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Don’t Blame Negative, Under-Performing Employees – 3 Reasons They Are Not at Fault

In a recent survey 44% of small business owners reported being unhappy with the performance of their employees.

To solve this type of problem, small business owners must first identify the cause and then create applicable solutions. There can be many reasons why employees under-perform and some leaders may point to poor attitudes, low motivation, low morale and individuals’ inability to work with others, or accept and adapt to change.

Although those reasons may be valid on the surface, there are always underlying issues that have led to the causes identified by the business leader.

The good news is that there are only two aspects to evaluate with under-performing employees. It’s either due to an individual’s:

  • ability, or
  • their attitude.

In either instance, the employee is not at fault.

(If you’d like help distinguishing whether its an ability or attitude issue and the communication issues that may have caused it and how better communication can fix it – let’s have a conversation. To schedule a free, no obligation Workplace Communication Assessment Strategy Session, go here now)

There are three primary communication mistakes business leaders make that prevent employees from being engaged in their workplace and contributing at higher levels:

Business Leader Mistake #1 – Not Giving Employees a Reason to be Engaged, Motivated & Contribute

Many business leaders mistakenly believe that providing someone the privilege of a steady income and certain quality of life via a paycheck should be enough to create a motivated employee.

Yet, studies continue to show that salary and benefits, although important for providing base levels of motivation, is not enough to generate higher levels of engagement.

Many managers and leaders say they are frustrated with the feeling they have to continually find ways to light a fire under their people to get them to do what needs to be done. Instead they should be investing energy in connecting to their employees on a personal level to instead find ways to light a fire within them.

One extremely effective way to do this is to apply the Employee Engagement Equation.

The Employee Motivation Equation begins with creating an inspiring vision for the company that employees at all levels will be excited to contribute to. Daniel Pink, in his 2010 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us identified “Purpose” as one of the key motivating components for a 21st Century workforce.

Business Leader Mistake #2 – Creating a De-Motivating Environment

In any new relationship there is always a honeymoon period where all the parties involved have good feelings about the possibilities moving forward. It’s the same when a new hire joins a company.

Unfortunately, a survey of about 1.2 million employees at mostly Fortune 1000 companies in the early part of this century conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence, and revealed in 2005 that in 85% of companies, employee morale sharply declines after an employee’s first six months on the job, and continues to fade in ensuring years.

In a significant number of companies, as this Sirota research shows, something is occurring in these work environments that causes an enthusiastic and engaged employee to change their attitude.

Many factors can be attributed to this drop off, some of which include:

  • Poorly communicated job descriptions and responsibilities causing uncertain performance expectations for the individual,
  • Inequity in managers addressing inappropriate behaviors and poor performance of co-workers,
  • Managers that play favorites and communicate disrespectfully in the workplace,
  • Lack of positive feedback for contributions made

Business Leader Mistake #3 – Making a Wrong Hiring Choice

In the haste to fill positions, often those making the hiring decisions fail to invest enough time in making sure the new hire is a good fit for the position.

A “good fit’ includes assessing skills, knowledge, attitude, talent, and the education and experience a prospective team member will bring into the work environment. I call this the S.K.A.T.E. Hiring Profile (Skills, Knowledge, Attitude, Talent, & Education/Experience).

Additionally, sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances employees are asked to fill roles not originally intended, and for which their skills and talents are not the best fit.

In these situations, despite the employee’s best efforts he or she is unable to meet desired performance expectations, causing both the employee and the employer become disenchanted with the relationship. Yet, the onus must be on the employer to get it right when inviting someone into his or her work culture, and when asking a team member to take on additional work responsibilities.

What You Can Do

Before proclaiming employees are unmotivated, and/or unwilling, to perform to expectations and bring positive attitudes to the work environment start evaluating these three workforce mistakes from an organizational leadership and communication perspective to see where there is room for improvement.

Remember that it comes down to only two causes. It is either an ability problem or an attitude problem. too many times training and coaching are provided as solutions to an attitude problem, which is a huge waste of resources. As you might imagine, fixing an attitude problem is much different, and much harder, than an ability problem, in most cases.

Here are 3 steps to get you started:

  1. First step is to get clarity there.
  2. Second, once you make that decision, know that for whichever you choose, the foundational cause of that situation is some form of communication.
  3. Third, decide on the best way to approach the situation and the individual.

(If you’d like help distinguishing whether its an ability or attitude issue and the communication issues that may have caused it and how better communication can fix it – let’s have a conversation. To schedule a free, no obligation Workplace Communication Assessment Strategy Session, go here now)


Never Thought I Could Do This (it’s all about “Level 1 Leadership Communication”)

SkipGuitarCalgaryStageA phone conversation last fall led to a huge, unexpected breakthrough for me.

It came from the emcee of a large event at which I was speaking.

She called calling to get information about me for her introduction and a little humorous post keynote banter.

Towards the end of our conversation she asked, “Skip, what is your secret talent?”

I let out a nervous laugh and replied, “I have no secret talent, my older brother got all the talent in my family.”

I proceeded to tell about how my infatuation with rock and roll superstar Bruce Springsteen led me to start guitar lessons six years ago.

To which she suggested, “so you can play and sing a song for us.”

“No, I couldn’t do that, it would cause mass evacuation of the venue,” I said.

“You could just strum a few chords, couldn’t you?”

I agreed to that.

Deep down I knew strumming a few chords wasn’t going to be enough.

I hung up the phone thinking, “what did I just get myself into?”

Immediately, I sent a text that read, “HELP!” to my guitar instructor, with whom I had not had a lesson in more than 15 months.

For the next six weeks we rehearsed the song closest to being ready for “prime time.”

Six weeks later, in front of an audience of 800, I delivered a 50-minute keynote address.

Despite the audience size I was completely comfortable doing that.

Not so much with the guitar and singing.

But, there I was, with a guitar wrapped around my neck telling the story about how I had come to put myself in this precarious position and being totally uncomfortable in that moment.

It was the most intense “comfort zone busting” experience I’ve had in a very, very long time.

When it was all over, I was energized and excited having done something in front of 800 people my wife thought I was crazy to do. (to view my performance, go here)

I felt this way despite nerves taking me seriously off key to open the song. Plus, losing my place glancing down at the lyrics in the monitor I didn’t need.

I am now working on refining that song and incorporating four others to prepare for performing at an open mic night somewhere locally.

Our comfort zones hold us back in ways we don’t even realize.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda is the lament of losers. It’s all about our Level 1 Leadership Communication (aka “self-communication).

What comfort zone do you need to bust through in 2015?

What comfort zones are you committed to busting through in 2015?

Leave a comment and commitment below.

’til next time, Communicate with Power!

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results


Workplace Empathy is the Rodney Dangerfield of Communication

Growing up one of my favorite comedians was Rodney Dangerfield.

He built a lucrative career proclaiming that he “never got any respect.”

His standup routines were a series of one liners lamenting his lot in life, such as,
“I don’t get any respect, last week I called the suicide prevention hotline and they tried to talk me into it.”

In leadership I find the concept of communicating with empathy to be the same.

Leaders are confused by it.

Many believe it’s too soft to communicate with empathy. Others believe they know how to communicate with empathy and struggle to get the results so they think it doesn’t work.

The former believe their people will see them as weak and will walk all over them, disrespecting their position. The latter are doing it incorrectly.

I’ll address the former first, and save the latter for next week so you get this series in bite size chunks.

When leaders communicate with the right doses of empathy it offers many benefits, including:

  1. allows people to open up as to the challenges they are facing
  2. people feel comfortable opening sharing those challenges without the fear of feeling inadequate
  3. it builds a connection between the leader and his/her people that allows both sides to care about each other personally and professionally
  4. it allows the leader to be direct and firm when they need to be because their people trust them, and know they are being told things that are in their best interest and its not just for the leaders own interest.

For all those reasons and more, leaders should give “empathy” more respect.

There are 2 specific contexts leaders should apply empathy in their environment, you’ll learn about those next week, too.

All of March’s FREE Strategy Sessions have been scheduled, look for April’s to be released in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, you can learn about one of the contexts of workplace empathy in my newest white paper report:

“How to Transform Your Workplace from Drama & Defensiveness to Employee Initiative & Ownership”

Download your free copy at this link:

Make it a great week!

Best Regards,

P.S. – I’m really excited because next week I’ll be presenting my first seminar on the topic of “How to Transform Your Workplace from Drama & Defensiveness to Employee Initiative & Ownership” to a sold out audience at the Rochester (NY) Business Alliance. So the webinar is not far behind, grab the report today at

3 Champion Strategies

“The 3 Strategies Champion Organizations: The Secrets to Creating a Highly Motivated, High Performance Work Environment that Delivers Champion Level Results!”

When you read and listen to the report you will learn that…

  • A Powerful Vision and Strategy is the very best way the create buy-in and commitment you need from employees and team members for your organization to consistently perform at a high-level.
  • A Personnel and Performance Management and Accountability System is what allows high-performing organizations to maintain high-levels of buy-in and commitment over the long-term while developing employees for the future
  • Leadership and Teamwork Development Throughout an organization is what makes Champion Organizations special because it creates a culture that is self-sustaining because everyone has, and takes responsibility for the culture and environment in which they work, thus making all three strategies…

…are vital to being able to create teams of employees throughout your organization that are high-performing, highly-motivated, and engaged in their work and in helping the organization achieve its Vision and Purpose.

These are the same strategies applied by every Championship athletic team and high performing business organization. Now you can apply them to your organization when you complete the order form below to download this free report today:

“The 3 Strategies of Champion Organizations: The Secrets to Creating a Highly Motivated, High Performance Work Environment that Delivers Champion Level Results!”

Click this link to download this FREE white paper report today

Conscious Communicator Power Word #7 – GREAT (100 words or less)

Your next Power Word is positive and affirmative…GREAT!

Next time you hear a good idea suggest it’s a GREAT idea? Imagine how that slight adjustment will make the person feel? There is a fine line between a good and GREAT idea. Often just proclaiming it, can help make it so.

Unconscious communicators typically respond “good” when asked how they are doing.

Conscious communicators choose “GREAT.” By proclaiming it, your mind finds reasons supporting your claim, allowing the “GREAT” feeling to manifest.

Sometimes we have to fake it to make it. Using “GREAT” forces your face to smile. A GREAT start.

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

Conscious Communicator Tip #4 – Always Presume Good Intent (300 words or less)

Conscious communicators become “champion” power communicators when they adopt certain beliefs about how they should communicate. Over the next three weeks you will learn the top 3 beliefs that make the difference in your ability to exert positive influence.

The first of these 3 beliefs is, Presume Good Intent.

Imagine how many times someone initiates a conversation and you immediately put a wall up anticipating the individual has an ulterior motive or agenda behind their communication. You are presuming negative, maybe even, manipulative intent.

Often, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It causes you to recognize only behaviors that reinforce your beliefs and you delete any possible behavior not be consistent with your beliefs.

As a leader, this is not conducive to generating effective results with others. The only approach for a leader is to presume good intent.

If you have ‘history’ with an individual, you absolutely have a right to be cynical. Yet, as a leader it is incumbent upon you to take each situation as it comes and realize that the 
past does not necessarily equal the future.

Presuming positive intent leads you to communicate with an open mind, allowing for a discussion of possibilities and opportunities.

If you have significant history with this individual, you can always use President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War approach of “trust and verify.”

Additionally, realize that all human beings only do things for positive intent, and even though that positive intent may be extremely selfish and self-serving, it still comes with that foundation, and we all have that right.

As a leader it is our responsibility to help the individual see how their approach is counter to their best interests, then influence their communication style.

This approach will allow you to reinforce your belief and presume good intent” every time.

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

Ask Skip: How Can I Get Employees to Accept Constructive Criticism & Feedback

All Ask Skip Questions that appear in this blog are actual questions submitted to me directly from blog subscribers or other inquiries that come in through the main website or via my Social Media pages on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to submit your own “Leadership, Teamwork or Workplace Communication”question here!

This is a question I get frequently and has a very simple answer.

If you want to have people on your staff be more open to constructive criticism and feedback the simplest solution is to be open to constructive criticism and feedback yourself as an organizational leader.

Few businesses have in place a regular process for giving quality feedback to its organizational leadership regarding their behaviors, actions and strategies and how they impact personnel throughout the company, yet this is the number one way to have everyone in the organization open to constructive feedback in the workplace.

In 1998 & 1999 I attended a leadership development program and both years heard General Norman Schwarzkopf say, “No organization will ever improve until its leaders are open to looking at what is wrong with it.”

A good lesson for all business leaders in today’s economic climate.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who served The Big Apple from 1978-1989, used to go around the city asking regular citizens 220px-Ed_Koch_95th_congressa very simple question, “how am I doing?”

As Ghandi said, “we have to be the change we want to see in the world.” The same goes for business leaders in their own companies. If you want your people more open to constructive criticism and feedback for improving workplace performance, be the first to go there and have the humility to show you as the business leader are open to it.

Additionally, executive leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith, in his book What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, offers a model for this type of leadership insights he calls FeedForward. It’s a model I will share with you next week as a follow up to this post, so stay tuned.

Try it and let me know how it goes and what results you get from this championship leadership strategy.

’til next time, make it a great week, and if you’re in the U.S. have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!


skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

5 Steps to Leading Your Company to an IDEAL Workplace

Have you ever awoken to an idea in the middle of the night you just can’t get out of your head so you have to get up to write it down for fear of not remembering when you fall back to sleep?

Well, that happened to me this morning!

This year has been a breakthrough year for me in terms of client projects and results. As you’ve read in this very space I’ve been creating some dynamic methodologies that are rapidly impacting my clients’ work environments. It seems those results are poised to explode in 2013.

I think this clearly defined process will help those business and company leaders, as well as project managers, to create the work environments and teams capable of outstanding results in the New Year.

With that thought in mind, here are my 5 Steps to Leading Your Company to an I.D.E.A.L. Workplace:

  • Identify
  • Define
  • Engage
  • Act
  • Listen

Step 1: Identify the results you want to achieve and identify the possible issues, problems and causes that may be getting in the way.

Step 2: Define the specific issues, problems and causes getting in the way of those results. This tests the assumptions made in step 1 and either confirms or refines them so you are working in the right area to get a quick return on investment. Too many organizations work to fix the right problems by working on the wrong cause, or they never build consensus around the problems to fix and the right cause, which breaks down the efforts due to a lack of buy-in and commitment. This then leads to skepticism, cynicism and a lack of trust in the work environment as those involved develop a belief that no one cares to improve the work environment while blaming unfairly and unnecessarily spreads like wild fire.

Step 3: Engage all stakeholders in discussions to identify and commit to working on those solutions and provide a new paradigm for communication with the skills to successfully carry it out. These stakeholders will also be engaged in step 2 of this process making this step an easy transition with high levels of buy-in and commitment.

Step 4: Act on those solutions to integrate them into the work environment as quickly as possible. With buy-in and commitment high from all stakeholders it will be easy to create specific accountabilities to actionable items with reasonable deadlines for follow through and reporting.

Step 5: Listen to what’s going on in a different way than ever before to review and refine to maintain momentum. Because all stakeholders have been engaged in creating a work environment they have defined as desirable, as well as the solutions to make it happen, all will be open to listening to that new environment and their team members working together on this new process in a much different way than ever before. The walls of skepticism, cynicism and trust will have been broken down like it’s Berlin in 1989 and communication will flow in a much different way allowing for positive reviews of progress and challenges. A new level of openness to constructive feedback on how to make things even better will begin to emerge allowing for a continual upward spiral of development.

How does this sound? How would this feel in your workplace?

Want to join me on this journey in 2013? If so, first take this Workplace Culture Assessment and see what your biggest challenges are, then we can have a strategy session to discuss how best to apply the IDEAL model to your specific situation.

’til next time, make it a great week!

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

When Setting Goals in Strategic Planning Remember This Important Distinction

I’m pleased that I received so many comments last week in response to my new 4R Strategy for Results for businesses to apply in their strategic planning for 2013. The comments I received came both directly on the blog article itself and to me individually via e-mail.

Between those comments and a couple of client discussions I’ve had recently I want to make sure everyone is aware of an important distinction in goal setting.

There are two types of goals that often get confused in the strategic planning process:strategic planning and goal setting model, replaces the old SMART Goals formula

  • Means Goals
  • Ends Goals

Means Goals:
Means goals are the interim results we need to achieve on the way towards our ultimate desired outcomes.

Ends Goals:
Ends goals are the ultimate end result we desire to achieve

For example, in the work I do with my clients to help them achieve a high-performing, positive, productive and profitable work environment, which is often is defined with specific revenue and profit goals, this is their ultimate ends goal.

To make that ends goal achievable we have to achieve other things such as improving communication in the workplace, breakdown silos across the departments/divisions at various levels of the organization, improve teamwork, internal customer service, etc. These are the means goals.

Its important to understand this difference. If business leaders get stifled on means goals the results will also be less than what is ultimately possible because the means goals will be seen as the ends goals.

For both means goals and ends goals it is also important to define them in measurable terms. How will you know when you have achieved the goals. What evidence will you use to determine if you are effectively moving towards your desired objectives.

Hope these last two articles help as you plan for 2013, which is just around the corner.

’til next time, make it a great week!

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results


Business Strategy from “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen: 6 Strategies to Make Your Small Business a Rock Star

In honor of my 78th live Bruce Springsteen performance, which I’ll be attending Thursday night in Hartford, Connecticutt, I thought I’d republish this article I wrote back in 2007 after attending another concert in Hartford. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since that show. In this article I recognize components of a very successful business strategy for all of us should adopt applied by the rock and roll legend.

(Originally published in the Hudson Valley Business Journal – November 5, 2007)

The arena went dark with anticipation. The moment that 20,000 of us had been waiting five years for was about break loose. Bruce Springsteen with E Street Band was led through the darkness by flashlight yielding security to the Hartford Civic Center stage the night of October 2nd. Upon reaching the stage and strumming the first chord of his guitar to launch his “Magic” Concert Tour it would be the 53rd time Bruce and I spent an evening together. Him playing, me watching and listening.

This two-and-a-half hour, 23-song concert reinforced my belief in the man, the band, and their music. A belief developed over the last 31 years of listening to his official and unofficial recordings while experiencing 53 live performances.


Bruce, and the E Street Band at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia on The River Tour in February, 2016, where me and my friend won the “pit” lottery and were the first two people in the arena and in the front row for the show.


In between songs, I asked myself a question. What is it about Bruce Springsteen and how he approaches his business that we can all learn from and apply in our respective businesses?

On my ride home I came up with six business success lessons all business ‘bosses” can learn from the 58-year-old singer/songwriter who has been nicknamed “The Boss” since he was a teenager:

Me and Bruce after meeting at a bar in Freehold, NJ in July, 1999 just a few days before the start of his ReUnion Tour with the E Street Band.

1) Develop a Core Set of Values and Align Them to Your Long Term Vision 
In 1997 Springsteen was quoted in a New York Times Magazine article saying as a teenager, “I very consciously set out to develop an audience that was about more than buying records. I set out to find an audience that would be a reflection of some imagined community I had in my head, that lived according to the values in my music and shared a similar set of ideals.”

Have you decided upon the core values of your business? Even if you haven’t consciously created them, your consistent behaviors and decisions are subconsciously manifesting your values. Like Springsteen, you should take time to ensure your manifesting values are what you want them to be and are aligned with the vision you have for your company. Then be sure you are communicating them to your employees first and customers second.

2) Master Your Craft
Rock and roll aficionados will tell you that Springsteen is far from the best guitar player in the business. Bruce readily admits he is not even the best guitarist in his own band.

Springsteen is, however, a master showman. No one will argue that he isn’t the best at putting the pieces of a show together so it connects with his audience while showcasing his strengths and the strengths of the individual members of his band.

How are you maximizing your talents and those of your team members?

How are you raising the bar on things you and your team already do well so you can become exceptional, rather than fixing weaknesses only to become mediocre?

3) Consistently Over Deliver
Springsteen built his reputation with marathon concerts, some lasting four hours. In his early years while performing three-hour sound checks he would sample various seats at the upper echelons of the arena to ensure the fans furthest away would be served with his best

Do you understand your customer’s expectations? How can you better understand them so that you consistently exceed expectations while effectively balancing your time, energy and resources?

4) Flexibility & Failure
Although each concert tour begins with songs from his newest CD, Springsteen regularly changes setlists. He does this to adapt to crowd reactions, his sense for the flow of the shows and to make each night a unique experience. Springsteen also is not afraid to fail in front of a packed house. On at least three occasions I’ve seen him stop mid-song realizing he was in the wrong key or just forgot the words to an infrequently played song, and start over.

Are you able to easily adjust on the fly when your original plans go awry? Do you allow your people to do the same? Are you open to allowing yourself and members of your team to fail so they can learn and get it right the next time allowing your people and business to grow?

5) Variety
Contrary to the opinion of the uninitiated, Springsteen is not just a one-dimensional pop artist. He continually explores new music such as his venture into folk with his 2006 CD “The Seeger Sessions.” He has also released music as a solo artist featuring an acoustic guitar, and rock and roll with a band other than his E Street comrades. He continues to reinvent old songs with new arrangements to fit his current style of music.

Are the products and services you offer being updated regularly? Do you foster a creative environment in which your people can experiment to make things even better?

6) Risk Taking
In 1982 Springsteen was a well-known rock and roll singer with a great band and strong following but hadn’t amassed the unwieldy fame and fortune that came a few years later. That year he did something many suggested was career suicide. He released a solo-acoustic album recorded in his basement on his own four-track cassette machine. It was an artistic success but a commercial flop. Two years later Bruce reached the stratosphere of success with his mega-hit CD “Born in the USA,” selling more the 15 million copies.

In 1991 Springsteen announced his next project would not be with the E Street Band but would be with an entirely different set of musicians. He risked alienation of his fans that identified as much with the band as with him. Then, in 1996, fresh off a reunion CD with the E Street Band he decided against a full E Street reunion in favor of another risky solo-acoustic project based on the work of John Steinbeck. With each of these risks he came back stronger, braver and with a deeper appreciation for who he is as an artist.

How are you taking chances and evolving? How do you allow your team members to take chances with calculated risks so that greater rewards can be achieved, both individually and collectively?

For inspiration get a copy of “Magic,” Springsteen’s latest masterpiece to see what I’m talking about. Then take a few minutes to answer the questions at the end of each of the six business success lessons from “The Boss” and begin applying them to create the next level of success for your business.

More importantly, if you’d like to become the “rock star” of your business and industry, go here and schedule a private, 1:1 Strategy Session so that we can discuss specific and measurable ways to get you and your organization started on that path.

’til next time…Rock On!

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

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