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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)


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 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

“As Soon As Possible” Is Just NOT Acceptable In Leadership & Workplace Communication

Every time I hear an outgoing voice mail message state, “please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible,” I cringe.

Whenever I read an e-mail requesting that I respond “as soon as possible,” I smile and shake my head.

It doesn’t seem to matter at what level of an organization the individual works in, this phrase ubiquitous.

It’s also a waste of time, literally and figuratively. Why? Because…

  1. It violates Leadership & Workplace Communication Sin #1 – A Lack of Specificity!
  2. It says absolutely nothing and means nothing, it is one of the emptiest phrases in the english language.
  3. It puts the person to whom it is being communicated to in a state of uncertaintyUncertainty is one of the worst human emotions we can experience. Why would we want to put another human being in that state?

Additionally, it is simply weak, powerless communication. Or as one of my mentors Anthony Robbins would say, “it is loser language!”

Most often this weak, powerless communication comes from organizational leaders that need to influence others to get things done. Then, they are left wondering why they are constantly waiting for people to get things done for them on time and at deadline (if, necessary).

Communicating in this manner is the cause of three problems in the workplace:

  1. Stress
  2. Mis-communication and mis-understandings
  3. Low productivity and missed deadlines

Call my voice mail and you will hear a specific commitment for a reply, “I promise to return your call by voice, e-mail or text within 3 hours.”

I get a lot of comments from people who leave a message for me regarding that commitment, mostly surprise, and others letting me know if they call after hours I do not need to reply late into the evening and my reply can wait. Its rather humorous!

You don’t need to have a commitment with as short a turn around as my three hours, but you must give some certainty to when someone can expect a reply. Make it 4-hours, by the end of the day, within 24 hours, by the end of the week, month, etc. whatever, just give people certainty as to when they will hear back from you.

This “as soon as possible” phrase also needs to be eliminated in other areas of our business. Especially when we are making a request of someone. How many times do we ask something of someone with less than a specific deadline, such as,

“Please get this back to me with your comments ‘as soon as possible.’ ”

Or maybe you are communicating with your spouse about coming home from the office at the end of the day and you say, “I’ll be home as soon as possible.” I’m sure this happens often in relationships and we wonder why “communication” erodes overtime in intimate personal relationships.

What does that phrase mean?

How long can you wait to reply? Technically, forever.

“As soon as possible” is in the eye, and within the realm, solely of the person responding. The person, probably you, making the request loses control of the issue and their (your) ability to influence the timing of any response.

If you want to be a more powerful leader and be able to influence people to follow you in a very positive, direct way, lose the phrase “as soon as possible,” immediately. Oooops, I mean, before the end of this week and by that I mean take the first step by changing your outgoing voice mail message by 5pm Eastern time, this Friday, July 27th.

If you’d like to become an even more powerful team leader, or leader of a small business team of employees, you are going to want to join me this coming Tuesday, July 31st at 4pm for my newest webinar, “Avoiding the 5 Critical Mistakes of Small Business Leadership.”

You can register free at this link:

’til next time, make it a great week!

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

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



Ask Skip: Why Is It Important a Leader Communicate More Consciously?

Since my blog article a couple of weeks ago discussing the difference between communicating with our default habits vs. communicating more thoughtfully and consciously, I’ve received a number of comments, both on the blog and direct e-mails continuing the discussion.

This question came in via e-mail to me and I thought it was a great way to take the discussion even deeper.

The simple answer comes down to two things; it’s the difference between being proactive and influential vs. being reactive and influenced.

When business leaders communicate thoughtfully and consciously they are being proactive. When leaders are proactive in their approach it is much easier for followers to be inspired by them and to be positively influenced by them.

When business leaders allow their habits to be their default way of communicating they are reactive, trying to navigate and maneuver situations, having their decisions and actions influencked by those situations.

That’s the difference. It’s a powerful difference.

Leaders that communicate consciously and thoughtfully will develop the respect, trust of those they lead.

Leaders that continually communicate with their default habits (unconsciously) will struggle gaining the trust and respect of those they are leading. These leaders will forever be trying to figure out how to motivate their people to higher levels of performance.

Just my two cents, what do you think. Please leave a comment below.

’til next time, make it a great weekend!

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

A Simple Step to Improve Teamwork at Your Workplace

I’m getting ready to begin a new client project this week and in discussing the scope of the project, one of the desired objectives identified was improving teamwork among the small staff.

In investigating the issue further during our discussion, another objective we uncovered was the breaking down of the silos in the organization. When the concept of “silos” was mentioned, I as flabbergasted! I almost fell out of my chair.

“Silos?” I exclaimed back to my prospective client, “you have less than 10 employees, how is that possible?”

This brought the conversation back to the teamwork concept, and people stepping in to help each other when the situation warrants. This would look like people either noticing that help is needed and volunteering to step up to pitch in, or to gladly accept the opportunity with a smile instead of grumbling or complaining with an “it’s not my job” response.

I asked one simple question that turned the conversation. “Well, is ‘teamwork’ and working to support other’s on the staff part of everyone’s performance expectations?”

My prospect asked me what I meant by that and I said, “do you discuss the willingness and ableness of individual team members contribution to teamwork in your regular performance conversations?”

After a few seconds of stunned silence the reply was, “you know, I guess we don’t.”

What gets measured, gets attention and will usually get done. Therefore, if you want teamwork to be a priority, then you as a leader must make it so. This means making it part of everyone’s job performance standards and behavior expectations (this is much different than a job description and should be developed for each job in the company).

In moving forward with this project I can assure you that teamwork will be part of everyone’s job performance standards and behavior expectations.

But, and this is a BIG BUT, if this sounds like something you need in your organization DO NOT just instill new performance standards and behavior expectations on your own as the organization’s leader. It will be seen with disdain and cynicism. This approach will get you compliance with little commitment and buy-in.

In the work with my client, first we’re going to have to discuss with the team what great “teamwork” looks like and why they would want to be part of an organization that has it, and how their present approach to teamwork matches the definition they just created so that we can identify the gap to gain buy-in to building a bridge of new thinking and actions to close the gap, they themselves, identified. That’s where true commitment will come.

If teamwork, or any other individual/group behavior, is not at the level you would like it to be, then figure out a way to make it a priority for all and begin measuring accountability to it. If you’d like help with this, I encourage you to join me for my April 26th Open-Forum Q&A Coaching Webinar where you can join me LIVE to have your specific situation addressed.

Go to to register for FREE .

Hope this blog article helps you look at one very simple and overlooked way to make teamwork work at your organization.

’til next time, make it a great week!

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

First Steps to Create High Levels of Employee Engagement & Employee Motivation

A number of questions to me have come in since the webinar last week on The Goldilocks ‘Just Right’ Leadership Style with business leaders and middle managers wanting to learn more about how to specifically implement various aspects of what I was espousing.

In the next few blog posts I’m going to address some of the questions that have been submitted, the first is…

“Skip, if I want to begin to implement the “Engage & Enroll Just Right Leadership Style” to create higher levels of employee engagement on my team where do I start? I’m especially interested in your answer since I’m just a middle-manager and those above me lead much differently and I have to deal with them, too?”

If you missed the webinar, and would like to learn what this participant is talking about, for a limited time you can access the webinar for free at this link:

From that link you can watch the full webinar with the slide presentation or just download the audio version which should give you what you need as a stand alone teleclass.

The first step is to create a Championship Vision for the area for which you are responsible.

What I mean by that is just like an athletic team that on its first day of training camp everyone is focused on getting to the championship game, you and your team can together identify the specific vision for what it wants to achieve that would really standout and be noticed, regardless of where it is at within your organization. 

How can you define that for yourselves in a way that is inspiring and builds commitment from everyone that needs to contribute towards its accomplishment?

This Championship Vision should be defined from a number of different contextsHVR_1999NYPChampions that offer measurable results that can quantified. Here are some ideas:

  • Specific performance results and output (measurable goals)
  • Defined work environment and culture (what type of work environment does everyone want to experience and is willing to commit to being held accountable to)
  • Image, recognition, brand (what is the external impression others inside and outside (if appropriate) have of your team/group, etc.?

For example, here is one former clients Championship Vision:

“We are recognized as community leader that truly makes a difference to its citizens. Our business has grown to the point we are able to step in to resurrect the landmark office building in downtown and be its anchor tenant that has begun the resurgence of our local community. We have a team committed to truly supporting each other in these efforts and every team member is willing and able to be held accountable to contributing at high levels and are compensated equal to their contribution to our organization’s success!”

Even though this Championship Vision was developed for a small business by the company’s owner with the help and feedback from all 15 employees, the middle manager asking the original question can do the same within the context of his or her team’s role within the larger organization.

Every department or division in a larger organization has a defined role, goals and culture developed among its team members. Get everyone together to define what the group aspires to that would inspire all to contribute as high-levels to it and create the standards, expectations and accountabilities to make it happen.

This is no different than a professional athlete who joins a team that is committed to winning a Championship. More on that with a specific story from the real world of sports as a learning example next time…’til then…

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

Make it a great week!

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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