Waterfall of Treats

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boneAs most of you know, we foster dogs through a wonderful organization called PawsCo. Our job as fosters is to transition the dog from a shelter environment, an unfit home or an otherwise bad situation. Our last dog was an adorable little dachshund mix with a blond scruffy coat. She is a lap dog in the house, sweet and gentle, but outside? She turns into Devil Dog. She growls at cyclists, cars wheelchairs and strollers. She is aggressive and threatening when she is surprised by an oncoming object.

At PawsCo, we have access to a wonderful trainer named Megan Hill, who helped us train Chloe by what she calls a “waterfall of treats”. Being outside is very anxious for Chloe, because she was found on a highway wondering around. In order to survive, she had to be aggressive. Our job is to teach her that being outside is fun and safe. So, we go outside and start giving her treats for no reason…just for being outside. Then, we start tapering off, and give her treats any time that we see a car or anything else that makes her growl. All the while, we taper off the treats until she can walk outside without growling and feeling anxious.

The same process occurs when you bring a new employee into your organization. You don’t use treats, you use accessibility. Most of my clients think their job is over when we hire someone, but really, their job is just beginning. You have to teach your employee the job. NO ONE walks into a position and knows how to do it to your satisfaction without your guidance and input. Be available, be accessible, and check on your new employee often. As they become more confident in their role, then you can back off. Simply stick your head in their office and ask how they are. Ask how you can help. Ask what questions they have for you. Your commitment to their training will benefit you in ways that you can’t know right now, but in the future? You have just hired AND TRAINED your a-list candidate: the one that has your back and performs amazing things for you and your company.

As for Chloe, she got adopted last weekend by a wonderful couple in Evergreen. They go on walks with a lot of treats, while she is adapting well to her new environment and loving every minute of it.

And the Smiths are getting the house ready for our next beloved dog. Happy training!

“You’re Fired!”

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fired_stampA few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a frantic client who had to fire someone. She was late, she was dropping balls, and worst of all, there had been multiple client complaints. He tried everything that he could to get her up to speed: he sent her to training classes; he moved her office into his; he wrote list after list of processes so that she could learn… nothing worked. After 2 years, it was time to let her go.

My client was just horrified to take this action. He kept saying how nice she was, what a good person she was, and how much he liked her. Yet, she wasn’t getting the job done. He was doing her job AND his, all the while paying her to do a job not well done.

Here is the bottom line: if someone isn’t successful in their job, they aren’t happy. If they aren’t happy, they aren’t successful. They have to LOVE their job to be good at it. If they aren’t good at it, then everyone loses. Your job as their boss is to recognize when someone isn’t being successful, and do everything that you can to help them be successful. Then, if that doesn’t work, you need to let them go. You deserve an employee who loves working for you, and your fired employee deserves a chance at happiness. If it isn’t working for you, then it isn’t working for them either.

What I really appreciate about this client is that he isn’t excited about firing this person. He isn’t making this decision lightly, and it doesn’t feel good to him. This time, we will hire the right fit by going through the A-list Interviews 7 Step Process, so that this doesn’t happen again.

“It Only Hurt Once… From Beginning to End”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJames “Doc” Counsilman, swim coach to the great Mark Spitz, was the oldest person to swim across the English Channel at the age of 58. What makes this story so remarkable? He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 4 years before that swim. In order to prepare for that amazing swim, he sat in ice cube baths to prepare for the cold water. When reporters asked about his pain level upon his completion, he said “it only hurt once… from beginning to end.”

Last week, I finished a job and hired a fabulous candidate for my client. We interviewed 38 people, had over 100 applicants, then we ran into wall after wall. We had multiple no-shows, offered the job to someone who couldn’t take it, and had someone walk out without shaking our out stretched hands. Upon our glorious candidate accepting the job, my client turned to me and said “Is there ANY way you can make this process less painful?”

The simple answer is no. I wish I could. Frankly, this process is not the most enjoyable business activity. Hence the reason businesses often put it off until the need for someone is so great that they have to begin the interview process. There will be days when you truly despise the process and even me as your interviewing coach. What you will get when you work with me is that I make your life so much easier after you go through this process and after we find the A-list new hire you are seeking. You WILL be able to take days off, you WILL be able to rest, you WILL be able to trust that things get done, and you WILL hurt a lot less once you swim that channel. And just like Doc said, “It will only hurt once…from beginning to end.”

When you know it’s a No

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not hiringI always find the hiring process fascinating, especially when I begin working with people who have had employees on staff for an extended period of time that are not a good fit. They almost always report to me “I knew it was not going to work out” after we get to a place where we are going to let go of an employee and begin searching for the perfect candidate to hire.

As many of my conversations with new clients go, I met with a potential new client who began the conversation with “You have to know that I am BAD at hiring.”

I said, “How do you know?”

He said, “Because I just fired the worst hire EVER.”

I asked, “When did you know that this employee was the worst hire ever?”

He said, “I knew the first day. I just KNEW it was not going to work out. And I have known that for 2 years.”

Now two years maybe somewhat extreme but I hear many of my clients report that they hired someone, knew they were not going to work out almost immediately, then leave the person in the position
for months of not years just to avoid having to interview again. Instead I challenge you fellow business owner to hire differently by really listening to the candidates during the interviews. They will tell you if they will not work out. You just have to listen.

For example, last week, I interviewed a candidate that my client really wanted to hire until we started talking about the language that this person used in the interview. It was always someone else’s fault, they didn’t get enough training, and the traffic was always terrible. The client looked at me with this hang dog look, like I had just burst his balloon. I commented “Do you know this one is a no?” He said “Yes. But I don’t want to know that it’s a no. I want a new employee!” This is the absolute most difficult part of the interview process. You are tired, you need help and you want this person to work out SO bad! But as another client of mine said, “When you shorten this process, you pay the piper.’ And he’s right. The price is an employee who you knew from the start would not work out. Then you have to go through the pain of firing and hiring all over again.

I encourage you to listen to yourself and the language of your potential new hires. You know when it’s a no. Wait until you know it’s a yes.

Rejection is Protection

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rejectionRejection comes so often as business owners. We are often told people are not interested in our products and services. Typically we shrug it off and begin the pursuit of someone else who may really need our offerings. Yet, when we are in a position to offer a new employment opportunity, we are shocked when we receive a no thank you from a candidate.

For example, I was so excited for one of my clients last week when we extended an offer to a candidate. I was equally excited for another client when we invited a different candidate back for a third interview! Both candidates declined which tossed both of my clients into a bit of depression. Imagine how disheartening it was for them both to be so excited about a potential new hire only to have the candidate demonstrate that they are not excited about the position.

Many of my business clients are stressed out, overworked, tired and sometimes completely panicked as they are hiring for a new or vacant position. My best advice is that Rejection is Protection and actually something to be very excited about. If someone does not want to work for you and they tell you that BEFORE you hire them, you win! You are protected from poor quality work, absenteeism, and unsatisfied clients, because when someone LOVES their job, they perform. They give it their all, and both of you are happy.

So, when you feel like you have been punched in the gut after a candidate rejections your position, learn to be grateful. Turn that negative into a positive. Turn lemons into lemonade and get ready to serve that lemonade to your new A-list candidate who is walking your way right this minute.

Cry, Pull Your Hair Out, Laugh… Repeat

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StressLast week, I placed a great employee in the right job with a great company, and everyone is really excited. We all remember those moments in the interview process when we wanted to pull our hair out. You have candidates that just don’t show up. You have the candidate that looks right at you and says “WOW! I don’t like doing that type of work.” (True story) You have the potential employee who shows up late with no apology or excuse and then proceeds to interrupt you for the entire interview. UGH! I have had days where I just wanted to bang my head against the interview table over and over… and over again.

And then? When you least expect it, when you think that you will NEVER find the right person EVER…Your dream candidate walks through the door. They are on time, bring extra copies of resumes, references, and homework. They’ve done their research. They ask great questions and bring solutions, and then they end the interview by telling you that this is their dream job. They make it through the entire process and they love the offer.

And the kicker? They can start on Monday.

Every single time I begin an interview process I know that I am in for a roller coaster ride. I am going to laugh, cry, pull my hair out, bang my head on the table, but then… I am going laugh, because I’m so happy for my clients and the candidate that they have found. I feel proud, because we got through the process and it is the right fit for all. Then, I am going to shed a little tear, because the job is over. It is time for me to leave and go work with others, and the process starts all over again. Sniff!


The Boss is ALWAYS the last to know

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QuitMany people may not be aware that before I became an interviewing specialist, I owned and managed a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. When I owned the restaurant, I hired a manager who committed several crimes right under my nose. I really had no idea how bad it was until my 2 best managers at the time came to me to turn in their notice together. They sat us down and told us horror stories about what it was like to work at my place of business and ultimately mine and my family’s second home. We fired the manager effectively immediately. After the fired manager was gone, the complaints really started pouring in… My employees suddenly felt they could freely speak about this former employee. We had lost really good staff and continued to have turn over as a result of this incident. If it were not for the courage of our two managers, who at the time were ready to quit, I still would not have known.

I had heard complaints before from other staff members, but I didn’t really take them seriously. Looking back on it, I should have. So, why didn’t I? Because the complaints seemed so minor. “He didn’t do his side work right.” “He didn’t wipe down the counters.” “He makes me do his work for him, even though he pays me for it.” I simply thought people were just blowing off steam.

After we fired him, I asked my staff: ‘Why didn’t you tell me that he was stealing money/inventory/food?”  And the answer was always the same: “Beth, I tried to talk to you about this.”

The biggest complaints that I hear from my clients is that they wish their employees would be more forthcoming about problems in the business/department. But, the employees say, “If you don’t take my small problems seriously, how am I supposed to talk to you about the big stuff?” In other words, those early, seemingly minor, complaints are opportunities for employees to see how you handle the little stuff. They are trying to figure out if you will hear them with the big stuff. They will talk to you about the tip of the iceberg as a way to begin the conversation about the bottom of the iceberg.

Your job as the boss is to take complaints very seriously, even the smallest of them. Usually, if you have an employee who is willing to come talk to you, the problem is bigger than they indicate. Use this opportunity to really look at the work environment that you are providing and make sure it is operating the way that you intend. Don’t ignore it, or you will be “the last to know”. 

Harley in a Fish Bowl continued…

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In my last newsletter, I shared with you the story of the fish that my daughter “fish napped” from a science experiment and nursed the fish, Harley, back to life. Here is the REST of the story…

Light FishLast week, Randy and I went to parent/teacher conferences and met with Katy’s science teacher. He began by asking if we had any questions that we specifically wanted to address, and I asked him if he was aware that Katy had stolen the fish from the science experiment. He laughed and said no. He thought that the fish had died and that someone had just thrown him away. I told him the story of Harley and how Katy had nursed him back to life, and I asked him if she was going to fail her experiment.

He said “Absolutely not! The goal is to learn how to collect data every day in a scientific experiment that the kids set up themselves.” Then, he smirked and said “That story is AWESOME.”

I am asked all the time by my clients about how to encourage their employees to be more creative and innovative, and you do that by letting your employees try new ways of doing things, even if the outcome isn’t what you wanted. Mr. Leary is a wonderful example of a teacher who allows innovation and creativity in his classroom. He is flexible enough to let outcomes unfold without micro managing the process. In fact, he is thrilled to encourage passionate displays.

Katy’s science teacher is the epitome of a great leader, and we can all learn something from him: innovation comes from trying new things, and sometimes, that means failing. We learn from both trying AND failing. And, in addition, Katy learned to stand up for something she believes in with the support of the adults around her. You can’t ASK for a greater experience than that.

Thanks, Mr. Leary!

P.S. Harley thanks you, too!

Harley in a Fish Bowl

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FishBowl_2gallon_70-8_zoomLast Friday I came home to a fish in a plastic cup on my kitchen counter. My daughter named him Harley.  She promptly went out and bought him a really nice bowl with beautiful blue rocks then filled the bowl with fresh water. I thought the fish was dead… really. He laid on the bottom for awhile and then he floated to the top. I tried to tell her that Harley was not going to make it – that he was dead in the water. She did not believe me and kept at it. She kept watching this half dead fish, trying to keep it living through pure will. We watched this fish for hours before he really began to swim around and attack the way-too-may- food pellets that we dropped in his new home. Two days later he is thriving – he looks like he is a brand new fish with a new lease on life.

A client called last week frustrated with his employee of almost 3 years… things were not getting done, balls were dropping and clients were not happy. I coached my client to sit down with his beloved employee and explain how he was feeling. Explain to your best employee ever that balls are getting dropped. Turns out, this really great employee needed fresh water and some attention. Remember, our employees are not us. They do not learn the job through osmosis; they learn it from their boss. And they continue to perform and perfect as a result of that leadership.

So, if you are feeling like your staff is half floating through their work, it is time for some attention. Show them that you are committed to their success by asking them how they are feeling about their work. Simply ask what you can do to help them enjoy their job better.  And you know what? It is shocking to me how easy it is to keep your employees engaged and happy with a committed boss who cares enough to ask “Do you need some fresh water?”

And Harley? Well it turns out that he was the subject of a science experiment in my daughter’s science class. She “fish-napped” him because she said he looked dead. I said “Won’t your teacher be mad that you stole the fish from the experiment?”

“Mom,” she said with an eye roll. “The class is called ‘Life Science’, emphasis on LIFE!”

Well said, kiddo. 

The Hiring Hangover

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tumblr_inline_mrkpyfH8o11qz4rgpLast week, I met with a new client who suffers from what I call “the Hiring Hangover”. He had just fired a long time employee and had to hire someone else quickly. The whole experience left a really bad taste in his mouth and he was having a hard time getting over it. He kept trying to change his policies and procedures to make sure that he did not get into the same position with a new employee that he had experienced in the past. In other words, he wanted to punish the new employee for the sins of the old employee. While it is completely understandable, it will not work. When you hire a person while “hungover”, you will make a bad hiring decision. You have to feel good about bringing a new person onboard. You have to be excited. 

So, how do you recover from a bad hire? 

  1. You take a deep breath. Do not hire too quickly. If you need immediate help, hire a temp. Jumping in to a situation with a new hire when you are not ready sets you both up for failure. 
  2. Create your ideal candidate list. Put your head in the clouds and dream BIG. And I mean really big, like roses and rainbows and unicorns. You cannot have what you want unless you know what it is and how to identify it. So until you are ready to write a list of what you want, then you are not ready for a new hire. 
  3. Be patient. Do not start the interview process until you feel excited again. 

Every manager has had a bad hire. It feels awful and firing someone should never feel good. So give yourself time to recover and breathe. Things will look better tomorrow. And your next amazing employee is right around the corner. I promise.

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