My first couple of jobs were in the food service industry. I started when I was fourteen years old. This was a great way to earn some extra money and learn how to work with others.

My biggest takeaway from those years were lessons I learned from the managers I worked for. Some of the lessons I learned from these managers were imparted to me in the form of stories from their own work experiences.

One I remember explicitly is a manager telling me that a super successful company he worked for had a phrase they lived by; “Back to the basics.” This company wasn’t always chasing the new trend. They were chasing greatness in the things that matter.

By mastering the basics, companies are able to thrive and grow. Without the basics, organizations are left wondering why chasing the latest and greatest trend isn’t working.

One of the most important basics to master is communication. Whether you know it or not, you’re always communicating – by what you are saying and what you are not saying. If you want to see your organization move forward make sure you are mastering the following communication areas:

1. Roles and goals

This sounds basic, but according to a Gallup study of over two million employees, “‘only about half of the employees strongly indicate that they do.” This means that one out of every two employees doesn’t confidently know what is expected of them. This same study also found that managers were just as likely to not know what was expected of them.

For starters, organizations should have clear job descriptions and key measures of performance.

2. Vision

People who put their time and effort into a company need to know where it is going. Vision is a clear mental picture of where the organization as a whole is headed.

Vision is something that needs to be communicated constantly. Why? Vision leaks over time and people need to be reminded of it.

3.  Feedback

Your team needs your positive and constructive feedback. This point will focus on the latter. When team members have an area for improvement, let them know.

Creating healthy feedback loops is a vital part of a healthy, growing culture.

4. Recognition

Yes, employees should do their jobs whether or not they are praised for their efforts, but we all want to know we are appreciated and are doing our job well. You may have heard the saying before – what gets rewarded gets repeated. Studies show that companies with good cultures of recognition have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

If you see someone who hit it out of the park recently, let them know. If you are looking for some specific examples on how to recognize your team members, this is the post for you.

Communication is one of the most important basics, and if you don’t get this one down the organization and its team will not reach their potential.

Look at the areas listed above and begin with the one area that would give you the biggest lift once improved and go from there.

4 C’s Of A Culture with Strong Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a relatively new term in the business world that can trace its origin to a study by William Kahn in the late 1980s. Kahn studied two different organizations, a summer camp and an architectural firm, to see how engaged the employees were and the reasons behind it. Despite its recency, it is a hot topic in the business world; as it should be.

Companies with cultures of high engagement had a minimum of 24% lower turnover according to Gallup. In this day and age, when employee loyalty is down, high engagement is a shining star.

Having a culture of strong employee engagement will not happen on its own, but you can turn the tide by working on these four C’s.

1. Clarity

Companies with high employee engagement have incredible clarity around a few key areas. The areas they are clear about are mission, vision, and core values.

A mission outlines what the company ultimately there to do, and answers the question “why does this company exist?” The reason this is important is that your team members want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. According to Gallup, 83% of people say it is “very important” for them to believe that their life is meaningful or has a purpose. It is important for their workplace to reflect this.

Clear vision lets the team members know where it is the organization is going. If there is no clarity of vision, employees won’t feel that what they are doing matters, and won’t know if they are headed in the right direction.

Core values communicate how you’re going to get to the end result of your vision. If one of your core values is customer first, this tells you what you that you are not going to put the customer second. Understanding your customer is first, helps to act as a filter in your decision making.

2. Care

While having an effective boss is not the only driver for engagement, it is an important one. Aon’s research shows that having a connected boss and connected senior leadership is critical for a company to have high engagement.

I remember a story of someone I was working with that was incredibly discouraged at work. The conversations were based on constant challenges they were experience based on their boss not caring for them.

In a turn of events, the employee got a new boss who was highly engaged, and the person became much more passionate about their role and their productivity increased.

When an employee has a boss who cares for them, it is much less likely that the employee will want to change companies. Richard Branson has said that “Clients do not come first; employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of your clients.”

3. Coaching

The desire for professional development is very strong in people. They don’t want to just “do a job,” they want to improve themselves so they can grow. Look at the findings from Gallup on millennials’ desire for professional development.

An impressive 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job… and 69% on non-millennials do the same.

Coaching is a great avenue to provide for the professional development of your people. Though you will need to find your own rhythm, these coaching conversations typically happen 2-4 times per month.

Whether you use a coaching company or empower your managers and directors to do it personally, coaching is key to the future success of your organization. If you want to ensure that your team of employees remains motivated to come to work, you have to keep investing in them!

4. Celebration

When a team member does a good job, they should be celebrated and recognized. This helps to put to bed the question “do they even notice my work?”

Recognition and rewards are the number one driver of employee engagement globally, according to Aon’smost recent comprehensive global study. Companies that have good cultures of recognition have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

The rewards do not need to be expensive. Simply recognizing someone’s hard work publicly, sending a handwritten card, or taking them to lunch can go a long way.

Now that you have an understanding of the 4 C’s of employee engagement, choose one or two areas where your organization or department needs to change. Once you know which areas to work on, secure buy-in from senior leadership, as they are critical to the engagement process.

What is one area of engagement you want to improve on in your company?

Many children are diagnosed with ADHD (or ADD) in their adolescence, and it goes away as they get older. Then there is the rest of us.

Growing up my parents did not see eye to eye on whether or not to medicate us for ADHD, and I believe they both had good reasons. They spent a small fortune (enough to buy a brand new car) to have my twin brother and I extensively tested. The results after a week were that we indeed had a little bit of an attention problem. Okay, maybe I was given the highest legal dosage of Ritalin as a kid, or at least that is what I remember. Like most people, I stopped taking medication before I became an adult, but guess what; I still have issues with my attention span. Though my attention span has improved tremendously over the years, there are a few apps that help me focus even better while I am at work.

1. Focus at Will:

Focus at Will combines scientific study and music to help you to concentrate for a longer period of time. I remember the first time I used this app, I was able to concentrate for a prolonged period of time. They also have a timer on the app that allows you to set self-deadlines for tasks. There is some learning curve with the different types of music offered with Focus at Will. I use quite a few of them, though I am not convinced that the one listed for those with ADHD works for me. Please do yourself a favor and see if you concentrate better with the app and give me your feedback.

This is the most expensive of all the apps and hacks that I use and recommend, and unfortunately, there are no free options.

2. Rescue Time:

Rescue Time allows you to track how you are spending time on your computer. If you are on Facebook a ton, it will let you know that you are very distracted. It also will compare your current week to the previous week to let you know whether or not you are improving at being a good steward of your time. Luckily, there is a free version of this application. Here is the description of the app from their home page:

“With so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered. RescueTime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.”

3. Stay Focused:

Potentially the greatest value comes from being able to limit how much time you spend on a certain website or a group of sites collectively. So if you are spending too much time on social media sites, you can let Stay Focused know to only allow you to spend thirty minutes total a day on all the social sites.

There is also a nuclear option on Stay Focused. If you want to keep yourself off certain sites that are a time waster for you; you nuke the site. Just remember, you will not be able to get back on that site.

4. Nozbe:

Nozbe is the task management system that I have used for years. It is geared towards David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system.

This app helps me to remember the things I need to be working on; therefore lowering the risk of me entering into a state of prolonged distraction.

5. Evernote:

It if weren’t for Evernote I would not have an enjoyable way to retrieve much of the digital information I collect. This is my go-to application for many good reasons. Most importantly it is the location where I store many important documents, notes, quotes, business cards, and likes for later retrieval.

The free version of Evernote is very good. I sprang for the premium version because I utilize the premium features on a frequent basis.

6. Weekly Rhythm:

While this is not an app per se, having a weekly rhythm helps me to stay on track by using my time in a predetermined manner. In my rhythm, I schedule a time to finish the needed tasks, develop leaders, develop myself, spend time with family, use my quiet time, and so forth. When coaching an individual or company, I encourage them to create a rhythm to maximize their productivity.

While my attention span still affects my productivity from time to time, these apps and hacks have helped me to move forward tremendously.

If you have any other apps that you use to help you stay focused I would love for you to share.

(Some of the links are affiliate links. I only recommend apps that I am currently using. I use the free version of everything listed, except for Evernote and Focus at Will.)

Five Attributes of a Great Leader

A week ago I was leading a workshop for the entire staff of a private lending company. The owner and I have known each other for two decades.

When the workshop finished, a buzz of energy filled the room. The team was excited about the company and the possibilities of the future. They were incredibly thankful and freely expressed their gratitude.

This workshop focused on helping the owner’s team create goals for their personal and professional lives. The time we all spent together was amazing and, while I would love to give myself the credit for it all, I can’t. A great deal of it belongs to the owner.

After spending some time thinking about why our time together proved to be so dynamic, I have pinned down some of the things the owner does that makes him a great leader.

1. He built a great team.

You can go so far by yourself, but the sky is the limit if you have a great team. Many leaders worry about what needs to get done; great leaders think about having the right people on the bus. If you have the right people, you will find it so much easier to figure out what to do.

2. He cares for his team.

Some of the feedback I got from his employees was that they were touched by how much the owner cares about their personal lives. Part of our time together during the workshop was spent helping the team make sure the priorities in their life were getting the proper attention.

Every team member needs someone who cares for and encourages them. When a leader makes this a priority, everyone wins.

3. He listens to his team.

Part of our time together was collaborative. We were working through the different challenges and opportunities the company currently had. Though the owner is incredibly passionate, he did not do all the talking. He allowed his team to chime in, and when they came up with something he believed to be the correct solution, he rolled with it.
Andy Stanley is known for saying, “leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing significant to say.”

4. He inspires his team.

Though I believe I provided a ton of inspiration during my time with the team, I wasn’t alone. The owner stepped in, from time to time, to encourage his team to take on board how the information we were sharing with them could help them attain the results, and the future, they desired.

It was easy to see he, the owner, was also the CIO, the Chief Inspiration Officer.

5. He develops his team.

The reason I was there was to help the team grow in their personal and professional lives. In fact, one of the major goals the owner was focusing on for the coming year was the development of his team. He has formulated weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities that will help his team reach their potential.

He has formulated weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities that will help his team reach their potential. He understands the fulfillment of the potential of his organization rests not just on him, but on the team, he has built.

The future is looking bright for this company, and it is because the owner has truly taken ownership of the future of his team.

I would love to hear what other attributes you believe makes up a good leader.

Many leaders have wondered why their teams are not performing up to their expectations. The answer may be closer to home than you think.

When I was in my early twenties, a few of my friends and I decided to take a weekend off and go to Daytona Beach. Who doesn’t love the feel of getting some time off for some rest and relaxation?

We took off from Tampa where we all live and began the scheduled two-hour journey. As I was driving us there, we were goofing off, having fun, and full of expectations for a great weekend.

Then something happened. I saw a sign on the interstate for Miami. We had been going in the wrong direction, and none of us knew it.

Sadly, the same things happen in the workplace. Employees come to work each day, put in a good day’s work, all the while going in the wrong direction.

You as the leader can help change that be helping your team in these three areas:

1. Know what their job is.
This sounds basic, but according to a Gallup study of over two million employees, “‘only about half of the employees strongly indicate that they do.” This means that one out of every two employees doesn’t confidently know what is expected of them. This same study also found that managers were just as likely to not know what was expected of them.

Just to get to first base, they should have a clear job description, but this alone is not enough. They need you as the leader to provide continual clarity on what they are supposed to do, how what they are doing impacts the company’s overall objective, and how they are making a difference.

2. Affirmed when they are doing a good job.
Yes, employees should do their jobs whether or not they are praised for their effort, but we all want to know we are appreciated and are doing our job. Studies show the companies that have good cultures of recognition have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

So if you see someone who hit it out of the park recently, let them know.

Don’t be general about what they did by saying, “good job Tracy.” Instead, tell them specifically what they did, why it stood out, and how it impacted your organization’s mission.

That could look like this: “Tracy, I wanted to thank you for following through with that client of ours. I know they were pretty demanding, but like a champ, you pushed through the challenge, and they were elated with the outcome. Because of what you did, that company has signed a contract to use our services for the next two years. You have not only benefited our team, but you have shown another client why our company stands out.”

If you are in a non-profit or ministry, most of the work is done by those who volunteer their time. An affirmation may look like this: “Susie, I saw what you did for that single mom last week. She got to church just a few minutes before service began and realized she had no diapers in her diaper bag for her youngest. Instead of just saying, ‘oh no!’ You went the extra mile to ask a mom you know if she could spare a diaper. That single mom may not remember everything from the service, but she will remember how God showed his love through you. Your devotion to helping others has not only had an impact on that mom, but you solidified even more why she chooses to come to our church. Thank you for allowing Jesus to shine through you.”

One last recommendation on this subject; be genuine with your praise. If you are just checking off a box, people can tell.

3. Developed to do their job better.
Companies should be intentionally developing their team members to be the best version of themselves. As the employee get better, the company does.

This should not be the motive, team members should be developed for their benefit. More than a job, employees should be developed so they could reach higher heights.

Managers should have consistent meetings with their team members to help develop their strengths. Managers should also provide avenues for additional training; workshops, seminars, and conferences. When an employee knows that you are developing them for their benefit, they more likely to stay engaged.

Your team’s effectiveness will be largely impacted by whether or not these three things become part of your culture. Take a moment today and think about how you could improve in these three areas.

I would love to hear from you about how you accomplish any of these three areas in your organization.

If you are looking for more help in your business and personal life, I wanted you to be one of the firsts to know that I currently have four spots open for one-on-one coaching clients. My goal is to help you get clarity in your personal and business life, so you can reach your full potential, without neglecting your priorities. If you are interested in more information, go here.

In the midst of running an organization, we can all get caught up trying to keep all the plates spinning. While we are all responsible for our organization, not every area deserves equal attention.

When I was in restaurant management, I always prided myself on my personal productivity. I would go to work, and I would make sure everything was done that was necessary to keep the business going. I didn’t want anyone to ever say I wasn’t pulling my own weight.

There was an issue with this; my primary focus was on the wrong thing. Yes, things were getting done, and typically the business was doing better than when under previous management, but I was missing the thing that needed my attention the most – my team.

You have probably heard the old adage, “teamwork makes the dream work.” The problem is, many leaders fail to take care of their teams and wonder why things are not moving forward. They get their job done but wonder why the members of their team are not operating at their full capacity. We think, “they are getting paid so they are fine.” We fail to realize that people are not vending machines; money alone won’t make them operate to their full potential.

Leader, it is your job to take care of your team. Each member of your team needs someone in their corner that uniquely cares for and encourages them.

But exactly how do we do that? This can differ from place to place, but a few questions may help?
1. Who is my team?

If your organization is larger than a few handfuls of people, you will not be able to personally give attention to each person. In this case, you have to decide who will receive personal attention from you. These can include those who are heads of department, your direct reports, or those you desire to personally develop.

2. How will you care for your team?

You can also restate this, “how will you develop them?” There needs to be a change of perspective to nail this one. Instead of thinking of what is most important in our eyes, we need to discover what is significant in their eyes. Yes, they still need to do their jobs, but when our entire focus is what we can get from them, they will not be as likely to stick around. I heard someone once say, “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Caring for people can include coaching, education, training, public recognition, or private recognition. The goal of this is to make sure the person is uniquely cared for and encouraged. If you are looking for other simple ideas this article from Forbes outlines eleven ways.

3. How will I create space to care for my team?

You can’t just shove things in your calendar when they fit. You have to intentionally and consistently make space for the priorities in your business. Decide how many hours a week you will give to caring for and developing your team. If you are doing one-on-ones you may give a half hour weekly or bi-weekly for your direct reports. You may do a once a month lunch for your team. Whatever you decide to do, it should be part of your schedule.

Someone once said, “the potential of your organizations rests on the strength of its people.” Caring for and developing your people is one of the most important responsibilities you have. And it will have a great return on investment.

If you are just starting with one-on-one development start small. Pick a person or two, and tell them you want to do one-on-ones for the next 90 days. The goal is not how many people you can develop, but giving adequate time and attention to develop some with excellence.

I would love to hear how you are going to, or currently are, caring for your team.


Have you ever noticed that employees seem disgruntled with their bosses? Though this can be a common theme, this does not have to be the case.

According to Gallup, two-thirds of employees are not engaged at work. That means most of the workforce is checked out in their companies. They are just going through the motions and are not reaching their potential. Remember that the potential of your organizations rests in your team.

One of the first steps you can take is to engage with your direct reports individually. I am not talking about a quick call or chat once a quarter, but regularly scheduled one-on-ones. These regular meetings provide great value for your team and also silence some negative ideas your team may have about you. Here are three ideas that one-on-ones will silence.

1. My boss doesn’t have time for me.
It is true that as a leader you may not have time for everyone in the organization, but you should have time for your direct reports. Once you set up one-on-one with your team, you send a message to each of them that you have time for them.

This can make a world of difference when your team members know that they have a set time to meet with you. You have to decide ahead of time how frequent the meetings are, but be consistent with the schedule.

2. My boss doesn’t care.
Setting aside time to meet with a team member to talk about what is going on in their world shows you care about them. Every person needs someone who uniquely cares for and encourages them; you can be that person.

During your time with them, part of your conversation should be about their development. When you invest in what matters to your team, they will be more willing to invest in what matters to you.

3. My boss is out of touch with what I am experiencing at work.
One on ones is a great way to “nip in the bud” challenging situations at work. Instead of dealing with a blowup that has been building for months or longer, your team member can let you know how they are feeling during your one-on-ones. This is so important for your company’s culture.

When I talk with employees of companies, a consistent theme is that their boss doesn’t understand their perspectives. They feel that their boss is out of touch with how they are feeling. This separation could possibly be solved by consistent meetings.

While meeting with your team won’t solve every issue you are facing, it will silence quite a few ideas. When your team feels that you have time for them, care for them, and understand how they are feeling, you will get more engaged employees.

Take out your calendar, and decide what times you could block off to have consistent meetings with your team.