What is True Success?

What is True Success?

In our lives we are all involved in work, our jobs, as well as our families. That gives us both the professional and personal aspects of our lives. Many of you know I have referenced Tom Morris and his books, in particular True Success, A Philosophy of Excellence and Plato’s Lemonade Stand. They are both very helpful in our lives. I have referenced them many times.

Everyone seems to have some formula for us to follow to achieve success. Some are about market share, or customer service, or parts availability or labor efficiency. However, let me ask a question. These measures, while extremely important, do they make you successful? Is that how you define your success? I don’t think so.

I still remember, as if it were yesterday, when I was looking for my first job after finishing my university career – what was it that I wanted to do? What was my passion? What excited me? I had no clue. I was too young and I had no real-life experiences from which to make the choices necessary. From where I am now, I wonder how it is that we are supposed to be able to answer these questions. My grandchildren are in Gen Z. Recently at a family meal, I asked them both what they wanted to do. My grandson is a Junior in High School. He has many things that he is interested in and cannot make a selection yet. My granddaughter who is a Senior in University has a little more clarity. She is taking Biology with a focus on Genetics. It would seem clear that she has a path she is following. Yet it is clear that nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn’t know yet either. One of the troubles today is that there are so many choices. I always told (and still tell) people, particularly when I was teaching Education at University, that everyone should leave their options open as long as possible. When I was out looking for work the people that influenced my life – my parents, teachers, advisors, and counsellors all told me the same thing. Take your time. Whatever you choose that will be where you will work for the rest of your life. That was 1968. Things have definitely changed.

Today the average number of jobs that an individual will have over the work life for men is 12.5 jobs and women 12.1 jobs. It takes that many before a person can make their own selection of their life’s work. But then we still have the question that needs to be answered. What is success? Is it status in the community? Is it money? Is it your job title? I submit to you it is happiness.

For this particular subject I have to turn to psychology and psychiatry. Those two particular disciplines deal with the human experience in many ways. From the challenges that various groups of people have in learning or reading or concentration to depression and other human issues they have more knowledge than most in what success means.

I am currently reading a book, What Happy People Know, by Dan Baker, PhD, Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch (This is a pioneering wellness resort which helps people make a lasting transformation that inspires people to find their “well way of life) and Cameron Stauth. The book cites research that has shown that the root of unhappiness – fear – lies in the oldest, reptilian part of our brains, and negative reactions are often dictated by primal instincts. In other words, we are “hard wired” for hard times. Over the past twenty-one months, since March of 2020, we have experienced hard times. This has been a very challenging time. We are all hoping that 2022 will bring us more positivity.

The book is designed to help us, and it has helped me, to understand that in order to be successful – we have to be happy. The authors give you a road map to happiness by breaking down the elements and qualities of Happiness. You get a very detailed description of how each of these qualities can be influences in your life in the book. I am simply listing them here now:

  • Love
  • Optimism
  • Courage
  • Freedom
  • Proactivity
  • Security
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Altruism
  • Perspective
  • Humor
  • Purpose

Of this list of a dozen elements, I relate to many. Let me focus on Purpose first. Without a Sense of Purpose, you will flounder. Most of you, by now, understand that our purpose, at Learning Without Scars, is to help people identify their individual potential and then we provide tools to allow them to realize their potential. Many of you will see that purpose as a difficult of not an impossible mission. Obviously, we have a different view on that. One of my fundamental beliefs is that “Everyone wants to do a good job.” This is followed with the fact that “everyone can do more than they think they can.” Put those two facts together and you see the seeds of understanding individual potential.

One of the challenges many of us face is that we get “stuck.” We get stuck in our jobs, in an Industry, a Company, a department. We are stuck and unfulfilled, and bored, and clearly, we are not challenged. But we need the job and don’t want to move, because we don’t think we can replace the job. We are anxious, we are afraid. Whenever I find this situation, I ask the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

There is a fresh question for me to consider in the book. “Am I living a life I love?” Perhaps that is a little too theoretical for most of you. But think about that. Isn’t that a terrific question to be asking yourself? Of course, it is. There is an interesting aspect to this question and the work of these authors. They always, every time, provide something that each person has to do. Some action. This is not simply a theoretical exercise. They are trying to create a perspective of success. Of happiness. Nothing is allowed to get in the way. For instance, many of us will use our health or bad habits as a “reason” that we can’t do something. They do not accept that excuse. They give us a perspective to consider with an interesting quotation. “Health is the optimal condition of being that allows for the ultimate engagement in life.” If you smoke or are overweight, they suggest you make the best of that reality. No excuse and no reason for inaction. It seems that there is a trigger when we leave our fear behind and pursue a life we love. I strongly suggest that everyone read this book. I think it could make a difference in your life.

This is the ultimate place to ask that age old question “What If?” Can you improve your life? Your job performance? Your family life? Your relationships? I am by nature an optimist. I know the answer to these questions for my life. Of course, I can. I just need to start. To take some action. To get on the path to success. Care to join me?

The Time is Now.

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Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

For some time, the education world has been struggling to maintain itself in the face of the obvious need to make changes. Normally change is an evolution not a revolution. However, the competing interests feel very much comfortable with how things are operating. The Teachers Unions, The School Boards, the State Bureaucrats and the Federal Government were very much into the status quo. BUT. The Students and their Parents, who I believe are the customers of the education business were not.

Then came the Pandemic.

All of a sudden, the students and parents were in the same place at the same time and both parties could see how and what their children were being taught. The parents didn’t like what they heard and saw with the material and the methods with which their children were being taught. They then started to show up in larger numbers and more regularly at Parent Teacher Meetings and School Board meetings. And they made themselves heard. The School Boards didn’t like this one bit, imagine the parents interfering with what the Boards were doing. Their expertise and authority were being challenged by these unruly parents who were demanding answers.

Then the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the government of the United States complaining about these parents and even going so far as to call them terrorists. Imagine calling your customers terrorists? My intent is not to get into the weeds of politics with this introduction. It is simply to provide the background to a subject that I am very passionate about and want to discuss with you. Each person on the planet should be able to receive a good education.

Learning takes on what I believe are four major methods: classroom, webinar, internet-based and self-study.

The classroom will never go away. There is a real benefit to having a person who knows how to teach and has subject matter expertise sharing that knowledge with willing and able interested people. We have learned a lot about classroom learning. The fifty-minute class is changing. The material is being delivered in smaller chunks. Statistics are showing that this has an extremely positive impact on learning and retention.

The webinar is a tool that I am not particularly fond of as a teacher. I cannot see the students. I don’t get the feedback that I am used to in the classroom on each individual’s understanding about what I am talking about in the session. However, when it comes to product knowledge and other very specific learning, they are a terrific tool. I have always liked to have one of the employees conduct this training. The employee doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. So, they really learn the material. Each session is done by a different employee and as a result we improve the skills and knowledge of the complete team of customer service employees.

The internet-based learning programs have become a serious and growing concern in a relatively short period of time. You can see that major United States Universities, Harvard and MIT and Georgia Tech to name a few, have their complete curriculum available for online learning. Specialty businesses have arrived from The Khan Academy to Coursera and many others there are learning opportunities online that will be here for the rest of time or until the next major disruption.

Self-Study will always be here as long as there are people who want to learn. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and pastimes. You can transport yourself to any era and any area on any subject in the world and beyond between the covers of a book. We still have a Reading List on our Consulting Website until the end of this year at www.rjslee.com under the tab Reading List.

Katy Tynan, a principal analyst at Forrester Research recently made the following observations. “Prior to the Pandemic, there was an overemphasis on formal learning as a delivery mechanism. Formal, classroom-delivered training was easy to plan and deliver, but organizations didn’t always see the intended results.” Haven’t most of us felt that way at one time or another about classroom training?

Tracy Malcolm, a global future of work leading at the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson goes further. “Organizations are starting to pursue learning in new forms, and certainly at a new pace, where it’s much more frequent learning opportunities. The formal training itself is certainly bite-sized, so that it can be consumed more quickly. And the pace of learning increased.” At the same time, we are now flooded with a massive amount of student debt. The largest single debt in the country.

There are many voices starting to sound similar alarms.

When we started with Management Training at Quest, Learning Centers, we did the same thing as most other teaching or training business did. Our classes spanned two days in locations that were easily accessible to our client base. Sixteen hours of training. We built the classes to cover sales, operations, assets and leadership. Four hours for each of those areas and two subjects in each four-hour time block. The students would come in from their dealerships the day before and spend two nights in hotels and pay for their room and board as well as the tuition cost of the classes. We got very good response and also very good reviews of the content and the way we taught. We built eight such programs.

We started to notice a problem with our teaching, or more appropriately the learning and retention of our content that the students experienced. They would get back to the company and be caught up instantly in the old routines to the point that they were not able to implement any of what they had learned. We had too many people working in the business and too few people working on the business.

Our sponsors and clients were noticing similar things and wanted to approach the teaching from a different perspective. Thus, the webinar was born.

The webinar did not require people to travel or stay in hotels or eat meals in restaurants. It was cheaper. It also was shorter. The webinars that I conducted typically ran between forty-five minutes and an hour. The vehicle for teaching and by extension learning was changed. It is shortened, which leads to measurably more learning and better retention. Further, the employee was not taken away for two days at a time. But the teacher didn’t have the same tools to evaluate the learning of each student. We changed the delivery methods on our webinars and using a computer driven projector that I could operate remotely and turn off the slide presentation and walk in front of the camera and talk to the audience directly. They could see me and my antics. I was transitioning to Hawaii at the time so I started to wear Hawaiian Aloha Shirts. Many people have commented on those shirts in that they were annoyed when I wore the same shirt more than once.

We moved away from webinars in 2015 and converted all of our learning programs to the internet starting in 2016. It has been a much larger job that I had anticipated. With our two-day programs and the structures that we used, we had three separate programs; What it Looks Like When it is Right, Reaching Market Potential, and Performance Excellence. So, we had six discrete classes for each of the four disciplines. Twenty-four classes for parts, and service and product support selling and marketing.

The first order of business was to research and select a “Learning Management Software.” This was not easy nor were we very sophisticated or knowledgeable about what we wanted and needed. Needless to say, we are on our second LMS. We make mistakes like everyone else.

Then we had to determine how we wanted to build the classes. That is our wheelhouse. Caroline has a Master Degree in Education and I taught people how to teach at McGill University in Montreal. We built our classes to start with optional reading material, then a mandatory pretest to gauge the knowledge of the student before they start the class. The subject specific material we created covered in the range of 125 to 160 slides each one of them with audio tracks. We then embedded film clips to highlight key points and material. Further we added quizzes to break up the learning. We put about ten quizzes into each of the programs. Caroline then put all of this material, the slides, the audio tracks, the film clips and the quizzes into the form of a video. That allows the students to stop and start or go back and forth to review the material. We wanted the students to learn, to understand the material and become more knowledgeable as people both personally and professionally. Then we added a final assessment. This was a twenty-question assessment of the knowledge and skills of the students on that specific subject class. They had to obtain a score of 80% on this assessment in order to pass the class and earn their certificate. However, before the students can get their certificate, they have to provide us an evaluation of the class through a survey. Finally, they can print their certificate which will also show them how many CEU’s, Continuing Education Units.

We now have one hundred and eight subject specific classes, and we will continue to add classes as they are requested. Each class is reviewed monthly for adjustment based on the surveys and the assessments results. For instance, if a majority of the students get the same wrong answer to the same question, we review that section of the class to ensure that it is not our teaching that is at fault. If it is the material that is causing the problem, we make adjustments.

Another interesting aspect of our work is the feedback that we receive constantly about what our customers want and need. They tell us what they want. And we listen. Do we ever listen.

When we built the classroom material, we used voice recognition software and I dictated to the computer. It was like I was teaching in a classroom. In the nineties the voice recognition software was not at all at the same level as what it is today. I would talk to the computer and go away. Thirty minutes talking forty minutes doing something else while the computer continued to convert my voice to a word document. Once I had the classes built, I invited people for whom I had a lot of respect and asked them for their time in a classroom with me to see what I had created. I wanted their objective evaluation of what I had done. From that platform, my background and experience in the business and in teaching, complimented with the experience and knowledge of the very generous people who helped put the final touches on our work and created Quest, Learning Centers. I will never forget what those people did to help me. You know who you are and I thank you sincerely.

Over the years our twenty group facilitation businesses first with Insight, M&R, Institute in partnership with Malcolm Phares who started the “Twenty Group” concept when he was VP of Dealer Development for PACCAR, and now with The Capital Goods Sages, in partnership with Dale Hanna of Foresight Intelligence has provided invaluable discussions and debates with experienced executives on their dealerships. This provided learning opportunities for me that was also invaluable.

Since 1980 our consulting business has afforded me the opportunity to work with hundreds if not over a thousand dealerships around the world. I have been provided an opportunity in my business life that few others have been given. As I have said to many people over the years. “If you play two rounds of golf everyday for six months and you don’t get pretty good at it, well someone is trying to tell you something. I have learned something from each consulting engagement and each of the twenty group meetings and from a large number of very skilled people in our classes.

Over the past fifty-two years we have had over twenty-five thousand students either in a classroom or a webinar or an internet-based class. I have learned a lot from the interaction with all of these people.

Yet even with that background and experience we are in a constant state of looking to get better at what we do and how we do it. We offer blogs, podcasts, newsletters and audio learning on a complimentary basis as a means of transferring knowledge to interested people. We have a group of people as Contributors helping us. These people are an invaluable help to us. They are Thought Leaders who are challenging the status quo and the world in which we live as well as experienced executives and influencers. We are grateful to each of them for everything that they do for all the employees in the Product Support world.

One of the changes that we see being beneficial is to have training going on continuously for everyone. We advocate that each employee in the Product Support world who leads people or touches customers have one skill assessment tied to their job each year and take at least three classes each year to improve their skills and knowledge. “You need to have regular reinforcement of what you’ve been learning” so says Wayne Vascio, Professor of Management at the University of Colorado. He continues “You use it or you lose it.” “Simply doing it one-off or learning a skill one time and then not being able to practice and use it on the job, is a recipe for skill decay.”

Another thing Caroline is taking us to is the fact that passive learning is not sufficient anymore. She gets that from her continuous learning for her teaching job and her education. I am excited about it. She caused us to put the quizzes into all of our classes. She is pushing to have optional Zoom meetings with people who have taken the same class with either Caroline or me leading the meeting. We talk about the subject specific class that they took and provoke discussions in a group setting. We are exploring having chat rooms for people who have taken classes with us where they can reach out to others in the Product Support World. Even going so far as Gamification of the Learning Experience.

One of the other things that has become painfully clear. There is an expression “those that cannot do, they teach.” This has never been a good idea. Over the course of my career at two different CAT dealers I was a Parts Manager, a Service Manager, I established the first Product Support Selling function, I designed buildings and dealer facilities, I was a Data processing Manager. I have walked the walk I don’t just talk the talk. The teacher has to know what the employees do in their jobs. What are the challenges and the obstacles to the job? This is not an abstract experience. We are even exploring, in some cases, having the employees training each other. This is invaluable in other ways as well. Everyone finds out who the best is at a particular subject or task.

Over the course of our fifty-two years in the industry, and the wonderful training I have received myself and the people from whom I have been able to learn from I am very humble and extremely grateful.

We will continue to keep you posted as we continue to change and adapt to the new realities in education and learning.

The Time is Now.

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The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

With 20+ years of business system design and business intelligence experience, Dale Hanna founded Foresight Intelligence in 2009 to help leading equipment dealers achieve operational excellence and a sustainable competitive advantage through effective use of real time KPI’s throughout the organization. Recently, Dale has added telematics to his passion and is enjoying the challenge of making oceans of disparate data useful to manufactures, dealers, rental companies, and end customers.  Dale obtained a BSEE degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and has been engaged in many associations serving the equipment industry. In his first guest blog for Learning Without Scars, Dale writes about the hidden revolution taking place in the equipment industry.

Technology is driving a revolution in the equipment industry that we can easily see: grade control, idle tracking, fault codes, autonomous equipment, electrification, etc. While the advancements are amazing and will continue to be, dealers are noticing brand differentiation becoming more and more of a challenge. In this margin-conscious market, we see the battle of the future being fought on customer experience and we see technology is quietly but rapidly driving that revolution.

This hidden revolution is happening in all areas of dealership operations.  Today we focus on how technology is increasing efficiency and enhancing customer experience in the service area, especially during this time of unprecedented labor and parts shortage.

Below are strategies that are giving some equipment dealers a leg up:

 Increasing Trust from Your Customers

We all know trust is a vital ingredient in delivering a great customer experience.  If you are like me, I used to think building trust was an elusive and subjective endeavor.  Chris Voss, a lead FBI hostage negotiator, gave us a formula to build trust quickly and predictably:

Trust = Predictability.

A system that can be configured to your workflow to automatically notify customers at key milestones creates a predictable service experience every time without adding more work for your people.  Yes, UPS and FedEx have perfected this.  You know exactly where your packages are all the time and the moment they are delivered.  It is hard to imagine any shipping company being able to survive without it.  Our expectations for the service experience are quickly reaching the same level.

Doing Business at the Speed of Text

When we do not get an email response from someone, what do we do? We text. According to a research report, on average, people respond to a text in 90 seconds and an email in about 90 minutes.  Adding an integrated SMS (text) platform is like adding nitrous to your service engine.  A fully integrated text platform notifies your customers of progress, provides new quotes, gets instant sign off for additional work, shares inspection results and obtains satisfaction survey results at lightning speed. All the communication history is saved for future reference. With the busy schedule your customers have, who would not appreciate a faster ride?

Self Service Makes Happier Customers

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already happening – we want to do more things online, by ourselves, at whatever hours we want, without having to wait on anyone.  Providing information your customers need, in the forms they need, always accessible makes them feel informed and in control, both are important elements for happiness.  A robust dashboard, easy to use interface, searchable/sortable/exportable data and schedulable reports keep your customers smiling while your people sleep.

Have Your Process Your Way

A lot of service systems were built based on someone else’s ideas, usually from the first few customers the system makers had. Your workflow is what makes your people efficient, and your organization stand out. Today’s technology allows an effective system to adapt to you rather than the other way around. Dynamic dashboards by user and role, quick and easy work order assignment and tracking, Apps for field technicians to easily add comments, pictures/videos, inspections can be required and enforced as a part of your workorder process are all examples of how today’s systems serve you the way you do business.

We Are More Powerful When We Are Connected

So are data and systems. At dealerships, we still use multiple systems to get things done. The last thing we want to add is another siloed system. Any service system today should connect with your OEM system for fault codes, warranty information and even submission, your telematics system for real time dispatching, customer’s telematics system for asset location and hours, maintenance management system to organize all the maintenance plans you sold and your business system for cost and PO information. The more your systems are connected, the more efficient you become.

The current pandemic will end for sure, but our world has changed forever. If we look at carefully, there is an undeniable trend – tech rich companies have done better in general, some has done exceptionally well and taken sizeable market share from competitors during COVID 19. This trend is definitely here to stay. Technology is not only changing things we can see and buy, but it is also changing the way we perform and experience service. Customers will certainly buy more equipment, especially with the new infrastructure bill, and whoever delivers the best customer experience will have the bigger share.

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Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Edward E. Gordon, the founder and president of Imperial Consulting Corporation in Chicago, has consulted with leaders in business, education, government, and non-profits for over 50 years. As a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant he has helped shape policy and programs that advance talent development and regional economic growth. This week, he shares with us the history and the present needs involved in building a new skilled talent decade.

Gordon is the author or co-author of 20 books. His book, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, is the culmination of his work as a visionary who applies a multi-disciplinary approach to today’s complex workforce needs and economic development issues. It won a 2015 Independent Publishers Award. An updated paperback edition was published in 2018.

Recently I spoke at a forum on my White Paper, “Job Shock: Moving Beyond the COVID-19 Employment Meltdown to a New Skilled Talent Decade,” at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago. My presentation and responses to it can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/gnLBrOiMSYA. In my remarks, I pointed out that history was now repeating itself as workplace technology change is again shifting education and skills requirements.


During the first decades of the 20th century, a titanic shift in the U.S. economy destabilized society. An industrial revolution triggered by spread of electricity and the growth of factories and offices required workers with at least a basic education in reading and mathematics. Many violently opposed the expansion of public education. Who needs a universal school system? Why educate children, women, and immigrants? You will only cause anarchy by giving them dangerous ideas! Anyway, these people are not trainable. We need them for cheap labor in our factories or on our farms!

As this debate raged across America, more people were persuaded that the expansion of education would benefit society. Starting at the regional and state levels, enlightened community leaders spearheaded the expansion of compulsory tax-supported primary and secondary education. By 1918, all of the then 48 states mandated this standard of public schooling backed by tough truancy laws. The United States was the first nation to attempt to provide a general education to all its citizens. It was a major contributor to the rise of the United States as a world power.


Another major industrial revolution began in the 1970s as computers and information technology began to be adopted in workplaces. By the beginning of the 21st century, personal computers, smartphones and the internet were everywhere. Automaton has eliminated many low-skill jobs and increased the demand for workers with higher math and reading skills and specialized career training. The seminal 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” raised the first red flag that the U.S. education-to-employment system had become obsolete and warned that America needed to provide more students and workers with enhanced education and training for higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs.

However, continuing national testing by the U.S. Department of Education commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card reports low levels of proficiency in math and reading particularly at the 12th-grade-level. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused learning loses of up to a year particularly among lower-income students.

These deficiencies in our education-to employment system plus the 130 million American adults who the Barbara Bush foundation reported read at the 8th-grade level or less is building into a severe shortage of skilled labor. Surveys of employers are consistently reporting difficulties in finding qualified people to fill open positions. A September National Federation of Independent Business survey found that 51 percent of owners had job openings they could not fill, the third consecutive month in which record highs for unfilled jobs had been reached. Moreover, 62 percent of small employers seeking to hire had few or no qualified applicants. In July and August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 10 million job openings. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projected that the high number of unfilled jobs is costing U.S. businesses to lose $738 billion in revenue annually.


As the COVID-19 epidemic has severely disrupted schooling at all levels and caused labor market turmoil, there is the potential for forming broad coalitions to reform our nation’s education-to-employment pipeline. Parents and students are more aware of the importance of good educational preparation for the future, and many businesses are fighting for their very survival.

At present although the number of vacant jobs is high, there are millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed who do not precisely match the skills or experience companies are seeking for their open jobs and who therefore are excluded for consideration for them. A September Harvard/Accenture report estimates that there are over 27 million Americans whom they term “hidden workers.”

Our “Job Shock” research clearly shows that Regional Talent Innovation Networks (RETAINs) as public-private partnership hubs can effectively prepare more people for the higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs that are vacant across the United States. Their success hinges upon mobilizing a diversity of partners to engage in meaningful collaboration to close skills-jobs gaps. Cross sector coordination is key. The current barriers between businesses and educational institutions need to be broken down to allow the development of up-to-date career preparation options.

America has a long history of community civic engagement. Enlightened local leaders have periodically stepped forward to bolster our republic during times of crisis. Community engagement is again essential to move the United States forward into a new skilled talent decade.

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From Paper to Glass

From Paper to Glass

In a recent Podcast with Alex Schuessler, we were talking about technology and the changes that have taken place in the marketplace within our Industry. I have long used the example of the Steam Engine being replaced by the Electric Engine of how we resist changes. Yes, the tool was changed – the engine – but the methods and procedures did not change for a generation. Changing the tool was traumatic enough for the leadership of the day. They couldn’t handle that much change in their lives.

Fast forward to the current situation and the area of technology. The Large Computers arrived in larger businesses sold by consultants for the most part. Thus, a new tool was introduced to the market. We wrote everything on our usual forms and sent the “paper” documents to what was then called “Data Processing.” The information on the paper was punched onto cards. These cards were then processed through readers and then passed on to the computer for processing. The computer was then used to print a report of what was punched into the cards and processed that was sent back to the originator or the document in the first place. This was a lot of extra work. It was justified in the speed with which it could be processed once it was corrected.

The computers changed and the need for punched cards was eliminated when we had the arrival of “Computer Terminals.” This is the beginning of what Alex dubbed the “Paper to Glass” transition. It is a beautiful description of what has happened in dealer business systems, we have taken the older processes and procedures and methods of writing things on a piece of paper and instead of writing them down we have typed the information into a computer screen, from writing on a piece of paper to typing on a screen of glass. Rather a good precise description. This is exactly the same as changing the Steam Engine to an Electric Engine.

Typically, a generation is described as twenty years. With the dates of the 1960’s as the starting point for computers to the 2020’s we are talking about taking three generations to adapt and adjust or methods compared to one generation in the 1800’s. How smart do we appear to be now?

I have talked for years, perhaps decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer. Have you got it? How much is it? How long do I have to wait to get it? I believe that is very straight forward. These are the same questions I have when I want to purchase something. BUT. The first question someone asks when a customer calls into a dealer to order parts or walks into the business is never one of those three questions listed above. No, the first question we ask is “Who are you?” We need to know that because the first thing we have to enter on the glass is the customer number. It is very similar to writing the customer number of the order parts sales order form. Does that sound like progress? Or have we simply gone from paper to glass? Can’t we do better than that?

If we look at the service department, we have similar issues. We need to conduct an inspection, either with telematics and sensors or a physical inspection, to determine what is wrong. Then create a quotation, which in most cases is an estimate. Then determine the time line for the repair, establish a schedule, assign the work and complete the work to fix the problem. Of course, it is more complicated than simply finding what part is required to compete a repair but that sounds like a paper to glass transition to me. What about standard times and flat rate pricing? What about understanding objectively the technical skills of each technician and assigning someone to complete the job who has those skills?

I can go on and on in this vein.

Today we have a smaller number of DMS providers in the industry; CDK, DIS, EBS, e-emphasis, Infor, JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP, XAPT and others. (I am sure I missed a few) Each of them is based on the Paper to Glass process.

The real dilemma in all of this to me is that when you change your DMS it is not the cost of the hardware or even of the software that is the real expense. No, it is the retraining of all of your employees in the new methods that are being introduced. Then you go through the curtain on never wanting to go through that change again. It was so painful.

So, Alex called this “Paper to Glass” and he is in the Technology aspect of the industry. I think he is on to something very important and we will talk about this more as time passes.

The Time is Now.

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The Future Work Place

The Future Work Place

The Future Work Place – What Will it Look Like?

The Pandemic has had a devastating impact on life around the world. Many of us have lost close friends, co-workers, associates and family members. It has been very personal. On top of that many of us have had either short term or long-term changes in our jobs as well as in the nature of our work. And interestingly some of us have reevaluated our lives and how we live them. It has been a very dramatic change in almost all of what we got used to prior to the Pandemic.

Now I have questions. What will be the future of our work? Will we work from home or in the office, or some hybrid? Obviously, technology will play a much larger role in our work and home lives. We can already see rather stark statistics. Ed Gordon has been publishing and providing us with blogs called Job Shock. He is pointing to the difficulties that the education work is having providing work ready people to the work place. Education has changed and is undergoing serious challenges where standardized testing is going away and not being used by universities for admission purposes in many cases. The value provided by the ACT and SAT tests and even Briggs-Myers are being challenged. Diversity issues have become much more important in the work place. Demographics are working against us as baby boomers are leaving the work force. Then we see an amazing fact: currently there are ten million job openings in the US, which is more than the total number of unemployed people looking for work. So yes, I do have questions.

Even before the pandemic things were changing but it was slow, as in most changes. Four-day work weeks were becoming more common. Second and even Third shifts were becoming more common in distribution and other Industries that had not seen much in the way of the shift world. The generational stress between the baby boomers who expected people working in the office was pitted against the Millennials and GenX who wanted the opportunity to work remotely.

A recent Gallup survey found that 40% of the US workforce was actively looking for a change in their jobs. The main reason being that the employees did not feel engaged. Into that mix comes the Society for Human Resource Management. They are suggesting that flexible work arrangement can provide several advantages.

  • Improved Employee Retention
  • More Success in Recruiting
  • Reduced Hiring and Training Expenses
  • Improved Employee Productivity
  • More Diversity in the Workforce
  • Increased Employee Engagement

Harvard Business School, in recent research, found that 81% of employees either didn’t want to go back to the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule going forward. So, we are going through another change where business will have to support employees who can and want to work at home.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s when the rate of change was slower employers were able to find the required skills outside the company and hire the skills required. That is no longer the case. Yet many companies are still in denial and refuse to spend money training their current employees.

Then the recent McKinsey Global Survey states that 69% of the reported respondents reported an increase in skill building. This pandemic has disrupted the skills foundation dramatically and companies are starting to acknowledge that they need to build new skills internally. Skills are lacking in empathy and leadership, adaptability and communications and problem solving. Critical thinking skills are seriously missing. According to Deloitte it can cost six times more to hire externally than to develop skills by training internally.

All of this is pointing to a serious challenge to our leaders. One that they have not had to face and deal with in their careers. The most important asset in any business is their employees. Yet this is the one asset that leadership has completely disregarded. They hire people and then leave them alone. If the skills required are no longer available, they get rid of the current worker and hire new people. It has been true and, in their minds, working for over three decades. This is no longer working. It should never have been the strategy. People are the most important asset in any way you look at it. And please don’t forget that this need for employee development is at every level in a business, from the owner to the least important job function.

I have advocated for years that we have skill sets tied to job functions. We put our assessment programs in place specifically to address this issue. We also wanted depth charts like in sports. Who is in line to follow the current leadership? We wanted succession planning. We also wanted annual performance reviews. These reviews allow positive discussions with each employee to determine the needs and wants of each employee. They provide an audience for discussions on continuous improvement. We have a lot of talent in our employees. Everyone of them. You all know I am interested in helping people identify their potential and then help everyone achieve that potential.

We must get going. Time is passing. And time is an element we don’t get back.

The Future Workplace will embrace new thinking. It will experiment more. We will try things. We have to make more progress in improving everything we do for our employees and our customers and our suppliers. We have to provide an environment where everyone wants to learn. We have to stop reacting and start innovating. We need to be able to adapt more readily. Some people call it agility. I call it basic common sense.

As a teacher I have always said common sense isn’t particularly common. Today we have a huge opportunity to turn the negativity since March 2020 into a positive response. Making the future of our desires and abilities. Are you ready?

The Time is Now.

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How Do You Build Trust with Your Employees?

How do you build trust with your employees?

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part two of her series. In “How do you build trust with your employees,” Sonya shares the methods of trust building we can all use in our businesses.

The irregularity of the sometimes twice a year Performance Review at mid-year and End of Year (EOY) does not lend itself to building trusted relationships.

What is going to build trust is:

  • Approachability – for some this is an open-door policy that physical signal that they are open for business. Others they like to walk the floor and talk with people and be seen.  Either way both methods work and encourage people, employees to come and talk with you.
  • Congruency – for some managers they may have an open-door policy and walk the floor but may give off a signal that they are not approachable. This is where emotional intelligence is important in leaders to have a self-awareness of their body language and tone when talking with employees to ensure that they are also presenting themselves as open and approachable.
  • Regularity – the consistency and regularity of these exchanges with employees encourages people to open up and builds trust.

As human beings we are wired to detect if people or situations are threatening and are constantly picking up on cues in our environment and behaviors of others.  To assess whether a person or situation is psychologically safe, the workplace is no different.  When we build an organisation that is built on trust and it’s not just a token value but a lived experience, we experience greater levels of:

  • Innovation – feeling safe to share ideas without them getting shut down without a fear of making mistakes, which enables learning.
  • Collaboration – when ideas flow freely amongst the team, in a collegiate way this balance of power ensures that everyone is heard and the focus is on a better solution.
  • Problem Solving – this collegiate environment encourages the team to solve problems together rather than a focus on individuals.

Some organisations value technical skills the hard skills; over leaders who are more approachable and collaborative as these are seen as soft skills.

48% of employees in workforce in USA are looking to change jobs, for more flexibility, to align with cultures and leaders who display these soft skills and clarity of purpose.  Cultures who truly engage with their people in an authentic way. Leaders who are self-aware, open, transparent in their communication and vulnerable, win the hearts and minds of employees and extract the discretionary effort that hits the bottom-line time and time again.

Most organisations know what they do, how they do it but not why, these workplaces are stuck in fire fighter mode, directionless and leaking talent, innovation and in most cases money.

So where do we go from here?

Make feedback and performance reviews a habit, stack it with best practice:

  1. People being aligned with the STRATEGY
  2. Remind employees of your WHY
  3. Connect people with your PURPOSE

The business landscape is rapidly changing and the nature of work and skills required are different.

Businesses need to reflect back to inform their strategy of what is needed to achieve business growth in the following areas:

  1. Continuous improvement
  2. Remove road blocks
  3. Market intelligence – competitor activity
  4. Customer intelligence – customer buying behavior
  5. Pandemic fatigue – shift towards holistic view of employee wellbeing
  6. AGILE – how can we become more agile
  7. Scalable Technology – how are we using technology to solve societies problem of social connectedness and remote work.

In effect how are we building a culture of feedback, performance and innovation, that is engaged and with a common purpose and a spirit of connection, belonging and community.

Humans are the greatest adapters:

In an article titled, Humans May Be the Most Adaptive Species, Scientific American:

“Constant climate change may have given Homo sapiens their flexibility.  Man had two key advantages: our brains and our capacity for culture.  Our brains are essentially social brains. We share information, we create and pass on knowledge. That’s the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it’s what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates”.

If we take care of the people we work with they will share knowledge, pass down knowledge and innovate and be agile, our role as leaders is to provide an environment that fosters trust for them to thrive.

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Have You Noticed What Is Happening?

Have you Noticed What is Happening?

For the last several months I haver been receiving phone calls and emails asking me how dealers should be navigating this current workforce problem. Have you noticed? Let me give you some facts to consider. As of this writing there were 10,934,000 job openings in the USA. That is the highest number ever. Unemployment stands at 5.2%. The long term unemployed (more than 26 weeks) stands at 3,200,000. Surveys tell us that 5,700,000 people who are unemployed want a job. The average work week stands at 34.7 hours and the private non-farm average hourly pay is at $30.72.

Those are the facts. Are you looking for an individual to fill an opening you have in your business? Well perhaps this might give you pause. Gallup research from earlier this year, 2021, found that 48% of the American Workforce was actively looking to change jobs. What do you think is motivating people to want to change jobs? That same survey found that the real problem is employee disengagement. Patrick Lencioni in his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” called it Irrelevance. The employees don’t feel that they are relevant to their employer.

Some of you will use this as ammunition to get everyone back to work in the office. That working from home caused this problem. Don’t come to that conclusion too quickly. It is not correct. Some jobs are more effectively done away from the traditional workplace. Yes, it will take some time to work this out. But make no mistake it is happening now.

Let’s return to Gallup for the reasons for this feeling of “disengagement.” The three most common reasons were:

  • Not seeing opportunities for development
  • Not feeling connected to the company’s purpose
  • Not having strong relationships at work

This is causing a major change in the role of management. Jon Clifton, Global Managing Partner at Gallup notes that even though 64% of the survey respondents didn’t feel engaged at work, that the proportion of engaged workers is growing over time. “One reason is that management strategies are changing. Companies are no longer promoting people to management roles because they are good at their job. Rather, they’re looking at management as a skill in and of itself, and making sure people are good at managing others before giving them more direct reports. Good managers mean more engaged employees and less turnover.” And to me here is the kicker. Employees that are engaged at work are far less likely to leave. Gallup found they’d need to be offered a 20% pay increase to even consider leaving.

I hope you, like I, consider this to be rather sobering news. This news should also force you to do some serious thinking about how you operate. How you engage your employees. Of course, this is nothing new, is it? You should always have been engaging your employees in the business. Who doesn’t know that? But please think about it. How do you engage your employees in your business?

  • Do you have perfunctory state of the company meetings once a quarter where the “Management” tours the stores and shares results with everybody? How is that going for you? Perhaps the Pandemic stopped that mode of communications. No, that is not engagement. That is public relations. What about the day- to-day interaction between the employee and their team leader, their direct supervisor? What do they talk about? What is your employee turnover rate? What do the employees who are leaving, tell you in exit interviews? Do you even do exit interviews? If you don’t do exit interviews you should ask yourself why you don’t.
  • Do you have annual performance reviews with each employee at least once a year? Sonya Law, one of our talented bloggers, has been writing about this for some time. We did Part #1 of a Podcast a couple of weeks ago and Part #2 will be coming shortly. Not very many businesses provide these performance reviews. They are missing a huge opportunity. Continuous improvement opportunities. Don’t forget that the person doing the job knows more about that job than anyone else. They can tell you ways that things can be made better. For them and for the company. This also give the supervisor the opportunity to explore what it is that the employee would like to do next, what they would like to learn. This is another way that employee engagement can be improved.
  • Do you offer, and pay for, any learning that the employee does? Amazon just announced that they will pay for all University education for their employees. Do you do that? Do you offer training programs for all employees? What we at Learning Without Scars advocate, and strongly so, is that each employee should take a Job Function Skills Assessment each year. This should be one of the foundation blocks for the annual review. This is also the gateway to discussions on classes and learning that the employee wants or needs.

Those are three simple questions that need to be answered if you are seriously wanting to protect your business by having your employees truly feel and believe that they are engaged. The choice is yours. This time, however, the consequence for no action is serious.

The time is now.

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It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy!

It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy!

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Bruce Baker shares with us about the destructive mindsets that can lead many small businesses to fail. We hope you find a valuable resource in “It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy.”

We only start living when we stop defending ourselves.

There is never a day I don’t hear someone expressing the dire consequences they face if or when they fail.  In a previous article, I explored the unhealthy mode many of us business owners and leaders are in – the mode that almost anything these days is a catastrophe if it is not solved within a few minutes or, G-d forbid by the end of the day!

This destructive mindset is why most small businesses fail, not because of the lack of tools and resources but due to being trapped by their self-destructive thoughts. Never has there been a time I have either helped a business owner scale up, start up or fix up their business because of the tools and solutions I worked with them on. It was first because of a reshaping of their mindset that brought them sustainable success.

Although the above is just one of many destructive behaviours, what amplifies them is attempting to resolve their challenges in isolation. If an individual has a challenge to solve, the intellectual part of the solution is simple for the most part. Still, the emotional component is where complexity rears its ugly head.  We all can identify where we were trying to solve a problem, only to be paralyzed by decision fatigue or simply indecision. Some of the regular comments I hear from business owners are:

  • I know what needs to be done but have to think about it a bit more.
  • I know it’s the right thing to do, but I am worried about….
  • I need to look at a few more options before I make my decision.
  • Oh well, another day, just a different pile….

The last statement is of particular importance because this is the one, I hear when business owners have finally shut themselves down to those around them.  The challenges are not isolated to business concerns but a mix of business and personal/family-related issues. We are taught not to mix business with personal life or to ensure a “work-life balance.” Let’s not fool ourselves. As business owners, these two entities, for many if not most, are interlinked and to try and fully separate these two emotionally is almost impossible. The consequences are catastrophic, not only in terms of business failure but losing what is most dear to us personally. The challenge now becomes insurmountable, and everything seems to be crumbling around us until we change one thing.

Being open to identifying and engaging with a like-minded individual or group to rely upon is by far one of the most powerful solutions any business owner has in their arsenal. The need to be in control is a critical foundation of our success and to be in control means we need to be connected and being connected makes us comfortable. Being comfortable allows us to share the strong emotions and stories we must tell. The power is not just in what we tell but the realization that we are not alone and many if not all have experienced the same emotions and the challenges they bring to their businesses.  The big difference is that many have resolved these challenges and have become successful in all spectrums of their lives, including building outstanding companies!

Most challenged business owner I engage with initially resists this notion when I first suggest it. Some say it sounds like a therapy session, others say it sounds like they are attending an “Alcohol Anonymous’ group session.  “How on earth are you going to help me grow my business by fixing my emotions?” said one business owner to me.   His reaction was simply self-preservation, the need for self-reliance and ensuring others to know “we have it under control”. Plainly put, the resistance for many comes from the downright feeling of embarrassment. The embarrassment comes from thinking others may consider you incapable or questioning your ability to build and run a business or telling others that you are not someone to do business with.

All this false talk prevents us from taking advantage of this powerful opportunity that we all have available to us! The more we remain in this state the more we isolate and rely on the “emotional mess” that’s we’ve created for ourselves.

I have and continue to have the privilege of working with business owners individually and in groups where we work through their challenges, both professionally and personally.  This hybrid solution consistently creates business success because challenges are solved and built upon successfully, not just because of introducing new systems and solutions in their businesses but also overall life solutions that are the primary driver of success in building a business.

Consider how much hardship you cause yourself and the great need you may have in defending your actions and decisions. The amount of unnecessary energy you spend is exhausting, and you deserve better!

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How Critical is it to Review Employee Performance? Part One

How critical is it to review employee performance? Part One

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part one of a series.

It is very critical: you need alignment between the people and the work that needs to be done to achieve the strategy.  Your people are your number one strategic competitive advantage. When businesses can unlock potential of all people it has a multiplier affect to the bottom line.

Its very important to have a business whose people are performing and heading in the same direction.  It’s an obvious thing you can’t get anything done without the engagement of your people.

There are a number of factors for that too, which exist in today’s organisations:

  1. No clear direction: Often what happens is there is not clear direction from leaders.
  2. Feedback loop: There’s not always a feedback loop between the manager and employee on a regular and consistent basis.
  3. Celebrate achievements: Also, one of the things organisations don’t do very well is celebrate their achievements.
  4. Value your people: And the valuable work that employees do over the last 6 to 12 months is not recognised and highlighted in their mid-year or end of year review (EOY) or at all.
  5. Re-engage: Recommitting your people to the purpose and the strategy and their role in it is not something that is commonly practiced and should be.

As leaders, we get caught up in operations, in our own role, blinkers on, it’s very easy to fall into that trap especially during the pandemic, where for a lot of leaders it’s about keeping your head above water.  It is the role of management to let people know what their contribution is and what their value is to the team and the organisation.  Most people join organisations because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

So, it’s a really good opportunity to acknowledge those things as well as ASK your employees at the End Of Year (EOY) review:

  1. What are the roadblocks you are experiencing in your job?
  2. What are their ideas in terms of efficiencies and continuous improvement?
  3. Ideas on how they could do their job better? Innovation?
  4. Ask them if they would like to do more training, learn something new, that is going to help them to do a better job?
  5. Open up a feedback loop: Say to the person how can I as a manager, help you to perform in your job?
  6. Ask them are they open to opportunities for challenge and stretch goals?

It’s good to, in that conversation talk about challenges and stretch goals.  What I am hearing from a lot of people lately that they are in a job, where they are somewhat happy, well paid, and it’s kind of easy and they are not really being challenged or stretched.  So, they actually want to leave their organisation for an organisation that challenges and stretches them.

This is the responsibility of the manager to unleash that unrealized potential or capacity within the organisation and when we don’t capture potential it really hits the bottom line.  In terms of productivity and efficiency, and revenue per headcount, so it is the role of the manager to always be thinking about how can I unlock the potential of my people. It starts and ends with potential.

Bias is a block to unleashing the Potential of employees?

As leaders, we experience bias in our decision making all the time, we put people in boxes because it enables us to make sense of the world and provides certainty something that still plagues us during the pandemic.  Or we are too lazy to think about what that person’s potential is within the organisation.  Managers who are disengaged have a detrimental impact on the overall performance and wellbeing of their team and organisation.

What can we do as leaders to overcome this bias?

To be aware of how limiting it is when we put people in a box, when we sit down at EOY review we need to appreciate that they are not the same person as they were when they started in the role and with the company.

Important preparation tips for Managers:

  1. Awareness of our own biases
  2. Look at your employees with fresh eyes
  3. Go in with the mindset like you are interviewing them for the first time
  4. Don’t assume, that their past performance is a reliable indicator of future performance.

We need to go into the EOY discussion with the employee as if we don’t know them because, our biases, and our assumptions, and experiences overpower where that person is.

This practice will ensure a successful EOY review on both sides.  With the knowledge that people grow and change as people within an organisation.  Consciously or not, we are putting people into boxes that underutilizes our Human Resources.  By holding a space for employees, it enables you to assess their performance.

Exert from a Candid Conversation with Ron Slee:

(www.learningwithoutscars.com Podcast button)

Ron: The EOY and mid-year review is all about the employee, its not about the manager, and many times, most times, I don’t believe the manager knows how to do it?

Sonya: This is true.  Some managers don’t want to do it, they find it intimidating.

Ron: Have you seen that?

Sonya: Yes, they just want it over and done with and tick the box, and send to HR. Often it comes back with limited feedback or comments. Yes, they talk with the employee and tick it off and go back to their job.  They are often uncomfortable with having conversations about barriers they might be experiencing, professional and personal development questions, conflict in workplace and delivering feedback.  Those skills are important but a lot of managers don’t like to do it, or want to do it.

Ron: Why?

Sonya: It opens them up, they won’t always have the answers.

Ron: We have to be vulnerable to each other.  If I asked what I could do to improve my relationship with you as a worker of mine, that employee has to trust me explicitly, implicitly if they are going to tell me the truth.  I don’t know that, that kind of trust exists? I get a paycheck, I don’t want to do anything that is going to jeopardize that paycheck, I need the paycheck.  The employee is coming to the discussion nervously and anxiously, and the boss thinking what a pain in the neck.  I am busy don’t they know that. We’re on the wrong foot from the start?

Sonya: True, there is also a power disparity which makes it difficult, in the workplace, often if face to face in the bosses’ office, manager title on the door, its intimidating.  The employee just wants to get home, take a paycheck and goes into survival mode, which is quite common.   Fear kicks in and fight or flight depending on the degree of trust.

In my next article we will explore this more on how to have a successful End Of Year (EOY) review in

Part Two: How to build trust and get the most out of the End Of Year (EOY) review. 

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