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Leadership, Staff Development

Thanks to Mark Miller for this guest post, which coincides with the recent launch of his newest book, Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People. The book identifies three key elements for an organization to become a talent magnet. This article focuses on the first element, a Better Boss.


It’s fun to see different streams of work come together. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience or not. Let me try to explain the idea that’s stumbling around in my head.


I’ve been learning to lead for almost 40 years; I’ve been researching and writing about the topic for almost two decades. When I was asked to work on how we might win the war for talent, I was eager to learn and contribute, but honestly, I thought I had just entered another universe.


Now, many months into the journey, I see the convergence I referenced above. When I began thinking about talent, I initially took off my leadership hat. That was a mistake. I’ve now put it back on – Talent has always been a leadership issue. Looking at the war for talent through a leadership lenses I can see much more clearly what leaders must do to attract Top Talent.


Back to this idea of converging ideas – when we talked to Top Talent about their expectations of their leaders we found several attributes mentioned over and over. These two have been featured in other posts: A Better Boss must Demonstrate Care and Stay Engaged. Here’s another best practice… Top Talent expects their leaders to Lead Well. What does that mean? It means the unchanging fundamentals of leadership matter to Top Talent.


See the Future – Leadership always begins with a picture of the future.

Engage and Develop Others – Leaders create the context for people to thrive.

Reinvent Continuously – Progress is always preceded by change.

Value Results and Relationships – There is tremendous power in the “and.”

Embody the Values – People always watch their leaders.


Great leaders SERVE!


Don’t be discouraged as you look at the fundamentals and assess your own proficiency… you don’t need to be perfect to Lead Well. Influence is as much about being real as it is about being right. And great leadership is not just an issue of skills.


The attitude of your heart will ultimately have the greatest impact on your ability to lead well – admitting mistakes, sharing credit, maintaining a spirit of humility, being courageous and thinking others first all reflect your readiness to lead.


Do you really want to be a Better Boss capable of attracting a team of Top Talent? Commit to life-long journey and learn to Lead Well.


About Mark Miller


Mark Miller began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, he joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, Mark has steadily increased his value at Chick-fil-A and has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, and Quality and Customer Satisfaction.


Today, he serves as the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership. During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $9 billion. The company now has more than 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and the District of Columbia.


When not working to sell more chicken, Mark is actively encouraging and equipping leaders around the world. He has taught at numerous international organizations over the years on topics including leadership, creativity, team building, and more.


Mark began writing about a decade ago. He teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do (2007). More recently, he released Chess Not Checkers (2015), and Leaders Made Here (2017). His latest is Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People (February 2018). Today, over 1 million copies of Mark’s books are in print in more than two dozen languages.




LET’S TALK about strategies to retain top talent and increase employee engagement. A worker’s relationship with his/her supervisor is the X-factor. Send me an email or schedule a time to talk via my online calendar.


Staff Development, Training

Mr. Joe Employee (not his real name, but a real story) showed up for his first day of work at ABC Company, somewhat nervous but excited to tackle the challenges of a new position. Although tired from moving halfway across the country the week before to work at this company, he was eager to get off to a good start.


Joe found it strange that the offices in his small department were dark and quiet that Monday morning. Thinking his anticipation had gotten him there a bit early, he found someone in a nearby department to ask the whereabouts of his new boss and teammates. A receptionist said she would make a phone call or two while Joe explored his new workspace.


No boss and an empty desk

Joe found his desk by noticing two cellophane-wrapped packages of personalized stationery sitting on top. The desk was clean; in fact, it was so clean that the drawers were completely empty. There was a telephone on the desk, but no sign of a computer or other supplies. There wasn’t a chair to sit on, either.


As Joe scratched his head, wondering if he had misread the start date, the receptionist returned. She informed him that because the team had attended a conference over the weekend, they were taking Monday off. The CEO, COO and HR chief were also off due to a board meeting that same weekend. A part-time admin was on her way and might be of some help.


The admin apologized for the miscommunication and suggested Joe spend the day learning their ERP software. She rounded up the ERP user manuals and called IT for a spare laptop. No one had ordered a computer for Joe, not to mention set up an email address, username or passwords.


So much for making a good first impression! Fortunately, Joe survived the rocky first day to enjoy a productive and fulfilling tenure at ABC Company. But many other new employees don’t get past a bad start.


According to the Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, companies lose nearly 25 percent of their new employees within a year. Bamboo HR found that 31 percent of workers have quit a job within the first six months. More importantly, many decide whether they will stay long term during their first day on the job.


The starting point

Effective onboarding is the starting point for retaining top talent. Onboarding goes well beyond the typical new-hire orientation, which is traditionally a week-long focus on paperwork and company policies. Workers surveyed by Bamboo HR said the onboarding process needs to be more thorough and extend beyond the first week on the job.


The best onboarding flows seamlessly from the recruitment and hiring process. Once an offer is accepted, the new employee’s manager and HR start preparing for the worker’s first day. It may seem obvious, but many companies fail to get the new employee’s workspace ready. This includes basic supplies, a computer, and usernames and passwords needed for email and other company software.


Most new-staff paperwork can be completed ahead of time as well. Clearing W-4 forms, benefit applications and other logistical pieces in advance frees up time for more critical onboarding activities on day one.


Do a “culture dunk”

Ramsey Solutions suggests giving new employees a “culture dunk,” immersing them in company history, vision and values as they begin work. Introducing them to company leadership and co-workers, as well as providing time for meaningful connections, helps to establish good working relationships early on.


The new employee’s supervisor needs to be an active player on this first day. Bamboo HR found that workers prefer that their new boss is the one to show them around, give the company tour and provide information about office hours, parking, etc. Hosting a lunch or coffee break is a great way for the boss to introduce the new employee to the rest of his or her team.


This is also prime time for supervisors to discuss initial work assignments with new employees. Clarity about expectations, authority and the involvement of co-workers in these assignments leads to early wins. Research indicates that over three-quarters of workers view on-the-job training as the most important onboarding activity in the first week.


Check in and follow up

Don’t fall into the trap of many employers and think the onboarding process ends there. Top companies view the onboarding process as an extension of their recruiting and critical to their branding as an employer.


Schedule regular check-in meetings to follow up on questions that arise once the employee gets established. Often, new employee orientation becomes information overload and a follow-up meeting is needed to review key policies and procedures. These conversations are also helpful to ensure the new worker is assimilating well within the organization.


Beyond that, regular follow-up ensures clarity of expectations and feedback on performance. It’s easier to make timely midcourse corrections and adjustments when issues are addressed in real time rather than waiting for formal performance reviews.


Ensure meaningful contribution

Remember, employees want to make a meaningful contribution and have their work make a difference. A well-designed onboarding program jump-starts that process and increases the likelihood top talent will stay with your company for the long haul.


This article was first published in the Minnesota Society of CPAs May 2017 edition of the Footnote. The published article includes an Onboarding Checklist of key steps to take from before a new employee’s start date through the first six months of employment.


Leadership, Resources, Staff Development

What if your understanding of motivation is faulty? What if that misunderstanding has caused you to frustrate, rather than encourage and inspire, your employees? Or even your kids? What if traditional carrot and stick methods are only temporarily effective at best, and perhaps counterproductive in the long run?


Those are Susan Fowler’s conclusions in her newly updated book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does. Fowler suggests that when we ask why someone isn’t motivated, we’re asking the wrong question.


Why are people motivated?


The question isn’t whether people are motivated. In fact, they’re always motivated. The question is why they are motivated.


“People are always motivated. The question is not if, but why they are motivated.” – Susan Fowler.


Asking why a person is motivated opens the spectrum of motivational possibilities. Fowler describes less effective sources of motivation as suboptimal, and those that are more effective as optimal. Moving toward the optimal side of the spectrum generates energy, vitality, and well-being.


Fowler’s spectrum of motivation goes beyond the typical definitions or extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, although there are common threads with suboptimal and optimal sources. Suboptimal motivation comes from disinterested, external, and imposed sources, while optimal motivation is aligned, integrated, and inherent.


The Need for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence (ARC)


Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does draws from important research on the science of motivation. In doing so, the book highlights the relationship between motivation and employee engagement, a driver of key business outcomes such as productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction.


Fowler offers an easy-to-remember acronym to better understand the source of motivation and leverage its power. She relates the essence of motivation to three critical psychological needs, autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC).


Autonomy refers to the need for choice, or at least, the perception of choice. In the workplace, autonomy is about a sense of having some of control or choice about one does, or how it’s done. This doesn’t mean managers are hands-off, or laissez-faire, but that they allow their employees to have influence.


Relatedness is about connection, to others, and to purpose. People desire to be part of something bigger than themselves to belong with others in the process. Herein lies a powerful opportunity for leaders, to help people find meaning in their work and be part of a healthy team environment.


Competence represents the need for a sense of growth and learning over time. It’s about feeling competent to handle the normal, everyday challenges of the job. Leaders play an important role here as well since the workplace is where people spend the most time. Not feeling competent in the workplace can negatively impact other parts of workers’ lives as well.


When ARC needs are met, people thrive and flourish, satisfying an innate desire that is present in all of us.


A Learnable Skill: MVPs


Motivation is a skill that can be learned, starting with an awareness of where one is on the spectrum of motivation. Fowler offers a second acronym, MVP (mindfulness, values, and purpose) as the key to shifting toward higher level motivation.


The book contains tips for conducting motivational outlook conversations and numerous examples from Fowler’s research and consulting work. The epilogue contains short stories of masters of motivation, such as the great NBA coach Phil Jackson and former Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett.


Why Motivation Doesn’t Work…and What Does should be required reading for anyone in a leadership role. It’s an excellent discussion starter for executive teams, mentoring or coaching relationships, and training activities. Beyond the workplace, it has powerful application for parents, teachers, athletic coaches, and youth leaders.


Is it time to shift your approach to leading your team and developing your people? Let’s Talk! Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy call on my online calendar.