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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)


Conscious Communicator Tip #30 Team Leaders Must Address Performance& Behavior Issues Directly (300 words)

To close out discussion on the Communication Sin of Lack of Directness & Candor I want to comment about team leaders who choose to call team meetings to address issues that should be dealt with direct to individual team members in private meetings.

In my seminars and workshops on The 7 Deadliest Sins of Leadership & Workplace Communication I always ask participants, when we get to this sin, if they’ve ever experienced a team leader, boss or even a senior executive call “everyone” into a group meeting to discuss performance and behavior issues everyone in the group knows is a result of a very small number of team members

As soon as I ask the question, heads nod and groans can be heard.

All too often individual behavior and performance issues are addressed in group meetings. The leader brings a generic paint brush to the meeting reminding everyone of the goals and need for improved performance, or to ask for changes in behavior that have been violating policy and procedures.

Everyone in the room knows the real culprits and begin to resent them even more for their lack of performance or poor attitudes.

Everyone in the room knows these issues should be addressed directly to individual perpetrators and they begin to lose trust in the team leader, and trust on the team erodes.

Worst of all, in situations addressed in this manner, the perpetrators don’t recognize themselves as the cause of the problem, so their behavior never changes when issues are communicated in this generic way.

Poor performance and behavior perpetuates.

In these situations, leaders must develop courage to step up to address issues directly with individual perpetrators if there is any hope to improve the desired performance and behaviors.

Please share your experience with these type of situations below.

’til next time,
skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results







P.S. – For a list of all Power Words in the Conscious Communicator Series click here

Conscious Communicator Tip #29 Too Many Organizations Avoid the Tough Issues(< 300 words)

My first organizational consulting client had serious issues in its workplace that senior leadership was avoiding, which eventually led to the invitation for me to come in to help.

Upon my initial investigation I learned there were significant performance and behavior problems of key personnel that were negatively impacting the motivation, morale and productivity in the office.

In this close knit, small family owned business the owner of the company needed outside help to address the issues because he was too close to the personnel to confront the issues directly with each, so they were avoided.

In organizations large and small there are “elephants in the room,” as they are called, that negatively  impact the people in the work environment.

Most everyone can at least feel, if not see what’s going on, that for one reason or another are never directly dealt with.

At best the issues are vaguely referred to in group meetings, and are glossed over with no action plan or substantive conversation to seriously address and repair the problems.

The reasons are manifold. Some of it is fear. Some of it is an “not my job” attitude of leaders in the department or division.

Whatever the reason it always is a failure of leadership.

Here’s an important question…

What issues are taking place in your workplace, that are clear to the people working in it, that everyone is talking about among themselves in the break room or around the dinner table to spouses, but not with people in the organization who can and should be doing something about them but instead are choosing to ignore or avoid them?

Please leave a comment below to add your experience around addressing the “elephants in the room” in organizations in this context of a lack of directness and candor.

’til next time,
skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results





Conscious Communicator Tip #28 A Culture of Directness & Candor Has to Start at the Top of Organizations(< 315 words)

A number of comments to last week’s initial blog article on A Lack of Directness & Candor communication sin led me right into today’s.

So many organizations suffer unnecessarily from under-performing employees in the workplace because of this communication sin. It occurs at all levels of organization, even at senior leadership.

I had a conversation on Friday with a prospect who continually repeated the need for greater accountability and better performance from two significant revenue generating departments. He wanted me to create a “motivational” program to improve performance.

After listening for about 20 minutes I told him it sounded more like a problem with senior leadership needing to get on the same page strategically for the organization. I told him I thought they needed to engage in direct and candid discussions among themselves on setting a new strategic course for their company.

We’re meeting again to have that discussion next week.

Virtually every performance problem in an organization is related to a lack of directness and candor.

Few organizational leaders have the communication skills to promptly, directly & respectfully confront performance issues, and fewer can candidly address behavior issues effectively.

Failing to address both performance and behavior issues directly and candidly kills organizations. It becomes a cancer that rots organizations from the inside out, creating toxic work environments.

Its one thing for co-workers to talk behind each others’ backs, or to tattle-tale on co-workers for job security in stressful situations, but when the management allows it to occur, perpetuating the negativity, it is doubly damaging.

There are a few strategies that can solve this issue and after identifying some other ways a “Lack of Directness & Candor” manifest in organizations next week, I’ll discuss those turn around strategies.

Please leave a comment below to add your experience around the issue of a lack of directness and candor in the organizations in which you’ve worked.

’til next time,
skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results







P.S. – For a list of all Power Words in the Conscious Communicator Series click here

Conscious Communicator Tip #27I Was Wrong & 10,000 Business Professionals Were Correct (< 280 words)

When I first wrote my white paper on The 7 Deadliest Sins of Leadership & Workplace Communication in the spring of 2011 I placed these interpersonal communication mistakes in no particular order of importance or severity.

At the time, I believed no one of the seven were any more detrimental to organizational performance than the others.

Well, I was wrong.

After delivering my seminar on The 7 Deadliest Sins of Leadership & Workplace Communication to more than 10,000 business professionals in the two years since publishing the white paper has convinced me that there is one more detrimental than the other six.

(If you haven’t yet read this report, I encourage you to download your copy for free at )

It’s a “Lack of Directness & Candor!”

In the first edition of the report this communication sin was buried in the third position. In version 2.0 that I released in the fall of 2012, it is now in seventh position.

I placed it at the very end because its best to leave the reader or workshop attendee with this communication sin as the last impression and the one they remember most prominently.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be discussing this communication sin, outlining the variety of ways it manifests in the workplace, and how many organizational leaders enable this communication sin to perpetuate.

So, in preparation for this mini-series, I’d like to hear from you and what your experience is with regard to a “Lack of Directness and Candor” in your organization, and how it is a problem for you and your co-workers or employees.

Please leave a comment below and start a discussion on this issue so we can begin to turn around this epidemic of poor communication habits in the workplace.

’til next time,
skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results







P.S. – For a list of all Power Words in the Conscious Communicator Series click here

The 4 Truths About Workplace Communication for High-Levels of Teamwork & Productivity

The last few weeks have been very active for me in terms of business development. It seems as though people are starting to pay more attention to the communication challenges in their workplace. Maybe they’ve just started to wake up to the reality and the frustrations. Who knows why, but I’m always happy to add value where I can.

Many of the discussions have been focused on similar issues and they got me thinking.

So, you, again are the beneficiary. If you lead a company, a department, a division or just a project team, here are 4 truths of communication for you to think about as you move forward:

  1. The most vital workplace communication issues are about people, not technology
    Don’t let people blame technology or hide behind it as an excuse for communication breakdowns because we have to communicate the old fashion way more often if we want to build a team grounded in high-levels of trust.
  2. Workplace communication issues must be addressed promptly, directly, and respectfully or they will get worse
    I can speak to this strategy from many personal experiences early in my leadership career in professional baseball, and I’m also sure you don’t have to take my word for it. You probably do not need to look too hard into your own situational experiences to know this to be true.
  3. Leadership communication drives workplace communication 
    Too many leaders continue to be a “do as I say, not as I do” leader. Too many lead the charge in organizations violating the corporate values they helped to create and expect everyone else to adhere to.
  4. Workplace communication can always get better 
    When we stop believing we can improve, we stop being a leader others are going to want to follow. Champions on the athletic field know there is always another level they need to work towards on the way to winning that championship. What about you?

Hope these 4 truths of workplace communication help make you an even better leader. If you’d like to learn more about these 4 truths, download this free, 15-minute audio report at this link or just hit the play button below:

’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


Leadership Made Simple – The Only 3 Skills Organizational Leaders Need

I guess its not surprising that the first day back in the office from a workshop on “common sense” consulting, I’m writing a blog post on simplifying leadership.

Search Google for the keyword “leadership” and you will get 513 million results in .15 seconds.

That’s a lot of leadership advice. Somewhere in those 513 million Google search responses are some articles from my Leadership & Workplace Communication blog. And, today I want to synergize everything I know about leadership down to balancing these 3 simple skills:

  • Ability to learn from the past and apply those learnings to future actions and behaviors.
  • Focusing on what can be controlled in the present and take action only on those.
  • Creating an inspiring vision for the future and communicate it in a way to engage others.

For now, that’s all you need to know.

If you have something that does not or cannot fit within those three, leave a note and let’s discuss.

’til next time…make it a great week!

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

What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith Was Half-Right

Recently I’ve started quoting executive coach to millionaire CEOs Marshall Goldsmith from his book What Got You Here, What Won’t Get You There! (a book I strongly recommend to my clients who want to take themselves and their teams to the next level).

The book is written for executives who want to move up the corporate ladder. It explains that the primary thing keeping most men and women from getting their ideal position isn’t their knowledge, skills or experience in the technical, tactical or strategic activities in their present role, but their people skills. He offers many resources to build better soft skills in being better in influencing others around them in a positive manner.

I’ve been using that phrase in another context for the leaders of small businesses I’ve been working with this year. The context relates to their business as it presently exists and where they want to go with it.

It’s a great metaphor for getting to the next level in any endeavor. It’s a metaphor all business leaders should be using.

When I was delivering this message in a client’s team development workshop an audience member made the point that the statement is only 0ne-half to two-thirds true. In making his point he made sure I understood that he had some habits and traits that significantly contributed to his success to this point in his life and were still very valid to help him get to the next level. I had to agree with him.

If we’ve achieved any level of success in our life or business we have done some things right. Some of those things we should keep doing because they work and they will continue to work at any level. Some will not and need to be changed.

The key is knowing the difference!

The key is knowing what to keep from the behaviors that got us to where we are, and then being honest with ourselves, our employees and even our customers/clients to let go of what will no longer serve us on our journey to the next level. That’s where a business coach can help.

Coaching Exercise Question:
If you were completely honest with yourself what are three habits, behaviors, tendencies, skills you must change or improve to get you and/or your business to the next level?

(If you’ve got the guts, share you answer and make a public commitment below, and get the final third of the year off to a great start, who’s game?)

’til next time, make it a great weekend!

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


A Leadership Communication Model for the Aspiring “Just Right” Goldilocks Leader

Last December I released a new leadership concept called, The Goldilocks’ ‘Just Right’ Leadership Style, you can read more about it at this link.  Getting leadership, “Just Right,” was probably first espoused by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in their work on Situational Leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

For purposes of this article, I want to focus on a leader’s communication style and what it takes to get it “just right.”

In prepping for Month/Lesson 6 in the Leadership Communication Mastery Series last week, which focused on the importance of direct and candid communication in a work environment, I developed a communication model I think will help everyone who is leading a team, a company or even a family communicate more effectively in a way that builds trust and gets results.

Time and time again, in studying leaders one of the most important traits that shows up in the most effective leaders is not just an ability to communicate, but an ability to communicate promptly, directly and respectfully. These 3 components are vital to the success of a leader because it gets to the core of creating a high-trust environment necessary for high-performance.

I have to give credit to a colleague of mine, Libby Wagner of Professional Leadership Results, for identifying these three communication components as a real difference maker. I hope this model below takes it even further to show how important each of the three are in creating a culture of effective, and trust-building communication.

Here’s why:

With this Venn Diagram you see there are four potential combinations and each has its benefits and its challenges:

Prompt/Respectful: This is used when the leader recognizes the issue and tries to confront the individual with a soft approach hoping they “get it.” Most times, they don’t “get it,” including the severity of the issue and the seriousness of the leader making the request for a behavior or performance adjustment. This often involves a lack of specificity and often falls into the category of “beating around the bush.”

Prompt/Direct: This often violates my leadership an workplace communication sin #6 “Lack of Appropriate Tone & Body Language.” The leader with this approach is often reacting immediately, in the moment with little emotional intelligence and as such may do so with a raised voice, pointing fingers, blaming, etc. and may also do so in an inappropriate location such as a public setting, like a meeting of peers, in a hallway or office with others around.

Direct/Respectful: This is communication that comes too late or too far down the road to be effective. The style and approach is correct and would be effective, if the leader would have communicated at the first, most appropriate time. However, this type of communication often comes weeks, sometimes months from the incident causing the recipient of the communication to become resentful and confused as to why the issue wasn’t brought to their attention sooner so they could do something about it.

Prompt/Direct/Respectful: This is “Champion Leadership Communication!” When a leader communicates applying all three of these components it will build trust between him or herself and the individuals they are leading as well as build high trust throughout the team as everyone will feel they are being held to a similar standard. All leaders should be striving for this level in their leadership communication style.

What do you think? How do you stack up? Most leaders are masters at two of the three, which pair do you gravitate towards? Where do you think you spend most of your time? Champion communicators master the complete triad, what about you?

For another powerful concept on leadership communication check out my latest tele class,  Small Business Leadership: The 3 Power Beliefs of Champion Communicators, its already over but you can get access to the recording at

’til next time…make it a great week!

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

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