Book Review: The Truth About Employee Engagement

Last night, I finished reading The Truth About Employee Engagement: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni is also the author of the National Best-Seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (which I also read not long ago). I absolutely love Lencioni’s writing style and choice to provide business lessons within a fable format. It makes for an easy read and even easier to digest, remember, and discuss with others.

The Truth About Employee Engagement provides an interesting perspective through the eyes of a CEO, Brian Bailey, that is involved in several businesses through his career and even after retirement. Bailey’s character has a knack for engaging employees, thereby increasing productivity, morale, and an organization’s overall success. Unsure of whether his concept for employee engagement only applied to one business (a small Italian restaurant), he had the opportunity to test his theory again in his next job (at a large sporting goods chain).

His theory is a three-prong approach to explain job misery, which includes: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement (the last, a term Lencioni coined).

  • Bailey believes that managers need to know who their employees are and Lencioni later gives an example of not just knowing that someone’s daughter is into ballet, but knowing that she had a recital last Friday and asking the employee how it went. Making a more personal connection is important to building trust and a strong relationship, in turn creating a more faithful and productive employee.
  • Next, employees need to know who their work impacts (not just that outer shell of what they provide whether it be a product or service), but also what that means to the customer. An example Lencioni provides is the night shift hotel room service attendant, and how the delivery of an item to a hotel guest not only provides that necessity to the guest, but also may play a part to relieve some stress they are facing during their travels. This may be a bit more challenging for employees that are not client-facing, yet those employees need to consider what they provide to their business partners, or as part of the organization, as their work typically lends towards the success of those on the front-lines.
  • Lastly, immeasurement, the term Lencioni mentions, relates to employees’ ability to measure their progress. While widgets are easily measured, there are other measurements that are more difficult to come by. When Bailey was working in the Italian restaurant, he had the drive-thru associate track the number of times he made a customer smile. There are often opportunities to use customer satisfaction surveys and qualitative customer feedback (360-degree feedback, comment cards, etc.) to measure results in instances where that is most appropriate. If employees can measure their work and help in identifying what those measurements should be, the level of interest in meeting or beating those metrics will increase.

Through Bailey’s experiences, his ability to decrease the levels of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement within the organizations he worked provided a positive impact and a culture of engaged employees. I like that Lencioni included Bailey’s struggle to get buy-in from his leadership team while the CEO at the sporting goods chain, as I can see this being a challenge because employee engagement is often viewed as a soft skill that has little overall impact to the bottom line. Bailey proves otherwise, and what I like about that is the time it took for the change at the sporting goods store to impact revenue and help turn the store around. Another aspect I appreciated was when Bailey said everyone needed to be on board with integrating the three concepts or it would not work. It takes a village, and not just a couple people, to change the culture and make an impact.

One concern I have is how managers figure out the proper balance between all the responsibilities they have on their plates and incorporating these concepts. I agree that they are important, and believe it takes time and practice for managers to learn to balance them with everything else (and without it feeling like a check-the-box activity, which it should not be). As Bailey and Lencioni prove, there are many simple activities that managers can integrate into their day-to-day interactions to help decrease the elements of job misery among their employees.

Click here to purchase on Amazon!

Expand your Network — Check out Twitter TweetChats!

twitterPeople are shocked when they hear me say that I have made so many connections via Twitter. Yes, I said Twitter.

In addition to using the search functionality to find topics of interest to you (e.g., some of mine were phd, leadership, organizational development), you can participate in Tweet Chats. These typically occur once a week and are focused on a specific topic. If you have never participated in a Twitter Tweet Chat, you are missing out on making great connections and expanding your learning horizons!

You can use programs such as,, or to pull up the hashtag (e.g., #peopleskills) to see only Tweets using those hashtags (#) to meet and learn from many other great minds like you across the globe! The site that has been most effective for me is

Tweet Chats have a facilitator and/or moderators that pose questions (Q1, Q2, Q3) while fellow Tweeters (or Twerps) respond with a post using (A1, A2, A3), a brief response, and the Tweet Chat’s hashtag (e.g., #peopleskills). It is best practice to RT (re-tweet) or Favorite (using the little star) on Tweets that you connect with the most.

I will be co-hosting 2 upcoming TweetChats with Dan Forbes of #LeadWithGiants (…I hope you consider joining in on these!

Monday, February 23
7:00 – 8:00pm Eastern

Topic: Success and Happiness

Monday, April 13
7:00 – 8:00pm Eastern

Topic: Virtual Leadership

In addition to the #leadwithgiants chat, I am a moderator and regular participant in the weekly #peopleskills chat (see below for details):

Sundays at 10:00am Eastern
Lead: Kate Nasser @katenasser @peopleskills


M.A.P. out your Goals

map imageLast night, I held my second Knowledgeable Network of Women event! The topic was “Smart Women Setting Achievable Goals” and the event included a panel discussion with four women with a diverse set of goals, as well as an array of Wellness Fair vendors providing information and products and services to assist women in reaching their 2015 goals.

Prior to the event, I had an opportunity to meet with each of the panelists and discuss their decision and journey towards reaching their goals. Alex talked about her goal of becoming an entrepreneur and how she is progressing in her business now. Caroline discussed her desire to have a healthier lifestyle and be around for her grandkids. Kendall chatted about her goal to run a half-marathon, and Christine talked about her goal of going back to school after her kids were grown and working towards her CPA. Smart and inspiring women! It was great to have them share their stories, including how they decided upon their respective goals, what methods or plans they were using, successes, obstacles, sources of support, and advice for others looking to set the same goal.

As a wrap up to the panel discussion, I provided a summary that encompasses three areas that appeared consistently throughout the panelists’ journeys, my own experiences, and that of others’ stories I have heard and read. The acronym is M.A.P.

Mindset: Be passionate about what you’re setting out to do

If you are not passionate about the goal you have set, than it is going to be difficult to continue during the difficult times. Alex and Kendall mentioned this specifically in my discussions with them. A personal example of this is after I completed a half-marathon many years ago. Training for it and completing it was a great way to get in shape and procrastinate on my dissertation! After the race, I decided to begin training for another half-marathon. One day on the treadmill with my trainer, I started crying and had to stop. I was not mentally there and had the pressure of finishing my Ph.D. program on my mind: I could not procrastinate any longer. If you are not passionate about and in the right frame of mind, it is going to be difficult to pursue your goal successfully.

Accountability: Find support in family, friends, or others with the same goal

It is difficult to achieve your goals without some source of support, whether it is from a spouse, family, friends, colleagues, or others who are working towards the same goal. Individuals that receive support and encouragement from others are more likely to stay the path towards achieving their goal. Caroline mentioned the support of her husband, Jeff, along her goal to live healthier. Christine noted that her #1 cheerleader, her husband, awarded her beautiful pearls one Christmas and announced to her son and daughter that it was because Christine had the highest GPA in the house. Alex and Kendall advised that their connections with others with similar goals provide them with great insight and support. An example of this for me was when I was going through a rough time with my dissertation. A classmate of mine that had graduated on time talked with me and we worked out a plan for support. She had me e-mail her every day for a couple months telling her what I did for at least 15 minutes that was related to my research. That support got me back on track and increased my momentum. Having a source of support helps motivate you and move you closer to your goal.

Plan of Action: Set short term milestones to get to your goal

Whether it is a framework or a fully vetted plan developed to work towards your goal, having something thought out and written down is a necessity to achieving your goals. Individuals that write down their goals and look at them frequently are more likely to work towards and achieve those goals. When developing your plan of action, break down the end goal into smaller milestones to complete along the way. Having these small wins help motivate and encourage you to keep going. Kendall did her research and talked with others about how to develop her training plan, and Alex mentioned that your plan does not need to be perfect, but you have to start with something. As I was planning for the “Smart Women Setting Achievable Goals” event, I took the goals I had for how many panelists, vendors, and attendees I hoped to have and broke that down into how I was going to reach out to potential women to participate in each of these areas. Having these smaller, achievable short-term milestones, kept my head in the game towards the end goal. I met a majority, but not all of my goals, for the event, and learned so much along the way.

In addition to hearing from some inspiring women last night and engaging with some fantastic vendors to kick start the year on the right foot, it was great to see so many connections being made among the ladies in attendance. Discussions were rich and ideas were flowing. Last night’s event was a success, as it inspired attendees, including me, and encouraged us to think more about setting goals and ways in which to effectively M.A.P. out our own journeys towards success.

What my Dog Taught Me about Toxic Relationships



A little more than 4 months ago, my husband and I answered an ad to take in a beautiful 3 ½ year old Australian Shepherd pup named Ozzie. His owner was no longer able to care for him and we have a history of loving and caring for Australian Shepherds (having 2 already in our house). As expected, it took Ozzie time to begin adjusting to life with a new family, including a brother and sister pup.

During his adjustment, he showed some signs of aggression, biting me 3 times and lunging at a house guest. He also showed much affection, being a bodyguard of sorts, playing ball, and cuddling up on the couch or bed with me. We found ourselves eventually unable to have guests over to our house due to his behavior towards others. Something had obviously happened in his past causing this aggressive behavior, especially knowing that the breed itself is not at all like this.

A little over a week ago, everything changed. With no provoking, he lunged at my husband and bit into his hand and arm causing us to rush to the emergency room for care. In the emergency room, my husband and I had the difficult discussion (more so for me) that we could no longer keep Ozzie in our home. We had overlooked his prior bites (which did not cause near as much damage), but we could no longer ignore the signs. My husband mentioned that he was a huge liability for us, and could further hurt us, our other pups, or others if he managed to escape our house or yard. That night we both slept safely in the living room, while Ozzie stayed upstairs in our bedroom. I remember quietly crying myself to sleep.

The next morning we took Ozzie to the shelter to surrender him, and they would assess his health and behavior to determine appropriate next steps. The most difficult part for me of this whole process was that I could not help him. No matter what I did, I could not fix this. This made me think more about the toxic relationships that people have. A toxic relationship consists of one or more individuals (or pups, as I learned) that are dangerous, stressful, and potentially harmful to the health of those involved. Often times, we do not realize that we are in a toxic relationship unless someone points it out or things get so bad that some action needs to occur before danger ensues. Action may be taken on our own or from someone else on our behalf.

It may be easier for some people to disconnect from a toxic relationship, but I believe a greater number of people struggle with when and how to disengage. Numerous factors may contribute to this: uncertainty in the future (whether financial, mental, or social); fear of retaliation; loss of support, etc.  My fear was, if we could not help Ozzie, who could? What would happen to him? I felt an overwhelming sense of failure.

If toxic relationships exist, sometimes it is for our own best interest to remove ourselves from those. This is definitely more difficult in some relationships than others (especially involving family, a spouse, or significant other). In those more challenging situations, I highly recommend that people talk with a mental health professional for support or guidance to the appropriate community resources.

The realization is that we may not recognize the stress and hurt caused by a toxic relationship until it is too late, or sadly, never at all. After taking Ozzie to the shelter that morning, I came home and spent some quality time with my 2 pups. What I realized over the course of that afternoon and the coming days is how much stress had vanished from our home. While in the hustle and bustle and protecting Ozzie while he was with us, I did not realize the amount of stress it was causing all of us. Although extremely difficult, removing Ozzie’s toxic behavior from our environment changed things dramatically. Sadie, our 11 year our pup, starting coming out into the living room (she had been hiding out in the hallway all the time), and Maverick, our 5 year old pup, became more active and attentive to us. He was previously on guard taking on the role as our protector, always watching Ozzie’s every move. We now feel comfortable having company over to the house, and there is an overall feeling of calm in our home.

Little did I realize at the time, but I was not a failure. I learned this through the validation of others reminding me of the number of chances we gave Ozzie, including the final chance by taking him to the shelter for them to make the determination of what was in the best interest of him and others. There are some instances in which we can only do so much. If there is no change from the other party involved in the relationship, we either make a decision to remove ourselves from that relationships, or continue to live in the toxicity that exists.


What advice do you have on handling toxic relationships based on your experiences, or of those you know?


5 Tips to Minimize the Pain of Writing Your Self Evaluation


This past Friday was the last day to submit self-evaluations at organization I work at full-time. The practice of employees writing self-evaluations is standard practice in many organizations. My thought is that a significant percentage of employees likely waited until the last day or two to write and submit their evaluations, including me. I finished mine with a little over 2 hours to spare yesterday afternoon. Why do so many employees procrastinate on this specific task? Here are some thoughts or reasons I have heard for procrastinating the self-evaluation (from employees across numerous organizations, not just within the company I work):

  • employee prioritized other tasks as more important (whether they really are or not);
  • manager prioritized other tasks as more important (whether they really are or not);
  • employee wonders if manager even looks at the end product and, if so, how much does it matter;
  • unsure how to structure the self-evaluation and what to include;
  • feel as if work should speak for itself and employee should not have to ‘toot their own horn’ through writing a good self-evaluation; and
  • insert other reasons you have heard here.

There are a few things that helped me complete my self-evaluation this year and in prior years (although I still have this knot in my stomach when it comes time to writing the evaluation process).

Tip #1: Create an organized base document to record the work you have done.

I created 2 grids that looked as follows:

2014 Goals
Goal #1: [Detailed goal typed out here.] Header 1

[If there were sub-bullets in the detailed goal description, I used those as headers here. If there were no sub-bullets, but specific projects/initiatives listed in the detailed goal description, those became the headers here.]

·        [Listed high level overview of what was attempted and accomplished, including whether time frames were met or exceeded, and statistics if available.]

·        …

·        …


Header 2

·        …

Goal #2: [Detailed goal typed out here.]
[Repeat as needed]


[My organization has specific leadership behaviors that I included here (e.g., thought leadership). If your organization has specific behaviors, include those as categories here. If not, consider what the company’s values are, or specific skills that are required for your position and use those as categories here.] I did not use headers here, but rather provided bullet points with specific examples of how I exhibited the behavior listed.


Tip #2: Maintain a regular work log

In my team, we were required to provide weekly updates to our manager. With a record of these over time, I was able to open those documents and cut/paste and re-type the high level activity, relating it directly to a goal or behavior in the grids above. If you do not have weekly updates, explore what reporting or other information may be used to gather this data. Consider starting a weekly log, maybe as an email draft or a Word document, to capture high level information on the project/initiatives you worked. You can put a reminder on your phone or calendar to update the log on a regular basis. This will prevent you from forgetting any important items to include on the self-evaluation at the end of the year (I was surprised by how many items were on my weekly updates that I had completely forgotten about, as they happened so many months back).

Tip #3: Do not recreate the wheel!

If there are other reports/documents/calendar entries/to do lists that house information for you and are easily accessible when it comes time to complete your self-evaluation, do not spend time trying to create something new. My team is required to complete a self-evaluation mid-year and at the end of the year. I took the grids I created mid-year and added to those, updating the projects/initiatives already listed with what happened (as represented in my weekly update logs) and that cut my time down significantly (didn’t have to go back through months of weekly updates, files, calendar entries, etc.).

Tip #4: Schedule time on your calendar to write your self-evaluation.

Once the day starts for me, it can be difficult to shift gears at times. Although I did wait until the last day to complete my self-evaluation, I (a) knew I would be able to complete it in less than a day due to the use of Tips #1-3, and (b) there were no meetings scheduled on my calendar and no significant projects to otherwise complete that day, so I was able to block the time for working on this specifically. Although I don’t highly recommend that approach I used, as there could have been something that came up without much notice, causing the time I thought I had to be decreased significantly.

Tip #5: Don’t assume your manager knows everything you do.

There are many managers who are tuned in to their employees. Despite this, they still cannot possibly know everything you work on (unless they are a micro-manager, I guess). The self-evaluation is an opportunity for you to review the work you have accomplished over the year, and the behaviors you have exhibited. Make sure you highlight these! Don’t leave out important information that your manager should be aware. Toot your horn and share what you have done! This is a great opportunity to share and celebrate your successes, as well as determine opportunities for the year ahead.

self evaluation




The Busy Syndrome


Balance. How is it that there are individuals who seem to have this down pat while others struggle their whole lives trying to find it?

It has to do with the choices we make.

“I’m so busy” has become a common response to the simple “How are you?” these days. Blech! This response makes me sick. People are busy because of the choices they make. Is busy a good or bad thing? The feelings associated with a busy response are often times synonymous with being worn-out, overwhelmed, or exhausted. Why are people choosing to be busy when it is so damn tiring!

It has to do with the choices we make.

Busy-ness is a result of the choices a person makes. Someone told me recently that I am the busiest person they know. My response was that I am doing things that I am passionate about and enjoy, so I do not associate it with the tiresome busy, rather a result of the choices I have made.

It has to do with the choices we make.

In order to prevent a disruption to my balance, I have to make choices on a regular basis – sometimes multiple times a day. Granted, some of these choices are small (e.g., what do I need to achieve today versus what do I want to get accomplished), but there are also large choices (e.g., should I participate in this long-term volunteer event or teach this semester). There are advantages and disadvantages to these decisions, and those need to be weighed carefully. It is not always easy. Sometimes it does not even feel like it is a choice because of the circumstances in which we may have found ourselves.

It has to do with the choices we make.

Making the best possible choices will decrease your odds of catching the busy syndrome.




The Many Uses of Cauliflower

photo (47)When I was a kid, we would have baby carrots and cauliflower with ranch as a snack quite often. Being a picky eater back then, I believe my mom was grateful that I would eat some veggies! Within the past month, I have been venturing out more and trying different recipes, especially if it helps add to my daily intake of veggies. In the last couple weeks, I found some recipes using cauliflower in some nontraditional ways. After purchases the largest head of cauliflower I could find, I was able to get three uses out of it: cauliflower chicken nuggets, cauliflower pizza crust, and cauliflower for a snack (see below for recipes and my thoughts).

In clean eating, I have found that I cannot just have the same thing meal after meal or day after day. Exploring Pinterest and various recipe websites has allowed me to find additional ways to get creative and eat healthy! Is there a veggie that you have found multiple recipes for or ways to use?

Cauliflower Chicken Nuggets
For this recipe, I used about half of a large head of cauliflower. The chicken nuggets were okay, but would have been better with a different sauce. They seemed a bit dry for me. A fellow clean eating participant recommended mixing in some herbs with the cauliflower, and I would like to find some way to do a BBQ-like sauce for them.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust Recipe
The cauliflower pizza crust was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S (I’m actually taking leftovers to work today)! I used a little less than a half of the head of lettuce and it made about a 10 inch crust. While this took a while to prepare (you put it in and out of the oven 3 times before it is ready to eat), it was well worth it. Make sure you have cheesecloth to drain excess water from the cauliflower though, as I used a small colander and think it would have been better to have gone out and gotten cheesecloth from the store (believe this may have allowed me to actually pick up a piece of the pizza versus eating it with a fork). I chose to put some Prego Heart Smart sauce on the base along with reduced fat mozzarella cheese, spinach, red and green bell pepper, mushroom, onion, and one small turkey sausage patty, and a little seasoning on top. I definitely recommend eating only a few pieces, as this will fill you up fast!

Cauliflower Snack
Recipe: Break up remaining cauliflower stems and place in snack bags 😉
After making the two recipes above, I still has a little less than an 1/8 of the head of cauliflower remaining. I have cut that up and placed in individual snack bags. I have little cups with about 1-1½ ounces of low-fat ranch dressing to pair with them. Stick them in your lunch bag or grab out of the fridge for a healthy snack!