Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.

The Antisocialism of Socialism

Sending wholehearted gratitude to those and their families who paid the ultimate price defending their country against socialism, the false propaganda in this country threatening blind allegiance and subserviance to socialist principles needs also to be defended against.  Some proponents of the universal health care movement are now using socialism labels… and this is an unnecessary extreme to create the much needed change.  Nations choose their political systems carefully and defend them tenaciously.  The US has fought tenaciously as well and shouldn’t easily abandon longstanding beliefs.

Those who think they understand socialism need to visit a socialist nation and spend time truly analyzing its affects.  Socialist principles can be altruistic and often attractive in theory.  Like many political systems, the rollout of socialism yields outcomes completely contradictory to its perceived intention.   In the US we are entitled choice, and in that, let’s please remember that for which our founding fathers and millions of US military have shed blood.  Hitler and Mussolini also are also connected with socialism.  Think carefully.

In the US please consider rejecting all programs cloaked with the word “socialism” and “socialized” unless you really believe pure socialism is the answer... and you believe the US needs to reject its longstanding principles and overturn that for which many have given their lives.   There are many things to attempt here in the US short of socialism before overturning our guiding principles in such an extreme.  Many believe through research that true socialism simply eliminates the middle class… making the rich richer and the poor poorer.   

Whether you are for or against more government intervention in our BIG health care problem, socialism is not the next step in progression… and please don’t let much needed hope for betterment allow such a tricky movement to sneak past the great people of this country. 

Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, September 07, 2009


Getting the Right People Doing the Right Things with Safeguarded Precision!

Amidst organizational change employers deploy a wealth of employee assessments in a scheme of cost-benefit analysis. Some overspend the outcomes and then don’t even understand the data. Some sales-based assessment organizations inundate prospective clients with “high brow” tricks while brow-beating them into pretending they understand. What’s just as important as data integrity is simplified and universal buy-in… and the ability to attach meaningful cost saving action. Crazy labels and “smoke and mirrors” are not the keys to predicting success. If you don’t understand, your employees won’t either!

Employee assessment, training needs analysis, legal compliance and leadership development remain at the forefront of today's critical employer issues. Employees and leaders at all levels must be ready to adapt quickly and assume responsibilities, potentially for the first time with limited up front training. Employers can manage 5-7 figure risk with a 2-3 figure implementation before the change. This awareness continues to expand, and the demand for the right employee assessments explodes!

As a follow up to our research essay published by SHRM in 1999 and countless essays since including a Forbes interview a few years back, let’s review the changed environment. A wealth of assessment exercises is now available on the open market, and we endorse some but certainly not all of them. While HRS proprietary instruments are clearly our favorites (shameless plug), we have welcomed the most valid, reliable and meaningful instruments of other vendors into our catalog. Those we exclude and caution against are the many, many instruments that fall short of data integrity, legal compliance and assessor/assessee buy-in. For instance, validity does not exist if you cannot prove test performance directly correlates, within acceptable statistical margin of error, to workplace performance. This includes both positive and negative performance. A common pitfall here is to sample assess your top performers against the instrument and be fooled that good performance on both test and appraisal constitutes validity. That’s only part of the argument. Before assuming complete validation, test your poor performers and potentially those who weren’t selected for hire. 

Why Assess?

According to recent survey (to which 3000+ responded), advancement is the primary employee magnet and motivator, yet nearly half of incumbent managers miss at least 45% of the opportunities to be successfully transactional or transformational in leadership tactics. Self starters are proven not naturally inclined to transform others, and are therefore challenged as leaders. Incumbent call center employees are proven to miss more than half of follow through opportunities when presented with task to resolve rather than route. Nearly half of those excelling in external customer service roles underperform with internal customers, creating disharmonious team environments and unnecessary efficiency waste. In the HRSAC SR2 simulation, analytical adaptability consistently reveals itself as the most challenging criteria when employees are asked to assume a changed job condition. In short, job knowledge can hide logic, problem solving and trainability. Change for some can create disaster. Assessment results should pinpoint the “why” and the learning goals behind the performance ratings, present and future. When top performers are competing for promotion, 3rd party objectivity and buy-in are essential to ensure every top performer walks away feeling valued and empowered with tools to win that promotion next time. 

What Can Be Assessed?

Leadership Styles/Tactics, Customer Service, Critical Thinking, Analytical Adaptability, Multi-Tasking, Attention to Detail, Problem Solving, Group Presentation Dynamics, Teamplayer Orientation, Time Management, Workflow Planning, Conflict Resolution, Change Advocacy, Negotiation, Persuasion, Natural Abilities and Natural Roadblocks can be measured at a minimum, and are certainly among the most popular. Some erroneously call these the “soft skills.” While there’s nothing less common than sense, I attest these are the “hard skills.” Crafted reliably, in-baskets can predict job success according to any identified job description. Skills tests are available with endless functionality. 

Selecting the Right Assessment Instrument(s)

Examining validity and reliability is not as complex as it sounds. The assessment administrator who has an instrument of meaningful integrity will proudly take you through this explanation and may demo the instrument for you. Ask the following questions when choosing the instrument…
1. Inquire regarding validity and reliability studies. This includes pass-fail and/or both positive and negative ratings.
2. Investigate margin of error and resolution thereof.
3. Be convinced the instrument and its scoring report will be meaningful and gain buy-in from all parties. Be convinced the outcomes point to meaningful action.
4. Ensure the instrument’s content, delivery method and criteria support the job description for both meaningful information and legal defensibility. 

Delivery Method

On-line assessment grows in popularity due to convenience and has its important place, but for those not required to deliver such communications on the job via Internet, validity and data integrity are compromised. The testing environment should relate to the work environment. For those allowed to deliver key communications on-the-job in discussion, why force only Q&A or multiple choice based tests? Allow essay and/or conversational feedback modules. Such modules should not be computer scored. In short, the testing method and environment must be consistent with the job conditions.
In labor intensive or talent based organizations, success is largely impacted by human accuracy or error. Advancement is a key motivator, and a blueprint is essential. With the appropriate tools, employers can maneuver the right people doing the right things. Employers still promote great implementors into leadership, assuming this is the natural progression. Management is not natural progression but rather its own professional skillset and a lifelong learning commitment. The same is true for project management. For those who already buy in to the assessment center method, it remains challenging to differentiate between assessment instruments.

Having endured great cost in creating and validating precisely job specific instruments so obviously on the mark and easily understood that even assessees immediately buy-in, it’s difficult to watch others throw some meaningless crapshoot of a “smoke and mirrors” tool onto a website and pummel advertising at the public held hostage.

The best assessments gain buy-in upon inspection and discussion of scoring outcomes. The HRSAC has validated our proprietary assessments over 26 years working with hundreds of organizations from 10 to 100,000+ employees including global operations. Baselines have been established over these years for job-related criteria across countless demographics and fields. The scored analysis of the job-specific instrument reveals more precisely how behavioral traits would actually manifest themselves in a specific job setting. Probabilities for successful corporate training efforts coincide with these baselines. As interest surveys, personality profiles and integrity questionnaires continue to move out of utilization, job-predictive assessments continue to move in. Reputable assessment instruments come with validity and reliability studies, so don’t hesitate to ask! Sample reports should be proudly presented. Both employer and employee should be convinced. The key to success will be actionable findings, easy to understand with trust that ratings are accurate, job-related and meaningful in career-oriented decisions without bias. If your assessment doesn’t meet all the goals described herein, you haven’t found the right tools. Contact HRS… we’ve got them!

Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, May 24, 2009


Staying Up in a Down Economy

With all of the negative media and statistics out there, it’s become more and more difficult to rise above and find the good. When negative information is flying at us via internet, e-mail, television and radio – motivation can quickly dwindle. So how do we lift our team’s spirits and powerfully press on? Find the good, create the good, be the good!

We all know negative energy radiates and quickly creates potential for a domino effect to all those exposed. The same holds true for positive energy and uplifting motivation. Now is the time, maybe more than ever, to find team building opportunities and the “silver lining” in all possible.

Find a cause that’s important and get your team excited about making a difference! It’s typically the result that those who volunteer their time and resources determine that as much or more of a positive difference has been made in their own lives as those they’ve helped.

To help your team find, create, and be the difference in the lives of others as well as their own is certainly one of the most amazing benefits a company can provide!

Article contributed by Jodi Rasmussen, SPHR
HRS Assistant Director of Professional Service Operations


The Team At HRS - Saturday, May 23, 2009


Three Steps That Will Control Health Care Costs

We have the tools to effectively control excessive health care costs and improve the quality of health care. In order to address the damaging impact of these costs it is necessary that we understand the underlying cause of the problem and implement three fundamental changes. The goal is to have health care services of acceptable quality, reasonably priced and available to our citizens.

Where We Are...

Health care costs are one of the largest expenses of many families. In the past few years they have risen to represent the largest source of personal bankruptcy.

For corporations the cost of health benefit plans typically represent the second or third largest expense after payroll and raw materials. Today GM, Ford and Chrysler would not be facing potential bankruptcy if they did not have to sustain health benefits for employees and retirees.

For local, state and federal governments these expenses are forcing the increase in taxes and limitation of other services.

In all cases these expenses represent the most inflationary expense typically increasing from 8% to 15% or more. They are several times the increased cost of other goods and services.

Why The Problem...

Volumes have been written in an attempt to identify the reasons for health care cost increases. Technology, malpractice insurance expenses, defensive medicine, aging population, administrative inefficiencies, the uninsured, insurance company greed and a medical arms race among integrated health systems have all be advanced as the culprits. These are all symptoms of a deeper and more pervasive underlying situation.

At the core of our health care cost dilemma is an economically dysfunctional system. This system has evolved as a byproduct of employer based health benefit plans and government social programs. These two systems today represent about 95% of health care purchases in the United States. They have resulted in a system where those who need the service are different from those who order the service and both of these groups are different from those who pay the majority of the bill. Each of these groups has different needs and incentives which results in a dysfunctional system.

Let me present an example. Discretionary cosmetic surgery is typically not covered by benefit plans. The doctor presents the services, the risks and the cost, "That nose job will be $5,000." All services, surgeon, assistant surgeon, anesthesiologist, pathologist, lab work, facility cost, pre-surgery care and post-surgery care are included in one "Global" fee. The patient makes the final decision to have the surgery and pays the bill.

This is a normal customer – provider relationship. The patient can compare costs and through references obtain quality information.

If a health benefit plan is involved, a dramatically different presentation occurs. The patient may elect to have the surgery and select the surgeon but the other components are independent and are factored in as the system requires. Each will result in a separate charge which may be aggregated or submitted separately. The patient and the patient’s insurance will not know the cost of the service until the end of the day when all the bills have been submitted. This system has been driven by the nature of the health insurance contract where each component of health care is treated separately.

This is similar to the difference between buying a dinner and purchasing each component of the dinner separately. With the latter the steak is one charge, the potato another, the peas are a third and determined by how many peas you want, if you want a plate… that is additional, as are the knife and fork. The napkin is considered unnecessary and will not be covered by insurance.

Add to this confusing system two other elements. First, each service is subject to a discount which will most likely vary between insurance company, PPO, HMO and government contracts. A service may have a 60% discount from billed charges for Medicare, a 50% discount for one HMO and a 40% discount for a PPO. Even patients without insurance get a discount. No one pays billed charges anymore.

Second, the price of a single service will vary widely from provider to provider. In 1984 prior to the Medicare program moving from cost plus 5% to Diagnostic Related Groups (DRG), the price variance was about 10% in a given metropolitan area. Today, of the top 38 hospital procedures the variance is at least 100% and can reach 400%. A $2,000 service at one hospital will cost $8,000 at another.

What Can Be Done...

There is no other industry in the world where a dysfunctional system of this magnitude occurs. No individual, corporation, industry group, consumer group or government can effectively address this problem. Changing the underlying economic model, however, will result in a thousand responses by the market that will effectively address the problem.

For this to occur, three steps must be taken.

1. Health care costs must be made transparent. In order to not violate private confidential contracts between the health care provider and the payer, an initial report of the average revenue received by a hospital for the top 20 procedures will identify those hospitals that are doing a good job of controlling costs and those that are abusing the system.

2. Where possible, services should be offered on a "dinner" basis. These "Global" fees can be developed for about 85% of the services American’s purchase annually. Their development will encourage the medical community to improve efficiencies and develop mechanisms to report on quality.

3. Insurance plans (both through insurance companies and self-insured) and government plans like Medicare can then be modified to embrace the Global fees. This will result in greater cost control and more efficient payment systems (pay one Global fee instead of 12 smaller bills).

These three actions will change the economic foundation on which we as a society provide and purchase health care services. Costs will be contained and reduced and quality will be emphasized. If quality care is more affordable it will also be easier for various programs to provide care in more challenging inner city and rural areas.

The first step is for state and federal governments or corporations through existing contractual relationships to require average price disclosure (net of all discounts) by each hospital.

This article was contributed by Richard L. Blomquist, Esteemed Member of the HRS Client Advisory Team
Mr. Blomquist's Bio and Contact Info 


The Team At HRS - Friday, May 01, 2009


Team Motivation Principles: Debunk the Crazy Propaganda that All CEOs are Greedy!

With a small percentage of “hired gun” CEOs being called out for ridiculous greed… and flaunting it, our legislative and media communities are creating a dangerous misperception which threatens not only the immediate workplace but also the US’s global position.  Simply stated, so many CEOs are not greedy, and these are the people who can really impact the economy. So, why do we rake them over the coals?  Having devoted my career to advocating sharing wealth among team members… proportionate to results contribution… I see how wrongful mistrust of the right CEOs negatively impacts workplace results.


This ivory tower perception of “me against you” in the employee-employer relationship tears down employee confidence and teamwork necessary for corporate bottom-line success.  While we all know, “if it bleeds, it leads” in the press, this concept sells publications only because people buy in to this concept.  Blame the media all you want (and I can be heard griping often), the media sells only what the public buys.   


Successful corporations are those that have endured hardship, challenge and downturn.  Discussing the resilience of corporate leadership can lead to positive outcomes.  Without discussing concepts the employee isn’t qualified to process, keep it audience adaptive.   Frame these discussions to build confidence, and don’t present them in a manner which presents weakness or creates fear.   We know overcoming adversity depicts strength while dwelling upon and empowering the obstacles depicts weakness.   The target is not to whine.


The problem is that most people are not the risk takers of entrepreneurism, so if we divulge hardship to those while we’re in it, they may become fearful to buy in and contribute when needed to do so.  There’s nothing wrong with being more conservative here, so we don’t wish to lose the engagement of this audience.  Risk takers “suck it up” and keep their sacrifices private.  When they don’t take a paycheck, when they mortgage their home to pay employees, and when they make lifestyle choices which sacrificed personal or social time, it’s typically not visible.  Later on, the Mercedes-Benz is visible and some people complain of greed.   Those who complain are those who didn’t make the same sacrifices and don’t get it. 


Many CEOs are not "silver spooners."  The plain truth is that most Americans have opportunity to be CEOs themselves and they choose not to.   They choose against the start-up risk, they choose the bar over the office or maybe they have family needs needs which become rightfully prioritized.  To choose not to be a CEO is not wrong.  Personally, I find the “pillow test” the ultimate test of success.  If you’re comfortable with what you did that day when your head hits the pillow, you are successful.   Yet, while emerging CEOs are choosing work over party time, the bars are filled with people complaining about their bosses.   Backstories are emerging right now, illustrating the personal sacrifices made by some of the great US CEOs who have created jobs, shown philanthropy and endured hardship which benefits us all.  Let’s not lump these good people in with the greedy few. 


There are some amazingly great employees out there!  It can be just as difficult to take direction as it is to give it, especially from some of the bad bosses out there.  Amazing employees will probably never realize the benefits of the new COBRA subsidy, as they will probably never see “involuntary termination.”  In most reasonable estimations,  over time less than 1% of corporate downsize decisions are not directly attributed to employee poor performance.  Most downsize decisions are selective.  Employees do have a choice. Absent union protection of service length vs. merit or bad management, top performers typically keep their jobs.  In many cases, better employee performance would have saved the company that need to downsize.  That being said, we hold this to be true:  it is the supervisor’s direct responsibility to ensure the right people are doing the right things.  It’s not a blame-shifting game.  Everyone has a role.


Right now we’re living in a country that penalizes those who create jobs and rewards those who are terminated for cause.  Many believe we live with an administration that seeks to deny free choice under the disguise of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Surely this is no way to compete.  Keep this discussion on the table without creating destructive conflict.  There are facts to be shared and teamwork to be built.   Clearly, government and media are tearing down this important sense of capitalism.  CEOs and organizational development leaders must counteract with the right amount of information needed to restore faith in organizational alignment.   Chances are, the employees who don’t currently buy in are not reading this, so they need to hear it from you!



Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, March 08, 2009


Leadership Challenges: Sales vs. Substance

Repeatedly validated by survey and experience, a top reason for resignation is lack of confidence in one’s supervisor.   Leaders attempt to blend “sales” with “substance” sometimes mutually exclusively.  Sales training experts suddenly become experts in leadership training and confusion begins.

Make no mistake... sales skills facilitate success everywhere!  Most certainly one can’t effectively lead unless someone is willing to follow, and that takes salesmanship.  Without substance, however, leaders may lead down a dark alley into a brick wall or down an unfortunate path.  Too often we see managers who are all sales or all substance, severely lacking in one of the two. 

It is most definitely an organizational development issue to decide your employer brand in creating the right proportionality of “sales” vs. “substance” in the leadership team.   That decision creates a blueprint for hiring, development, advancement and the entire performance management system.   Employers with strong labor intensity rely upon the right people doing the right things at all times.   In this case, substance actually becomes more important than sales.  The key word here is “right.”   Employees who have substance are likely to recognize and respect substance in leadership, and successes can be attained.  In the less labor intensive environment, (e.g. quick training, high automation, low competition and/or low impact of human error), leader salesmanship may be a higher priority.   

Too often we see managerial candidates sell themselves into positions for which they are not qualified.  The salesmanship is sometimes so intense, it conceals the absence of substance.  Credentials aren’t checked.  Pre-employment assessment isn’t administered.  Lifelong learning doesn’t always happen.  Blame-shifting can wrongfully and frequently replace engagement.  When these folks are empowered, employees of “substance” tend to leave the system. 

Be careful as to whom you’ve empowered.  The highly “sales” driven manager lacking “substance” can be quite a gatekeeper, sometimes keeping the good ones down… or out.     

Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Self-Starters Can Make Terrible Managers!

Self-starters rarely understand those who are not self-starters, and most available employees are not self-starters.  This lack of understanding creates a barrier to audience adaptation and leadership problem solving.  Until we learn otherwise, we tend to believe others think and behave as we do.  Without specific leadership training, self-starters lack necessary frame of reference and are often less than successful engaging and guiding the performance of others.   By definition, these individuals “figured it out” by themselves and simply can’t understand why others can’t or won’t do the same. 
Employers tend to promote top performers, usually self-starters, to leadership roles.  Upon doing so, we fail to recognize that we are often promoting for the wrong reasons.  A self-starter with the right leadership training can lead by example.  A self-starter may be more proactive in the leadership education process and gain more.  A self-starter unwilling or improperly trained in leadership, will most likely fail, especially if they are unwilling or ineffective to be either transformational or transactional in leadership style.  Leadership is lifelong education, requiring regular revisits to the basics.  Without ability to understand and adapt to those unlike us, we stunt company growth and can only hire a small percentage of the available applicant pool.  For most organizations, too many self-starters in the hierarchy can be similar to “too many cooks in the kitchen.”  It is for this reason that major market employers can rarely be highly selective with regard to this characteristic, even in times of high unemployment.
We know that leadership is not a natural progression but rather a distinct, precise and often trainable subset.  Coaching is something many self-starters have no interest in. “Why should I coddle you, when no one coddled me?”  Coaching should never be coddling but rather a transfer of information, measurable success benchmarks, regular performance feedback and precisely communicated and delivered rewards and consequences.  Assuming the talent acquisition process is doing its job, coaching is that which makes success an employee choice. 
To be a self-starter is to be intrinsically motivated, motivated from within, believing that hard work and/or successful results lead to positive outcomes.  Those not intrinsically motivated can often pinpoint the catalyst to their new extrinsic motivation and can successfully understand and relate to others also not intrinsically motivated.  We know that extrinsic motivation is volatile, affected by the employer.  Motivation is, in its simplest terms, a reason.  We know most people are not intrinsically motivated.  This is validated through decades of results, employee research in the hundreds of thousands, and pinpointed findings in the surveys.
Self-starters can make great managers, provided they are willing and precisely trained in audience adaptation and effective coaching principles.  Those who make good employees because of someone else’s effective coaching should also be considered for coaching opportunities.  Understanding what transformed you to improved performance is a valuable toolset applicable to transforming others!  Those who were “transformed” can be highly influential and motivational success stories for others.  If you are reading this, you are most likely already a self-starter. 
HRS interactive leadership workshops are globally valued, offering quantifiable success.  Please contact us with your interest!

Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, December 12, 2008


Will the New Administration Fix It?

With the trilogy control of Presidency, House and Senate by the Democrats, we have “thrown the keys” to a single party and allowed them to “fix it.” 


For the good of our economy -- and quite frankly our wellness -- the backstabbing, blame-shifting and treasonous undermining of our leadership must cease.  Please think twice before resorting to the same ol’ same ol’ belly-aching that has undermined hope and destroyed confident spending over the past 8 years.


We certainly must question the legitimacy of employee free choice actually existing within the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, and we must think globally, creating work ethic policies that allow the US the ability to compete globally while building positive relationships.  Let's set an example of diplomacy and respectful disagreement in doing so.  Perhaps we can understand that by regularly skewering the important leaders in our country, we jeopardize ability to attract top talent. 

We can be empassioned without being destructive.  We must discontinue behavior which has adversely affected new generations and created current economic downfalls.  We can think twice before "bailing out" employers not likely to thrive and reinvest into our economy.  We must stop blaming all CEOs for the greed of a few.  We must remember and embrace "free enterprise."  We must rreat the USA with appreciative inquiry.
Politically, let me be one of many to say passionately advise our current administration “You’ve got the keys, now FIX IT!”  The world is watching with anticipation.  Every citizen also has a role and a responsibility in "fixing it."  It is most certainly a team effort!

Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, November 28, 2008


Are You Too Good for Your Job?

It’s a cliché story... one of the most common mistakes... battling for just the right amount of career confidence and self worth.  Being part of a successful team or system creates a restless feeling and a need to do “bigger, better things.”  The restless overconfident person leaves the successful environment and finds a path of greater resistance.   Of course highly visible in the entertainment industry, the inflated “ego” can break up our favorite television series, sports team, band and far too frequently occurs (although with less celebrity status) in the workplace. 


We know you can’t really succeed until you’re willing to fail, and the path of greater resistance isn’t necessarily a bad choice.  Overconfidence, however, is rarely a good choice.  When good things happen to those who feel “entitled,” those good things are often taken for granted and opportunities are missed.   It’s really not surprising how many times overconfidence takes one down a lesser path or a path of greater resistance. 


Career overconfidence takes many forms.  Sometimes it bears a very unconventional appearance.  Sometimes individuals have an inflated sense of entitlement or expectations, and accordingly, they inappropriately benchmark their success.  Sometimes individuals underestimate the effort, work or risk tolerance required to attain success.  This form of overconfidence is attached to work outcomes as opposed to talents or skills, yet it can lead to the same pitfalls.


The desire for advancement is consistently a survey leader among career magnets and motivators, yet employees too often fail to recognize opportunity or fail to invest the appropriate effort.  When advancement does occur, employees often take too much credit and become overconfident with a heightened sense of workplace demand.  Where employees don’t advance, they often shift blame rather than finding their own sense of accountability.  After failing in one workplace, the blame-shifter often temporarily succeeds in the next.  If this is due to learning, success becomes more sustainable.  If this is due to scorn and determination to prove oneself right while still blame-shifting, after a brief “honeymoon period” the same barriers and original problems may re-emerge.  When team members do advance, they may fail to recognize the support they’ve received, and the self-destructive cycle continues. 


On the flip side, employers allow these disconnects by failing to properly distribute education on both success and failure.  Inappropriate distribution of rewards, consequences and information around work outcomes is at the heart of the problem.  The answer is not simple.  It’s a lifelong commitment to learning and refreshing learning, supporting why the leadership assessment and learning programs are among the most popular at HRS. Even once learned, these principles are easy to overlook… and even forget.


As an individual, if you think you might be too good for your job, we recommend awareness of the “overconfident” syndrome in hope you may avoid its pitfalls.  If you make a bad choice, don’t dwell on it, but please look back at it for the learning.  Without learning we are destined to repeat our mistakes.  Advancement is above all a product of your choices... and not necessarily which job you have but rather how you approach it.  

Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, November 08, 2008


Start them Young to Help them Succeed in the Workplace

The key to assessing motivation and predicting results of employees is to pinpoint information they may not even know of themselves.  How do we do this?  Carefully crafted investigations through behavior based assessment and interviewing. Why do we do this?  Work ethic is detectable, complex and begins early. While successful organizational development depends upon the creating and sustaining of extrinsic (situational) motivation, an individual’s intrinsic (from within) motivation can be very difficult to change and requires an entirely different approach. 


Work ethic is a core fundamental unique to every individual.  It is developed over our lifetime and benefits from the earliest start possible.  It begins with reaching for the infant toy rather than having that toy placed in your hand.  It stems from inspiration… inspiration through need (sometimes desperation) and requires the belief set that work will influence results.  Those too coddled fail to develop the need.  Those not exposed to role models attaining results fail to buy-in to the outcomes.  We know these fundamentals are shaped and reinforced over our lifetime.  


Somewhere in the early 90’s, at a CEO Summit for which he was keynote speaker, I had the good fortune to work one-to-one with Bob Galvin, former Motorola CEO and son of founder Paul Galvin.  Bob & I instantly connected on an essential finding:  future leaders can be pointed out by age 14.  A very controversial summation at that time, people have jumped on board to that thinking more and more.  While several interpretations of “leadership” exist, the leadership we speak of here is visionary leadership and invention through inspiration, creativity, problem solving and risk taking, something for which Bob has been multiply awarded, something that stems from work ethic.  


Why can we spot leaders in their early teens? 


1)      Intrinsic motivation starts in early childhood, part nature and a lot of nurture.  Messages through parenting and life’s experiences teach a child the connection between hard work, results and rewards.  It requires risk tolerance and effort. “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” (Wayne Gretzky) 

2)      Success breeds success.  Those who get a taste of accomplishment early can acquire a hunger for it, and of course – a confidence in the ability to attain.

3)      Leadership is not the automatic progression of doing something else well.  It is a distinctive skill set, orientation and career path.  It is marked by characteristics which reveal themselves early in life and need nurturing.  Leadership is also not a degree in management without the knowledge of how to do anything else in specific at which to lead. 

4)      The leadership we speak of here requires willingness to fail and go on, problem solving and a lifelong learning commitment.  Each of these fundamentals are easiest developed at an early age.

5)      Many scientists and psychologists believe our highest level of pure intelligence is at birth and with learning peaking during our first 2 years of life.  Wisdom, education and experience fill in over time proportionate to our exposure.


Can this type of leadership emerge later in life?  Yes, through dedicated choice and/or circumstances of revelation impact.  


Work ethic can emerge from an intrinsic sense of responsibility and/or when we believe we can or are desperate enough to try to “control our own destiny.”  Leadership is both a subset of work ethic and a combination of behavioral characteristics.  We cannot lead effectively if no one is willing to follow.  We should be willing to lead by example.  Whether a leader of creation/invention or a leader of others, effective leadership relies upon creating inspirational ideas and/or directly inspiring others. 


Effective leadership, like any career path, requires commitment.  Commitment requires work ethic.  Parents can be most effective in developing work ethic when they lead by example, create need (inspiration) and reinforce the rewards of work.  Think about the term “street smarts” to further understand the importance of “need” in work ethic development. 


Whatever the choices or extenuating circumstances of one’s life, work ethic is simply “doing your best” with sincerity and willingness of sacrifice.  If education is the target, substantial learning is not reliant upon financial resources but rather the willingness to do the work to learn.  People have been self-taught with very little financial resources… Abraham Lincoln, for one.  If advanced education is the desire, college can be self-financed.   Start them young wherever you can.  Parents need to understand their role in work ethic development and they must start at infancy.  If they aren’t willing to do the work, maybe they should just provide access to a proper role model and then leave the kid alone to figure it out. 


Make no mistake.  We know the “leave alone” approach can be over-used and backlash with other developmental problems, which is why so many attentive and well-intending parents fear and under-use it – also affecting work ethic and leadership..  We’re looking for balance, commitment, role modeling and work ethic in our parenting.  We’re looking for parents to teach their kids to successfully “leave the nest” by providing supportive age-appropriate guidance, work skills and motivation.  The work ethic development trail can be very telling and predictive to future workplace outcomes.   It can be visible in a self-prepared resume and can be detected in a carefully crafted interview or assessment exercise.  Again, most commonly, it begins in early youth. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Wednesday, October 29, 2008