workers, peers, and colleagues
  3. Opportunities to learn from your employer or manager
  4. Benefits associated with your employment (including medical insurance)
  5. Beginning work every day with a clear sense of purpose
  6. On-the-job challenges that foster professional growth and development
  7. Opportunities for advancement and developing leadership skills
  8. The ability to help your family achieve long-term financial goals
  9. An opportunity to participate in financial plans to support you in retirement

Jack’s story

I recently had lunch with Jack, a good friend who is married and the father of two teenagers. He had previously spent six years working as a department manager for a major retailer until their corporate office decided to close the store. Unfortunately, he’s been unemployed for the last two years.

As Jack talked to me about his efforts in looking for a job, I felt terrible for this capable friend who desperately hopes an employer will give him a chance to prove himself. The emotion in his voice was evident he talked about his lack of success in seeking employment.

Jack told me about a family gathering he attended this past summer. He sat and listened as some of his relatives began complaining about a bevy of job-related problems. Later that morning, one of his cousins cornered him and persisted in complaining about his boss.

Jack finally interrupted him and said, “You have no idea how much I wish I had a job. You have one, and you should consider it a gift. You should be grateful for an employer who was willing to take a chance on hiring you. If you can’t do that, at least be thankful you can go to work every day and bring home an income that allows you to provide your family with a roof over their heads and food on the table.”

Sadly, too many employees face problems at work every day. Many suffer with what they feel is abusive and disrespectful treatment. Others feel unappreciated, underpaid, and limited in their prospects for advancement no matter how hard they work. Nevertheless, I guarantee that Jack, who struggles with the daily stress and financial challenges of unemployment, would gladly trade places with any one of his complaining, but gainfully-employed relatives.


Today, businesses face swiftly changing consumer demands and a tough, competitive environment. Non-Profits face budget cuts, political pressures, and grants that may not be available from one year to the next. Employers and employees alike are asked to do more and more with less and less. These are difficult circumstances. Amid such difficulties, you cannot afford to take your employer or your job for granted, as so many do.

I encourage you to create a list of the things about your job for which you are thankful and another listing any associated issues or problems. Then, use the positive list to deepen your sense of gratitude to your employer and develop a greater appreciation for a job that may not be perfect, but continues to be a source of compensation, benefits, and opportunities. Finally, use the negative list as a plan for improvement; finding ways to turn each bad aspect of your job into something more positive.

Coping with Stress for Career Advancement

How can reducing your stress at work demonstrate your readiness for career advancement?

By David Cox | November 06, 2018


You may feel as though you work under “siege” with looming deadlines, people counting on you, and a mixed bag of co-workers and employees who are helpful while others always seem in need of your help. You never have enough time to accomplish everything, and to top it all off; you still have several family obligations requiring your attention. You’re under a lot of pressure, and if you’re not careful, the quality of your work will suffer for it.

Heidi Grant, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist at the Neuroleadership Institute, Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University, and author of the best-selling book: Succeed: How We Can All Reach Our Goals. Here are three suggestions she offers for coping with stress in the workplace.

Have self-compassion

Self-compassion is the willingness to look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding. People who practice self-compassion are happier and more optimistic. They’re also less anxious, and less prone to depression. That’s not very surprising, but here’s the point: they’re even more successful.

When things are at their most difficult, a little self-compassion has been proven to reduce stress and improve performance. Thus, it becomes easier to learn from your mistakes and advance your career.

Remember the “Big Picture”

You can view anything you need or want to do from more than one perspective. For instance, “exercising” can be described in “Big Picture” terms such as “getting healthier,” This answers the question of why we need to exercise. You can also describe it in concrete terms, such as “running two miles.” The description tells us how to exercise.

Thinking Big Picture about your current role can energize you in the face of stress and challenge, by merely linking even one small action to a higher meaning or purpose.

Develop more routines

If I ask you to name the primary causes of stress at work, you would probably say things like deadlines, a heavy workload or difficulties with managers or co-workers. You probably wouldn’t answer by saying “making too many decisions.”

Most people are unaware that this is a common cause of stress. Every time you make a decision, you create mental tension (whether personal or professional, simple or complex). This mental tension causes stress.

You can use routines to reduce the number of decisions you need to make. If you need to do something on a daily basis, doing it at the same time each day will make it a routine action. Creating routines can dramatically reduce your number of decisions and experiences of stress.


Most individuals become financially and emotionally invested in their careers. It’s almost impossible to be an employee at any level these days without experiencing circumstances and situations that may be continuously stressful. Your career advancement is not merely a product of avoiding stress at work. You demonstrate your readiness by improved performance and how you manage the challenges that come with your present role.

What if I Don’t Have Time to Update My Blog?

The only thing worse than having nothing to write is having to write something.

By David Cox | October 23, 2018


As the name implies, we’re a third-party blogging service for busy professionals whose duties include blog writing. Our clients are smart enough to realize the importance of publishing a blog on a regular basis, but wise enough to admit that they don’t have the time to write quality content in addition to their other responsibilities.

I’ve known many business owners that made a substantial investment in a website. They planned to write weekly or semi-monthly articles for the new site. They began this task with great enthusiasm. Some were successful in their efforts, but most, within a few weeks, found it to be a burdensome, time-consuming task. Soon the blog is forgotten.

As third-party bloggers, we can help. We strive to produce engaging articles written to fit Google’s criteria for quality content. By doing so, a website‘s blog results in more frequent indexing of the site by Google Search (and other search engines). Thus, the appearance of new blog articles on a regular basis becomes a critical factor in an organization’s web strategy.

Yes, we have a blog

The TPB Blog will focus on workplace topics such as employee development, leadership, job-related issues, and other factors that determine outcomes at work. Our blog has attracted thousands of viewers and social media followers to our site, and we want to continue to share ideas with our readers. Additionally, we want to help clients do the same to reach their target audience.

Why do we offer blogging services?

Writing blogs is how I enjoy spending my time, so the opportunity to write blog articles for others is very appealing. It is exciting to be able to offer this service to professionals in an ever-increasing online market of business and organization websites.

Regardless of how much I enjoy research and writing, this is a business, and if we’re to succeed in this endeavor, it’s imperative that we provide quality service, produce a quality product, and do so for a reasonable price.

Why should you consider using a blogging service?

There are many reasons why regular blogging on your website is a good idea, but it’s a time-consuming task. Fortunately, you can outsource this function to a trained, experienced writer. I recommend this option because doing so offers the best chance for successfully maintaining your blog on a long-term basis.

Hiring a third-party blogger is no different than hiring an accountant, a landscaper, a chef, an IT administrator, an HR specialist, or any other individual with specialized skills. If you require a particular skill set to help your organization succeed, and it’s not in your “wheelhouse,” there’s nothing wrong with hiring a professional with the right talent, training, and experience to back you up.

Contact us today

If you need help to start or maintain a blog on your website, contact us for additional information. If you prefer, email me directly at We would welcome an opportunity to discuss how our blogging services could potentially free more of your time, simplify this task for you, and contribute to the success of your website.

How Do You Manage Your Mistakes at Work?

Managing your mistakes is a measure of your readiness for more significant responsibilities

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | October 9, 2018


We all make mistakes. If you feel you’re an exception to this rule, you’re either delusional or have failed to become involved in opportunities for learning new competencies (which by the way, is also a mistake). I agree with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden who once described “mistakes” as “the stepping stones to growth where one discovers new ideas and learns great lessons.”

An objective view of our mistakes

I would characterize most of the mistakes I’ve observed throughout my career in the workplace as relatively minor. They involved only a few people and required little time and money to correct. However, some mistakes were more complicated and needed more people, time, resources, and money to fix them.

Some of the mistakes I’ve observed have been critical, resulting in a significant financial loss with considerable time, materials, and human resources required to correct the problem and mitigate the damage. Such damages might include lousy press, a loss of long-time customers/clients, and the potential fallout from the termination of whoever is found to be responsible.

There is not a standard formula for managing all shapes and sizes of mistakes, but I recommend that a good comprehensive plan include the following five elements.

  1. Take responsibilityYou’ll save time and earn respect by acknowledging your specific role in the mistake and taking appropriate responsibility. Don’t try to blame or assign responsibility to others. Leaders are not immune to making mistakes. Taking appropriate responsibility is
  2. Correct your mistakeTake whatever steps are necessary to correct the mistake. There may be problems that resulted from it, but in most cases, you’ll have more credibility in resolving related issues if you fix it ASAP.
  3. Explain how you’ll avoid making the same mistake againIf there is one good thing about a mistake, it’s the opportunity to figure out what went wrong so you can make sure it never happens again. Once you’ve learned this lesson, you can share it with the parties involved to restore confidence.
  4. Understand that the goal of managing mistakes is to restore confidence.I’m amazed at the number of employers and employees I’ve met who feel that the goal of managing mistakes is to obtain forgiveness. Typical remarks include:
    • I’m sorry
    • Please forgive me
    • It’s not my fault
    • Why does this keep happening to me?
    • You know I’m an excellent employee

    In this approach, you apologize, blame, excuse, etc. You focus on your mistake and your need for forgiveness.

    Consider the difference if the goal of managing mistakes is to restore confidence. “This mistake was my fault and is my responsibility. I’ve corrected the mistake and am working to resolve some additional problems that occurred as a result. Since I now know what went wrong, I can assure you, and all involved, that this mistake will never happen again.”

    In this approach, you correct a mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You demonstrate leadership, your willingness to take responsibility, and the ability to manage your mistakes. So, rather than asking for forgiveness that you may not receive, you proactively work to restore the confidence of all parties in you.

  5. Correct mistakes as quickly as possibleThere is no value in prolonging the aftermath of a mistake. Repairing the fallout and solving the problems it created will minimize the resources required to fix it. Moreover, the sooner you can effectively deal with this, the sooner you can return to the regular routines of daily operations with no further damage to your reputation or credibility.
  6. Conclusion

    You don’t have to view your mistakes as failures. In many instances, they’re merely the process of eliminating ideas and methods that didn’t work to find those that do. Nevertheless, you need to evaluate the cost and potential fallout of your mistakes objectively. In fact, an objective look at past mistakes at work may be essential to learning how to manage similar situations in the future more effectively.

    Up next: Regaining Credibility at Work

Bridging the Gap with Employability Skills

How can employers boost employee success and a more productive work environment?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | September 25, 2018

The late actor Harry Morgan, in his role as Col. Sherman Potter on the TV series M*A*S*H, opened one episode dictating a letter to his unit’s supply headquarters in which he said, “I realize supply requisitions in this area are difficult to fill, but the situation has been getting steadily worse. We order rectal thermometers; we get spark plugs. Both useful articles, but hardly interchangeable.”

The same is true of occupational and employability skills. Occupational skills are the technical skills employees need for a specific occupation, while employability skills are necessary for the same employees to work effectively and efficiently with managers, co-workers, and customers. These are two distinct skill sets, each with a different purpose, but both are useful to employee success and a productive work environment.

What are “Employability Skills?”

Employability skills enable employees to get along with their co-workers, act decisively, solve problems, exhibit a positive attitude, demonstrate respect for others, develop good work practices, and ultimately become the type of employees trusted to represent the employer and the organization.

Employability skills include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. Interpersonal Skills
      These are the skills necessary for interacting well with others. Strong interpersonal skills enable employees to participate effectively as members of a team. They’re also helpful in knowing how to satisfy customers’ and clients’ expectations, negotiate, make better decisions, manage time more efficiently, take responsibility, and work effectively with other employees.
    2. Critical thinking
      Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information to solve problems and make decisions. It also strengthens one’s ability to plan and organize more effectively for the best possible results.
    3. Communication skills
      Employees with excellent verbal and written communication skills get their message across with less chance of misunderstanding. The development of active listening skills can further prevent costly mistakes and enable employees to better understand the needs of customers, co-workers, and employers.
    4. Personal development
      Personal development is concerned with how individuals evolve in their practices and attitudes toward work. It might include developing self-motivation, confidence, self-management skills, the ability to minimize potentially negative emotions (such as anger and stress), time management skills, greater assertiveness, and better negotiation skills.
    5. Presentation skills
      Sharing information is not just about making formal presentations. Employees need to know how to present notes, reports, research findings, proposals, organizational planning, risk assessments, and strategic documents.
    6. Leadership
      Leadership author and speaker John Maxwell once wrote, “Leadership is the ability to influence others toward the achievement of a goal.”
      Employees who develop leadership skills practice and inspire self-confidence. They are team players, working in groups to achieve the best results for their employer. They demonstrate social skills by respecting the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. Moreover, they gain the respect of others, and thereby earn credibility.


Throughout my career, I’ve watched employers screen and interview candidates to assess their competence in the occupational skills required for a job. Unfortunately, too many employers “assume” if the candidate has the necessary technical skills, their employability skills will automatically be sufficient. It’s an assumption that has proven costly to organizations and disruptive in many workplaces.

It’s time to embrace reality: Occupational competency alone does not guarantee employee success.

If an employer has an employee lacking in employability skills – ignoring the problem will not solve it. Training in both occupational and employability skills represents a strategic approach to developing employees (and the organization) for greater success and a more productive work environment.

Keeping Your Best Employees

How can employers establish routine practices essential to a culture of engagement?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | September 11, 2018


Employers typically want to keep their best employees, improve the retention rates, and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover and replacement. Every study I’ve reviewed on this subject indicates that effectively engaging employees is the key to retaining the best people.

There are numerous strategies and programs pitched to engage employees, but before you spend a lot of money on consultants and packaged applications, I hope you’ll consider what you and your management team can do on a day-to-day basis to create a culture of engagement in your workplace.

I am convinced that including the following elements will support a culture of engagement that will help you retain your best employees.


There’s nothing more fundamental to developing loyal, productive, and engaged employees than good communication. If you’re having trouble keeping good employees, the simplest thing you can do is to start talking with, rather than to your people.

Solicit the opinions of your employees and listen to their feedback. Ask them for recommendations concerning production, safety, systems, processes, and any aspect of your operations for which you would like to see improvement. If they are directly involved in these areas, their input could prove invaluable. Moreover, they will remember that you respected them enough to ask for their ideas and will take pride in their contribution to the business.

Management style

Are you a leader or a driver?

Employers who are drivers disregard others. They consume people as a means to their end and are known for their high employee turnover.

Employers who are leaders value their people and encourage them to be successful. These leaders appreciate double-digit numbers representing how many years their employees have been with them, and the financial stability of their business.

Employee development

Employee development pays operational and motivational dividends. It charts a course from knowledge, to self-confidence and from self-confidence to leadership, which inspires employee loyalty, then customer loyalty, all of which will hopefully build the business’s bottom line and your bank account. How’s that for a straight line to return-on-investment?


There is a story told about a robin who saw a turtle sitting on top of a fence post. The robin stopped and asked the turtle, “How did you get up there.” The turtle replied, “Obviously, not by myself.”

When talking about what your company has accomplished, share the credit. In your verbal and written communications, you need to replace “I” with “we.” This tiny 2-letter pronoun is a powerful verbal high-five that resonates with motivational energy throughout your organization.


The strategic factors listed above will prove useful if those responsible are informed, trained, and held accountable for this effort. It calls for frontline employers and managers to focus on the human beings with whom they work and what is necessary to help them to become more successful.

Once you’ve established a culture of engagement in your organization, the benefits of this effort typically include reductions in turnover and better employee relations. But perhaps the most significant benefits come with improvements in customer service, continuing to build a good reputation with your target audience, and better overall business outcomes.

The Benefits of a Third-Party Blogger

Should you write your website’s blog or hire a trained, experienced writer for this essential task?

Congratulations!  You’re now a website owner with an attractive site that is open to a digital world that is growing daily.  Now, you want to start a blog, but would prefer to keep it in-house to save money.  You don’t see the value in hiring an experienced blogger.  There are real benefits to outsourcing your blog.  Consider the following:

1. You will never have enough time to do it yourself

I’ve been blogging on a regular basis for two years, and this is the first time I’ve written about the benefits of blogging services.  Most website owners recognize the value of maintaining a blog on their site, but they don’t realize how time consuming it can become.

Unfortunately, it’s one of those tasks that always gets pushed back to tomorrow, a day that never comes. It is like the cobbler’s children that have no shoes.  Honestly, writing a single blog is not going to make your business an overnight success.  It’s not going to bring in a flood of new customers.  There’s always going to be an excuse for not writing a new blog post this week (and the next, and the week after that, etc.).

Blogging is a regular, habitual function that you do on an ongoing basis and its benefits are evident over time.  It’s a long-term commitment.  An experienced blogger makes regular blogging a priority and is accustomed to meeting schedules and deadlines.

2. A blog delivers added value to current and potential customers

The best way to attract more visitors to your website and keep them coming back is for you to add value to your customers’ lives. When you add value to their lives, you become someone they turn to for help.  When you add value to your customer’s business, you become someone they turn to for information and advice.

3. A blog can help your organization establish credibility

A well-written blog with relevant content positions your business as a leader in your industry. Regularly published blogs inevitably result in attracting new visitors to your website.

Blog posts can provide value to your target audience by answering questions and offering solutions to problems, which builds credibility.  You cannot purchase credibility.  You must earn it over time.  Credibility leads to trust, which can lead to further engagement and ultimately more sales.  Blogging becomes a valuable tool in your overall marketing strategy, but only if you provide your target audience with quality content that adds value related to their interests.

4. A blog can help you establish credibility

A blog can offer immediate value to your current and potential customers through relevant, useful information and it delivers that value on a cost-effective basis. Additionally, one of the truly significant benefits of a blog is that it can help you establish credibility with your target audience.

Content is king. You’ve heard it a thousand times because the statement is true. A blog can help people learn more about you, the products you sell, the services you offer, or the work of your non-profit organization. If you consistently provide high-quality content that is relevant and useful for your audience, they will see you as an authority, a credible and trustworthy source of information. You’ll become the go-to person whenever they need something they know you can provide.

5. An experienced blogger knows how to connect with your target audience

An experienced blogger is usually successful over time because of one essential characteristic – they know how to write.  Knowing how to write effectively means knowing how to connect with your target audience. They know how to hold the attention of the reader and engage them.

There are times when it’s necessary to focus on how a sentence is constructed or finding the right word that will communicate the message as clearly as possible. Keeping the reader engaged is critical to the success of a blog.

 6. A blogger can bring new perspectives

When you hire an experienced blogger, you’re hiring someone who knows how to write well. They also have a broad knowledge base and the ability to communicate technical aspects of your business to your prospects and current customers.  These skills and abilities are not always easy to find but typically come with new perspectives, insights, and ideas.

Contact us today

If you’re a website owner, I invite you to contact us today.  We would welcome an opportunity to discuss whether our blogging services could help you save time and attract more visitors to your website.  If so, we could play a small role in promoting your business to achieve even greater success.  We can be contacted at (217) 827-4427 or contact me by email at

Wake Up! You’re Accountable!

Does your organizational culture encourage responsibility for decisions, actions, and transparency?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | August 28, 2018


One of the more common characteristics of successful organizations seems to be their commitment to accountability in the workplace. This commitment gives owners and management the best possible opportunity to set standards for behaviors and practices throughout the organization.

Such standards support the individual employee’s sense of purpose and help maintain focus on the overall goals and objectives of the organization. The good news is that you can promote a culture of accountability in your workplace and the success that follows can be a vital part of your organization’s story.

Roles and Expectations

The first step to accountability in the workplace is for each employee’s job description to define their essential functions, duties, responsibilities, and standards clearly to those whom he/she is accountable. If your employees still don’t have job descriptions, no more excuses – it’s time to get this done!

Each job description should include expected outcomes, which lets employees know what their immediate supervisors expect of them as well as the potential consequences for poor performance. Creating this understanding for each employee can help improve personal accountability and workplace behavior which can further result in more favorable outcomes throughout the organization.

Training and Development

Once each employee understands the roles and expectations of his/her position, it’s essential to ensure that everyone has the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary for success. Most employers readily acknowledge the need for adequate materials and equipment, but they need to explicitly call for further training in essential occupational skills and development in general employment skills.

Training and development opportunities are not only crucial to the success of the organization; such initiatives reduce the number of mistakes and facilitate more positive outcomes. They also motivate employees to contribute beyond what the company requires, including support for accountability in the workplace.

Evaluation is the key

Whether at the team or individual levels, there is a need to both formally and informally evaluate needs, roles, actions, and mistakes. Employers should endeavor to develop appropriate reporting structures in their efforts to assess their initiatives in the best interests of the organization’s mission and its stakeholders. This approach can lead to higher personal and team accountability that will inevitably result in more effective employee self-management.

360 Degree Accountability

Employers should strive to meet the same standards they expect of their employees. Their adherence to these standards should be transparently evident to their employees and the organization at large. Furthermore, employers should promote timely discussions in regularly scheduled meetings to address problems, issues, and mistakes in an appropriate, forthright manner.


Accountability in the workplace is essential to the greater effectiveness and efficiencies that promote successful organizational outcomes. Employers and employees alike should understand their duties, functions, roles, responsibilities, and they should know to whom they are accountable so that everyone can work together toward the common goals of the organization.

In an accountable work environment, employers and employees will be more likely to draw on the better practices they’ve established to address mistakes and inefficiencies. A culture of accountability in your workplace can boost morale, productivity, and efficiencies in the best interest of all who have a vested interest in the organization’s success.

The Wisdom of Blogging for Nonprofits

Why should a nonprofit organization have a blog on its website?

There are three primary reasons that nonprofits should blog:

  1. A blog will enable your organization to publish relevant, updated content to volunteers and the public at large.
  2. A blog will strengthen your power to influence public opinion.
  3. Finally, a blog will encourage your readers to become part of your community, working towards continuing development and the fulfillment of your mission.

Another significant benefit of blogging is that search engines favor fresh content. As a result, your likelihood of appearing higher in search engine ranking results increases dramatically. Those improved results will translate into increased “traffic” with more visitors exposed to the message and work of your organization.

Blogs Offer New Content

Updated content continuously drives more traffic to a website and offers a multitude of opportunities to keep visitors interested. A nonprofit website without a blog misses these opportunities. Moreover, if your site provides updated posts and articles with new content on a regular basis, it eliminates the need to build additional web pages to generate traffic.

Blogs Increase Credibility

When your organization offers a blog, it not only adds a measure of management professionalism, it also increases the credibility of the organization’s mission with your target audience. If you continue to publish relevant content, it becomes much easier to relate your knowledge, message, authority, and influence within the field.

Blogs Build Community

A blog continues to be one of the most effective ways to build an online community of diverse, yet like-minded individuals. By creating content that conveys your commitment to a cause, folks from different backgrounds but with similar interests will find it beneficial to connect with your organization. A blog gives you the platform to communicate with people who are genuinely interested in your message and the work of your organization.

Blogs Spread Awareness

A well-written blog is beneficial in creating awareness. For example, if you update your blog with exciting news and success stories from volunteers, you’ll not only provide current news about the work and results of your organization, you’ll also highlight the individual volunteers who spearhead these efforts.

Volunteers can then interact with visitors through engaging stories, reports, and comments. Hopefully, visitors will feel inspired to become part of your organization whether as donors or volunteers.

Blogs Are Economical

If your organization has a well-designed website, blogging is one of the most economical and cost-effective development tools in reaching your target audience beyond your traditional geographic area. It attracts attention and helps you market your message and work to a much wider audience.


Your nonprofit organization can ultimately attract a broader audience to your website, create awareness about your mission, and because of that, drive the recruitment of prospective volunteers. Blogging remains one of the most effective ways to deliver the message of your organization to a growing audience, at a minimal cost.

Using Employees to Generate New Ideas

Develop an “in-house think tank” to discover new ideas for solving problems and increasing efficiencies

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | August 14, 2018


I’ve previously discussed numerous management consultants who begin their engagements by surveying the employees of their client’s business. As mentioned, the goal of this survey is to identify workable ideas they can recommend to the client. Then, they’ll create projects and charge thousands of dollars in billable hours. Some may feel this is an unethical practice, but I assure you it isn’t. After all, these consultants are merely doing what their client was unwilling to initiate on their own.

According to management expert Peter E. Drucker, “Even in routine work, the only true expert is the person who does the job.” So what do the “experts” in your company have to offer? Is it possible that your employees could be the experts you need to ask about future business development?

The Idea Campaign

About four years ago, I heard about an employee suggestion program that company management referred to as “The Idea Campaign.” In just three weeks, the organization received over 500 new ideas from their workforce. At the end of the campaign, they had gained many workable ideas on how to increase productivity, cut costs, and improve employee motivation.

Some organizations experience remarkable success with this program. Eglin Air Force Base ran this campaign for two weeks. During this period, both civilian and military personnel were asked to submit ideas that could either reduce waste and inefficiency or increase productivity. Eglin received a tremendous surprise when workers generated $400,000 worth of cost savings ideas and new ways to generate revenue. Harley-Davidson ran a similar program saving $3,000,000 in one 30-day program.

Developing a successful employee suggestion program may be easier than you think. These programs typically start with excellent participation but soon lose momentum. In a 2012 Harvard Business School research study, authors Anita L. Tucker and Sara J. Singer found that the key to operating a successful employee suggestion program is to stop spending so much time on “big-bang projects” and start focusing on the abundance of “low-hanging-fruit” problems.

They reported that suggestions used in solving the smaller problems had built employee confidence, encouraged greater participation, produced more significant ideas, and gave the entire program more credibility.


Some organizations use a reward and recognition approach to encourage participation. For example, employees submitting useful ideas might receive personalized gifts such as coffee mugs or pens.  Some of the organizations involved schedule a gathering once each month to recognize everyone’s contribution. A gift certificate to a local cafe might be a much-appreciated reward.

Employers should do whatever they can to encourage employee involvement in contributing suggestions that might solve problems, improve business practices, and promote better productivity. As an employer, if your organization is to be competitive, you should involve the minds, hands, and ideas of everyone in the organization.

Getting employees involved not only yields valuable ideas and suggestions but also improves employee morale as they feel more fully invested in the business, resulting in a more productive and satisfying work environment for all.

When Change Comes to the Workplace

How can you adapt as the workplace continues to change and become increasingly complex?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | July 31, 2018


In his book, Embrace the Chaos, Bob Miglani describes his journey to a happier life by learning how to adapt to the changes at work (and in life) that were beyond his control. If you’re currently struggling with changes in leadership, staff, processes, systems, equipment, tasks, procedures, tasks, or routines at work, Miglani makes the following six suggestions for learning to embrace these changes for the betterment of your career and personal well-being.

  • Let go of the past
    Holding on to the past will never produce anything other than more grief. Once you let it go, you’ll spend more time focusing on the future instead of looking back.Let it all go. The old expectations, the way you used to work, the daily routines, the people you used to work with, and the kind of workplace that played a such a significant role in your life. You may as well let it go because it doesn’t exist anymore.

    That’s not bad news—it’s a reality. Another reality is that some of the best opportunities in life present themselves when we are open to change.

  • Accept that change isn’t something that happens; it’s happening all the time
    Change is a natural part of life and a widespread occurrence in organizations. It’s continually occurring whether you are aware of it or not. By learning to accept that change is a natural law of life, you can begin to adapt whether it creeps or explodes into your workplace. Acceptance provides the security we often crave during times of change.Accept that change in the workplace is inevitable. Don’t run away from it. Learn how to work with it. Once you do, nothing can hold you back.
  • Say “yes” to change
    If you find yourself saying no or being cynical about every announced change, you’ll get nowhere. It won’t take long for people to start working around you as you develop a reputation for your opposition to proposed changes in procedures and practices. Organizations are meant to grow, improve, and move forward. By saying “Yes,“ you’re helping everyone move forward, including yourself.
  • Set new goals and go after them
    When there’s so much change in the workplace, it may feel as though there is a loss of direction. You can quickly lose your sense of purpose when you have no clarity of focus. It leaves you feeling uncertain about what to do next and undermines your ability to prioritize what’s most important.By setting new goals, you can bring about a mind shift that helps you direct your energy towards new accomplishments and achievements. There is no value in wasting your energy on anxiety about the changes at work that you cannot control.
  • Focus on controlling your actions
    The one thing you can control is your actions. If you are open to change, new goals may also bring new energy, enthusiasm, and clarity to your work. Stress and anxiety often arise from uncertain situations when people feel they have no control. We would all like to control circumstances and outcomes regarding our colleagues, our boss, or our customers. Regardless of the situation, focusing on the uncertain is a distraction that leads to inaction.

    However, if you focus your energy and enthusiasm on the tasks you can control, it will open you to greater happiness and fulfillment, and help you develop a new sense of purpose.

  • Get a fresh perspective
    There’s a feeling of isolation that comes from trying to navigate a changing workplace. Your boss may not communicate as much as he used to. Colleagues and co-workers are keeping their heads down. Not having someone to talk to openly can be tricky because everyone is worried about what the change will mean to them. One powerful way to help us deal with change and adapt to it more quickly is to get an outside perspective from friends or others outside the workplace. Communicating with people in your network, meeting outside colleagues, or attending a conference or seminar can be tremendous opportunities to gain a fresh perspective.

    Sometimes a simple conversation with someone outside the workplace may help you realize that your situation at work isn’t as bad as you thought! Additionally, you may get ideas or suggestions on how to deal with some of the more difficult challenges you are facing.


Miglani summed up his secret of adapting to workplace change as “trying to control the chaos and focus on what you can control—your actions, words, and thoughts. This change in perspective helps to boost our spirits, our resiliency, and our energy. Move forward, make mistakes, trust your intuition, and find your purpose.”

Effective Leadership: The Value of Your Example

Considering a traditional perspective in the 21st-century workplace

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | July 17, 2018


A business owner arrives at work on Monday feeling energized by the challenges he’ll face in the week ahead. He walks through the building and greets every employee as the day begins. This isn’t just a management tactic—he’s genuinely glad to see them and feels fortunate they work for him.

His employees are engaged at work. They are productive, focus on customer service, and collaborate with one another as needed. The business owner has chosen to lead by example and it’s proven to be effective. As a result, many of his employees have stayed with him for years.

His employees represent a pool of talent and the future leaders in his business. As a business owner, this could be your story as well.

The case of Jim Sinegal

Jim Sinegal, who co-founded and served as the CEO of Costco Wholesale for over 35 years, retired on January 30, 2018. He had celebrated his 82nd birthday earlier in the month and stepped down from the company that began as a single warehouse based in the Seattle, WA area and now operates 746 stores around the world.

I’ve read numerous stories about Sinegal’s time with Costco. Most attribute his remarkable business achievements to one thing: Jim Sinegal believes in leadership by example. Over the last six years of his tenure, Costco’s stock doubled while revenues continued to grow at an impressive rate.

His name tag plainly said “Jim,” he answered his own phone, and if what I read is true, his unassuming office at the company headquarters in Issaquah, WA didn’t even have walls.

A 2016 Seattle Times news article stated that while other CEO’s were spending tens of thousands of dollars just decorating their offices, Sinegal paid himself an annual salary of $350,000. Most CEOs of companies the size of Costco are paid in the millions. So how did he come up with his salary amount? Sinegal asserted, “I shouldn’t be paid more than 12 people working on the floor.” His simple contract was only a page long and even included a section that outlines how he could be terminated for not doing his job.

Costco’s employee turnover rate remains among the lowest in the retail industry, over five times less than rival Wal-Mart. In an age where CEOs are paid in the millions and would never be seen in the “trenches,” Jim Sinegal was unique among his peers. His employees truly respected this man who led by example until the day he retired and walk away with all wishing him the very best.


Business owners are not granted qualities of effective leadership that appear with their articles of incorporation. These individuals need to honestly assess their deficiencies and put an end to any leadership practices proven to be ineffective.

Moreover, business owners hold greater oversight responsibility for management functions and their leadership must also be measured by outcomes related to the quality of hires, productivity, employee retention, safety, individual improvement, customer loyalty, quality, and overall business performance.

If you want to improve your business from the top-down, identify what leadership qualities are most effective, adopt them, and lead by example.


Does your leadership by example have value? In my opinion – Yes. How a business owner chooses to lead will go a long way in determining the organization’s future growth and development.

A business owner who leads on the basis of rank and privilege will never lead as effectively as one who leads by example. Those who lead by example earn the respect of their employees and their willingness to help drive improvements throughout the organization. Such leadership inspires employees and helps a good business become even better.

Up next: Self-confidence

Courage in the Workplace

When was the last time you demonstrated courage at work?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | July 03, 2018


Courage seems like a strange word to use in the context of an employee. Policemen and soldiers need to be courageous, but does the average employee holding down an office job need courage? The answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

Employee Courage

Courage in the workplace, for most employees, will never involve life and death decisions. Regardless, it’s never easy to risk the negative opinions of others and it’s so tempting to keep your head down, your mouth shut, and just get your work done.

A newer employee may worry about risking embarrassment due to lack of experience. A long-time employee who has taken a few chances, but none proved successful, now hesitates to make suggestions, or take a leadership role. An older employee may not want to “rock the boat” so late in their career.

Courage is Needed at Work

Courage is important every day at work. Most employees tend to act on the basis of prior outcomes. Your past decisions may have been second-guessed, your motives questioned, and your choices judged harshly. You may feel your past ideas were scrutinized by everyone involved and you’re probably right. Each day it takes courage to make new decisions, new choices, and share new ideas.

If you’re going to be successful at work, you must demonstrate courage. You can distinguish yourself for your good ideas and constructive opinions, but only if you share them with others. If you intend to prove your value to the organization, you must think of ways to make contributions. Making contributions requires that you speak up, share your thoughts, and take some risks. All of which typically requires some degree of courage. You can effectively demonstrate courage in the workplace when you:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Speak directly and honestly to co-workers and managers
  3. Speak out against or report harassment
  4. Assert yourself by suggesting more effective and efficient ways to get things done
  5. Insist on obtaining facts to guide in making decisions
  6. Take initiative
  7. Challenge conventional wisdom and the status quo
  8. Stand up for your convictions
  9. Take time to get input from others
  10. Make a formal presentation, despite your fear of public speaking
  11. Say no to immoral, unethical, or illegal activity
  12. See yourself in a new, different role – not as a lackey, but as a more strategic advisor

The Employer’s Role

Employers must do their part by encouraging risk-taking, applauding new ideas, and creating an environment where their people are comfortable sharing their opinions. Employers need to encourage; even inspire the people they lead to be courageous.

The best way for employers to demonstrate courage is to bravely do what’s being asked and expected of others. In other words: Lead by example.


I hasten to add, you won’t always be successful. There will be times you will speak up, only to discover later, that you were flat wrong. You will have bad ideas. You will try things that don’t work. Remember this: No one, and I mean NO ONE, is successful all the time. So, when you fail – and you will fail, that’s when summoning your courage will prove to be a tremendous challenge.

When was the last time you acted courageously at work? I encourage you to do so because, taking everything into consideration, it will serve you well. Don’t get to the end of your career and regret what you didn’t do, just because you lacked the courage.

Up next: Leading Your Employees

How to Become an “Employer of Choice”

What can employers do to encourage their best employees to become long-term stakeholders?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | June 19, 2018


Some companies are considered an “employer of choice.” This term refers to a company that has carefully developed an environment where people want to work and have long-term careers. It is a place where people choose to work over other organizations because they believe the company will offer them a “whole experience” — compensation, benefits, training, “perks,” opportunities, development, and a sense of purpose.

In Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia’s book titled, “How to Become an Employer of Choice,” they define the term as “any employer of any size in the public, private or not-for-profit sector that attracts, optimizes and holds top talent for long tenure … because the employees choose to be there.”


There is a good deal of research that offers a clear description of what an employer of choice looks like. It goes beyond having an onsite gym, cafeteria, or daycare center. These companies strive to provide their employees with a truly satisfying work experience on all levels. The result is an engaged and more energized work force.

In 2008, Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson), a professional services firm specializing in HR and financial services consulting, conducted a Global Workforce study of more than 90,000 employees. The study’s results identified what employees received from their employers that resulted in their feeling more engaged and motivated. It noted the following ten items that drive employee engagement around the world:

  1. An employee’s relationship with his or her supervisor
  2. An employer’s sincere interest in employee safety and well-being
  3. Career advancement opportunities
  4. Competitive salary and benefits
  5. Opportunities for employees to improve skills and capabilities
  6. The organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  7. Challenging work assignments
  8. Opportunities for employees to have input in their departments’ decision making
  9. The organization’s ability to quickly resolve customer concerns
  10. A workplace environment with expectations of high standards

These ten items are considered the keys to employee engagement and are directly correlated to an employee’s level of satisfaction with his/her employer, which is a key factor in becoming an employer of choice. Strategies recommended for integrating these items into a company’s culture include the following:

Offer meaningful work with a sense of purpose

Prospective employees want to know what’s important to the company and how those principles align with their own personal values. Younger employees especially environmentally conscious are looking for companies committed to “green” operations. They also want to know where they fit into the company’s big picture or vision for the future.

Other important components include opportunities to collaborate with others, flexible work schedules, interesting projects, organizational commitments to community and social responsibilities, and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Provide training and development

Fortune’s top 100 best employers typically offer more training and development than companies that don’t make the list. The top 10 companies provide 32 to 135 hours of training each year per employee.  ome companies will identify discrete roles or projects that help employees develop new skills. Some companies will send their people to external management training programs to prepare them for future roles. Successful talent management motivates employees, particularly when they see a career path and feel the company is invested in their progress.

Reward employees with fair and competitive compensation and benefits

Compensation is a basic foundation that companies need to get right so it doesn’t become an issue. How do you know if you are paying competitively? Get data and find out where you stack up against your market and especially among your competitors. Align your total rewards strategy with your business strategy. Ask your employees what benefits are important to them and design programs around the demographics and desires of your employees.

Inspire employees with great managers and leaders

We hear it so often because it’s true: Most employees don’t quit their company; they quit their manager. Don’t allow this to be your company’s story. Take the time to invest in hiring, training, and developing great managers. They, in turn, will develop great employees. These key people must include individuals who communicate well and are committed to the best interest of all company stakeholders.

Create the culture you want

Unfortunately, in too many companies, culture just happens. However, with employers of choice, management intentionally builds and nurtures a culture of engagement. Satisfied employees produce good results, and in return, are more likely to generate the operational results that are being sought in productivity, safety, quality, customer relations, financial outcomes, and more.


Employers of choice reduce recruiting and replacement costs because of their lower turnover rate. This higher level of engagement also typically results in greater productivity and long-term customer relationships. Moreover, employers of choice keep and develop employees as long-term stakeholders in the company. As such, these employees become valuable assets as they learn to think and act in terms of the company’s best interests.

Up next: Courage in the Workplace

Demonstrating Maturity at Work

How can employees avoid the appearance of immaturity that often sabotages career advancement?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | June 05, 2018


The idea that younger employees automatically lack maturity is a broad generalization that is often groundless. I’ve seen many young employees who exhibit a sense of responsibility, a good work ethic, sound judgment, and a willingness to listen, learn, and further develop their skills. As they gain experience, they demonstrate steady improvement in their job performance.

I’ve also seen more experienced employees who demonstrate behaviors that could not be characterized as anything but immature (sounds better than childish). These behaviors include: Yelling, tantrums, pouting, fits of temper, breaking rules, gossip, and making excuses.

Sadly, it only takes one of these behaviors used consistently in response to work-related situations, for an employee to develop a negative reputation and be labeled as immature.

What drives immature behavior at work

Immature behavior at work is primarily driven by a lack of developmental learning that results in employees choosing ineffectual or inappropriate behaviors in essential job functions, routines, and work-related circumstances.

People do what works for them. If an employee has learned 1-2 mature, appropriate responses to a particular workplace/customer problem, those are the first responses the employee will apply to the situation. However, if neither of those responses results in solving the problem, the employee may choose a less mature behavior in response. If this immature behavior helps them get past the problem situation, even if it’s only effective one time, they will most likely use it again.

If you want to offer your experience as a basis for career advancement, you need to adopt the behaviors and practices that produce the best outcomes at work. When you adopt behaviors and develop practices that consistently produce successful outcomes, your experience is considered progressive, which is evidence of maturity.

If an employee stubbornly chooses behaviors and practices that produce inconsistent or problematic results, this lack of development creates an appearance of immaturity. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many 40, 50, and 60-year-old employees who’ve earned a negative reputation for making such choices.

How to demonstrate maturity on-the-job.

One of the many things I’ve learned in conducting employee development seminars is that if you state something participants already accept as true, they’ll assume the statement is favorable to themselves even if their behavior at work appears to contradict this assumption.

For example: A 36-year-old employee with 15 years of experience on the job assumes he behaves in a more mature manner today than he did 15 years ago, and therefore is a mature employee.

I challenge such assumptions by providing participants with a list of specific attitudes, behaviors, and practices that serve as a standard to help employees consider what they’re doing (or not doing) so they can proactively choose to adjust and demonstrate greater maturity in the workplace. This list includes the following:

  • If an employer criticizes you, don’t respond in a negative manner
  • Walk away before getting into an argument with another employee
  • Take and follow instructions
  • Follow all work rules, regulations, and procedures
  • Do more than is expected of you
  • Respect the organization’s property and equipment. Don’t steal.
  • Arrive on-time every day you are scheduled for work
  • Have a positive attitude at work, even when you’re not in the mood or if things are going wrong in your personal life
  • Don’t gossip. It’s disrespectful to other employees, potentially harmful, and could prove damaging to your reputation.
  • Control your emotions
  • Demonstrate your ability to lead but know when it’s appropriate to follow someone else’s lead
  • Be reliable and trustworthy
  • Get along with other employees regardless of your opinion of them. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to be professional enough to be pleasant with them and work together.
  • Respect the chain of command


These suggested attitudes, behaviors, and practices offer opportunities for better outcomes at work and a positive impact on employee morale and customer relations. As employees seek career advancement, they are well-served by measuring their present behavior against an objective standard, making necessary adjustments, and building a reputation as mature employees that any employer would want to promote and advance.

Up next: How to Become an “Employer of Choice”

Are You Sending Your Employer the Wrong Message?

Your attitudes and behaviors may ultimately determine your career progress

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | May 22, 2018

When we think of effective communications, we typically consider the traditional forms, such as written and verbal.  However, we need to be aware that we communicate our attitudes and work habits in many ways.

Let’s say that you’re being considered for a promotion.  You have sufficient experience and have learned much in your first years with the company.  You’re confident in your readiness for this next step and don’t mind saying so to your employer.

However, you’ve developed a bad habit of interrupting those with whom you are speaking.  You’ve also been known to do this in department meetings.  Such behavior may cause you to be perceived as arrogant and as someone lacking people skills.  Instead of impressing your employer, you are exhibiting a bad habit that identifies you as rude, lacking professionalism, and a “risk,” since you could potentially cause additional problems for the team and your employer.

Therein lies the problem with such messages.  It’s possible for a single habitual behavior to result in a negative generalization.  Moreover, if you continue in this behavior, your employer may progress from thinking your behavior is unacceptable to thinking you are unacceptable.

Consider these examples of habitual attitudes and behaviors, any one of which could prove detrimental to your career.

  • Frequently late or absent from work
  • Requires constant supervision
  • Not completing work assignments on time
  • Argumentative and prone to outbursts
  • Rude to clients and employees
  • Displaying an “I don’t care” attitude
  • Demonstrating little regard for workplace rules and policies
  • Unwillingness to assist other employees when asked
  • Facial expressions that demonstrate anger, disgust, impatience, etc. (e.g. eye rolling)
  • Inability to get along with other employees


Such attitudes and behaviors send the wrong messages and result in negative perceptions.  Once a wrong message is sent, how it will be perceived is out of your control.  Once a negative message is generalized, an employee’s career momentum stalls.

The time to address and change bad habits is now.  Choose positive attitudes and behaviors that will strengthen your reputation at work.  Correct any bad attitudes and unacceptable behaviors and make amends as needed.  Do whatever is necessary to get back on track before you permanently damage your reputation and career potential.

Your attitudes and behaviors should consistently offer a positive message:  “I am a reliable employee.  I perform quality work.  I work well with others.  I care about the organization.  I am trustworthy and ready for advancement.”  These are the qualities employers want to advance and you want to be the employee selected for advancement.

Up next:  The Essential Skills Advantage at Work

Qualities that Engage and Retain Employees

What qualities typically motivate employees to continue working for their employer?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | May 08, 2018

The most respected employers I’ve known throughout my career have been those who consistently demonstrate their ability to engage and influence their employees. These employers gain more than respect from their employees, they gain loyalty.

As an employer, you can demonstrate your efforts to engage and influence your employees through getting them to “buy in” to the mission of your organization by building trust, earning their respect, and helping them feel that your vision and strategies are in everyone’s best interests, including their own.

Employees demonstrate their loyalty not only in day-to-day interactions on the job, but by their willingness to remain committed to the job and their employer long-term. As such, employers typically enjoy a more experienced staff, greater consistency in the quality of customer service, and a reduction in expenses typically associated with higher employee turnover.

How do employers achieve these desired results? I offer these five qualities that employers can effectively demonstrate to engage and influence their employees. These qualities promote positive employee engagement in small businesses and multinational organizations alike.

Make sure you do the right thing for the right reasons. As an employer, you’ll be called on to make difficult decisions. If you conduct yourself with integrity, your people will respect you. Some may disagree with your decisions, but if they know you act with integrity, they will accept your direction.

It takes courage to be an employer in today’s competitive business environment. Courage is required when change is necessary, in challenging the status quo within your industry or the marketplace, in adjusting to constantly changing regulations, making tough decisions, taking calculated risks, or managing a crisis. If you act with courage, you will attract, engage, and inspire your employees.

Lead by Example
Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. If you ask others to stay late, you should stay too. When you lead by example, this means that you’re playing by the same rules as everyone else. If a rule or policy is adopted, whenever possible, the rule needs to apply to employer and employees alike. As an employer, you must be a role model to more effectively engage and influence your employees.

You can’t understand what’s going on throughout your business unless you listen. Listening is how you learn; it’s how you gain perspective. Listening is how you understand what’s important and what’s not.

Throughout my career, the best ideas I’ve seen for solving problems and enhancing customer service have come from people directly involved in the operations we were striving to improve. If you’re trying to solve a problem, you can’t determine the best solutions unless you ask a lot of questions of the employees directly involved in the situation, and then listen carefully to the answers.

As a communicator, an employer must learn to motivate, educate, and influence others.

  • Motivate: Your words should motivate your employees to the actions you desire.
  • Educate: You must educate them as to why you are asking them to do something. It’s tough for employees to be enthusiastic if they don’t understand why they’re being asked to do it.
  • Influence: Employers who influence use their words to have a positive impact on the attitudes, behaviors, and practices of their employees.

If you practice effective communication, you will encourage your employees to engage in ideas and solutions that will enable them to accomplish things they otherwise might not have attempted.

If you’re an employer, the qualities I’ve described above are worth the investment of your time and effort. As you master them, you will enrich your employees’ work environment, encourage more positive engagement, increase employee loyalty, reduce employee turnover, and position your business for greater success. Furthermore, the development of these qualities represents a cost-effective investment that offers potentially huge dividends.

Up next: Are You Sending Your Employer the Wrong Message?

The Respect Factor in Employee Retention

When employers treat their employees with respect, all stakeholders benefit

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | April 24, 2018

Throughout my career, I’ve observed that the most successful organizations strive to retain competent employees. Doing so generates goodwill in the workplace, but it also has a positive impact on long-term skill development, reductions in hiring costs, and the quality of the product or service a company provides. In this context, improving employee retention represents a potentially significant financial gain for businesses and organizations.

According to the 2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 89% of U.S. employees expressed “satisfaction” with their jobs. I was surprised to learn that this marked the highest percentage of employees expressing satisfaction with their jobs since SHRM first conducted this survey in 2002.

The survey revealed several contributing factors to employee satisfaction. These included compensation, overall benefits, and job security. Also listed were opportunities for employees to use their skills and abilities, and a high-level of trust between employees and employers. However, the top contributing factor (and the least costly by far) was the intentional effort of employers to treat all employees with respect.

Respectful treatment of employees was also the top contributor to overall job satisfaction in the 2016 survey as well. Why should employers lead and take the initiative in treating their employees with respect? The answer is clear: When employers demonstrate respect towards their employees in day-to-day interactions, the bond between them is strengthened and employee retention rates improve. An added bonus is that this behavior is usually mirrored in employee-to-employee relationships.

Treating employees with respect doesn’t cost an employer or business anything. It’s difficult to imagine a more cost-effective retention factor. However, if employers fail to demonstrate respect for their employees, their businesses risk financial losses from lower morale and higher turnover rates. The good news is that such risks are avoidable.

Susan Heathfield, a writer for addressed this same subject in a recent article and offered the following 12 suggestions to help employers lead in treating employees with respect and increasing their overall job satisfaction.

  1. Treat all employees with courtesy, politeness, and kindness, regardless of their job titles or position within the organization.
  2. Encourage employees to express opinions and ideas. Demonstrate respect even if you disagree with their opinions or feel the ideas they’ve proposed are not workable.
  3. Listen to what others have to say before expressing your point of view. Never speak over, interrupt, or cut off another person.
  4. Let employees know when you decide to use their idea. Better yet, give the employee the opportunity to implement his/her idea.
  5. Never insult, disparage, or put down employees or their ideas.
  6. Don’t ridicule, belittle, judge, demean, or patronize employees.
  7. Be aware of your body language, tone of voice, and your demeanor in all your interactions at work. People hear what you are saying through non-verbal, as well as verbal communications.
  8. Improve your ability to interact with employees and managers in a way that emphasizes the knowledge you’ve gained from your awareness of people. It will make you better able to offer sympathy and relate with empathy as you step into the shoes of those with whom you work.
  9. Treat people with the same respect no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, sexual orientation, or country of origin. Implement policies and procedures consistently so people feel they are treated fairly and equally.
  10. Include all co-workers in meetings, discussions, trainings, and events. While not every person can participate in every activity, don’t marginalize, or exclude anyone without cause. Provide an equal opportunity for employees to participate on committees, task forces, or continuous improvement teams.
  11. Praise much more frequently than you criticize. Encourage employees and supervisors to do the same.
  12. The Golden Rule applies in the workplace, or as professional speaker Leslie Charles says frequently, “You want to implement the platinum rule at work: Treat others as you would wish to be treated at work.”
  13. By treating employees respectfully, employers can improve morale, engagement, and job satisfaction throughout their respective organizations. Moreover, the respect employers show their employees may be the best and most cost-effective strategy for retaining their organization’s most talented employees.

    Up next: How’s Your Leadership at Work?

Career Advancement Begins Now!

What are you doing to demonstrate your readiness for advancement at work?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | April 10, 2018

In delivering my seminars to groups of employees, individuals commonly ask me for advice concerning advancement at work. In response, I typically ask the following three questions.

  1. How long have you worked in your current position?
  2. What’s the next position for which you are eligible for advancement?
  3. What are you doing/have done to demonstrate your readiness for advancement?

Most have no trouble answering the first two questions, but when they hear the third, they look at me as if I were speaking in some unknown language. So, I repeat the question: What are you doing/have done to demonstrate your readiness for advancement?

Some of the answers aren’t even closely related to the question. Others sound good, but the answers don’t really distinguish them from any other employee. Some claim they demonstrate qualities of character or leadership, which often seems to surprise everyone else in the room.

What becomes painfully obvious is how few employees have given this question any serious thought.

The most common answer I hear is a reiteration of their answer to question #1. Regardless of how it’s stated, the message is clear: “I’ve been in this job for a long time and now I deserve a promotion.”

Unfortunately, this a false assumption that often results in disappointment when the much-desired promotion goes to someone else. Moreover, it raises concern as to whether this employee’s disappointment will translate into lower productivity which could, in turn, jeopardize his/her job security.

Tenure is not automatically a determining factor in advancement decisions. However, under the right circumstances, it can be a positive factor.

I recall the story an employer told me about Bridget and Carla, two employees both hoping for the same promotion. Both had proven themselves to be reliable and trustworthy. Both were respected and had demonstrated the ability to get along well with co-workers. At a glance, the only significant difference between the two was their respective time with the company.

Bridget had worked in her position with the company just over six years. Carla had worked in her position a little more than four years. The unit manager chose to promote Carla. Bridget was obviously disappointed, so following the announcement she made an appointment to sit down with her manager to ask why the decision didn’t go her way.

It was a shorter conversation than Bridget expected. Her manager explained that Carla had spent the last two years learning many of the skills she would be using in her new position. She had taken on more projects and responsibilities to apply these skills and gain needed experience. Her manager didn’t say it, but Bridget knew she had stayed within her assigned duties and responsibilities and had passed on learning new skills.

The manager finally said, “It came down to a choice between a good employee with four years of progressive experience and another good employee who had the same year of experience six times.”

When Bridget went home that evening, she was upset and considered quitting. She eventually decided it would be better to secure another job before resigning from her current position. However, the more she reflected on the matter during the evening, the more she knew her manager was right.

By the next morning, Bridget accepted that she had failed to adequately position herself for the promotion and it was a missed opportunity. She decided to stay with the company, but determined she would never miss another opportunity to advance at work.

Bridget also decided to get advice from someone who had proven successful at career advancement. So, she arranged a time to meet with Carla, which proved to be a wise decision. Together, they began to formulate a plan for Bridget’s career development.

Time in service alone won’t guarantee a promotion, but what you’ve done with that time—the skills you’ve developed and a demonstrated willingness to accept new challenges—may prove to be determining factors in your advancement.

Is it time for you to put your career development on project status? Employees who distinguish themselves, build job security, and position themselves for advancement are the most likely to be the consensus choice for advancement when such opportunities arise. Don’t waste another day to distinguish yourself. The time to start your career advancement is now!

Up next: Treating Employees With Respect

Building Your Self-Confidence

Is your self-confidence sufficient to achieve the job and career success you want?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | March 27, 2018

Self-confidence refers to the confidence you have in yourself and your abilities. Those who struggle with inadequacies, whether real or imagined, often feel unappreciated and find it hard to succeed. The good news is that you can develop this all-important attribute with time and practice. It may not happen overnight, but once you get started, the benefits of building your self-confidence will become increasingly evident.

You can easily distinguish a self-confident person from others. They stand tall and proud as they answer questions in a clear and calm manner. When they speak, people listen because they inspire others around them. It should come as no surprise that confident people are often more successful at work and throughout their careers than those who are not.

How would you rate your self-confidence when working with managers, co-workers, customers, and clients? If you feel improvement is needed in this area, here are a few simple ideas that could yield significant results.

Keep track of your achievements

Start a notebook and write down each achievement along with the reason you feel it’s important. You may have closed an important sale, successfully negotiated an agreement, or resolved a serious problem with a customer/client? You may have received a raise, a promotion, or some other form of recognition. Any words of praise and encouragement you received from your superiors – write them down in your notebook.

On days when you feel down – and those days will come – flip through your notebook and re-read some of your achievements. They will serve as a constant reminder that you are a capable employee who can learn to accomplish anything and has already proven your ability to succeed.

Set goals

Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself and stick to them. Set goals that will focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Remember, set your goals to be specific and measurable. If not, they’ll be little more than good intentions, which are unlikely to achieve anything.

Develop the habit of framing your goals in a positive way. Rather than saying, “I can’t possibly complete this project in less than two weeks,” try saying, “I can complete this project in two weeks.” This may sound simplistic, but goals framed in positive statements, that focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t, are more strongly reinforced in your mind.

I’m reminded of the great automotive industrialist Henry Ford, who once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Positive self-talk

If you lack self-confidence, you need to start managing the “self-talk” that goes on in your mind. Specifically, you need to eliminate your negative self-talk. You may feel your life and career experiences didn’t turn out the way you envisioned. Regardless, it’s time to forgive anyone you’ve blamed (including yourself), let go of the past, and move on. If you insist on being stuck in the past, that’s your choice, but you’re only hurting yourself.

Positive self-talk is practical and constructive. For example: “My past has already occurred and there’s absolutely nothing I can ever do to change it. Likewise, I can’t do anything about the career mistakes of yesterday, but I can learn from my past mistakes, work to do a better job, build my credibility, and position myself for future advancement.”


Don’t be afraid to set progressively higher goals and challenge yourself to achieve even more. As you do, your self-confidence will grow. Some people take three months while others may take six months or more. You’ll notice a difference in yourself within a matter of weeks and I guarantee you will be proud of the more self-confident person you’ve become.

Up next: Career Advancement Begins Now!

A Three-Point Strategy to Retain Your Employees

What can you do to encourage employees to stay with your company?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | March 13, 2018

There are companies people love to work for and would never leave, even if they could do the same work elsewhere and make more money. Other companies have such terrible reputations that even if they paid higher salaries, employees would work for them only if there were no other alternative.
The difference between a great company that seems to be able to retain all their best employees and one with a double-digit turnover rate is the way they treat the people who work for them. Consider the value of the following three-point strategy

  1. Great Leadership
  2. A company that’s serious about keeping its employees happy and productive realizes that effective leadership is essential at every level of the company. It’s not enough for an employer to merely be a “nice person.” Good managers also need to be effective leaders. They need to support their people by offering the direction they need to do their jobs well without micromanaging their employees.

    Good leaders allow their employees at all levels to appropriately voice their opinions without fear that it could place their job in jeopardy. Moreover, good leaders take the time to discover the unique talents and skills that their employees bring to the table and encourage their further development.

  3. Opportunities for Growth
  4. Some of the most successful companies in the world have been built on a practice of promoting from within. An example of one such company is McDonalds, a company that stands today as the biggest fast food chain in the world. I recently read that all the current high-level executives began their careers with the company as lowly crew members, flipping burgers and mopping floors. The idea that their position can one-day lead to something bigger, if they work hard and progress through the ranks, is incentive enough to get people to continue with the company.

    Too many companies make the mistake of seeking talent outside the company when they have a key role to fill, instead of looking within. This inevitably leads to talented employees leaving because they went unnoticed and their skills and hard work went unappreciated.

  5. Expressing Appreciation
  6. Some rather cynical people say that if you cannot reward your best employees financially on a regular basis they will leave, no matter how good the company is to them otherwise. There is no conclusive evidence to support this assumption. Economic circumstances have forced employers to consider other ways that companies can show appreciation for their employees.

    Some successful companies offer employee rewards such as a public “well done” for excellent work, an Employee of the Month Award, or even more tangible items like a prime parking space, a paid afternoon off work, or a gift certificate for a free lunch or dinner. These and other rewards have been successful in motivating employees to give their best effort at work.

    Other successful companies, striving to retain their most talented employees, offer a more flexible work week or the opportunity to work from home a few days a week. Increasingly, as people look for ways to de-stress their busy lives this is something that good employees should consider.

    These are just a few of the ways that successful companies manage to retain talent and keep their employees happy. The key though is remembering that employees are people that deserve to be treated with respect and the opportunity to feel that their work is appreciated.

Up next: Building Your Self-Confidence

Employee Development is Always About You!

Your career advancement is about your attributes and accomplishments, not the deficiencies of others

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | February 27, 2018


Employee development challenges participants to consider the current status of their job performance and career advancement and decide whether changes in their attitudes, behaviors, and practices would enable them to make more progress.

Whenever I present an Employerwise seminar, there’s always one employee in the meeting who pulls me aside and says: “I know exactly who you’re talking about.” There will always be a few who confidently assume that I must be talking about someone else. My response is the same one I offer during the seminar’s introduction: “Employee development is always about you!”
Overconfident employees assume the following:

  1. They’re convinced they possess an innate ability to identify the deficiencies of any employee in the organization while remaining absolutely oblivious to their own.
  2. Over time, they’ve developed and accepted a set of beliefs about themselves that shields them from the idea that they need to change anything about the way they work with others. These beliefs may include the following:
    • I’m excellent at my job.
    • I’m one of the most talented people in the organization.
    • I deserve a raise.
    • I’m an excellent leader.
    • I’m smarter than most of the managers.
    • I should be making a lot more money than others in my position.
    • I deserve a promotion.
    • My advancement is long overdue.

If there are no facts, evidence, or other employees in the workplace to corroborate these statements, the employee’s beliefs are without merit. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but “saying it don’t make it so.”

In delivering a seminar to a group of about 30 employees, one employee responding to something I had said stated, “I’ve been working here for over 10 years and I’m considered a leader.”
Other participants indicated by their body language that this individual might be the only one to consider himself as a leader. Several appeared rather amused at his statement.
Obviously, the participant felt this statement gave him credibility. However, since no one else thought his statement was true, it made him appear inappropriately arrogant and foolish to his co-workers. As previously stated, “saying it don’t make it so.”

The Nature of Employee Development

Employee development promotes self-improvement and helps employees learn how to better distinguish themselves, build greater job security, and position themselves for advancement at work.
It’s not about providing an opportunity to criticize others in the workplace or compare oneself to others. I’ve never seen an employee promoted that routinely points out the deficiencies of others, while ignoring their own. Business owners are most likely to advance employees based on evidence of their own professional attributes and accomplishments.


Some employees will return to work, following our seminar, with no thought of improving any aspect of their performance. In the safety of their routines, they cling to the hope that one day, someone will give them a promotion because “they deserve it.” Others will improve in some areas and approach their work with more confidence. These changes will eventually yield more opportunities.

However, there will be a few employees who will do a complete turnaround at work. They will decide what to start doing, and what to stop doing. These decisions will result in the improvement of their attitude, behaviors, and workplace practices.

A successful career is the result of making many good decisions that will position the employee for future advancement. Those who learn the lessons of employee development can identify these decisions and make their career advancement inevitable.

Up Next: A Three-Point Strategy to Retain Your Employees

#mattoonillinois #decaturillinois #effinghamillinois #sullivanillinois #charlestonillinois #springfieldillinois #hr #SHRM #ILchamber #ILworknet #centralillinois #eastcentralillinois #hrBlogs #recruiting #softskills #employeesuccess #engagement #illinoisemployers #effinghamilchamber #mattoonilchamber #charlestonilchamber #decaturilchamber

What Drives Employees to Become More Successful?

Those who have a personal stake in your success are counting on you to live up to your potential

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | February 13, 2018

In September of 2016, my wife and I launched Employerwise Seminars. Our work and my role has evolved over the last 18 months. Today, our business is based on three distinct principles:

  • We believe employees are more successful when their performance reflects the attitudes, behaviors, and practices most desired by their employers.
  • We teach employees how to distinguish themselves, build greater job security, and position themselves for advancement.
  • We offer employee seminars to effectively deliver instruction on-site, which allows employers to schedule group sessions as needed to best accommodate workplace operations.

We can provide the knowledge and insights needed to help employees learn how to become more successful at work, but we can’t provide their motivation. What drives employees to become more successful?


Employees choose to become successful for many reasons. Money, achievement, authority, influence, and a sense of accomplishment are among many of the motives that drive career advancement.

Some assume those who pursue career advancement are egotistical and self-centered. I’ve found the opposite to be true among most successful employees. In fact, throughout my career, almost every successful employee I’ve known was motivated to succeed because of the significant people in their lives.

Today, we think of these significant people as stakeholders. As an employee, a stakeholder would be any individual with a personal stake in your success. Your stakeholders may include:


You need to make a living. You need to help provide for your family, put a roof over their heads, food on the table, pay bills, and meet long-term financial goals. One of the most reliable strategies you can implement to accomplish this goal is to hold a job, become indispensable to your employer, perform quality work, and advance throughout your career.


In most organizations, jobs are not isolated, they’re interdependent. Your co-worker’s personal opinion of you depends on what you do or don’t contribute to the workplace environment. Nevertheless, they must depend on you to be reliable in completing your assigned tasks and fulfilling your responsibilities.

Whatever you fail to do, your co-workers have to fill in the gaps. They’re counting on you to show up for work on-time, every day, and perform quality work. Whenever you fail to do these things, someone else has to do them for you.


Employers count on their employees to do the jobs they were hired for, perform to the best of their ability, and deliver outstanding service to their customers and clients. In addition, employers continually invest in their employees and want them to be successful. Beyond salary, employer investments include the following:

  1. Mandatory benefits – Federal and state taxes, Social Security, Medicare (employer portions), Unemployment Insurance, and Workers Compensation Insurance
  2. Training – Off-site, on-site, and on-the-job
  3. Workplace benefits – Health, dental, and vision insurance, reimbursement policies, retirement plans, life insurance, long-term disability, etc.
  4. Discretionary benefits – EAPs, Short-term disability, accidental death insurance, etc.
  5. Additional benefits – Bonuses and paid time off (PTO) including personal days, sick days, vacation days, and paid holidays

At Employerwise, our purpose remains the same: We teach employees to become more successful at work. When you become more successful at work, you honor your stakeholders, those persons in your life who have a personal stake in your success. Whoever your stakeholders may be, they’re counting on you and are deserving of your best effort.

Up Next: Employee Development is Always About You!

#mattoonillinois #decaturillinois #effinghamillinois #sullivanillinois #charlestonillinois #springfieldillinois #hr #SHRM #ILchamber #ILworknet #centralillinois #eastcentralillinois #hrBlogs #recruiting #softskills #employeesuccess #engagement #illinoisemployers #effinghamilchamber #mattoonilchamber #charlestonilchamber #decaturilchamber

The Demise of Courtesy at Work

Why it’s lacking in our workplaces and what can we do about it?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | January 30, 2018


Respect towards others should be standard behavior in the workplace, regardless of role, rank, or reputation. However, as companies have become more virtual, global, and fast-paced, this common-sense standard seems to have become somewhat obscured.

A Lack of Personal Interactions

There was a time, not so long ago, when much of our work was conducted either face-to-face or through real-time conversations in the offices, on factory floors, at meetings, or through visits with customers. These personal interactions allowed people to get to know each other and create connections.

Today, much of our communication is neither face-to-face nor in real time. Email, voicemail, teleconferences, and videoconferences have replaced other opportunities for face-to-face interactions. The result is that more of our work today is conducted impersonally, which means that there is less pressure to observe basic courtesies and good manners.

Supportive Studies

A University of Michigan study found that today’s college students are less empathetic than those of past generations. The researchers speculate that this is because they have grown up with more reliance on digital communications and less direct interaction with others.

Another study at Duke University found that Americans had one-third fewer friends and confidants than they had two decades earlier, possibly because digital interactions were replacing personal connections.

Impact on the Work Environment

In the absence of personal connections, many managers are reporting “breakdowns” in courtesy and respect. Undoubtedly, some of these situations are exacerbated by the demands and stresses of the workplace. Some common examples I’ve heard recently include:

  • A last-minute request for “urgent” information without regard for the time and effort it will take to satisfy the request.
  • A manager ignoring emails and voice mails which delayed resolution of a customer service problem.
  • A team that worked all night to meet a budget deadline and then received neither feedback nor thanks for their work.
  • A manager in Asia who was required to attend regular teleconferences with a North American team that kept her up through the middle of the night, with no acknowledgement of her effort.

What’s worse is that the continuation of these behaviors will eventually create a toxic environment that will reduce employee engagement and management motivation, which is something we’re already seeing in too many organizations.

Proposed Suggestions

In an effort to prevent further “breakdowns” in courtesy and respect, Ron Ashkenas a Partner Emeritus at Schaffer Consulting and author of the book, “Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done,” offers two suggestions to avoid further erosion of courtesy and respect in the workplace.

  1. Convene a meeting with your team, including virtual members, and talk openly about the kind of workplace behaviors you expect from each other.
  2. What does it mean to act courteously and respectfully?
  3. Have there been incidents where that didn’t happen?
  4. Assuming that people aren’t intentionally trying to be difficult, what provokes these kinds of unproductive behaviors, and what are their consequences?
  5. Having an open dialogue on this subject can “reset” your team, making them more aware of workplace courtesy and when it’s lacking.

Encourage your team and co-workers to courteously push back on bad behaviors when they occur. The reality is that most people don’t plan to be mean or insensitive; it just happens in the heat of the moment without them realizing the impact on others. So, if you can find the right ways of calling out these behaviors, it may be possible to reduce their impact and prevent them in the future.

Most of us want to work in an environment of mutual respect and courtesy. However, we may have to put in some extra effort to make that happen.

Up next: What Drives Employees to Become More Successful?

#mattoonillinois #decaturillinois #effinghamillinois #sullivanillinois #charlestonillinois #springfieldillinois #hr #SHRM #ILchamber #ILworknet #centralillinois #eastcentralillinois #hrBlogs #recruiting #softskills #employeesuccess #engagement #illinoisemployers #effinghamilchamber #mattoonilchamber #charlestonilchamber #decaturilchamber

Why Do Your Employees Choose to Work for You?

The answer to this question may be the key to retaining your best employees.

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | January 16, 2018

I’ve heard many employers’ express concerns about whether they can retain their best people. They’re concerned about the high cost of frequent employee turnover, but they’re also concerned about retaining the skilled, productive employees who are currently essential to business operations.

Obviously, these employment issues have one thing in common – You, the employer. Have you ever stopped to consider why anyone would choose to stay and work for you? Perhaps it’s something you’ve never considered, but seriously, stop and think about it for a minute. Why do your employees choose to work for you?

People choose to work for a company for many reasons. Maybe the work is challenging and rewarding, or the pay and benefits are too good to pass up. It might be that the company has an excellent reputation, or it could be that a long-time friend works there, or that the office is only 10-15 minutes away from their home.

Regardless of why people go to work for a company, research says employees stay because of their employer. So, the question is reasonable: Why do your employees choose to work for you?

Knowing the answer to this simple question can provide a lot of insight into who you are as an employer and how to retain your best employees.

A few months ago, I read an article on this topic by Dan Oswald of The Oswald Letter: Insights for Business and Leadership. He suggests that the best employers share the following qualities: a passion for their work, a commitment to success, and loyalty to others. I couldn’t agree more.


Some of the finest employers I’ve known love their work. They enjoy getting up each day and coming to work ready for the next challenge. They live the adage: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” When employees work for an employer who loves his/her job, that attitude can become contagious.


These employers are also committed to success. When people work for an employer who genuinely wants to succeed, employees want to become a part of that success. Employees want to contribute to what the team is trying to achieve. They don’t ever want to be the reason that a project or assignment fails.


These outstanding employers are loyal to the company, loyal to the vision of what they’re striving to achieve, and loyal to the employees with whom they work. The employer’s loyalty is most often rewarded with employees who are loyal to them. Typically, these employees are willing to go the extra mile because they want to help their employer achieve successful outcomes, knowing that their employer will “have their back.”


You may have noticed that I didn’t include the word charismatic as a quality among successful employers. Nor did I include an ability to motivate or inspire the people who work for them. The employers I’ve described motivate others — not by their words, but by their actions.

You see, it’s what these employers do, not what they say, that motivates others to follow them. And it’s their passion, commitment, and loyalty that sets them apart and inspires others to want to work for them.

Up next: The Demise of Courtesy at Work

#mattoonillinois #decaturillinois #effinghamillinois #sullivanillinois #charlestonillinois #springfieldillinois #hr #SHRM #ILchamber #ILworknet #centralillinois #eastcentralillinois #hrBlogs #recruiting #softskills #employeesuccess #engagement #illinoisemployers #effinghamilchamber #mattoonilchamber #charlestonilchamber #decaturilchamber

How to Make Progress at Work in 2018

What are you willing to change to achieve better outcomes at work this year?

By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | January 08, 2018

Throughout my career, I’ve learned that in the workplace, you’re the creator of your own outcomes. If you want better outcomes, you’ll need to change what isn’t working (or what isn’t working well) and do some things differently to achieve the best possible results.

At Employerwise, we decided to apply this lesson to the services and management of our own business. So, throughout this past year, we’ve solicited suggestions from our clients and participants, considered what they had to say, and are making appropriate adjustments.

Suggestions from participants came through interactions during presentations, exit surveys, direct conversations, and emails in response to follow-up questions. Suggestions from employers came through direct conversations, follow-up questions, and further contacts from our “just checking in…” emails.

Employees benefit

It’s been exciting to see employees benefit from our seminars in learning how to distinguish themselves, achieve greater job security, and position themselves for advancement. We also discovered that in a group setting, some of the employees begin to create a more supportive and collaborative workplace environment. This “group benefit” is an example of something we would have overlooked had we failed to speak with our clients.

Employers benefit

We’ve also discovered numerous benefits employers realize from our seminars, such as:

  • Employee engagement is more positive
  • Employee practice becomes more professional
  • Potential leaders are easier to identify
  • Better workplace practices yield more positive outcomes
  • Employees consider Employerwise seminars to be an additional benefit
  • Employees enjoy greater job satisfaction and confidence
  • Employee retention increases

Customers and clients

I was pleased to hear that customers and clients also benefit from our seminars. As employees progress in their development, the result is better customer relations, increased customer retention, and the company enjoys a stronger reputation for delivery of service.

Listening to suggestions

Once clients and participants began providing feedback, they seemed more than willing to offer suggestions; but we recognized that they were only willing to talk if we were willing to listen. We strongly considered the suggestions we received, and several proved very helpful.

Marketing and networking

We will soon begin using “MailChimp“ to deliver our Employerwise blog directly to friends, supporters, participants, and clients every other week. As the list of those interested in our progress and services has grown, it’s become more difficult to keep everyone informed on a timely basis. Hopefully, this direct delivery method will prove more effective and efficient.

Each mailing will provide a direct link to a newly released article, along with links to other recent articles. Most of these articles deal with subjects related to our employee development seminars, but we will occasionally talk about upcoming projects, events, and new developments.

Clients frequently suggested that I visit civic and chamber organizations in the communities I serve. This is an excellent suggestion. Visiting these organizations will give me numerous opportunities to meet more employers and learn more about the business environment in these communities.

We’ve already joined an excellent chamber organization with a top-notch professional staff, a solid membership, and numerous marketing and networking opportunities. We intend to take advantage of every networking opportunity that scheduling permits and our goal is to attend at least two such events per month. We’ve also invested in some of the available marketing opportunities.

Expanded seminar offerings

We launched our business in 2016 with three seminars, each concerned with employee development. However, in discussions with clients, only one of those seminars specifically targeted broad development principles essential to employee success. The other two, though beneficial and worthwhile to employees, were topical seminars focusing on 1-2 specific areas.

As a result, we now offer 10 seminars. Three are employee development seminars which address the three general areas most desired by employers: “Foundations for Employee Success” (positive attitude), “The Indispensable Employee” (collaborative interpersonal behaviors), and “Planning Your Professional Development” (better workplace practices).

In addition, we’ve developed seven other seminars to address single topics of significance to employee success. Examples of our new seminars include: “Coping with Workplace Transitions,” “Strategies for Peak Performance” (a wellness seminar) and “Building Your Credibility at Work.”


If you want 2018 to be a better year at work, you’ll need to evaluate what you’ve been doing, honestly and objectively. Ask the people you serve what they feel you do well and in what areas you need to improve. Make whatever changes are necessary so you can achieve better outcomes at work. One thing is certain, no progress will occur unless you’re willing to make some changes.

Up next: Why Do Your Employees Choose to Work for You?

#mattoonillinois #decaturillinois #effinghamillinois #sullivanillinois #charlestonillinois #springfieldillinois #hr #SHRM #ILchamber #ILworknet #centralillinois #eastcentralillinois #hrBlogs #recruiting #softskills #employeesuccess #engagement #illinoisemployers #effinghamilchamber #mattoonilchamber #charlestonilchamber #decaturilchamber

The Moral Courage to Take Action

What are we doing to protect our employees from sexual harassment and predatory sexual behavior?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | December 5, 2017

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a morally reprehensible act.  Despite the negative publicity, the problem remains pervasive in workplaces throughout the U.S.  It victimizes vulnerable employees, lowers morale, and costs employers millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, absenteeism, employee turnover, and liability.

In the last year, we’ve seen the careers of numerous celebrities and public figures destroyed following revelations of their predatory behavior towards colleagues and staff.  As more details of these incidents become public, we react with support for the victims coming forward and disgust towards the offenders.  Additionally, we’re outraged by staff, executives, and other parties who chose to protect and, in some cases, enable these offenders.

Victim accounts of sexual harassment continue as lead stories in traditional and online media.  However, the vast majority of the victims are women and some men, who are neither celebrities nor high-profile public figures.  Until this last year, they’ve felt forced to endure such offensive behavior in isolation.  The exploitation of individuals by those in positions of power demands that we address this problem now while a significant audience is still listening.

The hurt and anger we hear from victims are understandable.  There’s a lot of outrage voiced by political pundits, but the calls for justice and a “day of reckoning” do little more than fuel political debate.  A typical political candidate’s position will sound something like this: “We need more laws concerning sexual harassment.  They need to be stricter, and they need to specifically support victims who come forward, and impose increasingly severe consequences on the offenders.”

Such a perspective has significant historical precedence.  Federal and state laws with mandated reporting requirements and established enforcement agencies have resulted in workplaces with less risk of employee injury, and fewer incidents of discrimination in hiring and advancement practices.

However, no reasonable person would honestly declare that we’ve eliminated unsafe working conditions and discrimination in the workplace.  We need to remind ourselves that improving safety and anti-discrimination conditions in the workplace have taken over 60 years of slow progress; and so, we remain vigilant with the higher standards we’ve set in these areas so positive development will continue.

My wife and three adult children all work in different career fields.  I have four beautiful, smart granddaughters who will one day join the workforce and pursue careers of their own.  The prospect of it taking years to address sexual harassment adequately to protect employees from such abuses is unacceptable to me, and hopefully, it is to you as well.  Change requires action, but action must begin with the right mindset.


I agree with those who feel that our workplaces are most effective and efficient when we foster an environment that respects the dignity of every employee.  If we genuinely want to change a workplace culture for the better, employers must lead “from the top” through policies, practices, and exemplary personal behavior.  Employees must become actively engaged in supporting these efforts, and likewise lead by how we speak and behave towards others.

You and I need to become actively engaged in changing the cultures of our respective workplaces.  We need to nurture a culture that promotes greater respect, civility, and professionalism at work.  However, we also need to end the culture of secrecy and silence that has allowed sexual harassment to go unchecked for far too long.


You and I need to listen to the victims of sexual harassment in our workplaces without prejudice or judgment.  Victims need our encouragement and support whether they choose to stop the predator themselves or report the offender to someone in authority.  One thing is sure, ignoring the problem is not a solution.

Sadly, victims of almost any offense in our society must consider the consequences of coming forward, including the public opinions and scrutiny that will follow their claim.  Nearly 70% of those who have reported incidents of sexual harassment feel they have also experienced retaliation for coming forward.  These reprisals underscore the need for encouragement and support.  You and I must be ready and willing to stand with these victims.

Workplaces are not courts of law.  Evidence against a harasser does not have to meet the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  However, it’s difficult to terminate an employee in situations that are limited to “he said – she said” assertions with no corroboration.

Victims of sexual harassment need to share what has happened with other co-workers (not just a single close friend).  Victims also need to document the date, time, and details of any sexual harassment that occurs.  Finally, victims need to save any emails that refer to or demonstrate further harassment.  Such emails are “evidence” that includes the offender’s name along with a time and date stamp.


Offenders need to know that the victim considers what they’re doing to be sexual harassment—that it’s wrong and it’s unacceptable.  They need to hear this from the victims, and they may need to hear it from you and me as well.  Offenders need to understand that others are watching.  They need to realize that it’s only a matter of time before witnesses report these offenders to their superiors.  Once that step occurs, the relationship between the offenders and the organization will likely end, jeopardizing future career aspirations.

The rest of us (The Bystanders)

I recently saw a newscast on CNN that referred to a survey indicating that 52% of men and 71% of women have witnessed sexual harassment at work that they chose to ignore.  I’m ashamed to admit that I fall into this category and have failed to speak up in situations when it was my responsibility to do so.

We need to stop offenders and expose their harassment.  Victims need encouragement and support, but the rest of us need to commit ourselves to become “active bystanders” in our workplaces.  Doing so will help end the culture of secrecy and silence that allow incidents of sexual harassment to continue.  The role of an “active bystander” is not a new concept, but it’s worthy of our consideration and one that employers should encourage in our workplaces.  This role typically includes the following:

Attitude adjustment

  • Acknowledge that sexual harassment exists and realize that we have a role to play in ending this problem in our workplaces. We need to make sure others know where we stand on this issue.
  • Honestly evaluate our behavior toward co-workers and subordinates. Determine to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Demonstrate sensitivity toward others:

  • Make ourselves available to listen without prejudice or pre-judgment and offer support
  • Be prepared to empathize with the victim, without assigning blame
  • Allow the victim to control the situation. Help them to report sexual harassment, if they choose to, but secure their permission before going to management on their behalf.

Look for ways to positively impact the workplace:

  • Help create an environment where employees feel safe
  • Practice inclusion and don’t allow potentially vulnerable employees to be isolated
  • Be observant and don’t ignore what is going on around you.
  • Lead by example

Keep it honest:

  • Don’t give your friends a pass. Hold them accountable.
  • Confront co-workers that excuse abusive behavior, whether they are perpetrators or witness the abuse
  • Speak up when something offensive is said or if you observe sexual, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behavior


It’s time for us to practice greater inclusion with our co-workers.  It’s time to prioritize the level of civility and professionalism we bring to our workplace relationships.  It’s time to commit ourselves to become “active bystanders” at work.  Moreover, it’s past time for each of us to stand up, accept individual responsibility, and refuse to tolerate incidents of sexual harassment in our workplaces.

We don’t have to wait for the 2018 mid-term elections or the enactment of federal and state laws to change the status quo.  If we’re going to keep our employees safe from predatory sexual behavior, employers and employees alike need to respond by assuming responsibility and taking the steps necessary to end this reprehensible behavior immediately.

We most assuredly can end sexual harassment in our workplaces.  We know what to do, and all we need is the will and moral courage necessary to act now.

How Would You Rate Your Employees Integrity?

Courage may be required when employees do the right thing in the face of consequences

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 28, 2017

A few months ago, I read an article by Amy Rees Anderson, Managing Partner with Rees Capital and a contributor to Forbes Magazine and the Huffington Post, where she addressed the importance of integrity. In this article, she stated, “If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing all the time, in all circumstances, “whether anyone is watching or not.”

Employers don’t want to question the integrity of their employees. Unfortunately, we live in a world where “the end justifies the means,” and compromising integrity is all too common. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, because they need to make their sales quota. Job applicants lie on resumes and exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. Customer service representatives cover up mistakes they’ve made because they’re afraid the client will “walk.” Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when what they really plan to do is go Christmas shopping. In each case, the person choosing to compromise their integrity rationalized that they had a perfectly valid reason to justify their lack of honesty.

I can think of several examples of employees who despite lacking integrity, are successful and have never had to face any consequences for their actions. Unfortunately, their co-workers know about their lack of integrity and therein lies the real problem. These individuals no longer have a reputation as a person of integrity, which is one of the most valuable qualities anyone can have in their career and throughout life. Financial profit and status is temporary and subject to change, but a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.

The value of this trust is far beyond anything that can be measured. For employees, it means a manager or a boss who is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and advancement opportunities. It means having a circle of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation.

What should an employee do if required to work with a co-worker who has demonstrated that he/she isn’t trustworthy. My advice: Associate with them only as necessary to get the job done effectively. Never confide in them. Never, ever make excuses for them. Above all, don’t be fooled into believing that such people think of you as a friend. You may be a resource, a supporter, and possibly even an enabler, but you are not their friend. It may be tempting to think, “they may be dishonest with others, but they would never be dishonest with me,” but it simply isn’t true.

Employees will be judged by the character of their associates. Why? Because people have always judged others by their associations. That statement may not seem fair, but I assure you it’s true. If an employee wants to build a reputation as a person of integrity, they must surround themselves with people of integrity.

Integrity is one of the most important characteristics of a great employee and even more so for anyone aspiring to a leadership position. Without integrity, you lose trust. When you’ve lost trust, respect typically disintegrates. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a momentary lapse in judgment to lose. The path of integrity is not always easy, but the respect of your employer and the potential rewards make the journey worthwhile.

Are You Thankful for Your Job?

As you count your blessings this Thanksgiving season, be grateful for your job

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 14, 2017

As the holiday season approaches, Thanksgiving is a time of year that calls us to reflect on all we’ve been given. Even if you feel you’ve earned everything you have, you were still the beneficiary of opportunities and surely those are gifts worthy of gratitude. I am convinced there are many reasons to be thankful for the job you hold. These reasons would include:

  1. Problems that prompted the creation of your job
  2. Co-workers, peers, and colleagues
  3. Your employer or manager
  4. Benefits associated with your employment
  5. Customers or clients
  6. Competitors in the market
  7. Opportunities to learn and eventually advance
  8. Compensation
  9. A feeling of fulfillment for a job well done

In conducting seminars, I spend a lot of time with employers and employees. Businesses today, face swiftly changing consumer demands and a tough, competitive environment. Non-Profits face budget cuts, political pressures, and grants that may not be available from one year to the next. Employers and employees alike are asked to do more and more with less and less. Amid these difficulties and other difficulties, along with the fast-paced nature of the work, it’s too easy to take your job for granted.

I recently had lunch with a good friend I’ll call Jack, who has been unemployed for the last two years. As Jack talked to me about his efforts in looking for a job, I felt terrible for this fine, capable guy who wants to work and has been unable to secure an offer of employment. As he expressed his discouragement, you could hear the emotion in his voice.

He told me about a late summer family gathering where some relatives of his in-laws were complaining about their respective jobs. Later, after lunch, one of these in-laws persisted in complaining when Jack suddenly interrupted him and said, “Trust me when I say that if you have a job, you should consider it a blessing. I hope you learn to love your job, but if not, maybe you should try to be thankful you have an opportunity to support your family, provide a roof over your heads and put food on your table.”

We’d all be well-served to make a list of the things at work we’re thankful for and another of any associated issues or problems. Since a job typically solves more problems than it creates, my guess is you’ll discover that you have much more to be thankful for than to complain about.

I am well aware that there are those who experience a variety of stressful problems on their job every day. Even in these situations, though it may be difficult to imagine, there are many facing the problems associated with unemployment who would gladly trade places with you.

My prayer for you this season is that you will learn to be genuinely thankful for your job. It is a great blessing for you and your family whether you love it or not.

How Can Employees Develop a Positive Attitude?

Five tips to help employees enjoy greater success and attract career opportunities

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 07, 2017

Having a positive attitude at work can help you succeed on projects, meet goals, get a promotion, and just generally enjoy your job more. However, many people struggle with this because they’ve developed a habit of negative thinking. The following five tips will help you develop and maintain a more positive attitude at work.

Treat your coworkers with respect

It’s always easier to stay positive at your job if you like the work environment, which includes your coworkers. It’s also easy to get off to a bad start with these folks. However, if you treat your coworkers with respect and do your best to see issues from their point of view, the working relationships will be much less stressful.

Get enough sleep

We’re rarely at our best when we’re tired. Chances are, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, it will be extremely hard to maintain a positive attitude. Do you find it hard to get going in the morning? Does your strength and focus begin to fade by early afternoon? These are both indications that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Some people only need 6-7 hours of sleep per night. Others need 9 or 10 to feel rested. You can’t really “catch up” on lost sleep. Go to bed earlier and get whatever sleep you need to feel more positive at work.

Identify negative thoughts

You might not even realize that you have a negative attitude at work. Start to be more aware of your thoughts, words, and actions. Identify times when you say “no” without good reason. You may believe you can’t do something, doubt your abilities, or feel angry about a task you’ve been given. Think about what would happen if you forced yourself to look at the situation in the opposite way – saying “yes,” believing you can do something, feeling confident in your abilities, or feeling happy to do a task. Even if you can’t change every single negative thought you have, at least start to be aware of these thoughts and consider whether they’re justified.

Work on your overall stress level

Often, our attitudes at work are simply carried over from our experiences at home. If you’re stressed about your marriage or relationship, your kids, your finances, or other problems, it’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude at work. Look at your overall stress level and identify the things in your life that make it hard to have a positive attitude. Reducing your overall stress level can help you start to enjoy your job more.

Set goals

One of the best ways to overcome these feelings of negativity (along with the idea that you’re not doing anything important) is to sit down with your manager and make some realistic, but challenging goals. What do you hope to achieve each month? What new skill would you like to develop over the next three months? What would you like to achieve in the next six months? Review your goals on a regular basis to stay on track for success.

The role of a positive attitude cannot be underestimated in overall career success. It’s too easy to be influenced by the negativity of others on the job. If they want to be negative—great! You will have more influence and enjoy greater respect. Employers are looking for employees with a positive attitude and they want to promote employees with a positive attitude. Regardless of experience and skill level, a positive attitude can and should be a part of your career strategy

How Well Do You Work Under Pressure?

Suggestions for how to demonstrate calm leadership in high-pressure situations.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 31, 2017

If you are seeking a new job, you will be a stronger candidate if you can demonstrate the ability to work well under pressure. Every survey we review shows “works well under pressure” as one of the top qualities employers want in their new hires.

I don’t know about you, but I must have missed the course in “How to Work Well Under Pressure” while I was in college. Our education in this area is limited to on-the-job training. The mistakes along the way can be quite embarrassing for you and expensive for your employer. Perhaps a little research might be helpful.

I recently read at article online was by Diane Gottsman, an author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and business etiquette training. She suggests the following tips to build strength and confidence when the pressure is on at work.


Consider how your body typically responds to high pressure situations. Are your shoulders tight or are your fists and teeth clenched? Take a few moments to breathe deeply and focus on relaxing every part of your body. This is a natural exercise we can all make time for, and it’s discreet enough to do at your desk.

Take time

Assess the situation, ask pertinent questions, and process what has taken place before responding. There may not be an immediate solution, and if it’s not necessary to give an answer that you have not completely thought out—don’t!

Rely on others for support

A team of trusted colleagues, friends, and mentors can serve as invaluable advisors. Life is much easier when we can rely on others to serve as sounding boards, if only to offer another perspective or simply to listen. Build a core group of supporters who will be there for you in times of crisis and don’t forget that reliance is a reciprocal relationship.

Take care of yourself

One of the big secrets of those who remain cool under pressure is their dedication to a healthy lifestyle. Stick to a healthy routine, whether stress is swirling around you or everything is going beautifully. Exercise is a great stress neutralizer. Eating well and getting enough sleep will help you stay in top form. Walking just 30 minutes a day will do wonders for your physical and mental well-being.

Step away from the situation

You can’t undo a temper tantrum. The best strategy for preventing a public meltdown is to excuse yourself until strong emotions subside. This is not always possible, but if so, it can prove a wise course of action. If you step away, let it be known that you will be addressing the issue, whether it is in the next hour or at the next meeting.

Remember that you are setting an example

Whether you are the receptionist or the CEO, others will notice how you handle adversity. Use workplace challenges as an opportunity to help those around you stay calm and they likely follow your lead. Be a role model for handling stress. If you strive to approach these situations with poise and a cool head, you’ll demonstrate leadership.

Look for the lesson

It’s been said that there are two outcomes for any occurrence; success or education. Proactively look at ways to correct the situation, but also consider how the knowledge you are gain will help you in the future.

Finally, keep workplace turmoil in perspective

Employees survive and come out of the stressful situations wiser for the experience. Think of others, those you know or admire, who have survived office upheaval and gone on to achieve bigger things and even better opportunities. Handling professional setbacks is part of a successful career.

Lifelong Learning for Career Advancement

Successful employees must accept the challenge of self-directed learning

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 24, 2017

I recently began reading Samuel A. Malone’s, “Awaken the Genius Within – A Guide to Lifelong Learning Skills.” Malone is a veteran training consultant practicing in the U.K., who has authored 20 books.

I was impressed with Malone’s use of the acronym P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E-D as a tool to help people remember how to become lifelong learners. The following excerpt from Malone’s work is especially appropriate for employees and those of us whose learning is now more self-directed than classroom-based.


Make the practice of lifelong learning a priority. Set aside at least half an hour a day to build up the knowledge and skill for the expertise you need to acquire. Nothing will happen unless you make it happen and put in the effort.


Reflect on what you’ve learned. Build review periods into your learning. Information is quickly forgotten unless reviewed, and skills fall into decay unless practiced. Observe how others learn, and model the behavior of the best learners. Continuous improvement and lifelong learning should be your goal.

Action learning

We learn best by doing things, and we acquire new skills by doing things repeatedly. Most skills take a considerable amount of time to acquire and perfect. World-class musicians hone their skills up to eight hours a day. Athletes constantly practice and have sports psychologists to advise, direct, and motivate them. Professional golfers finish 18 holes and then head to the driving range to practice.


We should always consider questions such as how, what, and why. It’s through questions and seeking answers that we learn. Develop your powers of creativity by looking for alternative ways to do things or solve problems. Albert Einstein wisely maintained that asking questions and imagination were more important than intelligence.


A great way to learn is to teach others as it utilizes and reinforces our knowledge. We can do this by showing other people how to do things, and by demonstrating, coaching, and mentoring. Many famous people maintain that they would not have succeeded in life to the extent that they did without the services of a good mentor.


Insight occurs as we look at the same things as everybody else but see differences and unique patterns. Many people saw the apple fall, but it was only Isaac Newton, through insight and reflection, who discovered the laws of gravity. Similarly, many scientific discoveries have happened through unique insight. People who make great discoveries by chance have the judgment and persistence to pursue the idea to fruition.


We must further develop our ability to concentrate if we want to learn and excel. Having goals, listening attentively, and dealing with distractions effectively are just some of the ways you can improve your concentration.

Exercise and nutrition

Build in periods of daily exercise into your habits so you will keep mentally and physically fit. Physical exercise induces the body to produce an array of chemicals that the brain and, indeed, the heart love. The brain, as well as the body, thrives on oxygen and proper nutrition. The brain needs a nutritious diet to survive and thrive.

Different learning styles

There are different learning styles, but most of us use a combination of these. Academics have classified learning styles in different ways. One popular method can be recalled by the acronym, VAT, which stands for visual, audial, and tactile. Stated simply, we learn by seeing, hearing, and doing. Another classification is Activist, Reflector, Theorist, and Pragmatist. In other words, we do something, think about it, understand it, and then based on our understanding, we may do it differently. These are among the styles that help us learn effectively.

If you’re going to become a lifelong learner, embrace the reality that learning is a journey and not a destination. Libraries and online resources offer a wealth of print and video resources to supplement your learning at any point in your career. If your lifelong learning is going to be self-directed, you must take responsibility for assessing your own educational needs. By doing so, lifelong learning becomes even more advantageous as you experience further career progress.

Listening for Career Advancement

Ultimately, effective listening makes better managers and employees.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 17, 2017

You can’t possibly give your full attention to everything you hear throughout the day. However, there are times that call for you to be fully present and attentive, such as when a coworker is sharing a concern about a critical step in a project that’s being neglected, or an employee is explaining his/her idea for improving a key process that serves customers. It’s no wonder that those who demonstrate good listening skills often advance the farthest.

I recently read an excellent article about effective listening in the workplace by a veteran Executive Coach and author Jody Michael ( Her article sparked my interest and renewed my own conviction in how important listening skills are to successful career development.

According to Michael, it’s important to understand two different levels of listening: Attentive listening and empathetic listening.

She says that when you practice attentive listening, you’re genuinely interested in the other person’s point of view and accept the fact that you have something to learn from the interaction. However, you’re listening with your own perspective and beliefs in mind. You’re thinking about whether you agree with what’s being said and more to the point, how you want to respond. Thus, there is a risk that you may miss some of what the speaker is saying and make assumptions about the message.

However, she notes that empathetic listening is much more active and intentional. When you move from attentive listening to empathetic listening, your focus changes from yourself and your perspective to the speaker and their frame of reference.

Michael recommends the following active listening techniques to show that you are available, ready to pay attention and interested in what the other person has to say.

  1. Eliminate (or minimize) distractions: At work, this could mean closing your office door, turning off your cell phone or closing your laptop.
  2. Keep an open posture: Face the speaker directly and uncross your arms and legs.
  3. Maintain eye contact: This reassures the speaker that you are focused on what they are saying and helps you read their emotions.
  4. Paraphrase: When the speaker conveys something of particular importance, restate in your own words what you heard them say, using a lead-in such as “What I’m hearing you say is …” or “So, if I’m correct, you are telling me that …” This allows you to correct misconceptions as they occur and helps you remember what was said.
  5. Clarify: From time to time, ask questions about what the speaker is saying in a helpful and empathetic way: “How did you feel when that happened?” or “What did you think when he said that?” This provides more depth than merely paraphrasing and shows the speaker that you are engaged and want to know more.
  6. Provide feedback: Give verbal feedback while the person is speaking, such as “I understand” or try reflecting their feelings back to them by saying something like “That must have been difficult.” Use nonverbal feedback, too, like nodding, smiling, or frowning when appropriate.
  7. Look for nonverbal cues. When listening, be aware of nonverbal elements including the speaker’s facial expression, tone of voice, body posture, eye contact and gestures to gain a deeper understanding of the message they’re sending. These signals are particularly useful in deciphering whether the person’s emotions are aligned with their words — and if they aren’t, that’s an additional level of insight to use.

Listening to individuals at work actively demonstrates that you respect them and are genuinely interested in their ideas. When your coworkers or team members know that they’ll be heard, they’re more willing to share their ideas and honest feedback with you, which in turn encourages innovation, employee engagement, productivity, and even profitability.

These factors clearly demonstrate why it’s important to develop effective listening and why it needs to be included in your career strategy.

Employees Can Become More Professional at Work

Employees can distinguish themselves by bringing more professionalism to the workplace

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 10, 2017

We’ve all heard that it’s important to be professional if you want to succeed at work and have a successful career, but what does that mean? Many employees I’ve worked with have heard about the importance of professionalism, but they’ve never really had any formal education in this area.

Maybe employees are supposed to pick it up on your own through observation, but that’s not always easy to do. Many learn on the job, but this type of experience risks a lot of mistakes along the way.

Alison Green writes the popular “Ask a Manager” blog and is the co-author of “Managing to Change the World: The Non-profit Managers Guide to Getting Results. I am particularly impressed with the following nine elements of professionalism (among others) she encourages employees to adopt early in their careers.

  1. Pay attention to the cultural norms in your organization, and follow them. If you watch how others in your office operate, you’ll learn all sorts of important things about “how we do things here.”
  2. Be pleasant and polite to people, even if you don’t like them. You will have to work with people whom you just don’t care for, and even with people who aren’t very nice. Don’t let them get under your skin. Instead, remain easy to work with and congenial.
  3. Take responsibility. If you make a mistake or something doesn’t go well, don’t make excuses, or blame others. Accept responsibility for your part in what went wrong and correct your mistakes ASAP.
  4. Realize that getting feedback about your work – even critical feedback – is part of the job; it’s not personal. If you care about doing your job well and preparing for advancement, you want to know where you need to do better.
  5. Your writing needs to be clear and appear professional. That means no slang, text speak, and using correct punctuation and capitalization. Remember this is workplace communications, not texting friends about hanging out next Saturday night.
  6. Be flexible. If staying an hour late will ensure the presentation for the tomorrow’s meeting gets done on time, you should do it unless that’s physically impossible. This also applies to changes in work plans, goals or other things that might evolve as projects develop.
  7. Be reliable in attendance. Unless you have pre-scheduled vacation time or you’re truly ill, you should arrive early and be ready to start on time each day you are scheduled to work.
  8. Demonstrate a willingness to help that goes beyond your job description. The most effective way you can earn a great professional reputation at work is by doing more than the bare minimum required. That means looking for ways to do your job better, helping out colleagues when you can, and not avoiding new projects.
  9. Don’t treat your manager as an adversary. Treat your manager as a team leader. Sure, your manager has authority over you, yes, but one who’s working toward the same goals as you are and wants you to succeed.

As greater professionalism becomes part of your personal brand, you’ll find those who make this effort distinguish themselves at work and further position themselves for advancement. Moreover, I’m confident that the time and effort they invest in mastering the above key elements will prove worthwhile as their career progresses.

Celebrating Our First Anniversary!

Celebrating progress. The benefits of our employee development seminars. What’s next?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 3, 2017

We launched Employerwise LLC on September 16, 2016 and have just completed our first year in business. We’ve made excellent progress and are genuinely excited about our opportunities as our second year begins.

Our basic philosophy connected with Central Illinois employers. At Employerwise, LLC:

  • We believe employees are more successful when their employee role reflects the attitudes, behaviors, and actions most desired by their employers.
  • We teach employees how to develop their role so they can distinguish themselves, build greater job security, and position themselves for advancement.
  • We offer employee development seminars to effectively deliver this knowledge on-site and schedule group sessions to best accommodate workplace operations.

In speaking to the clients we’ve served and their employees, I’ve learned more about how they benefit from our employee development seminars. These benefits include:

  1. Employees consider employee development as an additional benefit they view favorably when considering a competitor’s job offer.
  2. Employee development fosters better employee retention. It makes employees feel important to the organization which in turn encourages their loyalty.
  3. By offering employee development, and expecting employees to participate, employers can attract individuals who are interested in improving their job qualifications and their contributions in the workplace.
  4. Employee development helps keep employees engaged, develops a pool of more capable employees, and identifies those ready for promotion.
  5. As employee development continues, customer service and support also improves. This improvement can strengthen customer relations, increase customer loyalty, and further enhance a company’s reputation for delivery of service.
  6. Effective employee development should not be classified as an expense, but as an investment because well-trained, confident, and engaged employees will become more productive and efficient.

As our second year gets underway, we want to accelerate the growth of our business and we’re asking for your help in any of the following areas:

  • Please check out our website at and learn more about the services we currently offer. Our seminars includes:
    • The Indispensable Employee (Most Popular)
    • Basic Employee Leadership (New)
    • Situational Negotiations
    • A Company in Transition
    • The Art of Personal Change
    • Managing Your Energy
    • Leadership Development
    • Basic Management Skills
  • Please go to and subscribe to “The Employerwise Blog.” Each week, an article about an employee development topic will be delivered to your inbox as soon as it’s posted. You can also follow me on Twitter (@employerwise)

    I encourage you to “Like,” “Repost,” and “Retweet” these articles whenever you have an opportunity. Though the primary location of our client market is the Central Illinois area, we hope to carry our message of employee development and career advancement beyond the geographic area we serve.

  • Speaking opportunities. If you know anyone responsible for scheduling speakers for civic, employer, or employee organizations in Central Illinois, please let them know of my availability to speak on topics related to employee development. Feel free to provide them with my email address and phone number (217-358-9294) for direct contact.

We are grateful to our clients and supporters who have worked with us during our first year of operation. We pledge to these folks our best efforts as our relationship continues. As Employerwise, LLC enters its second year, we ask you to help us “spread the word” as we stand ready to offer our services and potential benefits to even more clients throughout Central Illinois.

How Does Initiative Impact Employee Advancement?

Even employees who are incredibly average can become stars and advance at work.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 26, 2017

At this moment, there are employees across the U.S. who feel they’re ready for a promotion to the next level at work with a corresponding raise in salary. Unfortunately, this feeling may not be shared by their employers. As time passes without advancement, combined with a lack of communication, employees become discouraged and their productivity inevitably declines.

Robert E. Kelley, Ph.D is the President of Consultants to Executives and Organizations. He is also a Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. He spent 10 years with Bell Labs where he pioneered research into the development of “star performers” at work. During this period, he discovered that employers are less likely to advance employees based on tenure and far more likely to advance those whom they consider to be among their very best.

Specifically, Dr. Kelley wanted to know what made these “star performers” more productive and subsequently more valuable. His initial surveys revealed many assumed factors that were of no surprise to anyone, which included the following:

  • Higher IQs
  • Better problem-solving and more creativity
  • More drive and ambition
  • More outgoing; they get along well with people
  • Identified as risk-takers and mavericks

Altogether, this survey revealed 45 factors that managers and those considered among the best of employees believed led to “star performance,” which Dr. Kelly’s team divided into three categories:

  1. Cognitive factors: Higher IQ, logic, reasoning, and creativity
  2. Personality factors: Self-confidence, ambition, risk-taking, and self-determination
  3. Social factors: Interpersonal skills and leadership

Dr. Kelley and his team were astounded by their findings. Their research revealed conclusively that none of the above factors proved consistent in identifying a company’s top performers. In further discussion of this finding, they began to consider a threshold question: If these fundamental factors are not the real drivers of outstanding performance, would it be possible for average-performing employees to be turned into stars?

Sure enough, they discovered that the key to productivity was not found in test scores concerning the factors they had identified earlier, but in patterns of behavior on the job. “It wasn’t what these stars had in their heads that made them standouts from the pack, it was how they used what they had.” By exercising initiative, employees can leverage their talents and skills for greater productivity at work.

The positive impact of initiative on advancement is undeniable. Whether it’s coming up with ideas to help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of a work unit, or going the extra mile to help accomplish essential tasks or achieve desired results, initiative is the driver that can help average employees have an opportunity to be numbered among a company’s best employees. In doing so, they can increase their competitive advantage for further advancement at work.

Do You Demonstrate Self-Motivation at Work?

These four insights can help you build a productive and successful career

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 19, 2017

Being self-motivated is vitally important to achieving success as an employee. There is little more infuriating to employers than the aspect of having to motivate someone to do the job they were hired to do. No employer has the time to “monitor” every employee just to make sure they get their work done.

Self-motivated employees maintain their productivity and focus at work. Several factors can diminish motivation, such as a bad supervisor, a toxic work environment, little appreciation, and a low salary (which can even make an experienced, high performing employee lose motivation). However, an employee whose self-motivation is high typically overcomes these limiting factors and proves more successful in a competitive work environment.

Remember, no other person can maintain your motivation for you. Remaining self-motivated is your responsibility. If you are wondering how to stay motivated, here a few insights that can help raise your level of motivation and better enable you to achieve your goals at work.

What is self-motivation?

Being self-motivated is about doing your job well because you want to, and not simply because you get paid for doing it. Self-motivated individuals want to be the best they can be regardless of where they work and the responsibilities of their job.

Self-motivated individuals tend to:

  • Work longer hours than others
  • Learn new skills and participate in continuing education
  • Take ownership of problems in their work area
  • Become leaders on their teams
  • Go “above and beyond” their job description

Why do employers want self-motivated people?

Self-motivated employees need a lot less managing than those who are less than inspired to do their jobs well.  It’s no wonder that self-motivated people are highly sought after by recruitment agencies and HR departments.

If you are self-motivated, you will want everything you do to be of the highest quality, and you will always strive to see the bigger picture at work. Self-motivated individuals are motivated by improving themselves, and the only way they can do this is by making the company they work for better for all the stakeholders they serve.

How Can You Demonstrate Self-Motivation?

Desire and self-motivation are easy to demonstrate at work, but more difficult to demonstrate to a prospective employer.   In a job interview, you can expect to be asked questions about times when you have risen to a challenge or taken control of a situation.  Employers are looking for people who have taken charge of a situation and solved problems creatively or innovatively.

You can also share how you’ve demonstrated self-motivation by emphasizing the quality of your work and the impact it’s had in your prior educational and/or employment roles.

How is self-motivation demonstrated in the workplace?

As stated, it’s much easier to demonstrate self-motivation once you’ve secured a job.  Little things like getting to work ten minutes early are noticed.  Make sure you ask your new manager questions and show a desire to do well.  If your employer identifies an issue on the job, don’t start “thinking aloud.”  Take time, think about it, consider all the factors involved, and try to come up with a workable solution.  And always remember, a little enthusiasm can go a long way in communicating a proposed solution.

Motivation cannot be instilled, taught, or created.  However, you need to maintain a high level of motivation to be more productive and successful in your career.  Even top performers and highly motivated employees face times when they need to regain motivation.  Moreover, in this competitive work environment, I guarantee that employers will give their self-motivated employees priority consideration as leadership roles and advancement opportunities become available.

Why Do High-Maintenance Employees Get Ahead at Work?

A low-maintenance strategy may be the key to your career advancement

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 12, 2017

Let’s begin with a less-than-clinical definition. A high-maintenance employee is one who demands your attention at work for some reason/purpose that is completely self-serving.

A high-maintenance employee will drain your energy throughout the day because it serves their interest-of-the-moment. At the end of the day (and if their need for attention has been satisfied), a high-maintenance employee typically feels pretty good about themselves until tomorrow. You see, this need for attention must be satisfied on a daily (or more frequent) basis. On the other hand, everyone else ends their days feeling exhausted with little hope for tomorrow because it’s unlikely this person will ever change.

There is nothing quite like working with a high-maintenance, egotistical employee who is the champion of his/her success, but never responsible for any problems or failures at work. The only redeeming comment I would have for such employees is: If you insist on being high-maintenance at work and demanding attention from everyone else, you had better be a financial rain maker.

However, today’s message is for the rest of us. We cannot afford to be influenced by high-maintenance employees. The attention they receive is too often negative, and their behaviors limit their careers.

If you intend to experience progress throughout your career, you don’t want a reputation of being a whiner or complainer about anything—from how much money you make to how another employee uses their vacation time. Complaints will attract negative attention at best. Frankly, drawing negative attention to yourself is about the dumbest strategy you could choose if you want to advance in your career.

Employers want employees who are responsible and proven reliable in difficult situations and challenging times. So, don’t complain, pass judgment, or spread gossip when the company is experiencing difficulties. Work harder and develop a low-maintenance approach as an individual and as part of a team.

When times are difficult, managers need employees who can help reduce their level of stress. You want to be that employee. You want to be the employee who delivers for your manager. You want to take on as much extra work as feasible. You want to make fewer mistakes than anyone else. You want to demonstrate initiative to the extent that your manager always feels confident that you are doing your job and he/she can count on you to do it well.

When your manager makes a request, respond immediately. If such a request comes by email, send a quick response saying, “I just received your request, and I’m working on it.” The manager now knows you’re working on the request, recognizes you as a responsible employee, and that you are again proving yourself to be reliable.

Whenever you have a meeting with your manager and team, be prepared. Anticipate questions that may be asked. Make sure you have whatever information you may need for a productive discussion. It’s frustrating for a manager to conduct a meeting with people who are unprepared. It makes you look bad, but it also makes you look like you don’t care.

Why do high-maintenance employees get ahead at work? The answer is because rather than everyone else demonstrating their competence and outstanding contributions in the workplace, they instead focus on avoiding these difficult employees, which makes otherwise better employees less visible and less competitive.

Employers do not typically want to advance high-maintenance employees (unless it is a relative or someone of unique influence). As such, it makes sense to adopt a low-maintenance strategy, which involves being more positive, reliable, responsible, and a better team player. All of which makes your employer’s job easier. It’s a strategy in which you’ll gain positive attention, and it may be your ticket to the next step in your career.

How Does Adaptability Affect Your Career Potential?

How a willingness to adapt to a company’s environment may boost your career progress

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 05, 2017

Among surveys of the many skills employers are looking for in a potential employee, adaptability often ranks high along with verbal and written communications, interpersonal skills, and a strong work ethic.  Every employer looks for a candidate who is a good fit for their existing work environment and who can anticipate, respond to, and manage change on a day-to-day basis.

Each organization has a distinct workplace culture that becomes strategically important for the company’s overall success.  So, when hiring a new employee, employers consider not only a candidate’s experience and skills, but also how that potential employee will “mesh” with the company culture.

Cultural fit can mean many things.  For example, it could be a candidate’s willingness and readiness to adopt the company’s values.  It can also mean that a candidate’s work style matches the expectations of management and other employees.

Adaptability is often a deal-breaker in the hiring process.  Even if a candidate makes a good impression regarding their experience and skills, employers are reticent to hire someone who indicates or demonstrates a lack of willingness to adapt to a new environment.  Employers want a new hire who is adaptable and willing to get out of their comfort zone.

In fact, hiring managers are more likely to choose a candidate who lacks experience but would be a better fit with the company’s culture.  I’ve heard many employers say that a candidate can be trained in some essential skill areas, but adaptability is something an employee must bring to the job on their own.

This is an understandable concern for employers.  Employees who fit into the company culture tend to be more successful and productive than those who were hired because they fit the job description.

When applying for a management position, adaptability becomes an even more crucial consideration.  Managers influence subordinates, and that influence inevitably impacts their attitudes towards the company.  The higher the position for which a candidate is applying, the more the hiring committee will be looking for a nearly perfect fit with the company culture.  Making the mistake of hiring an executive or manager who doesn’t fit the company’s culture can lead to an expensive turnover and another lengthy hiring process.

So how does this affect you?

If you are interviewing for a promotion within your current company, you may already have all the information you need to prove that you’re a good fit for this position.  Still, you need to assess your present level of fitness objectively.  If you have been less than an ideal fit in your current position, you need to be prepared to explain why this has been the case and how you will be a better fit if promoted.

If you are interviewing for a position with a new company, you may need to consider a different approach.  No matter how much you study and learn about the work roles and the company’s culture, your efforts to prove yourself as a good fit for the position will probably have some “gaps” due to your lack of direct experience with the company.

I recommend that you learn all you can about the new company, but focus your efforts on how you have demonstrated adaptability in previous roles.  If you can demonstrate how you’ve adapted to change at work, in school, or even your personal life, it may strengthen your standing among these decision-makers.  Your proven ability to adapt will give prospective employers greater assurance that bringing you to their organization will yield positive results and further support a decision to give you this opportunity.


How to Take Initiative at Work

Six steps to help you effectively take initiative in the workplace

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | August 24, 2017

Knowing when and how to take initiative is valued by employers as signs of professional growth and leadership potential.  The good news is that initiative is a skill that you can develop.  Here are a few steps that have proven helpful along the way:

Develop your career plan

Research has shown that employees who have a long-term career plan are more likely to take initiative.  This is especially true when the actions or decisions initiated will help them further their career goals.

Build your self-confidence

It can take courage and a strong sense of self to show initiative, especially if you fear that people may disagree with your actions or suggestions.  Start taking initiative with smaller decisions and actions.  This will build your confidence as you develop a successful record of initiative throughout your career

Watch for opportunities and recommend improvements

Employees who show initiative often do so by acting on opportunities others have failed to notice.   Such employees are interested in their organization and how it works, and they keep an open mind to new ideas and possibilities.

You should always take note of areas for possible improvement in your organization.  As you notice opportunities and potential improvements, consider the following:

  • What would our customers (internal and external) want us to improve? What could we do that would be more helpful to them?  How can we improve quality?
  • What small problems do we have that could grow into bigger ones?
  • What slows our work or makes it more difficult? What do we often fail to achieve?  Where do we have “bottlenecks?”  What seems to frustrate and irritate the people on our team?

Get into the habit of looking for these things, and when things go wrong, think about how you can fix them.

Challenge your own ideas

Imagine you’ve come up with a creative way of breaking through a “bottleneck” in your customer service process.  It may seem like a great idea, but before you head straight to your boss with your idea, stop and do some homework. Think about the costs and risks associated with the idea.

Where risks or costs are more significant, take initiative and prepare a formal proposal, asking for authorization before you go ahead.

Develop “Rational Persistence”

I once heard the term persistence defined as, “the art of moving forward even when you encounter setbacks or difficulty.”  Employees who demonstrate initiative often encounter difficulties and setbacks along the way.   One of my graduate instructors encouraged “rational persistence,” meaning to listen, consider, and appropriately change direction depending on results and the input of others.

Persisting with an idea, is much easier if you learn how to manage change effectively.  This can often make the difference between the success and failure of an initiative.

Find balance

While it’s important to take initiative, it’s just as important to be wise in doing so. Taking initiative without fully considering the idea you want to implement can result in unintended consequences.  For example, if an initiative generates too much extra work for others, a well-intended idea could result in conflict.

Successful initiative requires good decision-making skills. The more you develop these skills, the more objective you’ll be at judging when an idea is good, and when it isn’t.  This way, you can develop a reputation both for initiative and good judgment – an invaluable combination at work.

Conflict at Work

You can demonstrate leadership by effectively handling conflict in the workplace

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | August 10, 2017

Conflict is a normal part of human interaction, but the challenge of conflict lies in how we choose to resolve it.  Whether we conceal, avoid or otherwise ignore conflict, it will likely grow into resentment, create dissension, or create factions within an organization.

So, what creates conflict in the workplace?  Opposing positions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy, performance discrepancies, compensation issues, just someone having a bad day, etc.  The reality is that the root of most conflict can be attributed to either poor communication or an inability to control our emotions.  Let’s consider these two major causes of conflict:

If you reflect on the conflicts you’ve had over the years, you’ll probably recognize many of them resulted from a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation.  Clear, concise, accurate, and timely communication of information will help to reduce both the number and severity of conflicts.

Another common factor that often results in conflict is letting emotions drive decisions.  I have seen successful employers place the need for emotional superiority ahead of achieving their mission (not that they always understood this at the time).  Likewise, have you ever seen an employee throw a fit or draw a line in the sand in the heat of the moment?  If you have, what you really watched was a person choosing to indulge their emotions rather than protecting their future.

The following tips will help to more effective handle conflicts in the workplace:

  1. Define Acceptable Behavior: Just having a definition for what constitutes acceptable behavior is a positive step in avoiding conflict. Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them and a well-articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will help avoid conflicts. Clear expectations of what will and won’t be tolerated serves everyone well.
  2. Attack conflict: While you can’t always prevent conflicts, it has been my experience that the secret to conflict resolution is in fact conflict prevention where possible. Time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.
  3. Understanding the WIIFM Factor: Understanding the other employee’s or employer’s WIIFM (What’s in It for Me) position is critical. It is essential to understand the motivations of others.  Don’t ignore this important factor.  If you are uncertain, don’t hesitate to ask.  The best way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their objectives.
  4. Importance: Pick your battles and avoid conflict for the sake of conflict. However, if the issue is important enough to create a conflict then it is surely important enough to resolve.
  5. View Conflict as Opportunity: Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement, there is an inherent potential for growth and development.

Compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, finding common ground, being an active listener, service above self, and numerous other approaches will usually allow one to be successful in building rapport.   If the underlying desire is strong enough and the parties are sincere, a resolution to conflicts can normally be found.

Being Late to Work is Not a Big Deal!

How poor attendance practices can jeopardize a talented employee’s career.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | July 27, 2017

A talented employee appears successful with a new house, a nice family, a good-paying job, and a bright future ahead.  The one problem is that he’s often late to work.  His manager has spoken with him about this on several occasions, but he continues to be late on most mornings.

The manager finally decides to take formal corrective action.  He meets with the employee and presents him with a “first written warning.”

The employee obviously resents this action and insists, “When you’re good at your job, being late to work is not a big deal.”  Nevertheless, he realizes he’s in violation of company policy and pledges to correct the problem.

Unfortunately, the employee is late again just two days later and receives a “second written warning.”  This warning includes a “final notice” that if the employee is late to work again and proper procedures have not been followed—he will be terminated.  The next morning, the employee walks in 15 minutes late to the weekly department meeting which started first thing at 8 AM.  An hour later, the manager calls the employee in to his office and terminates him.

This story is a classic example of the poor work attendance practices of some employees.  They cling to the steadfast belief that being late to work has nothing to do with their job performance and thus, will not impact their careers.  If you think about this from a career development perspective, if you allow yourself to be habitually late to work, you are indulging in a high-risk behavior that could result in serious consequences.

These employees risk losing their jobs, their ability to support their families, and any financial progress that may have come with steady career advancement.  Ask yourself:  Would you be willing to sacrifice a promising career and risk unemployment just for the sake of arriving late at work?

Why should good attendance be important to you?

Employers don’t want an employee who is often late or doesn’t show up for work.  As for career opportunities, employers are hesitant to advance employees who are unreliable in attendance.

A poor attendance record also leaves a bad impression with other employees who may begin to view that employee as being unproductive, unreliable, and even lazy.

Aside from problems of perception, poor attendance practices can strain relations with other employees.  Why?  Because employees who arrive early and are ready to work on time resent having to “fill in” or “cover” for a habitually late employee.

How to Have Good Work Attendance

Good work attendance may not be easy for some, but it’s not exactly rocket science.  Decide you’re going to make being on-time for work a priority and take immediate action.  Pre-plan steps such as:  Go to bed at an appropriate hour, get the sleep you need, wake up at whatever hour necessary for you to have plenty of time to get ready, leave home with time to spare, arrive at work early, and be ready to start on time.

There will be situations where an employee can’t make it to work on time.  In those cases, it’s best for the employee to call a supervisor or manager to let them know that he/she will be late and the reason for not coming in on time.

A good work attendance record is in the best interest of your career.  Moreover, if good attendance is important to your employer, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it needs to become important to you.


Whatever Happened to Courtesy at Work

Why is it lacking and what we can do about it

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | July 13, 2017

You would think that demonstrating respect towards others would be standard behavior in the workplace, but that simply isn’t true.   As companies have become more virtual, global, and fast-paced, this common-sense standard seems to have become a casualty that we seem all to ready to accept.

There was a time, not so long ago, when much of our work was conducted either face-to-face or through real-time conversations in offices, on factory floors, at meetings, or through visits with customers.  These conversations allowed people to get to know each other and create connections.

Today, much of our communication is neither face-to-face nor in real time.  Email, voicemail, teleconferences, and video conferences have replaced other opportunities for face-to-face interactions.  The result is that more of our work today is conducted impersonally, which means that there is less pressure to observe basic courtesies and good manners.

A couple of recent studies support these observations.  A University of Michigan study found that today’s college students are less empathetic than those of past generations.  The researchers speculate that this is because they have grown up with more reliance on digital communications and less direct interaction with others.  Another study at Duke University found that Americans had one-third fewer friends and confidants than they had two decades earlier, possibly because digital interactions were replacing personal connections.

In the absence of personal connections, many managers are reporting “breakdowns” in courtesy and respectful behaviors.  Undoubtedly, some of these situations are exacerbated by the stresses of the workplace.  Some common examples I’ve heard include:  A last-minute request for “urgent” information without regard for the time and effort it will take to satisfy the request; a manager ignoring emails and voice mails which delayed resolution of a customer service problem; and a team that worked all night to meet a budget deadline and then received neither feedback nor thanks for their work.

In an effort to prevent further “breakdowns” in courtesy and respect, Ron Ashkenas a Partner Emeritus at Schaffer Consulting and author of the book Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done, offers two suggestions to avoid further erosions of courtesy and respect in the workplace.

First, convene a meeting with your team, including virtual members, and have an open discussion about the kind of behaviors you expect from each other at work.  Having an open dialogue on this subject can help “reset” your staff, and make them more aware of workplace courtesy and when it’s lacking.

Second, encourage your team and co-workers to courteously push back on bad behaviors when they occur. The reality is that most people don’t plan to be mean or insensitive; it just happens in the heat of the moment without them realizing the impact on others. So, if you can find the right ways of calling out these behaviors, it may be possible to reduce their impact and prevent them in the future.

Most of us want to work with people who treat us with respect and courtesy.  However, we may have to set some boundaries and hold one another accountable in an effort to make this happen.

Coping with Stress in the Workplace

These four suggestions will help you reduce your level of stress at work.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | June 29, 2017

You have too much “on your plate,” deadlines are looming, people are counting on you, and to top it all off, you have several family obligations needing your attention. You’re under a lot of pressure and suspect the quality of your work is suffering for it.

Heidi Grant, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist at the Neuroleadership Institute, Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University, and author of the best-selling book: Succeed: How We Can All Reach Our Goals. She advocates the following scientifically-proven strategies for coping with stress in the workplace.

    1. Have self-compassion.

      Self-compassion is the willingness to look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding. Studies show that people who are compassionate towards themselves are happier, more optimistic, less anxious, and even less prone to depression. That’s probably not surprising, but here’s the kicker: they’re more successful, too. A little self-compassion when things are at their most difficult can reduce your stress and improve your performance, by making it easier to learn from your mistakes.

    2. Remember the “Big Picture”

      Anything you need or want to do can be viewed from more than one perspective. For instance, “exercising” can be described in “Big Picture” terms, such as “getting healthier” — the why of exercising — or it can be described in more concrete terms, like “running two miles” — the how of exercising. Thinking “Big Picture” about the work you do can be very energizing in the face of stress and challenge by simply linking one, often small action, to a greater meaning or purpose.

    3. Develop more routines

      If I ask you to name the major causes of stress in your work life, you would probably say things like deadlines, a heavy workload, an obstinate co-worker, or maybe a terrible boss. You probably wouldn’t say “having to make so many decisions,” because most people aren’t aware that this is a powerful and common cause of stress in their lives. Every time you make a decision — whether it’s personal or professional, simple or complex — you create a state of mental tension (or anxiety) that is, in fact, stressful.

      The solution is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make by using routines. If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day. Have a routine for preparing for your day in the morning, and packing up to go home at night. Simple routines can dramatically reduce your number of decisions and corresponding experiences of stress

    4. If-then planning

      This form of planning is a proven, powerful way to help you achieve any goal.  Nearly 200 studies, on everything from diet and exercise to negotiation and time management, have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will complete a task can double or triple your chances of getting it done.

      This enables you to seize a critical moment and make that important call, even when you are busy doing other things.  Personally, there are few better ways to reduce stress than crossing things off your to-do list.

      Our lives are significantly invested in our jobs.  It’s almost impossible to be any kind of career professional these days without experiencing frequent periods of intense stress. The difference between those who are successful and those who fail is not about whether you suffer from stress, but how you cope with the inevitable stress that comes with almost any job.

Empathy in the Workplace

The benefits of demonstrating an appropriate degree of care at work

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | June 15, 2017

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. More than sympathy, empathy is the ability to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity.

Empathy is often referred to as the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings, and understand their needs.

In the workplace, an empathetic employee often earns the respect of others when he/she demonstrates an appropriate degree of care for a co-worker facing difficult circumstances. Demonstrating empathy reinforces a team relationship and can lead to increases in productivity, morale, and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the “soft skill” set of respected employees and employers alike.

Surveys continue to show that we could all take a lesson from the nursing profession about being empathetic. Repeatedly, nurses rate among our most trusted professionals. Why? Because the empathy they demonstrate makes patients feel cared for and safe.

In preparing this article, I was surprised to learn that people who score high on assessments for empathy often have no idea why. When pressed for answers, their typical explanations include:

  • They like people.
  • They enjoy working with and helping others.
  • They value people as individuals.

In an effort to develop a deeper understanding of why empathy is important in the workplace, I offer two questions regarding the nature, role, and benefits of empathy.

  1. What traits/behaviors distinguish someone as empathetic?

    Empathy requires three things: listening, openness and understanding.

    Empathetic employees listen attentively to what you’re telling them, putting their complete focus on the person in front of them and not getting easily distracted. They spend more time listening than talking because they want to understand the difficulties others face, all of which helps them give the folks their listening to a feeling of being heard and understood.
    Empathetic employers and managers realize that the success of any business depends on their people. Therefore, they have an attitude of openness towards them as individuals and an understanding of the feelings and emotions of these employees.

  2. What role does empathy play in the workplace? Why does it matter?

    When we understand one another in the workplace, we have a better idea of the challenges ahead of us.

    DeLores Pressley, a best-selling author and nationally recognized motivational speaker, drives this point home by asking all of us in the workplace to consider the following benefits of being more empathetic:

    1. Empathy allows us to feel secure to learn from our failures because we won’t simply be blamed for them.
    2. Empathy encourages everyone to understand the root cause behind poor performance.
    3. Being empathetic allows all involved to help struggling employees improve and succeed.
    4. Empathy plays a major role in the workplace for every organization that will deal with failures, poor performance and employees who truly want to succeed. As leaders, our role is simple—deal empathetically with our team and watch them build a strong and prosperous organization.

If all of this is true, why aren’t we more empathetic at work? There are several possible reasons.

  • We’re busy and demonstrating empathy takes time and effort to show individuals more awareness and understanding.
  • It’s not always easy to understand an employee’s perspective or how they feel about a given situation.
  • It means putting others ahead of yourself, which can be challenging in today’s competitive workplace.
  • Many organizations are so focused on achieving goals that caring about employees has become a low priority.

As we consider the importance of empathy at work, perhaps we need to remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It is a truth that has long stood the test of time and still holds true today – in and out of the workplace.

Self-confidence in the Workplace

Is your current level of self-confidence an asset or a liability to your career?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | May 25, 2017

Self-confidence is arguably an asset throughout our lives, but it seems especially important in the workplace. It’s not easy to be appreciative of a co-worker who is ill-prepared for a meeting or a presentation. It’s hard to think of a co-worker as professional when he/she is chronically late to work. And frankly, it’s difficult to support a co-worker who mindlessly repeats the same mistakes.

The truth is, not everyone was born with self-confidence. Those who struggle with low self-confidence often feel unappreciated and find it hard to succeed. The good news is that self-confidence can be achieved with time and intentional effort. Rome was not built in a day and you will not achieve self-confidence that quickly, but once you get started, the benefits of this valuable quality will become increasingly evident.

You can easily distinguish a self-confident person from others. They stand tall and proud as they answer questions in a clear and calm manner. We feel instinctively drawn to them because they inspire others around them. It should come as no surprise that self-confident people are often more successful in their careers than those who are not.

How self-confident do you feel when working with managers, co-workers, customers, and clients? If you feel the need for improvement in this area, here a few simple ideas that could yield significant results.

Keep track of your achievements

Start a notebook of your achievements and write each one down. Whether you closed a successful sale or resolved a serious problem with a customer/client. You may have just received a raise, a promotion, or some other form of recognition. Any words of praise and encouragement you received from your superiors – write them down in your notebook.

On days when you feel down – and those days will come – flip through your notes and re-read some of your successes. They will serve as a constant reminder that you are a capable employee who can learn to accomplish anything and has already proven your ability to succeed.

Set goals

Set realistic goals for yourself and stick to them. Design them to highlight your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Remember, intentionally set your goals to be specific and measurable. If not, they’re merely a wish list.

Moreover, develop the habit of framing your goals in a positive way. Rather than saying, “I can’t possibly complete this project in less than two weeks,” try saying, “I can complete this project in two weeks.” Goals framed in positive statements are more strongly reinforced in the mind because they focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t do.

Positive self-talk

If you struggle with low self-confidence, you need to start managing the self-talk that goes on in your mind. Specifically, you need to eliminate your negative self-talk. You may feel your life and career experiences up to now have destroyed your self-confidence. Regardless, it’s time to forgive anyone you’ve blamed (including yourself), let the past go, and move on. If you insist on being stuck in the past, that’s your choice, but you’re only hurting yourself with this type of negative self-talk.

I suggest you start telling yourself the truth, which happens to be positive. Your past has already occurred and there is absolutely nothing you can ever do to change it. You cannot do anything about the career mistakes of yesterday, but you can work to do a better job today and build a better tomorrow. I can assure you that developing positive self-talk is an infinitely more worthwhile investment that will result in growing your self-confidence.


Don’t be afraid to set progressively higher goals and challenge yourself to achieve even more. Take it one step at a time at a pace that’s comfortable to you. Some people take three months while others may take six months or more. Regardless, within a matter of weeks you will notice a difference in yourself and I guarantee you will be proud of the more self-confident person you’ve become.

Consider the following questions and decide whether your current level of self-confidence is either an asset or a liability.

  1. Do you always behave in a manner that others expect?
  2. Do you manage your behavior based on what other people think?
  3. Do you prefer to stay in your comfort zone and avoid taking risks and avoid more challenging tasks?
  4. Do you often find yourself working to fix mistakes so that other people won’t notice?
  5. Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed every time someone points out your mistakes?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the above questions, then it’s time you fix this. Here are just a few steps you can take.

Studies show that we are drawn to people who are confident. This is among the reasons that doctors, airline pilots, and higher academic scholars tend to be among the professionals we admire most. We appreciate their skill and knowledge, but we value their ability to apply that same skill and knowledge to the best interest of those they serve.
Receive compliments graciously

Acknowledge that you deserve the compliment because you have worked hard for it. Smile and say “Thank you. I’m proud of it as well,” rather than, “Oh, it was nothing. Anyone could have done it.” The former shows your appreciation of someone’s notice that you are striving to do a good job. Sadly, the latter gives the impression that either your contribution didn’t matter or your job is so easy anyone could do it.

Why Do Your Employees Work for You?

The answer to this question may be the key to retaining your best employees.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | May 11, 2017

I heard many employers’ express concerns about whether they can retain their best people. However, they are also concerned about retaining good employees and the high cost of frequent turnover.

Obviously, these employment issues have one thing in common – You, the employer. Have you ever stopped to consider why anyone would choose to remain in your organization and work for you? Perhaps it’s something you’ve never considered, but seriously, stop and think about it for a minute. Why do your employees work for you?

People choose to work for a company for many good reasons. Maybe the work is challenging and rewarding or the pay and benefits are too good to pass up. It might be that the company has an excellent reputation, or it could be that a friend works there, or that the office is only 10-15 minutes away from your house.

Regardless of why people go to work for a company, research says employees stay because of their employer. So, the question is reasonable: Why do your employees work for you?

Knowing the answer to this simple question can provide a lot of insight into who you are as an employer and how to retain your best employees.

I recently read an article on this topic by Dan Oswald of The Oswald Letter: Insights for Business and Leadership. He suggests that the best employers share the following qualities: a passion for their work, a commitment to success, and loyalty to others. I couldn’t agree more.

Passion – Some of the finest employers I’ve ever known love their work. They enjoy getting up each day and come to their workplace ready for the next challenges. They live the adage, “find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” When employees work for an employer who loves his/her job, the attitude can become contagious.

Commitment – These employers are also committed to success. When people work for an employer who genuinely cares about success, employees want to become a part of that success. Employees want to contribute to what the team is trying to achieve. They don’t ever want to be the reason that something doesn’t work.

Loyalty – These employers are loyal to the company, loyal to the vision of what they’re striving to achieve, and they’re loyal to the employees with whom they work. And often, the employer’s loyalty is rewarded with employees who are loyal to them. These employees are typically willing to go the extra mile because they want to help their employer achieve successful outcomes.

You may have noticed that I didn’t include the word charismatic as a quality among successful employers. Nor did I include their ability to motivate or inspire the people who worked for them. The employers I’ve described motivated others — not by their words, but by their actions.

You see, it’s what these employers do, not what they say, that motivates others to follow them. And it’s their passion, commitment, and loyalty that sets them apart and causes others to want to work for them.

Courage is Needed in the Workplace

When was the last time you truly acted courageously at work?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | April 27, 2017

Courage seems like a strange word to use in the context of an employee. Policemen and soldiers need to be courageous, but does the average employee holding down an office job need courage? The answer is, “Yes!”

Consider the following examples:

  • A plant worker discovers a piece of unsafe electrical equipment but says nothing to management. Hundreds of lives are at stake.
  • An HR Manager fed up with continuous poor leadership decisions threatens to resign over and over and never does.
  • A General Counsel admits abuse of alcohol and seeks treatment requiring 2 months leave from her job while her husband files for divorce.
  • A small business owner fires a client who is not a good fit even though the business is struggling.
  • A group of workers raising their hand and questioning whether the new practice will yield the desired results?
  • Speaking up when you are in the minority. Willingness to question the status quo.
  • Leaders willing to take a risk to try something they never had knowing there is a risk of failure produces the greatest results.

Courage is important every day at work. As employees, we’re pulled in a variety of directions. Our decisions are second-guessed. Our motives are questioned. Our choices are often judged. Our ideas are scrutinized. And each day it takes courage to make new decisions, new choices, and share new ideas.

Courage in the workplace, for the clear majority of employees, will never involve life and death decisions. However, it is never easy to risk the negative opinions of others, but so tempting to keep your head down, your mouth shut, and just get your work done. The newer employee may worry about risking embarrassment due to his/her lack of experience. The long-time employee who has taken a few chances, but none of these proved successful, so now he/she hesitates to make suggestions or offer leadership.

Nevertheless, if you are going to be successful at work, you must demonstrate courage You can distinguish yourself for your ideas and opinions, but only if you share them with others. If you intend to prove your value to the organization, you must think of ways to make contributions. Making contributions means that you to speak up, share your thoughts, and take some risks. Each of these steps requires some degree of courage.

Employers must do their part and encourage risk-taking, applaud new ideas, and create an environment where your people are comfortable sharing their opinions. You need to encourage; even inspire the people you lead to be courageous. The best way demonstrate courage is to do what you’re asking and expecting of others. In other words: Lead by example.

I hasten to add, you won’t always be successful. There will be times you will speak up, only to discover later, that you were flat wrong. You will have bad ideas. You will try things that don’t work. Remember this: No one, and I mean NO ONE, is successful all the time. So, when you fail – and you will fail, that’s when summoning your courage will prove to be a tremendous challenge.

When was the last time you truly acted courageously at work? I encourage you to do so because, on balance, it will serve you well. Don’t get to the end of your career and regret what you didn’t do.

Critical Thinking and Employee Success

Employees need critical thinking skills to solve problems on the job.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | April 13, 2017

There is more evidence than ever that points to how critical thinking empowers employees to learn from their mistakes, discover opportunities, and overcome challenges to create more successful outcomes in the workplace.

Critical thinking leads to innovative ideas that can be competitive and profitable. Leadership consultant John Baldoni in a Harvard Business Review blog article entitled, “How Leaders Should Think Critically,” says the ability to design new and better ways, or recognize opportunities where others see problems, comes from critical thinking. He goes on to say that employees and leaders who develop and practice their critical thinking skills are also better able to adapt to the unknown variables common to a constantly changing marketplace and increasingly competitive business environment.

The following are examples of critical thinking strategies that employees can apply to problems and can be used to develop remedies or solutions.

  1. Divide and Conquer: Break down a large, complex problem into smaller, more manageable problems.
  2. Progressive Strategy: Attempting at every step to move closer to the goal situation. The problem with this strategy is that it may require too much time and not seem satisfactory to others wanting more immediate solutions.
  3. Help: Get help from family, friends, peers, or online discussion groups.
  4. Lateral thinking: It is logical to think about making a good situation, which has no problems, into a better situation.Sometimes a problem cannot be solved, and thus, the best way forward is to decide the best approach to treating the condition.
  5. Research: study what others have written about the problem (and related problems). Maybe there’s already a solution?
  6. Assumption reversal: Write down your assumptions about the problem, and then reverse them.
  7. Analogy: Has a similar problem (possibly in a different field) been solved before?

Critical thinkers can offer original ideas that generate discussion and strengthen teamwork. Dr. Stephen A. Quinn and Dr. Gary A. Williamson in their co-authored article, “Eight Habits of Effective Critical Thinkers,” expressed their belief that the best critical thinkers are more about “doing things right” rather than “being right.” This determination to do things right strengthens teamwork as individuals compare facts and ideas to find the best solutions and achieve goals on behalf of their business or organization.

Quinn and Williamson add that asking questions, reframing problems and challenging assumptions are part of a critical thinker’s learning process. Critical thinkers are constantly learning from numerous of sources about a variety of topics. They also recognize the value in having a lot of objective information available when it’s time to make decisions. Employees who actively study have a better command of facts and have more sources of information to bring to bear on a task that moves the organization forward.

Critical thinking employees are capable of effectively leading others. They are not afraid to take responsibility for their mistakes and learn from them. They can honestly recognize where they can improve personally and professionally. Critical thinking skills empower employees to see where an organization can improve in operations, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and daily workplace success.

Wanted: Employees with Soft Skills

Employees cannot ignore the necessity of soft skills for success on the job.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | March 30, 2017

Regardless of what stage you are in your career, it’s important for all employees to understand that the dynamics of today’s fast-paced, functional businesses require the mastery of a variety of interpersonal or “soft skills.” This is not an either/or proposition. If a business is to be truly competitive, employees must be prepared to use soft skills in tandem with their functional skills.

This means that beyond technical or functional skills, employees must also be able to communicate effectively. They may need to use interview techniques to gather appropriate information from a potential client or negotiate to resolve a conflict. Regardless, employee success will undoubtedly require a balanced application of both functional and soft skills.

Types of Soft Skills
In 2007, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) released a report on the importance of soft skills in cooperation with key business groups around the U.S. The companies involved identified several competencies as keys to the success of 21st-century employees. These included networking, enthusiasm, professionalism, communication skills, teamwork, and problem solving and critical thinking.

Learning Soft Skills
Working with people who already demonstrate strong soft skills is an effective way of learning those skills. Many organizations run mentoring programs so that more long-time employees can pass on their knowledge and experience to newer employees. Other ways to improve soft skills include formal training courses, self-study, books, professional organizations such as trade associations, adult education programs, and online programs and webinars.

Soft skills, such as interpersonal behavior, communication, report writing and presentation skills, that augment technical skills are important in developing a successful career. However, these skills are seldom emphasized or taught in the workplace. Similarly, employees do not recognize the lack of or need for soft skills and often overlook opportunities to improve these important skills.

Professionals need to interact effectively with customers/clients, work in teams, communicate technical details, and build relationships. Business owners and managers will always ask: Is this employee able to lead a team successfully, communicate effectively, make presentations, or write reports to management? These are key skills that determine advancement, raises and job success.

Though many employers are hesitant to say so, most educators admit that it is easier to teach functional skills than to help employees learn the soft skills essential to their success. Those skills that make up a candidate’s character and interpersonal behavior are not as easily taught, but can have an impact on whether the candidate gets a job or is offered a promotion. Whether employees learn essential soft skills may well be the unrecognized factors of employee success, but like it or not, such success depends on the mastery of these factors.

Think Looks Don’t Matter? Think Again

Does physical appearance make a difference when asking for a raise or promotion?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | March 16, 2017

Your looks can help–or hinder–your chances of getting a well-deserved promotion, regardless of qualifications, especially in a weaker economy when advancement opportunities seem more infrequent than in times past.

Gordon Patzer, Ph.D., a psychologist from Chicago has studied the effects of physical appearance in the workplace for over 30 years. He said, “As people age, employers and colleagues perceive them as having less energy and being less effective.” He continues by saying, “Being older in the workplace is looked at negatively.” He even goes on to suggest that bleaching your teeth, wearing appropriate makeup, or updating your hairstyle or wardrobe can take years off a person’s look.

I’m not ready to recommend those steps to everyone, but it did make me wonder what drives the emphasis on appearance in the modern workplace.

What’s behind this type of thinking?

It turns out that our emphasis on appearance is not a modern phenomenon. Various psychological reasons explain why we choose to promote better-looking people and keep the rest behind. According to Patzer, there is even evidence that our ancestors felt better-looking people were thought to be more productive.

Patzer believes that better-looking people have historically proven themselves more capable in providing food and shelter. In terms of behavior, Patzer says, “People of higher physical attractiveness are more persuasive, which is critical in the workplace.” He also notes that stature makes a difference in the workplace. “We like to look up to our leaders,” says Patzer, noting that a subordinate is more likely to respond positively to a taller manager.

Malcolm Gladwell calls the behavior an “unconscious prejudice,” a prejudice you reach without even thinking. In his best-selling book, Blink, he polled about half the country’s top 500 CEOs and found that 58% were nearly 6 feet tall; in contrast, the average American male is 5 foot 9 inches tall.

Also, because most states don’t have laws against weight or height discrimination–men and women in the workplace are simply not protected from such prejudice. I don’t believe for a moment that either the courts or state legislatures have tacitly decided that it’s okay to demonstrate bias against employees based on appearance. However, the people involved in our political and judicial systems may feel that addressing discrimination based on physical appearance is simply too difficult.

What Can You Do?

I really don’t want to get into issues of weight and styles of clothing. Most studies show that confidence is considered an attractive quality to employers. The following list suggests things you can do to appear more confident:

  • No hands in your pockets
  • Maintain good posture (standing and sitting)
  • Don’t fidget
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Offer a firm handshake
  • Groom to make a good impression
  • Smile
  • Don’t cross your arms or legs when socializing.
  • Speak in a clear voice (don’t mumble)

In a competitive work environment, it is only natural to want to do everything possible to get an extra edge. Your physical appearance probably shouldn’t matter, but it does. Why sabotage yourself by failing to appear confident or by giving less than your very best effort?

Effective Communication in the Workplace

Employee communications can be improved and lead to greater business success.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | March 05, 2017

Employees with diverse backgrounds and personalities interact in the workplace daily. As such, the ability to effectively communicate becomes critical to the success of any business or organization. Here are some suggestions on how employees can improve their communication skills.

  1. Stay focused on the current issue. Sometimes it’s tempting to bring up past work issues or topics when discussing something current. Unfortunately, do so clouds the issue and makes finding mutual understanding and a solution to the current problem less likely.
  2. Listen to truly understand others. In the workplace, people may look as though they’re listening, but are really thinking about what they’re going to say next when the other person stops talking. Truly effective communication goes both ways.
  3. Try to see the other person’s point of view. In most workplace situations, people want to feel that they have been heard and understood. They talk about their point of view to get fellow employees to see things in a certain way. Those who try to see the other side find that they can then do a better job of explaining their ideas when it’s their turn.
  4. Don’t focus on responding to criticism. It’s so easy to get defensive when another employee or a manager criticizes an idea or a proposal. No one likes to hear criticism. But it’s equally important to listen to the other person’s reasoning behind their opinion. There can be valuable information in a difference of opinion that can improve the original idea.
  5. Take responsibility for your own ideas. Realize that personal responsibility is a strength, not a weakness. Effective communication involves admitting when an idea turns out to be less than an ideal solution. When employees take responsibility, they demonstrate leadership, set a good example, and show professionalism and maturity. Employers and managers notice.
  6. Look for compromise when possible. Instead of trying to win the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody’s needs. This focus is much more effective than one person getting what he or she wants at the other’s expense. Healthy and effective communication involves finding a resolution that all parties can feel a sense of accomplishment. This is certainly no less true in the workplace.
  7. Don’t give up on a good idea. Sometimes it is best to agree to “table” an idea for discussion later. Nevertheless, a good idea should always come up again. Approach the situation with a constructive attitude, and a willingness to see other points of view. It’s possible to be persistent without appearing intractable.

The importance of effective communication for employees and managers cannot be overemphasized. Almost everything accomplished in the workplace involves communication. Communication is needed to increase efficiency, satisfy customers, improve quality, and create more innovative products and services.

When employees communicate effectively, not only with each other, but with people outside their group, they are much more likely to demonstrate excellent performance. Effective communication is all about understanding and working together to find solutions; and not about merely winning an argument or being right.

Treating Your Employees with Respect

How does respectful treatment of employees impact job satisfaction?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | February 16, 2017

I recently had an opportunity to review the 2016 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The survey indicated that 88% of U.S. employees expressed “satisfaction” with their jobs.  This percentage marked the greatest increase of employees expressing satisfaction with their jobs since SHRM first conducted this survey in 2002.

The survey revealed several contributing factors to employee satisfaction. These included compensation, overall benefits, and job security. Also listed were opportunities for employees to use their skills and abilities, and trust between employees and senior management. However, the most significant contributing factor by far is the respectful treatment of all employees by employers (including managers and supervisors).

It’s interesting to note that respectful treatment of employees was also the top contributor to overall job satisfaction in the 2015 survey as well.  The message is clear: When employees feel appreciated for their time and efforts, the bond between employees, management and their organization is strengthened.

These factors serve as a reminder for employers to practice courtesy and respect towards employees in their day-to-day interactions. An article from the Memphis Business Journal offered several suggestions to help leaders treat employees with respect and increase overall job satisfaction. Here are just a few:

  1. Treat all employees with respect, regardless of their job titles or levels within the organization.
  2. Demonstrate respect towards employees on a consistent basis, even at times when you disagree with their opinions or believe their actions may not deserve such courtesy.
  3. Handle employment-related issues, including discipline and termination, in a manner that enables those involved to maintain a sense of self-worth and dignity.
  4. When faced with stressful situations, pause before responding, practice self-restraint, and ensure that your words and actions are respectful of others.
  5. Approach difficult situations from a more realistic perspective. Not every difficult situation is a “the tip of the iceberg” or “slippery slope” issue. Rather than reacting based on your initial fears or catastrophic beliefs, gain a little distance by reflecting on how these circumstances will be viewed a week, month, or year from now.
  6. Demonstrate respect in how you communicate by being mindful of things such as tone of voice, body language, and listening. Double-check your written texts by reading them aloud to someone else.
  7. Acknowledge mistakes that you make rather than shifting the blame to someone else. Turn these situations into learning opportunities by taking responsibility for your actions, demonstrating respect for those involved, and applying insights gained as guidance for the future.
  8. Build bridges by creating an inclusive work environment that values individual differences and perspectives. Be receptive to seeking employees’ input and listening to diverse points of view.

By treating employees respectfully, leaders can become role models for their people and increase job satisfaction throughout the organization. Moreover, the respect you show your employees may be the best strategy for improving your work environment and retaining your most talented employees.

Leadership at Work

Leadership is not about your title; it’s about how effectively you can influence others

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | February 2, 2017

An effective leader doesn’t have to be gregarious or have the loudest voice in the room. People with quiet, low-key personalities can also be outstanding leaders. True leadership is not about making yourself the center of attention. It is the ability to get others to buy-in to you mission, to trust you, to respect you, and to feel that your vision and strategies are in everyone’s best interests.

Over the last 40 years, I’ve been fortunate to become acquainted with many truly effective leaders and observe their leadership styles. I’ve observed five characteristics that I believe every leader needs to be effective, whether you’re in charge of a small business or a multinational organization.

Integrity – Make sure you do the right thing for the right reasons. In any leadership role, you will be called on to make difficult decisions. If you conduct yourself with integrity, your people will respect you. Some may disagree with your decisions, but if they know you act with integrity, they will accept your direction.

Courage – As a leader, you will need courage. Whether it’s the courage to ask why, challenge the status quo, or take a calculated risk.

Years ago, when a bottle of Tylenol was found to have been tampered with, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, the company that produced Tylenol, immediately directed that all bottles of the pain reliever be removed from every shelf in every store. He vowed that Tylenol wouldn’t be back on store shelves until the company knew that every bottle was safe. It was a bold move with a large negative impact on the company’s short-term sales, but when Tylenol did return to store shelves, so did their customers.

Lead by Example – Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. If you ask others to stay late, you should too. To lead by example means that you play by the same rules as everyone else. I a rule or policy is adopted; the rule applies to leader and employees alike. You can’t act one way and expect others to act differently. As a leader, you must be a role model.

Listen – You can’t understand what’s going on around you unless you listen to others. Listening is how you learn. It’s how you gain perspective. Listening is how you understand what’s important and what’s not. Throughout my career, the best ideas have come from people directly involved in the operations we were striving to improve. You can’t find those answers unless you ask a lot of questions from the key employees and then listen carefully to the answers.

Communicate – To succeed as a communicator, you must motivate, educate, and inspire others. Your words should motivate your listener to the actions you desire. You must educate them as to why you are asking them to do something. It’s tough for employees to be enthusiastic if they don’t understand why they’re being asked to do something. To inspire means the ability to touch someone in a positive way with your words. If you can do this, you will encourage your employees to do something they otherwise might not have done.

In today’s workplace, there are leadership opportunities for people at every level. If you master the leadership characteristics I’ve described, you will enrich your work experience and create more opportunities for others.

By treating employees respectfully, leaders can become role models for their people and increase job satisfaction throughout the organization. Moreover, the respect you show your employees may be the best strategy for improving your work environment and retaining your most talented employees.

Best Practices for Employee Retention

A three-point strategy that will encourage employees to stay with your company

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | January 19, 2017

There are some companies that people love working for and would never leave, even if they could do the same work elsewhere and make more money. There are other companies that have such a terrible reputation that even if they were paid more money employees would only go to work for them if there were no other alternative. Usually the difference between a great company that seems to be able to retain all their best employees and one with a double-digit turnover rate is the way that they treat the people who work for them.

Great Leadership – A company that’s serious about keeping its employees happy and productive realizes that effective leadership is essential at every level of the company. It is not enough for an employer to merely be a “nice person”. Good managers also need to be effective leaders. They need to support their people by offering the direction they need to get their jobs done the right way without micromanaging their employees.

Good leaders allow their employees at all levels to voice their opinions (within reason) without fear that it could place their job in jeopardy. Moreover, good leaders take the time to discover the unique talents and skills that their employees bring to the table and encourages further development.

Opportunity for Growth – Some of the most successful companies in the world have been built on a practice of promoting from within. An example of one such company is McDonald’s, a company that stands today as the biggest fast food chain in the world. I recently read that all the current high level executives began their careers with the company as lowly crew members, flipping burgers and mopping floors. The idea that their position can one day lead to something bigger is if they work hard and progressed through the ranks is incentive enough to get people to continue with the company.

Too many companies make the mistake of seeking talent outside the company when they have a key role to fill instead of looking within. This inevitably leads to talented employees leaving because they went unnoticed and their skills and hard work went unappreciated.

Saying Thank You – Some rather cynical people say that if you cannot reward your best employees financially on a regular basis they will leave, no matter how good the company is to them otherwise.  There is no conclusive evidence to support this assumption. Economic circumstances have forced employers to consider other ways that companies can show appreciation for their employees.

Some successful companies offer employee rewards such as a public “well done” for excellent work, an Employee of the Month Award, or even more tangible items like a prime parking space, a paid afternoon off work, or a gift certificate for a free lunch or dinner. These and others have been successfully in motivating employees to give their best effort at work.

Other successful companies, in an effort to retain their most talented employees, offer a more flexible work day or the opportunity to work from home a few days a week.  Increasingly, as people look for ways to de-stress their busy lives this is something that often works very well.

These are just a few of the ways that successful companies manage to retain talent and keep their employees happy. The biggest key though is understanding that employees are people and want to be treated with respect and feel that their work is appreciated.

Career Development

Where do you want your job to take you in 2017?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | January 05, 2017

The essence of a career is the opportunity to advance. If you have been working in a job for several years and have not advanced beyond your current level during this period, it could be an organizational issue. You may work for a family business in which most of those receiving significant promotions are family members. You may work for a company with few enough employees that there is simply no realistic opportunity for advancement.

In most cases, the reason an employee does not advance has more to do with the employee than the company. As such, the employee must take initiative to address their own deficiencies to advance or become very satisfied in the same job indefinitely. Consider the following actions you can take right now to begin your quest for advancement:

  • Think about what you want from your career. If you’re just starting out, figure out what you like about your work and what you would rather be doing some day. Imagine where you’d like to see yourself in 2 years, 5 years, and 10 years. If you’ve been working for a while, reassess your career plans. Is this where you expected to be by now? If not, why haven’t you progressed to the level you wanted to achieve? What’s holding you back?
  • Learn new skills. New skills will often help you get on track for advancement. To get ahead in your career, you need to constantly learn new things to prepare you for the next step. Ask your supervisor how you can broaden your skills. Volunteer for jobs that will expand your work experience and give you the background to advance.
  • Find a mentor. Look for someone in the organization who knows the job you want. Ask that person for advice and guidance about what steps you need to take to advance.
  • Discover all you can about the organization. Get to know people in other departments; find out what they do and how their jobs interact with yours and others throughout the organization. The more you learn about what the company does, how it does it, and why, the more promotable you’ll become.
  • Volunteer for special projects, teams, and committees. Getting involved in special projects with cross-departmental teams and committees is a good way to get to know people throughout the company. It’s also an excellent opportunity for others—especially people in the area where you want to work—to get to know you and see what you can do.
  • Become the “go to” person for solutions and new ideas. Establish yourself as a problem solver and a resource for creative new ways to increase productivity, improve quality, and generally expand the effectiveness of your department and the company. Welcome change, and always be alert to the possibility that there’s a better way to do things.
  • Improve your effectiveness in your current job. Even while you’re looking for opportunities for advancement, keep turning in a superior performance in the job you hold now. Don’t focus all your energy on tomorrow at the expense of doing a good job today.

If you want your job to be more than just a job, if you want to get ahead and earn promotions and more money, then you must think of your work in a broader perspective. You need to think about it as a career — one in which you have the power to grow and develop.

Why Goals Matter

Goals May Be Your Keys to Improvement in 2017

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | December 22, 2016

As we stand on the threshold of 2017, it’s probably worthwhile to remember that goals help us succeed in several ways:

  1. Goals give you direction. They provide you with a destination and a road map for getting there.
  2. Goals provide feedback. As you proceed with your goal in sight, you can see when to modify your course to reach your destination.
  3. Goals motivate. They give you a daily purpose, a challenge, and a reward when you reach them.

By setting goals, you can:

  1. Achieve more.
  2. Improve performance.
  3. Increase your motivation.
  4. Increase your pride and satisfaction in your achievements.
  5. Improve your self-confidence.
  6. Eliminate attitudes that hold you back.

Research shows that people who set goals:

  1. Suffer less from stress and anxiety.
  2. Concentrate better.
  3. Show more self-confidence.
  4. Perform better.
  5. Are happier and more satisfied.

On the other side of the coin, there can be a cost to not setting goals. Consider this exchange from Alice in Wonderland:

Excuse me, sir. Could you tell me which road to take?
Where are you going?
Oh, I don’t know where I am going, sir.
Well, if you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.

Effective goal-setting is a complex yet logical process. These 10 steps will help you set specific goals to broaden your background, develop your skills, and achieve your dreams.

  1. Identify long-term and short-term goals. Long-term goals typically focus on months or years ahead, whereas short-term goals focus on the next few days, weeks, or months, serving as stepping-stones to long-term goals.
  2. Set outcome goals and task goals. Outcome goals aim at a result—for example, to increase your production rate by 5 percent. Task goals are tasks you need to do to achieve your outcome goals—for example, organize your work area to increase output.
  3. Identify what you need to achieve goals. Make a list of everything you need. Include training, resources, the cooperation of co-workers, etc.
  4. Recognize obstacles. Consider anything that might get in the way of achieving your goal—for example, poor time management, lack of skills, a negative attitude, fear of failure. Figure out how you can eliminate these obstacles.
  5. Write your goals and review them often. Until you commit goals to paper, they’re only thoughts, not facts. Review your list to remain focused.
  6. Create a plan of action. Formulate a step-by-step action plan for achieving your goals. An action plan is essential, especially if your goal is broad or if you have several obstacles to overcome.
  7. Set a date to achieve your goal. Mark it on your calendar and circle it in red. A target date will keep you moving steadily toward your goal, without backsliding.
  8. Take action. Follow your plan and deal with problems as they arise. Without action, goals remain dreams.
  9. Evaluate your goals. Set specific dates to monitor your progress and modify goals as needed.
  10. Set new goals. Once you achieve one goal, set a new one, and keep going.

If you determine to never give up setting and achieving goals, you will make achievement a lifelong process.

Diversity in Action

What are the real benefits of a diverse workforce?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | December 15, 2016

When you hear the word diversity, do you think it applies only to other people? The truth is that diversity is about all of us because we’re all different in some way. But different is good especially at work.

Consultant and author Michael D. Lee gives six advantages to workplace diversity:

  1. Creativity increases when people with different ways of solving problems work together. “There is no one best answer to any question,” says Lee. “The more ideas you can obtain from different people, the more likely you are to develop a workable answer.”
  2. Productivity increases when people of different backgrounds pull together to achieve goals.
  3. New attitudes. These come with the diversity of our workforce through diverse cultures and backgrounds.
  4. Language skills become available through people of different nationalities.
  5. Understanding increases. By relating to people of all backgrounds, we gain a greater perspective and experience greater success.
  6. New processes. A typical result when people with different ideas come together and collaborate.

Diversity and Decision-Making

A further benefit of diversity is improved decision-making. Researchers at Stanford Business School set up two groups of three people who were told to solve a murder mystery. In both groups two members were friends and the third was a stranger.

In the first group, the friends had a common piece of information, and the stranger was given a piece of unique information essential to solving the murder. In the second group, one friend and one stranger had common information, while the other friend had the unique information.

Which group was more likely to solve the mystery? The group with two friends having common information and the stranger with unique information.

Researchers speculate that this was because the friends shared a common background, expected to have the same information, and therefore didn’t bother to share what they knew. The stranger, however, knew he was different and expected to have different information, so he was more likely to share it. Thus, a better decision was made and the mystery solved.

Celebrating diversity in the workplace makes our differences work for us. We aim to create an environment in which we can all feel comfortable, one in which we can capitalize on our differences and create a more effective, productive, and competitive organization.

We’re all different in some way. Consider the following:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Ethnic heritage
  • Family status
  • Gender
  • Generation
  • Mental or physical abilities
  • National origin
  • Occupation
  • Race
  • Regional origin
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Skin color
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Work experience
  • Work style

A diverse workplace reflects our changing world. The organizations that best manage this diversity are the most likely to thrive in the 21st century.

Got Time?

Do you manage your time, or does it manage you?

By David Cox | December 08, 2016

You’ve heard it before, but it’s so important, it bears repeating: By managing your time more effectively, you can get more done without all the stress. The trick is making the most of the time available. Here’s how:

  1. Set clear goals. Set both short- and long-term goals. Don’t forget to review and update them whenever circumstances change.
  2. Establish priorities. Not every task is equally important or urgent. By prioritizing you can impose order (and calm) on a hectic schedule.
  3. Generate a game plan. Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each day planning your workload for the day (or do it the last 15 minutes of each day for the next day).
  4. Learn to live with interruptions. Keep focused on your priorities despite the phone calls, visitors, or unexpected meetings.
  5. Keep your cool. If you start to fall behind or when you have too much to do, don’t panic. Take a moment to review what you must do, prioritize tasks, and get back to work, taking things one step at a time. If you’re overwhelmed, talk to your supervisor and ask for help.
  6. Be flexible. It’s important to plan your time, but don’t become a slave to your plan. When circumstances change, be prepared to adjust your plan accordingly. For example, if your supervisor comes to you with a rush job and tells you to put everything else aside, you’re going to have to juggle your schedule to fit in the unexpected job.
  7. Pay attention to your energy cycle. Do the most difficult and important tasks when you are alert and have the most energy. Save the more routine chores for the times when your energy level is low.
  8. Maintain a realistic pace. Be realistic about what you can accomplish each day. Don’t expect to always finish everything on your To Do list.
  9. Manage procrastination. Don’t avoid large or complicated projects. Try dividing big jobs into more manageable parts and tackling them one at a time.

Parkinson’s Law says work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The first step in gaining control of your time is to repeal Parkinson’s Law and schedule your work to fit the available time. Here are more time management tips:

  • Focus on one task at a time. Of course, you need to plan your work schedule for the day, the week, and even the month ahead. But while you’re performing each task, think of it as the only job you must do. Without worrying about everything else you have to do; you’ll work more efficiently.
  • Don’t waste a minute. Squeeze small jobs into the little blocks of waiting time or downtime that open here and there during the day between major tasks.
  • Be optimistic. Believe in your ability to solve work problems and stay on schedule. (By the way, March is Optimism Month.)
  • Work carefully but keep a steady pace. You’ll feel more energized and work more efficiently.
  • Take a break. When you start to feel drained, take a minute or two to refresh yourself.
  • Stand up from time to time. According to a University of Southern California study, your brain processes information faster when you’re standing than when you’re sitting. So, stand up while you’re on the phone or when you’re making a To Do list.

How Do Your Employees Learn?

Different generations have different learning styles

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | December 01, 2016

One of the most common characteristics among successful small businesses is employers who make employee training and development a priority. Unfortunately, spending time and money on employee training programs does not guarantee that employees in a multi-generational workplace will learn and give employers a true return on their training investment.

How do generational differences impact employee learning, and what methods of delivery to accommodate learners of all ages? Aero Jet Medical Chief Operating Officer Ronny Wilson offers the following answers.

“Trainers should take generational differences into account—and leverage them—to improve the learning experience, says Wilson. “The generations are certainly different in how they learn,” he says.

Generally, Baby Boomers “tend to need immediate contact with the content and the instructor”—often through lectures and examples that relate to their own personal experiences.

Meanwhile, Generation Xers often are comfortable with technology and prefer to be independent, quick learners, Wilson says.

Millennials, on the other hand, tend to fully embrace technology, prefer working in team environments, and seek instant feedback. “They like instant gratification and reinforcement of their efforts.”

Just as trainers must design training to accommodate different learning styles, they also should make a deliberate effort to recognize the personal biases and strengths that each generation brings to training. For example, the format used—and the pace set—will impact how people learn and retain information.

“You can make a difference in how you present the content,” Wilson says. “It’s important to build a program from the outset that attracts the issue of generational diversity, because people require different inputs to acquire information and then be able to turn around and apply the information.”

The consequences of not addressing generational diversity in training are “wasted time, money and individuals not retaining official information to get the job done,” Wilson says. In addition, leveraging generational differences by incorporating a variety of perspectives can help make training more effective.

Each employee brings a unique perspective to training—a perspective based not only on age but also on other demographic characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and where they have lived. When employers invest in training that considers the individual differences of employees, you help all participants see information in a new light.

The Fear of Failure

What Happens When an Employee has Something to Lose?

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 17, 2016

We don’t like to think of ourselves as fearful, but we’re all afraid of certain things. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know this has been true since childhood. As adults, we realize some of those fears were real while others were imaginary. As children, we may have been afraid of the dark, or monsters under our bed, or maybe even a bully at school. Sad to say, as we grow into adulthood, our fears seem to grow with us and seem even more threatening. Some may be afraid of heights, others of crawl spaces, but a surprising number of adults are afraid of failure.

Psychologist understand that fear is a limiting factor in our lives. However, employers need to understand that the fear of failure can specifically limit the potential of employees. When employees limit their own potential to advance their careers, they are also limiting their potential to have a positive impact on the development of the business. So, what seems to be an employee problem turns out to be a problem that inevitably impacts the employer.

A young lady I’ve known for several years, named Audra, is a classic example. Audra has always worked hard and put in long hours in learning how to do her job well. In the last couple of years, she took a few big risks at work that turned out well and landed her a big promotion.

Today, Audra is a manager with her company. She leads a small staff, makes good money and likes her role and responsibilities.

Audra continues to work hard, but those risks that helped her get noticed and landed her promotion to management now seem too risky. She’s afraid that if she takes a risk and fails, she will look bad and potentially jeopardize her position. So, Audra avoids risk and plays it safe. Her fear has changed the way she behaves. She has moved from being a bold risk-taker to someone much more risk-averse.

Audra’s fear is causing her to stop doing the very things that helped her advance in her career. What’s worse, her employer seems oblivious to the fact that her fear of failure is limiting her ability to have a positive impact on the development of the business. A wise employer who recognizes this problem could take steps to help Audra get back on track and in doing so, restore her potential effectiveness in developing the business.

If you have a manager/employee who has been “playing it safe,” consider a conversation with the individual where the following questions would be appropriate.

  1. What are you afraid of at work?
  2. Are you avoiding risks you took in the past that helped you advance?
  3. Do you feel like you have too much to lose to continue taking those risks?
  4. What is it you’re afraid of losing?
  5. What risks have you stopped taking because of your fear of failure?
  6. Can you advance at work by “playing it safe?”

Maybe the employee’s fears are more like the monsters under your bed when you were a kid. Getting an employee through their fear of failure may be as simple as helping them assess their concerns and separate the real from the imaginary. Just imagine what might be possible if you stopped being scared and started taking those risks again.

Leadership By Example

Good Leadership is not Guaranteed by Business Ownership

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 10, 2016

Jim Sinegal is the CEO of Costco and he believes in leadership by example. Over the past five years, Costco’s stock has doubled and revenues continue to grow at an impressive rate.

His name tag plainly says “Jim,” he answers his own phone, and his unassuming office at the company headquarters doesn’t even have walls.

While other CEO’s are spending tens of thousands of dollars just decorating their offices, Sinegal pays himself an annual salary of $350,000. Most CEOs of companies the size of Costco are paid in the millions. So how did he come up with his salary amount? Sinegal asserts, “I shouldn’t be paid more than 12 people working on the floor.” His simple contract is only a page long, and even includes a section that outlines how he can be terminated for not doing his work.

Costco’s employee turnover rate is among the lowest in the retail industry, over five times less than rival Wal-Mart. In an age where CEOs are paid in the millions and would never be seen in the “trenches,” Jim Sinegal is unique among his peers and his employees love him for it.

Owning a business does not guarantee that leadership based on your habits, familiar routines or personal preferences will be effective. We need to move to a more objective standard where we identify what good leadership looks like and then lead by example in the workplace. Perhaps we could evaluate leadership based on a scale that considers things such as quality of hires, employee retention, individual improvement, and overall business performance.

We’re often hesitant to define good leadership based on objective standards. Likewise, we resist identifying poor leadership. Perhaps this is because we might discover that poor leadership is too prevalent in our own organization. It’s like admitting that you haven’t been doing your best job. We need to set clear expectations for how we want people in our businesses and organizations to lead, and then commit to model these expectations ourselves.

Even the most successful businesses face numerous challenges, but there are employers in every industry, both large and small, that thrive during the tough times because of good leadership practices. Good leadership enables businesses to manage difficult circumstances and perform far better over time than many of their competitors.

When employers take the time to define good leadership and then lead by example, they can have greater confidence that employees will mirror an effective leadership style as the business continues to grow.

Developing and utilizing a specific plan for leadership evaluation and training will help make good businesses even better.

Employers Recognize the True Costs of Employee Turnover

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 03, 2016

I recently read estimations that it costs $4,000-$7,000 to replace an hourly worker and up to $40,000 to replace a midlevel, salaried employee. The same article estimated that replacement costs usually run 2.5 times the salary of the individual. The costs associated with turnover include lost customers, business, and damaged morale. There is also the hard costs of time spent in advertising, screening, verifying credentials, references, interviewing, hiring, and training the new employee just to get back to where you started.

This expenditure of time and money does nothing to give an employer or an organization a competitive edge. However, despite these known costs and loss of productivity, we rarely hear of businesses doing anything to create a high-retention culture or reduce high employee turnover. The revolving door keeps moving. Employees leave, employers interview and hire more workers, allowing competitors with low turnover to focus more on productivity.

People want to be part of an organization that stands for something that provides them with personal fulfillment and meaning.

Nordstrom’s continues to pride itself on customer service. They maintain a high retention rate by placing more time and effort in the selection and training of employees and aligning the training to support the organization’s mission of providing excellent customer service.

I feel that businesses need to focus on workplace flexibility to stay competitive. The downsized, super competitive work environment of today often forces employees to put their families in a secondary position.

Appreciation and recognition are critical to achieving organizational goals. All people need to feel appreciated. In a survey conducted by Robert Half International, the results showed that employee recognition and communications were the number one and two reasons employees stay in their work environment with competitive compensation ranking fifth.

Studies and surveys continue to show that employees are attracted to training and career development opportunities. If employees feel trapped or that their job has become a dead end with no opportunity for promotion or variety, they will leave.

Recent surveys indicate that as especially true among Gen X and Millennial workers. An Association for Talent Development (ATD) study shows that leading-edge companies trained 86 percent of their employees while average companies trained only 74 percent. Companies that invest in workplace learning yielded higher net sales and gross profits per employee.

Retention is an issue employers cannot afford to ignore. General Ulysses S. Grant once said, “There are no bad soldiers, only bad leaders” to remind us that poor leaders and managers can be a problem and on-going leadership development is critical. If employee turnover remains high and leadership is unwilling to address the situation, the business will be “stuck” with a continuing problem.

Employers and The Perception Gap

Survey Reveals Gender Views of Equal Opportunities in the Workplace

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 27, 2016

New data from a survey by PayScale, Inc., addresses male and female perspectives on gender equity and equal opportunity in the workplace. This information seems to confirm that there is a “perception gap” between the sexes, especially in male-dominated fields such as the tech industry.

Could this gap be the result of the “Lake Wobegon Effect?” Lake Wobegon is the name of Garrison Keillor’s imaginary town “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

PayScale surveyed 140,000 people who took the employee survey online with two statements and asking them to what extent they agreed or disagreed with each one.

The two statements were:
In most workplaces, men and women have equal opportunities.
In my workplace, men and women have equal opportunities.

According to a PayScale press release, the results of the survey were broken out by all respondents and by responding tech workers. The responses highlighted a difference of opinion between males and females.

For all workers:
67% of male workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
38% of female workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
75% of male workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.
51% of female workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.

For tech workers:
66% of male tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
30% of female tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
80% of male tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.
44% of female tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, in a blog for Payscale explains, “The fact that three-quarters of men say there’s equal opportunity for men and women in their workplace, but only about half of women say the same indicate a perception gap between the sexes.” This perception gap is even worse at tech companies, with 80% of men—but only 44% of women—saying that women have equal opportunities at their employer!

Think about it. Only 25% of male workers believe that men and women are not treated equally at their workplace.

Psychologists recognize this effect as a willingness to identify inequities as a broad and pervasive problem, yet deny that the same inequities occur in our own environment (such as our workplaces). Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many do because it is hard to confront the fact that we may be part of a workplace that perpetuates inequality in the treatment of women.

“Unconscious bias is a more insidious cause of gender inequity at work than overt prejudice, precisely because we’re not aware of having it.” says Luckwaldt.

Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist and founder of writes, “If this data highlights anything, it is that men need to step up to the plate. We benefit from the system of inequity, we hold a positions of privilege, and far too many of us are blind to the fact that this is a problem that occurs within our sphere of control.” He adds, “This isn’t some vague social problem: every man, in every workplace, has the power to make that workplace more equitable. The women are leaning in: it is our turn to do the hard work of change.”

Employer Sympathy

What to Do When an Employee Suffers with Grief and Loss

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 20, 2016

When an employee loses a family member, do you find yourself stuck on how to respond in sympathy? Do you fear you will say the wrong thing or do something that will make the grief he/she feels even worse? How often have you ended up not doing or saying anything and later regretting it?

There is no greater need for employer leadership than when an employee experiences the death of a family member. Regardless of what is traditionally done in the name of the business (cards, flowers, food, etc.), sympathy requires a more personal approach. The kindest thing you can do, as an employer, is to acknowledge the loss and show that you care. Don’t withhold your support because you are uncomfortable. It’s not about you.

If you attend a visitation or family gathering, introduce yourself and spend a little time with available family members. No one should have to guess who you are or why you are there. Be prepared to introduce yourself and identify the family member with whom you work.

If you knew the deceased and have a fond memory of him/her, share it with family members. This is a time when people need to hear stories about the person they have just lost. Laughter and happy memories are healing in times of grief.

Be prepared to listen. A bereaved relative may want to share feelings. There is no need for a lengthy verbal response. All that is needed is an available ear and a sympathetic nod.

Offer to help in whatever way you can in order to leave the family free to grieve. Even the smallest act of kindness can be a tremendous help in times like these.

Attend the service if you can, and when possible, write a note of condolence to your employee. People will keep those handwritten expressions of sympathy and treasure them for many years.

After the funeral is over, continue to reach out as time goes by. Forget what people say about a year of grief. Grief often lingers long after the loss occurs. Mark the date of the death on your calendar and reach out with an encouraging word on the anniversary of the loss.

Part of building a strong employer-employee relationship is sharing the most difficult of times. If you can be there for your employees during times of grief and loss, you will have a positive impact in the life of your employee and in your own life as well.

The Idea Campaign

Your Employees May Have Your Organization’s Next Great Idea

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 13, 2016

I have watched numerous management consultants begin their engagements by surveying the employees of the client’s business. The goal of this survey is to identify workable ideas they can recommend to the client around which they will create projects and charge thousands of dollars in billable hours. This may seem unethical, but after all, the management consultants are just doing what their client was either unwilling, or didn’t know how, to do on their own.

Management expert Peter E. Drucker once said, “One has to assume, first, that the individual human being at work knows better than anyone else what makes him or her more productive…even in routine work the only true expert is the person who does the job.” So what do the “experts” in your company have to offer?

The concept for utilizing employee ideas and rewarding the contributors is not new. About four years ago, there was an employee suggestion program referred to as the Idea Campaign. In just three weeks, the organization using this approach received over 500 new ideas from their workforce. At the end of the campaign, they had substantial ideas and employee suggestions on how to increase productivity, cut costs, and improve employee motivation.

A number of organizations have used this program successfully. Eglin Air Force Base ran this campaign for two weeks where both civilian and military personnel were asked to submit ideas that could reduce waste and inefficiency or increase productivity. Eglin received a tremendous surprise when workers generated $400,000 worth of cost savings ideas and new ways to generate revenue. Harley-Davidson ran a similar program saving $3,000,000 in one 30-day program.

Organizations often use a reward and recognition approach to encourage participation. For example, employees submitting workable ideas might receive personalized gifts such as coffee mugs or a pens. Once a month there might be a scheduled gathering to recognize everyone’s ideas. A small gift certificate to a local lunch spot might be a much appreciated reward.

Employers should encourage employee involvement in contributing suggestions that might improve business practices and productivity. As an employer, if your organization is to be competitive, you should involve the minds, hands, and ideas of everyone in the organization. Getting employees involved not only yields valuable ideas and suggestions, but also improves employee morale as they feel more fully invested in the business, resulting in a more productive and satisfying work environment for all.

Do You Hire People Who Care?

It Begins by Asking the Right Questions During the Job Interview

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 6, 2016

Do you hire employees who care beyond their own self-interests? It’s not difficult to find job candidates who want to advance their careers and make more money. The question is whether or not you hire employees who connect their personal and professional goals to how much they care for the mission of your company and service to your customers.

How do we go about hiring people who care? I suggest employers consider the following three interview questions to gain insight into a job candidate’s willingness and capacity to care about those whom they serve.

Why do you want this job?

High-character employees serve their customers, they serve their employers, and they help fulfill the mission of the organizations they serve. They are neither selfish nor self-serving and they truly care about serving others. As an employer, you want to hire people with a passion for service. It makes sense for employers to listen carefully when job candidates explain why they want a certain position.

Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

I’ve personally experienced employees who have spent considerable time, traveled further distances and performed tasks above and below their pay grade just to provide the service I needed. A few days ago, I mentioned to a store cashier that I needed a particular item, but had been unable to find it. She walked around the cash register, headed down one of the aisles with me, pulled the item I needed off the shelf, and handed it to me.

The total time she spent on that bit of customer service couldn’t have taken more than a minute, but she went the extra mile to help me find what I needed. I will undoubtedly shop this store again.

I wonder how many employers bother to ask candidates to give such examples from their own work experience. In fact, I feel it would be appropriate to ask for a brief narrative answer about this topic on the job application. The people who demonstrate this type of care and willingness to go the extra mile inspire customer loyalty, which is clearly beneficial to any business.

As a supervisor, how would you deal with employees who come to work with the flu?

A couple of years ago, an area radio station employee, I’ll call Howard, went to bed one night feeling he was coming down with a cold and woke up the next morning with the flu. He called the station’s office, but his supervisor insisted that he had to report to work. Howard couldn’t do his job well, some of his colleagues including their most popular radio host got sick, and the flu impacted the workplace over the next three weeks.

A caring supervisor would have encouraged Howard to stay home, seek medical attention, get some rest, and return when he was feeling better. When a supervisor cares, he/she cares about the sick employee, the employee’s co-workers, and the company’s ability to serve its clients (in this case advertisers and their listening audience).

We should always endeavor to hire the best trained and most highly skilled employees available, throughout our organizations. Nevertheless, I believe employers need employees who care beyond their own self-interests. Just imagine what your business could accomplish if all of your employees were both highly skilled and cared about things beyond themselves.

How Well Do You Sleep When the Storms Come?

Well-qualified Doesn’t Guarantee Reliability

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 29, 2016

I’ve heard employers publicly brag about their employees, but privately disparage them due to their lack of reliability. These employers appreciate the skills of their employees, but don’t feel comfortable relying on them to manage even a limited portion of the operations. Hiring people who are well-qualified and skilled doesn’t guarantee they will be reliable.

I recently learned about a young woman named Jenny.

Jenny had applied for a job as a farm hand with Ed Jackson, a co-owner of Jackson Family Farms. When interviewed, Ed asked about her qualifications. Jenny spoke proudly of her training and experience working on her grandfather’s farm. As Ed discussed the stresses of farm work and the 24/7 nature of the operation, Jenny just smiled and said, “I sleep well when the storms come.”

Ed was somewhat puzzled by the remark, but since Jenny had interviewed well and provided better references than the other applicants, he offered her the job.

A couple of weeks later, Ed was awakened in the night by a strong thunderstorm. He dressed quickly and began to check things out. He found the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened and the generators had been topped off with fuel in case of a power outage. The implements had been placed in the storage building, safe from the elements and the tractors had been moved into the machine shed. The barn had been properly locked and even the livestock seemed calm. As you can imagine, Ed was relieved to find that everything was safe and secure.

Then, Ed remembered Jenny’s words, “I can sleep when the storms come.”

Because Jenny was reliable and proved faithful to her tasks when the weather was clear, she would always be prepared for the storms that would inevitably come. Moreover, Ed realized he could sleep well tonight, and every night, because he could depend on Jenny’s reliability.

There is no reason to hire skilled individuals who are not reliable. However, addressing employee reliability during the hiring process often doesn’t make the employer’s list for recruiting, screening or interviewing candidates.

If you are uncertain how to modify your current practices, help is available. You will never have confidence in an employee who lacks reliability, no matter how talented he/she may be. As an employer, by including this one qualification you can have greater confidence in the employees you hire and who knows, maybe you’ll start sleeping better, even when the storms come.

Do I Really Want to Keep Wilbur?

How Bad Employees Undermine Employer Credibility

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 22, 2016

Joe owns and operates an express delivery service. His business began 26 years ago when he started driving a Chevy van to make deliveries for extra money. Joe now owns his own company with 22 delivery vans. He employs 19 full-time and nine part-time employees. Joe has worked with most of these folks for years and has little employee turnover.

Joe’s employees conscientiously learned how to do their jobs well and the business experienced steady growth. Then, three years ago, Joe decided to hire Wilbur as a dispatcher. His workplace has never been the same since.

Wilbur made a good first impression and got along well with Joe, but shortly after he was hired the other employees began to see his negatives. Wilbur didn’t believe rules or policies applied to him. His negative attitude was off-putting to the rest of the staff and no one wanted to work with him. His most striking negative was, however, that he consistently denied responsibility and blamed others for his mistakes.

A few months later, customers began to complain about Wilbur’s negative attitude over the phone. Those complaints eventually reached Joe’s desk. He confirmed the problem with a few other employees and wasted no time in calling Wilbur to his office. They met privately for over an hour.

The other employees were thrilled that something was going to be done about Wilbur. Many were hoping Joe would just terminate him because no one believed that Wilbur could successfully correct his own behavior. In fact, the other employees had already planned how the work was going to get done without him.

When the two men emerged, Joe announced that he was creating a new position and had decided to name Wilbur as the new Office Manager. When the other employees realized that Wilbur was now their boss and learned that his promotion came with a raise in salary, they were very discouraged.

There are few things that undermine employer credibility more than the continual presence of a “Wilbur” in the workplace. The other employees don’t understand how such an employee can survive, much less advance in an organization.

There are specific actions that Joe could have taken prior to, and throughout this melodrama, to have mitigated these negative results. Such actions are not always obvious to the employer.

One thing is certain, Joe did not help himself or anyone else by failing to address Wilbur’s short-comings.

It’s not easy to know how and when to apply best employment practices. Employers may need help to strengthen hiring practices, implement more effective employee training, coach for performance improvement, and take corrective action at the appropriate time.

Nevertheless, I am confident that an employer’s credibility—your credibility, is worth the investment of time and effort. And remember, expert assistance is just a phone call away.

You Can’t Un-ring the Bell

Protecting Employee Privacy and Confidentiality

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 15, 2016

It is an employer’s responsibility to keep employee files in a manner that protects the employee’s privacy and confidentiality from those who do not have a need-to-know. The reason employers should address this now is because once an employee’s privacy is violated, an employer can improve and update practices, but cannot “un-ring the bell.”

When we help businesses establish HR practices, we work with them on how to maintain employee medical and personnel files. Those responsible for this function usually feel a need to defend current practices. I submit that updating these procedures is a wise practice that will yield better results for the employer.

I worked with one administrator who staunchly defended the practice of including employee medical information in their personnel files. Her argument: “Nearly 25 years ago our attorney told us it was okay for us to do it this way.”

In another situation, I found that medical and personnel files were kept in file cabinets not only located in separate rooms, but in separate buildings. I initially thought that, though unnecessary, the company was taking protecting employees’ privacy very seriously. Later, I found that both rooms were in common employee access areas and the file cabinets where these records were stored did not even have locks. When I questioned this practice, I was told emphatically: “We’ve always done it this way and no one has ever complained.”

Obviously, neither the length of time you’ve been doing something, nor the fact that no one has ever complained, make your procedures defensible under current state and federal law. Whatever systems and procedures are adopted by your business, it is wise to keep the following goals in sight:

  1. All employee medical information is to be treated as private and protected,
  2. Access to employee information in a personnel file should be restricted on a need-to-know basis, and
  3. All medical and personnel information retained by the company must be kept safe and secure.

If employee information is not being maintained properly, ignoring this problem will not solve it.

Action should be taken to protect and secure this information immediately. The most cost-effective way to avoid liability for violating your employee’s privacy is to make certain such violations never happen.

Making the Extra Hit

Taking Your Business to The Next Level

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | September 08, 2016

I once heard a story about a young baseball player who achieved his dream of making it to the Major Leagues.  He had talent and worked hard every day to be a good baseball player and make a positive contribution to his team.

And by all measures he was enjoying a really good career.  He was a solid right fielder who batted around .280 during his first two years in the majors.  Though successful, he was constantly concerned about being traded to another team and having to uproot his young family again.

One day, a veteran outfielder sat down with him to talk about his future.  He pulled out a yellow pad to go over the numbers with the young player and said, “You need to get one extra hit every nine times at bat.  If you get this extra hit you will increase your batting average from .280 to .310 and secure your career in Major League Baseball.”

The young player was astonished and replied, “It can’t possibly be that simple.”  And the veteran said, “It’s not.  You’re going up against some of the most talented pitchers in the world.  The toughest thing you will ever do is find a way to get that one extra hit every nine times at bat.”

The veteran explained that a .310 batting average would place him in the top of the batting order, incentivize team management to keep him with the organization, get the attention of teams contending for playoffs, attract endorsement opportunities, and increase potential earnings by approximately $10,000,000 in salary each year.

I work as an HR Management Specialist with 20 years of experience in the field.  I’ve watched HR professionals play a strong, supporting role in the success of the businesses they serve.  Where employers are wise enough to leverage the HR role and its functions, the business becomes even more successful.

What about your business?  Whether your goal is to more consistently hire the best talent, keep the organization compliant through its policies, design competitive practices in compensation and benefits, improve sales and service through training, or develop the Company’s next truly indispensable employees, HR best practices could provide the solutions you need to accomplish these things and much more.

Wise HR practices could be your organization’s next step—that “one extra hit” you need to take your business to the next level.