Archive for March, 2012

Low Cost Ways To Show Employees They’re Highly Valued

March 20, 2012

As a keynote speaker on peak performance I’m always on the lookout for relevant info about current workplace trends. The following was posted by Fast Company March 19, 2012.


Small businesses can compete for talent without breaking the bank. Yes, you still need to pay competitive wages to get people in the door, but it’s the perks that will help you retain them. Here are 30 low-cost ideas for small businesses who want to show employees that they are highly valued.

1. Flex time.  Some organizations require employees to be at work during core hours, and employee can set their schedule around this. Others allow employees to put in hours at their own discretion. Most require employees to have a set schedule so managers can plan for coverage. The schedule may be adjusted to accommodate personal matters like doctor’s appointments.

2. Innovation days.  Set aside several days a year to allow employees to step away from their usual responsibilities to tackle projects related to the way they work and the spaces they work in. Results are shared in a company meeting the following morning.

3. Monthly commuter benefits.  Offer a monthly stipend ($100 or so) for those who commute by public transportation. In many cities where mass transit is used, companies offer tax-free transit fare programs; you can learn more about the options available from programs likeTransitChek or Commuter Check. These programs also save companies money in payroll taxes. 

4. Fully stocked kitchen.  Provide free coffee, soft drinks, and snacks for employees during work hours. Want to bump this up a notch? Keep organic milk in stock and add fresh fruit and healthy options to the shopping list.

5. Wellness benefits.  Employees can receive reimbursement for purchases related to fitness (up to $300/year). Typical items reimbursed include gym memberships, running shoes, yoga mats, bicycles, and so on.

6. Free lunch.  Order in for all your employees once a week to foster community and give employees a break from packing their lunches. 

7. Canine colleagues.  Got an office full of dog lovers? Then invite house-trained visitors to join the team.

8. Parental leave.   As this infographic shows, the U.S. has some of the weakest paid family-leave benefits anywhere–while some states guarantee paid leave, it’s not a federal mandate. You can immediately differentiate your company by making sure all employees are eligible for paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

9. No dress code.  Relax–ties are optional in this work environment.

10. Summer hours.  Employees kick back early on Fridays during the summer months, allowing them to beat the heat as well as the traffic if they’re heading out to the beach for a weekend.

11. Free chair massages.  Fifteen minutes in the chair once a week, and employees will return to their desks refreshed and ready to tackle their to-do lists.

12. Optional telecommuting.  In an increasingly mobile and digitally connected world, many employees can easily and successfully work from home part- or full-time. Here are some tips on working from home that will make the transition smooth.

13. Tech neutrality.  Offer the choice of PCs or Macs so employees can work on the machine with which they’re more comfortable. 

14. Flexibility in paid time off.  Employees can choose how to use their paid time off bank (vacation, sick, and personal time) to best meet the needs of their individual situations.

15. A culture of work/life balance. Create an atmosphere where it really is okay to leave the office before 8 p.m.

16. Perks for part-time employees.  Many organizations treat part-time workers like they were temps. Provide part-time workers with perks and they’ll be acting like full-time workers in no time.

17. Cultural extras.  Keep the workplace exciting by mixing in rewards like concert tickets, movie outings, or passes to sporting events. Don’t forget to throw some cash your employee’s way to cover the babysitter.

18. Sabbaticals.  Offer month-long sabbaticals after five years of service, or two months after 10 years of service.

19. Laundry service.  Employ a service to pick up employees’ clothes and drop them back at work, clean and folded.

20. Car care.  Who has time to take their car in for an oil change? Companies have arranged for a service to come to the office and take care of this messy task while employees are working.

21. Gift matching.  The company matches employee’s charitable donations, with the match based on what the company can afford.

22. Adoption assistance.  This financial assistance can be used for legal expenses, adoption agencies, or other professional fees. 

23. Take-out meals.  To help make things easier, new moms and dads are able to expense up to $300 for take-out meals during the first three months that they are home with their new baby.

24. Employee referral programs.  Good people know other good people, and the best employees are usually hired through referrals. Those who refer candidates who are hired receive a cash bonus award.

25. Green initiatives.  Preferred parking and/or subsidies for those who purchase and drive hybrid vehicles.

26. Paid time off to volunteer.  Employees are given a specific amount of time to volunteer in their communities.

27. Cleaning services.  Sweep employees off their feet–hire professional cleaners to tidy up employees’ homes every two weeks.

28. Tuition forgiveness.  Offer to pay a percentage of tuition owed, per year of employment, for hard-to-fill positions that are appropriate for recent grads.

29. Easier dinnertimes.  Take care of the people who matter by enlisting a vendor to deliver ready-to-eat healthy dinners that employees can elect to purchase and take home to their families.

30. Acknowledgment of significant others.  When employees do have to work late hours, the people who really pick up the slack are their spouses who are forced to work double duty. Acknowledge their contributions by sending flowers or gift cards, along with a personal note to acknowledge their contribution.

Incorporating perks like these into your organization will help you attract top talent, increase employee satisfaction, and reduce costly employee turnover, which in the end is far more profitable than scaling back on your benefit expenses to save a few bucks.


Why you need fans GaGa over you

March 12, 2012

As a motivational speaker at conferences around the country I need to stand out from the crowded speakers circuit to be in demand. I do that by playing the piano during my presentations on peak performance  and since music is a universal language that energizes people of all ages and cultures, I’m usually booked as the opening keynote.

The five principles of learning to master the piano are the same ones that apply to be successful at work: Passion, Persistence, Attitude, People and Focus.

Ready to rock?


The beginning of all motivation. Every rock star, athlete and billionaire  started out with one thing in common – they had a passion for what they do.  Fear and money are both great motivators and perceived obstacles. Taking small steps outside your comfort zone towards that dream job/new business can open up a world of opportunities.  


Most people give up too easily… at the first sign of difficulty they’re outta there. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book ‘Outliers’ he writes how Bill Gates and The Beatles each took 10,000 hours worth of practice to reach the levels of excellence they did.  Think Lady Gaga was an overnight success? Not! She started playing piano when she was four. It took 10 years for me to play pop music worth listening to without sounding like a total dweeb.


In today’s economy you have to be extraordinary to get the job/client and keep the job/client. This means constantly learning new ways of working. Translation: stay teachable. The days of managers that Know-It-All and We’ve-Always-Done-It-This-Way are SO over. Baby Boomers and Traditionalists need to learn about the latest gizmos from Gen X & Y who in turn need to learn about professional communications. Multi-millionaire Lady Gaga has the ultimate attitude of being willing to change by re-inventing herself almost every week with outrageous costumes, creative videos and spectacular sets. (You gotta get a load of this boomer standing up with one foot on the piano playing ‘Paparazzi’ during her keynotes!)

Stay humble and likeable. Mark Pincus CEO of Zynga a hugely successful online game company, says the main attribute he looks for when hiring is humility because it means someone is both approachable and open to new ideas. Managers that recognize employees for a job well done boost productivity, teamwork and morale. Lady Gaga is constantly thanking her fans that she affectionately calls ‘little monsters’. People buy from people they like. Having peeps gaga over you = cha ching!


Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump and Lady Gaga realized early on they needed other people to help them be successful so they each had mentors. For your organization to achieve goals great teamwork is essential and mentoring the younger generations is key. For your small business to thrive, brainstorm with peers in the industry for fresh ideas and solutions to challenges. Join group discussions on Linked In to stay current in your field, create a buzz about your biz on Facebook and post Tweets of value to your Twibe.


When I was offered the opportunity to audition for Coca Cola to perform at the 2006 Winter Olympics, I did nothing else for three days but focus on  winning. Through research I found out who was going to be in the audience in Italy and practiced piano relentlessly to WOW the judges in Houston within 30 seconds. To stay ahead of your competition today pay attention to changing market trends and keep up with technology to provide speedier customer service.  Focus on goals but stay open to new ideas.

I’m honored to say I bought home the Olympic gold (OK, so it’s a chocolate medal).

Got goals?

Get fans.

Boosting Productivity Slash ‘n’ Cut Style

March 5, 2012
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March 5, 2012

As a motivational speaker on high performance one of the ways I stay current is to read the daily blogs on and the following was a recent post.


Excerpted from Good Boss, Bad Boss a New York Times bestseller by Robert Sutton.


Making subtraction a way of life isn’t a theme raised in Good Boss, Bad Boss, but as I began thinking about many of the main ideas plus Matthew May’s great book In Pursuit of Elegance, I realized that great bosses have a “subtraction mind-set.” They are always looking to remove bad or unnecessary things.

As we know, “bad is stronger than good.” Getting rid of bad people is probably even more crucial than bringing in great people. We saw, for example how Paul Purcell enforces the “no jerks rule” at Baird. Removing selfish jerks has not only made Baird a civilized place but has helped keep it on Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For list since 2004. And it has helped Baird grow and improve profits in recent years even as many other financial services firms faltered and failed.

When I speak to managers and executives rotten apples provoke especially strong reactions. At a gathering of high-tech CEOs, there was an interesting segment where each described “what keeps me up at night.” One said it was a star executive who brought in a lot of business but was driving away good people. There was consensus among his fellow CEOs that “we’ve seen  this movie before” and they all learned after firing someone like that, “Why did I wait so long? Things are so much better now!”

Another way some bosses deal with rotten apples–especially those with skills that are tough to replace or who have so much job security they are impossible to fire–is to “subtract them” physically, to isolate them so they don’t infect others. In one organization, there was a deeply skilled and incredibly nasty engineer whom leaders could not bring themselves to fire. So they rented a beautiful private office for him several blocks from the building where his colleagues worked. His coworkers were a lot happier–and so was he, since he preferred working alone.

Bad apples aren’t the only thing great bosses remove…

Cumbersome rules and procedures waste time and energy–so great bosses find ways to simplify and eliminate them. After the General Motors bankruptcy in 2009, CEO Rick Wagoner was fired and replaced with Ed Whitacre. He immediately started slashing away at GM’s maze of irrational and ingrained procedures—such as cutting the number of reports prepared by his research group from ninety-four to four per year. Whitacre’s blazingly obvious belief in doing so would allow researchers to spend more time researching and less time writing reports.

 The lesson here isn’t so much about these specific subtraction stories. Rather, it is about the subtraction mind-set that every boss ought to keep searching for things to remove and simplify- ways to make life less frustrating and annoying.

Great bosses live the motto “When in doubt, take it out.”