Retention Challenges

HALF OR MORE of new employees quit a new position within the first seven months. While there can be many reasons people quit, one reason often given is, “The job wasn’t what I expected.” Anyone who has experienced the time and expense required to hire someone, only to have them quit a short time later, knows the frustration and costs involved. If this is a recurring theme, it may be time to re-examine your hiring process.

Unnecessary turnover can be avoided by setting realistic expectations — think full disclosure — from the beginning to the end of the hiring process. Establishing clear, realistic expectations is critical to a successful boss-employee relationship — and retaining talent. In contrast, disgruntled employees and turnover are highly disruptive to workplace performance.

Research shows many applicants know little about the jobs they are applying for or have inaccurate perceptions of the job. In an effort to reduce turnover, some companies are developing “Realistic Job Previews,” or RJPs, in the form of videos such as, “A day in the life of a … caseworker.” Home Depot, for example, has made it easy for potential applicants to preview the realities of sales associate positions via an online video on its Web site. The video features sales associates describing their jobs, including pluses such as career advancement and in-depth knowledge of products to challenges such as heavy lifting and working in a hectic, fast-paced environment on your feet all day. Likewise, PetSmart shows potential job applicants a 10-minute video that it believes screens out about 15 percent of applicants.

Frankly, examples like these are rare. Most managers simply do not invest enough time clarifying expectations upfront.

Here are a few things those hiring can do:

  • Most employees dislike job surprises. During the hiring process, paint a realistic picture of what the person’s average workday would entail. This includes attention to details, including where the workspace is located (having a window or office versus a cubicle can matter a great deal to some), physical demands such as heavy lifting, required travel time and schedule flexibility. It’s also a good idea to discuss weekend/holiday requirements and the amount of autonomy and responsibility people will be given. Identify any pending changes, such as work space or office relocations. Your objective in hiring should be more about finding the right fit for the open position versus trying to sell the job.
  • Address and describe your company culture in the interview process. Cover areas including expected hours of work (including crunch times), policies regarding Internet computer use, expected attendance at after-hour events, schedule flexibility and whether the culture is conservative, laid back or high pressure.
  • Write accurate and complete job descriptions and update them regularly. Ask the person leaving what they would add or delete given their experience in the position.
  • During the interview process specifically explore with the candidate why and how he or she sees the position as a fit. Explore any areas of concern. As the hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to assess if this is the right person for the job.
  • Cover the pros and cons of the job. All jobs have challenges. You won’t be doing the candidate, yourself or your team any favors by sugarcoating reality, particularly around known challenges and unaddressed issues for the person who last held the position. If long hours, tedious, mundane computer work or limited supervision/support is a job reality, inform the candidate upfront (including how he or she will be rewarded). In the end, you want to weed out those who won’t last vs. those who will flourish.
  • Lastly, consider this happiness equation: Happiness = Expectations — Delivery, and yes in the employer/employee relationship this applies both ways! Employees are more likely to respect, trust and be loyal to those bosses who were upfront with them from the get-go.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

8 Ways to Build Trust and Your Career

Developing and maintaining trust is critical to success in your career, workplace teams, leadership and business. It is the foundation for individual and team performance. But trust can be difficult to earn and far too easy to lose.

Think of having a personal trust account much like your bank account. Every action you take with your customers, team, boss and direct reports is either a deposit into the trust account — or a withdrawal.

If you overdraw, you risk bankruptcy. Careers and businesses can be derailed because of a single incident and overdraft on the trust account.

How do you gain and keep trust? This isn’t rocket science — more like everything you learned in kindergarten. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Do what you say you will do. If you commit to something, take responsibility and deliver. Better yet (to build overdraft protection), exceed their expectations. One of the surest ways to destroy workplace or client/customer trust is to overpromise and underdeliver. Avoid automatically saying yes to all requests. Know your limitations and resources. Commit to only those requests you know you can deliver on.
  2. Be genuine and congruent. Most of us can spot a faker, pretender or workplace politician. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it — you just know something about this person isn’t trustworthy. A caution flag goes up in our hearts or gut that says, “Something is wrong with this picture.” When the words the person is speaking don’t match up with their non-verbal cues (the video we see doesn’t match the audio we hear), we lose trust. Be mindful of the messages you are sending — your tone of voice, eye contact and other non-verbal signs. Trying to fake or hide how you feel and what you think and want can increase the likelihood of others mistrusting you.
  3. Be clear and concise in your communications (including e-mail!). Communicate to be understood. Ask others to repeat multifaceted instructions or complex ideas for clarity. If you are one of those people who use too many words or don’t know when to stop talking, people may avoid you. Pause and let someone else in the conversation versus rambling or overexplaining yourself.
  4. Listen well. Be careful about spending too much of your communication time in tell or lecture mode. Spend an equal or greater amount of your time listening to understand the other. By the way, if you are crafting your reply or rebuttal in your head while the other is talking — you aren’t listening. Many leaders spend too much time telling and not enough time listening. I’ve never heard a leader criticized for listening too much. To listen better, be curious, paraphrase (you’ll pay closer attention if you know you have to summarize their words) and ask clarifying questions.
  5. Avoid gossiping. What happens when you hear a co-worker back-stabbing another co-worker? Likely you make a note to self not to trust him or her because it’s logical to assume one day you may be the target. If you have an issue with someone, have the courage and integrity to take it up with him or her directly. Back-stabbing is often a career derailer.
  6. Generously give credit to others. Self-promoters are typically not trusted. Spend less time promoting yourself and more time giving credit to your team or direct reports.
  7. Don’t hide the truth. Be transparent with co-workers, bosses and clients/customers. Most of us don’t like surprises and have no tolerance for being lied to or misled. It is often an “unrecoverable” in the trust account — ask anyone hurt by Enron or Wall street bad apples.
  8. Be flawless with your word. Honesty and integrity will get you everywhere. There is no better mantra for success and building trust in the workplace — period.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

6 Tips for Work Seeking Boomers

The average age of retirement is extending rapidly because of increased life expectancy (and health — the good news) along with rapidly shrinking nest-egg reserves and an increased cost of living. As a result, many older “boomers” are re-entering the work force.

This week’s focus: how older workers can better prepare for job interviews.

Job seekers with decades of experience face noteworthy hurdles directly attributable to their age. Despite federal laws barring age discrimination, reality means there are “tapes” and questions that tend to run through a hiring manager’s mind.

Does this person have the energy to do this job? Is this person looking for a job to coast until retirement? Why is this person applying for a job he or she is obviously overqualified for? Will this person fit with younger team members? Is this person rigid or set in his ways? Is this person technologically savvy and current with industry trends? Won’t there be issues for this person reporting to someone younger?

Older job seekers will need to prepare to overcome these hurdles in interviews.

As a professional career coach, here are some tips I offer to my clients:

  1. You get one chance to make a first impression. Look professional and stylish. Men: minimal or no facial hair (beards tend to make you look older), and avoid outdated clothing (that tie you bought a few decades ago!) Women: no clunky jewelry (it’s distracting), strong perfumes or clothing that screams frumpy. If in doubt, get an opinion from a young professional.
  2. Be prepared with recent examples demonstrating your willingness to learn new skills. Note specifics that establish you as being current with your industry. Identify yourself as a “lifetime learner.” Relay your continual interest in learning new technologies and ways to work smarter.
  3. Prove you are technically savvy. If you can’t submit an online resume through a company’s Web site, find someone to help you learn. Likewise, don’t say, “I don’t have a cell phone or e-mail address,” because this will signal you are way behind the technology curve. Consider bringing in a USB stick of some of your best work portfolio examples to leave behind. Find a way to convey your comfort level using the latest communication tools and/or software common in today’s workplaces.
  4. Demonstrate passion. Hiring managers I coach often relay a common apprehension they have about older workers — that they don’t have the necessary energy or commitment. Prove them wrong. Show up energetically and positive. Don’t give off body language that you are tired or depressed. When asked, “Tell me about yourself” skip the fact that you have grandkids and let them know (if it’s true) that you climbed Mount Rainier last weekend or play tennis regularly. Give examples of how you handle stress, deadlines and your track record of going the extra mile when required.
  5. Provide evidence that you are flexible and adaptable. If you come off as rigid, condescending or like a stern schoolmarm, odds are you won’t be hired. Don’t give off any cues that you are put out being interviewed by someone much younger. Keep good eye contact, smile and use a confident handshake.
  6. Don’t give away age clues (grandkid photos or the date you graduated from college). It’s illegal for them to ask your age, but reality is, interviewers will often try to find out in other ways. Reciting your experience engineering the Space Needle (for the ’62 World’s Fair) would be a serious tip-off. Avoid the temptation to list every single job you’ve ever held on your resume. Stick to the last several decades. Keep focused on relevant professional accomplishments/skills that apply to the open position.

Also, prepare for these common interview questions:

  • What are your career goals? What they really want to know is, “How soon will you retire?” Reassure them that you plan to keep working because you love what you do. Use this question as an opportunity to relay your passion for work you enjoy.
  • What are your salary requirements? Don’t scare them off using your top previous salary. Be prepared to accept less than your highest earning. Do your homework. Determine the going appropriate range for the position, ask if it’s within the range, then let them know you expect a competitive salary for what you will contribute.
  • Aren’t you overqualified for this position? Tricky question. Assure them that your top priorities aren’t salary and titles. Convey your sincere interest in the new position and challenge. Emphasize your strengths (and how they are a fit for the position), your interests that led you to apply, that you’ll hit the ground running and that you can be trusted to get the work done.

Lastly, if you are dusting off the resume, consider hiring professional support for re-entry and/or reinventing yourself.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you land the right job.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

Conflict Thrives Without Clarity

Most workplace conflicts are the result of misunderstandings.

We all have a unique perspective. How we receive and interpret communication is a result of our mental models, beliefs, values, culture, religion, gender, life experiences, health — even whether we are having a good day.

Misunderstandings often occur as a result of how words and actions get filtered or “decoded” by the receiver. We hear (selectively) the words being spoken, appraise the tone and body language we observe and then instantly process that information and apply meaning to the message — all based on our personal experience and perception. It’s our interpretation of the message that determines how we react emotionally; no one makes us “feel” anything. Yet we often walk away from a misunderstanding blaming the other person for how he or she “made me feel.”

John Wallen astutely noted, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their impact.” Wallen’s practical “interpersonal gap” theory helps us recognize the great potential for misunderstandings. He describes the gap that often occurs in communication when the private intentions of a “sender” of a message don’t equal the result or “effect” of the communication on the “receiving” end of the message. In other words, the message I intended to convey is not what was received.

Many things influence interpretation — tone, words, facial expressions and our unique perception of the world. For example, a boss’s comment, “You weren’t at your desk this morning,” may have been intended to convey concern about your health yet might be interpreted as a nasty reminder about your tardiness or confirmation of your paranoia that the boss is out to get you. We often incorrectly ascribe “motives” around the other. Most conflicts are a result of that interpersonal gap.

How do we close the potential for interpersonal workplace gaps?

  • Provide clarity regarding your intention. What are you trying to accomplish? The more clearly you communicate your intentions, the better your odds of being understood.
  • Consider the potential for misunderstanding. Ask yourself, how could someone interpret this in a way that does not reflect my intention or the message I am trying to deliver?
  • Avoid sending double messages, and refrain from using sarcasm and passive aggression.
  • Don’t assume. We are often surprised by the reaction of someone to what we thought was a straightforward communication. A strong reaction often means there has been an interpersonal gap or misinterpretation. In such a case, you’d better work at closing the “gap.”
  • Don’t underestimate the “impact” factor. Both action and inaction have impact. A highly sensitive situation, poorly handled, can transform a small misunderstanding gap into a full-blown chasm.

What do you do when you are in an interpersonal gap?

  • Work it out quickly. Time is of the essence. If ignored, the gap grows.
  • De-escalate. Take a deep breath. Listen, paraphrase what you heard and acknowledge the other with empathy. Most people who believe they have been truly heard will calm down.
  • Don’t get personal. Instead, try to impartially roll the video and simply report what you heard and observed. Describe the behavior that leads you to your interpretation. Handling a challenge with just the facts instead of judgments will almost always have a better outcome.
  • Speak for yourself. Let the other know how you are affected by their message — including how you feel. “I’m angry to hear you call me unprofessional,” or, “I was hurt when you didn’t return my phone call.”
  • Verify your interpretations. Check in with the other to see if what you assume is correct. “By the tone of your voice, I’m guessing you are angry with me, am I right?”
  • Ask for clarification of anything that is unclear (particularly work instructions) or seems unreasonable (maybe you are just interpreting it wrong). Paraphrase your understanding of what was said.

For major problems, for example, your top performer is threatening to quit get an expert like me to help you.

One of the worst culprits for creating the potential for misunderstanding is our increasing dependency on e-mail, text, chat etc as our primary communication channel. There are no facial expressions or tone of voice to help the receiver interpret the message correctly — only words (many of which are loaded or inflammatory and may be interpreted in many different ways by the recipient). A good rule of thumb: If the message is sensitive or the potential to be misunderstood is great, relay your information face to face or by phone.

Bottom line — to clarify and work out misunderstandings, people need to talk directly to each other and work to close their “gaps.”

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

6 Tips to Master Feedback

Closing the gap between goals and performance is a continual challenge for leaders. Mastering coaching skills can help close that gap. One of the most important skills to master is giving effective, and potentially difficult, feedback to others. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born with natural talents in delivering challenging feedback, so some level of skill development is usually necessary.

Leaders with great coaching skills are adept at offering feedback that encourages learning, development and change — in good times and bad. They can deliver difficult information in a way that encourages behavior change. Feedback, as a core coaching skill, is delivering information and perspective to another person about an observable behavior.

How feedback is received, and whether it creates change, is all about how it is delivered. Many of us have a tendency to take challenging feedback personally. But most of us prefer feedback that is simple to understand, straightforward and presented in a non-accusatory style.

Here are six feedback delivery tips:

  1. Consider timing. Feedback should be delivered as close to the observed behavior as possible. The year-end performance review is too late. Most people aren’t able to hear critical feedback (without getting defensive) when they are highly emotional or reactive. It’s much better to wait until people calm down and can hear it.
  2. Prioritize critical behaviors. Too often, managers focus feedback on what bothers them in others versus identifying specific behaviors that drive performance. Or they give too much feedback at one time, which can overwhelm the person. The 80/20 rule applies — 80 percent of performance comes from about 20 percent of our behaviors. The best coaches identify critical behaviors, focus on key expectations and review specific behavioral changes that could significantly improve performance.
  3. Be behaviorally specific. Encourage the employee to take responsibility by focusing on acts, not attitudes. State the information in a way that cannot be misunderstood. Effective feedback doesn’t leave the employee wondering what you meant. To be a great coach, you need to be a great observer. The best feedback is factual — what a video camera would have recorded. Just like playing the game tapes in preparation for the “big game,” managers use observable behaviors and patterns to help clarify the issues and identify behaviors that require change.
  4. Identify change as a process versus an event. The most effective coaches provide ongoing feedback and encourage people to learn from their successes and failures. They set the expectation that feedback needs to be a two-way communication process; they are open to and encourage reciprocal feedback.
  5. Identify impact. Great coaches illuminate “blind spots” so people see themselves as others see them. They provide feedback that identifies the consequence, feelings or impact of the behavior in question. It is not uncommon for individuals to be oblivious to the distress a simple comment or action can cause.
  6. Define expectations. Feedback includes offering suggestions, direction or identifiable goals. What do you want the employee to do differently? An effective challenge can be to identify what you want more or less of: “I want more suggestions for solutions and fewer complaints during our meetings.”

Best-practice coaching and feedback requires different approaches for different situations.

Coaching the most talented people can be tricky. Providing feedback to high-performers often requires a different skill set and approach. By their very nature, high-performers are different — they get bored easily, and when in trouble may be difficult to challenge without negatively affecting motivation. High-performers tend to run at light speed while generating the kind of results that senior management loves — they require a specialized set of coaching skills to keep them challenged and on track.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: