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Leadership Failures at the Secret Service

October 22nd, 2014 by Andrea Cranfill in Talent Development, Talent Management

Secret Service LogoWhen I read a few weeks ago about the Secret Service allowing an intruder into the White House, I found myself focusing on the organizational aspects involved. There are some fundamental work issues at play in this story. They’re issues that many workplaces struggle with, to be sure, but because in this case they involve the Secret Service and potentially endangered the president, we’re discussing them in a larger forum. Perhaps this will elevate the conversation around employees—and more specifically the importance of organizational leadership—to a greater level.

One of the biggest problems with the Secret Service is low morale. The Secret Service is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which in 2013 received low scores on the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey. In fact, the DHS ranked last (19th out of 19) in the large agency category. It appears that since 2003 the DHS scores have been about 10 points lower than the large agency average. Specifically, the lowest satisfaction scores have been within the areas of effective leadership and performance-based rewards/advancement. If we drill down into the data, we see consistently low leadership scores around empowerment and senior leadership.

The low empowerment score is the one that strikes a chord in regard to the current Secret Service incident. The poor showing demonstrates that many DHS employees, including Secret Service agents, don’t feel empowered with respect to work processes and aren’t satisfied with their involvement in decisions that affect their work. This may explain why, according to media reports, no one was quite sure how to handle things during the break-in. A lack of empowerment meant that no one did anything—they didn’t engage the alarms or release the attack dog, and as a result an intruder got deeper into the White House than anyone thought possible.

If leadership issues affect an organization as venerable as the Secret Service, chances are good that they’re impacting your organization as well. You need to know about them so you can prevent your own break-ins and breakdowns. You can begin by answering some key questions about leaders and leadership at your company.

  • Do you have clearly defined leadership competencies?
  • Do these competencies align with your organizational strategy?
  • Are your leaders aware of these competencies and what it takes to master them?
  • Do your leaders understand what is truly important to the organization?
  • What are your own leaders’ level of engagement and empowerment? (Have you surveyed them?)
  • Do your leaders communicate effectively? Do they provide positive feedback and are they willing to have difficult conversations when needed?
  • Do your leaders build a culture of trust where others feel strengthened and supported? Do they empower others to act?

The answers to these questions can produce some impactful leadership insights. Once you have good feedback around the state of your leadership, you can tap into an abundance of resources and programs to address fundamental issues. And remember—if you uncover problems, you have to act. We’ve just seen a major leadership failure within a very important organization, one that could have led to dire consequences. This has been a huge wakeup call to the Secret Service; let it be a learning opportunity for you and your leaders as well.

Andrea Cranfill is principal and cofounder of FlashPoint. She leads FlashPoint’s marketing and sales teams, focusing on connecting clients to our services. She also supports team members in building strategic solutions that meet clients’ needs and that achieve results.

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Employers and Enchiladas

October 10th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Mi TierraHow is a restaurant brand like an employment brand? Both are closely tied to the “word on the street”—people’s expectations around the experience they will have dining or working at a particular place. A restaurant’s brand determines who and how many diners will fill the seats every night—and whether customers are willing to wait to get in. In a similar fashion, your employment brand determines who and how many qualified candidates will apply—and whether they will patiently go through your hiring process and accept your offer.

I just returned from San Antonio, where abundant restaurants compete for local and tourist business. Three people recommended Mi Tierra. The Mi Tierra brand begins as you pull into the parking lot and see the twinkling lights, palm trees, and huge planters of flowers. It takes you to another world. Dazzling stars and more brilliant lights excite your eyes as you enter the café. Music fills your ears. Delicious aromas waft by. The staff members, dressed like flamenco dancers, enthusiastically explain the menu. You feel enveloped by the Mi Tierra experience.

Is their guacamole really better? Are their enchiladas verdes any tastier? Or is their positive brand so strong that it extends to your taste buds before your food even arrives?

Just as Mi Tierra has mastered its brand to draw in customers, as an employer you need to rethink every aspect of the hiring experience in order to win the competition for top talent. Building a strong employment brand reaps rewards. The Talent Board, which sponsors the Candidate Experience Awards, surveyed more than 45,000 job applicants about their experience. Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying. In addition, almost 40 percent of the positives would buy more of the goods or services the company sells, even if they weren’t ultimately hired; 30 percent of the negatives would buy less goods or services. Finally, 50 percent of positives share their positive experience; 32 percent of negatives broadcast their bad news.

Truth: a good candidate experience is brilliant marketing, and a bad one gives a black eye that makes future hiring more difficult. In fact, a bad experience may cause the right applicant to refuse to apply, interview, or accept the offer. Because of this, top employers care about the recruiting process.

Savvy organizations offer a powerhouse recruiting experience. There are six ways to follow their lead:

  1. Walk in the job seeker’s shoes. Consider having a qualified “secret shopper” job candidate (or team member) go through your process. The more you design the process from the applicant’s point of view, the more successful you will be.
  2. Communicate. Set up an automatic reply for all applicants. During the interview process, you must explain every step of the process to an applicant. Don’t leave great candidates in the dark for weeks. Always meet the deadlines you have established. If you’re unable to meet the expected deadline, communicate swiftly. Use the technology preferred by the candidate: phone, e-mail, texting, or tweets.
  3. Involve your employees in the process. You want to hire talented people who are going to mesh with your culture. The best way to ensure this is to seek employee input in the design and interview process. A fresh pair of eyes—especially those of newer hires—can provide insight. Consider having promising candidates meet with their possible future teammates to gauge workplace culture fit.
  4. Personalize the recruiting process. One size fits one. You want a hiring process that has built-in flexibility, not rigid rules. Some of the best talent is idiosyncratic (Exhibit A: Steve Jobs). The last thing you need is a process that eliminates top talent for bureaucratic reasons.
  5. Seek honest feedback. A static hiring process will soon turn stale; your hiring process should be ever-evolving. Seek feedback from candidates, both those you hire and those you don’t. Listen, respond, and keep tweaking.
  6. Train your managers to interview well. Managers trained in behavioral interviewing, who understand their critical role in staffing the organization for the future, hire better candidates.

Why not offer a Mi Tierra experience to your job candidates? When candidates are hired after a positive experience, they are engaged! They hit the ground running, and their commitment is high. When treated well, even candidates who aren’t hired walk away feeling respected and appreciated and are far more likely to recommend that other talent look into your organization. That’s good branding, and it positions you to be a leader in the market.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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How Seven Leadership Practices Turned around a Team

September 26th, 2014 by Bill Mugavin in Coaching, Talent Management

SailingThroughout this year, FlashPoint has been coaching a manager who took on a challenging assignment. She was asked to take on the management of a new office location with a team of employees that was notorious for being difficult to manage, resistant to change, and consistently underperforming (from both a production and customer service perspective). With some trepidation, she decided to accept the assignment because it presented great personal and career growth opportunities.

It didn’t take long (by the end of the first week) to see that everything she heard about the team was true. Team members fought and openly treated customers as if they were a bother. Wait times well exceeded standards because employees had no sense of urgency when it came to serving customers. When the manager began to address these issues with team members (on an individual basis), they became defensive and emotional and claimed that she had no right to question the way they did things. After each conversation, team members would commiserate among themselves about their mean-spirited new manager.

Wondering how the interactions and performance of the team had been allowed to become so dysfunctional, we decided the best course of action would be to do some research on the history of the team. The manager determined that there were a number of factors contributing to the current team dynamic:

  • All of the team members had been hired by her predecessor and too many were bad hires. They lacked the interpersonal skills and service mindset required of a person in the role.
  • The former manager enabled team members instead of developing them. Rather than providing members with the skills and tools to do their jobs and then holding them accountable for performance, he handled and resolved all customer or process escalations himself.
  • The former manager was conflict adverse. He avoided difficult conversations regarding low production, poor service, or dysfunctional relationships.
  • The former manager lacked the will and skill needed to lead the team through the many changes occurring throughout the organization (e.g. structure, process, policy changes). Hence team members lacked a real awareness or understanding of the changes required of them, both personally and professionally.

It became clear to us that the only way the new manager’s team was going to meet its goals was to initiate a complete reset of performance expectations around production, customer service, and professionalism. To do so, we focused on applying seven leadership practices.

  1. The manager met with each team member and communicated clear performance expectations around production, customer service, and professionalism. All expectations were based on job descriptions and organizational policies, procedures, values, or goals.

Did this make everything right? Not at all. Team members responded with their typical defensiveness and emotionalism. She heard statements such as, “I have never had to do this before,” “I don’t think that’s my job,” “The old manager always did those things,” “I don’t know how to do that,” and “I didn’t sign up for this.”

  1. The manager responded to these concerns in a direct, respectful, and factual manner. She did not let their personalities or emotions derail or sidetrack the meetings. She showed the employees the organizational documents upon which the expectations were based and assured them she would provide training, tools, and other resources to help them be successful.

Did this convince team members to get onboard? Nope. They complained that the expectations were unreasonable, that the company did not care about its people, and that everything (especially management) was changing for the worse.

  1. The manager determined the skill and policy/procedure knowledge gaps of each individual team member. She then created and implemented targeted development plans to close those gaps. Once a team member demonstrated skill or policy/procedure knowledge proficiency, she relentlessly held that person accountable for consistent demonstration and application of both. If an employee tried to escalate a customer issue that he had the skill and knowledge to resolve, she reminded him that he had the ability solve the problem on his own.
  2. To reinforce and perpetuate the demonstration and application of the acquired skill and knowledge, she praised and celebrated each performance successes (and near successes as team members were learning).
  3. She met regularly, weekly at first, with each team member to discuss progress against the performance expectations established around production, service, and professionalism. She and the employee discussed successes and challenge areas, and they developed plans to overcome those challenges.

Did this move team members any closer to getting onboard with the program? Yes! Employees began to understand that the practices the manager was applying were not based on the newest leadership “flavor of the month.” She is consistent in applying the principles, day in and day out, and she applies them the same way with every team member. And because team members are feeling more competent, they’re more confident in their dealings with customers. Because they’re more confident, they’re more comfortable and engaged when serving customers.

  1. However, old habits don’t die easy. There are still occasions when team members revert back to old work and interpersonal communication habits. When this happens, the manager immediately addresses the slippage. She reminds people that this new way of working and working together is here to stay; going backward is not an option.

Team members are responding to these reminders well, especially compared to the defensive and emotional reactions earlier on. Why? Because they have experienced the positive benefits that working differently has produced. They enjoy being part of and contributing to a positive work environment.

  1. Throughout this process the manager practiced (and is still practicing) emotional and mental resiliency.

Turning around a challenging team is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. The manager’s ability to remain resilient can be attributed to her:

  • Commitment to the office’s success.
  • Strong vision of what she wanted her team to look like when they were working well.
  • Belief that applying the leadership principles would get her the results she wanted.

Here, perhaps, is where working with a coach added the most value. When discouragement set in, FlashPoint’s coach was able to act as a sounding board for the manager and to remind her of and support her vision for the office and her team. But in the end, it was her personal and professional endurance that won the day.

If you’re facing a similar situation, try applying these seven leadership practices. They worked for the manager we coached, and they can work for you!

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He focuses his consulting on talent systems and processes, as well as leadership and management development.

Image courtesy of Hinnamsaisuy /

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What Everyone Ought to Know about Emerging Leaders

September 19th, 2014 by Andrea Cranfill in Talent Development, Talent Management

EmergeWe hear a lot these days about emerging leaders, and it’s helpful to build some definition around the concepts that people are talking about. What are the qualities of emerging leaders? Why are they so important? What are some of the methods organizations can take to develop and retain emerging leaders? Below are ideas on what you ought to know.

What Is an Emerging Leader and Why are Emerging Leaders Important?

Emerging leader is a term used to describe an employee who has demonstrated the potential to assume a mid-to-high-level leadership role in an organization but who has had little to no managerial experience. Emerging leaders are strong performers who have the potential, ability, and aspiration for higher-level management roles. They’re the ones who show commitment to the organization, exert influence, and demonstrate a willingness to step up and take on more responsibility.

Identifying and developing these emerging leaders is vital. As we all know, significant numbers of Baby Boomers are on the verge of retiring, and companies are finding it difficult to replace them. As demand intensifies, it’s going to be more challenging to retain high-performing talent. Because strong leaders are key to organizational success, companies must understand who their emerging leaders are and commit resources to develop them.

Who Is Developing These Emerging Leaders?

In our work at FlashPoint, we find that organizations are taking note and intensifying their focus on emerging leaders, both out of necessity and as a result of strategic foresight. Research offers data to back up our observations. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2014 Leadership Development Factbook, in 2013 companies spent 17 percent of their leadership development funds on their emerging leaders. Smaller firms (with 100 to 999 employees) spent more money per participant (an average of $4,689) on their emerging leaders than did mid-size and large companies.

It may come as no surprise that in 2013 the technology industry spent the most overall dollars (an average of $8,000 per participant) to develop emerging leaders. Technology companies may end up investing more per emerging leader because of the fact that they’re competing with companies such as Google, Facebook, Zappos, and Twitter, who offer internal universities and boot camps for employees. But this underscores a key point: it’s important to understand your environment, recognize your organization’s unique leadership challenges, and respond accordingly.

How Do I Identify and Keep Emerging Leaders in My Organization?

In an ideal scenario you’ll identify your emerging leaders through a robust succession-planning process. This entails establishing leadership competencies, indentifying skill gaps in emerging leaders, and creating a plan to develop the emerging leaders’ capabilities. If you’re not quite at this level, however, just start listening and observing. Are there people in the organization who are “asking for a chance” to take on projects that are beyond their role? Find ways to give those people work that will help them demonstrate their competencies. Allow them to participate on collaborative projects, encourage them to suggest new ways to do things, and reward innovative ideas. If your organization is not structured or prepared to promote quickly, then increase experiences and exposure and check in to make sure the emerging leaders understand that these are opportunities to grow in other ways. If you’re able to take a structured approach to development, consider formal leadership programs, assessments, action learning, peer groups, mentoring programs, and MBA programs as options.

Regardless of your approach, one thing is clear: you must start now. The business environment is quickly evolving and the need for strong leadership will be more important than ever. Healthy companies must invest in future leaders to build a pipeline for continued success.

Andrea Cranfill is principal and cofounder of FlashPoint. She leads FlashPoint’s marketing and sales teams, focusing on connecting clients to our services. She also supports team members in building strategic solutions that meet clients’ needs and that achieve results.

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Seven Steps to Launch Your 2015 Leadership Development Program

September 9th, 2014 by Linda Dausend in Talent Development, Talent Management

Now is the time that 2015 leadership development programs are being planned and budgets are being submitted. Is your program in place and ready to go? Will you be refining and validating an effective program that you already have in place, or will you be defining a new strategy that will support organizational objectives in the new year?

No matter how you approach it, it’s important that you offer development opportunities for your leaders. Organizations with well-established leadership programs perform at a much higher level—typically seven times greater than their competitors—according to 2013 research by Bersin by Deloitte, an HR and talent management consulting company. You want to be in this league of high-performing companies, so here are some considerations as you put together your leadership development strategy for the coming year.

  1. Start with the organizational strategy and objectives for 2015. What are the big strategic goals for next year and the next several years? Are you expanding into global markets? Consolidating operations? Operating with new senior leadership and changing direction? These are just a few things that will impact your organization. Have keen knowledge of the direction of the organization before developing or adapting any leadership program.
  2. Determine what competencies will be important for leaders based on the strategy and objectives. Perhaps your strategy involves an expansion into global markets. How will leaders need to manage and lead differently with other cultures, other regulations, other processes? Your organization may have already-developed leadership competencies, but consider what you need to do to evolve those competencies so that you can execute on new strategies of the future.
  3. Assess your current leadership development offerings. Do you have courses and other learning tools currently in place that drive the needed competencies? Evaluate your programs and make adjustments as needed.
  4. Identify gaps in offerings. What competencies are not adequately supported with your current mix? Determine what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are necessary to fill the gaps. Outline initial topics.
  5. Design the program by creating a framework that includes the existing and new topic areas. Look at methods and media for delivery, including instructor-led, online, action learning teams, and reinforcement and application solutions. The methods of delivery will depend on a variety of factors—including your audience, locations, technology, and resources. When determining how many hours to allocate for leadership development, consider the ASTD 2013 State of the Industry study that points to an average of 30.3 annual learning hours per employee in 2012 (and keep in mind also that top organizations averaged 57.7 hours per employee, an all-time high).
  6. Establish the budget. When determining how much to budget, consider that development spending in U.S. organizations increased by 14 percent in 2013, according to the Bersin study. Within large organizations, midlevel leaders each received an average of $5,200 per person annual investment, the study showed.
  7. Gain the support of key stakeholders. As you prepare to introduce your 2015 leadership development program, market not only to the participants but also to key stakeholders throughout the organization. You should have already involved senior leaders during your design and development phases, but now is the time to determine how they can best support and engage the participants. Ensure an ongoing communication plan and engagement strategies; these will all contribute to the “buzz” around the program.

Once you have your budget submitted and a basic outline of the program, you’ll be positioned to start the development and execution of coursework. With a focus on organizational strategies, and courses that drive leadership competencies, you will have a program that will benefit both your leaders and your organization.

Linda Dausend is a consultant at FlashPoint. She collaborates with clients to develop more strategic approaches toward managing talent and to help them prepare leaders who actually lead.

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Five Tips for Building a Better Brand

August 29th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

There is a well-known saying (often attributed to W. Edwards Deming) that “every system is perfectly designed to deliver the results that it gets.” This is true for systems inside an organization, and it’s also true for the brand the company establishes.

What is your company’s brand? It’s the expectation of your target market about the experience they will have either by becoming a client (i.e., your products/services brand) or an employee (i.e., your employment brand). Your brand is critical to your bottom line because people talk about their experiences.

These “experiences” may be actual interactions with people at all levels of your organization, (e.g., the receptionist, the accounting department, the sales and service staff, or the lawn care staff), whether in person, by phone, via chat on your website, or e-mail. Experiences may be events sponsored or hosted by your organization and the feelings these interactions generate. An infinite number of elements impact experiences and thus your brand; these include e-mails, phone calls, and texts from your team members; tweets and social media comments made by your customers and job candidates; employee volunteer activities in the community; the quality of your website; your employees’ e-mail signatures; your marketing materials; what your employees say about you; turnover and how it is handled; speakers from the organization; and much more.

If you want a better brand, what can you do?

  1. First step back and think about all of the ways that your organization interacts with your target market, including customers, employees, and potential new hires. Remember that first impressions count, whether in person, shared in a story from a friend, on your website, at a trade show, in a radio ad, or on a billboard. Also remember that management is responsible for controlling all brand elements.
  2. Share the vision of the organization with your employees. A vision statement describes the organization as it will appear in a future successful state, after all current strategic goals are accomplished. An effective vision statement is inspirational. Years ago at ONEX, a fast-growth, high-tech consulting firm, the vision was to have “the right people beating down the door to work here.”
  3. Positive brands are clearly defined but start out aspirational. They become reality through training, repetition, performance management, and reward and recognition.
  4. To develop the culture that delivers the desired brand, integrate your values and vision into your website, hiring process, onboarding, employee development, performance management, succession planning, and reward and recognition. Never waver and be sure to communicate, communicate, communicate!
  5. If employees, in spite of training and coaching, cannot or will not deliver on the brand, every day, in ways big and small, they are destroying your brand. Remove them.

If I expect to have a good experience when I do business with or work with your organization, then I am more likely to ask for a proposal, stop into your store, or apply for a job. It takes focused, continual, and creative approaches to build and polish your brand. Remember: every system is perfectly designed to deliver the results that it gets. Build a better brand to build a better bottom line this year.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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You Might Need a Coach If . . .

August 26th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Coaching, Talent Management

A key employee is not meeting her goals; her peers complain about her and she has had two key people leave.

Marketplace changes, new customers, and the uncertainty of new product rollout are all colliding to turn a longtime, valuable vice president into an abrasive micromanager whose departmental productivity is plummeting.

Times have changed and that means more diverse individuals are moving into customer-facing positions of responsibility. The longtime sales director is having trouble moving away from sports analogies and screaming football coach-type comments as team motivators.

We have all heard Jeff Foxworthy’s famous setup, “You might be a redneck if . . . .” Let’s apply that idea to coaching. Say you’re facing challenges with an employee. You have several alternatives to deal with the situation, such as ignoring it, hoping it will fix itself (maybe the employee will leave!), creating workarounds, pretending the need is not there, and so on. The correct solution, however, may be individual coaching.

How can you tell when a coach would benefit you, one of your direct reports, or a colleague? Well, you might need a coach if . . .

  • Executives are assimilating into a new role or are in need of maximizing organizational results. In some instances, executives need new skills to replace the ones that got them to the top but no longer work. Personal problems may be interfering with relationships. The goal is to improve performance and increase individual and organizational productivity.
  • High-potential leaders have not yet experienced management responsibilities but are being developed to become qualified candidates when an opening appears. In this case, coaching not only meets the long-term needs of building a pipeline of talent but can be used as both a recruiting and retention tool.
  • Participants in a multifaceted leadership development program require deeper individual development. Often, after one or more leadership development initiatives, there is a desire to more firmly embed specific skills and behaviors in the culture, along with working on an individual’s specific needs for his or her particular job. Coaching is one of the best tools for this outcome.
  • Individuals are experiencing career transition. Caring organizations offer outplacement/ career coaching to speed the job search of individuals who leave their employment due to mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, and so on.

Adults learn by doing. Coaching is not theoretical. Action learning is a key component of behavior transformation and skill development.

The coaching process usually involves the use of assessments and data gathering (peer/direct report interviews) that form the foundation of the coaching initiative. In most cases, the coaching recipient’s manager plays a role in ensuring that the goals of the initiative are clear and understood by all parties. While specifics of discussions may be kept confidential, progress (or lack of it) is usually reported during the three-, six-, nine-, or twelve-month process. It is important for the individual’s manager to recognize and praise new behavior and skills when they are displayed.

When improved performance and increased productivity are the desired outcomes, you might need a coach. When new tools are needed to deal with new situations, marketplaces, staff configurations, or simply a new job, you might need a coach. If personal issues, interpersonal issues, team management issues, or personal performance issues are getting in the way, you might need a coach.

Coaching is a benefit to the individual and to the organization. Today, it is much better to develop known talent than to gamble on completely new hires, especially at mid-level and higher ranks. If any of these scenarios touched a nerve, you or your organization might need a coach!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Pitching the Need for Talent Development: Don’t Be Afraid to Swim in the Shark Tank

August 9th, 2014 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Development, Talent Management

Training employees is the right thing to do. You know it, and you’ve experienced it. You’ve seen the results when a person challenged with managing his team becomes effective simply by learning new techniques and skills. You’ve seen individual contributors become influential leaders in guiding their department’s growth. You also know that the intangible results are just as important: employee morale increases and overall job satisfaction is stronger, all benefiting the organization’s culture. By leveraging each team member’s potential, you realize the impact on the organization’s bottom line.

So why isn’t your organization investing?  Are your executives experiencing such tremendous growth that they’re focused on operational strategy only? Has growth occurred regardless of employee development, so that executives are not convinced they need to invest? Where do you go from here?

It’s time to build the case for talent development. It’s like you’re suddenly on the reality show Shark Tank! You must develop a pitch that sells your executives to want to invest. A daunting task maybe . . . but it is doable if you want this win!

At the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2014 annual conference, presenter Jennifer McClure offered advice on making the case for leader development. She outlined the following key steps, which you’ll no doubt find helpful as you enter your own Shark Tank:

  1. Develop an Executive Summary—This is the cornerstone of your report; it may be the only part your executives review. Create the three-to-five-minute sales pitch. Get their attention. Use percentages, dollars, and metrics to sell them.
  2. Define the Problem—Prove how your organization’s bottom line is directly impacted by the lack of talent development.
  3. Provide Analysis—Consider statistics on employee engagement, retention, and profitability. Show the associated costs for lack of engagement, loss of productivity, absenteeism, recruitment, and ultimately loss of profits.
  4. Propose Solutions—Propose a minimum of three recommendations and include investment amounts. Your solution may consist of one concept providing three options with decreased levels of investment, or it may consist of three completely different concepts. Your goal is to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Be prepared to negotiate, and know what you are willing to give up. Enter the pitch knowing what your minimum requirements are (the non-negotiables).
  5. Make Recommendations—The executives will expect you to be the expert in this conversation. You must be prepared to offer knowledge (“based on my experience . . . ) and be prepared to make a decision.
  6. Define Success Metrics—What will you track, how often will you track it, and when will you report on these measures?
  7. Develop an Implementation Plan—What resources will you need? Who are your key stakeholders? What is your timing? What measurement processes need to be implemented? Outline your next steps so you are off and running when you get approval!

Your own version of Shark Tank may be scary, but if you formulate your pitch properly you will succeed in selling your executives on the critical need to develop talent. The investment may appear daunting, but the return is limitless!

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability, execution, and results.

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Hiring Slowly vs. Quickly: The Right Approach Adds to the Bottom Line

August 1st, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

As employers, we’re in a tough competition for talent, yet on too many occasions the new hire is gone in the first week, month, or year. In each of these scenarios our bad hire results in lost money—dollars we might as well have just set on fire.

What dooms hiring? In many cases we hire quickly and make one of four mistakes.

  1. Fishing in the wrong talent pool. It’s important to focus on the pool with the right fish; when we confuse quantity with quality we pay the price. More small pools (such as professional organizations, churches, and past colleagues of some of your best hires) with mostly “just the right fish” are better than one big talent pool (job boards) with the “wrong fish.”
  2. Forgetting that the right job seekers are in demand and failing to communicate before the interview, during the interview process, and after the offer is made. A recent ADP Research Institute survey of both job seekers age 18 to 65, and recruiters in companies with 1,000 or more employees, shows that 73 percent of today’s “consumer-styled job seekers” would like at least weekly communication throughout the application process. After the interview, be sure to communicate next steps. It’s an opportunity to further bond the new hire to the organization.
  3. Letting untrained, unprepared, and unexcited managers conduct interviews. Job seekers compare the quality of one interview experience to another. The younger the job applicant, the less patient he or she is with late-starting interviews, unprepared hiring managers, and other inconveniences. Young applicants will tweet and text their bad experiences to all 500-plus of their social media friends (i.e., other potential hires for your organization), letting them know that you are not an employer of choice.
  4. Using an old or incomplete job description in the interview (or none at all). Job applicants want to be successful, so they want to know the job requirements that they will be asked to fulfill. Are your organization’s values or core competencies part of the job description? If not, then you will continue to hire for hard skills and fire for lack of the right soft skills.

Put more thought and effort into the hiring process. Starting today, decide to hire slowly. This means:

  1. Holding out for the right hire. Determine your best sources for your best candidates. Often your best source is your current “star” performers. Offer a referral bonus and educate your employees about the requirements of open positions.
  2. Building a pipeline of future hires. If healthcare, accounting, and technology organizations send their coolest, most enthusiastic employees to give high school freshmen and sophomore students a “preview” of their future careers, why isn’t your industry or organization doing the same thing? Not all careers require a college degree, but often they require specific classes, a driver’s license, and a clean driving record. Students who know the requirements are more likely to make sure that they meet the qualifications.
  3. Communicating with candidates and new hires using appropriate technology. Build your relationship with job seekers by asking them for their preference: tweets, texts, emails, or phone calls.
  4. Training your managers and anyone else involved in the hiring process. Multiple studies say that the use of behavioral interview questions (“Tell me about a time when you . . . ; what was the situation, what did you do, and what was the outcome?”) provide a better insight into how job candidates will react or perform on the job than vague questions such as, “Are you comfortable working with difficult customers?” or, “How would you handle this issue?” Find out what applicants have done in the past, not what they think you want them to say.
  5. Updating job descriptions annually and including needed competencies or values. Everyone’s responsibilities are evolving, so ask employees to update their job descriptions as part of the annual performance review. Ask the manager to review the updated descriptions and send them to HR. Departments with many employees in the same role can work together as a group and develop a single job description during an hour’s meeting.

Remember that hiring the right person is an “addition” to the bottom line; hiring the wrong person is a “subtraction” from the bottom line. By preparing prior to starting the hiring process, you’ll increase the quality—and quantity—of correct hires. And the correct hires will be more likely to stay!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Leverage Emotional Intelligence to Create Headspace for Leadership!

July 25th, 2014 by Andrea Moore in Talent Development, Talent Management

In conference rooms around the world, leaders are attending meetings, bringing with them the emotions of the day’s events.

Here is a common scenario: as project team members wait for their leader to arrive to a meeting, they share office antics and talk about upcoming vacation plans; the mood is light and jovial. Suddenly the team leader enters the room in a fury, obviously upset. Her behavior is manic and disruptive, and as she rummages through her papers she announces, “We have to hurry as I have a hard stop in 45 minutes; let’s go.”

Given her tension, however, it does not seem helpful to jump right into the content; this leader is obviously stuck on something, and unless the tension is loosened the meeting will not be productive. A perceptive team member (sitting next to the leader) leans into her and says with compassion, “It’s been a tough day, huh?” The frustrated leader takes a deep breath and affirms that it has indeed. She then describes her previous meeting and divulges what upset her; as she talks her tension lifts, and within a few minutes her mood shifts. The team then naturally makes its way back to the purpose of the meeting and accomplishes its goals.

In this scenario, the emotionally intelligent team member helped to shift the negative emotion, but this is something the leader could have done as well. In the book Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, the authors write that “great leadership works through emotions.” The key is to focus on two critical actions: notice and acknowledge.

Noticing (i.e., paying attention) and acknowledging are critical for this reason: by being aware of what you’re feeling, you’re in a position to shift that feeling. Because leaders often shirk responsibility of their feelings and focus externally (“he made me mad”), they often miss out on the opportunities that noticing and acknowledging allow for.

The authors of Primal Leadership refer to this as “emotional hijacking.” As they note, “Negative emotions—anger, anxiety, or a sense of futility—powerfully disrupt work, hijacking our attention from the task at hand.” When you’re stuck in the muck of what is, you lack the headspace to choose leadership. The negative emotions zap the thinking brain’s capacity to focus on the task at hand and those around us.

Noticing and acknowledging your feelings takes discipline and intentionality—it means taking responsibility for your own state of mind. In the awareness of your emotions, you can manage them. The next time negative emotions arise within you, take a deep breath and practice noticing without reacting—notice the tendency to get hooked and blame the feeling on an external source, which breeds further negativity. You will find that just by noticing and acknowledging the negativity you’ll have more headspace for positive thought and action.

Andrea Moore is senior consulting manager at FlashPoint. She focuses on leadership development, training and performance improvement solutions, and one-on-one coaching.

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