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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)


Workplace Communication Riddle of the Week:When Is A Chair Not Just a Chair?

Here’s a riddle for you this week…

When is a chair not just a chair?

The answer:
When it gets in the way of employee motivation and morale.

Recently, I learned that Randi, one of my clients’ employees, struggling with a bad back, had been asking for a new office chair for six years!

(Want to cut to the chase? Click this link to a brief interview I did with Randi about her chair –

Imagine, six years?

She had been ignored in her requests.

Then, she was teased that she might be able to get one.

Then, she was told she had to survey the rest of her department to inquire who else would want a chair and what type of chair they would want.

After asking numerous times and being told it would only happen if she invested her time in this staff survey, she gave up.

Just 90-days after working with my client, the senior leader of her company’s division, she (and others on her team) got a new chair.chairphoto

Listen to Randi tell her story in this brief audio interview we did last week after the chair arrived.

There are millions of stories like this in business with leaders not listening to their employees needs.

More on this next time, stay tuned and listen to my interview with Randi, her story deserves to be heard by employees and business leaders alike:

Best Regards,

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

Conscious Communicator Tip #3 – The True (& Only) Purpose of Your Communication (300 words or less)

In communication workshops I often start by asking participants to tell me what they think the purpose of communication is.

The reason I ask this question for them to tell me the purpose of communication is because I need to motivate people to want to be more conscious in their communication. And, since the genesis of all motivation is “purpose” I know when my workshop participants are clear on their purpose for communicating, their motivation to apply what I’m teaching them is likely to follow.

Most times I receive answers like, “to convey information,” “to make sure my opinion is heard,” or “to get things done.” All are correct, yet incomplete. Back in the fall I wrote a blog article about the difference between “means” goals and “ends” goals, and the reasons above are just “means” goals.

Having studied workplace communication full time for 11-years and having received my college degree in communication, I feel somewhat qualified to share with you my belief as to the true purpose of communication, which is an “ends” goal:

“To influence and control the circumstances, experiences and results in your personal and professional life!”

Think about it. Isn’t that what you want your communication to do for you?

For me, the purpose of this communication each week is to influence and control the results I get in helping you become a more conscious communicator, which in turn when you achieve better results from the tips and strategies you receive from our relationship, it will help me influence the growth of my business through additional client work and referrals.

It’s the same for all of us. So, what do you think of this “purpose?” Does it resonate with you? Do you have a better one, let me know, leave a comment or reply via e-mail.

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

A-Rod’s Playoff Shananigans Prove Money Not Highest On the Motivation Scale

Last Saturday night in the first game of the American League Championship Series, which ended Thursday when the Detroit Tigers completed their four game sweep of the New York Yankees, the Yankees’ superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez was caught flirting with female fans in the stands late in an as yet undecided game.

As a former baseball executive and someone that now works with business leaders to create a more motivated work environment focused on achieving organizational goals through high levels of teamwork, I’m appalled by A-Rod’s (Rodriguez’s nickname) actions.

But, it doesn’t surprise me in looking at it from the standpoint of human motivation and focus.

Imagine, if a superstar athlete, playing a child’s game while earning $30 million a year, can’t avoid distractions while participating in a key game on the path to their ultimate vision of winning the World Series, what chance is there to keep the focus and motivation at high levels of every day employees  in small businesses? Not much, I would guess.

This really points out to the fact that money is not the motivating factor so many business leaders think it is, or think it can be. Daniel Pink in his 2010 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us reinforces the role money plays as a motivating factor in small business workplaces.

My challenge with ARod’s behavior is that it also usurps my approach to overcome the money as motivator challenge, which is to encourage business leaders to articulate an inspirational Championship Game Vision for which employees can get inspired by, much like a Major League Baseball player would be inspired and motivated to strive to achieve a World Series victor.

Hmm, not sure where I can go from here to help my clients. Thanks, ARod. Regardless of ARod’s shenanigans, I think I’ll keep my strategy to help my small business clients to create their own inspiring Championship Game Vision. I believe it still does work, thought, at least when you have the right people on the team, and maybe that’s the Yankees problem.

’til next time…enjoy your weekend!

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

Leadership Communication Lesson #4: Communicate With Compassion for Real Connection

Tonight we’re in Milan for the 4th concert of the Springsteen European Tour. I’ve heard many stories about the legendary Italian fans and the concerts in Milan so I’m really looking forward to tonight. After tonight we head to Florence with a stop in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower then to the show. If you’d like to follow my unique journey go to Facebook to see the map of the path we’ll be taking throughout this tour of Western Europe.

One of the greatest leaders in the history of team sports is National Hockey League Hall of Famer Mark Messier. Messier is the only player in league history to be the captain of two different teams that won the Stanley Cup. Overall in his career he was on a total of six Stanley Cup Championships.

Many leaders believe that communicating with compassion may be considered being a “soft” leader. Yet, no one ever associated the adjective “soft” with Mark Messier, one of the fiercest competitors that combined scoring talents with a physical style of play in the history of the game.

Here’s what Messier once said about the key to leadership:

“To lead, you have to have the trust of the players, and to do that you have to find a way to connect with them, to find common ground with every individual. It’s a people issue, not a sports issue. The way to find that common thread is compassion.” Messier added, “With compassion the appeal to the player is much deeper than the old hard-ass line that you’re going to get reprimanded if you don’t play well. We try to build a team, to bond, through the course of a year. And you can do that if you appeal in a compassionate way.”

If leading with compassion worked for Messier, it’s probably good enough for us, mere mortal leaders.

It’s often been said, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I’d like to create a similar phrase for leaders to think about regarding building a high-performing team built on high levels of trust by leading with compassion:

“people don’t care how hard you need them to work for your vision, until they know how much you care about them as a human being first, and a team member with a role to fill, second.”

Something to think about?

What do you think of this series on Leadership Communication Lessons? Please leave a comment below and we’ve got two more coming your way before I return to the office on June 14th.

‘next up are concerts after tonight’s show in Milan is Florence, Italy.

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

Leadership Communication Lesson #3: Here Are Listening Skills to Use

(Over the weekend we had back to back shows, Saturday it was San SeBastien, Spain and Sunday it is was Lisbon, Portugal. Didn’t have much time between shows as it was a full day’s drive between the two cities. We’re halfway done with the tour, 3 shows to go, heading to Italy next, but we’ve got 3 full days to get there, so we have a little time for some site seeing along the way. We’ll be going through Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, Spain, through the South of France into Italy for our next concert in Milan on June 7th. Check out pictures from my trip on my Facebook page.

Next stop, Madrid!
If you’d like to follow my unique journey go to Facebook  to see the map of the path we’ll be taking throughout this tour of Western Europe.

In preparation for my time away, I’ve written a number of blog posts that have been scheduled to go out in advance, here’s #3).

OK, I have to admit, there are some skills involved with effectively listening. But, my caveat is that they only work when we make the decision that it is important to listen as I argued in my article “Listening is Not a Skill, It’s a Decision,” kicking off this series on leadership communication.

Here are 3 actual listening skills you can practice to make the person you are communicating with feel like you are listening:

  1. Eye contact – maintain focused, appropriate eye contact with the person with whom you are speaking. Make sure you are not staring, and that you blink regularly, but maintain focus on the person. The best leaders do this extremely well. And, when you do this, you will make the person with whom you are communicating feel like the most important person in the world. If you want to influence someone, this is key (if you are communicating with someone not of western culture you may want to learn a little about the culture of the person as in some cultures direct eye contact is a sign of dis-respect and deferred eyes shows respect.).
  2. Listen actively – there is a curriculum around the concept of “Active Listening.” This includes #1 and #3 in this list but also includes some of these strategies:
    • Nodding your head when key points are made to show you are paying attention.
    • Giving brief affirming statements, such as, “I see,” “I understand,” “make sense,” etc. when you hear points that strike you as important to the person speaking. These body language signals and short commentary should be done so as not to interfere with the individual that is speaking but should look to affirm and compliment their style.
    • Giving enough time when it seems as though the person has completed their thought before responding. You may even want to count to 3 before doing so, to ensure the person has finished.
  3. Ask clarifying questions or statements to go deeper – one of the most powerful active listening skills is taking what the person has said and identify questions you can ask for the person to go deeper, or simply making statements such as:
    • Tell me more
    • Why is that?
    • Use the echo strategy. Taking the last word or two the person has said and repeating it back, such as, “I knew I’d have a lot on my plate when I returned from vacation.” All you would say with an inquisitive tone, “your vacation?” And, this will have the person automatically go into talking about their vacation.

So, those are 3 power listening strategies. They are definitely skills that we need to learn and practice. Once we do, then it becomes a decision to use them. The more we practice those skills, the better we get, and the more they will become a habit, and then the decision I wrote about last week becomes an unconscious one.

What do you think of this series on Leadership Communication Lessons? Please leave a comment below and we’ve got two more coming your way before I return to the office on June 14th.

‘next up are concerts in Milan and Florence, Italy.

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


Leadership Communication Lesson 2: Before You Can Communicate As a Leader, You Have to Connect

(Last night was my first of six concert in Europe with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. First it was Berlin, Germany in the Olympic Stadium. The same Olympic Stadium from the 1936 Hitler Olympics. A very historic stadium, no doubt, and one that is being put to much better use these days. Soon I’ll be posting pictures from my trip on my Facebook page. If you’d like to follow my unique journey go there and you can see the map of the path we’ll be taking throughout this tour of Western Europe. Later today we leave for San SeBastien, Spain, and our next concert June 2nd.

In preparation for my time away, I’ve written a number of blog posts that have been scheduled to go out in advance, here’s #2).

Earlier this week in my blog article I proclaimed that listening is not skill, it is a decision.

That has struck a nerve or two with some people based on the e-mails I’ve been receiving while I’m away (I am checking e-mail but not responding ’til I get home on June 14th).

But, in the meantime, since I figured there would be more questions and counter comments to my proclamation, I thought I’d offer some other points on the subject to clarify what I mean.

First, one of my leadership heroes, John C. Maxwell, who is probably the foremost leadership thought leader today got me thinking when I watched a video he released last week about the power of connection, and how if we want to communicate we first have to connect.

Here’s what I took away from Maxwell’s minute on communication (which you can see at this link):

Two more important things  to understand about the concept of “listening:”

  1. If we want to have other people listen to us, we need to give them a reason to listen to us. Why should they? What’s in it for them to listen? How are we first connecting with them and engaging them so they want to listen?
  2. If other people want us to listen, they need to do the same. The only difference is that we should be sending a message that we are open and interested in giving the other person the opportunity to engage us and connect with us. When you do this the right way, magical things can happen. You may learn something about another that can make the difference in both your lives, you just have to be open to the opportunity and the possibility. (you may say if you did this with everyone you’d have no time to do what you need to do and that’s where being discerning while being able to communicate directly and respectfully so that neither of you waste each other’s time).

When we commit to doing those two things, I think you’ll be amazed at how much  listening improves around us, and within us.

’til next time, make it  a great week!

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

Happy “National Small Business Week” – Here Are 5 Critical Mistakes in Small Business Leadership

This week is the 5th Annual National Small Business Week.

In honor the event I thought I’d offer my 2-cents on the topic of small business leadership.

Many of my blog subscribers attended last week’s webinar on The 5 Critical Mistakes Small Business Leaders Make that Kill Productivity & Profits.

In this webinar I offered 5 things small business leaders must take a look at within their business in order to make sure they are running optimally.

For those of you who did not attend the webinar, I’ll list these five critical mistakes of small business leaders here:

  1. Not having a Championship Game Vision and articulating it clearly and consistently to the team.
    • create something inspiring that employees can get excited about contributing to, just like an athletic team playing for a championship
  2. Not investing enough time in the hiring process
    • invest time and energy making sure the new hire is a fit for the organization’s culture and put more attention on attitude, behaviors, beliefs and work ethic, and get to those through behavioral interviewing strategies
  3. Focusing on time worked vs. job performance results/outcomes
    • too much is focused on accomplished the tasks in job descriptions and ‘FaceTime’ in the office instead of defining clear results/outcomes that should be achieved from the position
  4. Think the paycheck is/should be enough for motivation
    • in the 21st century the paycheck is just not enough to motivate employees, and that’s a good thing as it takes the focus off the money and more on purpose and making a difference.
  5. Proclaiming to have a “Family Atmosphere” and trying to create one
    • Most families are dysfunctional and many family businesses are run dysfunctionally from a personnel perspective. Define the aspects of the culture you would like to incorporate into your organization and build from there, forget about defining it as a ‘family atmosphere.’

If you’d like to take this concept deeper, I encourage you to experience the webinar. If you go to you can download a free mp3 audio recording and view the streaming webinar.

Enjoy National Small Business Week and the free webinar to help you make your business even better!

’til next time, make it a great week!

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



What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Decision to Put Jeremy Lin in the Lineup

On February 4th the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association were at the bottom of the league’s standings having won just 8 of their first 23 games, a 35% winning percentage. The team has appeared in the NBA’s post-season playoff picture just once (2011) since 2004, and hasn’t won a game in the post-season since 2004.

Struggling on the court in this lockout shortened season and decimated by injuries Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni had no other option than to insert unknown, often overlooked and cast aside Jeremy Lin into the starting point guard position.

What has happened since is now known in New York and throughout the sports world as “Linsanity,.” With Lin in the lineup the team has won 8 of 9 games putting itself back in the playoff picture. Lin has sparked the team scoring more points than any other player in the history of the NBA in his first four career starts. Over the ensuing five games holding now an average of 25 points and more than 9 assists in starting those 9 games since February 4th.

You may be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with business leadership, employee engagement and motivation? Plenty!

There are employees in your organization with untapped skills, talents and interests chomping at the bit to have something that inspires them to contribute at a higher level. It’s your job as the organization or team’s leader to tap into that dormant potential contribution.

If there is one thing Lin didn’t lack it was self-confidence and he was sitting on the benches of three NBA team chomping at the bit to be able to contribute in a way that could make a difference. He was only given a chance as a last resort. He was probably the last option D’Antoni had to save his job as the coach of the one of the highest valued franchises in professional basketball in the world’s largest market.

Lin has saved his coach’s job for a few more months and potentially, even years.

Earlier in my professional baseball career serving as the leader of my final team, I hired an individual, whose name is Steve, that my boss, the owner of the franchise didn’t want me to hire. Fortunately, despite having significant experience working with this individual he didn’t make it entirely clear to me that that was his position, but he strongly intimated that desire. At the end of the day he left the decision up to me.

In going through my hiring process, the interview and background due diligence not only could I not see a reason not to hire this individual, I thought his background, his skills, talents and attitude was just what we needed.

Despite being originally defined as a “C” student, my boss’ code for not being a high-performer, this individual proved my hiring decision to be right. It took at least 3 years for Steve and I to turn around the attitude of our boss and to have him see Steve as a high-performer with future potential within the organization.

Today, Steve is now president and ceo of one of the companies in that organization.

What it took to make my hiring decision work was a simple conversation offering Steve the opportunity to join me in the challenge of changing the attitude and impression of the person holding the key to our professional success at the time. Steve was more than up to the challenge.

There are many Steves in your organization, here are the steps to pull them out

  1. Raise the performance standards and expectations in your organization.
  2. Define the specific and related performance expectations you’d like to see from the individuals on your team.
  3. Create an inspiring reason and purpose for the change that will connect to every individual’s innate human need to make a difference.
  4. Have a candid, private conversation with each of the individuals, clearly articulating those new expectations and discussing how their higher level of contribution will make a difference and to whom that difference will be made
  5. Offer training, development, support and coaching to help them step up to the new role

Follow those 5-steps and I believe you will be pleasantly pleased by the response. And along the way you will be raising the self-esteem and self-confidence of those on your teams while improving performance results for your organization, just like the NY Knicks are experiencing thanks to Jeremy Lin and Linsanity that has erupted this month!

If you’d like a model to follow that will support the five steps above, visit and download the free report and assessments there.

’til next week,

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

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