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How are we encouraging intelligent, middle aged women to reenter the workforce?

In my office there has been a lot of talk about employee recruitment and retention lately.  Something that I have personal experience with is trying to gain employment when there is a 10+ year gap in work history due to staying home to raise children.  Women who do this are some of the brightest, most caring, hardworking, and loyal people I know.  Sounds like what I might look for in an employee.  So how can we get employers to look beyond the empty traditional resume and application to the incredible person entering a new phase of life?

During my years as a stay-at-home mom, I learned more about leadership and problem solving than anywhere I have worked outside the home.  I also assisted the startup of a lawn and land maintenance business and ran an independent distributorship of healthcare products.  I learned to network like a champ through these experiences, as well as through learning to setup successful playdates!  The constant multitasking and scheduling involved in running a six-person household is impressive.  Women like me have to rely on these networking skills to even get an employer to notice what she might offer because rarely will an empty work history get a second glance.  (I originally met the person I currently work for at a local restaurant bar where we were both on date nights with our husbands.)

In my mid-twenties I moved to a different part of the country where I knew no one who could give me a referral yet I got at least one interview with every resume I submitted.  Apparently, on paper, I had work experience, skills, and an education that warranted another look.  Fast forward 20-ish years, after staying home for 10 years with my children, I sent resumes out to at least a dozen businesses.  Most of those resumes were accompanied by a personal referral from someone who knew a leader at the hiring company.  I got 1 informal phone interview … that’s it!  Yes, there would be a learning curve with all the technology changes that have taken place in the last fifteen years; and, yes, I would be looking for flexibility to continue to be available to my children because I am still a mom.  However, this 45-year-old woman can offer SO much more that contributes to the success of businesses in today’s world than my 25-year-old self, with all the opportunities, could offer.

How are you making accommodations for women (or men) who have stayed at home with children for a number of years?  What makes you hesitant about interviewing or hiring them?  What if you recruited this demographic specifically?  More than likely you will find more than you had hoped for.  The experience and dedication that it takes to run a household well and raise children should be the most sought after qualifications when searching for candidates.  Consider what questions you could ask to find the true life experience that correlates to the leadership you want for your company.

The Key to Great Culture


There is a lot of talk about great culture going on out there. The labor market is tight and employers are doing everything they can to attract talent. But there is one key ingredient that is essential for great culture, and if you have it you will retain your best talent, attract great candidates, and foster the thriving work environments that truly engage employees.

The Key Ingredient

That key ingredient is great refereeing: to have a great culture you need to be a great ref.

Here is what good refereeing looks like:

Someone says something in a meeting that is disrespectful of a colleague. A good referee asks for the group to pause, and says, “I want to be able to hear your concern so that we can resolve the issues that we face as a team, and when you frame your concerns in a way that belittles your colleague it makes it hard to hear. I’d like you to restate your question in a way that is respectful of your colleague.”

What happens when someone speaks up?

·        The group learns to be accountable to one another.

·        The person who was disrespected hears that there is a distinction between the tone of how something was raised and the problem or issue that is the pain point at hand.

·        The person who spoke disrespectfully discovers a boundary for their behavior. They have to work in the moment to reframe how they present their concerns, and learn to raise issues respectfully.  It should be an expectation that concerns need to be brought forward respectfully in order to be addressed – if respect is missing the disrespect gets addressed instead of the issue that was raised.

Refs Know the Rule Book

To be a great ref, you need to know the Rule Book. To get and preserve a great culture the team needs to decide what behaviors they want and don’t want. Those behaviors need to be named and commonly understood. “Respect” is not a good Rule. It is too vague. Respect means a lot of different things to people. Defining these words with specific behaviors help teams become good referees. When respect is better defined people know what, specifically, to do:

We demonstrate respect by:

·        listening without interrupting

·        Speaking directly to someone when we have a conflict or concern to address

·        Coming prepared to meetings – having reviewed materials

·        Meeting deadlines that were agreed upon

·        Communicating regularly with colleagues who need to be informed about changes in our work…

You get the idea. When I sit down with a team to work on Ground Rules we get down to the specifics. What exactly does this look like in real time? People need to know what success looks like before they can strive to achieve it.

Creating Ground Rules with your team is not complicated. Check my blog on this topic here.

On the Best Teams, Everyone Referees the Game

A final word about great refereeing: it is a Team Activity. Having a team talk through how they will hold one another accountable for their missteps helps people learn to referee, and sets the expectation that colleagues don’t need to wait for a leader to call the foul. They are empowered to speak up and help referee the game.

There is never one referee on the field in professional sports. When a game is being played it takes a lot of eyes to help ensure the game is played well.

That maxim we learned as kids still applies: When you see something, say something.

Now, let’s Play Ball!

Ground Rules Keep Teams Healthy


I frequently am asked to work with leadership teams to either launch a new initiative, prepare for succession, or build a new team dynamic for teams who have stagnated or where trust has broken down.

When we begin we always start by setting Ground Rules. These are the rules that this group co-creates and agrees to be accountable for as they do their work together.

Setting Ground Rules

To establish Ground Rules I ask 3 key questions:

1.      What do you need from this team/your colleagues in order to perform at your best?

2.      What does this team need to focus on as a whole in order to perform at our best right now?

3.      How do we want to hold one another accountable for the Ground Rules we establish?

Revisiting Ground Rules

Ground Rules should be revisited regularly. I have had leaders take the Ground Rules they’ve set with their colleagues back to their own teams and share them. People write them on their white boards, include them at the tops of their agendas, and check in about Ground Rules at the opening of every meeting to be sure that the pain points between team members have a place to be addressed in healthy, open ways. They make space and a plan to maintain the healthy functioning of their team.

A Fact about Ground Rules

The hard truth is that Ground Rules will be broken. Frequently. At some point every team member steps across the line with one Ground Rule or another. The strength of a team is defined by how it responds when Ground Rules get broken. Do you say anything? How is the subject broached? Do people leave the conversation with new ideas and tools about what to do differently? Do team members “call fouls” and bring up a misstep of their own or their colleague? Are apologies offered?

Ground Rules determine the rules of the team. They help name and make explicit the boundaries of how we will treat one another. But, just like in baseball, if no one knows the rules or plays by them, they are meaningless.  For more on how to referee see my next blog – “The Key to Great Culture”.

The Rewards

The best moments I have had with my team have been times when they have called me out for stepping close to or across the line with Ground Rules. (On all my teams I have included “Work at a Sustainable Pace” because I know I need help with this one. I will exhaust the team with the pace I want to keep!)  I have learned so much from my colleagues when they have called my attention to the behaviors and habits that lead me to break our Ground Rules. That learning has paid off dividends in every area of my life. I am a better mom, wife and friend because of the time and attention my colleagues have paid to how we are together. What I learned at work applied at home. I needed to change my habits there too! Give Ground Rules a try on your team. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact something as simple as defining the boundaries of behavior can have on your workplace.



How many times in getting a New Year underway do we run into the proverbial wall and ask, “How did we get here and how do we get unstuck and get going?”

We might be stuck implementing change, leading a project team, writing, or with some other key initiative.  Executives, managers, teams, and individuals can minimize the frustration associated with being stuck in nonproductive time and get going by applying these Voltage principles to Get Unstuck:

·       Get Clear

·       Get Real

·       Get Good

·       Get Going

·       Get on with It.

GET CLEAR – Clarity Is the Greatest Time Saver

Have the right people meet at the right time to define the current state and to get clarity about exactly where things are stuck and how to get going to where we need to be.

Leaders lead.  They answer the imperative question, “Why do we do what we do?”

Without clarity of purpose, participants may become resistant.  Without a common language and understanding of the current situation, participants become reluctant to take chances and, perhaps, may even come to resent the leadership team that placed them in this position.  The position of knowing the clock is ticking, knowing that they will have accountabilities, but not having clarity about what the accountabilities are is most uncomfortable.

GET REAL – What Is the Plan?

Leaders lead.  They identify SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the plan and determine SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).  They track and measure the goals as work on the plan progresses.

GET GOOD – What Does Our Best Look Like?

Leaders lead. They repeatedly communicate vision to the organization, clarifying what the best looks like.  They are a walking example of aligning behavior with goals.

Leaders adjust their style to become citizens of the future state.  They live in a different space.  They forgo passivity and negativity in favor of rational (not emotional) accountability.

GET GOING – Get Over the Hurdle

Leaders lead the Journey.  They take steps to overcome cultural resistance to change by formally communicating the plan and the rationale for the decisions that have been made.  Team members may not agree or even like the decisions made, but they cannot fairly say they were uninformed.  Leaders make changes to their approach when necessary.  They make themselves available to keep communication flowing. 

GET ON WITH IT – Owning a Culture of Success

Leaders lead.  They share success and success stories.  This, in turn, adds positive momentum and cultural buy-in which promotes a culture of success.

Using these tools to Get Unstuck and Get Going will help minimize frustration and make 2019 a successful New Year!

Sleep on It: Why Rest and Restoration Are Essential to Successful Leadership


Have you encountered a tired leader?  Have you ever noticed your own behavior or responses to your team when you are tired?  Short fuses, unexpected tensions, and distracted activity can be result of a lack of rest and a hindrance to the communication skills and culture you are seeking to build in your organization. 

Numerous studies show that sleep is critical to our health and wellness. Sleep researchers and health educators agree, making plans to get a good night helps us function at our best. In a recent article, Karen Engle, Ed.D. of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension observes: “Sleep, like diet and exercise, is important for our minds and bodies to function normally. In fact, sleep appears to be required for survival. Rats deprived of sleep die within two to three weeks, a time frame similar to death due to starvation.[1]

Yet many leaders continue to work long hours and late at night to get their work done.


Because it is a habit.

As Dr. Donna Arand, Clinical Director of the Kettering Medical Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio points out: “The body loves conditioning. It functions well with regular schedules.”  When we are out of the habit of regular sleep we acclimate to this new normal, and a shorter night of rest becomes our routine.

Leaders, I’d like to challenge you to think of your rituals of rest and restoration as even more important that your workout routine.

So, if you want to get your sleep habits back on track, here are some new habits to try and get your sleeping well again.

1.      Go to bed at the same time every day.

As Dr. Arand pointed out, the body loves conditioning. So let it know when it is time for bed!

2.      Have wind down rituals at the end of the day. 

Have you noticed that it is easier to rest when you are on a vacation? We are already wound down at the end of the day, because we didn’t get wound up with work. Our bodies need time to transition from wakefulness to sleep. The rest of the time we need to help ourselves wind down by giving our bodies some cues that it is time to rest and sleep. How do you wind down at night and get ready to head to bed?

3.       Sleep in a dark room.

“Even the light from the alarm clock can fool the brain into thinking it’s not sleep time,” says Dr. Carol Ash, medical director of Sleep for Life in Hillsborough, N.J. Leave the phone in another room. The blue light is not good for you after 7 pm anyway!

4.      Stay away from caffeine and alcohol.

I know, you don’t want to hear me say this, but take a break from the coffee and alcohol for 3 weeks and see how you feel. You will get a better night’s sleep and have more energy throughout the day. I promise.

And finally,

5.      Get up at the same time every day.

This habit of waking and resting will give your body great cues about when to get going and when to wind down.

With some intentional planning you can get your sleep schedule back on track. And if you need some motivation, try this quip from sleep researcher Dr. Carol Ash:

 “People think you can make up for bad habits,” says Dr. Ash. “But it’s like
only brushing your teeth on the weekends.”

Enough said!

[1] Karen Ensle, Ed.D, RD, FADA, CFCS in https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/message/message.php?p=Health&m=74

How Big is the Job?


When was the last time your organization did an honest and comprehensive job evaluation?

This is necessary to retain the people you have now and those you will need in the future. In working with multiple organizations in 2019, I have seen issues of wage compression. Which means, what it takes to secure talent today may not be what it took 3 – 5 years ago. Some pay scales have not kept pace with market demand resulting in undesirable turnover or ‘ghosting.’

If you have done this recently or are in the process…bravo! Like most organizations, these things are important, but are not necessarily urgent. We may or may not be able to afford
a formal (and expensive) wage survey but we can act to remain competitive and to increase retention.  

I would like to challenge us to take think in these terms:

                              A) How Big is the Job?

                              B) What is its Impact?

To answer these, we will need to address three variables. What is the job’s required:

                              1.  Know-How

                              2. Problem Solving

                              3. Accountability

Know How is defined as knowledge, however acquired, necessary for competent job performance. This includes Technical Know-How; Managerial Know-How and Human
Relations Soft Skills.

Problem Solving is defined as the thinking required by the job for analyzing, evaluating, creating, reasoning, arriving at and making conclusions. Problem solving has two dimensions.

The first is the environment in which the thinking takes place. The second is the challenge presented by the thinking to be done.

Accountability is defined as impact of the job on results. It has three primary elements. They are the Freedom to Act, aka the degree of control the jobholder has;  Impact on Results aka direct to indirect impact on end results by contributory, shared, or primary responsibilities; and Magnitude aka the scope or monetary size of accountability in specific job related  areas.

According to Sibson Consulting / Segal Group headquartered in New York City, signs of

improperly leveled jobs include:

•  Frequent requests for job reclassifications. Job ambiguity may produce role confusion. If
internal controls are weak, it can fuel complaints (some of which may be legitimate.)

• Too many job titles. Job title proliferation is usually associated with jobs whose responsibilities are unclear. The result can be a damaging situation where people occupy the same role but have different job titles and pay grades.

• Employee perceptions of uncompetitive pay. Employee dissatisfaction may often be traced to a failure to accurately measure a jobs position in the organizational hierarchy and to attribute the right market values.

• Redundant work/processes. Errantly measured and misplaced jobs may produce duplicative responsibilities and ambiguous accountabilities that contribute to an environment of distrust, miscommunication and confusion that, ultimately, erodes service and quality.

• Staffing imbalances. A proliferation of “directors” and staffing ratios with top-heavy organizational designs is an indication that the job leveling system is being used as a way to generate pay increases through faux promotions.

So, asking ‘How Big a particular Job is?’ and ‘What is its Impact on our organization?’ is a great place to start. Making the correct adjustments to shifting market conditions may mean the difference between winner the war for talent or being put at a competitive disadvantage.

Who Is Your Advisory Board?


One of my favorite parts of the Wall St. Journal is when they highlight a talented leader in the news and they discuss their Advisory Board. I like to see who the leader looks up to, respects and how they gain feedback for themselves. Often, I have heard of one or two of the advisors, but I am more excited to learn about the people I have not heard of as they are the superstars behind the superstars.


Who is your Advisory Board? What, you do not have one?! Well, that is okay. Here are some ideas about how to select your board. First, let me start with a definition. I am talking about your personal board to help you develop your talents, career and achieve your goals. I am not talking about an Advisory Board that you would convene to go over your business goals (this is valuable to do as well and probably will be a future blog topic.)


The first thing to think about is what do you to discuss with an advisor? Next, you will want to know what are your career aspirations? Okay, now that you have some initials thoughts it is time to start identifying advisors.


Here are some thoughts for you to ponder—

1.     You will want a mix of technical experts in your field and people that can help you grow skills that you might be lacking (emotional intelligence, business development, budgeting.)

2.     You should be clear on what you are hoping to gain out of the relationship.

3.     What is your request of your advisor—how often do you want to meet? What type of insights do you hope they can provide? Are there contacts they can introduce you to? etc.

4.     Your advisors can change over time. The challenges you have in 2019 might be very different in 2022. It is okay to thank an advisor, honor them with a gift and a nice note thanking them for their advice and then selecting a new advisor for your situation.

5.     Do you have to pay them? Generally, no. However, you will want to treat them to lunch or coffee.

6.     Think about what you can do for your advisor. As you work with them, be curious about what they are interested in and see if you can connect them to someone or a good resource to help them grow as well.

7.     How often do you meet? Some meet as often as once a month. Normal, is about 3-4 times per year.

8.     What makes a good advisor? A good listener that can understand your challenges. Someone you trust sharing your hopes, dreams and concerns with. Someone who has the time to meet and is willing to give you thoughtful advice.


I have used an Advisory Board for the past 25 years and it has been critical to my success. I have also been an Advisor multiple times and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to help others. Who is going to be on your Advisory Board? Who could you be an Advisor to? Let us know how you are doing in your growth!

Is it Time for Spring Cleaning?


My wife, Beth, and I were doing some Spring Cleaning in our garage and going through some old clothes this week and it got me thinking about work. I wondered, when was the last time you did a good Spring Cleaning at work? No, I am not asking you to read Marie Kondo. No, I am not asking you if each assignment brings you joy (well, maybe you might want to review your day and see what activities do give you joy—more on this in a minute.) What I am asking you to do is to wake up from your Zombie Zone and notice what is going on around you.


Let’s start simple—your office.

1.     Do you have books that you have not touched or never planned on reading? Donate them and clear some space for future books.

2.     How about your pictures? If your 19 year old kid’s last updated picture is their 8th birthday then it might be time for some updated photos.

3.     Files—they can take a life of their own. Schedule a 30 minute clean up time. Get rid of the old files or least get them in a different location.

4.     Chotskies—you know all those things you picked up from conferences or vendors that were cute at one time. Now, they are just filling up office. Keep 1 or 2 and clear out the rest.



1.     Okay, what customers/clients bring you joy? Oops, I did go Marie Kondo on you! Let them know why you enjoy working with them and do they have any referral for you.

2.     Do you have customers that used to bring you joy/satisfying work but do not any more? What do you need to change in the relationship for you both to find this a rewarding partnership?

3.     Are there some clients that are no longer a good fit for your organization? What is your plan to let them know and find a better solution for them?



1.     Let’s review where you are spending your time. What meetings no longer make sense? If you started the meeting, when can you end it? Aim for no more than 1-2 more meetings. A good place to start are recurring meetings with no set agenda!

2.     Length of meetings—we default to 1 hour or 30 minute meetings. Can you cut 15 minutes from these meeting to get some time back?

3.     What activities do you find joy in? What activities suck the energy out of you? What things could be delegated?

4.     Have you put vacation, 3 day weekends and fun times with family on the calendar? If not, your calendar will get filled up with lower level activities and you will be bummed you are missing out a great 3 day weekend!


Okay, I need to make a trip to Goodwill to drop of some clothes for someone else to find joy in. Let me know how your Spring Cleaning goes. I hope you can open up some space for your clearer thinking, fun and reconnecting with your purpose. Have a great spring!



We have all heard the saying, “People are our greatest asset”. If this is so, then why do many organizations drop the ball with regards to their on-boarding? By the time we find them, tell them, sell them on joining our organization and ramp them up to productivity, we have invested a small fortune! Done well, on-boarding positively impacts culture and reduces bad turnover. Yet some think it’s acceptable to pay lip services to this crucial function. A good hire can be turned into a bad hire if proper on-boarding practices are not followed. Worst of all, it is often self-inflicted.

This applies to the new hire as well as the Team that that they are joining. The last thing we want to do is to do is to find the right fit for our Team, get everybody excited about them joining us and then leave them alone. By following the steps below, we are well on the way to the successful launch of our new colleague. And make no mistake, they will remember that experience, (good or bad).

Ensure your new hire stays and succeeds by using these 10 onboarding best practices:

1. (When possible) Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date – Provide them with re-assurance
 of their “buying decision to join your organization. Ensure that they feel welcome. Setting up an onboarding portal that new hires can access online before their start date is a good way for them
to “buy in” and begin learning about the company on their own time. They may be able to get things like  benefit forms submitted and out of the way.

2. Make Their First Day Memorable – Whatever it is that you do, do something. It might be lunch
 with the new boss, a welcome card signed by all, or something thematically tied into Team values. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure day one is a positive experience for all everyone!

3. Keep Schedules Tight at the Beginning – Start off on the right foot and be accessible. Your new hire is talented and may be chomping at the bit to make things happen. Get them up to speed gradually. Scheduling their first 2-3 weeks ahead of time has benefits. It builds trust and says, “We have you accounted for!”

4. Use the Entire Team in Onboarding – They were likely part of the interview process, so keep the continuity and momentum by involving all of the new work family members to ramp them up. Assigning
a buddy or mentor who works in the same department as your new hire is also a good idea. The new hire gets a point person to direct any questions, comments or concerns towards, and the mentor gets an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

5. Spread Out the Paperwork – Allocate routine paperwork type activities to “down” times, ie those times when the new hire and Team are not involved in “people” work. If you drop all of the necessary forms on your new hire all at once, they could become disenchanted, or worse, overwhelmed.

6. Announce the New Hire to the Entire Company – Job movement is big deal, so make a big deal
out of it. Set a positive tone in the organization for the new hire’s internal brand to grow around. It can also foster vital interdepartmental collaboration. If departments end up working together in the future, everyone will already be familiar with each other.

7. Set New Hire Expectations Early – Communicate clearly about roles, goals and expectations. Set short-term and long-term goals and have them check in regularly to see if they are being met. After a couple of months, a formal performance review should be scheduled to give new employees honest feedback on how they’re doing. And of course, don’t forget to heap praise on those who deserve it.

8. Allow Them to Give Feedback - Create “non-judgmental” space for them to provide feedback about how things are going. The onboarding process provides an opportunity that can benefit your entire organization. Should you implement their feedback, new hires will feel heard, and you’ll have made improvements because of it. That is a big win for everybody!

9. Reinforce Cultural Values Continuously – Be inquisitive and observant, (almost parental at the start). Get to know your new hire’s work habits and personality in order to guide them in integrating with your company’s culture. Remember, it’s a fore gone conclusion that the new hire brings technical expertise to the Team. Almost always when they run into difficulty it is the people side of the equation.

10. Don’t Allow New Hires to Go Too Fast -Too Soon – Remember, they don’t know what you know. And they don’t know what they don’t knowAt the beginning its about people and systems. After about 60-75 days it moves on to “low hanging fruit”, connecting with stakeholders and possible talent assessments (if applicable). Then someplace between 100 -180 days, it’s time to rock and roll. Proper onboarding and new hire integration takes time. In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 



You get the knock on the door, “Got a minute”? One of your star performers walks in and starts telling you that they are leaving the organization. Ouch, this was quite unexpected and this person is an integral part of the team.  What should we do next? How can we prevent this of type of “bad turnover” from happening again?

Which comes first, employee retention strategy or recognition? Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did a recent radio show, Illuminating Leadership on this very topic. Below are some of the tips and tools we talked about.

For answers to the questions above and a deeper dive into Recognition and Retention Strategies please click this link:

                                                Recognition IS a Retention Strategy                                                                                             The Big “3” F-R-C

1.  Feedback – “Retained” employees want and need consistent honest feedback about how they are doing.

2.  Recognition – Ignoring star performers paves the way for them to be recognized by another employer.

3.  Caring – “Retained” employees feel a real sense of integrity from their reporting relationship.

                                     How to practice Recognition as a Retention Strategy

  • Find out what do employees want from their culture. It’s your job as a leader to create space for the retention discussion to consistently happen! Be inquisitive, get behind the Manager’s closed door and understand their satisfiers and dissatisfiers.

  • Don’t get hung up on trying to have the “perfect” retention program. Don’t delay on starting to recognize top performers and keep it simple. Even with little or no budget just do it.

  • Avoid the “Iceberg of Ignorance” - Ask staff and teammates, “what should we be doing differently”? Some data suggest that only 4% of “true” organizational problems are understood at the “C” level while 75 – 100% of the front-line managers and staff live with them every day!

  • Practice Re-Recruiting – Treat them as if you wanted to join your Team. What would you do differently?

Recognition ideas:

  • Lunch with the boss – Make it about them, not a defacto session

  • Don’t forget their birthday – simple, but many forget this simple opportunity

  • Peer to peer recognition – Build esprit ‘d corp by setting the example to follow

  • Hand written notes to the employee’s home / spouse, (with gift card / dinner etc)

  • The Travelling Trophy -Simple, fun and never goes out of style, (take their picture with it)

  • Give Time Back – ie, Time off to let them participate causes they care deeply about

  • March Madness – For fun only, tap the passion and excitement of the road to the final four

  • Let vacation be vacation -  And when they return, let them adjust a little as they “re-enter”

  • Work from Home day – Trust them to do what they need to. Give them the freedom to be who they are.

For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

A Case Study On Retention and Growth Solutions


To continue our series of conversations on hiring, developing, and retaining great new hires and internal leaders, Voltage is excited to exhibit a case study on a phenomenal client of ours.

This past Friday Torc Robotics was acquired by Daimler Trucks, a trucking subsidiary of the German automaker behind brands including Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner. This is big news for Torc Robotics and Blacksburg, Virginia.

Voltage has been working with Torc Robotics for over 5 years now and would like to show you a piece of how we have been able to assist Torc in their growth!

Taking A Walk On The Other Side Of The Street


I often get up from my desk at least once per day to take a walk outside.  Fresh air, movement, and resting my eyes from screens is helpful.  I realized, today, that I only walk on the same side of the street on which my office is located.  I have never thought of this before.  I mean, who really cares, right?  But I think it must represent something …

               When my thoughts challenged me to go walk on the other side of the street, I experienced slight anxiety.  Weird!  However, once I did, I found that I was more aware of my surroundings because things were slightly unfamiliar.  For example, there is a tree bursting with tiny red berries that is very visible from the other side of the street, but I had never noticed it.  Now, I couldn’t avoid noticing because there were squirrels playing in the branches as I walked under the thick coverage and berries crackling underfoot making the sidewalk quite messy.  There was truly a lot going on in that small 1/10 block that I had never observed.

               What are we missing by staying on the same side of the street?  Think of the different areas of home, work, service, or play that are quite familiar to you.  Do you miss all the bright, vibrant, lively, sometimes messy, small areas that exist around you because you feel anxious about the unfamiliar? 

We stay away from change and continue on our normal path to our peril.

               Yes … patterns, plans, processes, and habits are all very helpful in our daily lives and can serve us well.  You are probably aware of your own – good and bad.  But what about the things you are not doing but could be doing?  What about the things people around you are doing?  We grow together when we are aware of these things. 

               I recently confronted these questions in my own household.  In January, we moved to a new house so our patterns have all changed.  My four daughters, who are very happy with the move, have been resistant to helping with things that they normally did on a routine basis.  As my frustration mounted I realized that their resistance and complaining was a lot less on the weekend.  So I took a “step on the other side of the street” and saw that they prefer downtime before engaging in chores.  Our daily commute is quite different now and with the compression of time I was wanting chores done as soon as we arrived home.  I like to get things done while I am still “moving” because once I stop I want to be done for the day!  But the girls are missing the downtime they used to experience right after school.  To be honest, I didn’t even pay attention to the downtime that they used to enjoy before chores because we had been in that pattern for so long.  With this new realization, I am no longer trying to form them to the process that is comfortable for me and we are working together to make a new pattern for our weekday chores.

               Where can you apply getting out of your “zone” to experience the other side of the street?  Take the step … observe, listen, breathe in that less familiar space.  Learn from the people and environments around you – in your personal world and in your professional environment.  Let me know what you find!

Exposure, Capacity & Priority


How do we boil things down to their essence and focus on what matters most?

The symptomology includes things like: “We are so busy with day to day activities, we don’t have time to communicate effectively”, or “We never seem to have enough people to get the work done timely, and “How did we let a whole year go by without completing or at least making a dent in our biggest projects?”

Leaders of all levels and from all industries struggle with this from time to time. The answer almost always has to do with the choices they made and when they made them.

When we are up against it, in good economic times or challenging ones, we can make three choices:

A) We can work faster with the resources we have.

B) We can delegate some of the ‘overload’ to another.

C) We accept that some things are not going to happen as planned.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a very busy technology team who was stuck and led them through an exercise to bring clarity and manageability. It had to do with boiling things down to three variables.

Exposure, Capacity & Priority

1) Exposure – Where are we exposed? It could be financial, legal, regulatory, ethical, quality etc.

2) Capacity – Given our current state, do we realistically have the resources to pull it off? If not, which capabilities to we need develop?

3) Priority - What goes first and what happens if we don’t do this?

This simple framework galvanized their thought process without getting to far into the weeds and helped to crystallize deliverables. So, for those instances when you feel ‘stuck’, it might prove very helpful to focus on these three things. They will generate more dialog about how to go about your business and chances are you will be going about the right business.

For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

How Do I Develop my Managers so that I Can Retain my Current Workforce?


Recently we hosted Client Appreciation Breakfasts for our local clients. Over 10 days we traveled to 3 cities to bring our clients together across a broad cross-section of businesses. Our Client Appreciation Events are a time to share the trends we are seeing across industries, to share key strategies for addressing those trends, and to offer some best practices. It is also a time to introduce our clients to each other! Our clients find it valuable time to gather with an inter-disciplinary group of leaders to share questions and ideas about how they are addressing key issues.

The hot topic for 2019? Talent Recruitment and Retention. Our event was titled, “Winning the War for Talent.” After our presentation we took questions and let people know we’d be responding to them in our upcoming blogs.

The question I am going to tackle today:

“How do I develop my managers so that I can retain my current workforce?”

I love this question, because it clearly underscores the relevance of the maxim, “People join organizations and leave leaders.” How your leaders and managers behave toward their teams is mission critical for retention and business success.


My first response when I hear this concern is: “what do your managers do well, and what do they need to get better at?” To design the right solution you need to understand the problem.

A quick exercise:

1.      Grab a sheet of paper and list your direct reports and answer these two questions for each one of them: What does each of them do well? What does each of them need to get better at? (If you don’t know, what do you need to do to find out?)

2.      Check to see what trends there are for the team. Are there common strengths and weaknesses? If so, the solution begins with training and setting new, clear expectations for those key problem areas.

3.      Notice the specifics next. These are things that one or two have issues with, but they are not trends across the team. These issues are issues to address in your 1:1 and to create a coaching plan around.

Selecting Training Opportunities

The best training opportunities are ones that are contextually relevant to the team. What kind of training experience do they need? Can you create it internally, or do you need outside resources? Who is the best person to lead the training?

When you offer training, remember:

Ø  Before the training takes place clearly state your desired outcome for the team. Be candid about what new behaviors you want to see.

Ø  Once the training is underway, reinforce the application of the new skills and ideas by asking, specifically, how the content is being applied in their daily work.

Ø  After training is complete, expect the group to continue to meet to share their successes and struggles adopting the new behaviors, and continue to reinforce the content and new habits when you meet with your team.

Accountability is key to the success of any training program.

Coaching for Performance Change

When you sit down to coach someone for performance change the first step is to gain awareness. Both the leader and their direct report should learn something new about the current reality.

Set a time to sit down with your team members 1:1 and ask them to think about their current strengths and weaknesses as managers. When you sit down with your direct report be sure to:

1.      Be curious about what they see their strengths and weaknesses being.

2.      Once you hear from them, name the strengths and weaknesses as you see them.

3.      Explore the differences in your viewpoints so you can come to a shared understanding.

4.      Ask them which weaknesses they would like to work on, and the impact they imagine their improved performance having on their team’s success.

5.      Design together new experiences and habit they need to have in order to improve. This might include:

Ø  training,

Ø  1:1 coaching,

Ø  learning how to ask their team members for feedback,

Ø  new communication strategies,

Ø  shadowing another manager who has skill in the area where this manager needs improvement.

The list can go on. Brainstorm ideas together and then choose together the top 3 ideas to focus

on and create a plan for them to take those next 3 steps.

6.      Follow Up! Soon. You need to check weekly, especially when you are asking people to do things differently. They need to be asked how the plan is going, what they have done, what they are avoiding (and why!), and what isn’t working that needs to be addressed in a different way.

The follow up you provide after training and when you are coaching your team members is key to their success. Regular follow up is your responsibility. It creates the conditions for your team members to be accountable for their new behaviors so that your business can be successful.

Do you have time blocked on your calendar weekly to think about the people leadership performance of your team members?

Developing managers takes your time, thinking and continued effort. Block the time on your calendar weekly to think about the people performance of your team, and schedule the conversations that you need to ensure there is continued to progress in this important area.  



According to leadership guru and Columbia University professor Simon Sinek, people
don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. I think all generations understand this
to an extent and believe in positive motivation.

Sinek however believes the ‘know your why’ approach resonates particularly well with Generation Y Millennials, those born between 1983 and 1994, who have a large demographic investment in contributing to social impact.

Millennials, are now the largest and fastest growing segment of our workforce. Money is important but not everything. They may not care as much what you do but more about
why you do it. This seems somewhat similar to the saying, “People don’t care what you
know until they know how much you care”.

Sinek believes there are three concentric circles that organizations need to get clear:
“what” is the outer ring, “how” is just inside, and “why” is the bullseye.
He argues that most companies can rattle off a description of their product or service
(“what” they do). They express the way they’re unique from other similar businesses
(“how” they do it).

However, if an organization wants to thrive, everyone involved must be crystal clear and
invested in its core purpose (“why” they do it), ie connection to a bigger purpose.


Sinek’s Golden Circle:


Sinek believes no organization wins when its primary “why” is unclear or unknown.

                            Questions to help discover Our Organizational WHY*

Leaders of organizations please consider these questions”

1.   Why do we do what we do?

      For the sake of what…?

      For whatever the answer, FollowUp with the question, Why is that important?

2.   List a few times when morale was highest. What were the circumstances?

3.   What causes or issue touch the organization deeply each time it is heard about?

4.   What do we do best and Who does it?

5.   Are we recognizing / rewarding excellence in the Who?

6.   When people say, “You guys are so good at _____,” how do they complete the sentence?

*Adapted for organizations from Start With Why, Simon Sinek

No organization wins when its primary “why” is unclear. Leaders need to get behind closed doors and reap the not-so-hidden secrets to Sinek’s Golden Circle. If we don’t recognize the “Who,” after starting with “Why”, it could become a strategic miss. When leaders go out of their way to recognize the “Who,” they create a healthy environment that helps to ensure alignment with the Why.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

A Self-Discipline Hack that Works


“I am never going to be able to make that change.”

“It’s just how I am.”

“Why is self-discipline is hard for me?”

This is just a sample of what I hear from clients, and, truthfully, from my own head at times. Change is hard. And changing yourself is more difficult because there is no one we are accountable to for the changes we want to make in our own lives.

Except ourselves. To make changes in our lives we have to figure it out for ourselves.

So here is the hack you need to have to get on the self-discipline bandwagon:

Talk to yourself.

Talk to yourself, and be your own coach.

We have all heard the ad asking, “Do you want to be your own boss?” followed by the pitch for some new sales or franchise strategy.


You already are your own boss.

But what kind of boss are you?

·        Are you a mean boss, giving yourself a healthy measure of judgment and shame every day?

·        Are you an absent boss, never showing up to check in and see how things are going?

·        Are you a creative boss, offering so many ideas but no direction?

·        Are you a naysayer boss, killing off your own ideas before you ever get started?

·        Are you an easy boss, giving yourself a pass every time you don’t keep a commitment you have made?

We all have a voice inside our head that can be used for good or ill. 

Here is step one in how to become your own best boss:

1.      Talk to yourself.

Step two is pay attention to how you talk to yourself.

And when you do,

Ø  Be direct.

Ø  Be positive.

Ø  Be specific. And here this where the magic is:

Ø  Speak in the present tense.


Let’s say you want to exercise more. Talk to yourself about it. Use action words, be encouraging, be very specific, and speak as though it is happening now

“I am going to the gym.” Is different from “I am working out at the gym,” or “I am going to exercise more this year.” Saying “I am going to the gym,” even if it is not currently true helps our mind work with us not against us.

If you say, “I am going to the gym.” Your brain will start thinking of all the obstacles in the way of you going to the gym.

If you say, “I am working out at the gym.” Your brain will notice that you are not at the gym and start figuring out how to get you there. You get bonus points if you say, “I am working out at the gym now.”

So let’s say you want a new habit of preparing your reports earlier so you are not rushed with deadlines.

Try starting the day with, “I am writing the report.” Even if what you are doing is driving the car to work.

A funny thing starts to happen when we talk to ourselves like this. After you say those words to yourself a few times, your mind will start thinking about the report: how it needs to be composed, what the main ideas are. And when you park your car you often find you have an outline, or have remembered that you still need Bob’s data. Your subconscious mind has helped you write the report.

How we talk to ourselves matters. I invite you to think about what you really want to accomplish this year. Create an active, positive, present tense, specific statement about what you intend to accomplish. Then, repeat it frequently.

And when you find that you are doing what you said you would do, be a great boss and congratulate yourself for a job well done.


“X - Y - Z Organizational Structure, Motivation and Total Reward”


The New Year is well under way, some things cycle predictably while others do not. Market forces, politics, regulations and shifting demographics all influence ultimate success, (or lack thereof). I have been working with organizations that are feeling the impacts of all of the above. And they do not function in isolation.

For example, Generation Y Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1995 are now the largest and fastest growing segment of our workforce. They are motivated by Flexibility, Social Impact, Mentoring, Work-Life Balance and Regular Feedback. Money is important but not everything.

Generation Z is composed of those born between 1995 and 2010. They represent about 25% of the US population. The oldest are about 24 and a large segment of them are entering the workforce.

      How well do our near term and longer-term organizational structures and pay philosophies position us to remain competitive within these changing demographics?

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z is motivated by security. They were kids during the Great Recession and may have seen their parents take big financial hits. A significant portion of their lives may have been defined by struggles related to that, not unlike Traditionalists who came thru the Great Depression.

They are also likely to be more competitive, more likely to start a business and multitask more than Gen Y. Gen Zers as true ‘Digital Natives’ understand that there’s a need for constant skill development to stay relevant.

Moreover, Gen Y and Z are more likely to be managed by Gen X, ‘Latchkey” kids, those who joined us between 1965 and 1980. Gen X Managers prefer Informality, flat organizational structures, Work/Life Balance, and great Cross-Generational Mentoring skills.

      So how do we keep X Managers from becoming bored and wandering off while   engaging and retaining Y employees who desire to make an immediate impact
      and Z employees who value security and financial reward?

Some observations to consider:

> Org Chart Flexibility – Build in career ladders and career tracks for Y and Z. Definitely build

X Managers ability to connect as leaders and mentors. This is a win-win-win trifecta. Flat is good overall as it presents opportunity to learn and apply skills while minimizing politics.

> Comp / Total Reward Philosophy – Even within relative flat organizations, build into Comp structure, job families that have real merit. Check your org chart for the number of Senior Manager or Director titles. If inordinately high, the comp system is being used for faux promotions, (not a good thing to attract and retain Y’s and Z’s.) Communicate Total Reward frequently. Retirement plans and healthcare coverage can be major hot buttons.

> Variable / Merit Pay – Consider a variable pay plan for Gen Z and to an extent for Gen Y.

Both are looking for opportunities to get ahead with Gen Zers more fully embracing the entrepreneurial spirit they share with their Gen X Managers. This may also assist in avoiding wage compression as a portion of Total Reward becomes performance based.

> Performance reviews - Equip Y Managers with a system that allows sufficient gradation in assessing Gen Y and Z performance. For example, a 3-scale system may turn Y and Z off as “not everybody can be a 3”, and “hey you are a solid 2” meets “you should be happy”.  Instead consider 4 or 5 scales that allow for personal growth and communicate frequently to Y & Z what is needed to achieve it.

There are many things to think through for sure when putting the pieces of the deployment success puzzle together. We have touched on a few. And before we know it, in 5-10 short years, the Gen X Managers will be retiring and Gen Alpha, (born since 2010) will begin to enter the workforce, while the first Gen Yers will be pushing 50! And so it goes.

For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Seven Questions that Help You Coach Up (and ensure you get the feedback you need too!)


Regular, direct communication between a direct report and their leader is what grows and develops employees, yet so often I find the time people have together is not used effectively. The most common issue: the conversations are largely transactional.

What gets covered in these meetings are the needs of the day: the tasks that need to be accomplished. Left unaddressed are the conversations about employee performance. What do they both need in terms of communication from each other to be successful? What behaviors are helping and what behaviors are hurting both the relationship and their individual performance?  These issues all too often remain unaddressed.

If you are a leader, when was the last time you had a conversation with your direct reports about their professional growth? One thing to remember: you might think you have had these conversations, but if it was not explicit or intentional your direct report may have missed the coaching. Be intentional and take the time to have regular professional development conversations with your people.

Often someone is able to change and do something differently, but they don’t know that a different behavior would be helpful. Perhaps they don’t know how to do the behavior at all, and they need coaching from their leader in order to learn a new way of operating.

This kind of regular coaching and feedback helps people grow and perform better and better in their role. It impacts the bottom line, grows your culture, and creates more successful team members.

If your leader does not offer this kind of feedback, you do not have to wait. Here are seven Coaching Up questions you can use to get the conversation started. Add this habit into your 1:1s or ask for a few minutes at the end of your weekly or monthly meeting, and let me know what happens!  

Seven Coaching Up Questions

Find out how you are doing:

·        What did I do well?

·        What could I do differently in the future?

·        What did I miss?

·        What do you want me to accomplish next week/month?

Share what will help you get better:

·        What do you appreciate that your leader is doing?

·        What could they do differently that would help you perform better in your role?

·        Is there something new you need from them so you can be successful?

Imagine how well you and your team can perform if you were asking and answering these questions regularly. Now ask yourself: what can I do differently next week so that I am getting and giving performance feedback to my team? What is the next opportunity I have to ask one (or all) of these questions?  Decide who you want to talk with, what you want to ask, and when you will ask those questions. Enjoy the conversation! Performance conversations are a gift that you both give and receive.

The 5 Stay Questions


I recently attended a professional meeting where colleague of mine presented some excellent and timely information.  As our economy heats up and job opportunities become more plentiful, it is incumbent on employers to fully understand why people stay in their jobs. Improving employee engagement and retention is more important then ever to keep high performing people on your team.

It got me thinking about a recent radio show that Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did on the topic of retention.  We used the term re-recruiting to describe how to keep valuable people from leaving the organization.

Jeff made the point that when a star performer comes to you, the leader, and says, “I’m thinking
about taking an offer from another organization. What do you think my chances are for advancement here?” By that time, it’s too late.  The star performer has already entertained and turned over in their own minds the proposition of working elsewhere, (you are just the last to know).

Below are what Richard Finnegan, the author of The Power of Stay Interviews, calls the five stay interview questions. These may be very appropriate to incorporate into periodic re-recruiting meetings
in 1:1 mode behind the manager’s closed door.

1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

The opening clause, “When you travel to work each day”, encourages the employee to imagine their daily
commute to capture their everyday images in the here and now. Then asking them what they look forward
to drives them to their positive images.

2. What are you learning here?

“Learning” in the present tense sends the compelling message that we want you to grow, to prosper
for both yourself and our organization. When employees answer and hear their own lists, they
know they are developing and not standing still.

We encourage managers to engage employees in career discussions built around the word “skills”. For example:

“What skills would you like to build?”
“What skills do you think are required for that position?”
“What skills do you possess that are not being fully utilized on your present role?”

3. Why do you stay here?

The goal here is for the employee to drill down, identify, and then verbalize why they stay. The initial
response might be something mundane like,” I have to pay the bills” or “Because its familiar and steady”.
The manager may respond by saying something like “Of course, me too, but I really want to learn why you
stay. Please take a few moments and let me know what you really think”.

The point is that few employees really take the time to consider why they stay and voice them once they have been challenged to think about them. This is a very “local” discussion, one that hits close to home. It needs to
be done thoughtfully as the employee just might be thinking, “Yep you are right. I am so out of here.”.

4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

This question gets to the core of retention issues. Everyone at some point in their tenure thinks about
leaving at one time or another. Some of the drill down questions are:

“How important is that issue to you today?”
“Can I count on you to come 1:1 if you ever feel that way again?”

“What’s the single most important thing I can do to make it better?”
“How often has that happened?”

5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

This question is often seen a lip service or as a cliché. It is about building the trust bridge behind the manager’s closed door. It requires the manager to be comfortable in their own skin and not react defensively. The responses from this dialog often provide insight into regarding how the manager can adapt their leadership style with each employee.

 “Do I recognize you appropriately when you do something well?
 “How do you like to be recognized? Privately? In public?”

“Are my work instructions clear?”
“Are there times you don’t always understand what is expected?”

“Do I seem genuinely interested in your career here?”

“Am I with you enough? Not enough? Too much?”

For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Check Your Assumptions


People struggle to communicate. We struggle to say the important, vulnerable thing to our spouse. We struggle to ask for raises or reassignments. We struggle to set boundaries with or make requests of our colleagues.

Oftentimes we are struggling because we have already drawn a set of conclusions about the outcome of the conversation so we never bother to have the actual conversation. Or we think we know why someone is doing something we don’t like or appreciate, and that assumption about some else’s motives turns into a story about that person. Slowly those stories we have about other people begin to feel like facts.

But something feeling like a fact does not make it true.

Judith Glaser, in her work around Conversational Intelligence, called this habit we human beings have “climbing the Ladder of Conclusions.” (Glaser, 2014)

We all make up stories in our lead about why another person says or does something.

· When someone talks over us in a meeting, we write a story about why they did that.

· When someone is late with a reply or promised project, we make up a story to explain why.

· When someone else is praised for their work and we are not, we create a story about this too.

In every case we are trying to explain “Why?” from our point of view.

But we are trying to explain “why” in relationship to our own emotions, because first we feel, then we think. It is our feelings, layered with our thinking about our feelings that creates our beliefs about other people, and color our conclusions about their intentions.

I am continually reminding people of two things:

1.      Learn to assume the best intentions in others.

It will make your life happier, and your relationships easier.

2.      Check your assumptions.

Investigate. Ask. Find out. Not from one third party, from the person you are making assumptions about.

Yes, I am suggesting you go and actually have a conversation with the person you think doesn’t like you, …who looked at you “funny , … who did not reply to your invitation. 

Here’s one approach:

Ø  Ask if you can talk over coffee or lunch or a break. This signals more time, relaxed environment.

Ø  Let them know you are curious to learn what you can make the relationship better.

Ø  When you meet, let them know you want to better understand their point of view, and offer your own firsthand experience. Then share your stories. Both the facts and the story you are making up in your head. Use the language, “the story I am making up in my head…”. For example: “When you didn’t reply to my email, the story I made up in my head was that my idea was bad, and you don’t like me.”

Ø  Share the impact your interactions have had on each of you. Describe also the positive impact you want to have on them in the future.

Ø  Talk through your ideas about how to make the relationship better in the future.

We spend a lot of time believing the wrong thing about other people’s intentions. I know, because at least 30% of my time coaching leaders is spent helping them find ways to think through the stories they are making up about other people, and figuring out how to simply talk with them directly.

So the next time there is someone you have written a big story about, take a moment to walk down the ladder of conclusions: set aside your conclusions, challenge your beliefs, separate your thoughts from your feelings and then from the actual facts.

Remember, even the best relationships have some tension in them from time to time. When we check our assumptions, assume best intentions, and seek to understand the other point of view, more often than not we find common ground. And common ground is where trust is found.