SHUT UP!  A Lesson I First Learned Caddying


The second directive to the assembled pre-teens at the first Monday caddy school was to “shut up!”  I mistakenly thought our caddymaster Pat Higgins meant that only for when we were on the course with our assigned loop.  I learned (not too painfully because I had three older brothers caddying) that it was even more important in the caddy yard and around the caddy shack. Someone once asked me “if you could give your early professional self two words of advice what would they be?”  My answer without hesitation – “shut up.”

I was told I was a pretty smart kid but early in my career I couldn’t stop trying to show that I was the smartest guy in the room.  It wasn’t usually with my superiors as I guess I viewed them as the “golfers I was caddying for” but it was with my co-workers, fellow caddies if you will. I was 10 years into my professional career and in my second tour of public accounting before a partner in a law firm who our firm shared a client with told me (politely) to shut up again.  I was in mid-sentence of telling him how I was going to present information at a meeting he had called with the four owners of this client when he said “actually you don’t need to be prepared to say anything. If there is a question I believe you should answer I’ll ask you, so just know your material.”  I was really perturbed on the inside but in short order I understood what a blessing it was to hear that “Shut Up” lesson again.

Just a reminder to ask good questions and listen carefully to the responses before being the one with all the answers.  My lesson came from Michael J. Burke, Sr. who at the time was Managing Partner of the Keating Muething & Klekamp Law Firm.  Mike passed away far too soon in December 2001 and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is carrying important lessons they learned from him.

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Lessons I Learned Caddying

“Only three things you need to know to be successful” according to my first boss, “show up, shut up, keep up.” I’m actually not certain if my first caddymaster Pat Higgins said it or if after hearing it during my Evans Scholar days at Miami University I just attributed it to him, but as time went on I learned just how universally true those keys to success were.

A friend shared that he recently had to terminate an employee and it emphasized once again that it all begins with Show Up! A hard to fill position was finally filled with a well qualified professional. During the first two weeks there are some problems with getting to work on time, and not just those nagging few minutes. My friend did the right thing and had a candid discussion about the culture of the organization and how timeliness really matters. Things got a little better for a couple of weeks but as my friend said, “I don’t think he really got it.” Friday morning another late arrival and another meeting where it is made clear that future late arrival could result in termination.

You guessed it – late arrival on Monday. This talented professional is met in the lobby by my friend and the Human Resources Director and thus ends a promising career opportunity. Harsh as it may seem, like my caddymaster said – Show Up, and yes On Time!

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Life Lessons and The Caddie Hall of Fame!

With Thanksgiving over and another year end on the horizon it is natural to reflect on what we learned this year and how we will apply those lessons to perform and perhaps even behave better in the future. I thought you would enjoy some of these life lessons.

Thomas Friedman, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times was also a caddie and says his most valuable life lessons were learned on the golf course over a span of 13 years and hundreds of rounds. At the Chick Evans Centenary Celebration held on June 27, 2016 he was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame. Please click on the link below to read an edited version of his speech focused on life lessons he learned as a caddie.

You will see the article is from the Summer 2016 issue of the Western Golf Association, Evans Scholars Magazine. Please click on the Evans Scholar shield on the right side of the article to learn how you can make more life lessons and Evans Scholarships possible.

I’m also interested in what your enduring life lessons have been and where you learned them so please reply to and let me know.

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People, Go Figure – Part II!

In my last post you read about two horror stories from the candidate perspective. This issue I want to balance it with how candidates, even seasoned professionals, sometimes just don’t get it!

Joe is a seasoned and successful financial professional who my client was interested in adding to his team. A little history – my client was interested in Joe a couple of years ago also and made him an offer which was politely and respectfully declined. This time Joe agrees to sit down and discuss the opportunity again. He meets corporate leadership and agrees there is an excellent match to his career objectives and that he would be interested in receiving an offer. A competitive offer is made, Joe receives it verbally and in written form as well.

Joe’s response – nothing! Really nothing! No counter, no decline. No response to phone calls, emails or text messages. I still can’t believe it. My client won’t be bad mouthing Joe proactively but you can bet that any time his name comes up with any of his professional colleagues there will not be a positive comment. Talk about damaging your own professional reputation, but like I said – People, Go Figure!

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People, Go Figure!

People, Go Figure!

You would think with the market so tight for quality employees that new employers would be more careful. Here are two recent candidate horror stories.

Jay is a young go-getter and former college athlete hired for a new business development role after several rounds of interviewing.  Six weeks later he is referred by a friend and is curious about how bad it might look if he leaves his new employer so soon.  His problem started with – the first day he reported his new boss had the day off and no one seemed to know he was coming.  No big deal, everyone is entitled to a scheduling snafu!  Problem is on Day 2 his new boss was no better prepared with a plan for his onboarding and it hadn’t been any better in the weeks that followed.  Better yet he was getting funny looks from people because he “wasn’t producing.”

John met with me after a full year of bad behavior by his boss.  He was hired for his development potential and well-developed skills with various technologies, despite having had zero experience with the type of financial analysis they would be asking him to do.  Day 1 Monday – really no kidding – his boss briefly outlined the real estate investment proposal they were considering and put him to work on it with a deadline of Wednesday at noon.  John followed old write-ups to produce his analysis but when asking questions for guidance was met with “I’m too busy.”  Wednesday at 12:30 John’s boss invited him to his office and his sole piece of feedback was “this is c**p, get back to work.”  To John’s credit he is a quick study and he had become a darn good real estate analyst in the space of a year but his boss’ manner of coaching and mentoring hadn’t improved at all.  He was only too happy to take my call and meet with me.  I’m happy to report he’s enjoying the beginning of an excellent career with a client of mine!

VACATION – How was it?

In the June 2016 edition of From My Perspective the question was – “are you actually going to take a vacation or will you just be working away from the office?”
So how did you do? 1) Successful at not taking calls from the office? 2) How many work e-mails did you respond to while on vacation? 3) When you didn’t take the call or respond to the email did you feel compelled to respond if they texted? I’m interested in knowing how people are handling the expectation of always being available so please respond if you get the chance.

My scorecard: Excellent overall, 1) ZERO calls to or from my office. 2) Pretty good, only two emails sent. 3) ZERO texts sent about business. We had five full days in the mountains outside of Brevard, NC with really not much to do but slow down and enjoy hiking in the forests surrounding the many waterfalls. I arrived back in the office feeling the vacation needed to be longer (don’t we all) but I did receive the recharge I needed.

So with the summer vacation season behind us perhaps I’m not much better about checking email or text messages each time a new one arrives. I believe I am better at not checking it while with others and maybe this vacation reinforced that every message does not requires an immediate response.

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VACATION – Really?

It’s that time again – are you actually going to take a vacation this summer or will you just be working away from the office? I haven’t asked this question of my readers since 2013 so I figured it was time to check in.

There was a time when people actually “turned things off” and recharged, will you? Better question, will I?

I’m reminding myself (and maybe you) of certain benefits of truly “unplugging”:

1) Let your personal energy level recharge and reset. When my Blackberry (anyone still remember those) “acted up” I remember the very helpful young man at the Cincinnati Bell Store who reminded me that proper operation of this complex device requires taking the battery out periodically so the system can reset! I’m convinced it is the same for people – without a periodic reset we arbitrarily turn off – to new people, new ideas, new business opportunities.

2) Show others you trust them. Whether these people are your business partners or your peers or direct report employees, checking in every day says “I trust you, kind of.” Let them have your contact information and trust that they will reach out if they need you.

3) Prove that your business has real and significant value. Business brokers/investment bankers say if an owner/executive can’t take two weeks away from their business and remain confident in performance then the value of the company is significantly diminished in the eyes of any potential acquirer.

I’ll be taking some vacation this summer and I know how to suspend e-mail delivery to my phone as well as how to turn off the simultaneous ring feature. I’m committing to my family that I’ll do my best to control the annoying “I’m listening – just checking e-mail too” habit. I’ll check my cell phone voicemail each evening but I won’t check my office voicemail and email until the evening before I return to the office.

I’ll let you know how it all goes in a future edition of “From My Perspective.” I’m interested in hearing your “vacation” stories – good or bad!

The Golden Rule Made Easy!

As promised in concluding the last blog post – this doesn’t have to be difficult!

The best recognition programs honor real and desired performance and result in frequent awards! When a staff member handles a particularly difficult situation in an extraordinary manner recognize it now. Give them a candy bar, a $10 Starbucks (better yet Graeter’s Ice Cream) gift card – anything to let them know you witnessed it and appreciate it!

This sounds so easy – why don’t we recognize people more often? It is too soft a discipline and without discipline it never becomes a habit. Here’s a simple solution – everyone who has at least one employee reporting to them should have each employee’s name on their weekly to do list. You don’t cross the name off until you have found a genuine reason to recognize their performance. Thanking someone in person too “touchy” for you? Write them a note – not an e-mail, a real hand written note! Follow this practice for 90 days and it will be a hard habit to break.

People join companies but they work for people. They work hardest and commit to succeeding for people who consistently recognize and reward their commitment.

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The Golden Rule, Try It!

You’ve just lost another employee – whether they were a significant contributor or not – this is beginning to look like a turnover problem. Let’s admit it, we’ve all been there and many are there right now because our experience is that 2016 is fast becoming a market that favors the employee. Is this just a bump in the road, or do I really have a problem?
The most likely answers you will hear from your departing employee are job content, future, and money. These are the easy answers and involve very little real sharing of how they truly feel. A national study by a leading staffing firm cited “limited recognition” as the most common reason given for leaving an employer. People feel undervalued and underappreciated and it’s not because of your salary and benefits.
The key to retention and performance is consistent recognition of a job well done. Many of you are now thinking “this is going to get expensive”, but it doesn’t have to! Some of you are also thinking “this is common sense”. I agree but common sense is all too uncommon and far from common practice! Try the Golden Rule – think how you would like to be treated – and you will understand the importance of the seemingly simple, but often forgotten, sincere thanks for a job well done.

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What Employees Value – It’s Not What You Think

Employees and potential employees value $$ MONEY $$ – oh, and Leadership!

The pressure is on to recruit and retain talent that will scale with your business. The unemployment rate for 2015 for those age 25 or older with a Bachelor’s degree was reported at 2.8% by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is imperative to know what employees value.

Employers surveyed by Towers and Watson say Career Advancement is #1, ahead of Compensation. Wrong, employees rate Compensation #1! They expect you will be competitive and until you are hearing about Career Advancement means very little. Career Advancement is #3 on the Employee list.

What is really telling is Employers rated Job Security (defined as trust and confidence in senior leadership) at #7. Employees on the other hand rated it #2 – second only to Compensation. Employees don’t expect lifetime employment but they do expect their company leadership to be strong. If you don’t (or worse yet can’t) emphasize the caliber of your leadership team then be prepared to have difficulty recruiting and retaining talent that can truly impact your business.

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