Posted by: drewdice | July 10, 2014

Why Most Performance Reviews Suck

In a former life, I inherited a customer facing service team as part of the organization I led. One of my first orders of business was to get to know the new team—connect, listen and learn. As I met with groups and also individuals, I asked things like:


  • How are you doing in your role?
  • How do you measure your success and impact?
  • How does your immediate supervisor measure your success and impact?
  • What feedback did you get in your last performance review?
  • What are your personal development goals for the year?

I was consistently met with quizzical looks and blank expressions. But, what I really learned, was when people got past trying to figure out what the “right answer” was, and just opened up, here was the reality:

People were unclear about how they were actually performing. They felt that they were working hard, and on the right things, but weren’t exactly sure they were right to feel that way.

They got no specific feedback regarding success metrics and role based performance goals (other than one metric – speed to answering the phone).

Many hadn’t received a performance review in the past 12 months. Some had never received one. They were informed of an annual merit increase, and entered information into a performance management system, but the information was very superficial—it just served as a trigger for the compensation review.

Let’s just say it like it is —in most organizations:

  • Performance reviews are annual events, only.
  • Employees don’t find the process or the feedback valuable or helpful, unless maybe if it is tied to a monetary increase of some sort.
  • The monetary increase, if it exists, isn’t tied to specific performance based criteria—and if it happens to be, it is loose, at best—and it is a “check the box” exercise of accomplished tasks completed (these tasks may or may not directly translate to business value or impact).
  • Managers and supervisors don’t really know what to say in the reviews to make it valuable for the employee or the manager.

Sound familiar? Organizations that don’t have proper performance reviews lose significant revenue and profit, create cultures where more employees are disengaged than not, and don’t know how to break the cycle.

So, what to do? Here’s the recipe—simple, but not easy:

  • Establish a clear, organizational vision, along with values and behaviors that map to the vision.
  • Create specific, actionable strategies that yield results tied to the vision—at the organizational, divisional, departmental, and individual levels. All elements need to align for this to have the desired impact.
  • Implement a system of management, including team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and performance reviews—all of which cycle throughout the year—to reinforce clarity of what is most important and how the organization measures success, for employees to get rich and consistent feedback, and so managers can make course corrections and pivots where and when needed.
  • Incorporate meaningful, personal and developmental goals—including measurements for that progress.

Most leaders will look at the recipe and think “Of course! I know all of those things.” Yes—AND—the key here isn’t in the knowing, it is in the DOING.

So, get to it, and build the high performance organization that is hidden inside your current company.

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.


Posted by: drewdice | June 11, 2014

The tyranny of BUT!


Words matter. Some studies show that as much as 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by non verbal elements (body language, tone, inflection, pace of speech), and that only 7% is determined by actual word choice.

And, words matter.

Do you remember that conversation when your coworker or boss said: “I love your idea/thought/suggestion/approach/proposal, BUT……..”?

Do you remember that time you were ready to go to the event, and your significant other/spouse said: “Honey, you look great, BUT……”?

Words matter. “BUT” really matters. Those three letters have such semantic force, that they can completely eradicate every positive word and all the positive intent you had in your message. “BUT” reverses the entire point of the discussion. So, if your approach is to try to pump someone up, or to accentuate the positive before providing constructive criticism, there are more effective ways.

Try “AND”, as a building block. For example, “I love your idea/thought/suggestion/approach/proposal, AND, what do you think would be the impact if we…..”, or “Honey, you look great, and the striped shirt really accents the feature of……”

Yes, AND, as opposed to Yes, BUT. Minor shift in words. Huge semantic and emotional impact.

You know that feeling you get in your belly when a situation just doesn’t feel right?
Could be when you meet a prospective employee or client for the first time, and you just know you aren’t clicking… or maybe:

– When a leader makes a decision that doesn’t seem to mesh with the organization’s stated goals or mission.
– When, as a customer, you thought you were getting a certain level of service, but received something drastically different (less than).
What’s going on? These are examples of individuals and organizations not living their values. When there is a gap between what a person or organization states and does, it comes across as inauthentic or disingenuous, and the result is that it just doesn’t feel right.

What’s the result? Often times, these types of interactions lead to disengagement (person to person, person to company), which also leads to:

– Reduction in service quality.
– Confusion—for employees, prospective customers, and/or active customers.
– Lost revenue and profitability—from the immediate interaction and also possible future interactions and/or referrals.
– Regrettable attrition—of customers and/or employees.

What to do?
Consistently high performing organizations get many things right. One such thing is having a clear story (mission, vision, values, guiding principles). Having the story, though, does not really move the needle. In addition to having a clear story, these high performing organizations live their values – every day, all the time, in every touch point. This leads to winning customer and employee experiences, growth, profitability and meaningful impact.
How to do it?

– Align the entire organization to that one version of the truth (who are we, why do we exist, who do we serve, what does winning look like).
– Create and execute a company strategy that aligns to the story.
– Create the right structure and systems to support the consistent execution of the strategy.
– Hire the right people (cultural fit, mindset, skills and attributes).

Once the above elements are in place, leaders need to ensure that the organization’s branding and marketing efforts bring the story to life—in every message, every touch point, every advertisement, every blog, every social media post, every prospective customer and customer interaction, every prospective employee and employee interaction. Get the picture? This is kind of important….
These are simple concepts in theory, but many organizations find it tough to execute consistently and successfully. Get it right, though, and your organization will have massive, positive impact on its employees, customers, and communities.

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted by: drewdice | May 2, 2014

Have you sounded your Barbaric YAWP today?

It is inside of you – each and every one of us has it – passion, drive, unrelenting energy, brilliance.

People accomplish amazing, transformative things every day – changing lives, positively impacting individuals, organizations, and communities.

Too often, though, many go through their days – uninspired, uninspiring, and disengaged (see the recent Gallup study results on this topic here)

Over the weekend, I happened to stumble upon one of my favorite movies, Dead Poet’s Society. That film stirs deep emotion and passion for me – for education, for creativity, for awakening one’s inner drive. It stirs in me what I live for – inspiring, equipping, awakening others (individuals, teams, organizations) to what they can really accomplish.

This scene takes the cake for me: YAWP!

My wish for you is that you discover your Barbaric YAWP. I know you’ve got it in you. Please share this post with others who you feel need to discover theirs….

Posted by: drewdice | April 23, 2014

Bad Culture trumps Great Employee – Every Time!

I’ve long been a believer in the philosophy that culture trumps strategy (you’ll enjoy this article on the subject).

This is not to say that organizations and leaders do not need a clear, concise and winning strategy – I do feel strongly that clarity, focus and a well aligned strategy paves a good path towards growth. The two complement each other like chocolate and peanut butter.

Similarly, company culture and talent strategy should go hand-in-hand.

Signs of a bad/toxic culture include:
– Turf wars and frequent internal politics
– Silence = agreement. In unhealthy environments, silence often means that individuals are concealing their opinions, and are waiting to express those views until after a meeting or conversation has ended. (Can you believe John actually said that???!) (That idea is going to tank! I can’t believe they are going to launch that new product. This is going to fail, big time!) This often creates wasted time, confusion, distractions, and silos or political factions. To address this, leaders could adopt the mentality that silence = disagreement, and that everyone needs to verbally weigh in before a topic is ended or meeting adjourned (Pat Lencioni is a great reference for this concept)
– No clear definition of success or what is most important right now (a running joke in some companies is that if you ask two senior leaders what is most important, you’ll get three different answers)
– High regrettable turnover

Understanding these factors is part of the equation. Knowing how to fix these issues (and, how to avoid them, at all) is equally important. The punch line for this post, though, is that if an organization has the above characteristics, it is not only impacting current employees and customers, but also crippling potential growth for the firm.

Great employees leave. Period. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but they do. Meaningful work is important. Having ‘best friends’ at work is also important. Having an impact is important. Amidst the toxicity of an unhealthy culture, though, it just doesn’t matter. I can assure you of one of the following outcomes, and none is ideal:

– Great employee leaves the firm
– Great employees stays at the firm, her attitude is converted, and she becomes part of the toxic culture
– Great employee stays at the firm, keeps her great attitude, but has limited positive impact, due to the environmental factors in the organization

Consider that research shows the cost of turnover can easily reach six figures (accounting for salary, benefits, training time, lost opportunities, recruiting fees), not to mention the cost to company morale, stress for workers who have to pick up extra workload.

As leaders, we need to do better. Need help determining where to start? Help is here.

Posted by: drewdice | March 2, 2014

This is NOT the Checklist Manifesto

The power of engagement fascinates me – when true engagement occurs, relationships flourish, business thrives, individuals get inspired, and you can feel a tangible energy and flow around the engaged parties.

Simple and elegant in concept and action, yet too often, individuals, teams, communities and organizations miss the mark. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of examples of getting it right – just not enough, in my not-so-humble opinion. I can’t help but actively observe day-to-day interactions between people, especially while at Whole Foods, or the gym, or at work, or a local restaurant (actually, according to my wife, JoAnn, I might just be obssessed with the subject). We miss so many opportunities to create moments of pure magic (check out this YouTube video by Drew Dudley on Lolipop moments – it totally captures the spirit of what I mean).

I’ve got a thought on what could be causing this huge miss. You may have others, and I’d love to hear them, so please post your thoughts. Here’s mine:

– At work, we’ve become so distracted and so transactional and ‘checklist’ based, that we’ve lost the art and beauty in human interaction. Think about it. Can you remember the restaurant server who asked how everything was – without making eye contact, and in a tone that really said “I am not actually concerned with your meal, but I know I have to ask this question”? Do you remember the last customer service interaction you had on the phone when the person asked if there were anything else she could do for you, when you know that question was only asked because it is a line item on the quality assurance checklist?

People are so programmed to perform the task without remembering the intent behind the action. Going through the motions is giving too much credit, in many cases, and I know we can do better.

Let’s get back to the basics:

– Whether at work or in our personal lives, mindset and attitude comes from the ‘top’ – how are you leading the culture of those you lead? (and if you don’t think you are a leader, you are very much mistaken)

– An abundant mindset of serving and engaging drives employee and customer loyalty, referrals, spend, drive….the list goes on and on. Is yours an abundant or scarcity mindset?

– Metrics matter, but remember what is behind the metrics? If those metrics aren’t used to learn, improve, grow, coach, and lead, why bother?

I know we can do better, and I’m counting on you to help move this engagement transformation forward. Read More…

Posted by: drewdice | January 9, 2014

What is on your stop doing list?


This is not a New Year’s Resolution. I’m talking about giving yourself, your team, your organization, and your customers the best chance to win.

The speed of business, change, and progress, combined with the drive for more – more profits, more growth, more earning potential – all causes a very normal, but unhealthy tendency to take on more – more work, more projects, more initiatives, more responsibility.

I get it. We all want to achieve more – myself included. It feels good to accomplish – both selflessly, and selfishly. We also are not inclined to let others down, so, when the ‘boss’ adds something to your plate, or asks for help, naturally, the answer is ‘yes’.

The reality is that sometimes, that makes sense; but, sometimes, it really doesn’t. There are limits to what a person, team or organization can do well at one time. Resources (time, money, humans) are not infinite, and when there isn’t a clear picture of what is most important right now, and what will bring the most impact against given strategies, naturally, more and more ‘stuff’ will be added to the plate.

This is not a scalable approach, nor is it sustainable.

So, how will you create clarity and alignment? And, just as importantly, what will you STOP doing, to achieve more?

Posted by: drewdice | November 7, 2013


You know what it feels like when you are truly engaged – ‘in the zone’ or ‘on fire’. You also know what it feels like when others are truly engaged with you – or, when they aren’t.

I applaud organizations who put processes in place to create a more engaging experience between staff and customers – if there isn’t a tangible service difference, often, customer decisions will come down to price, and the race to the bottom is not the outcome for which most business leaders aspire.

That said, process alone will not create an engaging experience.

Case in point:

There is a local Rite Aid store where I go to pick up various odds and ends. Over the past year, the competitive landscape has increased, with the addition of a Target, CVS, 7-Eleven and other stores. So, we’ve seen Rite Aid give the store a cosmetic redesign, more robust product selection, and a focus on running specials and lower prices. At the same time, I think they’ve tried to improve their customer intimacy strategy – making that a differentiator from the competition. Here is one process they have put in place to land that intimacy strategy:

– When a customer enters the store, the cashier says ‘hello’ or ‘hi, how are you?’ – wanting to ensure that every customer is greeted. Not a bad process.

The challenge is that the cashiers don’t look up or make eye contact with the customers as they offer the greeting, and, when customers reply, in any way, there is no acknowledgement of that reply – no conversation at all, and so the impact is dramatically muted. In fact, I’d offer that Rite Aid is better off not making the initial greeting at all, as opposed to starting a dialogue and then not engaging when the customers actually do.

Valid intent. Poor execution. Point is this: process alone won’t shift the needle in customer engagement, loyalty, increased spending, referrals….any of it. Process needs to be partnered with clear intent and a focus on the actual outcome (engaged customer), so employees know how to think and what to do to accomplish the goal.

Think strategy first
Think desired outcomes next
Think people readiness and process next
Just as important as all of the above is to inspect! Observe and measure the impact, so changes can be made in driving results forward.

Posted by: drewdice | February 11, 2013

Finding your sustainable competitive advantage

As I’ve built my physical and online communities, I’ve been pretty intentional in surrounding myself with folks who value and believe similar things to me (not groupthink – you get the difference). As such, I know many of you also spend a good amount of time and energy working on the ‘people’ part of the equation in your businesses.

And so, here are two thoughts for your consideration today:

– Whether a business leader’s goal is to massively scale an organization, or to achieve, steady, modesst growth, attracting, hiring and retaining “A” players should be one of the most critical aspects to the organizational strategy. Without great people to collaborate, innovate and serve, the best business plan is likely to fail. So, why do so many companies fail to build this part of their organizational ‘muscle’ well?

– Some companies do actively recruit ‘A’ players – that is part of their strategy. Where they fall down is in having a clear vision: of the organizational strategy, how the business creates value, how decisions are made (aligned to the vision and the overall values of the organization), and creating the right structure to execute. What I have seen and heard (personal experience, consulting engagements, peer experience and research) is that as businesses grow, they sometimes get consumed in working ‘in’ the business, and driving metrics, numbers and all the things which they are already very good at, and comfortable with, that they do not spend the appropriate time and attention to this other very critical part of business health. Why? it can be uncomfortable, awkward, many leaders are not good at it, and people typically gravitate to their comfort zone.

In businesses who ‘get’ the whole picture, a robust culture and talent strategy gets as much time, attention and focus as does a financial strategy, the customer acquisition strategy, the plans to optimmize efficiencies.

A winning culture and healthy organization, dedicated to attracting, retaining and growing top talent will have the most sustainable competitive advantage. Hands down

Posted by: drewdice | January 30, 2013

The Engagement Ring

Sharing in the experience of the marriage of friends and family members has always provided me so much energy, joy, hope, and passion, and a vision for what these two previously separate lives can become, once united.

And I really enjoy the wedding vows – always curious to hear how people express their feelings – intimate feelings about how the other person impacts their world, and what their vision for the future together will bring.

As sentimental as I am about personal relationships in this manner – I am equally passionate about business relationships.

And so, I’ve been thinking: What would happen if we entered business relationships with a similar mindset around vows, and what the relationship really means to each other – not in a sappy way, mind you, but truly – if a long term, mutually beneficial relationship is to be formed, wouldn’t there need to be serious commitment? Through business (and personal) sickness and health? Richer or poorer? Don’t the same principles apply?

Granted, there are many things that go wrong in marriages, and massive work that needs to occur to have those relationships survive and thrive. Over 50% of marriages in the U.S. fail (I think it is even higher, now). I’d hate to think that businesses could/would/do lose 50% of their customers – that is just working too hard, for no good reason.

Think about it – what would it take for you and your organization to form such a bond with your customers where the mutual attitude is: ’till death do us part’?

What is preventing you from doing it?

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