Tuesday, June 26, 2007


My family was on vacation earlier this month walking along the beach when we found this bale of marijuana washed up at the waters edge along the Texas coast.

This beach is maybe 5 miles from a major US Coast Guard station. We will all hear a great deal about securing our borders in the coming election. Perhaps we should keep our coastline in mind?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wellness Plans For Free

www.fitday.com is a great and free site where employees can track the impact of calories they consume along with what they burn

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Baseball and Talent

Houston Astro's 1st baseman Lance Berkman was ejected from last nights Astro's-Rockies game in the 8 th inning over a called strike out on a pitch he thought was clearly a ball.

Lance Berkman is known as a very cool customer who rarely displays much emotion so to see the meltdown with him throwing helmets and equipment onto the field was a rarity. I skipped the 9Th but learned I missed a bench clearing brawl which followed Carlos Lee being beaned and manager Phil Garner felt compelled to get his own self tossed.

The appeal of baseball to me is that you can enjoy it so many ways over the course of a season and there is drama in it always;
  • Reading the box score to see whose performing (OK)
  • Listening to the game on the radio (good)
  • Watching the game on TV (better)
  • Watching the game live in person when you are working or supposed to be working and someone else is paying for the tickets (best)
  • Second guessing the manager (big fun)
  • Watching young talent develop like Hunter Pence (cool)
  • Second guessing the GM ( we all live for this, right)
Next time your gathering with family and friends and someone starts talking about their job candidly and whats really happening on the job stop and ponder how you would react if that employer was your favorite baseball team.

Lets look at companies from an baseball perspective.

  • Is the company competing for a pennant?
  • Does the team have the talent to compete?
  • Is talent deployed properly?
  • Is the company well managed and well coached?
  • Does the team play with passion or are they just mailing it in?
  • Would fans buy the pay scale as commensurate with performance ?
  • Who is poisoning the clubhouse and whats being done to prevent that?
  • Is the team passionate?
  • Do people leave when they become free agents or do they choose to stay?
  • How is the culture? Really, how is it?
Frankly, I think most Astro's fans were relieved to see a spark from Berkman. It shows he still cares and that's important when your team is 9 games under .500.

HR professionals know the tired sports analogy may be the only way to convey quickly to management the merits of a proposal or the case for change.

Fear Not Vendors

Sixty three years ago today Allied forces landed in France to liberate Europe as operation Overlord began. As I write this US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are without question deployed in harms way. We owe these individual's gratitude and respect for they must manage their own fear to accomplish their job. They faced and still face great danger.

There is a great deal of fear I observe almost daily coming from vendors who are certainly not faced with life threatening danger. As an independent insurance consultant most of the fear I encounter comes from vendor carrier personnel who fear the impact loss of a key account can have on their employment. This fear is very real for many. Shifts to centralized service models by many vendors have stretched many account managers very thin. This has impacted the vendors ability to spend sufficient time with their customers to stay in touch with their employers issues and objectives. The end result of infrequent interaction and common understanding between vendor and customer often leads employers to wonder why they are being ignored. When a problem invariably arises communication is difficult when neither party understands where the other is coming from.

Unfortunately, the culture at some vendors provides legitimate concerns for account managers who know all too well their job is tied to key account retention despite a caseload which affords 60-70 hour weeks just to fight service related fires. It can be a recipe not just for personal unemployment but also for burnout especially when you factor in corporate culture, re-engineering frequency not to mention family obligations--two parents working, single parents, aging family members.

Many vendor service models are predicated on hiring account managers who are fundamentally uncomfortable with conflict. This is a conscious effort to sever a relationship which could be used against the vendor who fears if they were good enough to move the business initially they could do so again to a competitor should they leave. These vendors transition their customers systematically from type A salespeople to support staff. Of course, the sales people are quite adept at communicating and understanding where their prospects are coming from because their income is tied to this skill and they further recognize that conflict presents opportunity masquerading as a problem. Using a DISC variation the sales people are primarily D & I personalities and the service personnel are normally C & S personalities.

In assessing vendors and in addressing service related issues it is often helpful to focus obviously fearful service employees on specific tasks and a time frame for completion. Fear is a palpable and discernible emotion we should all recognize. Understanding where the fear is coming from is essential to properly managing a vendor or even selecting a vendor.

Fear can be a powerful motivator for the soldier attempting to stay alive but can also be usefully harnessed in vendor management when understood and alleviated with a focus on required tasks. At the end of the day fear either works for you or against you and the choice is your own.