The funny thing about top performers is that while they rarely need external motivation, the wrong kind of management will quickly result in serious demotivation.

Also noteworthy: these folks tend to be politically savvy enough to hide the worst of their frustration from their managers. Instead, one day they’ll just up and give notice, thanking their clueless employers for the “valuable learning experience” as they skip out the door.

This is the bad type of turnover that smart employers try and avoid, especially in the current economy, which is becoming more and more a seller’s market.

As every employer knows, talent acquisition is an investment. Failure to get the proper return on that investment hurts the bottom line. It also hurts morale and engagement when talented folks are driven out needlessly. It’s discouraging and causes remaining employees to have to reboot and regroup.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here then, as a blueprint for what NOT to do, are the 5 surefire ways to demotivate your top performers.

#1. Micromanage. I’d guess that a literal ton has been written about the evils of micromanaging. Nobody likes being told exactly how to do his job, over and over again, as a matter of course. Top performers value autonomy and the ability to think for themselves. Anything else feels demeaning and stifling. Give top performers an objective and a deadline (if necessary) and then leave them alone. If they need help, they’re skilled enough to ask for it.

#2. Flip flop. Indecisiveness drives top performers batty, because they like getting stuff done. A habit of obstructing progress by failing to make needed decisions is guaranteed to send your top performer racing to the job boards.

#3. Be opaque. “Why” is a very important question for top performers, who appreciate knowing the reasons behind requests and directives. Managers who view “why” as a threat to their authority and/or who feel entitled to give orders without considering anyone else’s need to know, will find themselves continually on the look out for good employees.

#4. Underpay. When rewards aren’t commensurate with results, most employees will get a little antsy, and top performers are no exception. However, top performers tend to know their worth and will more quickly seek other options. While cash isn’t the end-all-be-all motivator for everyone, money is needed currency to obtain food, clothing, and shelter (among other things of worth), and it signals value, to boot.

#5. Routinely engage in petty politics. Politics is an unavoidable part of corporate life, and top performers certainly know this. Still, there’s a difference between healthy politics, which entails the use of power and social networks to advance interests in an assertive and respectful manner, and the toxic, tiring games of the truly unenlightened. The latter requires too much emotional labor and makes work hard for all the wrong reasons. Top performers don’t want to be bothered with that.

Top performers give more, and they require more in return. They want their ideas and their intellect respected, they want to be paid what they’re worth, and they don’t want their efforts choked by needless roadblocks and petty politics. These behaviors are all surefire demotivators and surefire ways to find yourself on the losing end of the war for talent.



Win a free conflict resolution workshop for your employees

Need help keeping the peace in your office?

Since rock-paper-scissors and cage matches are frowned upon as effective conflict resolution strategies…

Enter to win a FREE conflict resolution virtual workshop on June 13th for your office!

How it works:

  • Entry deadline: May 31st.

  • Winner will be announced via social media on June 1st.

  • Your employees (up to 15) receive a link to take our behavioral assessment prior to the workshop webinar.

  • Each employee receives a professional development report for review prior to the webinar.

  • June 13th – attend the webinar!  Our resident expert, Kim Busse, will be talking directly to you about your team’s strengths, challenges, hot and cold buttons, and how to better collaborate with each other.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to turn conflict into constructive/positive outcomes

  • The rules of engagement

  • Strategies for increasing collaboration

  • And much more!

Follow us to see if you are the winner on June 1st!




Contact:  Kerry Benik | Marketing Specialist

HR has come a long way from the days of being called “Personnel,” but in some ways the old stigmas hold strong.

Some of the blame rests with the HR profession itself. Now, I know many in my field would strenuously disagree, and they’re certainly entitled to their opinions. However, I stand by my assertion. If you count my jobs as a teen (and I do), I’ve been in the workplace more than 30 years, and my interactions with HR have been mostly underwhelming. At least in the circles where I’ve traveled, HR still struggles with demonstrating core knowledge, thinking strategically, and gaining trust.

On the other hand, HR is routinely and unfairly held accountable for things no HR department can control, like poor performance management, lack of transparency (especially within senior management), inequitable wages, workplace bullying, and managerial favoritism. News flash folks – HR operates within the same system as everyone else and is bound by the same rules. Put another way, HR can’t change the company culture. If the culture sucks, HR is as much a victim as anyone.

And yet, I always come back to this inviolable truth: companies need HR. They really, really do. There’s a lot of people stuff that requires attending to in the world of work, and individuals suited for and trained in HR are the best folks to attend to it, hands down. Every time I enter a new company and assume the function previously handled by a CFO, COO, or other operating/finance expert, I discover a fine mess – no matter the talents of that CFO, COO, or other operating/finance expert. I realize this is my experience, but I’ll bet $10 that somebody reading this article can relate.

HR is a defined skill set and not everyone can do it. We generally recognize that with other professions (marketing, finance, communications, business development, sales, and so on), but not so with HR. Instead, we hold off on hiring an HR professional until things have reached a boiling point. That’s a mistake. HR is so much more than a necessary evil. Allow me to elucidate:


  • HR is the people persons. I tend to cringe whenever I hear that someone wants to get into HR because he/she is a “people person,” because, well, it sounds so darn Pollyannaish! Still, a concern for people is a necessary prerequisite to good HR. Cold, analytical strategy alone won’t do. HR can’t afford to be cynical. Practical, yes. Cynical, no. Good HR thrives on hope and the possibility of positive change. You have to have some faith in people to keep that going. Great HR professionals do.
  • HR is the people experts. Good HR practitioners spend lots of time studying humans on the micro and macro levels, because a knowledge of what motivates, energizes, and infuriates humans has real implications for how and how well the work gets done.
  • HR thinks differently, and companies need that. A former boss (a CFO) was sharing with me his and the President’s plan for a reorganization. I listened and then told him where the personnel pitfalls hid – how This One would resent the change for that reason and how That One would resist the change for this reason and what messages would have to be communicated to manage the transition well. When I asked him why he hadn’t thought to consult me sooner, he told me that it never occurred to him that this decision was a human resources issue. Good grief, man! If you need people to make something happen, it’s an HR issue. HR people get that and we have the people knowledge to see it through.
  • Good HR people have the patience required of capable risk managers. Running a business requires adherence to many tedious rules and regulations that most visionaries simply consider a big yawn. However, ignoring the rules is definitely not the way to go. Enter HR, compliance masters extraordinaire.


I could go on and on (seriously, I could), but suffice it to say that progressive employers get that good HR is integral to sustainable business growth. Now that’s far from a necessary evil!



















Providing good customer service

It’s a rare company that can thrive despite its reputation for bad customer service. To be sure, such companies exist, but they’re not common.

Perhaps the company offers a product most consumers simply can’t live without, or the organization is practically a monopoly in a market where people have few choices. Or, maybe the company’s product is so integral to how we work and live that consumers couldn’t avoid it if they tried. (We see you Google!)

Alas, insurance providers generally don’t fall into this category. Instead, good customer service is a differentiator between your team and every other team selling what you sell.

But take heart! In a real sense this is good news. Developing quality customer service is within your control, and the rewards are high.

So here’s the $64,000 question: how do you know if your customer service is good?

Your Customers Say So
Customer praise, whether private or public, is an indication your customer service is good. Notice that you’re not looking for the occasional positive comment, although that’s nice. You’ll know you’re on to something when you’re getting regular positive feedback via multiple channels (e.g., snail mail, email, social media, client surveys) from various delighted customers.

Your Customers Recommend You 

It’s one thing for a customer to do business with you herself but another for her to recommend your product or service to someone else. A recommendation is a huge vote of confidence and ought to be regarded as such. When we recommend a product or service, we show our willingness to be held accountable for our opinion. Most people won’t do that unless they’re supremely secure in the quality of that good or service.

Your Customers Stick With You

Repeat business is a big way customers say “well done!” There’s no shortage of insurance agents and no reason for any client to give you his business unless you do your job well.

So when the competition is high, but your customers are loyal, most likely you’re giving them what they want and need (i.e., good customer service). 

Customer Complaints Rarely Reach the Executive Level (Or Heaven Forbid, Go Viral)

You know your customer service is good when complaints (and every company has its share of customer complaints) rarely reach the executive level. Most likely, that’s because your team is skilled and adept at resolving conflict before it gets out of hand. Consider this: when your customer service is good, problems solving almost looks easy!

Your CSRs Are Happy

Is a happy employee a guarantee of high performance that positively affects the bottom line? Probably not. As the author of “Employee Happiness Isn’t Enough to Satisfy Customers” put it, employers must “engage employees by giving them both reasons and ways to please customers; then acknowledge and reward appropriate behavior.”

Even so, it’s hard to image that deeply unhappy employees who blame the company for their grim attitudes are treating customers well. Putting aside any intentional malice, these employees most likely don’t possess the zeal necessary to interact with customers in a friendly and solution-oriented manner.

Truth is, we’ve all encountered the robotic, noticeably-lacking-in-enthusiasm CSR who didn’t seem to care whether we ended the encounter satisfied, unsatisfied, or even angry. Happy employees plugged into the company mission have a totally different attitude, and it shows in the way they address customers and their concerns.

Your Customers Are Engaged

Do customers respond to your survey invitations? What about your email or text messages? Are they commenting on your blog? Do they return phone calls? If the answer is mostly yes, your customer outreach is working, and you have the satisfied customers to prove it.

Your Customers Don’t Begrudge You Making a Living

Insurance can be expensive, and most customers are aware that part of the cost goes to pay the services of insurance agents. However, when customers like the job you’re doing, they’re okay with that. Everyone has to make a living, so why shouldn’t you? Plus, you’re serving their needs so you’re worth every penny.

Last Words … 

Recognizing what good customer service looks like, or even what it can sow (that is, increased business) is not the same as recognizing how to deliver it. Here, then, are a few tips for creating a work environment that encourages good customer service:

  • Hire the right people for the job. Behavioral assessments help employers identify individuals with the traits needed to get the job done.
  • Set clear expectations. When employees know what’s expected, they’re in a much better position to perform satisfactorily.
  • Invest in quality employee education. Continuing education is a must. When employees are growing personally and professionally, they’re more connected to the business and its customers.
  • Treat employees well. What do high performers really want in a job? It’s not a mystery, and a gazillion surveys have already provided the answer to employers with ears to hear. We’re talking good pay and benefits, work/life balance, opportunities for advancement, a chance to impact the business, and a sense that their bosses care about them as people. Anyone who’s getting all that in a job won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and will take pride in doing the best job possible.
  • Develop policies that provide as much responsibility as your employees can handle. Intelligent policies that actually allow for decision-making and problem solving will be welcomed by your team and your customers. On the other hand, policies that tie the hands of employees and prevent them from making customers happy are challenging all the way around.

Even companies that can afford bad customer service don’t want it. However, it’s not enough to merely think your customer service is good. Knowing is so much better.



2016 Human Resource Blunders

Everybody makes mistakes, and HR is no exception. As 2016 comes to a close (and what the year it was!), it’s always good to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and where the new year might be headed.

If you’re an HR professional, manage HR professionals, or are somehow responsible for overseeing traditional HR functions in your organization, we invite you to begin that process now, by focusing on these top HR blunders (and how to correct them).

Let’s get started!

Blunder #1 — Mindlessly repeating the company party line. As a company agent, HR has a duty to represent the company and support its policies without hesitation. This duty most especially applies to policies HR doesn’t like. That said, when employees bring issues or concerns to HR, it’s a mistake to do anything but listen while responding with the highest level of integrity. Employees appreciate being dealt with honestly and fairly. Being too careful to the point of refuting the obvious and unpleasant truth (e.g., XYZ policy isn’t being enforced fairly, XYZ manager demonstrates bullying tactics) will only result in lost credibility for HR and a missed opportunity to nip a troubling situation in the bud. 

Blunder #2 – Not keeping confidences. Naturally, HR should never blab private employee information to anyone without a need to know, but sometimes HR forgets that those who don’t need to know are in management. Employees need a safe place to vent and strategize. If HR can’t give them that, HR will never gain employees’ trust or the chance to de-escalate sensitive situations before they get out of hand. (See Blunder #1.) 

Blunder #3 – Not keeping up with what’s new. Anyone who works in HR knows that compliance is a big part of the job. New laws are passed, and old laws pass away. Keeping up is a job in itself, but that’s not the half of it. HR professionals also have to stay on top of trends in learning, motivation, engagement, recruiting, technology, and so on. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, but staying out of the know deprives you of a more robust career and your employer of information that could make your workplace smarter, happier, and healthier.

Blunder #4 – Not trying anything new. HR is a great profession because it’s deep, it’s wide, and there’s always a puzzle to solve. If your old solutions aren’t working, try something new even (or maybe especially) if that means going outside your comfort zone. Having a hard time finding top talent? Try enhancing your recruiting process with a an employee behavioral assessment or two. Ditto if your teams are producing more conflict or less creative ideas. Learning better who people are, and deliberately managing to those strengths, is smart leadership. 

Blunder #5 – Not keeping your ear to the ground. You can’t know what’s good for your company if you don’t know your company. Refusing to work in a silo—by making a concerted effort to get out and about—is the best way to gain the needed knowledge. Take the time to chat with folks and find out what makes them smile, what drives them crazy, and why they work for your company and not somewhere else, and then use that information to develop intelligent policies and practices that add value. 

Blunder #6 – Not focusing on what HR does best. It’s essential that HR understand the business, but HR are the people people, and there’s no shame in it. No serious leader could fail to grasp the importance of solid people practices to the health and longevity of the company. So, quit making excuses for how you see the world. Empathy, emotional intelligence, and caring for something other than the bottom line aren’t character flaws. Savvy employers understand there’s room at the table for multiple viewpoints and that you can never take the human out of “human resources” without significant cost. 

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!