David Manchee


How do you promote a culture of strategic thinking?  There are four easy steps:

  1. Transparency – When management shares information regarding the current market, industry, customers, competitors, and goals, it keeps everyone up to speed. When an entire organization is enlightened, they can collectively work towards the organization’s goals.
  2. Promote solutions – Many times, we operate in reaction mode, placing bandages on problems. Encourage managers and team members to not only react to an issue, but to devise a long-term permanent solution.
  3. Promote future perspective – This is directly related to promoting solutions. Encourage everyone to ask two questions when proposing a solution. How does this serve our goals?  What impact will it have on these goals?
  4. Assign mentors – Everyone should have a mentor. New employees should be assigned one during the on-boarding process.  Existing employees can be paired up with colleagues.  Every manager should have a mentor that sits at the executive level.  Mentors help with training, accountability, and, most importantly, growing within the position.

Creating and nurturing a culture of strategic thinking taps into the collective education and experience of an entire organization.  It also helps to identify natural leaders that can be promoted to more senior positions as the need arises.



Strategic thinking is something that should not be the sole burden of the executive staff. Fostering a culture of strategic thinking will allow an organization to draw from the experiences and education of their entire staff. It also helps to identify natural leaders who may be hiding in their cubicles.

Strategic thinking is one of the most important traits in an effective leader and as such is a skill that should not be the sole burden of managers and executives. All employees should be empowered to plan and think strategically.

According to a 2013 Harvard Business Review study of 10,000 senior executives, 97% cited strategic thinking as the most critical leadership skill for an organization’s success. Strategic thinking requires the ability to plan ahead. This involves objective analysis and systematic thinking to identify the impact of decisions on all areas of the organization including production, revenue, talent management, and customer experience/customer relations.

Instilling strategic thinking throughout the organization can help identify natural leaders at all levels. Executives need to first empower their managers, so that managers can then instill this thought process within their teams. Effectively utilizing the collective thoughts of an entire organization can help a company see all aspects of their operation in a new light or with a fresh perspective.

Next: How do you promote a culture of strategic thinking? Four easy steps.

High Intelligence; Being Wrong

Jeff Bezos is much more than Amazon’s founder with personal fortune of some $150 billion. The guy is smart. It’s also obvious he surrounds himself with other smart people who can help make his vision reality.

How does he find them? The answer Bezos gave in a recent interview was the exact opposite of what you’d expect.

Most of us, when we want to figure out if someone is smart, ask if the person is frequently right: Do they have correct knowledge about the world and their area of expertise?

But Bezos’s counter intuitive strategy isn’t just to look at how often people are right. Instead, he also looks for people who can admit they are wrong and change their opinions often.

Bezos has observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

That willingness to consider new information goes hand in hand with a willingness to admit your old way of thinking was flawed. In other words, to be super smart you have to change your mind a lot.

Modern science agrees too. They call it intellectual humility. Studies of decision-making show that people who are more willing to entertain the idea that they’re wrong make markedly better choices. Being wrong, is a sign of curiosity, openness to new information, and ultimately smarts.

So, next time you’re trying to determine if someone is super smart or simply bluffing, ask when was the last time they changed their opinion.

Benefits of a Learning-Based Culture (Part 1 of 2)

Learning is a lifelong activity. New positions, even new projects, require a certain amount of education. Unfortunately, professional development (in many organizations) is stuck in the classroom. While traditional classroom learning is an efficient means of delivering information, it is not always the most effective. Many times, the concepts learned at a conference or training event fail to be implemented or can even be forgotten. Focusing on education without hands-on experiences a HUGE missed opportunity.

Effective leadership development is experience-driven. Experience is gained when education is put into practice. Fostering an organizational learning-based culture will engage team members, increase employee satisfaction, and boost productivity.

Creating a learning culture that is experience-based does not need to be costly. Utilizing the existing knowledge base within the organization is the simplest and most cost effective way to bring effective learning into the office. It also allows for cross-education to occur. Cross-education is critical at senior levels, but can be equally beneficial to productivity at all levels within an organization.

Next: Cross-training, task forces, conferences and classrooms




Frustration among current team members is perhaps one of the worst effects of a bad hire. Constantly having to help new hires, pick up the slack when the new hire fails, or contend with a “checked out” disgruntled employee when they under-perform is an immediate turnoff to top talent. The last thing any organization wants to do is drive away top-performers.

There are three approaches one can take to identify and release the bad hires and dissatisfied employees.

• Create a six-month “refund” policy – After six months, the organization can offer a modest severance and good reference if the poor performing hire agrees to resign. If accepted, the employee signs away their right to sue. Some companies will allow the employee who refuses this deal to stay on for a defined period of time, up to one year. If at that time there is no improvement, the employee is released without any severance or reference.

• On-boarding – An extended on-boarding process that is highly structured is a great way to identify poor-performers. New hires should be assigned a mentor to help facilitate the training process. At the end of this initial training period, companies can take a page from Zappos and PAY under-performers to resign. Another approach used at Whole Foods is to have the team vote if the new hire is a strong enough member. This approach works best when there are team-based performance incentives.

• Encourage dissatisfied employees to move on – Dissatisfied employees can be just as harmful to an organization as a bad hire. In fact, they can convert a good hire into a bad hire. Negativity, absenteeism, or general “checking out” on their work is something that needs to be addressed quickly. It IS in the best interest of the organization to encourage the employee to move on, even if they are performing well.

There is no such thing as a perfect hiring process. Sometimes candidates are misjudged during the interview process. Making certain that reference checks are performed to help detect possible issues is one of the best preventative measures. In the end, despite some of the best plans and preparation, bad hires still happen. Having a process to work with them will mean the difference between a learning opportunity and having a poor-performer in the organization for an extended period of time.


Dealing with Poor Performers

There is no such thing as a perfect hire. Every person entering a new role requires time to acclimate to the position. Training is not only necessary, but an important part of the on-boarding process. When all is said and done, as much as 46 percent of new hires fail within the first 18 months. Holding on to a weak hire can become a disaster if not dealt with in a timely manner.

Unhappy new hires and even disgruntled employees can become a cancer within a company. Identification and corrective action needs to occur as soon as possible to contain the issue. These employees soak up time and resources when managers try (many times in vain), to train, retrain, and coach them up to speed. It is very likely that a bad hire or disgruntled employee will not get any better.

Frustration among current team members is perhaps one of the worst effects of a bad hire. Constantly having to help new hires, pick up the slack when the new hire fails, or contend with a “checked out” disgruntled employee when they under perform is an immediate turnoff to top talent. The last thing any organization wants to do is drive away top-performers.

Next; Three approaches one can take to identify and release the bad hires and dissatisfied employees.


How to Separate the Strongest from the Weakest

There are four easy steps to calculating an employee’s monetary worth.

1. Determine the Average Employee Worth (AEW) – This number is calculated by dividing the total revenue of the department or organization by the total number of employees. For example, a design team of 5 with a revenue of $600,000 equals an AEW of $120,000.
2. Determine the Weak Performer Differential – Compare the AEW to each employee’s actual revenue. This will create a best to worst ranking for each department. It will also show how strong the strongest are versus how weak the weakest are in terms of performance.
3. Determine other costs – This includes other performance considerations such as absenteeism, missed deadlines, employee attitude, errors, and theft. These considerations may vary based on the job.
4. Determine if weak performers can be made into strong performers. Many times, weak performers can improve quickly and easily through coaching, retraining, and frequent performance evaluations. Other times, weak performers are simply draining time, morale, and revenue from an organization. In this case, the hard decision to release the employee will need to be made.

When an organization learns the true worth of their staff, everyone benefits. Strong employees are validated through data. Weaker employees can either be encouraged to improve or can be removed from the company, if that is the best option for the organization.

Next: Ways to manage employees who are simply not working out.


Monday morning blues. But, have you ever experienced a case of the “Sundays”?

Everyone has a bad day here or there, maybe even a bad week. When there are more bad days at work than good, it is time to take a hard look at the situation.

Burnout is a cumulative effect and can creep up on you if you are not cognizant of the warning signs. It usually occurs when underestimating stress or working too long without adequate time off. When one works overtime, they tend to neglect their outlets for relieving stress, including spending time with family and friends, hobbies, reading for pleasure, or exercise.

When a person experiences burnout, all of their relationships suffer. As relationships breakdown, the person experiencing burnout begins to feel even more stress.

The best way to prevent burnout is to recognize the most common signs. Knowing the common and personal signs of burnout is important:

• A feeling of dread during the workweek and on Sunday night
• Performing work on autopilot
• Physical and mental exhaustion
• Frequent colds or illnesses
• Feeling annoyed by everything and everyone

Burnout can be attributed to half of all employee turnover, making it very costly for organizations within all industries. The top contributors to burnout include unfair compensation, increasing workloads, and too much overtime. Other contributors include poor management, lack of connection to the role, and company culture.

Recognizing the signs of burnout in yourself and in your teams can help increase satisfaction and retention. Fostering a culture that supports staff and allows for open communication can help relieve stress and the potential for burnout.


It is helpful to gather input from “the trenches”. Asking employees to share their insight can shed light onto how team members view their jobs, managers, and the company. This can be done one-on-one, in groups, or by sending out a company wide questionnaire. The key is to include everyone, not just the individuals who may provide the answers that you want to hear. Again, do not penalize them for being open and honest with you if you want the best, most candid information from them.

If no clear solution can be determined after reviewing all the information, it might be time to call in reinforcements. The unbiased opinion and advice of a management consultant or recruiter may be the best option. They can look over policies, procedures, and data without emotional or psychological attachment and help craft an unbiased plan for improvement.

Remember attracting and retaining the best talent is a challenge for all industries. Today’s market even more so.


During this process, be certain to review exit interviews. What is revealed as an employee leaves can uncover deep, underlying issues in all areas of an organization. Make the conversation informal. Tell them you really need their help as you truly wish to improve as an organization. The key here is to LISTEN and to not get defensive. You may not agree with everything they say, but you are getting their direct and blunt feedback, which can only benefit your way ahead.

After reviewing the questions and answers, it is time to call in reinforcements. Consult with peers and colleagues: those within the organization that will be most helpful from an “insider’s” perspective. Trusted individuals outside of the company can act as a sounding board or a voice of reason. Many times, the problems experienced at one company are actually universal to the industry.

Next: Voices From The Trenches