Is it Time for a 360?

By Dana Borowka & Carl Schroeder– Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

We’ve all heard Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement (quoting Jesus Christ from Mark 3:25), and it has been passed down to us in many different forms. “You won’t win the game if you’re not playing as a team.””You won’t stay married if you and your spouse fundamentally disagree with each other.” And your company will certainly fail if serious factions exist within your corporate team. Success all comes down to team collaboration – harmony on the home front.

So, how do you determine if harmony and collaboration truly exist within your team? More importantly – and perhaps more terrifying – what if they don’t exist, and you are part of the reason? You do this by listening to your colleagues and direct reports, with a commitment to change if necessary. You run through the gauntlet of the infamous 360 assessment.

But before running the gauntlet, you need to decide if you’re really serious about wanting a 360 assessment. Don’t answer yes too quickly – there’s possible pain involved here. You see, like the view from a hilltop position with a 360 degree view, a 360 assessment will reveal strengths and opportunities, but it might also reveal weaknesses and threats. Sadly, many of us just want to hear the good stuff.

If you are ready to feel the burn, then strap on your helmet and get ready for a hard, but profitable ride.

“Do’s & Don’ts” of a Good 360

Do not perform the survey “in house” – Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” If you truly want to know what your employees think, have a neutral, third party (like Lighthouse Consulting) collect responses and keep them in a lockbox. Employees will spill their guts with everything you wanted to hear – and more!

Let employees know you will use the results – No one wants to have their time wasted. Unless you plan to use the information gained in an assessment, don’t put your company through it. On the other hand, if your employees are convinced you really do care – that you will listen, and change, and fix, and improve – trust and collaboration will grow, hearts will be won, and (according to Gallup) profits will be increased. Tell employees you will use their responses.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

360 Assessments, regardless of the type, offer a great way to make this statement possible, of course, patience is critically important. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Golden Gate was not spanned in an afternoon, and you will not be able to handle all 360 degrees at once. But, if you are serious about the health of your team, they will sense it, and, over time, it will make a dramatic difference in the growth of yourself, your team, and in the end, your company’s profitability.

Lighthouse offers a number of 360 options ranging from telephone interviews to automated 360 systems. If you’d like more information on this topic, please call Dana Borowka, MA, at 310-453-6556, ext. 403 or email at danab@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2019

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Carl Schroeder has specialized in analytics and market research for over 25 years. His experience includes all forms of survey work and information-gathering, strategic sales and service territory development, and logistics improvements.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching.  For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

The Power of Focus – Expand Insight into Action

By Paul David Walker

Each insight is a flash of seeing into the true nature of things, and leads to another, providing you act on the first, if you don’t the spark dies, and an opportunity is missed. Being in “the zone,” simply described is one insight after another, acted upon in the flow of cause and effect. It is like dancing in perfect harmony with a band. Dancing to the rhythm and flow of the moment brings out our souls’ calling, and our natural genius, both of which have yearned to be expressed most of our lives.

As insight expands it can create momentum and turn into a compelling vortex that draws energy like a giant storm draws air. There is an attraction that brings in all manner of opportunities as the worlds, near and far, see a familiar intent and join an energy field that feels like their tribe; like going home again.

The key to creating a chain response of insights is our ability to act in the moment before the flash of insight fades. A professional athlete has the muscle memory from years of practice in a given sport to respond in this manner. But can business teams do the same? Why not, most have years of experience in their business. It is a matter of practicing the art of connecting insight to action as a basketball player responding during the flow of the game. A team of athletes has to practice so that when opportunity presents itself it is ready to act as a team in a fast break. Likewise a business team needs to do the same.

Knowing The Difference

An insight is a combination of two or more ideas merging to create a reality previously unknown. It has an expansive, curious, and inclusive feeling, even if stimulated by reading a poem, or seeing a painting. The observer and the observed becoming one to uncover new realities, paths, and understandings.

When ideas come from stored memory they seem to be cloaked with a “need to be right,” which prevents merging and expansion. It is like pulling the answer out of the internet or our past, the feeling lacks wonder, unlike a true insight. Only with practice do we learn the difference, but do not underestimate the tricks our egos can play on us.

First We Become a Team

The first step is becoming a team committed to each others success that knows each person’s strengths, weaknesses and potential. Each member of the team is committed to helping unleash each team player’s potential, the potential of the team, and business. This creates a safe field for innovation and exploration. Each understands and have expertise in their roles, and those roles synchronize to form a team ready to build on insight and act upon opportunities uncovered. This is a healthy high performance team.

Stimulate Insight

Once you have a strong team, as described above, it is time to stimulate insight and action. To do this the leader and the team has to question the status quo, and collaborate to understand new realities, then act on solutions that lead to manifestation. One of the CEO’s I work with, Celso Pierre CEO of Goodridge Americas, developed the following values for his team.

We Work Together To …

•  Bring a sense of possibility beyond the status quo
•  Examine possibilities until solutions emerge
•  Align our intentions to drive solutions

As this example illustrates, a clear compelling picture of the desired state is important. It is an aspirational statement that provides an understanding and a draw towards the ideal. A picture of the goal creates insight as we succeed or fail that is self-correcting in a positive manner. Insights that uncover hidden realities that are successfully acted upon create engagement. The purpose is for you and/or your team, as observer of the ideal, to become one with it, then create a new ideal.

The assumption that fuels insight, is understanding that there is no limit to what we can create together. As an individual I find that if I capture insights as they occur, not letting them fade, and take action, even deeper insights emerge. To facilitate this I always have my journal at hand to capture, understand and expand insights before the clarity fades. I allow time in my schedule to reflect. Likewise a team should have time as individuals and a team to reflect with the purpose of discovering “possibility beyond the status quo.” Business leaders who make this a priority tend to lead their sectors.

The Habit of Reflection

After a success it is easy for us to fall back into old patterns, as individuals and teams. So it is important that personal, professional and business growth is the default setting. Insight into the true nature of things followed by action invents futures that provide strategic advantage. To win consistently we have to teach each other, and those that follow us how to create a state of mind around insight that is similar to athletes “in the zone.” Each time I learn something my state of mind is lifted and I become committed to new levels of action. The same is true with teams. When creating insight is a natural habit, higher states of mind will drive intent and performance at all levels.

“Here you will find a treasure trove of distinctions, tools, and models that will allow you to engage people in a way that naturally harmonizes and enhances working with others—and that in turn advances the mission and purpose of the organization. More than that, you will be introduced to the thinking that guides and directs our most advanced leaders. There are years of learning available in Invent Your Future. Do not be surprised when, in the days and months to come, you find yourself referencing this book. It’s that good.”  — John King, Bestselling Author of Tribal Leadership

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2019

Paul David Walker is a Senior LCS Consultant and one of the few CEO coaches who has worked with numerous Fortune 500 CEOs and their key staff members for over 25 years along with many mid-cap organizations. Some of the organizations that Paul has worked with include Star Kist Foods, Von’s Grocery Stores, New York Life, Anne Klein, Rockwell International countless manufacturing, global utilities, service and consulting organizations. Paul is the founder of Genius Stone Partners and works with domestic and international companies to improve their bottom line today and planning for the future. Paul is the author of the best selling books, Unleashing Genius and Invent Your Future – 7 Imperatives for a 21st Century. You can reach Paul at paul@pauldavidwalker.com or call him at 562-233-7861.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Customer Service is an Entire Company Endeavor

By Dana Borowka

“If you want to know how to retain customers, you need to step outside your own processes and consider what it is like from the customer’s perspective”, says Deb Brown, author of the upcoming book, Lifelong Loyal Clients.

Brown notes that a mere 5 percent increase in retention will increase profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent, according to a Harvard Business School study (Reichheld and Schefter. “The Economics of E-Loyalty.” HBS Working Knowledge. July 10, 2000).

Clearly customer service has a bigger impact on the bottom line than acquiring new customers. Bain & Company (a leader in global business consulting) reports that repeat customers spend more with a company— up to 67 percent more in months thirty-one to thirty-six than months zero to six.

“Taking care of existing customers is a faster path to cash than pursuing new customers,” says Brown. “Long-term customers spend more and refer more. Knowing this, smart business owners focus on retaining customers.”

Brown runs a company called Touch Your Client’s Heart. She works with business owners who want to build better relationships and never let an important contact slip through the cracks.

In her book she also notes a study done by customer experience consulting firm, Walker, which predicted that by the year 2020, customer experience will be more important than price or product to customers.

“The experience the customer has determines their loyalty and retention,” says Brown. “Customer retention makes a huge impact on your bottom line.”

Nobody’s Perfect

“Customer service is often seen by customers as the place to go when things go wrong,” says Mike Wittenstein, an international customer service expert. “Designing service as an experience is how you can get things to go right in the first place.”

Wittenstein is the founder of StoryMiners, one of the world’s first customer experience design consultancies. Based in Atlanta, he is an accomplished consultant, designer, and speaker who works globally in four languages.

“Too many companies design their business around their expectations of a perfect customer’s needs,” says Wittenstein. “The problem is that most customers aren’t perfect. Most walk in expecting a business to fit the way they want to work.”

A big opportunity for customer service across most industries is to not only respond to customer requests when they ask—but to anticipate their needs earlier. Sensing what customers will need sooner means you can make them happier—and do it at lower cost to the business and with a lift for the brand.

“If you’re not supporting the customer or supporting those who do, what is the value of your job anyway?” says Wittenstein. “That’s a Home Depot adage. It applies to everyone. Customer service works best when it’s brought into the heart of operations. It is truly everyone’s job.”

Onboarding Customers is Job One

“Often, businesses focus on prospects,” says Brown. “They give attention, nurturing, and lots of touches to bring prospects though the sales process. Sometimes, when they come to the end of the sales process and make the sale, business owners breathe a sigh of relief and then stop paying attention.”

Brown says onboarding is where you can change the way you do business and make a big impact on your customers. Customers, at that time, may be feeling a little bit apprehensive about the investment they just made. They may be feeling excited about starting to work with your business, but if you stop the communication, the excitement wanes and they may be a little unsure about what comes next.

“Having a formal intake process can not only assure you have vital information like contact details and billing information, but also be a great way to start getting to know your customers.,” says Brown.

As you interact with your customers, continue to pay attention to details about them and about their lives. It’s those personal details that help you get to know them better and deepen your relationship with them. What are their hobbies, their families? Do they have kids, grandkids, or a significant other? Are there things going on in their extended families? Do they have parents they are caring for? All of these little details are very important to them, and when you pay attention to those details, you find out what matters most to your customers.

“Touching your customers’ hearts and really wowing them is the best way I know to build loyalty to your business,” says Brown.

According to Brown, there are several things you should know about your customers so that you can wow them in a personal way.

All Contact Info. We live in a virtual world and sometimes never meet face to face with customers. Other times, customers come to our place of business. It’s easy to think that the only information you need is a phone number and email address. Take the time to also get their mailing address.
Who Do They Care About Deeply? Most people have someone who is important to them, be it a significant other, children, parents, siblings, pets, or a close group of friends. They probably sacrifice for them and spend most of their free time with them.
What Are They Passionate About? Are there hobbies, activities, causes or organizations they spend their time with? Knowing what is important to them and what brings them joy helps you know them better as individuals.
How Do They Indulge Themselves? For some people, a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee is the thing that makes them happy. Others enjoy going to the theater or reading a book. Knowing what your customers would do to treat themselves allows you to customize how you reward them.

We’re Sorry, So Sorry

Sometimes, you make one mistake and you can apologize and move on. Once in a while, however, you may feel the need to do a little more. It may be that you have dropped the ball more than once. If you need to apologize in a bigger way, it might be a good time to send an “I’m sorry” gift.

“It isn’t necessary to send a gift every time you make a mistake,” says Brown. “Often a simple apology in person or over the phone is enough to fix what went wrong. An email or personal note in the mail can add to your sincerity. Don’t overdo it. Once the other party has forgiven you, it is time to move on and let it go.”

An “I’m sorry” gift doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot; it depends on how big the mistake was.

“The act of going the extra mile and sending something out to say you are sincerely sorry can do a lot to repair the trust you have broken,” says Brown. “You are showing your customer that you acknowledge whatever you’ve done to mess up his or her day or to take up his or her time. You understand the value of time and you’re willing to pay for it.”

When you take the time and effort to apologize with a gift, it goes a long way in repairing a situation. You are able to reestablish trust and that person is willing to try again with you. Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson and you won’t make the same mistake again.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

How to Pick a Strategic Planner and Use In-Depth Work Style Assessments to Improve Planning Performance

By Dana Borowka

Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, has lampooned strategic planning for years.

“I’m putting you on the strategic planning team,” announces Dilbert’s boss. “It’s like work, but without the satisfaction of accomplishing anything.”

There is a grain of truth in Dilbert, because strategic planning can fall short without the right facilitator and approach.

“Planning is simply not that hard; but finding a great consultant who can help you get a great plan written, and implemented, is critical,” says Steven Phillips.

Phillips has built an enviable reputation for his strategic planning. He is a sought-after speaker for conferences and organizations worldwide. He has solid advice on how to choose the right strategic planner.

“Too many times consultants will lock themselves up, do amazing analysis, offer up a plan, and then it sits on a shelf and never gets implemented,” says Phillips. “The secret to getting the plan implemented is to take a high involvement approach with the senior team while creating the plan. Consequently, hiring a consultant who will be seen by your senior team as credible and likeable is very, very important.”

Some consultants say it is critical the strategic planner you hire should know the industry.

“Choose a strategic planning resource that knows your industry and is willing to understand how your existing capabilities are or are not capable of achieving the strategy,” says Paul David Walker, a strategic planner with specialized expertise in many industries.

“If they produce the ideal strategy vs. one that works for your existing talent, then the plan will just gather dust,” adds Walker.

Beyond the Standard Screening Criteria

The standard screening criteria when selecting a strategic planning consultant is experience, results, references, and chemistry/fit.

Barri Carian, a former senior executive for two Fortune 500 companies who has been a partner or in the embryonic stages of three start-up companies, is a strategic planning consultant who believes in today’s fast paced and disruptive world there are two additional areas companies should pay attention to in their selection.

“The first is can the strategic planning consultant take us through a deep dive into the trends that will impact our future success?” she asks. “This includes societal (demographic and psychographic), industry and technology trends. Strategic plans that do not take these trends into consideration will not serve the company well.”

For examples of those who didn’t take trends into account think Blockbuster, the music industry, the taxi companies, and Kodak.

“Second, the plan must be executable.,” adds Carian. “So often, strategic plans sit on a shelf never to be referenced again. Or they are so lofty, it’s overwhelming and companies don’t know where to start. Can the strategic planning consultant help you operationalize the plan? That means prioritizing initiatives, assigning owners or champions, breaking large strategic initiatives into smaller bites and developing systems to track progress and removing obstacles.”

The challenge, says strategic planning consultant Marc Emmer, is that a lot of consultants are generalists. Many are very good facilitators, and they may or may not be true strategists.

“If you really want a formal, strategic plan based on research, it may be worth your while to hire a strategic planning firm, that has the resources to run a true strategy process,” says Emmer. “The first thing you should ask potential consultants is how many strategic plans have they written? How companies have they facilitated strategic planning meetings for? If they have done ten or twenty you might wonder if they have enough experience to help you.”

If they have many practice areas such as leadership or process improvement, you should consider if they are focused enough on strategy to be any good at it, advises Emmer.

“Finally, ask to see the tools and processes that they will use to ensure your team has an actionable plan that can drive competitive advantage,” adds Emmer, who recently published his second book, Momentum: How Companies Decide What To Do Next.

“People who understand strategic planning and do it well view it as central to their evolution of a company and the source of competitive advantage,” adds Emmer.

Insight Leads to Better Strategic Planning Team Performance

After a strategic planning consultant is selected, in-depth work style and personality testing can be a valuable resource for the strategic planning process. The true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective.

Here are five ways to use in-depth work style and personality testing for strategic planning:

1. Get the real picture when choosing strategic planning team members. Naturally all candidates for your strategic planning team want to put their best foot forward. However, through an in-depth work style and personality test, you can uncover a great deal about their ability to work well with other personalities, their problem-solving abilities, their thought processes and their ability to tolerate stress. This testing gives you objective information that can help you make an informed decision about whether these candidates would be good fit for the strategic planning team.

2. Help team members be all that they can be. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Find out the real truth with an objective measure. Once you pinpoint the good and the bad, then you place them in the right positions and coach them on where to improve.

3. Treat team members the way they want to be treated. In today’s fast-paced world of business there is little time to get to know many of your coworkers. Using in-depth work style personality assessments as the basis for team building exercises can quickly get everyone to have a healthier respect for other ways of seeing the world.

4. Make strategic planning leaders better team leaders. When team leaders understand what makes their people tick, then they can be better leaders. Knowing the work style and personality traits can help with stressful planning sessions.

5. Set up strategic planning teams for success. Sometimes we hire the right employee and then give that person the wrong job. Understanding preferred work styles and where a person would be happiest goes a long way to improving retention and productivity.

A proper test should reach beyond simple profiles and decipher an employee’s underlying needs. This is key for team building, conflict resolution, and succession planning. Some tests only use five or eight traits to make an assessment; this is not enough. We recommend a test that utilizes the full sixteen traits to get a complete picture of the person.

A final thought: once you have used assessments to pick the right team, it might be a shame to use them only once a year.

“My view of so-called strategic planning is that today it is less an event and more an ongoing conversation,” says Larry Cassidy, a group chair with Vistage International for 30 years. “The most effective organizations are evolving, and for me that moves viable strategic thinking away from being an annual event and toward an ongoing conversation.”

Robert Scherer, president of TAG, an outsourced accounting and software solutions firm, believes that in order to maximize the likelihood of executing a strategic plan that attention to detail and follow-up are critical.

“Over the years, TAG has worked with many companies in various stages of their strategic plan, with many attempts to accomplish too much in one year,” Scherer said. “With planning it’s better to break down goals into shorter sprints, as it puts more urgency and focus on your goals, which defaults to a more agile approach.”

Trends to Take Into Account for Strategic Planning

Before his consulting career, Marc Emmer spent over 20 years in the food business, in operations, marketing and business development. Emmer, who writes regularly for Inc. magazine, offers these trends to take into account in your strategic planning:

• Get great tax planning advice now.
• Have a nimble strategic plan, that can change on a moment’s notice. Review it quarterly to ensure you are in a position to seize the opportunities ahead.
• Invest in technology. Ask of your management team, how is technology a strategic advantage? If your team doesn’t have the chops to answer the question, find the people who do. Weave technology into your strategic plan.
• Hire people before you need them. If the economy continues to heat up, and unemployment levels off at 4 percent or so, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find talent.
• Be a best-in-class employer and push the envelope on providing a flexible work environment (including virtual office space).
• Utilize collaboration tools that allow you to provide your team the ability to be effective, in any location at any time.
• Execute flawlessly. Given the rate of change, customers expect on-time delivery, great quality and seamless communication. Utilize agile principles to ensure your team can pivot quickly to meet evolving customer demands.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

LinkedIn 4.0 – Learn About Accelerated Connectivity Like Never Before

By Rick Itzkowich

When people ask me how I became the “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy,” I take them back to 2007. When the recession hit, I was searching. Like most people who originally sign-up for LinkedIn, I wanted to generate new referrals. Connecting on LinkedIn was free so I signed up. But quite frankly I had no idea what to do with it. And I didn’t do anything with it other than invite a few people to join me on it. That was the extent . . . for a while.

Then one day during my BNI – Business Networking International chapter meeting, a member requested an introduction to an individual. Since I didn’t know the person, I wrote down the name. I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re on LinkedIn.” I went back to my office, and I did a search. And sure enough I found him. To my surprise, I not only found him, but I also found that he was connected to two other people that I knew. I asked these individuals if they would be willing to facilitate an introduction. One of them introduced me, and I got my first taste of the awesome power of LinkedIn. The short story is that my BNI colleague ended up doing substantial business with this person, and that’s when the light bulb went on. The purpose of LinkedIn had worked through me in a big way. I began to realize it’s tremendous potential.

Technology is a means to an end—not an end in itself. New technologies emerge all the time. And this can be totally overwhelming. But, there are certain aspects of technology that are allowing us to advance in our networking. LinkedIn is a valuable technology that offers speed and convenience in today’s busy business world. It fosters relationship building and the ability to start conversations with people based on your connection.

LinkedIn gives you insight and visibility into the connections that people who you know have. It offers you this untapped potential that most people do not even know they have available to them. Plus, it helps you organize useful connections for you and those you know.

Here’s an example. Let’s say somebody who wants to meet Mike Smith doesn’t know that I know Mike. But they do a search on LinkedIn, and they find out that Mike is a second-degree connection to me, Rick Itzkowich. They ask, “Hey Rick, I see that you’re connected to Mike. I’ve been trying to connect with him because of his asset protection specialty. Do you know him?”

I can tell that person, “Not only do I know him, he worked on my estate plan. Let me introduce the two of you.” Before LinkedIn, they didn’t know that I know Mike, and I didn’t know they wanted to meet Mike. LinkedIn makes that possible in a very logical and reputable manner.

Now, there are three potential obstacles that need to be acknowledged so that the intention of LinkedIn is not misunderstood. First off, people mistake LinkedIn for a traditional sales channel. They assume that you meet people on LinkedIn to direct sell to them. They think it’s Facebook for business and may engage in an unprofessional manner or use pushy sales tactics. As LinkedIn is all about nurturing relationships and building your credibility and trust with your connections, a direct sales strategy creates ill will.

Another factor to consider is that you do need to spend time on LinkedIn. Not a high volume of time — just putting in 30 to 45 minutes per week can pay off big time. I like to allocate just 10 minutes a day. I might send out five invites to connect and write two recommendations for colleagues over my second cup of morning coffee.

The last obstacle is that there is no LinkedIn guide, and unfortunately there is a ton of noise out there about how to make LinkedIn work.

Let me offer ways to avoid those obstacles: focus on your profile, network, and activities. You need to have an effective profile. Be sure you include a professional head shot and in your profile copy speak to your audience in the first person about what sets you apart in a way that doesn’t read like a resume. Keep your profile complete and up-to-date, as it is your mini sales webpage. You need to build a large diverse network. Send out invitations. Ask for names and add them to your LinkedIn. Discuss LinkedIn so others know to find you there. Your activities need to have some congruency as well as a strategy for growth. If you already did an impressive job of having a thorough profile that actually targets specific things related to what you are wanting to accomplish, complement that by actively staying involved on LinkedIn and clearly speaking to target individuals. This way, others feel like you are real, that they know more about you, and that you know what you are talking about in your industry.

I’ll let two Vistage Chairs tell you in their own words how my LinkedIn guidance worked for them:

“I am in countdown mode for my upcoming event. Of my 31 RSVPs, all but two, are from LinkedIn. Your system rocks and worked perfectly for me, especially since my husband and I have only been in Scottsdale since September. You rocked IT! The referral system and my tenacity with LinkedIn outreach has given me a good start. I am anticipating 20 out of the 31 who signed up. Thank you for introducing your system to me. It’s been a terrific experience.”
Susan Giles Bischak, Vistage Chair

“I did two sessions with 17 referrals and [received] three immediate responses. One appointment for one-hour worth of work. Priceless.”
Tom Rodell, Vistage Chair

These types of results are typical when you have guidance on how to tap into the power of technologies such as LinkedIn. Furthermore, you can link other technologies and find more relationships to foster. With the mindset of a technology-empowered connector, you keep your connections alive through referrals.

In addition, LinkedIn supports trust-building and that’s why it’s effective when it comes to referrals. LinkedIn is used as a first point of referral contact that gives you visibility and reach. For my line of work, when I meet somebody offline, my first action is to send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect. I use LinkedIn to gather some basic information, and then use my invitation and LinkedIn’s messenger to start a conversation. Once we are connected, LinkedIn allows me to be visible to that person’s connections as well as allows me to search for professions connected to my new contact. Essentially, LinkedIn is a giant database that allows you to find more targeted people via a variety of filters. As you can see, if you use LinkedIn effectively, it will give you the opportunity to identify mutual connections and people you want to do business with.

Lastly, LinkedIn’s feature of being able to give people recommendations adds trust. A recommendation on LinkedIn is different from many other places because it can be traced back directly to the individual. If you leave me a testimonial, somebody can click on that and know that you exist. They can read your profile, which gives them confidence that this was a real recommendation, a real testimonial as opposed to one that was made up. In addition, you cannot change a single word of a recommendation or testimonial, which adds validity.

So, it’s not just having your profile up on LinkedIn, but it’s utilizing LinkedIn to the max. I am happy to give you my How to Monetize LinkedIn in 10 Minutes per Day guide at no charge. Click here to download the 15-page PDF or paste this into your browser: http://ntwrk.biz/monetizelinkedin

In closing, let’s connect on LinkedIn! Send me an invitation at www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich and feel free to ask me questions.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Rick Itzkowich (It’s-ko-witch), aka “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy” is a Vistage Chair and founder of 501 Connections, Inc., a San Diego-based business, networking, and referrals coaching company. Rick is a genuine people connector. He helps people bridge the two worlds of face-to-face and online networking. As an official member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council and successful entrepreneur, Rick coaches, writes and creates turnkey products that meet today’s demand for tools to increase profits through referrals. His products QuoteActions, Link Power Now and Rock-IT! Referrals have generated millions of dollars in revenue for businesses worldwide.

Rick is a sought-after author and speaker. He presents to a diverse group of sales, networking and professional organizations, and is a regular SCORE® speaker. Internationally his YIKES! LinkedIn workshop earned the Best Speaker Award at the Dubai “You Learn Twit Face” social media conference. As a former CEO and business owner of two successful companies, one manufacturing and the other in professional development, Rick has logged more than 30,000 hours of corporate training. Rick was born and raised in Mexico City. He speaks five languages and has traveled to 43 countries facilitating learning vacations. He resides in La Jolla, California. And, in his spare time Rick plays on a nationally ranked tournament baseball team.

Contact Information: Rick Itzkowich, Vistage Chair, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Author, (858) 456-7653, rick@rickitzkowich.com, www.rickitzkowich.com, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich, Twitter: @thelinkedinguy

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Effective Leadership and Progressive Discipline

By Dan Hamon

Workshop is available for this topic: This program can be given live or remote in either Spanish or English.

To listen to and see slides on an Open Line web conference on this topic with Dan Hamon as the guest speaker, please go here:
Audio: http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.mp3
Slides: http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.pdf

Peter Drucker, the noted management professor and author famously said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

One of the right things a leader must do is to practice progressive discipline. As someone who leads seminars for both English and Spanish speaking managers and employees on the importance of effective leadership and progressive discipline, I would like to set the record straight on this important leadership practice.

Yes, there are important legal reasons.

“The first question in any legal challenge is, ‘Did the manager manage properly?’” says Mike Deblieux, author of seven people management books. “Effective documentation shows the manager managed performance by setting clear expectations, monitoring performance, providing feedback, and redirecting performance by creating an opportunity for the employee to succeed.”

As the saying goes about documentation, the proof is there in black and white.

What is not always black and white is how progressive discipline is effective leadership. In other words, progressive discipline produces results.

Now I am no human relations theorist. I have played key leadership roles in product development, marketing, sales, and worldwide operations, and P&L. When I was 19 I assumed responsibility for my family’s manufacturing and retail business. So, this is real world effective leadership I want us to consider, not some academic view.

But to be fair, let’s start with the academic textbook definition of progressive discipline: An employee disciplinary system that provides a graduated range of responses to employee performance or conduct problems. Disciplinary measures range from mild to severe, from a slap on the wrist up to and including termination, depending on the nature and frequency of the problem.

There is a management adage that the best defense is a good offense: Using progressive discipline proactively is the best strategy to minimize the threat of litigation from wrongful termination cases. Some have nicknamed it the “three strikes and you are out” discipline system. While the baseball metaphor is handy to remember, there is no magic in three offenses equals termination. And termination is not really the goal; the goal is better performance.

Many leaders worry that writing up employees will hurt performance and cause workers to form a dislike of leadership. They reason that employees who dislike management will be less engaged.

This is miscalculated thinking about the attributes of leadership, morale, and being liked by employees.

Another favorite Drucker quote of mine is: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked: leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

Most leaders would agree that management is about achieving results through people. A manager must help his or her people succeed at the work they do, and regardless of what language they speak. A key to helping people succeed is communication, which is probably the most important thing a manager does. Managers need to identify and correct performance problems through proper communications (with a sensitivity to the language his or her workforce is most comfortable with).

As commonly believed, it is true with progressive discipline leaders use communications to protect themselves and their organization against legal action by getting incidents on paper. But there is more. These managers take steps to ensure solid, consistent documentation procedures throughout the entire organization. Most important, you will also identify and address potential performance problems with progressive discipline before they even happen. Preventing an illness is more important than curing an illness.

Prevention through coaching performance improvement begins with observing and communicating employee behavior. This means communicating in writing that follows Deblieux’s FOSA framework: facts, objectives, solutions, and actions. Managers, don’t just tell what you want when facts will sell what you want.

Managers must be objective and not subjective in writing down what is going on. Subjective means your opinion, and objective means what can be seen. Behavior that can be seen should be factually described by recording the what, when, where, who and how (also part of the FOSA framework):

•  What happened
•  When it happened
•  Where it happened
•  Who was involved
•  How it happened

Describe direct observations of behavior in your written evaluations. Deblieux’s work tells us to use phrases like “I saw,” “I heard,” “I touched,” “I smelled,” and “I tasted.” Remember you are describing objective behaviors, not your subjective feelings about the employees’ attitude or demeanor. When translated into another language, these objective statements are clear to understand.

So, to be understood a manager should not write something vague like “You were late today.” Instead, a better entry would be: “I saw you arrive at your workstation and clock-in at 7:42 a.m., which is 12 minutes past starting time.”

As another example, a manager should not write something like, “Don’t forget to wear your hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes next time.”

Instead, a better entry for this would read: “The company safety rules require you to wear a hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes at all times on the company yard. I expect you to put your hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes on before you enter the company yard.”

These entries document behaviors that are expected. Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. Therefore, training comes first, and counseling comes second. There is even room for the oral warning, and no need to be a stringent supervisor that starts with a written warning. Think training first, not punishment, to correct disobedience.

One way to improve manager/employee communications is through in-depth work style and personality assessment testing. Managers should learn how their people and job candidates are wired in order to hire the best and understand how to proactively manage individuals.

This type of testing can identify potential red flags for human behavioral issues during the hiring process. Another benefit is it helps managers gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of staff and candidates. Perhaps most important, it can reduce the learning curve for understanding how to manage individuals for greater work performance.

The key concept to remember there is workers are individuals, and there is no “one size fits all” communication strategy for obtaining optimum performance. I believe nobody comes to work to make mistakes. Let’s think of mistakes as a chance to teach, to help the employee learn from his or her error.

Better communications will help the employees be more open to the learning. Managers can benefit from training in interpersonal coaching, especially through the use of the work style and personality assessments. As managers, sometimes we need to take a good long look in the mirror about our coaching skills.

However, when there is disobedience or on-going failure to achieve performance goals, then there needs to be an escalation. This includes written warnings. This can be followed by a last step option. This is a specific warning of termination. The final step is termination. While a termination may be a layoff, here we are really talking about firing someone for willful violation of rules or the inability to perform.

For an employee to willfully violate rules, they have to know what the rules are. Effective leaders need to identify the rules, explain the application of the rules, be aware of the exceptions and document the coaching process through progressive discipline.

To listen to and see slides on an Open Line web conference on this topic with Dan Hamon as the guest speaker, please go here:
Audio: http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.mp3
Slides: http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.pdf

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Dan Hamon is a Senior Consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services. Dan has played key leadership roles in product development, marketing, sales, worldwide operations, and P&L. He is particularly gifted at drawing together and leading the right internal and external teams for solving complex problems and achieving business results. Dan’s industry expertise includes software, semiconductors, micro-machines, high performance computing, cyber-security, and artificial intelligence. Dan enjoys giving presentations on management, technology, productivity and other interesting topics to managers and senior executives.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Upset Clients? How to Flip Frowns Upside Down

By Eden Gillott Bowe

You’re a seasoned business traveler. There’s no traffic on your way to the airport because you know all the shortcuts. TSA waves you through with a smile. You even snag a spot for your luggage in the overhead compartment. All is wonderful in your world.

Then you hear an altercation, which turns into screaming and pleading. Welcome to United’s Flight 3411 from O’Hare to Louisville: a classic case of exactly how not to treat customers or clients.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Practice mindful listening. Think back to the last time you felt truly listened to. Made you feel pretty good, right? In today’s hyper-connected world, people want results immediately and attention spans are shorter than ever. Train yourself to focus your attention on your clients. Make sure you’re truly listening rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Based on what you hear, you’re better equipped to see things from their point of view. A multitude of things could be going on in their lives, and it’s up to you to cut through the noise and figure it out. What might they be going through? Are they directing their aggression towards you even though it’s really meant for someone else? Is it their busy season, so they’re complaining about having “yet another thing on my plate”?

Treat others like you’d like to be treated. This goes hand-in-hand with putting yourself in the client’s shoes. Don’t you prefer when someone listens to you and helps get to the bottom of an issue instead of treating you like an inconvenience?

No one wants to be on the receiving end of an angry email. One wedding caterer ended up in the hot seat after an employee went off on a client over “excessive” demands. The client then took to the internet to show the world what shockingly horrible customer service the company had. After months of bad press, word of mouth, and slumping business, the company threw in the towel and shuttered itself.

Some people simply enjoy complaining and won’t be happy with anything. Sometimes no matter how nice you are to clients, they have a permanently bad attitude. They don’t always channel their feelings properly. As a result, a domino effect of bad vibes ripples through their lives. Don’t pass it on.

Be careful what you put into writing. This is a double-edged sword and can be extremely dangerous if it’s not wielded properly. On one side, it’s good to document actions that were taken in order to CYA. On the other (more dangerous) side, committing things to writing may come back to bite you later. For example, don’t put confidential information in an email to someone who isn’t covered under privilege. Nor should you talk negatively about another person because, unbeknownst to you, they may be BCC’d when you hit Reply All.

WHAT TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR MANAGEMENT TEAM

What’s your current protocols for responding to unhappy clients? If you don’t have a system, get one fast.

Who’s responsible for responding to complaints? Does it make the most sense for the account manager or owner to respond? It depends on the nature of the situation. To the extent possible, empower those who work directly with clients with the flexibility to make decisions and take corrective action.

What form(s) is most appropriate? Automated email, personalized email, or telephone? Depending on the situation, it may also be beneficial have a combination.

What are you willing to do for the client? When’s it better to change vs. incurring the cost of attracting a new client? Does this vary depending on the client? If so, what are the cutoffs or metrics?

Are you receiving multiple complaints about the same thing? If so, how do you improve your offerings? Is this an opportunity for growth or a new service line? Can you reduce returns of defective products by looking at production?

Are clients researching you beforehand or are they pre-sold? More and more, clients are looking at online review sites such as Google, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Trip Advisors, etc. Hence the first time potential clients “meet” you is online. Make sure your pages properly reflect your level of service.

NOW WHAT?

Breathe. If you feel you’re ready for battle or stressed out, take a moment to recalibrate.

Listen. You’d be amazed what you learn. There’s a reason you have two ears and one mouth.

Don’t take it personally (even if it is). This is especially hard when it’s about a decision you made, initiative you spearheaded, or a company you started. It’s your baby.

Don’t be defensive. No one wants to talk to someone who is confrontational.

Repeat back what you heard (or think you understand). Make sure the conversation is based on clarity. This reduces or eliminates miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Prepare (or refine) your customer service response plan. Now that you’ve brainstormed with your management team, put it into action.

Enhance your service and product offerings based on client feedback. Take customer service lemons and turn them into lemonade.

Learn more from wins and misses. When you document clients’ complaints/frustrations, don’t let them sit in a drawer and gather dust. Learn from them and make improvements.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Eden Gillott Bowe is President of strategic communications firm Gillott Communications http://www.gillottcommunications.com/ and is a former business professor. She resolves issues both in and outside the media’s glare — from celebrity scandals and corporate fraud to criminal and civil litigation. Eden’s been interviewed about brands in crisis by the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, the Washington Post, and Forbes. She’s worked in Manhattan, Seoul, and Los Angeles. She is the author of A Board Member’s Guide to Crisis PR and A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

What is Captive Medical Insurance?

By Andrew Kuykendall, CSFS, Alternative Risk Specialist

Chris had a problem. Even with 125 employees in 6 states the company was at the mercy of “medical trend” each year when renewing their medical insurance. They were receiving no actionable data at all to help them find a way to control costs, or budget for an anticipated increase. In fact, over the previous 5 years the increase had averaged just short of 10% annually, with a “low” of 4% one year, and a “high” of 19% the following year. There was never any warning, or justification, other than medical trend. Sure, one time they received an additional report at the back of the packet that mentioned that one employee had roughly $58,000 in care. This is a large number, but with annual premiums exceeding $1.4 million it did not feel catastrophic. There had to be a better way, but what is the better way?

What does self-funded actually mean?

Most employers have some ideas around what being self-funded for medical insurance entails. The company bears the responsibility for the costs of the medical claims. And yet, we are bombarded by media reports of surgeries, or prescriptions, or cancers that routinely exceed a million dollars a year in costs. Can your company absorb multiple million-dollar hits? And the conversation is changing: TPA, DM/UM/UR, PBM, Spec, Agg, and IBNR are just a few examples of what is, to many employers, a new vocabulary. It can get very confusing very quickly. For many employers with between 75 and 700 employees the idea of self-funding their medical plans is an idea that is reviewed, but often discarded as being too risky, too complicated, or that the group is just too small.

Getting back to Chris for a minute, in mid-2012 the company took the plunge, and enrolled in a Self-Funded Medical Captive (captive) program for their employees. This meant that the employer was responsible for claims costs, but the captive helped to spread the risk amongst a much larger population. Instead of buying insurance for 125, they were part of a pool of over 5,000 employees. The larger population meant that the claims costs were much more predictable. Based upon previous, fully insured renewal data, they were able to receive a quote that showed the opportunity to save money in their budget if the group ran as expected. That meant that if they had an “average” claims year, they could save approximately 8% versus their fully insured renewal. If they had a totally catastrophic year, they would pay more than current. However, because of the captive structure and the various types of stop loss insurance, policies that limit the financial exposure of the individual or the aggregate group, the maximum the company would pay would have been 14% higher than their renewal. A very key point in the discussion was the ability to receive their claims data. After much deliberation, they joined the captive.

In that first year the group ran a little bit better than expected and had saved about 11% versus accepting the fully insured renewal. More importantly, with the data they received a few plan tweaks were made that had little cost impact, but great quality of life improvements for the employees. For example, they increased the number of allowable visits to chiropractors and acupuncturists. At the same time, they created a system that dramatically incentivized using urgent care by charging more for an ER visit that should have been handled at either urgent care or the doctor’s office. By lowering the urgent care copay, they saw a fivefold increase in visits to urgent care and a near 60% decrease in “unnecessary” ER visits. Since the average ER visit cost the plan approximately $2,400 per hour, this had a tremendous financial impact. Over the past five years they have continued to modify the plan designs, to emphasize wellness and activity, while being able to keep co-pays and deductibles the same. In fact, they have seen an increase over the past five renewals of less than 2.5% in total since 2012.

How do we protect our company from volatility?

So, can the mere act of being self-funded help lower costs and generate control for mid-size employers? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. If all other things are equal, being self-funded will reduce costs due to premium taxes and insurance company profit being dramatically reduced. This alone accounts for about a 3-6% savings. However, not all things are always equal. The larger the purchasing pool for reinsurance the lower the premiums. These layers of protection help provide a maximum risk level that the group can adjust based upon their needs. As an example, we have seen specific deductibles of as low as $25,000 per member to as high as $1,500,000 per member. There is an opportunity to design the program in almost any way you desire. The key to any successful program is finding the risk tolerance of the organization and working within those parameters.
If this is so simple and better than anything in the fully insured market then how come so few employers are doing this? Why is this the exception, rather than the rule? Self-funding does come with the opportunity to save money over a fully insured option, but it also has the chance of being more expensive if the claims funding is set to low. This is where having good underwriters and actuaries are vitally important to setting up a plan to be successful from the start. In addition to the stop loss underwriters, we also recommend using an outside actuarial firm to help produce claims funding targets and set up budgets to avoid surprises. All of this preparation is valuable in helping employers feel that they have budgeted effectively for the plan year. That being said, it is not a guaranteed cost like the current fully insured plans. Quite often the volatility of claims funding is too great a hurdle for a company to fully commit to a self-funded platform.

Once an employer has determined their risk tolerance, and made a commitment to go self-funded, the question is finding the correct platform for their needs. A captive program is a very effective way to mitigate the risk for mid-size employers. A captive program works by asking the employer to accept all of the risk for a portion of the expected claims, then they will share risk with other member companies in the captive for larger, less predictable claims, and then ultimately purchases stop loss for catastrophic claims. By leveraging the buying power of the captive, group premiums are lower and claims costs are more predictable. In the event that there is money left in the captive program at the end of the plan year, those funds are returned as a dividend to member companies. Renewals are comprised of two portions, fixed costs (administration, stop loss premiums, etc.) and claims funding. Often, fixed costs are 12-18% of total plan expenditures. This makes it very easy to budget for renewals. The claims costs are managed by choice of network, plan design tweaks, and employee communications for example. If you are able to help employees use urgent care, rather than the ER, or focus on using generic drugs when appropriate, it is not uncommon to see an overall reduction in plan spending of 3-7% depending upon the changes.

How do we determine if this is right for us?

Self-funding is not universal, but with platforms like Self-Funded Medical Captives more employers are able to review their options and see what makes sense for them and their employees. By understanding the program mechanics, the internal risk tolerance, and working with experienced consultants it can be an answer to understanding why costs are increasing. In fact, it can help slow, and even stop, the endless increases faced by fully insured employers. The captive model of accepting risk for the expected claims, sharing risk for large claims, and insuring catastrophic claims has helped groups below 1,000 covered employees participate in the same benefits and efficiencies that every member of the Fortune 500 enjoys. With a good consultant to help guide the way, an affordable plan is within reach. The platforms available to mid-size employers today make reviewing self-funding a standard part of your renewal process. For Chris, it has led to millions of dollars in savings versus fully insured renewals. Take a look, you might find a plan that makes sense for you and your employees.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Andrew Kuykendall, CSFS, Alternative Risk Specialist, specializes in Alternative Risk programs including self-insured, participating, medical captive and minimum-premium solutions. He helps clients understand their programs through advanced data analytics. His role spans partner relationships, identifying the newest opportunities to help our clients control their costs immediately, and bending the cost curve in the future. He also keeps our staff educated on the theory, and practice, of alternative funding.

With 22 years of industry experience, Andrew has written and renewed nearly every funding mechanism in the marketplace, and has experience with individual policies up to 35,000 life Taft-Hartley funds. Prior to joining Woodruff-Sawyer, Andrew held key alternative risk and consulting roles at Neovia (now Woodruff-Sawyer), Bolton and Company, Andreini and Company, Benefit Solutions Company, Calco, Gallagher and Near North. He also formerly served as COO for an insurance agency in Irvine.

Andrew’s professional affiliations include serving as: board member of the British American Business Council (BABC) in Orange County from 2009-2012; founding member of the BABC Young Executives in 2010; and part of the broker advisory council for multiple TPAs and medical management service organizations. Andrew has been a speaker for the Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA) Webinar Series (2016), and developed a “Self-Funded Basics” education certificate series. He wrote one of the first Archer MSA plans in California in 1997. Andrew holds the Certified Self-Funded Specialist (CSFS) designation from HCAA. For more information, please feel free to contact Andrew at 949.233.6101 or akuykendall@wsandco.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

 

Why Exit Interviews Make Sense

By Dana Borowka, MA

Recently a strange occurrence got me thinking. On a personal note, I love to sail. After being members of a boat club for over ten years, my wife Ellen and I decided to move to another club. When we informed the club we were leaving they were highly efficient in deactivating our gate codes and privileges. No surprise there.

But it was what they did not do that surprised us. No one asked us why we were leaving. In talking to members at the new club as to why they didn’t join our old club we discovered there was a common complaint and it had nothing to do with boats: they did not like the food at the club.

This organization is needlessly losing customers over something that could be fixed. If only they had a process of conducting exit interviews.

For many a business, the exit interview has fallen out of favor. But in April 2016 the Harvard Business Review published an article singing the praises of exit interviews titled “Making Exit Interviews Count” by Everett Spain of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Boris Groysberg of the Harvard Business School.

The authors made their case in the article’s opening abstract:

An international financial services company hired a midlevel manager to oversee a department of 17 employees. A year later only eight remained: Four had resigned and five had transferred. To understand what led to the exodus, an executive looked at the exit interviews of the four employees who had resigned and discovered that they had all told the same story: The manager lacked critical leadership skills, such as showing appreciation, engendering commitment, and communicating vision and strategy. More important, the interviews suggested a deeper, systemic problem: The organization was promoting managers on the basis of technical rather than managerial skill. The executive committee adjusted the company’s promotion process accordingly.

“In today’s knowledge economy, skilled employees are the asset that drives organizational success,” state Spain and Groysberg. “Thus companies must learn from them—why they stay, why they leave, and how the organization needs to change. A thoughtful exit-interview process can create a constant flow of feedback on all three fronts.”

Why Some Experts Are Cool to Exit Interviews

“I am not a fan of exit interviews,” says Beth Smith, president of A-list Interviews and the author of Why Can’t I Hire Good People: Lessons on How to Hire Better. “I think it is a matter of too little too late.”

A horrible hiring mistake led Smith to create a company and write a book to help improve hiring results. Here is her take on the drawbacks of exit interviews:

Exit interviews are specifically designed for the employer. They do not help the exiting employee at all, because the exiting employee usually needs a reference from the company they are leaving. Telling the truth about the company doesn’t help the employee get that reference, and in certain circumstances, the information gleaned from the interview could be used against them. In addition, if there is negative feedback given, it is sometimes dismissed by the interviewer. “Well, that employee is just mad, so their feedback isn’t accurate.” My belief is that if an employee is leaving the company, they have attempted to tell someone in the company why. Whether it is a review, a conversation or a complaint, most employees don’t just up and leave without some sort of a notification.

Smith’s work is about interviewing right when hiring (something I agree with and advocate should be supported with proper in-depth workstyle and personality testing). Understandably, her coolness toward exit interviews echoes the view of many in business.

Smith’s belief is that if an employee is leaving the company, they have already attempted to tell someone in the company why. Who wasn’t listening to the employee when they were there?

Taking a Fresh Look at Exit Interviews

True, exit interviews have their shortcomings; however, in my opinion, it is a miscalculation to not conduct exit interviews because of the inherent faults. The research of Spain and Groysberg detailed in the Harvard Business Review supports this:

Though we are unaware of research showing that exit interviews reduce turnover, we do know that engaged and appreciated employees are more likely to contribute and less likely to leave. If done well, an exit interview—whether it be a face-to-face conversation, a questionnaire, a survey, or some combination of those methods—can catalyze leaders’ listening skills, reveal what does or doesn’t work inside the organization, highlight hidden challenges and opportunities, and generate essential competitive intelligence.

Other HR experts advocate a return to exit interviews—if they are done right.

“If an organization is a revolving door and it doesn’t care why, then exit interviews are a waste of their time and money,” says Claudia Williams, former associate general counsel, Global HR & Litigation, for The Hershey Company. “Most organizations, though, want to know why people are leaving and going to their competitors or elsewhere, especially when the attraction and retention of great people is a top, if not the top, concern for CEOs in the U.S. and globally.”

Williams, founder of a consulting company called The Human Zone and the author of the upcoming book Frientorship, argues an exit interview gives the employer a chance to get raw, candid feedback on what it does well and what it needs to improve – what’s keeping employees there and what’s causing them to leave.

“Time and again I’ve seen leaders surprised by the results of an exit interview, which means they don’t have their fingers on the real pulse of the organization,” says Williams. “An employer might be able to stop a great employee from leaving if it knows the real reasons behind the employee’s decision.”

The Value of Exit Interviews

“I valued and conducted exit interviews often in the army, individually and through the Army’s initiatives enterprise wide,” says Brigadier General Jeffrey Foley, U.S. Army (retired). “In the army, I often conducted exit interviews when people were transferring out to other army organizations when their tour of duty was up.”

“I valued and encouraged the conducting of exit interviews in the army, individually and through the initiatives sponsored by the army enterprise wide,” says Brigadier General Jeffrey Foley, U.S. Army (retired). “In the army, we often conducted exit interviews when people were simply transferring out to other army organizations when their tour of duty was up.”

Foley, who now runs a leadership consulting practice named Loral Mountain Solutions and is the coauthor of the book Rules and Tools for Leaders, offers his views on the four major benefits of exit interviews:

1. You may learn the real truths about your organization. You will likely learn what you may know or should know about typical challenges like money, opportunities for growth, shortfall of benefits, etc. You may also learn more profound truths like distrust of supervisor, harassment, illegal or unethical conduct that people were reluctant to report for whatever reason.
2. You set a great example for the entire organization that the leadership cares. The word will get out that the losing organization leaders cared enough to at least ask. If there is a standard practice of exit interviews and things changed in the organization for the better as a result of what was learned, there can be great benefit to the organization.
3. You may learn insights into your competition. Great information can be learned about what the competition is doing or offering that might affect your organization.
4. You can learn how to help those departing be successful. For the good people departing, it offers an opportunity for the losing organization’s leadership to help the person be successful in the next chapter of their lives. This support can be provided by letters of recommendation, references, or something unique based on an extraordinary event that caused the departure, such as serious sickness or tragedy that occurred that may have been previously unknown.

Williams offers a final warning:

“But proceed with caution,” she says. “Employers have to be ready and willing to act upon the information they receive, both to harness their strengths and to fix what’s broken (which sometimes means a workplace investigation into allegations of individual or corporate misconduct). Otherwise, the exit interview is a bunch of meaningless words.”

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching, skills testing and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

 

 

Should Skills Testing be a Standard Operating Procedure for Hiring?

By Dana Borowka, MA

I’ve noticed an interesting trend that I want to share with you. In the past 12 months we’ve been receiving a lot more questions about pre-employment skills testing. We’ve taken notice. Something has shifted. Companies that had never before considered using skills testing in their hiring process, now ‘suddenly’ had an interest in learning more. Other companies that had used skills testing only sparingly were exploring what additional tests were available.

Yes, something was up alright. As I talked with these companies the reason behind their intensified interest in skills testing became clear.

Elephant in the room by David Blackwell

The Elephant in the Room

Every company I spoke to was having an exceedingly difficult time hiring people that had the right skills for the job, no matter what the job. The elephant in the room during these discussions was that companies were getting burned time and time again. The cost of the hiring mistakes was escalating. Too many candidates who went through the screening and hiring process failed to perform up to expectations once on the job.

Anecdotally, I knew this was a big problem. Employers can’t be 100% certain that a candidate has the right skills based on resume, references, and interviews. Even in-depth work style and personality assessments, like we do for our clients, aren’t designed to verify job skills. I wondered just how big a problem it is. I did some research.

The Department of Labor estimates the cost of a bad hire is equal to at least 30% of first year salary. “Wow”, I said to myself, doing some quick math in my head. Hire a $30,000 bookkeeper that doesn’t have the right bookkeeping skills, and there’s a $9,000 hit to the bottom line. Hire a $50,000 PC administrator without the right technical skills, write off another $15,000.

These numbers got me to think about what contributes to the high costs.

1. Lost time and productivity of the people involved in the hiring process
2. The new employee’s mistakes often have hard costs associated with them – poor service or product quality for example
3. The productivity of the new hire is well-below expectations
4. The possible negative impact on customers and your brand image
5. Training the new hire to achieve a skill-level they should have had in the first place
6. Replacing the employee

As managers we know the hassle and frustration attached to hiring someone without the right skills. What’s more, there are considerable hard and soft costs associated, too, as the list above shows and the Department of Labor statistics prove.

Is Skills Testing the Panacea for Hiring Mistakes?

With a problem this large we at LCS saw an opportunity. We’re now offering a catalog of online skills tests for our clients. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explore with you how skills testing is best used. I’ll debunk a few myths along the way.

How Skills Testing is Best Used

If you really want to improve the success of your new-hires, incorporate skills testing and personality assessments in the hiring process. Nothing is fool-proof, but believe me, if you do both types of testing together with smart interviewing, your new-hire success rate will go way up. The failure rate (and the costs associated with it) will drop like a rock.

I’ve been a proponent of skills testing for a very long time, IF they are used properly. Skills testing is a tool, like so many others available to managers. Tools can be misused. Tools can be trusted too much.

Here’s the point. Just because a candidate has the right skills for a specific role in your company doesn’t mean you should hire the person. A great skills test score doesn’t mean the person will be a great fit in your company.

The mistake that I’ve seen made by hiring managers is to place too much weight on skills test results. Good resume, good references, interviews went well, aced the skills test – fabulous, make that woman an offer fast!

Not so fast. Is her work style a good match for the role? Is her personality a good fit for the level of responsibility and interaction necessary? Skills testing doesn’t venture into these waters. This is the realm of the in-depth work style and personality assessment.

Skills Testing Only Works if you Know What Skill Level Matters

I can’t emphasize this point enough. If your company hasn’t identified the specific skills required for each position, a test is not going to be all that useful. Let me use a sports analogy.

A track coach has try outs for his sprint team. Five athletes show up wanting to make the team for the 100-meter event. The coach gets out his stop watch. Lines all five at the starting line and fires the starting gun. Bang. Off they run.

The coach looks at his watch as the first racer crosses the finish line several steps ahead of the others. Click. The fastest racer covered the 100 meters in 11.2 seconds. Better than the other four. Does the coach offer the racer a position on the team? He will if he doesn’t know what speed is necessary for his 100-meter squad to compete effectively. Sure, he’ll have a racer for the 100 meter event, but the team will never win. He won’t offer the position to any of the five candidates if he knows that a pace of at least 10.1 seconds is necessary to win in his conference. In this case the required skill is running the 100 meters in 10.1 seconds or less.

The Never-Ending Search for the Perfect Candidate

LCS is deeply involved in the active hiring processes of hundreds of clients. I make this claim just to point out that few companies are better positioned to observe and assess the hiring practices of so many companies. What we’ve noticed is companies tend to fall into two categories. Those that take too long to find and hire employees. And those who have found a way to hire more quickly and retain those employees. What is the difference?

There are many facets to this. Most are beyond the scope of this article, but one is very relevant. The companies who are the most successful realize that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. They know it’s fool-hardy to spend valuable time and resources searching for the perfect person.

They identify the best person available and which areas will need to be developed in that person once hired. This change in strategy presents an integrated view of hiring and training. So, where does skills testing enter the picture?

Let’s go back to the race track. The coach has one athlete who ran the 100 meters in 11.2 seconds, a full second slower than a competitive pace. If the coach knows that a short period of training and conditioning can shave a second off the time, he’ll gladly bring the person onto the team. A diamond in the rough, so-to-speak.

Same philosophy holds with enlightened companies who use skills testing wisely. If you have a fabulous candidate who is missing a few skills that can be learned quickly, hire the person and build the training into the 90-day probationary period.

The skills test results tell you exactly what skills need to be learned. The training can focus on those areas.

This also makes it a lot easier and more effective when it comes time to buy the training, or arrange the mentoring in-house. You know exactly the skills to be gained.

LCS to the Rescue

After doing our research and talking with more clients about skills testing, we’re convinced this is a service we should be offering.
The catalog we’re offering has been hand-selected from tests Fortune 500 companies rely on in their hiring. These are time-proven, industry-accepted tests in the following categories:

• Accounting
• IT
• Office Software
• Language
• Industrial
• Customer Service
• Sales
• Math
• Honesty

I invite you to visit the Skills Testing page on our website that includes more information, including brief descriptions of the tests we’re offering.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2019

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.