The Difficult Employee Dilemma

The first step toward solving this simple and painful problem is coming to the realization that it is a false dilemma. The decision should not boil down to keeping or firing a difficult employee. In fact, the manager should avoid engaging in this line of thinking in the first place. The real question a manager needs to ask is "Have I done everything I can to help the difficult employee?" Based on my work with leaders in all types of organizations and at all levels, the answer to that question is usually a resounding "no." Patrick Lencioni writes. Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek


In-the-Box Development has teamed up with MuRF Systems, Inc to offer a number of products and services to asssit organizations in hiring and training the right people.

The Buddy2Boss training and development system is perfect for manufacturing, hospitals, banks, mortgage companies, school districts, insurance companies, high tech industries and any other industry that has human resources that must be motivated, supervised, evaluated or led.

The curriculum includes the following major divisions and related subjects:

Relating to Others
Generational Differences
Employee Motivation

Managing Your Time
Personal Goal Setting
Group Decision Making
Time Management

Thinking Clearly
Problem Solving
Ethics and Values
Conflict Resolution

Building the Team
Corrective Counseling
Building Effective Teams

This training program is designed for present and future supervisors is designed for present and future supervisors and managers. It is focused on the responsibilities within the organizaion and how to balance one's personal life with the organizational demands.

For more information contact Danny Smith at 512-773-6528 or

Business Strategy 101

Tim Berry, in his blog Planning Start-Up Stories started off a recent post with a Bill Cosby quote - “I don’t know the secret to success; but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.” Tim then added one of his own - "Amen to that. In fact, you can package that up and call it small business strategy 101."

'nuff said.

Practice Accountability

For others to trust us, we have to allow them to hold us accountable. Trusting without accountability is hope. Some though, don't take well to being held accountable and will say things like "all that I've done and you question me?" This type of questioning at all shows a couple of things;

Verifying, hold someone accountable is smart trust. Not practicing smart trust will get bad results because agendas change and when agendas change, behaviors change. When behaviors change, results change.

Be agreeable to either accountability or questionable behavior and bad results.

To that end....practice accountability.

Hope Is Not A Good Business Strategy

Success is more likely to happend if the desired results are defined, a plan is layed out, evaluation and correction is done and we work hard at staying in that box. Or redefine the all the above.

We get outside that box when we try to shoot from the hip, or...when we attempt to circumvent the plan.

We want things to go well, people to get along, and just get the job done. Or...that's they way the Type A, Dominant personally, boss wants it. Right?
Yet....we have to do the basics of defining the box we have to work in. We have to write the policies and procedures, explain to all involved what we want to happen. People must be held accountable to their actions but they can't be held accountable to "things" we haven't explained very well..if at all.

Peter Drucker wrote, way back in 1967, that "a good manager has to manage by walking around, and he has to repeat his desires over and over again. And if he doesn't keep repeating himself people will not believe he is serious."
I've been told there is a book titled "Hope is Not a Strategy." The book is probably about managers lead (or not) by hoping someone will adhere to a policy or procedure that hasn't been written. There's very likely a chapter on those that think something really needs to get done but doesn't take time to tell anyone else and instead hopes it happens.

I bet there's even a chapter on two people working on a procedure together, implementing that procedure, and hoping it is correct....even though other people in authority over the procedures actions haven't been consulted.

To that end....define your box.


"What If You Train Your Employees and They Leave? What If You Don't?"

a Zig Ziglar quote

You spend money on systems, new equipment, marketing, compliance, accounting, more new systems and hire more people. Yet, do you train your people?

Statistics continue to prove that the more training a company provides, the more productivity, the more trust, and the better overall results. Companies that have training programs rank over 70% higher in local and national best places to work surveys.

RP2 Development provides classroom, online training and collaborative focus groups. Course titles include:
  • Trust Matters
  • Personalities at Work
  • Communications
  • Setting Goals
  • Priority Management
  • Employee Motivation
  • Generational Differences
  • Problem Solving
  • Ethics and Values
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Corrective Counseling
  • Building Effective Teams
  • Coaching Managers to Coach
  • Prospect-2-Profit
Companies can choose a combination of online and classroom settings. The classroom settings are 2-7 hours in length while the online training classes are 6 hours. An online class can be taken in multiple settings.

To learn more about these classes, contact Danny Smith at 512-773-6528 or

Don't Give Cash Bonus While Loosing Money (including Start-Ups)

I got a call yesterday asking advice on giving bonuses; when, how much, etc. That call, and prior problems for me in that area, led me to an article by Michael Fertik. The following are highlights (in italics)  of that article: (my comments are not italics)

Bonuses, particularly performance bonuses, negotiated up-front, are standard and reasonable fare in established businesses. Some smart people think they're a good idea in start-ups, too. The basic argument is the same for start-ups as it is for other companies: incentives focus and motivate managers and individual contributors alike; tying compensation to goals stimulates performance.  I'm all for profit-sharing, but only when there's a handsome-enough profit to share. Until your company is generating a bonanza, you shouldn't consider doing anything other than reinvesting the cream in your growth. And I think cash bonuses are a particularly bad idea when your start-up is losing money.

 The chief economic reason your team should be at the start-up is the long-term upside, the equity, the Shangri-La over the mountain. Rewarding people with cash payouts dilutes the mission.  Connecting individual performance to that stock value — with initial and even additional "bonus" grants, for example — is a terrific motivator consistent with your message. Cash bonuses do nothing for esprit de corps. An emphasis on equity, by contrast, reinforces the understanding that we are all in this together, that our successes and failures have mutually felt impact.

I am especially opposed to cash bonuses for senior management in loss-making start-ups. Even among top, high-integrity professionals, upcoming cash bonuses become short-term focuses for executives and their families. They come to plan on the anticipated income. They tend to work hard toward their individual measured objectives so that can get the cash. Drucker-style management by objectives — what economists would call a "non-cooperative game" — works reasonably well in large corporations.

But giving incentives for self-interested behavior kills small companies. You need your executives to benefit from a "cooperative game" that focuses them both on themselves and on the good of their tribe. Individual executive performance cash bonuses directly undermine this cooperation objective.

While periodic performance cash bonuses can be bad in start-ups, other forms of bonuses can be useful. These include:

Sales commissions. Sales teams should always be motivated by performance; most of the best salespeople are highly focused on quarterly commission checks. (You have to be careful to not over-pay on commissions. Commissions need to be relevant to other aspects of your sales strategy. For instance; are your commissions the driving "competitive advantage" for attracking your sales force, or do you have othe "competitive advantages" that will allow you to pay less commissions.)

Spot bonuses for killer team members who have excelled at their jobs or overcome huge hurdles. These should generally be small, on the order of $1,000 to $3,000. (Be very careful that you have defined "killer team members." Too often, the killer team member is not a team player and his/her behavior is draining other resourses. Behavioral patterns in these type people, and the people the managers/owners that think so much of them, are too emotional in nature.)

Mini "gifts" for team members who have worked especially long hours. Think of an Amazon gift card of $50 to $100 to send the message that their efforts are appreciated.

Goal-related bonuses for engineering only. (I believe this goes for sales types also, but the goal has to cause them to stretch to achieve....don't pay bonuses for business you are going to get anyway.)

Referral bonuses for good hires. Excellent people are always hard to find, but hiring is especially difficult during tough economies for loss-making start-ups, because candidates are more averse to risk than usual. Offer your employees bounties for bringing in great additional hires. It's a huge savings over recruiter fees.

To that end.....

Right Job, Right Fit

No matter what side of the hiring desk you are setting on, job-fit matters. If you are the job seeker, I understand you need the money and will sometimes take what job you have to take in order to bring in the bacon! And sometimes, the employer just needs a warm body.

But don't kid yourselves. Be upfront to yourself, and preferably to the other person(s), about why you are taking the job or person.

The more you lie to yourself, the more you'll distrust yourself. The more you distrust yourself, the more you'll distrust others. The more you distrust others, the less effective you'll be in everything you do. And the ball keeps rolling downhill.

The right job? The right fit? Seek out answers to who you are and what you are meant to be.

If you are in a job you aren't right for, and there are ways to determine such......DO A GOOD JOB WHILE YOU ARE TAKING MONEY FOR IT. And please, don't complain. Just do the job, and search.

Proverbs tells us the glory of kings is to search the matter out. Most of us have severe blind spots about ourselves and our situations. Search the matter you are in out. Ask questions about others. Learn who you are and what you are meant to be. I'll give you a free online personality assessment; email me at No charge, no strings. I just want to help you know who you are. After using over 3000 assessments in the past 15 years, I've found these to be a very effective tool.

To that end.....

How'd This Thing Know That About Me?

Here are some comments from folks this week after reading their ABC personality assessment:

Whoa! How that know that about me.

Thanks, this pointed some things out to me that I really had not consiously thought about....and they are true.

I gave this to my wife to read to see if she agreed with it, and I was surprised that she did. I was surprised because I didn't agree with all of it. I guess I need to pay attention to some things.

Gulp. Are you kidding me! This test can tell all this about me from those questions? If nailed me.

I'm curious. If your assessment can tell this about me, does that mean others can see through me also. Maybe this is why I'm struggling so much.

We used something like this in our marriage small group and it has been wonderful to help us know each other...after all these years!

If you'd like a free online personality assessment, email me at


Hiring and Developing Employees

This is a great video put out by the Small Business Administration on the importance of hiring well. Though it does leave out the details, they do stress the importance of hiring well and geting rid of the wrong people quickly.

Good interviews with real people running real businesses.


Social Media Sites for Teachers

The following is post from a site I follow (SmartBrief).

Great stuff on how teachers are embracing social media, instead of complaining about it.

Remember, we live in a culture, not a vacuum.
Howard Hendricks


7 social-media sites for teachers

Mashable is recommending seven free social-media tools for teachers, including EDU 2.0, which is similar to Blackboard and Moodle, and an organizational tool called SymbalooEDU that allows teachers to store their work and share it with others. Two recommended blogging sites are Edublogs, which allows students and teachers to create blogs, and Kidblog, which is a simple platform that is good for younger users. Mashable (10/16)

Teachers can search National Archives using online tool

A new online tool called DocsTeach recently was launched by the National Archives and provides a resource for teachers to search more than 3,000 primary-source documents. The site also includes seven tools for teachers, including one that customizes history activities to individual classroom needs. School Library Journal/Never Ending Search blog (10/18) , eSchool News (free registration) (10/18)

Other News

How educators are using social media to communicate with college students

eCampus News (free registration) (10/15)

Again, great stuff.
To that end...............

Empowering the Workforce, or Not?

Empowering the workforce is essential for a number of reasons, including 1. continuous improvement and 2. achieving good results in times of a crisis.

A company's email going down is a crisis in today's culture. It staying down for hours and hours is a major crisis. If the company depends upon email for transfer if "lots" of information (pages and pages of attachements), and the email is down for 2 days, the crisis is of huge proportions........IF, the people doing the work are not empowered.

If people are empowered, the crisis is minimized, they will work through such a problem (the crisis) and find ways to achieve good results. 

How do you know if people are not empowered? You'll hear and observe certain things during a crisis. Such as;
  • Let me go ask if we can do that
  • We don't like faxes, we want it emailed (remember, email is down)
  • I know there is an upload available though the internet but we don't want to use it
  • Some people seem happy that the crisis is happening (they think, management just thinks they have things under control!!)
  • Apathy
  • This is the way we've always done it, can you overnight the documents?
  • After being shown a work-around they say something like -  you are the only ones that knows how to do it and we want everyone to be treated the same, so no....we can't do it again even though we are still having problems
  • Let me go ask if we can do that
Dennis Bakke, in his book Joy at Work, tells how a seperate manager should take over during a crisis period. This manager, and all locations and job functions had someone such as this identified, would take over, get things out of the crisis mode and go back to his/her normal job.

Regardless of whether or not we have a crisis manager, as leaders and followers we must lead and follow courageously. To be courageous the team, the workers, must be empowered to do their very best job.

To that end....

The Hidden Soft Costs of a Hiring Mistake

Hiring the wrong person, or having the right person in the wrong seat, is costly to the company and all individuals involved. Jim Collins, in his bestseller Good-to-Great, had more to say about this subject than any other single factor.

Here are some of his points -
  • Get the wrong people gone
  • Hire the right people
  • Determine the right seat for the right people
  • First who, then what
  • Make good decisions at all time concerning people
  • Compensation is not about getting the right behaviors
  • Compensation is about getting the right people
  • The right people are your most important asset
Hiring the wrong person is costly in many ways and trying to keep the wrong person increases those costs. Here are some "soft" costs you might not easily track:
  • Lost productivity - not only from the wrong person but also from those training and/or correcting the mistake. A wrong hire also causes a lack of productivity from others due to the associated problems involved
  • Lost business opportunities - the wrong person causes problems that permeates up and around and can cause a lack of focus in developing new business
  • Increased workload on others as adjustements are made for the wrong person and/or replacement
  • Lower company morale - the wrong person can affect the moral of an entire staff. Gossip and insecurity among co-workers can develop, which is a major cause of job dissatisfaction
  • Poor customer service
  • Increase Emotional Stress for Managers
Very few managers, including HR types, are properly trained in hiring the right person for the right position. My personal experience is that few managers are not doing much more than filling seats, training the best they can, and terminating when they have to.

Did you catch and understand the "first who, then wha" from Mr. Collins? Hiring the right person, putting them in the right seat, and getting rid of the wrong people are vitally important to your business.....I don't care who you are!

To that end....

Danny Smith
In-the-Box Development

Key Sales People Are Those Actually Performing The Service (or is that Key "Marketing")

I'm off-site most of this week and thought I'd re-post some things that are relevant to my path; sales, the importance of sales and who should be selling; hint everyone should be "marketing."

Originally posted 30 July, 2010, but with some changes -

The key salespeople in a professional services environment are those who actually perform the services; they are the key that completes the sales force. And the sales force, and everyone else that touches in of the prospect or clients "senses" but be engaged in marketing at-all-times.

I've spent most of my career in the mortgage industry and have had an active hands-on roll in all aspects except payment servicing. Some people say I'm a good sales-person, yet I've failed the most at being a loan officer. Or, I should say, I've failed the most at the traditional sales side of being a loan officer. The marketing side, now that's where I've done well.

As long as I'm thinking about marketing and I've got an active audience, I've done well. Whether delivering the goods as a loan officer or processor with borrowers, or with underwriters or closers or title companies, I've had great results. Talking to the back shops with investors, or with warehouse lines....done well.

Give me a product and connect me with the person I need to deliver it to...that's my sweet spot. Or put me in a room of people, or one-on-one, to train or coach and I'll develop a relationship and get results through that format; that's good marketing. But don't send me out on the streets or put me on the phone to "just sell." Almost guaranteed failure.

But, all those years I wasn't "out selling" I still thought of myself as a salesperson. When I had someone on the phone or face-to-face, I was still selling. Whether we call it marketing or selling, every time we talk to someone and hopefully it is with good results in relationship to the product or service our company is attempting to deliver through us. We might pose it as communicating or discussing or some other aspect, but generally we are marketing and selling.

Mortgage lending's traditional sales people are loan officers and a good loan officer gets the loans in the door. But then, what happens? Most don't even know that the sales process must continue. The loan officer has to "sell" to get the loan application in most cases, and the processor, underwriter, closer, and funder MUST continue what the LO started.

Most companies have a tremendous amount of assets sitting in their box, but many of those assets don't even know they should be marketing and selling.

To that end.....

A Vision of Students Today

Talent Analytics

Companies that consistently make a difference and make a profit measure a lot of data and information, but how about their workforce? How do you measure your talent.

Click here and under the "Name" column, select #214 Talent Analytics and listen to the HBR Podcast and what Tom Davenport has to say about this very important topic. Tom is a professor at  Babson College and coauthor of the Havard Business Review article "Competing on Talent Analytics."

Sales Case Study: What does sales have to do with Interpersonal Communication Confidence?

One reason we engage in interpersonal communication is to gain knowledge about another individual. One communication theory says that we attempt to gain information about others so that we can interact with them more effectively. We can better predict how others will think, feel, and act if we know who they are. We gain this information in three ways: passively, by observing them; actively, by having others engage them; or interactively, by engaging them ourselves.

Darren responded in ways that suggest that he is less satisfied with his interpersonal communication skills than he would like to be. He would benefit greatly from some training in the area of interpersonal communication.

Darren should focus on improving his skills in the specific situations that make him uneasy. Excessive anxiety concerning interpersonal communication situations can hinder effective marketing and sales performance.

Sales and SMARTS: Quick Facts

SMARTS [ Sales Marketing and Representative Trait Survey ]

Quick Facts

  • Based on research of personal characteristics of top performing sales representatives in multiple industries.
  • Identifies characteristics important to success in both marketing and sales.
  • Gives developmental suggestions for improving the skill level of individuals in sales roles.
To learn more about SMARTS and the Mortgage LO SMARTS study now in progress, contact or 512-773-6528.

Want to Get It Done? Hire a Camera Crew...

I received an email from Fred Rogers at AudioTech a few weeks ago challenging me to set better goals and get involved in the 100 Day Challenge. Now, I'm not all out promoting this company, nor its site, and I haven't bitten on the challenge (yet?), but he did get my attention.

Fred led off his email with

What would happen if I were to follow you with a camera crew 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the next 100 days while you went for your your goals? I bet 3 things would happen....

1. You would START doing the things you say you need to do.

2. You would STOP doing hte things you know you shouldn't be doing.

3. You would MAKE monumental performance gains and change your life.

Then, Fred said......this is all possible through the discipline of accountability.

Again, I haven't signed up for the 100 Day Challenge, but that word "accountability" carries a lot of force behind its use. Many authors (God, Aristotle, Covey, Peters, Drucker, Augustine....) have written about what happens when it is enforced, or not. John Miller (Twitter @QBQGUY) writes extensively in his book QBQ about personal accountability and says "you don't blame anyone, including yourself." Now that brings accountability to a whole new level (read the book!).

So, back to the camera. If a camera were following me around today, what would I Start and Stop doing? Is Cathy (my wife) going to see the film? Assessments note that I'm a poor time manager, so I bet I'd get some things done.

....better go to work. Cathy's downstairs moving around and I bet she thinks I'm working.

Gulp. Maybe I'll make some monumental performance gains in my life today.

Lord help me!

Everyone else....have a Great Day and remember, you're being watched!

Update: Mortgage Loan Officer Study

The study to determine predictable behavioral patterns in successful loan officers has taken a couple of unexpected turns. As with any turn, you slow down and pay attention a bit better. In particular, many people have thought the study would be more about best practices in successful loan officers than behavioral patterns.

Best practices are very very important and certain best practices transcend all organizations and markets while other practices are dependent upon the types of business and the people involved.

That's where this study comes in; the people involved. This study is about the people FIRST. The past two weeks has been an education for me as I've talked to a number of readers who have called and emailed about the study and its purpose. This was a blind spot for me because I have been using assessments and job-fit patterns for years and had not considered how this was not something on everyone's mind as it was with me.

We've started running the assessments on selected loan officers and we are continuing to talk to others. The selection process is dependent upon an LO's number of years in business, overall success, and relative fundings. The selection process does not mandate that we have only high volume loan officers in the control group. We fully expect to find some loan officers that produce a fraction of the loans as their counterparts, but yet have many of the same behavioral characteristics. The study will also include long time career loan officers that produce very few loans. All of this together helps us determine the proper patterns and how these results assist in the right job-fit and training recommendations.

As to the best practices, because of the wide-spread interest this could be another project we pick up though there are other companies already engaged in such.

Thanks to those who have expressed interest in the project and the results. Though the behaivoral science guys are the experts and bring the information together, I can see some common traits in the assessment reports we've run so far. It is going to be exciting to see where this information leads us.

To that end....

Fixing the Right Stuff

When I have a problem around my house, let's say it's a light not coming on, then I have to determine the cause of the problem. The problem is "I need light." The problem could be a number of things; bad switch, bad fixture, light bulb burned out, wire loose, breaker thrown, rat chewed through wire (he'd be dead and decaying/smelling).

Typically I would first check the light bulb and then work through the other options until I needed to call someone with more expertise; light bulb, breaker, plug another lamp into socket, dial electrician.

When we have a problem with people, how do we fix that problem? we know we have a people problem? Or do we start fixing other problems first?

Most of us don't really want to fix the people problems or even consider they can be fixed. But they can be. Every one of us are individuals and we are each different in many ways, but we are also very much alike and can be grouped into certain categories. There are common behaviors that lead to common results.

The trick is knowing how to get to the right stuff. Trial and error, notable patterns, other's prior experience...., advice from someone with experience and not opinions. That's it; all the above.

Seek advice, seek clarity, seek experience, see change; be purposeful.

SMARTS: What is it?

SMARTS is the acronym for Sales Marketing and Representative Trait Survey.

In-the-Box Development and Danny Smith have teamed up with MuRF Systems to develop a SMARTS assessment specifically for Mortgage Loan Officers; Mortgage LO SMARTS.

Based on solid research of top performing sales and marketing executives, the SMARTS uncovers the strengths and potential weaknesses of sales and marketing executives on either a pre-hire or developmental basis. The Mortgage LO SMARTS will be a variation to the SMARTS created from a study of characteristics that make mortgage loan officers succeed. Using benchmarks presently being set through a nationwide study, the Mortgage LO SMARTS will determine the likelihood of low, average, or high success in mortgage loan originations.

To learn more about SMARTS assessment, contact or  512-773-6528.

You Can't Fix Stupid

There's an old saying that you can't fix stupid. It's stupid, and lazy, and unprofessional, to reply to an email message on a totally different subject and not change the subject matter. It's also stupid to reply all to an email and not insure all the original recipients should see the email you are sending.

If you were really trying to make a point and even throw your weight around, then the recipients are probably talking about how stupid you are instead of the real point of the email. You at least watered down your message. These type of people are just plain disrespectful and obviously don't think through things very well, which ends up diverting everyone from the intended message you were trying to get across to begin with.

Heck, I'm so stupid that I try to figure out what the message had to do with the subject and then WOW! I notice a recipient that had nothing to do with the message content!! much less should not have been included!
We all make mistakes, but seriously, some things go beyond simple mistakes - just stop the stupidity and disrespect.

But, maybe you can fix stupid. You have to be willing to change. If you want to and if you see how stupid this makes you look AND if you care. But if you're too stupid to think you don't need to change, then stupid won't get fixed.

To that end.....

Self Esteem: What Does It Have To Do With Sales?

The following is an exert from an actual SMARTS Report on a successful career loan officer -


"Based on their daily experiences, most people's feelings and thoughts about themselves fluctuate somewhat. The number of sales that a person makes, how his or her friends treat him or her, and the ups and downs in a romantic relationship can have a temporary impact on a person's sense of well-being.

Healthy self-esteem is based on a person's ability to assess himself or herself accurately (know himself or herself) and still to be able to accept and to value himself or herself unconditionally. This means that people must be able to acknowledge their strengths and limitations realistically (which is part of being human) and, at the same time, to accept themselves without conditions or reservations as being worthy and worthwhile. People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how they feel about themselves. They need frequent, positive external experiences in order to counteract the negative feelings, experiences, and thoughts that seem to plague them constantly. The top 20% of sales and marketing personnel appear to have very strong self-esteem and tend to depend upon their own sense of self-worth rather than on external sources.

According to the results of this section of the SMART Survey, Darren has a very high self-esteem. He recognizes his inner value, and it shows in his personal life, relationships, and career success. He feels adequate in most situations and confident in his relationships and abilities. His self-image is strong, and he appears to have few doubts about his abilities or relationships. He does not appear to be dependent upon others for his feelings of self-confidence and self-respect.

Darren appears to have a strong self-esteem, which compares favorably to that of the top 20% of those working successfully in the marketing and sales field."

This loan officer has been a producing branch manager the past 9 years and has been in the mortgage business for 17 years. Darren produces 8-12 loans a month in addition to his other branch production.