Category: Talent

Excerpt from The Excellence Dividend

Profit Through Putting People First Business Book Club

Business by and large has a lousy rep, and management books by and large focus on things that are broken and how to fix them. Yet there is also a robust body of “good news by putting people (REALLY) first” books—e.g., the informal list below. How about a year-long … “Profit Through Putting People First Business Book Club” for you and/or your leadership team?

[CM: The Excellence Dividend is available for pre-order at …
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Training = Investment #1

I have ratcheted the volume WAAAAAAY up re training. I unloaded on the topic last week at Indiana HR in Indianapolis. I have subsequently upgraded a document titled “Training: Investment #1.”

All yours …

[Ed. And, there’s an update to Excellence. NO EXCUSES! to reflect the changes to the training piece.]

Tom's Training/Development Obsession

Tom is on a tear, more determined than ever that CEOs (and other bosses at all levels) finally “Put People First”—as their mission statements say, but which is contradicted by their actions. As tech change accelerates, this becomes more important with each passing day.

In his Milan event, Tom passed out one item to the several thousand attendees. Something that he called his “#1 Belief.” To wit:

Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skillset, “soft” and “hard,” of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities. The good news: This is also the #1 mid- to long-term … profit maximization strategy!

Related to the statement-of-principle above, on Sunday he fired off a series of tweets on training. Herewith:

Is your CTO/Chief Training Officer your top paid “C-level” job (other than CEO/COO)? If not, why not?

Are your top trainers paid as much as your top marketers? If not, why not?

Are your training courses all so good they make you giggle? If not, why not?

Randomly stop an employee in the hall: Can she/he describe their development plan for the next 12 months? If not, why not?

Sunday/NFL game day: “Players are our most important asset.” “No shit, Sherlock.” Football is a competitive BUSINESS. (If them, why not you?)

Study/inhale Matthew Kelly’s book The Dream Manager. It’s fictional. But it’s not. Down to the penny about a real company—I met the CEO.

Check out a Marine E-6 (senior sergeant): Ask him/her about training and development objectives, and intensity of approach thereto …

You want to understand training in a super high-tech business? Talk to the commanding officer (effectively CTO) of a “boomer”/U.S. Navy nuclear submarine patrolling the sea with nuclear-armed missiles on board.


Deming & Me

W. Edwards Deming, the quality guru-of-gurus, called the standard evaluation process the worst of management de-motivators. I don’t disagree. For some reason or other, I launched several tweets on the subject a couple of days ago. Here are a few of them:

Do football coaches or theater directors use a standard evaluation form to assess their players/actors? Stupid question, eh?

Does the CEO use a standard evaluation form for her VPs? If not, then why use one for front line employees?

Evaluating someone is a conversation/several conversations/a dialogue/ongoing, not filling out a form once every 6 months or year.

If you (boss/leader) are not exhausted after an evaluation conversation, then it wasn’t a serious conversation.

I am not keen on formal high-potential employee I.D. programs. As manager, I will treat all team members as potential “high potentials.”

Each of my eight “direct reports” has an utterly unique professional trajectory. How could a standardized evaluation form serve any useful purpose?

Standardized evaluation forms are as stupid for assessing the 10 baristas at a Starbucks shop as for assessing Starbucks’ 10 senior vice presidents.

Evaluation: No problem with a shared checklist to guide part of the conversation. But the “off list” discussion will by far be the most important element.

How do you “identify” “high potentials”? You don’t! They identify themselves—that’s the whole point.

“High potentials” will take care of themselves. The great productivity “secret” is improving the performance of the 60% in the middle of the distribution.


As some of you know, I have been regularly shouting about Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I think it’s a breakthrough book. Put simply, I judge that many of us have undervalued, and often underemployed and underutilized, roughly half the population—introverts. In any event, as usual, I turned my favorite bits into, what else, a PowerPoint “presentation.” You’ll find it here. I urge you to take it seriously—start by buying the book!

(I first used Cain’s book at a talk to a tough-as-nails company in a wildly competitive market. They talk tough, and acknowledge having a strong hiring bias in the direction of “aggressive” people. Makes sense in their world—but what if they’re missing out on a huge hunk of the population that brings different and desirable traits to the party? E.g., looking before leaping. Several folks came up afterwards and claimed that they’d give this a lot of thorough examination—that there might be another planet to explore.)

I repeat: This could be huge!

Best of the Cool Friends
Ed Michaels

In keeping with Tom’s latest eBook, People First!, we’re highlighting a Cool Friend who wrote the book on Talent. Ed Michaels was part of a McKinsey & Co. group who studied the practices of 20 companies that excelled at finding and keeping talented employees. The study resulted in a 2001 book outlining the findings, and Ed Michaels was a coauthor of that book, The War for Talent. Tom’s chosen to bring the topic up for discussion a decade later, so it might be a good time to take a look at this Cool Friends interview. You’ll find some still useful insights.

People First

Tom’s new eBook, People First!, is at the iTunes store now. The subject is Talent. It’s all about treating your employees like customers. Good for them, good for your bottom line.

You Matter To Me

Tom’s newest ebook is now available! You Matter to Me is a very visual adaptation of the piece he wrote called Acknowledgement. We all need to know that the work we’re doing is making a difference, and that someone sees that. This isn’t about fawning all over the people who work for you or with you. It can be as simple as noticing someone’s effort and acknowledging it. Here’s how Tom sums it up:

It is to say, simply, that in any context, personal or professional, there is no greater gift to the person or persons with whom you are engaged than heartfelt (as well as headfelt) acknowledgement of their contributions and fundamental human worth; moreover, said acknowledgement almost invariably leads to greater commitment and better-served clientele and a happier bottom line.


Playing around with my favorite theme:
It all starts with you putting people FIRST …

The Seven-step Path to Sustaining Success

You take care of the people.
The people take care of the service.
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit.
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)