Category Archives: Shiloh Kelly

Welcome TO BRAND U

As managers we are all generally concerned with being strong brand ambassadors to the companies we work within. However, have you put the same amount of time and proactive behavior into managing your own personal brand? My bet is the resounding answer from our audience is a big fat “Ugh, nope.”

Your brand is your identity. It is how people identify you and identify with you. Your brand represents a promise or guarantee that others can rely upon whenever you are involved with them or anyone else in the community. It needs to be recognizable, promote a high level of goodwill and differentiate you from others. If done correctly it speaks for you when you are not there. It becomes sought after and referenced by others as a great brand to interact with. It lives on beyond you when you are gone. Now that’s brand equity that will bring immediate and long term benefits.

Without direction or foresight your brand is running rampant out there.  What this means is everyone who comes into contact with you—at any level, at anytime—has already determined what your brand is WITHOUT you even having a say. Your perception of the person you present to those around you is just that—your perception not necessarily theirs.

Now that you are faced with the ugly truth about your infinite brand possibilities floating out there, let’s share the ways you can start building your personal brand and maintain it with the same fortitude that you’ve been working towards being a better manager. Think with your business brain for a moment as you go through these, then use your gut to determine if what you’ve uncovered fits you. Begin creating your Personal Brand with these Six Questions:

  1. What is your purpose? Use this tool to find out the “Why” behind why you are here. (This is presented from a business perspective; just flip it to be about you.)
  2. What are your values? These are the foundation of who you are. This is not a guess, it is a process. This 4 Step Core Value tool should help.
  3. What is your vision of yourself? Basically, think about who you aspire to be and what you want to be known for. Create your personal vision statement.
  4. What are your best qualities? You’ve noticed and/or have been told about your strengths.  Find yours.
  5. What value do you bring? Look at the contribution you bring to others. Start with understanding what you value in yourself.
  6. What do you want to be known for? Your reputation has to start by deciding what exactly you want others to say about you when you are not there.  This is a core asset to your brand.

From these discoveries you now can proactively evaluate and reposition the following elements to make your new branded self shine:

  • Voice: what you say, how you say it to express yourself (friendly, formal, or conversational tone/delivery)—Sing it.
  • Behaviors: match what you do with what upholds the delivery of your brand—Act on it.
  • Image: your appearance to uphold the brand your attempt to present can not be understated—Reflect it.
  • Personality: how you wrap up your feelings, thoughts and actions to exhibit specific traits—Live it.
  • Tagline: establish a single sentence that best embodies your personal brand—Use it.
  • Story: piece together various moments in your life that tell the truth behind your brand—Share it.

As you know with company and product brands, consistency breeds credibility. You want others to believe in your personal brand. You want to be memorable in a good way. As a more than two decade marketing expert, I’ve been fascinated by how brands translate into everything from cultures to self.  I have also noticed during my years of tenure as a manager and leader, the self brand screams for attention and care. I see the lack of awareness and neglect every where. Imagine where our families, our communities, our workspace, our world would be if we all did a brand strategy on ourselves.

So make one last personal pact with me as a fellow better manager groupie, take the items above, schedule them out, record them for posterity and reference—then hit the GO button. Wait you’re not done yet. Make it a habit to do regular pulse checks to confirm you are being authentic to your brand.

A final request—when you “own” your personal brand and are reaping the endless benefits—don’t forget me when I’m gone. Onward and upward!

By Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

WANTED: Franchisee and Franchisor Common Grounds NOT Battle Grounds

   It is rare enough to be an idea generator, and even rarer to be an innovator—one who actually turns those ideas into reality. For those of us who are entrepreneurs, this is the birth of a business concept. Exciting stuff.

Success flows as others want more and more of what you’re providing. You’re out growing yourself rapidly and the demand has warranted expanding into multiple locations. Stupendous.

Your purpose is so wonderfully niche yet appeals to the masses that you’re approached by others who share the same passion. They want to help, and they want a piece of the pie. Let’s franchise away.

A herculean effort now rests on your shoulders. You know it’s death to lose focus on what made you great in the first place. That is your brand. You’ve already proven it’s what the market wants. Now you need the drive of others to make it bigger, better. But with that things change. Others own a part of you, are within the fabric of your brand, are in charge of delivering your vision, and are directly creating your customers’ experiences…. And some are going rogue.

What I heard over and over again at the International Franchise  Association show was the exhausting concern around ensuring the standards that grow brand equity are shared well with the people running each location in a way that empowers them to improve their investment.

Franchisors are guardians of the brand and see franchisees as their number one customer. They support franchisees to fully realize and employ all that the brand stands for. Franchisors have a responsibility to all of their investors (franchisees) to protect the brand by administering standards, which in turn protects their constituents’ investments. If one franchisee does not support the basic standards it lowers the value of their sister franchisees and devalues everyone’s share of the system. The brand is put at risk.

Franchisees made a personal investment—they are owners of the brand not paid help. They bought into their particular franchise concept for a reason. They believe in it and are there to make a living. Franchisees are entrepreneurs through and through, but they also like the foundational and supporting structure the franchise system brings. They know how to run their business as they are on the ground each day doing just that. Thy have their own ideas on what will bring success that may differ from that of corporate headquarters.

Common ground exists for franchisors and franchisees when it comes to their dedication to the brand promise. They also agree that replicable standards are required in order to deliver the consistent quality experience expected by their customers when they interact with any aspect of the brand.  A question from the IFA member crowd was, “How do we make a standard truly a standard? HOW!?!”

Three points came out loud and clear in our group effort to find ways to create more common ground and fewer battlegrounds:

FIRST | Set your standards clearly throughout every turn of your system. (Franchise tool standardization: Franchise Agreements, Operation Manuals, Employee Handbooks, Training Programs, Manager’s Red Books, Internal Communication Channels, Hiring, Back Office Systems, Workforce )

SECONDLY | Communicate and explain the “why” behind the standards. Show and share the value that is gained when adopted and executed effectively.

FINALLY | Develop robust, easy-to-use tools and resources to help execute the standards easily and consistently.

Finding equilibrium in the throes of a franchisor and franchisee relationship is not simple. Yet being a team that is all on the same page, connecting in spirit and action, has the promise of being an American Dream experience like no other. And when you realize that franchising provides 1 in 8 jobs in the United States the pride in making what we do the best it can be… is just one more reason to be that much better.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

Manager Confidence: Off the Charts or Lower than Low?

    Your employees and your customers can smell fear. When you are unsure of your prowess as a manager don’t fool yourself everyone can tell—and they’ll take advantage of it purposefully or just because they can. When you second guess every decision, every action you sabotage the very essence of what it means to be an effective manager.  You’ll find the people you deal with only following your lead when it comes to questioning your direction.

Building confidence doesn’t happen overnight and has to be constantly nurtured to maintain it for the long haul. No matter what your philosophies on management are, you have to agree, exuding confidence is a must. Take note on how to strengthen yours:

  1. Work with integrity. Take the responsibility for the energy you bring.
  2. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Build on your strengths work on your weaknesses.
  3. Determine your own core values. Stand by them so people around you can trust what you stand for.
  4. Don’t second guess yourself. Make a decision, move forward, learn from mistakes, and celebrate wins.
  5. Over prepare to stay ahead of the game. You’re the leader because you are supposed to have the answers. Make sure you do. Research, test, educate, role-play, envision… so on.

Don’t get overconfident. Faking it ‘til you make it will only take you so far. There are situations that will occur over and over again that will test you and rock your confidence to the core. Recovering from these must happen fast for not only your benefit but also anyone else you come in contact with. If you outline the items above and check-in regularly, you will be more likely to bounce back from the basic confidence killers that seem to go hand-in-hand with being a manager.

It always surprises me how willing we are to follow the person who has the most confidence in their direction. Right or wrong. I remember backpacking with a guy who acted like he was the expert navigator. We hit a fork in the path and instead of consulting the map he said with conviction, “We go this way to get to the water fall.” I remember saying,” I could’ve sworn we were supposed to head south,” but given that he was the keeper of the map and due to how he assured me he was correct—we went his way. Well ironically Lost Creek Wilderness stood by its name, and we found ourselves retracing our tracks a good 3 miles back in the pitch dark. I can tell you from one to many experiences that false confidence damages all leadership. Authenticity will always bring you the highest rewards.

That is why taking the time and thought to build your confidence will take you and your team to the next level. And as always, striving to be better than yesterday is just more fun and more fulfilling. So try this one on for size.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20+ years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

Better Managers of the World Spread Thanks

tata starA whirlwind of a year leaves your Better Managers Blog creators in a great place but most of all, hopefully you as well. Thank you for continuing to find value in what we share. Our team works hard to address topics that you inform us are near and dear to your life as a manager. Keep telling us what you need for the coming year; we are listening and eager to do the leg work to find you the answers.

This year we are especially proud because your very own Better Managers Blog received recognition from expert sources for its excellence as a management resource—number one management blog by MBA Online and in the top 50 Best Web Resources for Managers by PHD in Management. This shows all of us that what drives management success in our franchise world is more than applicable for managers everywhere. No surprise here.

At Red Book Solutions, we love to locate, learn and lead in the pursuit of helping make good managers better. Managers never know what is going to come at them, and to deal with those items we must to be able to put on many different hats at a moment’s notice. What we strive each day to provide you are the performance tools and insights that will bring you confidence to tackle anything. Confidence is a state of being certain that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective route. Sounds nice!

Continue to seek more from us. We promise to always rise to any challenge. Get more involved with us. We are here to lend a hand, an ear, a solution that works specifically for you. We love what we do and it shows.

Happy Holidays! Onward and upward.

Your Red Book Solutions Team

Start 2013 off right by getting a jump on being a better manager by following your Better Managers Blog today! Just click the Follow button and you are on your way.


Culture Creation and the Manager

You are the creator of your own culture. As the manager, you set the tone for your business. Yes, your company and your boss play a part, but you are the one all of your employees look to for how to act with each other and with your customers. Your culture is a reflection of you. If you don’t like it, start by actively deciding what you want your culture to be then make sure your actions instill it.

Sadly, most people feel quite the opposite in that they have no effect—they are a victim of their work environment with no real role or real way of changing it. We have a wonderful person in our business named Luis who has decided he wants to work in a place that is positive, supportive, and happy. He makes a point to spread that belief with his infectious actions displayed with a simple fist bump and a friendly “hola” to everyone he passes. You can see the ripples of laughter and smiles spreading the culture he envisions in his wake. He takes ownership around his role in the culture he wants then does something to make it so. For some, like Luis, this comes naturally. For others, taking a moment to focus on one’s culture is a definitive effort.

Every time you touch others you role model the behaviors you expect them to follow. Any bad behavior towards peers, employees or customers is viewed as acceptable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t like the way your employees react to each other, because it is learned behavior direct from the culture you created. Your business has a culture. If you didn’t create it with forethought, then it was done without direction, leading to a free-for-all in interactions, reactions and general actions that you can’t hold anyone truly accountable for but yourself.

It’s never too late to change your culture. Be aware it will take time and dedication to mold it to one everyone can thrive in and be proud of. But first things first, decide what sort of culture you want. Give your vision details you can picture easily, that seem natural and not forced. If you want a specific trait to be in the fabric of your organization but you yourself don’t have it in your nature, then it cannot be part of your culture because you cannot fully live it. Be authentic in your culture’s construct. Don’t claim you want everyone to be innovative if you squash out any ideas but your own.

These questions will help you at least begin sketching out the best culture for you and your people:

  • When you walk into work what do you expect to see?
  • What do your employees and customers look like?
  • How are they talking to one another? Are they smiling…laughing? What is their body language?
  • Is the workplace bright, comfortable, open, clean, efficient?
  • What do you have displayed on your walls; awards, images of staff with customers, values, etc.?

Write down your thoughts, then decide what actions you need to take to make them a reality. Share it with likeminded peers and employees. Make them part of the construction; they’ll be more likely to be your star advocates. If celebration is important to you then create a recognition program. If teamwork is also on your list, combine the two to make a “team” recognition program. Outline it clearly and communicate the program to everyone in every way. Make it part of the fabric of what you do, so it becomes part of who you are as an organization. Explain why you are doing it and the value to the culture. Then do it and stick to it. People see change as just being change until it has become a trusted feature of their environment and a true part of the culture.

Introduce new cultural elements carefully, one at a time, to ensure you can fully drive them to the finish line. Identify trends showing what you put in place is working to promote the culture you want. Survey your employees to see what they think. Then retool, recalibrate, and move forward. Your culture won’t thrive or survive if you do not continuously keep it in your field of vision.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

Manager Puppetry Isn’t Benefiting Anyone

ALERT! CONFLICT AHEAD: Technology fuels company’s ability to micromanage, yet today’s new generation thrives on empowerment.

Everywhere you turn, companies are looking to invest in technology. That’s where the sizzle is. But where are the people, once considered your most valuable asset, in all of this? Oddly enough, companies are reeling in the loaded possibilities of technology while, at the same time, our aging management pool is being replaced with a new breed of managers who cannot thrive under a strong hand. We must then get to the root of why we feel technology is “the” answer to our pains.

Why Technology is Shiny

POINT 1: Information is power. In management, the amount of information we can gather is expansive, almost too much so. Access to information allows companies to direct managers to do exactly what they want done, including schedule tasks out to the minute, leaving no room for error (good or bad). How does this make managers better? Information for the sake of having it makes no sense. What you do with it defines your growth and that aspect lives in the hands of able-minded managers.

POINT 2: Transparency is trending. Another alluring aspect of technology is the transparency it offers into the inner-workings of offsite people and operations. The power to watch every little activity could be too tempting for some. When we become the “overseers” dictating what needs to be done, stick in hand, we quickly lose the whole point of top performing managers. Directionals, course corrections, compliance, guidelines, guardrails and so on are one thing, but “GPSing” managers’ movement in a unit doesn’t benefit the manager.

Now what? What we should be concerned about is where we end up. In my opinion, we are sure to find ourselves with an expanding field of “mindless” managers who are good at doing what they are told but little else. I also see stagnation; a death sentence to any organization. Evolution that comes out of top performing, higher engaged managers will be glaringly absent.

Right or wrong, this new ME generation of managers excels under roundtable inclusive leadership, empowerment and innovation. Extreme technology controls that are only about what corporate wants and not about the manager, strangles their ability to drive their business. Many of these great new systems sure sound and feel like micromanagement, which means we would be remiss we did not take a closer look.

Micromanagement is defined as a management style in which a supervisor closely observes or controls the work of an employee.  According to Kenneth Fracoro, who wrote “The Consequences of Micromanaging”, says the following are the negative effects of micromanaging:

  • When your employees come to realize you are not listening to them, they begin to shut down and stop making suggestions and being straight with you.
  • Employees are no longer willing to make sacrifices, and financiers won’t advance growth capital because they can see that you have kept all the power and responsibility.
  • Micromanagement may lead to disengagement—an employee puts in time but little else, and his apathy affects not only his own productivity but also that of his colleagues.
  • Micromanagement tells an employee that you do not trust their work or judgment.
  • An employee loses interest, resents your role as manager, and does not become proficient at doing their job.
  • An employee becomes confused and angry, leaving the company for greener pastures where they can be appreciated.

Being a puppet feels bad and being a puppet master is exhausting. None of us enjoy being micromanaged. We want empowerment.  Countless studies show that companies that empower their employees and managers have the highest level of profitability and the greatest return on invested capital.

We know we shouldn’t micromanage but this new technology is exciting. If I can see immediately what is not being done, I can quickly intervene and fix the problem.  But I am not allowing them to learn; I am micromanaging.  I am telling them how I would solve the problem instead of asking them to come up with their solution. How presumptive on my part to assume my way is the right way. I am cutting the opportunity for innovation off at the knees.

The Dilemma:

Do I utilize information technology to give me more visibility into what my managers and employees are doing?


Do I provide them great tools to help them manage better, but at the same time, continue to give them autonomy?

Empowering people and what you can do with today’s technology can definitely be in conflict if we aren’t careful.  Our mistake is believing we have to decide on just one. Instead, we will thrive by integrating both worlds.  The road of micromanagement is clearly a dead end for all parties involved.  When you are looking at some cool new technology, stop and make sure the people it is meant to serve are actually benefiting from it.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

How to Identify or Create Top Performers

  • You can read books and blogs, buy step-by-step guides, or invest in expensive software in hopes of helping to promote ‘top performer’ behaviors.
  • Or you can focus on improving mediocre or average performers through training session after training session.
  • Or you can load up on green energy drinks that claim to be the source of fuel to drive top performers.

As is often the case with important management topics, there are a lot of opinions and options to address making managers and their people the top performers we all so desperately need.  In fact, the list of possible solutions is overwhelming.  While it is clear that certain behaviors contribute to strong performance; organization, goal setting and good communication skills focus on high priority activities. However, there are other attributes that also drive top performance.  It’s not enough to just prepare and practice the behaviors to make an effective presentation if it’s not packaged with the ability to understand and adapt to a changing environment.

In a recent blog, Lynette Ryals and Javier Marcos discuss what new skills are needed to succeed in sales.  Although their research findings are specific to the sales industry, I believe they apply to other arenas as well.  Their article reviews how today’s customers have access to more information about products and services, are looking for items that meet their individual needs, and are unwilling to waste time on salespeople who don’t listen or do little more than walk in and present a piece of literature to a prospect and think they are done with the sales process.

They suggest that to be successful, today’s salespeople need to rethink their role and be prepared to understand and discuss the business climate, appreciate the complexity of the purchaser’s organization and business relationships, work effectively with all the players involved in the decision (both those within their own organization and at the customer site), and be able to see beyond the current opportunity.  Traditional selling skills are highlighted as no longer being included in the key attributes of successful sales people.  It is now more important than ever that people who expect to succeed have a thorough knowledge of their industry (not just their own product), their clients’ issues and priorities and sensitivity to the relationships that affect decision making.

I’m involved in the evaluation of a prospective new service provider at our company, and I appreciate that they have asked questions to better understand our needs, suggested ways we can keep within our time and budget constraints, and been willing to share information about competitive and complementary services.  These people clearly got the message about meeting the expectations of today’s customers.

In their book “Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service by Stephen Lundin and Carr Hagerman, key attributes of success are labeled differently, but share the same philosophy as Ryals and Marcos.  Top performers must have “energy” which they claim is derived from human interaction.  They indicate that a true interaction isn’t rehearsed or routine, but represents open and meaningful communication.  Generating the energy that creates success comes from being able to connect with the “audience” through unique, focused interaction; not through a scripted presentation or grab bag of arguments that may not fit the current situation.  In order to do that, top performers not only have to be masters of their own business, but they should be able to quickly assess and adjust to relate to the audience.

This focus on knowledge, understanding and adaptation serves not only salespeople, but almost all types of business interactions.  How often have you been called in to manage a conflict only to discover that one party ends up by saying, “I didn’t know that?”  In contrast, top performers tend to ask a series of questions about a situation before jumping in and try to understand what happens outside their immediate job or they make an effort to learn.

So why don’t we have more top performers?  Too often, organizations or people are so focused on their own issues that they don’t appreciate alternative views or concerns.  Job descriptions rarely say that it’s important to know the other guy’s job in addition to your own.  It’s time consuming to stay educated on industry trends, competitive forces, or issues effecting your clients or markets.  And there’s often enough to do just staying on top of new initiatives or programs affecting your own job.

Finding a way to engage in activities that expand your knowledge base or connect you with resources to keep you on top of business or industry trends pays off in the long run. You will quickly find yourself more integrated into your own organization or more valued in your interactions with business partners.  If you also provide, encourage or support the education, development or training of your employees, you are ready to build your own team of top performers.

By, Nancy Lane, Human Resource Manager at Red Book Solutions and B2A, LLC – 30 years of experience in education, medical imaging, oil & gas and business services.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

With school starting, education is on my mind. Our days are so full of work, family, friends and some sort of extracurricular activity (hopefully) it’s sometimes disconcerting to think, “How in the world do I continue to advance myself? Where do I fit in?” I ask you—isn’t that the point of life—to become something more than what we started off as? The better we are in general, the better we will be for all those elements we come in contact with.

It is common to be concerned, as a manager or a person, with not letting anyone down. But if we don’t start with ourselves, aren’t we just setting ourselves up for failure and everything we ultimately touch? Think of the last time you flew and the flight attendant, when going over life and limb safety procedures, reminds you to put on your oxygen mask first. Because the simple fact is that if you are incapacitated, you can’t possibly help those around you!

There are steps in your day-to-day life you can put in place to make sure the crucial element to life, meaning YOU, doesn’t get missed. It’s your choice to place the appropriate level of importance on these elements so they are carried out. And this isn’t just about work-life balance, it is about evolving yourself so you can not just survive each day but thrive. We should look at ourselves as works in progress. That way we can progress.

What helps is creating a development plan for yourself. That way you have a structure laid out to follow, and you know what targets you are aiming at so you are more likely to hit them. Use it to set milestones, and refer back as needed. At the end of each year, do a postmortem to assess how well you did and where you are. Then modify your plan for the next year to get yourself that much closer to what you want. You don’t want to dream big then wake up five years from now in the exact same place. By focusing your efforts, you won’t waste your time doing things that do not contribute to where you really want to go in life.

4 Steps to Self Advancement

STEP 1   “In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are.”Arnold H. Glasgow

To begin, a funny question I ask myself and my employees is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Seriously. Forbes recommends taking a moment to draw out a clear picture of what success looks like for you. Don’t let yourself get tangled up in other people’s definition of your success. Make sure to add as many details to the description as possible. The more real it is, the more you’ll be able to visualize yourself in that place, and the pathways will become clearer on how exactly to get there.

Example: I’d like to be the #1 recognized and rewarded manager for my area’s accomplishments in the company. (Define the specifics around this desire)

STEP 2   “Details create the big picture.” Sanford I Weill

Next, write down all of the things that need to happen to make that picture a reality. Once again, details count. There are specific rungs in a ladder that must exist to get you where you want to go. What are yours?

Example: I must run my operation to be a high performer around all the standards that are important to my organization. (Determine the metrics that illustrate better performance)

STEP 3   “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Napolean Hill

Put a timeline to these that you are going to work toward and the actual time you will need to invest to make these a reality. Schedule this out in your daily planner or calendar. Think of yourself in terms of a project. If you were redoing your bathroom at home, you’d want a schedule that illustrated what needed to be done and when from the plumber and electrician to the tile guy. Do the same thing for yourself in your own “remodeling” per see. It’s crazy, but many of us can justify spending our time on something like a bathroom versus our own personal advancement.

Example:  This quarter I’m going to focus my efforts, 1 hr/day, on building and launching a referral program that I will position through social media in order to grow my sales by 4% this month, 8% next month and 22% by end of the year. (Many steps go into this—schedule them out)

Notice that this example track starts with you but reaches out to other important quadrants of your life, such as work.

STEP 4   The final and last step is said best by Nike®, “Just do it.”

I realize this is the part that is always easier said than done. Those who take action will obviously continue to be those who rise to the top. They aren’t just doing what everyone else is doing. They are doing more in Thought, Effort, and Attitude. You may not see it, but trust me they’re doing it. I’m sure you can look back at your life even now and call out that one big accomplishment. It didn’t just happen to you, you made it happen. Go for it! One last quote to get you on your way…

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Jim Rohn

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

Employee Pains Add Up to Big Losses

With high levels of unemployment, you’d think we’d all have the best employees available in place, providing the best business structures we have ever seen. In talking with fellow managers across the country, we are flushed to admit we do not. We seem quick to hire, yet slow to fire. A warm body may seem like the answer but the side effects, like our own raised blood pressure, are just not worth it. As a manager, we need to know what ails our employees so we can manage them to a better place… whether it is with us or not.

Many organizations, franchise and independent alike, feel that employees are the wild card to their success. Their manager’s time is sucked up by the same “problem child” employees over and over again. Your brand’s image is riding on their ability to deliver the right mix of management, such as Team and Communication Management.

To understand the problem, let’s look at the root of what employees complain about. According to HR Solutions Inc’s job satisfaction study of 2.2 million respondents in 2,100 organizations across various industries, there are common trends around employee pains. In my opinion and after deeper research, these can be boiled down into two primary categories:

Bad manager: micro-management, doesn’t challenge me, too much work, is not open or responsive, doesn’t reward me properly, is unclear in duties and/or expectations, gives me a task I’m not qualified for

Bad company: doesn’t hear me, compensates poorly (ex. benefits), doesn’t give me the right tools, has a poor culture, never invests back into the people or our facility, doesn’t care about the same things I do

What it all adds up to is—they don’t feel cared about. They want to know they matter. And that their contribution is recognized and valued.  And, yes, they want to do good work. Really! Happier employees perform better, (period).

Gallup quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion annually in the U.S.

I am not saying that the employee does not hold any accountability for a job poorly done. To help us see those employees more clearly, I’ve put together some warning signs. What I recommend is to put these into an Excel spreadsheet (in fact here is mine—feel free) along with your employees’ names listed along the side and take a different look at your staff to see the brevity of the situation.


  1. Don’t take accountability  these employees are quick to point out the issues without offering a solution (looking closer;, they are generally part of the problem)
  2. Perform poorly  their overall performance is never quite satisfactory or downright dismal (many claim they need help but then never really use it)
  3. Bad attitude  You can’t fix this. Get rid of them fast (they bring down everyone they touch from employees to customers and even affect you)
  4. Misconduct  This can come in many forms and most are spelled out in compliance or company standards (no grey area—includes illegal activities through breaking corporate values)
  5. Absenteeism  When employees are not present in body, or mind, it is a drain on your business (i.e. they are never around or they don’t contribute)

Letting any of these behaviors continue without intervention sends a powerful message to all your good employees, which is “you do not value their positive traits.” Now that your top performers are de-motivated too, the repercussions of not dealing with these issues are enormous. Managers can put in place various tools to attack this problem before it becomes an epidemic. At a minimum, do these three:

Tool: Employee Job Descriptions that clearly outline duties, tasks, and expectations.

Action: Use actively and refer back to regularly with employee.

Tool: Employee Reviews that occur at designated times, as well as happen immediately when an issue arises.

Action: State the issue, the desired fix, disciplinary actions, feedback, progress follow up meetings (on milestones), document.

Tool: Employee Surveys that get a pulse on your people and are completely anonymous, so you get the real feedback. See the one Zappos uses nicknamed “The Five Second Happiness Survey.”

Action: Communicate back the issues you heard and what actions will be taken and when it will be dealt with.

BONUS: Rank your employees as A, B, or C players using a scorecard that is built on metrics you believe are important that they deliver on. When you fill out their scorecard, also have them assess themselves. During their review this tool can lead to great conversation and opportunities to coach.

With all of these employee management tools, documentation is paramount. I cannot put enough emphasis on the absolute need to keep records on workplace incidents that involve employees. Collect and distribute these to the employee and human resources to make sure everyone is on the same page. You’ll also be able to better monitor your overall success in dealing with not only employee pains, but also painful employees.


Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

Conflict – A Hot Topic for Managers

Ironically, conflict is seen by most as a negative word. In fact, the word itself causes a level of anxiety for most. Just yesterday I heard another manager state proudly, “I don’t like conflict.” My first reaction was, “Well who does?”, and quickly realized I was only reacting to her negative tone around the subject, not the content. The fact is, I thrive on healthy conflict; the introduction of new perspectives and differing opinions that push the envelope of your own beliefs. I must admit though, the delivery matters, in my opinion it should be a mutually valuable exchange.

For managers, conflict is just part of the job. It is inherent any time an item needs to be addressed with an employee. Seeing eye-to-eye is atypical. But beware, approaching conflict incorrectly can damage morale, lower productivity, and create hostility. The worst by-product is ill will that may spread rampantly throughout your operation; breaking down your entire culture and organizational health. That is why conflict must be dealt with through actual conflict management.

When handled correctly, conflict brings about opportunities for learning, evolution and growth for everyone. I’m not saying candy coat the issue so it’s easier to swallow. Just make sure you diffuse it naturally by taking the emotion out of it and focusing on the facts. Many take the tact of tearing someone down as they feel it is the only way to make sure they can see that their point is hitting its mark. This isn’t how you will gain an employee’s engagement, nor is falsely building someone up either. As a manager, you are a role model. How you handle conflict sets the stage for how everyone else will interact in similar situations.

So conflict is not so gently knocking at your door. What do you do?

Turning the other cheek—is not even an option. Face it head on.

Time is of the essence—if employees are not meeting expectations, take control of the situation immediately.

Honesty is the best policy—especially when it comes to conflict. Be straightforward.

Pick your battles—even using the term “battle” is incorrect and should be wiped from your vocabulary.  Being inconsistent in your reactions to problems is just plain confusing.

Connect through collaboration—people who are part of the solution become less of the problem. Conflict takes two and so does true resolution.

There is a process you can impart to most anything when it comes to good management practices. For conflict, there are many from which to choose. As a fan of alliteration, I am sharing this one:

Assess the situation
Acknowledge all its parts
Attitude positively set on growth
Action to resolve the issue
Analysis of the whole picture to detour it from happening again

If the mere mention of conflict makes your hair stand on end then work hard to change your mind set. Take a moment to understand whether this is an issue with your ability to deal with conflict and if that fear comes from a lack of skill or psychology. This internal conflict is worth addressing, using the tools above, to gain insight. You’ll be a better manager for it. Weigh in on your best policies for conflict management by tweeting us @BetterManagers #conflict.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts