Don’t File That Lawsuit!

In 1983, I began my employment law practice, motivated to represent poor victimized employees and help them overthrow their dastardly, villainous bosses. I went all in. Worked 70-hour weeks, out to be the hero. At first, I took on basic cases like sexual harassment and discrimination, and by the end of my career, I was handling more sophisticated dramas like whistle-blower and glass ceiling cases. By the time I turned 30, I was divorced (Daddy wasn’t home enough), and by the time I was 40, I was burnt out of litigation. And I quit.

Over the ensuing 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to re-invent my career by being an entrepreneur, trainer, investigator and executive coach.

Given the experience set forth above, let me get to the title of this article. I now advise people who seek my advice that the preferred approach is to spend their time and energy focusing on finding the right place to work rather than spend another moment looking backward, trying to prove that you were “right” …about the wrong place to work. I have received far more gratifying thank-you notes from people who took the move-forward approach suggested.

Yes, you may have been violated. Wronged. Discriminated against. Bullied. Sabotaged. Did I miss anything? Because of that conduct, you now feel victimized, angry, resentful, revengeful, and determined to bring the dastardly villain(s) to justice!

But…not so fast. If you were my son, or sister, or father, or best-friend, here is the advice I ask you to consider:

1. Let go of the need to be “right.” You know the truth. Does it really matter if anyone else does? Instead, focus all your energy on moving forward and working in the right place, which may be for yourself.

2. If you are being accused of wrongdoing, and as a result, permanent damage can occur, you must defend yourself. Your reputation and livelihood. Even then, all-out war is a no-win scenario.

3. If it’s the other way around and you are accusing somebody of wrongdoing, do you turn the other cheek? Or do you forget those lessons and punish them or tarnish their reputation in return? The answer may be “yes” if it’s to prevent them from doing further damage. That does not mean you need to file a lawsuit. But it would be appropriate to “out” them.

There are rare circumstances where people have been seriously damaged, and it’s difficult to simply dust yourself off. You may need psychiatry sessions not paid for by your insurance. You may have a very niched job where it takes longer to be re-employed. If that’s the case, then work with an attorney to see if they can negotiate a severance, without you having to go through the litigation process. Often, a demand letter and meeting will suffice. Try to get a settlement that will help you move forward. Do not worry about getting a pound of flesh on top if it. And, think twice before you sue to get settlement leverage.

4. Unless you’ve been through the litigation process, you do not understand how crazy it gets. If you thought you were violated in the workplace, wait till those defense counsel get to you. You will not only be questioned by attorneys but perhaps their psychiatrist as well. And, you will wear out your friends and family listening to your story. They will tire of it far sooner than you.

On too many occasions, I have seen plaintiffs put their life on hold waiting for resolution from their lawsuit. They often lose years of career and personal growth in the process. Staying in your victim role is not in the least bit attractive or helpful.

Take into consideration how long these cases drag on for.  I often read appellate reports related to lawsuits filed more than five years ago. Do you want to find yourself dragged through the courts for the next five years? Do you like getting beat up by lawyers? Who ever benefits from that?

Another thing not publicized is that employees win, at the most, 60% of the cases that go to trial. There’s no publicity for the 40%+ of plaintiffs that lose at trial. This figure is consistent with EEOC claims filed, where half of them are dismissed as being without merit. Imagine spending all your time and energy wrapped up in a lawsuit for three years, only to lose in the end. You will be in worse position than the day you filed that lawsuit! In fact, the company (or their insurance company) may chase you down for their legal costs!

If by chance you get a big verdict, you can all but guarantee it will go on appeal for years. Either that or you must settle at a reduced amount. So, while the claimant may have received a $2.5 million jury verdict, an appeal was immediately filed which has been dragging itself through the courts for years, and now you find your attorney wanting to settle for $500,000. Since the case was tried, the attorney gets 40% of that for legal fees. Then there are appellate attorney costs, court costs, fees for experts, depositions and the inevitable IRS. In the end, the most you get to keep is about $200,000 …if you are lucky.

Then, like the vast majority of lottery winners, that money will gone within three years.

So was it worth it?

Trust me; this happens on a regular basis. There’s no press for it. Nobody is bragging about it.

Then there is the stark reality that most harassers and bigots and other people that cause these problems, are seldom punished. Not by the company or the media. There is little press for it. You are not in Hollywood or Silicon Valley and nobody cares about your story. Many of these people don’t even lose their jobs. Often, the company pays a small portion of any settlement you get because they have an insurance company to do that for them. So, while you feel you may be “teaching them a lesson,” it seldom turns out as hoped for.

I say let the bastards rot in their own miserable lives. In the end, they will pay the price. And it won’t be because you sued them.

5. Unless you like repeat scenarios, look for your responsibility in the situation. Were there early warning signs you ignored? Do you wish you had handled certain things differently? Can you see how you may have given people a wrong impression about you? What we can control is our own behavior. We must always examine if we were less than responsible to ourselves in the circumstances. So we don’t do it again.

Growth does not come from finger-pointing but rather awareness. If you have challenges “moving forward,” then hire a coach to support you. Somebody like me can get you back on track. Yes, coaches cost money but you are thinking about your long-term growth. I can tell you this: you’ll pay far less for your coach than for your failures.

That’s 30 plus years of employment law wisdom right there. If you like destructive dramas then, by all means… file that lawsuit!

Writing and Speaking Ideas Checklist

As you probably guessed I do a great deal of writing and speaking. To check my head I use this checklist.  Hope it helps you too.

You can get a PDF of this checklist here.

  • A strong headline.
  • A strong opening sentence.
  • What is this about?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How do you hook them?- ask a question, define a problem, make a bold statement, challenge them, spook ‘em, rhetorical question, startling assertion, did you know…, provide evidence/data, be a contrarian, imagine…, a metaphor,
  • Tell a quick story. Show a picture. Create a chart.
  • What question do you want answered? What is the learning objective?
  • Why does it matter? Who is affected by it?
  • What are the learning points?
  • What’s unique about it? What’s it compare to?
  • What’s humorous about it? What’s maddening about it?
  • Is there a revelation? A breakthrough? An aha?
  • What’s the resistance, obstacle or blockage? How to overcome it.
  • Can you give something useful? A strategy, tool or resource?
  • Where’s it lead to? What’s next? Stay tuned?
  • Who’s the victim, villain or hero?
  • What’s the tipping point?
  • What’s the setting? The props?
  • Each paragraph or point 2-4 sentences.
  • Strong close. Final reminders, call to action, conviction, encouragement, “book-end” (refer back to beginning), final thought to ponder,
  • Exercise files, further learning

Here’s to pumping up your writing and speaking game.

All the best, Don

 

Learn about the Great HR program and how to reignite your career at www.greathr.com

The Future of Work

Ask yourself this: how will AI, robots and other advanced technologies affect the future of my work or that of my loved ones? Am I prepared for it?

Because it will affect us, whether you are 60 and thinking about working for at least the next 10 years or if you are 24 and just getting started in your career.

In a recent blog post I shared my Workplaces of the Future Checklist.

I also encourage you to watch these five TED videos discussing the subject.

A renaissance — the coming end of human work | Kevin Surace

How the future of work is not “Jobs” | Rudy Karsan

How to Become Relevant when a Robot Takes Your Job | Pablos Holman

Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? | David Autor

Jobs of the future and how we can prepare for them | AvinashMeetoo

What you will learn is the change coming our way is happening super-fast! More so than the vast majority of people realize.

It all comes down to thinking, doing and feeling. Technology will replace or effect non-cognitive, repetitive tasks first (like vacuuming or cooking hamburgers). Then the non-cognitive non- repetitive tasks(like estimating the cost of auto-repair or simple tax returns). Then it will attack the cognitive repetitive tasks (including things like financial planning, data analysis, surgery and legal briefs).

The jobs that will remain for most will be cognitive, non-repetitive jobs like sales reps, teachers, therapists, nurses, entertainers and entrepreneurs.

My caution remains this: don’t think this won’t be affecting your job! Jump on the front of this curve and you will benefit greatly.  Lag behind and you can get quickly turned into a dinosaur…no matter your age.

Remember, you will either eat technology or be eaten by it!

Again, if you haven’t done so check out my Workplaces of the Future Checklist

All the best, Don

PS want to bring the GreatHR Executive program to your town? Check out the feedback from my most recent workshop.

Negotiation Strategies

Every day we are negotiating. Whether on a sales call, seeking a raise or dealing with our kids. I recently read James Altucher’s book Reinvent Yourself and he shared what he learned about negotiating from his interview with Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. Chris wrote a book about negotiation called Never Split The Difference. Here are negotiation strategies gathered from James’ interview with Chris. Many of the same points I learned negotiating as an attorney.

  1. The most important question is to ask somebody “How?” For example “How am I supposed to get a million dollars by tomorrow?” Open ended questions such as “How” or “What” get people to keep talking.
  2. Everybody tries to get a “Yes” first. Chris says get them to say “No” first. For example “No, I don’t want this project to fail.”
  3. List the negatives on your side. It shows you can empathize with them. In my trial lawyer days, I always brought out the opponent’s arguments before they got a chance to do so. It built credibility with the jury along the way.
  4. Try to show they may be powerless – If the negotiation is not going your way you can say “Sounds like there’s nothing you can do.” People resist the idea of being powerless.
  5. Use silence- people can’t stand silence. As the saying goes “let the silence do the heavy lifting”. Be quiet long enough and they will come up with something to say.
  6. When it comes to numbers in a deal Chris recommends letting them come up with the numbers first and stresses the importance of using very specific numbers.
  7. He also encourages us to make our list bigger than theirs. Say you are going into a negotiation with your CEO for your dept. agenda; if you go in with one option and then they say “no” where does that leave you? If however you go in with five and they say “no” to 3 you are way ahead of the game.
  8. Figure out your terms and conditions in advance. Don’t wing it.
  9. Chris also talks about mirroring, the power of information and using the deepest voice you can when negotiating.
  10. I can add to this list the importance of being able to walk away from the table. You must go into a negotiation with a Plan B. If you are stuck with only one option you have the weaker position. Knowing your “outs” is an important part of being a good negotiator.

There you have it, wisdom for your next negotiation!

All the best, Don

PS Has the person at your company that handles HR signed up for my Great HR program yet? www.greathr.com

How do you know if training produces results?

W. Edwards Deming was once quoted as saying “Don’t ask me the ROI on training, you either believe that education has the greatest form of leverage or you do not.” His point is this: when you are in a knowledge economy the most learned win.

But that’s only one part of the equation…isn’t it? It’s also about taking action on that knowledge. The implementation and production of results matters too. As I like to say …from abstraction to action!

Here are questions to consider when trying to answer the results question.

  • Do you give employees a way to rank or rate the value of the training?
  • Do you follow up with them a month later to find out their execution on the knowledge gained?
  • Is the training offered in alignment with the strategic objectives of the company? The closer you are to the core strategic outcome desired the more effective your training will be.
  • Has it helped people to become more productive? What did they stop and what did they start? How do you measure that?
  • Does it fill a skills gap?

What other ancillary benefits can the training provide?

  • It emphasizes a dedication to continuous improvement.
  • An increase in creativity, innovation and suggestions.
  • Becoming a more attractive employer (…so long as you market your great training programs in the hiring process).
  • Lower turnover rates.
  • Decrease in complaints and lawsuits.
  • An improvement in communication and employee relations.
  • Often, we can grow our organizations through internal talent by using training rather than bringing in lateral hires and having to engage in cultural unlearning with them.

Whether you are trying to implement a new project management software program or reduce bias claims you want your training to be effective…meaning it helps to produce results. You also want it to be something that employees look forward to because it is insightful and engaging.

And talk about great training…have you signed up for the Great HR program yet? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s awesome! And, if you are not in HR have your HR person register. You will be glad they did! www.greathr.com

The Change is Coming, the Change is Coming!

Sometimes change can feel like some monster lurking in the deep, ready to pounce on us in an instant. Nice calm day one moment, disruption the next.

People are in fact losing jobs…and companies… to AI and robotics and other technologies. But it should come as no surprise.

Woe be the unprepared. (I think that was the Boy Scout motto)

Are you prepared for the change coming your way? Have you given serious thought to how these technologies are lurking up behind your business or career?

To help you I have summarized a presentation I give on this topic. Click here to download Managing the Crazy Changes Coming Your Way. I know you will like it!

In addition, here is a checklist addressing The Future of the Workplace.

Here’s to being prepared, Don

Managing the Good Performer Gone Bad

Employees are wonderful… until they are not. Often, employees become derailed because of personal challenges or changes in their work environment or roles. When looking at poor performance check your head by asking these questions.

  1. Is it the fault of the system? – As Deming said, “the system is the problem!”. Is this person mismatched? Round peg in a square whole? Has their job “moved past them”? Are they getting the support they used to get or need?
  2. Is there a skills gap that can be cured by training?
  3. Are they being managed any differently? Perhaps a new boss, or new team members are involved?
  4. What would a third party like me say looking at the situation? That third party might be HR or another manager in a different department. Or me :)
  5. Is the employee aware of their poor performance? Have they been getting regular feedback? Has that feedback been documented? Have you considered putting them on a 30 day performance improvement plan?
  6. Have they somehow been “demotivated” and become disengaged? For example, did they try to push forward a project only to have it squashed and now they’ve lost their mojo?
  7. Do they have a mental disability? It could be depression or drug addiction or alcoholism. While you don’t have to ask them if there is such a problem you can remind them of the resources available, like an EAP program should they have any limitations on the ability to do their work.
  8. If it’s not the system and the issue lies with the employee then have them own it. Ask me for a copy of the Employee Correction Form I designed. This allows poor performance to “own” their performance and what happens to them when they do not pick their game up.
  9. What does your gut tell you about this person? Fact is, most poor performers don’t turn around and improve their performance. Things only tend to get worse over time. If this is the track you’re on then do yourself and them a favor and let them go so you can quit torturing each other. If they are a good person, and they did not engage in any outrageous conduct, then do what you can to help them get a job where they can fit in.
  10. Remember this- you can unconditionally care about a person but that does not mean you have to have an unconditional employment relationship with them. Don’t confuse the two.

A final note. I find I tend to torture myself…and others… when people don’t match my expectations of who they “ought to be”. True at work and at home. I also realize I am far more effective when I deal with people “as they are”. It is what it is. There is no benefit to gain by adding the emotional override of “shoulding” on the situation.

Take a deep breath, follow these recommendations and you’ll do just fine!

5 Great Hiring Tools

For many years I’ve been a HR tool maker. Here’s a video about using 5 of my favorites to help with hiring great employees! And, the tools are yours to get below. What hiring tools have you created?

 

Here are your 5 Free Tools:

Hiring CheckList

Our Hiring Process FAQ

Conditional Offer of Employment

Entrance Interview

60 Day New Employee Survey

17 Blockages to Being a Great Executive

“First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

All humans have their baggage, blind spots and blockages. Unless we recognize and work on them, they can sabotage our careers and relationships. Having been an employment lawyer, investigator and executive coach I’ve experienced…and been guilty of…some of the following.

  1. Acting out of integrity – It is difficult to salvage an executive who acts out of integrity. I usually advise employers to fire those executives. Because you cannot trust them. Trust is a delicate fabric. When you act out of integrity, you lose it.
  2. Inability to motivate and engage employees – This has become a “hot topic Data shows two-thirds of employees are disengaged. My experience is that leaders and managers do more to disengage employees than engage them.
  3. Not communicating the big picture – I’ll never forget an employee stating one time in a survey “How should I know what the vision is? I’m treated like a mushroom.” Do employees know the long-term vision and goals? Are you assuming they do?
  4. Inability to develop talent – I remember a Jim Collins discussion where they asked him what he considered the most important thing for building great companies. His answer was to make sure your managers hire great people. As a leader and manager, do you understand the most important thing you’ll ever do is hire great employees and then develop that talent?
  5. Handling pressure/stress/emotions – When we run 75 mph, it becomes all about our doingness. Our beingness gets left behind. We lose the emotional capacity to manage with grace and instead overreact, micromanage, criticize and even yell. What are you doing as a manager to steady yourself under this pressure?
  6. Inability to delegate functions and authority – I’ve coached many executives who claimed they are on “overwhelm.” It was their resistance to being coached . “I don’t have time for this they would tell me.” Then when I worked with them, I realized that they were six-figure executives doing $30/hr work. When you build a good team around you, constantly be delegating – not just functions but authority . Ask yourself this question – how well would my team run if I was absent for a month? Would my people have the confidence to step up and take over the functions and authorities I cannot address?
  7. Inability to stay focused – Many of us have so much on the plate we become scatter-brained. When scattered, our energy is dispersed. However when focused our energy is like a laser beam and powerful. The easiest way to stay focused is to plan activities and not get distracted by those “squirrels” running by.
  8. Non-inclusive – If you are a “my way or the highway” executive you will eventually get kicked to the curb. You are leading or managing adults, and they want to be included in decisions that affect their work or career. Remember – none of us is as smart as all of us. How are you including others in your decision making?
  9. Lack of transparency – Many leaders and managers still don’t like to share information. “None of your business, just do what I tell you to do” is their mantra. That might have worked 30 years ago before the explosion of transparency , but it won’t work now. When you are not transparent, your employees will think you’re hiding things from them. And they won’t give you their best.
  10. Poor listening skills – Are you a good listener? Can you listen to somebody for five minutes straight without judging them, nit-picking them, providing your comments, or do anything other than ask clarifying questions? Try it sometime; they’ll wonder what happened to you.
  11. No sense of humor – Who wants to work for deadbeat? Do people enjoy being around you? Are you a fun guy or fun gal, or has life become so serious for you that you haven’t laughed with anyone at work in ages? If you are no fun, I suggest you try to bring an appropriate sense of humor to the workplace.
  12. Out of alignment with the company vision, mission, value or goals – Are you aligned with the company vision, mission, value, and goals? If I sat you down in front of your CEO and asked both of you “what’s the most important work being done here?”… would your answers be in alignment? In my experience when people are not aligned they tend to vector off, and it gets worse . It’s the job of leadership and management to continually bring both themselves and the people they manage into alignment.
  13. Plays favorites – When I managed, I had my favorite employees. Those got their jobs done on time and without drama. However, I have met plenty of leaders and managers with favorites, and they are not necessarily the best employees, but perhaps their best friends. When you play favorites, and it’s not related to results, you cause dissension. You can also find yourself accused of discrimination.
  14. Failure to recognize and reward – Again, when we run 75 mph we can forget the importance of stopping to recognize and reward when people do good work. Sooner or later if you don’t provide recognition and reward, your top performers will leave for a job where they appreciated. Note: I will be recording training for Lynda.com on Rewarding Employee Performance. Should be out by the Spring of 2018.
  15. Won’t or can’t think strategically – Many managers are great tacticians. They are often elevated to their roles because they did their jobs better than anyone else. This does not mean they are strategic thinkers. When we think strategically, we work on our business and not just in the business.
  16. Unwillingness to take responsibility – This is big. The buck stops with you. The beauty of taking responsibility in a situation is it does not open you up to guilt, remorse, and regret. That’s what happens when we know we’ve been less than responsible. While responsibility feels like a burden, (since we were teenagers) it is liberation.
  17. Doesn’t value diversity – While many companies talk about valuing diversity, many of their executives do not. Many would rather work with people in their own image. It makes them feel safer. They feel they can trust these people more. A lack of diversity can lead to myopia. We can get caught up in our little safe world without realizing the greater one outside .

There are other factors that influence the ability to be great leaders and managers including physical or mental health problems, personal relationship problems, financial problems, and upset with company leadership.

As I state in my workshops “If it doesn’t make sense, don’t try to make sense out of it.” These are not logical problems leaders, and managers face, they are emotional ones. One reason executive coaching has become so popular.

My invitation to you is to look at this as a checklist and see which of these factors may be a weakness in your game. Then just focus on improving one item at a time. Perhaps you can spend the week showing employees how you care about them. Or think of what five hours of low-value work you can delegate. Or even better…get a coach to support you in the process!

Interested in learning more about coaching? Contact me to experience it first hand as my gift to you!

PS what follows is a doc you can use to check your head!

17 Virtues of the Great Executive

Every one of these virtues matters. Focus on one or two at a time you want to improve on. You’ll become a better and more desirable executive when you do!

  1. Act with integrity – is there any place you feel “uncertain about the “right” thing to do?
  2. Motivate and engage employees- control won’t cut it.
  3. Be transparent – don’t make people intentions.
  4. Communicate the big picture- share vision, mission, values, BHAGs. reports.
  5. Delegate tasks and authority – let them do it 80% you.
  6. Develop talent – hire and keep great employees.
  7. Don’t play favorites- except based on performance and attitude.
  8. Find the value in diversity – and the commonality in all of us.
  9. Get aligned- are your actions in alignment with the , mission, goals?
  10. Handle pressure/stress/emotions with grace – any drama only make things worse.
  11. Have a laugh – life’s too short to work for a stick in the mud.
  12. Listen, be present – it’s the best way to show care!
  13. Be inclusive – , none of us is as smart as all of us!
  14. Recognize and reward performance – or they will take their performance elsewhere.
  15. Stay focused – like a beam. Avoid “gotta minutes.”
  16. Take 100% responsibility – and avoid guilt,
  17. Think strategically, not just tactically – be creative.

Training that Works Checklist

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”  ― W. Edwards Deming

We are in a knowledge economy. Training and building a learning culture is compulsory for survival.

Use this checklist to make sure you consider all the training variables. Please add to the checklist anything overlooked.

Remember, your training goals should be Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timed.

Identify Company Needs/Goals /Strategy

  • Adapt to change
  • Build managerial and leadership skills
  • Budgetary realities
  • Compliance and Safety
  • Conflict management
  • Cross-training
  • Delegation
  • Effective meetings
  • Ergonomics
  • Fill specific skills gaps
  • Financial education/open book management/budgeting
  • Improve company culture
  • Improve overall employee engagement and retention
  • Improve sales, customer service, productivity
  • Improve use of health care, 401K and other benefits
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Language skills
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation skills
  • Policies and procedures
  • Quality improvement
  • Remote workers
  • Solve a specific problem
  • Support high performers with advancement opportunities
  • Support strategic initiatives
  • Timing requirements
  • Work across generations

Identify Employee Needs

  • Career development
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Compliance and Safety
  • Financial education
  • How to work in teams/groups
  • Increase skills
  • Learning styles assessment
  • Personal wellness
  • Professional certifications/licensing
  • Seek new opportunities
  • Time management

Training Methodologies

  • Best practice meetings
  • Case scenarios
  • Coaching
  • Contests, games
  • Conferences
  • Demonstration-individual, group, recorded
  • Engagement and gamification
  • Exercises
  • Experimentation
  • Follow-up training
  • Handouts
  • Job shadowing
  • Learning management system software
  • Lecture
  • Micro-learning
  • Mind mapping
  • Mobile
  • Online through 3rd party provider
  • Outside trainers
  • Presentation software (PPT, Prezi, etc.)
  • Survey, micro-surveys, focus groups, interviews
  • Testing
  • Training manager/director
  • Training room
  • Use of story and metaphor
  • Video, podcast, newsletter
  • Virtual reality
  • Webinars- live/stored
  • Workshops

Learning Effectiveness

  • Calculate ROI
  • Collect data- costs, time, participation rates, completion rates, etc.
  • Effectiveness of various incentives used
  • Evaluations
  • Identify benefits and results
  • Identify blockages to execution
  • Improved engagement and retention
  • Improved sales, customer service, productivity
  • Improved skills delivery
  • Learning retention
  • Reduced claims exposure
  • Sharing of knowledge and ideas
  • Stories collected

Click Here to Download the Full Checklist