Several years ago I was on a Boy Scout camp out with one of my sons. It was a base camp located on a large plantation and there was plenty of time to explore the property. I was walking with a couple of other parents enjoying great conversation when I came across a rock about the size and shape of a potato. I stopped, picked it up, and carried it back to the camp. I can’t explain why, but something told me to keep the rock and I put it in my car to take home. When my son and I returned home after the weekend my wife asked about the rock and why I brought it home. I told her that I really did not know, but for some reason felt led to do so. I brought the rock to my office the next Monday and put it on my credenza.
A couple of days later I received an email from my mom with a story attached. Now I have to be honest, that most of the emails of this kind I used to get from mom were quickly deleted. For some reason, I read the email and it hit me like a ton of bricks…or a rock…why I had brought the rock back from the camping trip. The story in the email is as follows:
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared to him. God told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, others, you can call them a naysayers or that negative person in your life, decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” This gave the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half an inch. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
That story spoke to me and reminded me that no one goes through life without struggles of some sort. Very few people live their life without obstacles or barriers that get in the way of accomplishing something or keeping us from being the best we can be. And, as hard as we try to protect and prepare, our kids won’t go through life without struggles either. It is easy to have a pity party and exclaim “why is this happening to me”? or “it isn’t fair?” Yes, we can view adversity this way and become a perpetual victim, or we can recognize these bumps (sometimes mountains) in the road as opportunities to grow and become much stronger and resilient.
As parents, it is tempting to try and remove all the rocks from the paths our children will take. We justify it by saying that we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did or that maybe it will be too much for them. As hard as it is, we have to let nature take its course and understand that the struggles, difficulties, mistakes, heart aches, etc. are all part of the process that makes us stronger. The same thing applies to those who manage other people in the workforce. Our role, as parents, teachers, leaders, managers, and mentors, is to always be there with support, understanding, and a strong shoulder. Even in difficult times, those around us should know without a doubt that they are not alone.
It is not easy. We see others who seem to have success handed to them. We see others who always seem happy as if they don’t have a trouble in the world. It could be that they have pushed their share of rocks and have become much stronger to more easily overcome those events and situations that make others cave.
That rock still sits on my desk. Although I may forget about it from time to time, it only takes a glance to remember why it is there. I need the reminder often that moving forward involves three different terrains….level, downhill, and uphill.
When you get that feeling that you can’t take any more or that everything is stacked against you, try and remember that you are in no place that others have not held before. When you face your rock, you have a choice. You can take a “woe is me” attitude or you can keep pushing knowing that with every physical exertion, you get stronger. The choice is yours.
To your success,
In President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2014, he talked about four years of positive economic growth, increased corporate profits, and higher stock prices. He then went on to say that even with the increased prosperity, average wages had barely budged.
Later in the month, President Obama began discussing the overtime regulations and how “managers” are being taken advantage of by employers and work many hours for which they do not get paid. He used the example of a clothing store manager who works 55-60 hours per week and does not get paid for those extra hours (hours over 40). That was the beginning of the public review by the Department of Labor (DOL) of the minimum threshold and non-exempt versus exempt job classification. To clarify, non-exempt means the employee is NOT exempt from overtime laws and must be paid for all hours worked, including time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week (some States have more stringent overtime regulations). Exempt means the employee “qualifies” to be exempted from overtime laws and is paid a set wage, or salary, regardless of the number of hours worked in a week. The pay is the same whether they work 30 or 60 hours.
Currently, the minimum salary threshold to qualify for exemption from overtime is $455 per week, which is $23,660 per year. The proposed rule from the DOL is $970 per week, which is $50,440 per year. If the rule goes into effect in 2016, it means that any employee under that minimum threshold, regardless of job duties, would have to be classified as non-exempt and be eligible for overtime pay. These salary requirements do not apply to outside sales employees, teachers, and employees practicing law or medicine.
Employers don’t have to sit around and wait until the DOL’s proposed overtime rule is finalized. While the DOL reviews the 290,000+ comments on the proposed rule, employers can get ready for whatever happens.
There are a few simple steps employers can take to help with compliance efforts even before the final rule is released.
Employers should identify all exempt jobs within the company with salaries that fall below the proposed new salary threshold for exempt employees, using $970 per week, or $50,440 per year. Once that list is compiled employers have to determine whether to have a range to determine which employees close to the new threshold will get wage increases to maintain exempt status, or whether the best course of action will be to reclassify as non-exempt all employees whose current salary is below the new minimum.
If employees will be reclassified, employers then need to understand how many hours this group of employees is currently working per week. With this information it will be easier to forecast potential wage expense going forward. Employers should also take the opportunity to determine what approach to take in setting non-exempt pay rates for those former classified exempt employees. For instance, will it be best to determine the hourly rate by simply taking the current weekly salary and divide by 40 hours, or will it best to try and replicate current pay and hours by lowering the hourly rate to account for the possibility of overtime compensation.
Consider whether to reclassify other positions at this time to manage risk and enhance compliance. The questions employers should ask is “What operational changes must be made as a result of any reclassification of positions?” “What changes need to be made to job duties?” “What changes need to be made to schedules or staffing levels?”
Employers should evaluate those positions that often result in overtime and determine if hiring more full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees is best. Should the entire workforce be restructured to offset the possibility of more overtime?
Another important activity to prepare for the possible changes is to review all job descriptions. Are there activities currently being performed by exempt, soon to be non-exempt employees that can be reassigned to other exempt employees? Of course, in light of greater scrutiny that is sure to come from the DOL, employers should also review job descriptions of those who will meet the minimum threshold to ensure the job duties support exempt classification.
Employers should also evaluate the current record keeping process to ensure it will support a greater number of non-exempt employees in the workforce.
Another important action employers should take is to become familiar with the duties test for exempt versus non-exempt and ensure job descriptions reflect accurately the position requirements. Although the duties tests can be complicated, there are 3 basic job duties that generally qualify as exempt status:
- Does the employee regularly supervise two or more employees?
- Does the employee manage others as the primary job responsibility? A rule of thumb to keep in mind is these employees should not spend more than 40% of their work engaging in non-exempt job duties.
- Does the employee have genuine input into the job status of other employees? Merely supervising the work is not enough. The employee must have the responsibility for scheduling and controlling the work; and have hire, fire, and employee discipline authority.
Some articles I have read speculate whether the DOL will move forward to implement the new standards. Personally, I would rather expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Especially since others in the DOL and Obama administration supported increasing the minimum salary threshold anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 per year. With that said, there still exists the possibility the DOL will back down some from its doubling of the salary threshold for exempt employees. Some experts feel the DOL may eventually settle on a threshold of between $773 per week or $40,196 per year and $852 per week or $44,304 per year. Employers should analyze which employees fall below these thresholds as well, to better prepare themselves for the possibility of a different salary threshold.
Lastly, employers should develop a communications strategy for whatever changes become final. Communication should include information on the changes in overtime exemptions and how it impacts the scheduling and managing of job duties. Will changes be communicated in writing? Should an employer have group or individual meetings?
It is almost guaranteed that employees already have an idea some change may be coming and could start developing anxiety about losing exempt status, benefits and pay, which to them means a demotion. It would be wise to be proactive and develop a FAQ for employees.
The bottom line is employers should not wait to see what happens. They should be preparing now, regardless of what the final minimum threshold salary level may be. Personally, I do not think it is a matter of if, but when. This is not the time to be frugal and put one’s head in the sand. Get the help you need and get done what needs to be done. Planning for this future is too important. Good luck!
To your success,
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
From 2010 to 2014 I had the joy and pleasure of spending a great deal of time in Annapolis, MD visiting my son while he was a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. As a graduate of The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC, I enjoyed the aura of “The Yard” at the Academy and all it represents toward protecting our freedoms. I also heard many speakers at different events and always gained a little nugget that has helped me in my own personal development as a husband, father, friend, and business owner. In preparing to write this missive, I decided to reflect on the goals, visions, and missions of those institutions that prepare our brave men and women to lead others in the military and in the business world.
The Statement of Vision at The Citadel is “Achieving excellence in the education and development of principled leaders.” The mission is to build on the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect. The mission of the Naval Academy is “To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.” The mission of West Point is “To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and to be prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” The mission of the Air Force Academy “is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” At the Virginia Military Institute, the mission is “to produce educated, honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.” The examples above are just a few and I don’t want to discount other excellent institutions that espouse similar missions and goals.
During one of my trips to the Naval Academy, I heard a speaker discuss the five ideals that are fundamental for success. The presentation was geared toward the development of successful military leaders in the Navy, but I took these ideals and “civilianized” them for a management training session I conducted a few years ago for a client. As with most things in the military, it is an acronym and represents a larger message. It was entitled “Be FIRST”.
We should approach each day with a burning desire to improve and strive to reach our full potential for excellence. I have trademarked the term PIPability. The PIP is Peak Individual Performance. That should be our daily goal. We should always try to be proactive in all our endeavors, not reactive. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Look at the goal and then take action within your area of control and expertise and move forward with excitement.
We should always demand honesty and forthrightness from ourselves and other people. This also includes never being afraid to admit when we make a mistake or when we don’t know how to do something. Don’t let pride get in the way. President Reagan once said “Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem… You know, by the time you reach my age, you’ve made plenty of mistakes. And if you’ve lived your life properly — so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.” The hardest thing sometimes is doing what is right rather than what is easy.
Developing a strong sense of self-respect can help us fulfill our potential and become the person we want and need to be. Respecting other people helps develop healthy relationships. How we respect ourselves is demonstrated in our appearance, our demeanor, and the environment we create. How we respect others is demonstrated in how we treat other people what we do and how we act. A true leader never has to ask for respect, it is given.
It may seem common sense, but as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining a safe environment and creating a culture where it becomes second nature. Training is a crucial part of this ideal and it is a leader’s responsibility to ensure all are trained and procedural compliance is maintained. A leader never passes up an opportunity to mentor or teach.
No one person has all the answers and no one person can solve all the problems in a company or within any kind of organization. This is the time to be humble and encourage ideas from others. A true leader maintains a “questioning” attitude within their area of influence. We must have the courage to point out shortfalls in performance, behavior, and actions to ensure excellence is being pursued. Failing to hold others accountable can destroy the morale, engagement, and motivation of a team. In all we do, we have to preach the mantra of teamwork. Basically, we have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Throughout the years I have heard comments made in jest that you should never volunteer for anything. The sad thing is too many people wait around their whole life for things to happen. That may be okay for them, but I would rather be FIRST!
To Your Success!
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!
A house across the street from where we live was selected by a production company to be the home of a major character in an HBO series being filmed in Charleston, SC. Aside from the inconveniences of large trucks lined up on the street, dozens of crew members blocking any access to our driveway, and the huge crane parked in front of our house, we have had the opportunity to watch several outside scenes being filmed. We were able to stand right behind the director and watch the scene unfold and view the numerous screens showing what was being recorded from several angles. What amazed me is how many takes are required to get one little aspect of a scene completed to satisfy the director. For example, one scene required someone to punch the major actor in an altercation between neighbors. One little punch! We watched while it took at least 2 dozen takes to get it right. We watched lines being flubbed and retake after retake to get it right. We watched a scene where one actor stretches his foot across an invisible “line in the sand” that caused the altercation. That scene was filmed at least 20 times from different angles.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not taking anything away from talented actors we watch on the big screen or television. My main point is how wonderful it would be if I was able to have a retake in different areas of my life. I can think of numerous times during the 30+ years I have been married to my wonderful wife where a retake would have been very welcome. Or that moment when I did not say exactly what I wanted to one of my children in the heat of the moment. Or that missed layup at the buzzer in high school when we lost by 1 point. Fortunately I do not require a retake for that inappropriate joke to the TSA agent while going through security.
If I could market retakes to the business world, I would not be able to find a bank large enough to handle the deposits. Just in my little world of working with companies in talent management, I could fill chapters of a book on examples where a retake would have lessened or eliminated the pain.
Since a retake in most situations is not possible, it is even more imperative to do it right the first time. It is especially important to foster an environment within any business where a retake is not necessary. Increased and improved employee engagement hangs on those first chance opportunities and moments. How many great employees have left a company because of something that was said by a manager or a business decision that was made too quickly in response to something else? How many problems have we caused because we did not think before we spoke?
I would like to propose a simple list of actions that can be taken on a daily basis that will enhance the employee experience without the need for a retake.
Be Credible-Always do what you say you will do. If you do not, try and explain why.
Be Trustworthy-This is a hard one (it should not be), but tell the truth, even if it is painful to you.
Be Respectful-Always treat others the way you would want to be treated. Or, to really challenge yourself, always treat others the way you treat your mother and grandmother.
Be Consistent-Handle each situation in a similar fashion and do not play favorites.
Be Considerate-It does not take a lot of effort to put oneself in another’s shoes and show a little empathy.
Be Positive-Be that person who sees the good first in all situations.
Be Supportive-Provide the resources necessary for all to succeed and remove the obstacles that prevent expected performance.
Be Appreciative-It does not take a whole lot of effort to say “thank you” or to provide feedback on someone’s work in a constructive way.
Be Humble-Let employees know that you can identify with them. Have you made the same mistake before? Have you been in a similar situation? Being vulnerable is difficult, but extremely powerful.
The list could be a lot longer, but the actions listed, if done sincerely, will have a positive impact on morale, engagement, retention, and employee happiness in the workplace and with the company. And, as Abraham Lincoln said in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; “Be excellent to each other.” I wonder how many takes that took?
To Your Success,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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!
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,
A $2 billion paid leave initiative as well as millions for enforcement of laws on equal opportunity, wage and hour issues, safety, whistleblowing, and retirement security are among the priorities outlined in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
The Paid Leave Partnership Initiative is a program to help up to 5 states launch paid leave programs for workers. We all know it is coming, but this is a first step to some that may lead to paid leave laws. Currently the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for employees who have qualifying events. Several states have expanded the unpaid leave time period and 3 states (California, Rhode Island and New Jersey) have some paid leave programs that are funded by payroll taxes. For several years lawmakers in Washington have been pushing to expand the FMLA to be a paid leave funded by payroll taxes. Of course, payroll taxes alone would not cover the cost so one could anticipate additional taxes to be raised to provide the necessary funds to cover the program. Personally, I don’t think it is a matter of if, but when.
The budget also includes nearly $1.9 billion for Department of Labor’s worker protection agencies. Some examples are:
• $114 million for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to enforce equal employment opportunity laws affecting federal contractors.
• $277 million for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. The DOL focus will be on ensuring workers receive appropriate wages and proper overtime is calculated and paid. The DOL will also make efforts to ensure worker have the right to take job-protected leave for family and medical leave purposes.
• $592 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for enforcement of safety and health regulations, inspections of hazardous workplaces, and strengthening protections for whistleblowers against retaliation.
As an employer, the best way to prevent legal and non-compliance exposure is to put the right policies in place.
• Are you conducting or providing annual training for all employees in the workplace on harassment?
• Are you conducting annual HIPAA training (healthcare providers)?
• Are you conducting HR compliance audits, including I-9/E-Verify compliance, employee personnel file maintenance, safety and health, employee relations, performance management and job classifications?
• Are you maintaining proper record keeping for FMLA?
No business can afford the potential civil and even criminal penalties that accompany non-compliance. It is worth the time, effort and money to ensure you are doing the right thing. During my time as a first year cadet at The Citadel, to any question there was only one of three answers: “sir yes sir”, “sir no sir”, and “sir no excuse sir”. In the employment world ignorance of the law is no excuse. Don’t get caught by surprise…..make the effort to get it right.
To your success,
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC