Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Remembering Cosby

I remember listening to his comedy albums when I was a kid. I remember when he was a very cool secret agent in the mid 60’s television series “I Spy”. I remember that he was black, but white folks didn’t care. He was a hip, cool, funny, good-looking guy. I remember how different he was from Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor; both of whom were much funnier but , man oh man, they could get dirty. He was always above it. I remember his long-running show where a black family lived like an upper-class, professional white family and made it seem possible. I remember as he got older, he became a voice of reason speaking out against the “rap”/gang culture that was attracting so many young blacks. He preached responsibility and accountability to black parents, institutions and communities.

I remember “that” Bill Cosby and I don’t want to think about “the other “ Bill Cosby. That good and evil can work so well in the same person is a great mystery and the most frightening.

“Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” – C.S. Lewis

Monday, December 28, 2015


"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”- William Arthur Ward

Every year around this time I review and grade the predictions I made in the previous December. Then I make my predictions for the coming year. Each year my predictions get worse. Be it sports, politics, world events or financial markets; my crystal ball is broken. Last year, I got a few predictions partially correct. The New England Patriots did win the Super Bowl. Lower energy prices kept the economy from going totally in the tank. A big logistics company bought a big trucking company, but not exactly as I predicted. Most everything else I got wrong.

I’ve noticed that a lot of magazines, newspapers and bloggers have now taken to making annual predictions. Most of them don’t look back a year later. And if they do, they only point out the predictions they got right or close to right. Predictions, especially off-the-wall predictions, tend to get “clicks” (no pun intended.) Readers are more likely to “click” on a headline that reads: “Hillary Won’t Be On The Ballot In November” than they are one that reads: “Clinton A Lock For the Democratic Nomination”.

So this year, I thought seriously about making some crazy predictions, just on the off chance one might be right. But, ended up deciding to take the more serious approach, knowing full well that I will likely be wrong again on most of them. So here we go with the 2016 predictions:

1. Hillary Clinton wins the election. (I’m not sure any Republican could win a national election these days.)

2. The U.S. economy muddles along. The second half of the year is better than the first half.

3. Oil prices stay below $50 barrel.

4. The Arizona Cardinals beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

5. The Chicago Cubs win the World Series over the Houston Astros

6. Jordan Spieth does not win a major this year.

7. “Spotlight” wins the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

8. The Supreme Court will rule against the University of Texas’ affirmative action admissions policy (Fisher v. University of Texas)

9. Terrorists attacks against Western targets will escalate in 2016.

10. Federal Debt will remain at levels above 100% of GDP.

In other words, 2016 looks like more of the same. God help us.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas 2015

If you’ve read some of my previous Christmas season posts, you know that I’m not really into Christmas. At least not what Christmas has become in 21st Century America. As a Christian, I’ve tried to hang on to the religious significance of Christmas. This even though I know that Christ wasn’t born on December 25 and the Wise Men did not visit the Baby Jesus in that manger in Bethlehem, but quite some time later. And we’re not sure where or even how many of them showed up. Questionable traditions notwithstanding, I remain persuaded that Jesus is who He says He is and the message of the Gospels is true.

So I am a believer. But this Christmas there does not seem to be much “Joy To The World”. It’s not just the recent events in Paris and San Bernardino. They are part of it, but enough has been said about all of that. Such events are representative of the fallen, broken world in which we live. A world that leaves us with hard questions and numerous doubts. For those of us living in a place and time that provides the highest standard of living in the history of the world, we look for answers that do not rock the status quo boat. Most of us are more interested in our bank account, our time off or our waistline than we are in life’s big questions. We turn Christmas into a Holiday Season for family, fun and gift-giving. And that’s ok, up to a point. It doesn’t get any better than watching the little ones on Christmas morning as they discover what Santa Claus left under the tree. But grown-ups will spend far more time discussing which team will “win it all” than they will discussing what does “it all” mean.

We are told that the most important thing is to be happy, to feel good about ourselves and the world around us. And the “Holiday Season” does its best to make us feel that way. But, if you read the rest of the gospel story you know that Jesus did not define joy and happiness on the world’s terms. In fact, He turned the world upside down. Which is why most of what we do during the “Holiday Season” doesn’t have much to do with why He really came or what He really did.

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." Luke 12:51

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

And The PC Police Came Knocking

Well it was bound to happen. Actually had a prospective candidate tell me that after reading my last blog post he did not want to be represented by our firm. That it was “Quite offensive to generalize an entire group of people with that post.”

Well, I thought it was clearly directed at those people who take certain verses from the Quran out of context and use them to justify violent behavior. I have said as much about people who misuse and abuse verses from the Bible. It’s just that for the past few weeks, we have witnessed a particular group of people, Radicalized Muslims, committing horrible acts of violence for what they deem to be a higher calling from God himself. And as directed by the words of His prophet as they have chosen to interpret their sacred scriptures. So, I suppose I am generalizing when I say that those Muslims who believe in a radicalized, perverted version of Islam are dangerous people. Even those who may not “pull the trigger” are part of the problem. Scorpions are scorpions whether they sting you or not.

To be clear. I do not have a problem with Muslims, or any group as long as their beliefs do not conflict with my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. But we have a self-identified group of people out there who share a very specific ideology that instructs them to kill people in order to further their religious goals and objectives. It just so happens that this is a sub-group of the Muslim faith. Are all Muslims terrorists? Of course not. Are all terrorists Muslims? Maybe not all, but these days, for the most part the answer is a resounding yes. Just don’t let the PC Police hear you say that.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It Is What It Is

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the
scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The
frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion
says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,
the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of
paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,
but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "It’s my nature..."

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" Quran 8:12

Friday, November 27, 2015

Performance Part III ... Tail Wagging

Back to the “Performance” conversation. To recap, in Performance I the point was made that the distribution of talent does not follow a normal or bell-shaped curve. The talent curve actually shows a high performance peak that flattens out very quickly to an “average” line that is reflective of the vast majority of people, The Big Middle. This is not to say that some in the Big Middle aren’t more talented than others, but the differences aren’t as great as one would expect if the talent distribution looked more like a bell curve. In Performance II we considered the high-performance end of the curve, The Best. Any successful organization has to have some of The Best. Without some of The Best you just cannot win over the long-run. In this last installment of “Performance”, we address The Big Middle and that group down at the end of the tail, The Worst.

Every organization has A Big Middle. This is where most of the work gets done. We’ve already made the case that there are very few high performers. If 20% of your people are above the “flat line” you are doing quite well. And in most cases less than a quarter of those “high performers” are truly exceptional. But here’s the key: The high performers, The Best, will elevate the performance of the Big Middle which in turn elevates the performance of The Best. We see this in sports and entertainment. A great player will make the average players better and as those average players make more plays, the great player’s game is elevated. A great actor will elevate the performance of an entire cast which in turn elevates the great actor’s performance. This is the beauty of having high performers on a team and having a team where most of its members are able and willing to do their jobs.

Which brings us to The Worst. If you want to cripple a team’s performance, just hang on to The Worst. The Worst 5 or 10% of your organization will do more harm than all of the good produced by everyone else. And if one of The Worst happens to be a key position, it’s a killer. Again, look at sports. Top teams avoid having any of The Worst on the field and certainly not in a key position. You can’t hide one of The Worst. Your customers will notice them, your competition will exploit them and the rest of your team will resent them.

Great teams and great companies work on “the tails”. Attract and retain The Best and get rid of The Worst. Avoid hiring The Worst in the first place and if one slips through the cracks, get rid of them. And face up to the reality that some number of The Big Middle may turn into The Worst and sometimes even one of The Best can become one of The Worst. Deal with it and deal with it quickly. Don’t let the wrong end of the tail wag your dog.

“Public hangings are teaching moments. Every company has to do it. A teaching moment is worth a thousand CEO speeches. CEOs can talk and blab each day about culture, but the employees all know who the jerks are. They could name the jerks for you. It's just cultural. People just don't want to do it.”- Jack Welch

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Of Course It's War

So what is THE answer when it comes to dealing with ISIS? The entire Jihadist movement represented by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the like has world powers running for cover and searching for answers. I don’t have THE answer, but I do recommend that we take a long, hard look at history as we ponder our options.

History tells us that when a group of people becomes totally committed to an ideology that is characterized by dictatorial control and a worldview that seeks to impose its particular form of tyranny on all of humanity, millions of people end up dead. One way or the other, this is the outcome. Communism ultimately collapsed under the weight of its own bureaucracy and failure to give the people what they wanted. But not before millions died. Fascism was defeated on the battlefield, but it took the most awful war in the history of mankind and the use of WMDs to bring it to an end. Millions died.

Jihadism or Radical Islam is now upon us. And it is upon us in an age where technology and weaponry make it possible for the highly committed few of them to terrorize the mostly confused many of us. However this plays out, it will be bloody and millions will die before it’s over. No one will get elected saying those words which is why no one will say them. You can get elected charging up a hill or leading the greatest armed force ever assembled. You can get elected by promising to bring our troops home and staying out of foreign wars. And you can build a lasting legacy by tearing down a wall that is about to collapse. But we are not likely to find anyone willing to tell it like it is today, because it is so much worse than we imagined.

“And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” – Revelation 14:20 (ESV)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Performance Part II…”The Best”

Last time I presented the idea that human performance is not represented in the classic Bell curve or normal distribution. In fact, studies have shown that the majority of people are “average” and there’s not much difference between those in the “big middle”. Assuming you have a reasonably competent “big middle”, organizational success tends to be driven by working on the “tails”. Attract and retain the best. Identify and remove the worst. So, in the next few weeks we are going to address three subjects: The Best, The Big Middle and The Worst.

The Big Middle is the foundation. But it takes “The Best “ in leadership roles to build AND maintain that foundation. At some point, any successful organization has had one or more of “The Best” people in charge. And, at some point, any failing organization is lacking some of “The Best” in key positions. I see it all of time in transportation and logistics. Companies spring up under a smart, dynamic, energetic owner and grow profitably…up to a point. Eventually, the organization becomes too large for one person to manage, and without a few more of “The Best” in key positions, begins to flounder.

There’s no set rule regarding how many of “The Best” an organization needs in order to be successful. Some might argue that, starting at the top, it would be great if every role which has significant leadership responsibility or a major impact on the bottom line could be filled by one of “The Best” or at least someone who has the potential to become one of “The Best”. The reality is that no organization has one of “The Best” in every key position. There just aren’t enough of those to go around. But, you need enough of them to separate your organization from the competition. Note, I did not say that you need enough of them to be competitive. You can compete, at least for awhile, with a solid “Big Middle” of average people who show up and do their job every day and that includes some of your executives. But if you are going to “separate your organization from the competition” you need some of those “Best” performers, the exceptional top five percenters.

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
-Thomas Edison

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Performance, The Bell Curve and The Long Tail

I’ve always found it interesting that we tend to try and plot most everything on a Bell Curve. We talk about averages and standard deviations as though God ordained that all of creation must fit this pattern. We even try to simplify it further by forcing data points into quartiles. Or we talk about elevating the average. Lead, train and motivate those who are below average to average or better. And if you believe in “normal” distributions, there is a meaningful difference between those down in the 33rd percentile compared to those up in the 66th percentile.

But what if we’re not talking about the Bell curve. What if the outcomes do not fit neatly into a bell curve? What if force ranking people and performance into percentiles or quartiles doesn’t really make much sense. What if human performance isn’t distributed normally? Instead of looking like this:

What if it looked more like this:

What this says and what we tend to see in the real world, is not a Bell curve with significant deviation from the average, but a relatively flat line where there is not much separating all those people in “the middle”. In virtually any human performance related area of life, you will find a small number of exceptional individuals who are truly peak performers. Then it drops quickly and levels off until you reach the very end of the tail where the bad apples hang out. Within the top 20% there is a big difference. There is typically a larger performance gap between those in the top 5% and those in the top 15-20% than there is between that 15-20% group and those whom we would typically rate well-below average (whatever average means.)

In 2012 two college professors published the results of a study of over 600,000 individuals in different fields and concluded that, indeed there are a small number of high performers and a small number of low performers…the vast majority of people are in the middle and there isn’t much difference.( Dr. Herman Aguinis and Dr. Ernest O’Boyle’s paper was published in the Spring 2012 issue of Personnel Psychology. It’s worth reading and, in my opinion, squares with what we see in the real world. These comments from Dr. Aguinis are worth noting:

"All five of our studies suggest that organizational success depends on tending to the few who fall at the 'tails' of this distribution, rather than worrying too much about the productivity of the 'necessary many' in the middle."

The bottom line, according to Aguinis, is that everything about individual performance has to be re-evaluated so managers can identify and go after lead performers.

"These people will be desirable to outside firms, so success means thinking about excellence and improvement all the time, talking with top performers continuously to find out what they need to grow and advance," he said. "Rating them once a year, based on a bell curve, will send top performers -- and profits -- right out the door."

So what does this mean for those of you who are just trying to run a business that gets stuff from point A to point B? We’ll talk about that next time.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Alienation, Anger and Virtual Gangs

Another shooting rampage occurs and we search for answers. It makes sense to talk about better gun controls. And, we should be talking about security on school campuses, workplaces, shopping centers, theaters, churches and just about any place where large numbers of people gather and become easy targets. And we should be talking about violence in the media and violent video games. And, of course, we should be talking about mental health.

We can point the finger at guns and say that’s the reason the United States has more of these mass killings. But the fact is that we’ve been a “gun culture” for over 200 years. Why are there more of these events today than there were 20 or 30 years ago? What has changed? A lot. For generations families, churches and schools were responsible for teaching kids “how to behave”. Were there failures? Of course. The record is there. Mass murderers, serial killers and monsters of all kinds have been around forever. But, on balance, when families, churches and schools were doing their job; there were not quite so many alienated and angry young people walking around.

Most of these alienated and angry people end up with others who are alienated and angry. These groups have different names, but “gang” seems most appropriate. Whether the focal point is a neighborhood, a race, a lifestyle or a religion; there are plenty of gangs out there for the alienated and the angry. And we now have the “virtual gang” where the alienated and the angry can join and participate anonymously. These virtual gangs are the breeding ground for “lone wolf” killers. Here their complaints are heard, their anger fueled and their acts of vengeance encouraged. A “real gang” tends to direct its member to attack strategic targets and even their random targets tend to have a strategic purpose. The “virtual gang” that meets in a chat room has no strategy. It’s all raw emotion and fantasy. And for most of the members, that’s enough. Virtual venting, emotional masturbation if you will, is gratifying enough.

But increasingly, there are those who feel compelled to act. And in a culture where guns are the most accessible weapons of choice, mass shootings are the result. Gun ownership is not going away in this country. Regulations may become more restrictive and enforced more stringently, but guns are here to stay in America. And sometimes the wrong people are going to get their hands on guns. Just like “the wrong people” sometimes get behind the wheel of a car, practice medicine, get elected or have babies. Those institutions that were traditionally responsible for teaching us “how to behave” are broken. We now feed our kids self-esteem pablum and anti-anxiety medications. The cracks are getting bigger and more of our children are falling through. Some of them end up with guns. We may eventually find ways to keep them away from guns. And, in doing so, perhaps save some lives. But we are not addressing the real problems and ultimately those who are the most alienated and angry will find ways to strike back. There is probably already a “discussion thread” going on about it out there in some chat room.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

As one gets older, one notices it when people die. One occasionally goes online to scan the obituaries in the old hometown newspaper. At first, it’s mostly older people whose names you recognize. An old teacher or coach. The grandparent or parent of someone with whom you grew up. The neighbor down the street. And then people closer to your age start popping up and it reminds you that time marches on and death awaits us all.

When famous people die it’s news. Mostly I don’t pay much attention and it sort of puts me off when some of these “famous” people get so much attention for doing so little. The passing of athletes, actors or musicians usually garner more headlines than those of educators, scientists, business leaders, great writers, theologians and, yes even politicians whose contributions may be so much greater.

So when an old baseball player passes away, I may take note, but then move on. Usually. Not so much with the passing of Yogi Berra. He was more than just a great baseball player and a successful baseball manager. He was more than just a bunch of great quotes that will continue to live on in our culture. To me he represented the baseball world I grew up in. He was toward the end of his career when I really started following the game. He was the same age as my father. Like my father, he was a WWII combat veteran. But unlike my father, he had found his passion and was good at what he did. Growing up in the Depression and going off to war did not break Yogi as it had others, including my father.

While as kids we may have dreamed of being the next Mickey Mantle, as adults we came to respect guys like Yogi Berra. Guys who stayed with the game and respected the game. The steady guys who were dependable. The guys who could mix humor and humility in a way that players and fans could appreciate. Not heroic figures with leading man good looks. Just average Joe’s who showed up every day and did their job. His kind will not soon pass this way again.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People?

As we celebrate the Labor Day holiday it only seems fitting that we talk about a work-related topic: “Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People?”. At some point in your career you will ask this question. Either you will have hired the wrong person, or you will be working for the wrong person or YOU ARE the wrong person. As a headhunter, I live smack-dab in the middle of the hiring process on a daily basis. I see best practices, worst practices and everything in between. Before becoming a headhunter, I worked in the transportation industry for many years. And, I must raise my hand and confess that I have hired the wrong person, worked for the wrong person and been the wrong person.

A good portion of my work involves helping people recover from bad hiring decisions, both companies and candidates. I also spend a good deal of time trying to keep companies and candidates from making bad hiring decisions. Bad hires are bad for my business. And even if I am not the one who makes the decision to hire someone and I’m not the someone who makes the decision to accept the offer; everyone still likes to blame the headhunter when it turns out badly.

So I have thought long and hard about this “hiring the wrong people” question. And I have come up with a simple answer: Companies hire the wrong people because they don’t know how to hire the right people. Sometimes they get lucky and hire the right person by accident. And depending on their process, they may make more good hires than bad hires. And sometimes, even when you hire the “right person” it doesn’t work out. But that’s another conversation. This one is about HIRING THE RIGHT PERSON as often as possible.

Back in May of 2014 I wrote a couple of blogs about hiring and pointed out that there were five primary factors to consider: 1)Talent, 2)Skill, 3)Work Ethic, 4) Attitude and 5) Experience. In those articles, I noted the difference between talent and skill. I also made a point about the value of “relevant and meaningful” experience. I also stated that testing and assessments, if done correctly, are very worthwhile. But if done incorrectly, they unnecessarily shrink the pool of qualified and capable candidates.

So back to the question, Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People? It’s simple: They do not thoroughly evaluate and verify the five primary factors which determine fit for the position. If any one of these is lacking, it will likely turn into a bad hire. Too many companies decide that a candidate is an “A player” because of their experience and their interview skills. If a candidate has a strong resume, some good references and interviews well , that’s good enough for some companies. It’s assumed that the candidate possesses the requisite talent, skills, work ethic and attitude to be successful or….well, they would not be successful. And clearly they have been successful, right?

You want to hire the right person for the job? Figure out the requirements in terms of talent, skill, work ethic, attitude and experience. Hire against those requirements, evaluate and verify as much as possible. And don’t get blinded by A+ experience and polished interview skills. Candidly, in most cases you’re better off with someone who is a “B” in all five categories than you are with a person who is an “A” in four and an “F” in one. If you can avoid hiring that person who is clearly lacking in one or more of these five critical areas, you most likely will not hire the wrong person.

Too many companies want to hire “the best” person. So when they find someone who is an exceptionally strong match on what they consider to be the most important requirements for the position, they are willing to overlook a gap or weakness in what they consider to be an issue of lesser importance. My question is always this: When it comes to Talent, Skill, Work Ethic, Attitude and Experience; which one of those are you willing to sacrifice? How good would the candidate have to be to make up for falling short in one of these five areas? In my opinion you’re better off with someone who is “good enough” in all five than you are with someone who is a superstar in four and seriously lacking in one. The exception to that would be “skill” in positions where you can train the person for skill. If I can get them up to speed on skills, then I’ll take the superstar every time. But the farther you move up into the organization, the more you need to be hiring people who “check off” all five boxes.

You want to avoid hiring the wrong people? Hire the right people.

"I used to think business was 50 percent having the right people. Now I think it's 80 percent."
-Kevin P. Ryan

Saturday, August 15, 2015


"Of course life is bizarre, the more bizarre it gets, the more interesting it is. The only way to approach it is to make yourself some popcorn and enjoy the show.”- David Gerrold

I appreciate technological advancements, in theory. In practice, I am a skeptic. If I have something that works, I am not much inclined to reach out for something that claims to work better. I held on to my Blackberry until the bitter end. The combination of observing all of the things my wife could do with her Samsung smart phone and the sheer humiliation of having small children point and laugh when they saw me using the Blackberry, finally pushed me over the edge last year and I got a MotoX. It’s still not the fanciest device out there and it’s not cool. And I use it mostly for the same stuff for which I used the Blackberry. But, now I am only 5 years behind the techno-curve, not 15.

I jumped on the iPAD several years ago. I didn’t have anything else that could do what the iPAD could do, so I wanted one. It’s now an old, old iPAD and people keep telling me I should upgrade. This one does what I want done, I am happy. I will wear it out, then upgrade to something that has probably been around for at least two years.

I was early on the e-readers. Bought one of the first Kindles. Still using it. See no need to change. It does what I want done. Leave me alone. I still do not download music to my phone. I just don’t see a need for it. I have music on my computer and in my home. When I go on a long-walk or work-out, I don’t want the distraction. I don’t need music playing in the background. When I listen to music, I really listen to music.

My wife is more easily bored than I am and she’s not a big reader. So when we travel, she wants to watch TV shows and movies on her iPad. She has a Netflix account and goes on about all of their great programming. I don’t like watching shows on the iPad or even on my computer. And, I wasn’t sold on connecting streaming video to our big screen TV. But, my wife knows how to work me, so she starts sending me links to the various types of devices which are available to “easily and affordably” connect ones television to the internet.

I finally gave in and purchased a Roku 3 device. Little did my wife know that she would create a monster. I am now binge watching Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards. I’ve started a half dozen other series and will eventually binge on them once I get caught up on OITNB and HOC. And now that I can get You Tube on the big screen, I can watch my favorite scenes from my favorite movies. I mean who doesn’t like the “Ecstasy of Gold” scene from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (other than my wife)?

I remember many years ago, my mother resisting the gift of a microwave oven. She had a perfectly good electric toaster oven for warming up leftovers and the microwave seemed dangerous and unnecessary. What finally won her over was microwave popcorn. She and her dog loved microwave popcorn. Once popcorn opened the door, she embraced her microwave and it became her go to appliance.

Those who develop technology and more importantly those who market it should take note. If you want to sell to the mainstream; find out what they like….then give it to them. Not bad advice, no matter what you’re selling.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Game Is Changing….Demographics & Tipping Points

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Technology tends to change the game over a relatively short period of time. We can measure the changes in months and years. Demographic changes tend to be measured in decades and generations. However, the IMPACT of changing Demographics tends to hit quickly and significantly once those changes reach a tipping point. My sense is that we have reached “tipping points” on multiple fronts and these “tipping points” will have radical impact on how we produce, distribute and consume goods and services in the future. Technology may indeed be the great “enabler” when it comes to many of these changes, but the motivation is very much human.

So what are some of these changes or tipping points that are impacting transportation and logistics? One that clearly jumps to mind is the shortage of truck drivers. This is the result of a long cycle of changing trends, demographics and regulations. There are literally dozens of reasons why we do not have enough truck drivers. Some are unique to trucking and some are larger issues which also explain why we don’t have enough skilled tradesmen (or tradeswomen for that matter). They include things like fewer kids growing up on farms and having early exposure to equipment and manual labor; or the push for all kids to go to college and the devaluation of “blue collar” careers; or the perception of trucks being bad for the environment; or just considering the pay as being too low for the required time and effort. Tighter regulations which the society has chosen to impose for safety reasons have an impact. Lower birth rates within the traditional truck driver demographic have an impact. The list could go on forever. Bottom-line, there have a been a multitude of fundamental changes which have resulted in a critical shortage of truck drivers.

Another example of a major tipping point is the growth in e-commerce retail. What Amazon is doing to retail is a game-changer for transportation and logistics service providers. Products are suddenly purchased and distributed much differently. If your business is built around DC to store delivery, and if the product can be effectively sold and delivered via e-commerce, your business is in trouble. On the other hand, if you are in the final mile B to C delivery space, opportunity abounds. But so does risk depending on how you’ve built your business.

Changing demographics tend to drive changes in politics which in turn create major changes for businesses. For transportation companies, a political environment that tends to be pro-union and anti-independent contractor is bad news. If we continue down this path through a couple of more election cycles, the transportation system as we know it will be completely changed. We could well end up paying more money for poorer service. There will be winners and losers and if you are not prepared to play the “new game” you will lose.

And whatever your business model, you will need some people involved. Which again brings us back to changing demographics. I’ve commented about this before in discussing Millennials in the workforce. You simply cannot manage people the way you did twenty years ago. It doesn’t mean that this New Generation Employee is bad. In many ways, they are better and given all of the other changes going on in the world, very likely to be more productive over the long run. But they are different. They think about work-life balance differently. They think about employee-company loyalty differently. They think about rewards differently. They think about communication and feedback differently.

The game has changed. Learn to play the new game or cash in your chips.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Game Is Changing….Technology

Last week I wrote that we were entering a new and different world when it comes to doing business. There are fundamental changes occurring that are forcing transportation and logistics service providers to adapt or else. One of the most significant game changers is technology. For those of us old enough to remember what it was like doing business before computers and cell phones, today’s information and communication capabilities are truly amazing. I have been fortunate enough to sort of ride along on the wave of technological advancements and I cannot imagine doing business the way we used to.

Back in the mid-60’s, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, wrote a paper stating that essentially computing power would double every 2 years. It became known as Moore’s Law and has turned out to be a fairly accurate prediction. Some even say that the “doubling cycle” is only 18 months. There are various opinions regarding how long this exponential explosion can go on. In theory, at some point, we reach diminishing returns. But certainly, in my adult lifetime, Moore’s Law seems to hold true. As a result, I think it’s fair to say that we humans are now trying to catch up to technology. What can be done with technology is way out there, just waiting for application and adaptation. If you can imagine it, it’s possible. In fact, it’s likely to become reality within your lifetime. At some point, the discussion turns to ethical considerations about the creation, development and maintenance of life forms. I’m not going there. Just read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Interestingly enough, the way technology is being used these days in managing the supply chain can be somewhat “Frankenstein-ish.” And when you hear the horror stories associated with “system conversions” or “new installs”, there is a tendency to step back and say maybe we’re trying to do too much with technology and let’s just get “back to the basics”. Sorry, you can’t go back. The basics are on the move and you better keep pace. As noted above, we humans are trying to catch up to technology. No question, sometimes application design is poor, training is lacking and implementation/execution fails. But it’s the human element that is failing here, not the technology.

I would say that most transportation and logistics companies would do well to stay close to the leading edge when it comes to technology. But, let other industries or companies with deep pockets do the pioneering. This is still a fragmented, low-margin business and the only thing worse than expensive new technology is expensive new technology that doesn’t deliver . The key is to constantly examine every function in your business and figure out how you can do it better. Don’t think technology first. Think process and improvement and how you can do it better. If it takes technology to get there, then determine if is it economically feasible and do you have the people who can and will use it? Technology is not the end all. But if you fail to take advantage of what’s out there, you will lose the game.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Game Is Changing

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”- George Bernard Shaw

So we have reached the half way mark of 2015. As I speak with clients and candidates I keep getting the same question: “What are you seeing out there?” I think I get it more often when we are in a so-so economic environment. When things are really bad or really good, I don’t get that question as often. Everyone sort of knows what’s going on. For the past couple of years no one is sure what’s going on, so I get that question a lot. When we think things are getting better, they turn for the worse. Just about the time we think it’s all going in the tank, we see it turn the other way
I would say that one word describes how most of us feel about the economy…UNCOMFORTABLE. And more so than normal. I’ve been around a long-time and business is cyclical. There are short-term cycles and long-term cycles. So anyone who runs a business understands the phrase: “This too shall pass”. For the most part things are never as good or as bad as they seem to be at the moment. Every day is a battle, you win some and you lose some. Just showing up and surviving is not a bad thing. And if you’re really good at what you do, with a little luck or help from above, you might just prosper.

But it is never easy. What’s my competition up to? What do the customers think about us? What do our employees think about us? How can we become a better company? Answering those questions today is more challenging than ever. Experience can be a great teacher, but when the game changes your experience can work against you. And when your experience-driven answers to the hard questions turn out to be wrong, then what?

I think this is where we are in 2015. It’s true for the global economy. It certainly seems to be the case when it comes to political, social and environmental issues. And it is definitely where we find ourselves in the transportation/logistics business. What’s happening now is the result of more than just economic cycles and competitive pressures. The game is changing and changing rapidly. Advancements in technology and changing demographics are turning the world upside down. Business models that were highly successful only ten or fifteen years ago are now dinosaurs. 2000 doesn’t seem all that long ago. But, 2015 is a brand new world and if you are running your business a lot like you did in 2000, you are going out of business. You may not know it yet, but you are going out of business.

In the coming weeks, we’ll look closer at the “game-changers” which will determine the winners and the losers of the future. But back to the original question, when asked, “What are you seeing out there?” My answer has become, “It’s a whole different ball game.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rooted in Evil

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”- Ephesians 6:12

In the aftermath of the mass murders in Charleston, a lot of the discussion has been about racism and guns in America. And these are subjects worthy of discussion. They are major factors in what happened in Charleston. But, the core of what happened there is rooted in EVIL. In today’s world we are reluctant to talk about evil and when we do talk about evil it tends to be an adjective not a noun. Actions may be described as evil, but we tend to relate them to some sort of cause and effect process. If we can figure out “the cause” then we can remedy “the effect”. If we are forced to admit that real EVIL exists and is “a thing”, then we must move from the physical world to the meta-physical world and ultimately outside of ourselves as the shapers and creators of “our world”.

I tend to think that it was not just coincidence that Dylann Roof chose a church and a bible study group as the place to make his “statement”. Through the journey of his young life, he made choices that led him to this moment. Were there other influences? Of course, and they may go deep into his DNA. If he had grown up in a country without such an awful history of racism and less access to handguns, might there have been a different outcome? Perhaps. But where evil is at work, another madman in America would have likely taken his place. And Dylann Roof might be out there doing some other horrible thing somewhere else on the planet.

Theologians and philosophers have argued over free will vs determinism for centuries. And there are many who would argue that what happened in Charleston was “predestined” or somehow in line with the mysterious, unknowable will of God. I tend to believe that we all play the hand we are dealt and God in his Providence offers a way out. He is more generous and shows more mercy to some, but we are all given the choice.

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they've got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk” – C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


"Money Magazine ranked McKinney as the #1 Best Place to Live in America! McKinney has been featured in the top 5 on the list since 2010. Money editors and writers look at data about employment, schools, crime and safety, and also evaluate each city’s overall quality of life to determine the rankings" -

I live in North Texas, just 40 miles up the road from McKinney where earlier this month some white folks got crossways with some black folks. It happened in a nice neighborhood where teenagers were having an end of school year pool party. A black girl, who was a resident, was hosting the party and there was a mixed crowd in attendance. Apparently the DJ tweeted that it was an open party and pretty soon it was overflowing with kids and noise and the general mischief in which teenagers tend to engage. It was a neighborhood pool and apparently some white women who were not there for the party took offense to the shenanigans and pretty soon there were racial slurs followed by some hair-pulling and face-slapping. The police were called in and things escalated quickly. One policeman in particular was pretty riled up and aggressively started rounding up and cuffing black kids. A young black girl objected loudly and when given the chance to walk away objected even louder and ended up pinned, face-down on the ground with the police officer’s knees in her back. A couple of young black males moved toward the officer and he drew his gun. Other officers gained control of him and the situation. Thankfully, no one was shot.

McKinney is a nice place. A growing suburb on the northern edge of the DFW Metroplex with great schools, beautiful neighborhoods and a diverse citizenry. One does not expect a “racial incident” to occur in McKinney. Certainly not in one of their nicer neighborhoods. But it did. And now everyone wants action and answers. The police officer has resigned. There have been protests. But, for the most part the community has come together and handled it the right way. Black and white leaders, mostly ministers, have taken the lead. This is the Bible belt and, believe it or not, a lot of Christians see Christians and not color. McKinney will be alright.

The media has milked “the incident” for all it’s worth. It’s just what they do and who can blame them. As long as we pay attention and the story gets “views”, the story will be considered newsworthy. And, I am inclined to say that we should pay attention. The fact is that “the incident” was not in “the hood”, it was in “the neighborhood”. The kind of place that used to be all white. Twenty years ago, this doesn’t happen. The black girl doesn’t live in this neighborhood and therefore doesn’t host a party at the community pool. The music is probably still too loud and some of the teenagers are probably out-of-control. Twenty years ago or today, some might be drunk or high. Yesterday or today, if adults aren’t watching the boys and girls are doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing with each other. Twenty years ago, the party is probably just about as bad as it is today except that it’s all white kids. (And Twitter isn’t around to facilitate inviting a bunch of un-invited guests. ) Teenagers tend to do crazy stuff. Mix hormones with alcohol or drugs and it only gets crazier. Happened in my day and it hasn’t gotten better since then.

But now we have “kids of color” in the picture and it’s complicated. Everyone sees color, more so if you were born sometime in the last century. And if you are in law enforcement you notice color and a lot of other sights and sounds that through experience tell you to be on guard. Is it profiling? Duh...yeah. Is it fair? Nope. But it’s there and we must deal with it. And the good news is that, to a significant degree, we are dealing with it. A lot of other McKinney police officers were there at the pool party. All but one of them demonstrated levels of patience and restraint that were admirable. Most of our law enforcement officers “get it” and go out of their way to do it the right way.

But it only takes one to create an incident. Even in places like McKinney, Texas. Then it falls back on all police officers. And at some point, being in law enforcement just isn’t worth it. Especially, for the really good people who might make the best police officers. We’ve pretty much gutted the teaching profession and now we are well on our way with law enforcement. Yes we need to continue the conversation about police-race relations. But we better start a conversation about supporting and respecting those we hire to enforce our laws, the vast majority of whom are well-deserving of such.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Land Of The Free

One of the big news items this week, perhaps the biggest news item this week, has been Caitlyn Jenner. The Vanity Fair cover shot pops up with every click. Check on the weather…there’s Caitlyn. How’s the market doing…there’s Caitlyn. Did Tiger break 80….there’s Caitlyn.

I guess it’s news worthy up to a point. I remember Bruce Jenner and his accomplishments as a gold medal winning Olympic decathlete. He was a “pretty man” and the women loved him. He tried his hand at acting and was really bad. But he had some success as a race car driver and a businessman. Eventually, Jenner’s celebrity star brightened even more as a member of the Kardashian circus. And now we have Caitlyn. As the saying goes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Five years before Bruce/Caitlyn was born, thousands of young men (most of them younger than Bruce when he won the gold in 1976), hit the beaches of Normandy. A lot of them died. A lot of them were seriously wounded. All of them and their families and the world, were forever changed. My dad was there as a member of the 101st Airborne. They missed the beach party having dropped in behind the lines a few hours earlier. A lot of them died there, too.

If you talk to combat veterans, they will tell you that they fought to survive, fought for each other and fought to get back home. But, they also know that they fought for a reason, for a cause. WWII veterans will tell you that the cause was Freedom. I doubt that any of them could have imagined a world in the future so free that a male Olympic champion might opt to become a transgendered female cover girl. We can debate the morality of Jenner’s decision. But if the Nazis had won or if Islam ruled the world, Jenner would not have the freedom to choose other than to choose death. Our world may be going to “hell in a hand basket” but that just comes with the territory we call freedom.

In today’s political world, my dad would have been a libertarian. His philosophy was live and let live, but don’t step on my toes. He was the Clint Eastwood character in the movie, Grand Torino, wielding a shotgun and warning the punks to “Get off my lawn”. But he would have just looked at Caitlyn Jenner and muttered something like “to each his own” and “it’s a free country”. And, he would ask why we are more interested in Caitlyn Jenner this week than we are in remembering and honoring those brave young men who stepped up and did what they had to do back in 1944 on the 6th day of June.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Here's Your Rain

It never rains in Texas except when it rains a lot. For years folks around these parts have been praying for rain. Finally prayers were answered. I can just imagine God, in his best Joe Pesci voice, asking ….You Want Rain? You Want Rain? You think I am here to amuse you and give you rain? You Want Rain? Ok, sinners…I got your rain. I got your rain right here. Here’s your rain. Anything else I can do for you this year?

We’ve had close to 20 inches of rain this month at my place. That’s a lot of rain. As much as 31 inches has been recorded in nearby locations. That’s a lot of rain. Lakes in North Texas that were 30-50% below normal are now at or above capacity. That’s a lot of rain. Water is pouring over the spillway here at Lake Texoma for only the 4th time in history. That’s a lot of rain.

In California and other western states, the drought persists. Water will be THE ISSUE of the 21st century and beyond. Whether it’s global warming or just a 500 or 1000 or 10,000 year cycle that’s drying up places like California, we need to find some answers. Whatever we do it’s going to cost money. Moving water or moving people cost money. Whether we’re getting too much rain or not enough, we somehow know that it’s not up to us. We can and should take steps to save our planet and conserve water. Do the best with the hand we’ve been dealt. But, ultimately we are broken people living in a fallen world. It’s going to be messy. I’ve considered many worldviews and this one seems to be the most coherent. (And, if you don’t agree with me on this, you are just proving my point.)

Stay dry or get wet. Sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we get what we deserve. And sometimes it’s just a matter of grace.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tell Me What You Want …Part IV…Show Them The Money

In the first three parts of this series we looked at the Millennial generation profile, the challenges this industry faces in attracting and retaining Millennials and possible solutions to those challenges. Those solutions are HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE, MAKE THE JOB MORE ATTRACTIVE and SHOW THEM THE MONEY. But, as noted at the end of Part III, before you can “show them the money”, you must find the money.

“Finding the money” is THE ISSUE. Most everything necessary to move anything from anywhere to somewhere costs more today than it did five years ago. Fuel goes up and down; and for the most part carriers have finally got that covered. Some do it better than others and therein is the key; DOING THE IMPORTANT THINGS BETTER THAN YOUR COMPETITION. The same is becoming true in other areas of the business. Equipment costs are going up. Some carriers will buy better and smarter than others. Regulations are driving up costs. Some carriers will manage it better than others. Technology is increasingly important and cost money. However, the cost relative to the potential results technology can deliver is improving rapidly. Again, some carriers will invest and utilize technology better than others. Customers will pay more, grudgingly of course. But at the end of the day, better rates are available and some carriers will do a better job of managing their pricing than others.

So the most important step in finding the money, is to be better than your competition WITHOUT TAKING IT OUT OF OR OUT ON YOUR PEOPLE. The days of squeezing your people are done, finished, over, history, gone forever. It will not work with drivers, mechanics, office staff, sales, operations, managers, executives or anyone else who is willing and able to work. They have too many other options. Good people will find good jobs. You better makes sure that you’re offering one of those good job and that includes money. Of course, money isn’t everything, it’s not even the number one thing for most people. But, you must be competitive. And if you’re going to hire Millennials that means you are competing with all of the other industries out there.

If you are already behind the curve and struggling to compete with companies that have better, brighter and more productive people; be prepared to bite the bullet. You either invest in people or become a bottom feeder. Invest in people who can really make a difference. And then allow them to make that difference. Invest in technology wherever possible. The more people you have doing things that could be done as well or better with technology, the more people you need to manage those people. In the long run, investing in technology and streamlining processes will give you more room to hire those people who are “difference makers”. If you’re still running your business like you did ten years ago, you are behind and falling further behind very quickly.

You must hire people who can make a difference at the key leverage points in your business. How much is a great fleet manager worth compared to a below average fleet manager? How much is a great customer service person worth compared to one who can barely get the job done. What is a great Operations leader worth? A great Sales leader. A difference maker in Safety? Capacity development? Maintenance?

You want to find the money so you can hire and retain Millennials? Start hiring Difference Makers today. They will make you money and turn those Millennials into difference makers tomorrow.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tell Me What You Want....Part III

In Parts I & II we identified some of the challenges this industry faces in making itself more attractive to Millennials. How do we offer upward mobility at a level and pace that meets Millennial expectations? How do we give them enough autonomy and empowerment in an industry that is so constrained by service requirements and regulations? And lastly, how do we address the work/life balance priority of Millennials in a low-margin business where overhead costs must be controlled and operations essentially run 24/7?

Last time I said there was a two-part solution. Having thought more about it since then, I have concluded that it’s really a three-part solution. My two-part solution was HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE and MAKE THE JOB MORE ATTRACTIVE. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there is only so much one can do without talking about MONEY. So money is the third part of the solution.

What does it mean to “hire the right people”? In my opinion it means selecting individuals who are not Millennial stereotypes. I think we are at risk of assuming that everyone in a certain age group is going to demand rapid advancement, high levels of autonomy and an ultra flexible work schedule. That is simply not the case. While on balance, Millennials as a group put more value on these factors, there are a lot of them whose values overlap fairly close to those of the older generation. You can still find people who are willing to pay their dues, play by the rules, be a part of the team, and show up when the work needs to be done. This industry has never been for everyone. I’m a baby-boomer and a lot of my peers had no interest in this industry. In fact, they questioned my sanity for getting into it in the first place. You can still hire people who will succeed and enjoy working in this business. You just have to look a little harder and interview a lot better.

The second part of the solution still must be addressed. The crazy, meat-grinder work environment that so often characterizes the transportation/logistics industry simply has to change. All industries have had to change. Factories aren’t what they once were. Farm equipment isn’t what it used to be. Office work has been totally transformed over the past 50 years. The macho, put in the hours, first-in/last-out mindset that has been so much a part of this industry for decades is bullshit. It’s not necessary, never was and certainly is not now, especially with technology allowing people to be tethered to their work 24-7. In fact, that 24/7 tethering makes it all the more important that employees spend less time shackled to their desk. There is more room for flexibility now. The work can become more people friendly. It’s never going to be the most creative, free and open work environment. So don’t hire people who are looking for that type of work. It’s always going to be demanding and stressful work. Which means don’t do needless crap that only makes the job more demanding and stressful. That’s where Millennials will call you out. Why are we doing it this way? Is this really necessary? Can we do things differently? Can we treat each other differently. When a load is late everyone and everything doesn’t have to be called a GDMF-er.

Last, but not least…you gotta pay ‘em. When I started back in the day it was in the management training program of a unionized LTL carrier. I was making 30-50% more than my similarly educated peers. Would I have put up with the hours and the crap for less money? Not just no, but HELL NO. The industry has been squeezed since deregulation and the pressure to control costs is always there. The industry is certainly not a premium pay opportunity for the best and brightest young professionals. And maybe it never will be, nor should we expect it to be. It is what it is and there is only so much juice in the grape. But, we’ve reached a tipping point. It’s clearly there with drivers and mechanics. The industry is responding. It may be too little, too late; but at least there is a response. There is literally no other choice. At some point, they must respond to the compensation being offered to supervisors, managers and executives. Companies are scrambling and hiring people in positions who would not even have gotten an interview, much less the job in the past. Ironically, the more under-qualified, less talented people we hire; the more inclined we are to cultivate the “old school” culture of micro-management, top-down command and control. Thus making the industry even less attractive to the people we need to be hiring in the first place.

The question is always asked, “Where’s the money going to come from?” That’s not a short answer. So we’ll save it for next time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tell Me What You Want…Part II

Last week we identified three key factors that Millennials consider important when it comes to their careers:

_1 Upward Mobility
_2 Employee Empowerment
_3 Work-Life Balance

The challenge for all industries, and especially transportation/logistics, is figuring out how to address these conflicting goals and still get the work done.

I think most employers appreciate the desire for “Upward Mobility”. We want motivated employees. The challenge with some Millennials is their desire to move up immediately. They aren’t much for “paying dues”. Add in a desire for “work-life” balance in an industry where long-hours and sacrifice have been the norm and you have a real disconnect.

“Employee Empowerment” is something that businesses have been talking about for decades. But it’s been mostly talk and gimmicks. Millennials are serious about Employee Empowerment. Work groups, team building exercises and “open office” concepts are about as meaningful to Millennials as the company “Suggestion Box” was to their parents and grandparents. They really want a hand in running the business and, if not that, at least doing their specific job the way they think it should be done. And, do not be too critical when things don’t work out. There’s that whole self-esteem issue swirling in the background.

The challenge in transportation/logistics is that the work is mostly defined by time and space and deadlines and regulations and customer requirements and circumstances beyond ones control. It’s like herding cats while riding a unicycle and having someone shooting at you. This does mean, that to a certain degree, employees must be empowered to make decisions and solve problems. This is not robot work. In this regard, the industry may appeal to some Millennials. However, this is also not the place for freelancers. There are simply too many constraints and “employee empowerment” sometimes doesn’t feel very “empowering” to employees in this business.

“The Work-Life Balance” issue is more of a question than an issue. What does it mean? Once upon a time, it meant working six days a week from sun up to sun down and resting on Sunday (except for the chores that had to be done.) Then people got lazy and started taking off Saturday afternoon to go to town. Then they started taking off all day Saturday. And then came the 40 hour work week. Work-Life Balance has always been a noble objective. It just means different things to different generations. And Millennials are telling us it means “spending time with family, learning new things and living a long, healthy life.” While I’m not sure what that really means, I’m pretty sure that what it does NOT mean is working 11-12 hours per day (plus a commute), half-day on Saturday, being on call and/or signing on to “the system” from home to catch up on emails, reports, or just making sure that the cats have not run off, the unicycle isn’t broken and no one has been shot.

So where does this leave an industry that is starving for talent? I think it’s a two-part solution. And that will be the focus next time.

“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4 (ESV)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tell Me What You Want..What You Really, Really Want…

In case you haven’t noticed there is a shortage of workers. It’s not just truck drivers and mechanics. It’s across the board, especially in those roles where traditionally we’ve seen people in the early to mid stages of their careers. The transportation/logistics industry is facing a huge challenge when it comes to attracting, retaining and developing talent. It’s an industry that demands long hours, often night and weekend hours. The work tends to be stressful, fast paced, unpredictable and people intensive. In other words, something is always going wrong. Most senior managers are still from the old school, even if they are not old guys. Old school says that you do what you have to do. You come in early, you stay until the work is done, you come back if you need to and the job takes priority. Old school guys may say that family comes first. But what they really means is that feeding the family and feeding them well comes first. Which means that work comes first.

Millennials see it differently. But not totally different. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review reveals what is really important to millennials (

There are some interesting takeaways from this study:

_Millennials want to move up and become leaders . Primarily for financial rewards and influence/power. More so in Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific regions.

_When it comes to the type of manager Millennials want, it’s clear that in North America and Western Europe it’s about employee empowerment. Micro-management is out.

_Regarding Work Life Balance, Millennials in North America and Western Europe overwhelmingly place the priority on having “enough leisure time for my private life”. Flexible working hours comes in a close second.

_Life priorities for Millennials are spending time with family, learning new things and living a long, healthy life. Depending on how the questions are asked, I’m not sure that my generation, or my parents’ generation might not have had similar responses. What is telling is that at the bottom of the priority list for North American and Western Europeans is wealth. Becoming wealthy is a low priority for today’s Millennials. So even though they want to move up and become leaders for reasons of financial reward and influence, when it comes to life’s priorities wealth just isn’t that important.

These results are all part of a larger study ( There is a lot in the study and if you are really into understanding Millennials on a global scale, it’s worth your time. But for me, these four: career objectives, how to manage, work life balance and life priorities are the key issues which must be addressed by our industry. Talented Millennials have choices and they will choose to work in those industries and organizations where they have the best opportunities of achieving their personal and professional objectives. Next time, I’ll talk about where we are missing the mark and what can be done to make this industry more attractive to Millennials.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dillon and Barney

A year ago I wrote about old dogs and end of life issues. (

I noted that our old dog, Dillon had set a standard for tolerance that allowed for making a mess in the house as long as it was on the tile floor. Unfortunately, in recent months, old Dillon began having trouble keeping his accidents on the tile. He was almost 16 years old. His hearing and vision were just about gone. The vet said he was showing signs of dementia. A month ago he had a seizure which ended up with him at the “veterinary emergency room ” otherwise known as the most expensive place you can go in order to confirm that your dog just had a seizure. But you do what you have to do when it comes to your pets.

And you also do what you have to do when the quality of your pet’s life has deteriorated to the point where they are miserable. Even our younger dog had reached the point where he no longer wanted to be around Dillon. So Dillon took that last, long ride today. He was calm and seemed to know what it was about. He will be cremated and his ashes will set on the shelf next to his old pal Barney, the best dog ever (

If you ask me, right about now, somewhere in heaven there is a young Springer Spaniel chasing a young Bichon. If I didn’t believe that, I could never own a pet.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Don't Mess With Texas Women

I never thought much about getting a concealed handgun license (CHL). It just seemed like a lot of trouble. I know folks who have their CHL and they feel pretty good about it. I have guns in the house and in Texas you can carry a handgun in your vehicle even without a license. So I could not think of too many situations where carrying a concealed handgun would be all that necessary for me. And, I remember that football player, Plaxico Burress, who shot himself in the leg with his concealed handgun. That would be about my luck.

So I was not planning on getting my CHL until my wife decided that she wanted to start carrying a handgun. Arming my wife may not be the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but she pretty much had her mind made up. Some of her friends starting “packing” and so now it’s a “thing”. Initially I was just going to help her pick out a concealed carry gun and let her be my bodyguard. But, the guys at the range shamed me into getting a CHL. They are a tough crowd.

My wife picked out a little Glock 42, 380 caliber and she’s pretty good with it. She’s shot my guns and she’s not afraid of them. I went "new" old school and bought a little snub-nose revolver. But it is the latest super lightweight Ruger LCR 9MM and it fits in my pants pocket. It will get the job done. But I get to thinking about ol’ Plaxico and I’m not sure that I want to carry a gun in my pocket or anywhere else where it might shoot me and ask questions later.

We both passed our tests. My wife actually shot quite well and will now be armed just like the rest of her friends. The Galleria is safe. Bad guys beware. Texas women…big hair, big purses, big bang.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Horrible Hiring Practices

I’ve been really busy lately trying to fill jobs for our client companies. Too busy to invest much time in blogging. I wish I could say that all my efforts are paying off, but that’s just not how it works in the headhunting business. There are a lot of reasons why placements don’t happen and that is a great subject for a whole series of blogs. (I’ll get right to work on that as soon as I get some time.) But one of the big reasons jobs don’t get filled is that employers drive candidates away. Headhunters buffer the process to a degree, but we still see and feel the impact of bad interviewing and hiring practices. Candidates tell us all the time about the bad experiences they have with certain companies. We take note and shy away from these companies when they come asking for our help in filling positions.

News flash Mr. Employer...we are in a candidate short market. Good, high quality candidates are hard to come by. When you find one, don’t blow it with a bad hiring process. I recently read an article by Liz Ryan, CEO & Founder of The Human Workplace. I think Ms. Ryan nails it.

Ten Horrible Hiring Practices That Drive Great Candidates Away
By Liz Ryan, CEO & Founder, The Human Workplace

If you were the CEO of a company and you needed to hire some people, how would you do it? You'd start by thinking carefully about what you needed in a new hire, of course. You'd write a friendly and inviting job ad. You'd publish the job ad and wait for resumes to fly in the door from interested job-seekers. You'd tell your employees, customers, vendors and fans about the job opening and encourage them to spread the word, too.

When the resumes started to come in, you'd acknowledge every one of them with a warm and human reply. Technology made that an easy task about thirty-five years ago! You'd interview some of the candidates and send a thoughtful "no thanks" message to the rest. You'd think "All of these folks are humans. They took the time to respond to my job ad, so the least I can do is ask my teammates to take a few seconds out of their day to acknowledge that effort. In our company, all we want to do is cultivate friends and fans. We don't want to have enemies. "Some of these people who didn't get this job may come to work for us later. All of them can buy our products or recommend them. This hiring process is important to us and to the people who applied for jobs with our company.

"I'm going to take it seriously, and treat every person who responded to our job ad like a valued collaborator -- because that's what each of them is!" You would take good care of the candidates who made it to the interview stage. You'd be respectful of their time. You'd treat them like gold! You would keep the human element in the center of your hiring process, because you're a human being and you're a smart and decent person. Why doesn't every hiring process work that way? Here are ten stupid and self-destructive hiring processes that drive great job candidates away from employers every day.

Who gets hurt when smart people decide not to work at certain organizations because their hiring processes are so broken that good people stay away? The shareholders get hurt, and so do the customers who would benefit if the company were able to hire great people. The current employees get hurt. I can't wait until shareholders and Board members wake up and smell the coffee, and replace a CEO or two who are too lazy or out-of-it to realize that if you can't recruit good people, your business can't thrive.

Here are ten ways foolish organizations drive great job candidates away with a stick instead of making it fun and easy to enter their recruiting pipeline. Do any of these horrible hiring practices sound familiar?:

Darth Vader Job Ads

Who would write a job that talks about the qualities The Selected Candidate should possess, like "The Selected Candidate will have twenty years of experience with Facebook ad promotion," rather than talking to the candidates directly, a la "You could be a great fit for this job if you like working with people on the phone"?
The formal and dismissive way we write job ads screams "Whoever the Selected Candidate is, bucko, it ain't your sorry ass!" We begin insulting candidates right away, in our job ads. Why? That's the first way employers drive talented candidates away.

Black Holes And Auto-Responder Smackdowns

People invest time -- sometimes hours -- in their responses to posted job ads. Then weeks later they receive terse auto-responder email messages that say "Your materials have been received." How long would it take to make that message friendly and personal -- one minute?
Godzilla companies can't bring themselves to do it. Too many of them tell candidates "If we want to talk to you, we know where to find you. If you don't hear from us, you can drop dead for all we care."
Smart employers ditch their talent-repelling Black Hole automated recruiting portals and screen resumes a smarter way. People do not reduce down to keywords, as you know because you grew up here on earth. Applicant Tracking Systems, the worst use of technology to solve a human problem that the world has ever seen, are on their way out. No one is shedding any tears over their demise!
People who have never looked at the recruiting process with fresh eyes and have no desire to will say "It is impossible to screen 5000 resumes without technology!" It is insanely easy to screen resumes, You will use a few simple Logical Gates to keep the entire world from responding to your job ad.
What is a Logical Gate? Read about Recruiting with a Human Voice to find out!

Take Another Test, Climb Another Hill

Some broken recruiting processes come from the view "We are so overwhelmed with talented candidates,we have to invest all of our energy in screening out the extra people." That couldn't be more false!
It's hard to find good people, so why do we subject job-seekers to honesty tests, writing tests, math tests and questionnaires before we've even met them? It's time to stop!

You Just Wait a Spell

At Human Workplace we teach employers that no one who enters a recruiting pipeline should go more than a week between communications. If people are waiting for you to schedule interviews, talk to them. If they've been interviewed and they're waiting to hear back from you, talk to them again.
Pick up the phone. Send a friendly email. They are people! If a company leaves you waiting for two weeks without communication, they've already told what you mean to them, and you mean diddly squat. Run away!

I'll Ask the Questions, Thank You

Some foolish organizations believe that the purpose of an interview is for them to ask the questions and for you to sit like a Sheepie Job Seeker and bleat out answers, then remain silent until the next question.
What forty-year-old adult is going to sit still for that kind of treatment? No one who could help your company, that's for sure!

Your Future Paycheck Is None of Your Business

Why don't more employers put the hiring salary range in the job ad? You already know why - they want to hedge their bets. In case they get lucky and somebody with the perfect experience who hasn't kept abreast of market pay rates should walk in and be willing to do the job for peanuts, they want to keep their options open! That's unethical. Start publishing your salary range in every job ad if you want talented and marketable people to apply.

Your Salary History Is Our Business

How much nerve would it take to tell a job-seeker that you can't tell them the salary range for the job they're interviewing for, and then turn around and ask them what they earned at every job they've ever had?
"I will give you my past salaries, my darling, when you show me the spreadsheet that displays your leadership team's current salaries and bonus schedules. What? You consider that confidential information? Good, so you understand -- my salary history is confidential, too!"

We Just Need One More Thing From You - $20,000 of Free Consulting

Interviewing candidates is great. Asking them or commanding them to go home and write a free marketing plan for you is scummy and immoral. Anyway, what doofus thinks that a person can create a marketing plan without knowing tons about what the company has already done and what its goals are? If your managers are telling job-seekers to work for free during the interview process, make them stop.

You Think I Have Time To Waste On You?

Before any job offer goes out, a hiring manager needs to call a job-seeker or sit down with him or her and say "We're moving toward a job offer. What would it take to get you to join us? Let's talk about everything that is important to you." If your managers don't know how to conduct a meeting like that, you can show them. Everybody's muscles will grow!

You Got The Offer - What Else Do You Want?

In the Recruiting with a Human Voice protocol we teach to employers, there is a post-job-offer telephone call or face-to-face meeting whose purpose is to make sure everyone in the mix is comfortable with everything. The hopefully-new-employee gets to ask tons of questions. They get to make sure that their upcoming vacation dates will work for your company.
They get to know everything they need to know to be comfortable signing the offer letter and coming to work in a couple of weeks. They get to see their workstation if they haven't already, meet the team and generally make themselves comfortable with you, and vice versa.
No organization will ever love a person more than they do when they're trying to recruit that person. That's the point in the process when you need to show the love -- but then again, you need to show the love all the way through!
Luckily, it isn't hard to do. More and more employers are seeing the link between passion and performance every day.
Step into the new millennium with a new mindset for recruiting, and remember what we tell employers and job-seekers on both sides of the hiring equation: If they don't get you, they don't deserve you!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Color of Conversation

My wife does a lot of volunteer work. One of the organizations she works with supports and promotes Performing Arts for young folks in the area. It’s a good program and a lot of kids participate. Every year they have an art contest. Awards are given for the best work in various categories and by grade level. This year the organization decided to kick it up a notch and brought in judges from university art departments in the area. Last week we were guests at a private dinner for some of the judges and their friends from the North Texas art scene. A dozen of us sat at a long table and talked about a variety of subjects. It was a eclectic group to say the least. Certainly more artsy and politically liberal than most people I interact with on a daily basis. Frankly, I enjoyed it immensely.

One of the guests was an older African American gentleman. When I say older, I mean almost my age. He was originally from a small town in the area, but had gone on to do big things with his life. His family was still here and he was now spending more time “back home”, living mostly out in the country on a small farm he purchased some years ago. As these things tend to go, people shared what they wanted to share about their lives. And if they pay attention to one another and display genuine interest, their guards come down and the subject matter becomes more serious. Things they do not usually talk about, at least not deeply, get talked about. So we ended up discussing politics, education, poverty, religion, sex and even race.

My new friend held very strong opinions as to why we are where we are racially in this country. He believes that racism is alive and well thanks to white greed, white programs and white religion. I oversimplify, but this truly is the bottom-line of his report. And there is a lot of truth in what he says. The enslavement of black Africans was largely about economics. Racism became a key ingredient in rationalizing the "peculiar" institution of slavery. But make no mistake about it, if the Africans had not been so productive working in the tobacco, sugar and cotton fields; America would look much different today. Who knows? We might still be a British colony or a collection of Indian nations.

And the “white programs” of welfare in the 60’s and forced integration in the 70’s have given us ghettos filled with generations of people who only know survival within “the system” and see no way out of “the system”. Increasingly, black “haves” lead very different lives from the black “have-nots”. Many of those who escaped the welfare trap, or whose families never fell into that trap, have a legitimate shot at the American dream. They still face challenges because of race, no question. Being black in America isn’t easy. But, being black and poor and trapped in “the system” is something else all together.

Then there is “white religion”. The religion that my friend alleges initiated, promoted and prolonged the enslavement of his ancestors. The record is there. It happened. Sermons were preached. Scriptures were read into the Congressional record. Many Christians claimed that slavery was part of God’s design for order in the universe and that blacks were destined to inferiority because Ham saw his father Noah’s nakedness. (Genesis 9: 18-29; After building an Ark and weathering a global flood, Noah gets drunk and then gets naked. Haven’t we all? Ham sees him with no clothes on and is cursed. So some claim that Blacks descended from Ham and are, therefore, inferior. Makes perfect sense…right?).

So my friend concludes that Christianity has blood on its hands when it comes to the circumstances in which so many black people find themselves in 21st Century America. I get it, I really do. But, I can only listen to so much. The “rest of the story” is out there and I had to say something. The rest of the story is that true Christians ultimately stepped up and were the driving force behind the abolition of slavery. First in Europe and later in the United States. Christians may have played a key role in supporting the institution of slavery in this country. But, given the economics of slavery, it would have happened with or without the endorsement of some Christian groups. The abolishment of slavery, on the other hand, would not have happened without Christians leading the cause.

As I laid out my case for the positive role Christianity played in the abolishment of slavery and in the civil rights movement, my friend conceded those points and nodded in agreement. He then proceeded to tell me that as a young boy he saw a cross burning. This was in the Sixties here in North Texas. His father got a call late one night from a friend. He loaded up the kids and drove over to the friend’s house and there in the front yard a cross was burning, the light of the fire reflecting a second cross in the home’s front window. Down the street, white men were sitting on parked cars, sipping beer, holding torches still aflame. The family in that house piled into his father’s car. He still doesn’t know how they got so many people into that car. They drove away and that was that. No story, no police report, just another sad episode in the history of race relations in this nation.

At the end of the evening, we all hugged and thanked each other for the wonderful conversation and fellowship. We did not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but we did look each other in the eye and listened. It’s not hard to understand why whites and blacks see race differently. It’s just hard to understand why we don’t talk about it more often and more honestly.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jus In Bello

By now you’ve probably heard the uproar over Michael Moore’s “snipers are cowards” comment regarding the movie “America Sniper”. Some other Hollywood types and left-leaners have questioned the story’s glorification of Chris Kyle, THE American Sniper. He was from Texas, he killed the bad guys, he believed in God and he was not always politically correct. I’ll take that kind of guy on my team any day.

I get it that there are at least two sides to every story. When one looks at the photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs were dropped, one must ask “Was this really necessary?”. Could we have defeated the Nazi’s without fire-bombing Dresden? Did Sherman have to burn most of Georgia and South Carolina near the end of the Civil War. Why are innocent people killed in war and why do we choose to call it collateral damage? Robert E. Lee penned these words in a letter to his wife:
"What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

“Just War Theory” (jus bellum iustum) postulates that war, while very terrible, is not always the worst option. There may be responsibilities so important, atrocities which can be prevented or outcomes so undesirable they justify war (Quinlen/Guthrie, “The Just War Tradition”). “Jus In Bello” (right conduct in war) is a key part of Just War Theory. Military necessity is a key principle when it comes to “right conduct in war”. Essentially, it says that an attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction.

I will grant that one might fairly debate the military necessity of dropping the big ones on Japan or fire-bombing Dresden. (I would come down firmly on the side of those being the right calls by the way.) But I don’t see much room even for debate on the use of snipers. This would seem to clearly fall well within the bounds of military necessity. And those bounds become even broader when fighting an enemy whose “Jus In Bello” is based on “Holy” War Theory. For it would appear that to some of our enemies, all is fair and just in their “Holy” War.

I cannot understand why some of our fellow Americans, even some of our leaders, are so critical of those who fight and shed blood and die for us. I think it’s because sometimes those heroes must also kill for us. And killing is a dirty business. That’s part of the job we send them out to do. It’s a terrible thing to take another human life. But sometimes it’s necessary and justified. And, in my opinion it’s more than OK, in fact it’s our duty and responsibility, to respect and honor those who fight our wars.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Thousand Million Questions

The New Year is still “new” but for me it’s already starting to feel like something more than just new. 2015 is starting to feel like one of those “defining moment” years: 1929, 1941, 1963, 1968, 1984, 2001, 2008. I think 2015 might just end up on that list. It is shaping up to be a year of questions that will challenge us. But it will be the answers that define us. And that’s where this year could be something special.

My 2015 predictions are already off to a rocky start with oil prices falling below my $50 prediction only a few days after I went out on that limb. So I hesitate to make more predictions, but the big questions are out there and many are likely to be answered this year. Those “big questions” include:

_1 How will the civilized world deal with radical Islam? It would appear that perhaps we’ve finally reached the point of “enough is enough”. But what does that mean and how does it translate into action? We’ve run out of time. 2015 is the year of decision.

_2 What is the future of Obamacare? Supreme Court decisions may answer that question. If the Affordable Care Act goes back to the drawing board, it is likely dead. Then what?

_3 What happens with Immigration Reform? The status quo is unsustainable. So something is likely to pass this year. It’s another one of those “we’ve run out of time” issues.

_4 What directions are to be taken by our two major political parties? Both realize that they have to move back toward the center. They cannot wait until 2016 to make those moves. 2016 may end up being the year that goes down in the history books as one of “moderation” in politics, but the seeds will be planted in 2015.

_5 What will be the final answer on Gay Marriage? The Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases on this issue. Instead of silence, they will speak. I said that I am hesitant to make further predictions, but I predict that they will rule against those states who have banned gay marriage. Conservatives will scream, but conservative politicians will be glad that this one is finally settled.

_6 Where will energy prices go? This is a huge question. In the short-run, cheaper energy helps our economy. But in the long-run if prices are so low that foreign producers regain market share and domestic production capacity goes into decline; the balance of power shifts further to those who control our energy supply.

_7 Will we invest in our future? Infrastructure and education in this country are broken. It’s probably a reach to think that both areas will be addressed in 2015, but we really are running out of time here. I think there is bi-partisan support for doing something on infrastructure. And the Obama administration’s proposal to offer “free” community college education opportunities is worthy of discussion and is likely to receive a lot of support from business and industry.

Certainly there are a thousand, million other questions and some of them are near the top of the list. Global warming, race relations, the Federal deficit, the tax code, whether or not college athletes in major sports should be paid and is it really “all about that bass”? And, no doubt, something will happened that elevates some other question to the top of the list of potential game changers. However it turns out, 2015 is likely to be one of those unforgettable years.

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door?
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.

It's where we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need.
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed.

-“Question”, Moody Blues song, lyrics by Justin Hayward.