Employee Motivation

October 27th, 2012

A problem that many employers face is keeping good employees around.  This is not a new issue, but with the current economy it has been a struggle for many.  Below are two articles from different sources.  The first is from Harvard Business School and was written in 2006, the second is one that I wrote recently for AUGI World, an International magazine for Autodesk software users.

Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation (Harvard Business School – April 2006)

Most companies have it all wrong. They don’t have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them.

The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees’ morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward. That finding is based on surveys of about 1.2 million employees at 52 primarily Fortune 1000 companies from 2001 through 2004, conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence (Purchase, New York).

The fault lies squarely at the feet of management—both the policies and procedures companies employ in managing their workforces and in the relationships that individual managers establish with their direct reports.

Read full article…


Retaining Talent (AUGI World – September 2012)

…So let’s assume you found and hired your new tech and he/she has turned out to be a rock star.  The person shows up on time, if not early, and stays until all tasks are done. The employee is enthusiastic about helping others and learning new things, up to speed on new commands and tools, and gets along with everyone from the CEO to the receptionist at the front door.  Wow—your extra work has paid off and you hired a real keeper.  Hopefully, you have a few and perhaps many of these types on your staff, and the purpose of the first article was to help you achieve just that.  So, the next question is: How do you keep them around?

Read full article…


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership, Management | No Comments


May 4th, 2012

A couple new posts for you on Leadership.  The first is from the “Great Leadership” blog and is title The Top 5 Leadership mistakes.  Over the years, I have seen these mistakes repeatedly and in some cases all by the same person in a Leadership role.  The most common that I have seen are ‘Inconsistent Communication’, ‘Ineffective Feedback’ and the ‘Inability to define clear goals’.  The second post is from the same blog and is on Inspirational Leadership, titled “Inspire People to Change”.

The Top 5 Leadership Mistakes 

Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of leaders many who have displayed specific leadership shortfalls, that when improved, have had a positive impact on the effectiveness and profitability of the organization. Both new and experienced manager/leaders can make these top five mistakes; which one is your Achilles heel? And what is your plan to improve?

Read more… Top 5 Leadership Mistakes

Inspire People to Change

Leaders not only challenge us but also inspire us to take action. Some leaders post quotes in their office as reminders to inspire themselves and others.

Read more… Inspire People to Change


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership | No Comments

Leadership and Attitude

April 19th, 2012

I apologize for the absence of any new posts for awhile. The following are on subjects we discussed – Leadership and Attitude vs Formal Education. We did not specifically discuss Attitude, but we did talk about hiring good people and this is one of the metrics you should consider. The Leadership article is from the Harvard Business Journal and the Attitude article/podcast is from Salary.com and discusses values other than degrees and credentials.

Practice Being a Leader

Leadership is not an innate trait that you’re born with. It can be learned. The key is to practice before you have the official title. Start by focusing on the choices you make now, such as who to put on your team or what vendor to use for your project. Recognize that you likely don’t know everything. Making decisions based on incomplete information is a skill that every leader must master. Once you’ve acted, ask yourself: Was that the right decision? Could you have done something differently? This will get you comfortable with making decisions, acting upon them, and reflecting on their outcomes. Then, learn from your inevitable mistakes. You will build knowledge and skills as you work up to the larger decisions with broader consequences that all leaders have to make.

Read more…  Wilderness Leadership

Companies Should Start Hiring for Attitude

A collection of degrees and a host of credentials is all well and good, but if you don’t have the right attitude at work you’ll likely be shown the door. And that’s a costly outcome for both employee and employer.

Read more…  Hiring for Attitude


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership, Management, Personal Development | No Comments

Readers and Leaders

February 13th, 2012

This week I have two posts, one from the Great Leadership blog and one from FunctionSense.com.

The first is titled “Don’t Let the Pebbles Cover the Rocks” and talks about leaders that allow the urgent to take over the important on a continual basis.

This spiral leads to goals that are unmet or have slipped past their deadline. It causes a lack of focus for the organization as people begin to question what the real priorities are for the company. And ultimately, the success of the organization is held back and performance is limited because employees are focused on putting out fires and not preparing for the future because the future is so unclear. And, often changes are taking place externally in the market that are missed providing competitors with the advantage in the long run.  Continue to article…


The second is about developing a personal reading plan and is something I wrote while developing my own reading plan as part of my 2012 goals.

I have heard this statement made many times over the years from various well known motivators, including Jim Rohn, John Maxwell, Earl Shoaff, and Dave Ramsey.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

Reading is a great way to increase your knowledge on a variety of topics, from Aardvarks to Zymurgy and everything in between.

Continue to FunctionSense.com article…

We will not be doing group meetings during the Spring term, but do plan to pick up again in the fall.  Until then, I will continue to post links for your reading pleasure here.


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership, Personal Development | No Comments

Broken Leaders..

January 16th, 2012

Each of us has worked in a situation where a leadership or management change has been made or an existing Leader/Manager has decided to come up with a new plan – a plan that does not really work out.  In the experiences that I have had, it is often due to poor or even no planning – just a random Hail Mary – and lets see what happens.  Typically these crazy plans and management changes fail due to lack of consideration for the people that the changes will affect and really understanding what the problem is.  The following post is from the Blog “LeadBig” and was written by Jane Perdue.  Jane is a consultant that works with organizations of all sizes and individuals to challenge and inspire thinking at the intriguing intersection of the art of leadership and the science of business.

All the Broken Leaders:


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership, Management | No Comments

Resolutions Time

January 2nd, 2012

The New year is upon us and so are the resolutions.  At church this Sunday guest speaker Cliff Barsi gave a humorous but insightful talk on personal resolutions which equate to new years goals and how we go about making them happen.  During our fall term in the Leaders and Managers group, we covered SMART goals which hopefully you used or are using to create your resolutions for this year.   Below are a couple related posts to start out the new year.

The first one is a sample of the 10 most common New Years Resolutions from About.com:

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

The Second is one of my own about the need for change to accomplish our resolutions:

Happy New Year – The time for change…


Categories: Blog General, By Walt Sparling | No Comments

Giving During the Holiday Season

December 23rd, 2011

To keep everyone tuned in to Leadership and Management until our next term starts up, I will be posting links to other posts and articles I find that fall within our topics.  Feel free to send me links to some of your own findings and I’ll get them posted.

This week I have two posts, and both are timely for the holiday season as they both discuss giving.  The first one comes from Dave Ramsey, who many know as the Go-To Money guy.  Dave is also a big advocate of good Leadership and even has a new book out “EntreLeadership”.  This post is about giving to your team: 

“Three Ways to Give to Your Team This Holiday Season”

The second comes from one of my favorite authors – Patrick Lencioni.  Pat put’s a different spin on giving in his POV article.  As this one came in an email, and has not yet posted to his website, I created a link to the article here:

Pat’s POV: December 2011 – An Unconventional Gift

Enjoy the reading and Merry Christmas!


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership | No Comments

Fall Term Summary

November 29th, 2011

The Leaders and Managers Group this term went very well, and we are happy that we were able to spend some quality time with all those that attended. We look forward to future terms where we can expand on the topics of Leadership and Management and how we can fill these roles in a manner that serves our family, friends and most of all God in the right way. The following is a short summary of our Fall term topics.

Managers vs Leaders
We kicked off the Fall term talking about Leaders and Managers and their typical roles. Although managers are often looked at as leaders, we looked at whether managers and leadership roles were Complimentary, The same, or Completely unique.

Although this topic often has pretty strong opinions from all sides and various reasons why are given, our group was pretty consistent. The fact is that although the roles are sometimes intertwined, they each have their own functions that make each role required and unique.

In our meeting, we reviewed the questionnaire and the additional resource readings and found that most attendees both lead and manage to some point in both their personal and business lives. In particular, as a parent both leadership and management skill sets are required. At work, you do not necessarily need to be in charge of anyone to perform a leadership role. Sometimes just being a motivator and assisting others with their tasks can place you in a leadership role as an example for others to follow.

As for the traits of a Leader vs a Manager outline that were discussed from the resource readings, many did not agree with the specific traits used by each author. Some of the characterizations seemed slanted unrealistically against the manger which generated some very good discussions.

Vision Casting
From Leaders vs managers, we jumped in to a typical Leadership role; “Vision Casting”. People in the “Church World” are very familiar with the concept and usage of “Vision Casting”, but it is not limited to this environment alone. To succeed in business and many times in life, you (Leaders) have to cast your vision of the future in a way to attract, develop, and retain employees, team members, or followers. The goal is to build a team that can see, understand and support your vision and then carry it out. The process of getting your idea (Vision) of your company, group, team, or project known is Vision Casting. Vision Casting works best when it’s done in a way that motivates, inspires, and encourages your employees or team members and is memorable.

Effective leading starts with creating a vision. To cast your vision you will want to share it with the people responsible for making it happen, and create a plan to make it happen, all while encouraging and nurturing those tasked with following it through. A good vision is one that is believable, is personal and inspires others.

There was some lively discussion and input from everyone regarding the process of Vision Casting and a few realized that some of what they do in their jobs is related to if not actually the process of Vision Casting. What was clear was that all of us at some point try to get others to buy in to an idea or task and when doing this we present our “Vision” of what the outcome will be for ourselves and those involved.

And although there have been many successful Vision Casters in the course of history, David pointed out – not all were positive influences on society. Although some may have started out with a positive vision at the beginning, the outcome was agreeably far less so. When you consider the qualities of a successful Vision caster and you can see how it can go astray.

Systems are created from a combination of the beliefs, behaviors and communications we have every day. For instance: If we say one thing yet act another way, we are not establishing a system of integrity. If we make threats or promise repercussions for bad deeds and then never follow through when the acts are done, we have established that we really do not intend on following though with what we say. These are the systems that are in place and what other people will start to mimic.

An excellent resource on the Systems concept is DVD by Andy Stanley called “Systems – Liberating your Organization”. A couple key points that Andy drove home were:

– Systems are the nuts and bolts of good leadership.
– Things must change at the systems level, or they will not change…

I firmly believe that ‘Systems’ are critical in all parts of an organization and are the building blocks that determine the success or failure of that organization.

A lot of things need to be done to maintain a good, happy and productive team, but before you handle those challenges; you need to get a team in place. There are many “musts” and “shoulds” when it comes to hiring and we tried to cover as many of them as possible during this session.

Each step can involve a lot of time and research and we could have spent an entire term on just this topic alone, but since we couldn’t we summarized the steps to be as brief as possible. Below are the main points that we covered:

– Determine your need
– Create a clear and accurate job description
– Promote your position
– Screen your candidates (checklist, reasonable time, multiple interviews by various individuals)
– Make sure your final candidate is the right fit

The concept of delegation is often easier to explain then to actually do. Some people are born delegators, either because they know they cannot accomplish things on their own – a sign of a good Leader or manger OR they just don’t want to do it themselves – a sign of a lazy person or dictator. To be successful in many areas of our life, it is critical to be able to delegate in some fashion. Whether you are running a household where delegating a few chores would help you keep the home running smoothly, a small business owner that delegates some accounting, filing, or phone answering functions or a corporate CEO where the bulk of work is delegated to others delegation is an important aspect in our lives. During this meeting, we discussed the following points:

· Do you delegate?
· Why delegate?
· What to delegate?
· To whom do you delegate?
· When do you start delegating?
· How do you delegate?
· Great Delegators in Scripture

One on Ones
A excellent management task that we covered was the “One on Ones” which is basically a weekly 30 minute scheduled meeting between a manager and a team member. The meeting should be done at a consistent time every week. If every week is hard to do, try every two weeks, but do not go over one month apart. The meeting needs to be structured to include time for both the team member and the manager to speak. A typical meeting allows 10 minutes for the team member, 10 minutes for the manager and 10 minutes to discuss the future. In many organizations managers know very little about their team members. One on ones are a great opportunity for managers to establish a relationship with their team. When employees see that a manager is showing an interest in them (there are boundaries) they feel more appreciated. This concept was familiar to most of the group attendees, but not all currently perform or get these types of meetings; something to work on.

We discussed how sometimes it seems impossible to get through everything on our plates, and that it seems we need to work more on our time management. Even though there is a ton of information available in many formats on the concept of time management, it often comes down to improving on multi-tasking, creating ‘To Do’ lists and using fancy calendars and electronic reminders. Many of these things focus on ’Efficiency’ rather than ‘Effectiveness’. Are the things that you are doing or the tools that you are using making you more efficient (more things done in the same amount of time), while making you less effective (not doing the things that are most important)?

Distractions are things that remove our focus from what is most important while putting our focus on things that are not a priority. In order to manage your distractions, you need to determine what they are. This may seem like an easy thing to do, but many people do not really know what their distractions truly are and until they are clear, how can they be addressed? Noises, people, personal or family issues, schedules, To Do lists, etc… What is keeping you from focusing on your important tasks? Determine how many are controllable – what can you change to reduce them and which ones are actually created by you.

Work / Family / Life Balance
We all have multiple responsibilities in our lives, any they typically include work, family, school, spiritual, and self. How do manage to balance all of these? We discussed this issue along with the Book “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley.

When it comes to Family and Work, you need to determine which is more important to you and if you actually live that belief.
We all have responsibilities and when we choose one over the other, we are saying (indicating), showing that that one is more important than the other – this does not always appear to match our beliefs.

To make sure you can achieve a sustainable balance, you need to set your priorities – determine what is really most important and make adjustments required to fulfill that priority. This may include making changes that include choosing a different path, career or living conditions, in order to achieve what is ultimately the most important priority.

Future Planning
We covered a lot of material this term and to make sure we get some benefit, we discussed how we need to put what we covered in to practice. Putting this knowledge in to practice requires a plan and a good way to set your plan in motion is to create some SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym used to define how to set up goals in order to give you a better chance of following through. When setting goals, there are some basic principals that should be used, these principals are referred to by the SMART acronym which means that your goals should be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

That was pretty much a wrap-up of our Fall term. Next term we will cover some of the same material while adding in some additional items that we did not get to like; maintaining a good staff, setting free those that do not fit in, the DISC concept and dealing with competing priorities. Feel free to drop me an email with some material you would like to see added or any material that we covered this term that you would like to learn more about. In addition, if the time and or Day of week was an issue, for you throw out some suggestions that we can consider for our next term.

Walt Sparling and David Alvarez

Categories: Blog General, Leadership, Management | No Comments

Future Planning

November 16th, 2011

Planning: We have covered a lot of material this term and to make sure we get some benefit, we need to put what we covered in to practice. Putting this knowledge in to practice requires a plan and a good way to set your plan in motion is to create some goals. Each of you will have slightly different goals as to what you want to put in to practice, so each of you will have a different plan. Think about what items you want to do additional followup on or put in to practice and write down a list of goals that will form your plan. Do not try to accomplish too much at once, set realistic goals with realistic time frames.

For the next meeting, split your wishes or desired accomplishments that relate to the material covered this term in to various time frames; immediate (short term goals), annual or bi-annual (mid-term), and future (long-term) and create a list and sort them in to time in increments based on the following:

  • 1 month
  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 5 years

Note: You do not need to write down all the details, just the goals themselves for discussion at the next meeting.

Setting SMART Goals:

SMART is an acronym used to define how to set up goals in order to give you a better chance of following through. When setting goals, there are some basic principals that should be used, these principals are referred to by the SMART acronym which means that your goals should be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The following is one version of the SMART definition that was found on the “Goal Setting Guide Website”: http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/goal-setting-tutorials/smart-goal-setting”.

S =Specific

Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.

M = Measurable

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, there is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.

A = Attainable

When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop that attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Your begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

R = Realistic

This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able.” It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them.

T = Timely

Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by fifth grade. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.”

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

The Bible’s teaching about achieving goals tells us that having them is not enough, we need a way to reach them. One person from the bible that has came up repeatedly in our group has been the Jewish leader, Nehemiah. The following link is to a Bible Study specifically on the book of Nehemiah which discusses not only the planning part, but also the achievement of your goals. Achieving Goals

Evaluate your list of goals and do a basic fine tuning of them based on whether or not they are “SMART”. You will have plenty of time to evaluate and organize them later to get your plan put in to action, this will just be discussion to get a good foundation started. Once you have evaluated your goals based on the SMART principals, you will be able to put together a plan that has a much better chance of success.

Additional Resources:

Forms to help with your SMART Goal Planning:





Categories: By Walt Sparling, Management | No Comments


November 12th, 2011

Work / Family / Life Balance:

How do you balance your responsibilities in work, home, school, spiritual, self? Below is a summary of discussion topics from Andy Stanley’s “Choosing to Cheat” book.

Work and Family:

  • Which is more important to you?
  • Do you live that belief?

We all have responsibilities:

  • When we choose one over the other, we are saying (indicating), showing that that one is more important than the other.
  • Stages of life dictate pace of life.  (Example when family’s needs take place:  pre-schoolers / teenagers)
  • We often expect others to adjust to our needs which adds to their burden.
  • When we are irresponsible, we are forcing someone else to be responsible in our absence.
  • Our responsibilities are like a rock that we each carry.
  • When we do not / cannot fulfill our responsibilities, someone else has to carry that  rock along with their own.
  • By willingly passing that rock, we are indicating that we feel their time is less valuable than ours.
  • Good spouses / partners will carry that rock for you (for a while, but eventually they wear out physically or emotionally)
  • Men are not always intuitive enough to realize that something is wrong and Men often feel powerless to correct the situation.
  • Not all requests by others are emergencies.
  •  Unsustainable schedules are what create the issue

 How to think about the issue:

    • Tell your family that the other priorities or people requesting your help are more important than your family? That’s how your family sees it.


      • Set your priorities – determine what is really most important and make adjustments required to fulfill that priority.
      • You may need to choose a different path, career or living conditions, to achieve what is ultimately the most important priority.
      • Train others to fulfill the needs & responsibilities of/for others at work.

Additional Resources:

“Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley

Book on Amazon:             http://www.amazon.com/Choosing-Cheat-Wins-Family-Collide/dp/1590523296

 Podcast:              http://www.podcasters.tv/episodes/choosing-to-cheat-11702498.html


Categories: By Walt Sparling, Leadership, Management | No Comments