Evaluating and Praising Employees

I am very bad at praising people. I know it, tried to do something about it, limited success though. When thinking about reasons why I came to one conclusion. There is difference between what I see “praise worthy” and what my people see as praise worthy.

Regarding performance there are four groups:

i) not meeting expectations
I guess not much needed to say here. These are people who will either change or leave.
Many times it happened to me that people from this group blamed their performance on a) overall bad atmosphere in company b) lack of praise and motivation from my side and c) not good time for them (whatever this means). If you ask me, it’s all bullshit.

ii) meeting expectations
Room for improvement but at least doing their job. This group is looking for and expecting praise. You guessed it, I am not giving it. You have only done what you’re supposed to do and you are paid for it. In my experience their performance tends to decline with time and praise given as they settle for too low standard.

iii) sometimes exceeding expectations
Praise given – for “exceeding expectations” tasks. This is my top 20% people. Solid workers with occasional great moments. Unfortunately, most of the time, those rare expeditions to the land of “extra mile” are mostly driven by me.

iv) always exceeding expectations
Best people I have. Top 5% of my team. Agree on what needs to be done and consider to be done. Even better and faster than you expected. Praise given but not much needed. Those people are driven from within. Strong internal motivation and drive is what they have in common.

Related posts: Three kinds of dogs


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Homeless Guy Philosophy Lessons

Yesterday I took my team for a city tour. Our guide was gambler and alcoholic homeless guy. It is part of a project trying to help homeless people, for us I wanted to experience our city from other perspective and maybe get some food for thought – and did we get plenty!

From all interesting things I have learned I want to share with you 2 pieces of philosophy our guide shared with us. 

When we met him and he started to talk, we stood around him in a circle listening to his stories. Then he walked to the centre of the circle and said: “You know, sometimes someone said that circle has 360 degrees. Now when I am standing in the middle you (pointing at the person standing in front of him) see me from one angle, but person behind me sees me from different angle and all others see me from different angles, but nobody here sees me from 360 degrees…”

Later on, when he was showing us secret places of a main train station we stood around him again and he stepped into the circle again and said: “You see, I am standing now in the centre of this circle. And I can see this situation from 2 perspectives. Either you are my friends and I am protected by you and have nothing to worry about or you are my enemies and I am helpless in this circle as you can jump on me and kill me…”

Two very interesting and strong moments (out of many) that we had yesterday during our tour. And what is my take from this?

i) don’t judge too quickly, you only see person / situation from one angle

ii) take care and build a circle that surrounds you well, so you can feel secure and protected by your friends

May this guy share his wisdom with many more people.


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Stan Kansten’s Learnings

This is the memo I have found with notes from Stan Kansten speech.

Stan Kansten is former GM of one of a very successful US baseball team, the Atlanta Braves.

He listed his 9 key learnings from being in baseball management for 27 years. Many of them are applicable to business in general.

  1. Try to learn something new every day!! It will force you to keep your mind open. It will encourage you to stay in touch with others. It will encourage you to listen.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Think ahead. Prepare for worst case scenarios. And prepare for best case scenarios, so that you don’t lower your upside potential.
  3. Have a long term plan. Success is all based on long term plan. Quarter to quarter management is death.
  4. Have a superior product. Nothing matters as much as this.
  5. Have a good work ethic: Be a great teammate, and a brutal opponent.
  6. Accept mistakes. But don’t accept the same mistake twice! Also, forgive errors that are because of overstretching, rather than errors of laziness.
  7. Get out of the way of smart people who are trying to help you!
  8. Focus insanely on customers. Know who they are, find out what they want, and give it to them!
  9. In rough times: listen to customers & stakeholders, devise a plan, then stick to it. Don’t worry about critics.

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Why People Leave My Company?

Why people leave my company?                                                                                                   Is there something I do wrong?                                                                                                             Is company not good enough to keep those people? Do we pay enough?

From my experience and observation, people leave from 3 main reasons                   (and many others).

Cultural fit
Some people are not fit with our company culture. We value growth, responsibility and independency.
We want people to be nice to others and be focused on results vs activities. Constant improvement is key for working with us. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. Then it’s better to part our ways. One rotten apple can spoil whole basket.

Our company grows year on year not only in revenues but also in number of people who work here and in the number of projects that we do. All this brings new challenges, new problems and lot of changes. This also requires you to be flexible with your approach and your thinking. For some people it is difficult to keep up with the pace. They simply grow / develop slower than company grows. This still means, they can do great, in “slower” environment.

Sooner or later everyone reaches position where he/she uses his/her capabilities to the fullest. Should he/she be moved any higher or given more responsibility he/she would not be able to make it. I don’t tend to push people for more responsibility if they (or me) don’t feel they wouldn’t make it. I leave them on the current position where they can excel for some more time. How long? Until situation from point above will happen…

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Why Best Don’t Succeed?

Who will succeed then, if not the best ones?

Who else should succeed in the game of life and in the game of business?

Most of the time not best ones.

Those who work harder and give it more.
Those that do the extra step and go extra mile.
Those who will keep pushing longer and will not give up.
Those that have clear goals and discipline to go after them.

Don’t worry, you’re not best in your field.
Don’t worry, you’re not natural born super talent.
Just do as much as you can and you’ll succeed.

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Moments of Truth

At P&G we had concept of two moments of truth.

First moment of truth is when customer stands in front of the shelf in store and decides which brand he/she will buy.
Is he/she going to choose your brand?

Second moment of truth is when customer is using your product at home.
Is it going to meet or exceed his / her expectations?

On top of these two moments you can add as many moments of truth as you like. If you think about it, moment of truth is basically every moment when your customer comes to contact with your brand.

For example, your website, how you reply to email, how you answer the phone.
How does your place look like, how your employees dress or how is your driver driving.
All these and many more moments are moments of truth.

In all these moments you are fighting battle for customers and in any of these moments you can lose or win your customer.
Think about all moments of truth you have in your company. Make a list and once you have it, take those which you can influence. Then look at them from money angle. Start with those that cost you nothing (how do you answer phone; how do you greet customer – do you? etc) and then continue to more expensive ones.

Until you are winning in all important moments of truth you can’t stop working on improving your business.

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What Books Should I Start With

I am known as passionate reader of business and self-development books.
Over last 10 years I have read or listened to more than 500 books.
Not counting thousands of articles, blog posts, you tube videos and lectures.
Often I receive question about books to start with.

Start with motivational / inspiration books.
Something that will make you want to do things, change and work on yourself.
Then I would move on to books about vision/mission/goals.
Stage 3 would be books on being effective.

After that it is mix of more motivation plus best books from your chosen field, be it leadership, sales, marketing etc.

This follows simple logic.
First you need to be, than you can do and only then you can have.
Part of building “to be” are books on vision/mission.
That is the foundation of true success.

Motivational / inspiration books you should read / listen to all the time.
As Zig Ziglar says: “motivation is like shower, it doesn’t last, that’s why we recommend it daily”.

Here is my list of recommended books to start with:
Zig Ziglar: Over the Top (I prefer audio book)
Jim Rohn: Best Life Ever (you tube it)
Napoleon Hill: Think and Grow Rich

Stephen Covey: 7 Habbits of Highly Effective People
Brian Tracy: Eat That Frog
Brian Tracy: Goals

Enjoy reading!

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Better Now Than Perfect

Writing a new post, replying to email or preparing for difficult conversation can be quite tough.
It takes time, sometimes it slips to procrastination. Why is that?
In my case I am trying to make it as good as I can.
Crafting sentences, preparing for scenarios, making sure it will be understood and to the point.

Lately I realised this approach costs me lot of time and builds tension inside me.
Also sometimes I am thinking things over too long. When I will finally come to the point that I am ready to talk, write or reply it is too late. Problem solved or is irrelevant.

I am still advocating thinking things over before they are written down or said, but I am cutting down significantly on prep time and lowering criteria of “now it’s good”. Not much harm will be done and this will solve more things faster without unnecessary stress.
As a result I am sure you’ll see more posts and more improvements on this blog.

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Most Expensive School In The World

Last week I had a privilege to be a guest speaker at Profesia Days in Prague – biggest job fair in Czech republic. I was asked to speak to HR professionals and students on “my favourite teacher” topic.

Here’s what I had to say:

My best friend went through Harvard MBA. One thing that was new for me, was style of learning. It was all based on case studies. 500 case studies in 2 years. You read your case, think about it. Then you discuss with your study group. Then you discuss with whole class with professor leading the discussion. Different cases, different companies, different industries. Many times CEO’s from discussed companies come over and give you some more perspective on a case. After two years you can say, you have seen it all.

One of the things I took from this approach, is that you are learning from other people’s mistakes. You read, study and discuss what worked and what didn’t to make sure you will not do same mistake in your business and personal life. There is a very clear motivation to avoid these mistakes – they are very costly. I would argue I paid more for mistakes I made than I would pay for Harvard MBA.

Just 2 recent examples.
For years I was convinced and argued with everyone that local celebrity chefs don’t increase number of visitors of food festivals. This year we have opted for a lesson. We hired country’s most famous chef to have cooking show plus some additional presence on our food festival. Result? We have learned that it indeed doesn’t bring more visitors. Price for this lesson was at $4K.

Mistake in hiring last year or weak on-boarding and succession planning? I still don’t know, but great lesson again. Yes, you guess. Almost $50k price tag attached.

My message here is very simple. Learn as much as you can from other people mistakes to make sure you avoid doing them yourself. Couple things to help you on the way:

i) books
No problem is new. If you have a problem, somebody had it before you and it is very likely they wrote a book about it if problem was worthy. Or there is blog, article or website about it. Read and learn – as much as you can.

ii) friends
People you meet on regular basis have the most influence on your life. It is proven fact that with people you meet on regular basis, sooner or later your income will become more or less same (20% variance). Choose wisely who you spend your time with. Be with people who inspire and motivate you, from whom you can learn and who will give you honest feedback on what you do.

iii) reflection
Seems we are in constant chase for growth and some holy grail of happy and successful living. Stopping for a moment here and there will help you reflect on what worked for you and what didn’t so you can learn from your own past and not to repeat mistakes again.
Paying for learning is fine, but paying twice for same lesson is stupid.

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Closers Wanted

This somehow became theme for me in last couple months.
I feel that there is lack of “closers”.
Everyone wants to be founder, leader, motivator, creative manager… very few get pride in getting shit done. Very few seem to be enjoying closing. Making it happen.

I even wrote blog post on this but then, why should I write anything if it was so greatly expressed by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Ross.

Watch it HERE and enjoy.
Goose bumps and great dose of motivation for me every time I see this.

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