Category Archives: Uncategorized

Decisions From The Heart

“The problem is you make decisions with your heart”. That is an actual statement directed at me regarding a sensitive employee matter. The inference is that when the heart is accessed in making difficult employee decisions, the correct business decision will not be made. Well, I could not disagree more and I will take the next few paragraphs to explain why.

Early in my career  I had the pleasure, honor, and benefit to meet an executive who was a senior vice president and on the executive team for a multi-billion dollar company. I became friends with his family and he and I spent many hours just talking about life and business. He told me many stories about experiences he had through his career and how he always tried to do the right thing. It is from this executive, who took the time to “teach” me many valuable lessons, that I decided that I would never do anything or make a decision in business that was immoral, unethical, or illegal. Well, my Dad had a lot to do with that as well, but this executive crystallized my thinking. I still recall a powerful comment he made to me once. “Richard, it is important for you to realize that you can be a nice person and still be a success in business.”

In my opinion, doing the right thing and making decision from the heart go hand in hand. Now, before anyone believes I can’t make tough decisions when it comes to employment matters, let me walk through my philosophy. First, I believe it is important that expectations on behavior and performance are communicated clearly. No doubt can be left with what a manager or leader expects from any member of the team. This is the first ingredient to what I call the “secret sauce” for effective talent management. Clearly communicated, articulated, and understood expectations on performance and behavior.

The second ingredient is constant communication with a team member about performance and behavior against the expectations. A team member may have to be redirected to align with the expectations and there should be no hesitation from a manager or leader, even in the face of possible conflict. Helping everyone succeed should be the catalyst for ongoing communication.

The third ingredient is holding everyone accountable in meeting the expectations of performance and behavior that have been established and communicated. There are no exceptions on who is held accountable….it includes the ones we like the least and the ones we like the most. Holding others accountable should never become a beauty contest.

The fourth and final ingredient is practicing equitable, fair, and consistent consequences. Whether it is a verbal warning or a final written warning, team members must know that there are real and lasting consequences for failure to meet performance and behavior expectations that have been clearly communicated. In my career, I have terminated many team members who could not or refused to improve performance and behavior.

Making decisions with the heart when it comes to employment matters takes longer. Making decisions with the heart forces a manager or leader to actually care about others. Making decisions with the heart takes more discipline and courage.

Making decisions with the heart using the “secret sauce” is always the right thing to do. And that is worth thinking about.

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
“My passion is helping to bring out the BEST in others”
Twitter: @PIPability


Just Return the Call!

Over the course of the week I receive many phone calls and emails from people who need something. It might be a sales person for insurance or financial services. It might be a referral from someone I know and the person is looking to network for a job. It might be some other call where someone is hoping I might be able to help provide information. Now, I am busy. Not only do I manage my own business as a sole proprietor, I serve on a couple of boards, am involved with Boy Scout leadership, coach a men’s softball team, and am very engaged in my church. I made a decision many years ago that I would show the courtesy of speaking with anyone who contacted me. I may make a list of people to whom I need to respond to by phone or email, but I try to return the contact…..even if it only takes a moment for me to say “thanks, but no thanks”. It may take a few days and sometimes a week, but I am very deliberate in my efforts.

Why do I do this? There have been many times where I needed something or required assistance. I am also contacting potential clients. It would be somewhat hypocritical of me to ignore those who contact me and then get frustrated when others do not afford me the same respect and courtesy. A small part of my business is executive recruiting. I may only engage in 2-4 positions a year and the positions are generally with clients with whom I am engaged in other services. During the course of a search, I contact dozens of people by phone or email. Many of these contacts are referred to me and many are those I find through extensive research. I try and provide specific information in my communication and keep the contact very professional. It amazes me how many people I contact do not respond, even after I know they have read my email or received my message. No response, not even a “Richard, I appreciate the contact, but this is not a good time” or “Thanks, but I am not interesting in speaking about a new opportunity at this time”. What is interesting, is these same individuals would not hesitate to reach out to an executive recruiter if their position was being impacted. I have even received calls from some who said “I know I never returned your call/email, but you were so diligent/persistent in trying to reach me, I would love to work with you to explore potential opportunities”. WHAT? You don’t show me the respect and courtesy when I am trying to reach you and now reach out when YOU need something? Of course, I never would say this to someone because if I preach respect, dignity, and courtesy, I need to practice it ALL the time. It just makes me shake my head.

Return the call! Respond to the email! If you work for a company that provides a product or service, I am sure your company has people contacting potential clients. Wouldn’t you want your sales staff to be treated with respect and courtesy and not ignored? Jesus put it as succinct as anyone when He instructed “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Sounds good to me.

To Your Success,

Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Twitter: @hirepowerhr

Is This The Real Life?

As a Baby Boomer, my high school years in the 1970’s consisted of listening to the best rock and roll bands of all time. The classic music of numerous groups has survived a couple of generations and many Millennials (including my kids) are fans of some of the great ones. I never thought I would use one of these groups and one of the greatest songs in an article about talent management. But after conversations with my wife and several friends this past week, it just popped into my head. The first two lines of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Ah, I hear you singing it now! I am hopeful that my little explanation will make sense when I am finished.

My entire business life is focused on talent management. The tag line for my business is “We help companies bring out the BEST in their employees”. It might seem kind of weird to some, but it is a passion of mine. I dream of business cultures and environments where we wake up in the morning excited to come to work. Not that we don’t want to spend time with family and chill from time to time, but we are inspired everyday by our co-workers, supervisors, managers, and business leaders. Those with whom we work make us better people and we are motivated to work as hard as we can toward success of ourselves, those with whom we work, and the company. Every day we work toward our PIPability-Peak Individual Performance™.

My wife and I talked about my dream for the worker world and she commented that she does not think it is possible. She opined that the work itself creates a myriad of obstacles that impacts how we think about our work regardless of the nature of the work environment. She said “it is nice to think about and a good goal to pursue, but in reality, it will never be like that”.

Then, in a weekly social gathering with college classmates, we discussed the work environment in which they spend their time. They talked about leaders who don’t lead, work that doesn’t get done, and behaviors toward other people that are negative and punitive. After providing me numerous examples of what I call “management maleficence”, the bottom line was stated bluntly; “people just don’t care”.

So, I find myself wondering, “do I live in a dream world?” Can a work environment be created where everyone is inspired, motivated, happy, encouraged, driven, and working toward the good of all and not just themselves? I still say “YES!!”

A business owner I met a few months ago, said that their daily goal is to “delight and surprise their internal and external customers”. I believe the environment and culture at his company is close to my perspective of what is possible. When expectations are clearly communicated; when supervisors, managers, and leaders are providing all the tools and resources to help all be successful; when feedback is constant; when all understand that accountability must exist for success; and when consequences are fair, consistent, and transparent, a business will thrive. I guess I will leave it up to you. “Is this the real life” or “Is this just fantasy”?

To Your Success!

Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Twitter: @hirepowerhr

LOVE More in 2017

Many of us spend the last few days of a year thinking about or discussing what we will give up or start doing in a new year. Most of the resolutions we make revolve around us losing weight, eating better, exercising, traveling, reading more books, etc. I propose that we look outside of ourselves and LOVE more in 2017. Here is what you can do.

Lead others by setting a positive example. You don’t have to be a supervisor, manager, or executive to lead. People notice how you act and speak during situations at work. Every day you have an opportunity to respond in a way that sends a positive message. Rather than criticize, praise. Rather than complain, solve. Don’t go along just to get along….blaze a path that others want to follow.

Offer assistance to those who need support, guidance, and motivation. It is rather easy to notice when others need help if you just look. You can sometimes see the weight someone is carrying on their shoulders just by the way they walk and talk. Really pay attention to your co-workers. Look in their eyes and take a peek at what they see. The burdens of life are considerable, but every day we can provide a helping hand and lighten their load. By helping others you feel better about yourself and lighten your own load.

Value the opportunities to help other people every day. Don’t look at others needs as a burden, but a chance to be that kind word, that helping hand, that bright smile, that lift they may need. You can try and avoid these opportunities, but you will be far less enriched.

Encourage as many people as you can within your sphere of influence. If you stop and think about it, the number of people with whom you associate every day is incredible. The cashier at the convenience store. The server in the restaurant. The person pumping gas right beside you. The people you stand with on elevator rides. Not to mention the many people with whom we work, play, and live. Think about what would encourage you and throw it back out. It will make an incredible difference.

It has been said that love is hard. I believe it is supposed to be because it requires us to give a little of ourselves. The kind of LOVE described above does require us to be selfless and that is not always easy. But is it worth it? You bet it is. So, go out there and LOVE someone.

To your success,
Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Twitter: @hirepowerhr

Effective Talent Management

Early in my career working in the medical device space, I was promoted to a regional management position and transferred from Charleston, SC to Boston. I was responsible for all service operations …

Source: Effective Talent Managment

Proposed Wage and Hour changes

Source: Proposed Wage and Hour changes

Character Test

Over the past 23 years since starting McClain Group, I have been fortunate to work with dozens of companies assisting with human resource support, training, strategic planning, and recruiting. More recently, I have been busy working with companies in the area of human resource compliance. The issues range from I9 compliance to correct job classifications for all positions. With proposed changes to wage and hour regulations to take effect in 2016, many companies will be caught by surprise.

My goal with every client is to put them in a position to reduce their potential exposure. In a recent conversation with my wife about these issues, she commented “but it only really matters if you get caught, right?” Her question was not posed because she thinks that way. She is the most ethical, honest, morale, and kindest person I know. Her point was that just because companies are not following state legislative guidelines (E-Verify for all new hires) or classifying employees as exempt when they should be following overtime guidelines, it will only cost a company if the practices are uncovered by an auditor or investigator from a government agency.

Her question made me think about other instances where “it only matters if you get caught”. Let me say up front that most of the instances where my clients are non-compliant are totally unintentional. They are working hard just to take care of their customers and employees. They are focused on what they know and do best….the core of their business. Many of the issues I uncover are not always just common sense. One has to KNOW what is correct.

What about those times we know what we are doing it incorrect or just plain wrong, but we do it anyway. Now, I am not talking about going 74 on the interstate when the speed limit is 65. Most of us do that. I am referring to those larger morale and ethical issues where a decision has to be made to do it right or just take the chance you won’t get caught.

In an earlier article, I wrote about lessons I learned from my dad. There is another story I did not tell that taught me a valuable lesson on this topic. As a reminder, I grew up in the shoes business and my dad had a shoe repair shop. A customer had brought in a very expensive pair of leather shoes that required new soles and heels. During the course of sewing the sole on one of the shoes, my dad accidently got a piece of the leather caught in the machine and sewed the top of the shoe to the sole. He repaired his mistake and when completed, there was no evidence of the accident. I was standing at the counter when the customer came in and my dad handed him the shoes and said “that will be no charge”. The customer was confused and asked why. My dad explained what he had done, but the customer commented “but I can’t tell where you messed up!” My dad’s response: “But I know.” That spoke volumes to me as a kid about integrity, honesty, and character.

John Wooden, the famed basketball coach from UCLA who won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Every day we are faced with decisions, some small and others that have a greater impact. We have choices to do the right thing or not. We have moments where that little voice says, “but if I don’t get caught…….” How will you respond?

John Wooden had another quote that is not as well known. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Now that is something really important to think about.

To Your Success!

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @PIPability

Lessons From Mom

It has been said that behind every good man there is a great woman. In my life I have been blessed to have a couple of great women who have helped guide and support me in all my endeavors. First is my wife who has never been behind me, but has been beside me for over 30 years. Second is my mom who has always been there for me and is responsible for the kind of person I am today……well, at least the good parts. The bad parts I have been able to develop all on my own.

In a recent post I reflected on the principles my dad taught me that I have implemented in many areas of my business life. My mom was an incredible model for the emotional side of my character development. To set up the lessons let me briefly introduce my mom. She was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland by a single parent (her dad died when she was a baby) and married my dad when he was stationed there in the US Air Force. She knew no one other than my dad when she moved to the US and then had four children in 5 years. Whew! At times, and by some, she was seen as a foreigner who married my dad just to move to the US. Almost 57 years of marriage later I think she has proven these negative people wrong. She also came into a completely different culture. As I mentioned, she grew up as an only child in a single parent home with very few relatives and married into a very large southern family. My grandfather was 1 of 13 and my dad was the oldest of 8. Needless to say, family reunions were pretty large and mom was the only one with an “accent”. But, none of these conditions changed her character and it was from this core where her lessons were taught.

She may not think it, but my mom is one of the nicest people you will meet. (I say “one of” because she would have to compete with my wife) I rarely heard her say anything negative about anyone. She would often instruct us by saying “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”. Although I am not even close to her level in kindness, I do try to be nice in my words and my actions, whether dealing with people in business or during my everyday walk. She is the inspiration for my daily attempts at kindness. Even today in the midst of a heightened sense of disagreement in our world, she still maintains the ability to be kind and resist the temptation to say anything negative about another person. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to interject a challenging comment when a discussion within her earshot turns negative toward another person. She truly looks for the good in everybody. Sadly, there are too many companies where the kindness trait is missing. What is even more disappointing with many companies is that the leadership is modeling the behaviors that generate negative emotions.

My mom certainly taught me the value of developing deep and devoted friendships. Even as a young kid I noticed the incredible friendships she developed with others. Whether it was a group playing cards or getting together for dinner, I heard loud laughter and fun. I guess that is why I firmly believe that we SHOULD have friends at work and have fun. In the book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, a survey was conducted and identified 12 dimensions that describe a great workgroup. One is “I have a best friend at work”. Too many believe that personal relationships should be kept out of the workplace, but by watching my mom all these years I will have to respectively disagree with that sentiment.

Enthusiastic Encouragement
Coming from Scotland, mom had no clue about the rules of American sports. She did not know the difference between a home run and a touchdown. But, that did not stop her from enthusiastically cheering for each of her kids who were very active in sports. She did not worry about anyone making fun of her lack of knowledge and yelling “hit a home run” when I was playing football. I never doubted that I had a fan in the seats who cheered whether I played great or not so well. In today’s culture where we have reality shows showing parents acting crazy while their kids compete, my mom drilled in us the incredible opportunity we had to be competing in the first place. I have attempted to be that enthusiastic encourager I saw in the stands when I played. In today’s workplaces we could use more enthusiastic encouragers who motivate us to try, get knocked down and try again without fear of retribution.

“I had the blues because I had no shoes, until I met on the street a man who had no feet.” I remember my mom saying that when I was tempted to have a pity party about something that was not going right in my life. She continually reminded us that we should be grateful for what we had because there are many others who have much less. We never had the nicest clothes and didn’t drive the most expensive car, but I never felt inadequate. I still hear those words today and it helps keep me centered. She also was very big on using our God given talents. I was blessed with a singing voice and have been involved with choirs and other groups since I was young. She challenged me to always use the talents I was given because they were given for a reason. She stressed that it was an honor to have been entrusted with the gift, so use it. Imagine what could happen it the workplace if we looked at our talents as gifts instead of tools to get ahead. Removing the ego from those things we do well would have an incredibly positive impact on our circle of influence.

A word that has always come to mind to describe my mom is selfless. She is the kind of person others want to be around. She welcomes everyone. During college, if I brought friends home from school unannounced, she would sneak out the back door and go to the grocery store to make sure we had enough food for all our guests. It was and is her pleasure to serve. I have read numerous books on servant leadership and am confident that my mom would have been that kind of business leader if that had been her career choice. The truth is it is much easier to be selfless rather than selfish. The kind of workplace that can be created by leaders who are kind, friendly, enthusiastic encouragers and appreciative can be amazing. I know some companies have mastered these tools and it shows in higher employee engagement, higher employee productivity, lower turnover and increased business opportunities. We need to all practice the mom theory of management. Wouldn’t that be great!

To Your Success,

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @PIPability

Lessons From Dad

Some of the best lessons learned are those we didn’t know we were teaching. I am unsure where I first heard that, but I know I did not make it up….I am not that insightful. A few years ago I mentioned to my dad that many of the best practices I have developed while working for others and in my own business originated from lessons he taught me as a kid. He was very surprised because he was totally unaware that what I observed and heard from him was of value. Before I go into more detail, some back story is necessary. My dad owned and operated a retail shoe store and a shoe repair shop. He was a high school dropout due to difficult family situations and joined the Air Force. Soon after returning from Scotland and leaving the military, he started working in the small family business and soon thereafter bought out my grandfather and became the sole proprietor of Davis Shoe Shop.

When I was 8 I began working at the store after school and on most Saturdays. Initially I dumped the trash, swept the sidewalk and did basic cleaning. It was not long before I started learning the cobbler trade and getting my feet wet in retail sales. I had watched my dad deal with customers and that is the model I followed. My first affirmation in sales was from a gentleman who was going to work on the Alaska Pipeline and I sold him 2 pair of insulated boots. He told my dad I was the best salesman he had seen. What a lift for an 8 year old. I had no other job until I was 18. Well, I did have some side summer jobs like baling hay, planting pine trees and picking tomatoes. Okay, now for the lessons I learned.

Customer Experience
My dad worked a lot of hours. Although our store hours were 8-5 (8-6 on Saturday), if a customer needed something outside of those hours, the door stayed open. You would never see someone standing on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open at 8…..we let them in. You would never see anyone shoved out the door or told we were closing in 10 minutes….we let them stay. In fact, we were not allowed to start cleaning, vacuuming or sweeping in site of the customer. My dad never wanted the customer to get the impression we wanted them to leave.

He had a mantra that was drilled in to me early in my retail career. He would say “When somebody comes through the door you are not doing them a favor by trying to sell them something. They are doing you a favor by doing business with us, so treat them that way”. That philosophy is so engrained that I do not hesitate to pass it along to a frustrated employee in retail where I am shopping. My kids get embarrassed, but I figure it is an incredibly beneficial idea to share.

Time Management
The system in the shop was pretty simple. When a pair of shoes came in for repair, we would determine a realistic time frame in which the repair could be completed. Dad started practicing the “under promise, over deliver” a long time before I read it in a business book. Since we were open six days a week, we had 6 large cardboard boxes labeled Monday, Tuesday, etc. Naturally, the shoe was placed in the box on the day promised to the customer. The exception, and thus the lesson, was rush jobs. If someone needed it more urgently than our workload allowed, dad would promise it early if they paid in advance. Once that was done and a day was selected for customer pickup, the shoes were placed in the box the day before the promised day. We set ourselves up to be early and not late with the repair.

Financial Management
Paying up front for rush and urgent repairs was a great lesson in financial management. His policy was that for any guaranteed repair, we always collected the charge first. Another important financial lesson was about personal responsibility. I still remember the first time he gave me $5 and told me to go the hardware store and buy a screwdriver. Before I left he told me to make sure to bring back a receipt. When I returned I asked why he wanted a receipt and he told me that he expected 3 things when I returned…the screwdriver, his change and a receipt. He further explained that one day it would not be his money I would be responsible for managing. I needed to be accountable for every cent of someone else’s money. That lesson learned was evident in my first job out of college when I was sent to a weeklong management training program at Purdue University. When I returned I was completing my expense report when one of the company directors passed by and asked me why I was including receipts because no one else did. The question left me with the impression he and others were stealing from the company by submitting bogus expenses. Sadly, I have seen the same scene played out over and over in my years working for and with companies. Thanks dad for the ethical and moral lesson you taught me at an early age.

My dad was always the kind of man who would return something he borrowed in better shape than it was before. For instance, if he had to borrow a truck to haul a large item, the truck was returned washed and with a full tank of gas. If by some error, the borrowed item was broken, he would fix it or replace it. In the shop, he was just as serious. I recall the first time he taught me this lesson. When shoes were repaired, we would put the finished items in a paper bag, attach the ticket and put in a bin that was organized by ticket number. I remember him stopping me as I was putting a pair of shoes in the bag and he encouraged me to take a closer look at my work. He then said that it was crucial that I understand the importance of what I was doing. When a customer came to pick up their repair and take it home, I couldn’t follow them home and then explain in detail what I did to fix their shoes. All I could control was the quality of the work the customer sees when they get home and take the shoes out of the bag. He stated emphatically, “so, always do your best job”.

Each of us has stories of lessons we learned from a relative, a friend or someone in business. The secret is to take that lesson and apply it in a positive way in business and in life. You never know when you will find out that someone learned something from you when you didn’t know you were teaching. I could go on and on about lessons my dad taught me on integrity, dedication, responsibility, empowerment, etc., but I’ll save that for my book…one of these days!

To your success!

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @PIPability

It Ain’t That Hard

When I was in the 6th grade our teacher conducted an experiment by mixing several chemicals to create a unique odor. I don’t recall any details of the experiment or the particular odor. What I do recall was my thought process as the test tube was being passed around the class. The tube was being held by a clamp and as it was passed from one classmate to another, I was processing whether I had to just grab the clamp and hold it or squeeze the clamp to keep the tube secure. Before it reached me, I had made the decision that squeezing the clamp was the proper way to hold the tube in place. When I squeezed the clamp, the tube was released and crashed to the floor, shattering upon impact. The odor was bearable when it was isolated in the small space of the tube, but once released into the atmosphere of the classroom it became intrusive and we had to evacuate the room. My mistake was taking something that was pretty simple and easy and making it complicated that resulted in an outcome no one anticipated and had no positive impact.

As I speak with friends, family members, business colleagues and employees of clients about their work environment, I am reminded of that embarrassing moment as a kid. To make my point, one has to understand my perspective on management, leadership and my portrait of the proper work environment.

A manager’s responsibility is to be an advocate for each employee’s success and to provide all the tools, resources and support to help each employee become successful. A manager’s role is NOT to make sure employees are “doing their job”. If that is the case, management training is needed or the employee’s career needs to be freed.

A leader’s responsibility is simply to provide a positive, inspiring and motivating example and to communicate the vision and focus within the leader’s area of responsibility. A leader generally has the ability to impact change, but the leader does not have to be the owner, or the CEO, or the manager, or even the supervisor. EVERY employee can be a leader.

With these two perspectives in mind, my portrait of the work environment is where EVERY employee comes to work every day with two goals…to work to the best of their ability to be successful at their job and to help their teammates be successful at their job. In my business utopia managers and supervisors clearly communicate the expectations of the job. Managers and supervisors provide regular feedback on performance versus expectations and then positively redirect or refocus the employee to meet the expectations. Employees are highly engaged and pursue their full PIPability—Peak Individual Performance.

In my conversations with the groups I mentioned above, I hear over and over the most common dynamics that take an easy process (in my opinion) and make it difficult.

Company executives, managers and supervisors:
• With personal agendas for personal gain that are not necessarily aligned with the organization mission or vision.
• Who leave employees unsure of exactly what the company expects of them.
• Who spend most their time trying not to get blamed for things that go wrong or trying to take credit for things that go right.
• Who don’t treat their employees with respect, kindness and courtesy and it destroys morale.
• Who lack the ability and/or desire to hold others accountable for meeting expectations, which impacts the morale of the other employees.
• Who think all their employees are out to get them and have little to no trust.
• Who are just incompetent.

How depressing and unhealthy! Sadly, these elements exist in the work environments of too many companies. I hear all too often “I hate going to work”. It DOES NOT have to be this way.

It has been my pleasure to have managed several high performing teams over the years. I just never found it that complicated or difficult. Maybe I learned my lesson back in the 6th grade.

To your success,

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @PIPability