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

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

Distractions – Updated 11-08-11 +

November 3rd, 2011

What are distractions?

From Dictionary.com, one definition states:

– That which distracts, divides the attention, or prevents concentration.

There is a ton of information available on time management and 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 your doing or tools 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.  This topic reminds me of a very popular book from my library by Stephen Covey – “First Things First” .  In this book, Mr. covey discusses the four squares of Importantance and Urgency.  The four squares are Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important.  This system uses not only a clock (Time management) but a compass (Purpose/Values).  If you were to layout your daily tasks based on this method, where would much of your time be spent?

In order to determine what goes in each square in the above example, you need to determine the various tasks you do each day as well as other “miscellaneous” items that you do not even think of as tasks.  These items may be checking your personal Facebook or Twitter account, checking your personal email or the latest on your bid status on an Ebay auction.  Add to that the various text messages that you get from your friends and family and you have a lot of “miscellaneous” items that are most likely not on your “To Do” list.  If you were to track all these items, you may find that they consume a fair amount of your time – especially if you have a lot or friends, a big family or are just a very social individual.  So what can and should these miscellaneous items be categorized as?  How about distractions?   With some rare exceptions, for the most part, these items are not urgent and not important – at least not to your job – which during the day should be your focus – right?  What you do on your lunch or other scheduled breaks is your business, but when you area at work it would seem reasonable that work is your focus.

Outside of work we can have the same issues, including a reversal of the work scenario.  Do you get work email on your phone and grab it each time you hear the Email chime to see what it is?   Unless your job requires it, your home/personal time should be used for just that.   Do you answer your phone or text messages when at church, in business meetings or during conversations with your family or spouse?  Life is a balance, and you need to determine what is important and essential in the various areas of your life, whether it is work, home, relationships, education, spirituality or just following up on goals for any of these areas.  Anything that interrupts these are “distractions” – you need to think about what is most important in your daily responsibilities, prioritize them and avoid distractions.

One of the biggest distractions many of us deal with on a regular basis is people.  Some of the obvious ways that people distract you are by phone calls, texting, emails, Facebook and Tweets.  Many people work different schedules than you or just have a different set of priorities.  Unfortunately it also very common for people to not consider that others have a different set of priorities than they do.   People can also distract you with their opinions and observations, many times in hopes that they can sway you to follow or agree with them on a specific topic or idea.  Often these things have very little if anything to do with ‘your’ priorities.

In all areas of your life, be true to your priorities, figure out which are important, which are urgent and which are just distractions then make a plan to stay on focus.

In biblical times, at least one individual dealt well with the distractions of people.  In the story of Nehemiah and rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, Nehemiah  was distracted by those that did not share his vision and some that did not want him to succeed.  Select the link below for a PDF with more information on this story.

+ Managing Distractions:

Identify what they are:

The first step in reducing or eliminating distractions is 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? How many are actually created by you?  What follows are a few things that are common distractions and how you might address them.


The ability to focus in different surroundings varies by person, and figuring out which environment is best for you will help go a long way toward reducing one of the biggest distractions.  If you need peace and quiet, a Library is probably better suited than a bookstore or coffee shop.  When working in your office, if you have a door – close it, or face away from it to avoid the passer-bys.  Courteous people are less likely to bother someone that is not facing them or looks deep in thought where they cannot see their face.  Of course the not-so courteous people will come up and goose you!  If a lot of background “white” noise is needed, maybe a coffee shop would work or maybe you need to wear head phones and play your own background affects.   Think about the various times you have tried to read, focus, or relax and what were the optimal environments for those tasks?  Once you determine what environment you focus best in, look to find or create that type of environment for yourself.  If your distractions are not sound related but food or TV or your ongoing household chores lists, you are not going to want to work from home where all those things are readily available to you.  If you’re a people watcher, going to a coffee shop, facing your office window or sitting in a park are also not good ideas.   If Twitter, Facebook, Email or Texts are your biggest distractions, turn off your Phone or PC while you work.  If you are working on your PC, smart phone or tablet, shut down the apps that are used for these distracting applications.


When at the office, job site, etc…, be clear with your co-workers on your need for quiet or focus time.  Establish some ground rules or understanding of what you need and your willingness to respect theirs as well.  If have a door and you can close it, let them know that when your door is closed, you want to be left alone for everything but emergencies or very important issues.  When they do not adhere to your requests, repeat and be firm in the importance of your quiet time.  You need to be taken seriously if you want to establish an environment you can focus in.  Speaking of which, if you implement the closed door policy, make sure it is not closed all the time!


Be realistic about the tasks you need to accomplish and the time it will take – assume there will be things that will not be avoidable when creating your schedule.  Determine when you are best at specific tasks such as physical and mental items on your lists.  I myself am best focused in the am and can get more mental-processing items done then, as the day goes on – not so much.   How much time are you spending on Email, Facebook, Twitter, Web research, paying bills, etc…?   Can you schedule your email for specific times of the day?  Can you catch up on Facebook, and twitter and update your blog during your lunch break instead of throughout the day?  Spend a week or so monitoring how much time you spend in various repetitive tasks and look for things that are your most common distractions.  Work out ways that you can avoid those items during the time(s) you have chosen to focus and be aware of your environment as discussed above.  Focus on what’s most important right now – work/home/self.


High performers develop effective refocusing strategies to get them back on tasks and refocused.  The first step is to realize when you are distracted.  Identify a cue word, an image or a prop in your surroundings that you can use to regain your focus.   You will need to practice this refocusing cue so that it becomes an automatic process.

Distractions come in many forms and you are likely to need to do a combination of the above items to get you back on track or keep you from falling off in the first place.

Categories: By Walt Sparling, Management | No Comments