Why yes it is my 12th anniversary of blogging; thanks for noticing! Although I always highlight the post I write from the previous anniversary year, I rarely go back and share the post that started it all. It was a humble beginning that, because of circumstances, I had to do a second time. I explained the meaning of that when I celebrated my 1,000th post here, which you can check out if you’re interested in knowing a bit of the backstory.

Best Leadership Blog 2017
a moment for myself 🙂

Here’s an interesting blogging reality. In 2009, the New York Times stated that over 95% of blogs were abandoned; it’s expected that numbers grown as more people have started and quit blogs during that time. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve blogged over the years, and there are only a few who have kept blogging since I started in 2005. No, blogging isn’t easy, and writing on a niche like leadership can also be challenging.

How challenging? Well, I made a list of best leadership blogs of 2017, and there were maybe 50 of us listed. Out of those 50, only 4 of them have been writing longer than me, and out of the other 46 only one started in the same year as mine. At least all of those folk are still blogging; check out that link to see some of the big name people I’m associated with. 🙂

Here’s the thing about my 12 years and leadership. Even though I’ll take on a controversial subject here and there, for the most part I try to be nice when I write these posts. Most of the stories I tell are pretty nice stories with happy endings; who doesn’t love a happy ending?

I tend to believe that the best leaders are nice people. Some may argue that tough leaders are pretty good and my response to that is that only works in professions where someone could get killed or kill someone else. I want my military leaders to be tough. I want those training physicians to be tough. Everyone else, including police… nice please!

With that said, I’m taking a different direction this year than I usually do. Instead of listing my favorite posts over a specific time period, which is getting harder to do with the number of posts I have now, I decided to talk about 12 ways leaders and others can be nice to people. The thing with being nice is that, when appreciated, both sides end up feeling good. It’s nice being nice, and it’s nice having others be nice to us; who’s going to disagree with that?

We’re certainly not going to get 100% compliance 24/7/365, but if all of us try our best to be nice most of the time, the world would be a better place and we’d feel better.

Are you with me? If so let’s go:

Greet people

Is it really so hard to say “hello” to people? If so, what about the people you work with, or people you encounter often? I’ve known leaders who never try to be courteous to anyone, including customers, because they don’t take the time to learn the difference between them. I’ve known other leaders who have a good word for everyone, to the point that it doesn’t matter if they initially know one from the other because, for them, everyone’s a customer and is worthy of attention.

acknowledgement

I’m someone who greets people all the time while walking around stores and throughout the mall. If I make eye contact, I’m probably going to say hello. I don’t get reciprocated all that often but when I do, I get kind of a smile on my face and an extra lift in my step. If I’m not making someone’s day they’re certainly making mine. How much effort could it possibly take to project a sense of proper decorum?

Say thank you

I’m always thanking people for something, even if they should be thanking me. I thank people for holding doors. I thank people who serve my food in restaurants. I thank the people at the checkout counter in stores. I get way more smiles from people I thank than people I greet.

I’ve always thanked people in the workplace for talking to me. I thank them for a job well done. I thank them for putting up with me. I thank them for a lot of things. In today’s world, more young people want to be shown that you appreciate the work they’re doing for you. What’s simpler and stronger than a good thank you?

Ask about someone’s health and listen

This isn’t one that you’re probably going to do on a daily basis unless you’re pressing the flesh a lot, but it’s pretty important if you’re paying attention, and as a leader you should be.

You’ll notice that people aren’t always putting out happy vibes. Sometimes they’re angry; there’s little you can do about that unless it’s your fault.

If it’s not anger then it’s some kind of distress, either physical or mental. Don’t ever be scared to ask someone how they’re feeling. If they’re willing to share, all you normally have to do is listen; is that so hard? I’ve always made it my rule to never give advice on things that I’m not 100% sure about, but I will be consoling and I can offer other options when possible.

This shows that you care about people and is one of the nicest things you can do for others. At least consider it if you have the time to put into it.

Ask people if you can help them

This is probably the scariest thing on my list, even moreso than the point above. This step means you’re ready to commit to something if the person you’re talking to accepts your offer.

The thing about this one is that you have to be earnest while understanding your limitations. For instance, I’ve never volunteered to help anyone move things because I’ve had back issues since I was in high school, which I remember most of the time. I have volunteered to drive people places because that’s something I can do easily enough and I’m willing to give a time commitment to it.

In the workplace, before I was a consultant, I would always ask people throughout the hospital if I could help them with something. I knew not to ask about medical stuff because that’s not my forte, but I always knew there were other areas where I could be of assistance. It not only helped them but it helped the organization, and it was always appreciated whether it was accepted or not.

Offer information

Book Buyers
Thomas Hawk via Compfight

With almost 1,350 articles on this blog, 1,750 on another, and over 5,000 articles, 3 books and other products, one could say I offer lots of information. With that said, I’m always available to offer a lot more free information than I charge for… which is a bad talent for consulting. lol

I’m the guy on Facebook that lets people know if the information they’re sharing is wrong. I’m the one who’ll research something without asking so that everyone knows the answers to things. I’m the guy who usually has a solution to a problem if I have enough information about it.

I’m also the guy willing to share whatever I know with others. I’ve had lunch with a lot of people locally who’ve asked if they could pick my brain about something. I’ve answered a lot of questions for free online or over the phone, even with people in my industry who could be considered a competitor. I have a limit though; after all, I do have to make money sometime. lol

Still, unless it’s a major project or someone wanting an in depth response, I’m usually giving away a lot of information freely. I always hope people appreciate it but I know it always makes me feel pretty good.

Motivate someone to greatness

At the beginning of January, on another blog of mine, I decided I was going to write a blog post a day for 31 days. When I announced it at the beginning of the project, I asked if anyone wanted to join in on the fun. Only one person decided to take up the challenge, though she started about two weeks behind me. Most of her posts are short since she’s a beginner, but I think this one about email organization is probably the best of the batch.

I talk a lot about motivation because not only do I believe that the best leaders motivate their employees to greatness, but because the best leaders are also extremely motivated.

The best reason for motivation is to inspire people to do their best, and if their best is so good that they are able to supersede you, frankly I don’t find anything wrong with that. All great leaders are fearless when it comes to this, not because they want to be surpassed but because they know if it happens they had a hand in it. I recently wrote a post where I mentioned that helping an employee become a leader, even if it’s in another company, is one of the most satisfying things I can think of in my life, and I’ve had the pleasure to make that happen a number of times.

If you’re afraid to motivate people towards being great then that’s an issue you should explore.

Share something with someone that you know they’ll like


I do a lot of online marketing for business. I also try to get to know a lot of the people I’m connected to. This gives me an opportunity to share things I come across that I know some of these folks will like or be interested in with them.

I’ve always done that when I’ve had the opportunity. Sometimes it’s been things I also liked, but many times it’s things I’m not overly interested in that I share. It’s not always easy to remember everything about someone, but if you care enough to remember at least one or two things, be willing to give of yourself to make someone else feel good.

Share something of someone else’s and let them know you did

If you’re in the workplace and someone has a great idea, always make sure you let others know whose idea it was, even if you had to pt some effort into to make it work. Never take credit for the work or knowledge of others.

A bit part of my Twitter marketing strategy is to share things other people have created rather than just talking about myself all day long. When they’ve given the information, I’ll also add their Twitter handle so that they’ll know I shared it with other people. It’s amazing how many people appreciate the effort, because only 1/4th of the people know how to add their Twitter handle to their share buttons, and people who write on sites that accept articles from multiple writers never put their handles into those buttons.

Sharing is caring; at least that’s what I’ve heard. 🙂

Donate something

I’m not the biggest giver to all charities because I tend to believe that my efforts work best by giving more to a few than a little to a lot. My wife and I donate a lot of stuff such as clothes and appliances to the Rescue Mission because it’s our way to help others who might need some pretty good stuff to help them get by.

I’ve also donated some of my time to non-for-profit organizations. I was a board member of an organization called Arise Inc, which works with disabled people to allow them to live independent and productive lives and show the rest of the world their talents. I was with them for 13 years before leaving at the beginning of 2016. I’m not the type to do soup kitchens or call a lot of people up asking for money, but I shared my expertise and time in helping to promote the group and helped to oversee the financial progress of the organization in my 4 years as chairman of the finance committee.

It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive or time consuming. It can be as small as deciding to buy dinner for a hungry person, which I’ve also done. It doesn’t even have to be an everyday thing; just think about helping someone every now and then.

Say something nice to a stranger

Carol Burnett used to say that if she noticed someone was having a bad day or was in a bad mood that she’d find something about them and compliment them about it. She said it almost always produced a smile and got people out of their melancholy or distress.


I’ve found this to be true, although I don’t wait for people to be in a bad mood. I’ve been known to compliment people on what they’re wearing, how they’ve styled their hair, and the sound of their voice. The thing is, I’m not doing it to change their mood as much as I do it because I’m impressed by a lot of things that I either can’t do or never thought about doing.

For instance, I’m never getting a tattoo; just ain’t happening! Yet, there are some tattoos I’ve seen on people that are just outstanding. Being me, I’ve walked up to people and commented on their tats, and then asked them stories about them. People love talking about themselves and it’s a rare occasion where someone laments getting their tattoo.

It might be hard to believe but I’m a bit of an introvert. I don’t walk up to people all that often and just start talking. However, when I come upon opportunities to say something nice to someone, especially when they’re not expecting it, I’m there.

Do something nice for yourself

Like what they say on airplanes about putting your own mask on before helping someone else, it stands to reason that you can’t take care of others very well without taking care of yourself as well. Few things make us always feel better than doing something nice for ourselves.

It doesn’t have to be big things. The quickest way for me to feel better is to get something sweet (yeah, I hear all the bad things about sugar; phooey!), preferably chocolate. A quick Reese’s peanut butter cup and I’m one of the happiest people you’ve ever met.

It’s nice to reward yourself as often as possible but it doesn’t have to be seen as a reward. I don’t really know how to relax, so when I figure out a way to take 30 minutes for myself it’s one of the most precious things I can ever think of, and most of the time it doesn’t cost a thing.

Be the best person you can be

This should be simple, but it turns out not to be reality for a majority of people. The world beats us down to the point where many of us end up going through the emotions. We forget the dreams we once had and we don’t even think of trying to live current dreams and wishes.

Some people fear the unknown of success. When I was working in Memphis years ago, I was surprised to run into so many people who never wanted to be in leadership. Their response was that leaders get fired more than regular working people and they’d rather always have a job than try to be anything more.

What I had to tell myself is that everyone isn’t meant for leadership… at least not officially. My dad only wanted to be a master sargeant instead of an officer. My friend Scott could probably run the company he works for but he likes being the IT guy. It doesn’t mean that neither of these folks could be the best they could be; both were actually the best they wanted to be.

Being the best person you can be extends beyond proficiency. Being the best person you can be means not intentionally hurting others. It means trying to make your corner of the world better. It means helping other people be and feel better while bettering yourself.

If you’re going to lay bricks, be the best bricklayer in the world. If you’re going to be a teacher be the best. If you’re going to go out to dinner every night be the best patron you can be. Be your version of a leader and a nice person. The best people have a lot of both in them.

Welcome to my anniversary; let’s see how easily the road leads to year #13.
 

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Leadership is easy; no it’s not. Leadership is hard; no it’s not. Even though I put together a book titled Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, truth be told, the hardest parts of being a leader should be the easiest ways to deal with it.


What really makes leadership hard is the pressure to perform and deal with others. What contributes to it are the feelings of not being sure you know what to do and not addressing your own needs when you need to. Just like they tell you in an airplane to put your own mask on before you help someone else, as a leader you have to acknowledge your own needs and mental health before you can actually be any good for others.

Luckily, you have me here to give you some tips on how to do some self care and still be a good leader. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Give yourself opportunities to improve

The fact is that there aren’t an overwhelming number of good leaders. That means there are even fewer great leaders. Some people take to it easily. For those who don’t, they need to look to a bit of self improvement if they want to be better and gain some confidence in leading or managing.

How? Here’s a few ideas.

First, there are lots of good books out there on leadership and management. Even though it’s older, I’ll tout my first book on the subject of leadership. There are a lot of great thought leaders on the subject, from Ken Blanchard to Tom Peters, that will offer you a lot of knowledge and comfort.

Second, there are networking groups in almost every industry in the country. Many of them will be filled with your peers and some top industry leaders who are probably pretty good at it. It always helps to talk to someone else who either is going through the same thing you are or might have some positive options for you. It also helps that these people don’t work where you do, as I know it can feel embarrassing acknowledging to someone you work with that you’re unsure whether you’re doing things correctly.

Three, take in a few seminars on leadership and management. I’ve run into a lot of people who complain that they go to too many of these things. What I’ve found over the years is the people who don’t complain are not only the people who are good but the ones who keep going to seminars to improve on their skills.

2. Stay relaxed; no one can do it all

leadership
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I’ve fallen into this trap a few times in my days as an employee when I’d start a new job as a director. I would spend my first 4 to 6 months trying to immerse myself into my new role by trying to do everyone else’s job, working overly long hours, and forgetting that I was the person in charge and not one of the employees.

Sometimes we all get into that mode where we forget that leadership doesn’t mean we’re supposed to do it all. There’s no way we can do everything. That’s the reason we have employees to work with in the first place.

Outside of the employees who report to you, it’s always a smart move to establish a nice working relationship with some of your peers in the company. You’ll find, just like you would in the networking types of groups I mentioned above that having someone to talk to every once in a while will help you relax. It’ll also probably help you to focus on your tasks and goals, even if they don’t really know what you do. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of communication to help you push forward during the day.

3. Take some moments for yourself during the day

I rarely took any breaks during my work days when I was a director. I’d often go to the cafeteria, grab some food, and come back to the office to eat… that is, when I ate at all. I always enjoyed working, and felt that the breaks I was taking were when I got to talk to some of the other directors or my own supervisors.

That is, until I was diagnosed at being diabetic. That meant it was time for a few lifestyle changes. The first was making sure I took my lunch breaks, which sometimes meant hopping into the car and driving somewhere so I could have a bit of time to myself or sitting in the cafeteria with some of the other directors, which I wasn’t doing before. Sometimes it meant going outside and walking around, either to clear my head, give some thought to a project, or for a bit of exercise and movement.

It’s never in your best interest to wait until a health issue forces you to change some of your bad habits. Your employees get mandated breaks and take them; you should make sure to do the same.

4. Don’t be afraid to evaluate yourself

Now I have an employee evaluation module where, if I were an every day director, I could put together criteria that I felt was important and use it to evaluate my employees. Back when I was a director I didn’t have anything like that.

Instead, what I used to do was kind of a two-pronged thing that I set up in Excel. One part of it were the departmental numbered goals that I wanted all of us to hit. The second part was putting down the criteria of how I wanted to act and treat the employees who reported to me.

Geospatial World Leadership Awards
Creative Commons License Geospatial World via Compfight

Then I would evaluate myself to see how well I thought I was doing on both fronts. Luckily, we were often doing well with the numbers so I couldn’t beat myself up on that. On the other front, I might recognize that I wasn’t making sure to keep in touch with everyone like I said I would, or wasn’t offering enough encouragement, or even walking out of my office to make sure everyone could have a chance to talk to me if they chose to do so.

If you do something like this and find yourself lacking, don’t beat up on yourself. Once you acknowledge something you feel you’ve been deficient on, just fix it. 🙂

5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when you feel you’re right, or accept criticism when you may be wrong

Here’s my truth. I was always good on the first half of this statement but not as good when it came to the second. About half the people I meet are good at the first part but universally bad at the second part. Why?

Standing up for ourselves is hard to do because sometimes we feel like we’re being whiny or making excuses for things that go wrong and we feel like we should just take it. We might also feel that our opinions aren’t wanted and keep them to ourselves.

That was never me. I’ll always believe I lost one of my favorite jobs because I spoke up in a meeting and countered everything upper management was saying about something I knew a lot about. I found out many years later that I was kind of set up to take the fall for something that not only wasn’t my fault, but that I’d mentioned was faulty reasoning and date in that meeting. Although I was crushed to lose that job, it was gratifying to learn that I was right, even if it took 7 years to find out.

It’s because of that reason that I’m often bad at accepting criticism when I might be wrong, because I go out of my way to try to always be right. Yet, I have accepted it when I’ve been proven wrong, which sometimes happens when I assume something without asking the proper questions or doing enough research on all aspects of a situation.

With that said, the one thing I’ve always been pretty good at is listening to the criticism all the way through before I’ll comment on it. After all, you can’t learn what’s going on if you’re always interrupting the other person. I figure that’s both the courteous thing to do as well as the smart way of going about things. There have been a number of times when I’ve been wrong, and I’ve never been afraid to admit them if I agree.

As a leader you have to work on keeping an open mind about how good or bad you are. Balance is the key; work towards perfection while realizing you can’t always get it right.
 

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I often say that not all managers are leaders. They’re supposed to be, but they’re not. They either don’t have the skills to do it properly or don’t care as long as they think they can get what they want. I say it that way because sometimes they do… but it’s never sustaining.


It’s not always easy to be a good leader. Depending on circumstances, it can be taxing. As much as I like to think I was always a pretty good leader, there were times when the stress got to me for brief periods here and there.

With that said, I can honestly say that, though I wasn’t perfect, I was pretty good when it came to dealing with things and interacting with employees an overwhelming amount of time. That’s because I stuck with certain standards of leadership that, if one can master, will lead to way more success and calmness than not following them. Let’s take a look at these 5 items:

1. Leaders Listen

I’ve always been a pretty good listener… to a degree. I was good at hearing what people were saying to me, but early on I wasn’t always good at interpreting what people were meaning to convey. I’ve always been pretty literal, so I acted on what people said without realizing that their meaning might not have been as specific.

Years later, I became a much better listener. It’s not that I wasn’t still literal, but I would affirm what I was hearing to see if we were communicating properly. It’s in following that process that I learned that my employees didn’t understand all of the terms we were using on a regular basis that defined our departmental success. We really started to hum once I took care of that issue, which I’d have never known about if I hadn’t, in this case, listened to what they “weren’t” saying. Listening isn’t always related to sound.

2. Leaders Set The Tone


When I had my first job in health care, the overall manager of the department was one of those people who spoke quietly but wielded a very heavy stick. It was so powerful that, instead of most of the supervisors actually doing their job, then became spies against other supervisors and the employees under them. This made the manager thrive at what she wanted but made the working conditions for the employees and most of the supervisors untenable.

When I was in the direction position I set a much different tone than that. Each supervisor was responsible for the employees in their team and had to work as a team themselves. Not only did I have meetings with the supervisors but I set things up so they had their own meetings with each other at least once every few weeks. I didn’t want them ratting on each other; I wanted them working with each other and me so that we could succeed as a unified group.

We did very well working like that, but the best thing that happened is that we had not only a structure that worked but general peace and trust. We set a standard that led other directors to ask me how I achieved what I did; that was pretty cool.

3. Leaders Support Those Who They Lead

I have a friend who worked at a company for nearly 25 years. We’d sometimes have lunch together, and most of the time she’d spend the entire lunch complaining about the manager she reported to. The woman was vindictive, stole ideas from other employees, didn’t know her job and was all around miserable to everyone. I tried giving her advice, telling her what I’d do in her situation, but she was always too scared to follow it.

I’ve always taken the position that my employees come first, and that their needs have to be addressed before those of others outside of the department. That comes with the caveat that you have to make sure you support them when others are abusing or accusing them of something.

I often tell the tale here of how I had to support the employees who reported to me on the very first day I started one job. I’ve actually had to do that 2 other times, once as an employee and once as a consultant, before I even knew who they were. It helps to establish a camaraderie with people from the beginning and often results in undying loyalty. It’s also always the right thing to do.

4. Leaders Make Sure Everyone Can Win

I’ve never made it a secret that I hate the term servant leadership. With that said, I do believe that when there’s a leadership – follower situation (since it’s not always about work) that each side has to get something out of it for everything to work properly.

Two Fairfax Leaders
Will Marlow via Compfight

Have you ever wondered why drug cartel leaders get unfailing loyalty from those who work for them, even though they can be very cruel? One reason is that they share the wealth; maybe not all of it, but when compared to corporate leaders they share more with their followers than corporations do.

They also give those who work for them a lot more leeway in making their own decisions, a chance to show what they can do to prove themselves so they might possibly advance later on. Making a mistake can get them killed, but compare that to someone who works at a company for 20 years hoping to get a chance to prove themselves but always being overlooked. The stakes are definitely higher but the rewards can make it seem like it’s worth the risk.

Good leaders make sure everyone has a chance to win. This might mean making sure everyone has access to the best training and tools. It might mean giving employees the chance to prove themselves without too much oversight by letting them make certain decisions on their own.

In a book titled The Baby Boomer / Millennial Divide by my friend Beverly Mahone, she quoted a statistic from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flager Business School which stated that 80% of millennials want not only instant feedback and praise for doing a good job, but they want to know that they helped with the company’s bottom line. That’s how they feel they’re winning; that’s not too big of a price to pay is it?

5. Leaders Are Selfless

How hard is it to have an open door policy? How hard is it to acknowledge someone else in your department who showed themselves to be heroic in some way that helped both the department and the company? How hard is it to greet people in the morning, or say a kind word every once in a while?

From where I sit, these are common courtesy actions, but they’re also indicative of a selfless leader, someone who doesn’t worry about the glory or money they might receive over that of anyone else, especially if it’s an employee of theirs. Satisfaction should come in the fact that if you followed any of the previous points mentioned above to the extent that your employees showed what they’ve learned and had an opportunity to shine. When one person benefits, everyone does; that what being selfless is all about.
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Thirteen days ago, while I was at my mother’s house, we got a visit from a social worker. I had just recently got in touch with Visiting Nurses to obtain some services for my mother, whose mental health had been slipping over the course of months. It reached a point where I thought she needed more attention, got in touch with her physician, and we got things moving.

Mom and Me
Mom and Me

The social worker was the last person to visit, but instead of talking to Mom she wanted to talk to me. We sat in the dining room and talked for just over an hour while Mom was in the other room watching TV. At one point in our conversation the social worker said to me:

“It’s time for you to step up and take charge. Your mother isn’t in a condition to manage her life on her own, so you’re going to have to do it for her. She’s going to fuss and fight but you must do it. She has no more privacy, and she doesn’t get to make anymore decisions. She took care of you when you were a child, now it’s your turn to take care of her.”

Ouch! I definitely needed to hear that because I’d been trying to allow Mom to have her privacy and independence, even though I’d had to take over doing a lot of things for her. I’d already taken away her ability to drive, and I had to write and sign all the checks because she couldn’t do it anymore, but I’d never looked at any of the finances or anything else. I knew I was going to have to make some moves soon, and when I got home that evening I decided it was time to start looking at some options.

Just about 35 hours later, things took a dramatic turn; my mother fell in her house. Luckily, a friend of hers stayed the night with her because she was concerned about my mother’s behavior earlier in the evening, which was erratic (I had a feeling something was going on but since I didn’t live close I’d called her and asked her to check on Mom). She was groggy and dizzy, missed a step and fell on the floor face down. The paramedics came and took her to the hospital, I got the call, and at 3:15 in the morning I was driving to a different city, trying to find that hospital in the dark.

The good news is that physically she was fine; just some cuts and scrapes. The bad news is that she was evaluated by hospital physicians and they determined that they couldn’t release her because, in their opinion, she could no longer live on her own.

Wow! In the space of just over 40 hours I’d gone from “you need to step up” to “the time is now”. In my mind I knew it was time to take charge, but in my subconscious, I was telling myself “I’m not ready”.

The funny part is that I’d started looking into assisted living centers the day after I’d come home from Mom’s house, with the intention of moving her closer to where I lived. I knew this was a good time to explore it because I could never convince her to move here previously. After the fall, everything escalated, especially because I knew that she was only in the hospital for observation, and if I left her there even one day too long it was going to get costly and have to be paid for out of pocket (she was never made an inpatient).


I spent the Monday following Mom’s fall going through many mental gesticulations, trying to find a place where I could move Mom. It seemed that every time I thought I had a solution, something came up and got in the way. By midnight Tuesday morning my wife and I both went to bed, trying to find some peace after a tough and erratic day. Our emotions were shaky and our thought processes jumbled. We were tired… and we’d be a bit more tired in a few hours.

My wife woke at 3:30 AM; I woke at 5. Separately, we’d come to the same decision; we had to move Mom in with us. There was no other solution, and the lucky part is that my wife used to be a certified nurse assistant and had worked with elderly patients. She not only knew what she might have to do but, because she knows Mom, it would make things easier.

It’s funny that, being an authority on leadership, when confronted with something this close to me I wasn’t initially ready for the challenge. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to deal with the severity of the situation before. However, when the time came that someone had to take charge and become the leader, I was up for the challenge of it all because it was necessary to do so.

I’m not going to lie; after a week I’m finding that suddenly having to be the leader of the woman who raised me is sometimes as tough as I thought it would be. However, that’s only about 15% of the time. That other 85% is not only going very well, but I’m glad to be spending more time with her, and so is my wife. I have to figure out all of her finances, get her taxes done, and work on ways to get her to sleep more, but I know I’m ready to take these things head on.

Sometimes we’re not ready to lead, but when all options are off the table, someone’s got to do what needs to be done. This time around, I’m glad it was me.
 

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Holidays bring celebrations that make employees and employers alike very happy. Even if times are tough, there’s something about holidays that make most people have a little extra hop in their step, and a smile is quicker to appear.

Success
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It’s also the one time of the year where the adage about happy employees being the most productive employees isn’t quite true. Most people are thinking about celebrations, both at the office and at home, gifts or food, decorations, talking about travel plans or actually taking off early for travel or visitor preparation. Any good manager has to expect that there will be some slacking off around holidays, no matter how good your employees are, because of all the excess distractions.

This brings up a discussion on employee motivation, which also translates into employer motivation. You can’t have one without the other, otherwise it’s a false action, and employees will see right through it.

I had someone ask me years ago what the purpose of motivating employees was for because at least they had jobs and were earning a pretty good salary. I responded that money isn’t always the best motivation for everyone and, in reality, once a person has the job, money falls far down the list of things employees care most about.

To expect people to self motivate themselves the 8 – 10 hours they’re at work is to put your total faith in the professionalism of every person you work with. It would be nice in an utopian society; in real life, petty thoughts and actions are at work all the time.

What constitutes positive motivation? Depends on what you’re hoping to achieve.

Most of the time you’re hoping to increase work production or performance. You might have to take a small step backwards in order to move forward; hence, holiday parties, which creates an atmosphere which isn’t conducive to much work being done, but gives great residual benefit.

Sometimes you’re trying to change the focus of the office because, even if the work flow might seem to be consistent and steady, there’s a greater possibility that things are being missed because your employees concentration isn’t where you need it to be.

You just might be trying to change your own mood; this one bears some extra thought. Many managers and employers discount their own feelings when it comes to the impact it may have on those around them. They may also deny that they have any issues of their own. Pressure does wonders to the human mind, and sometimes we’re oblivious to our own negative performance. We need motivation just like everyone else, and it doesn’t hurt to bring everyone else along when you’ve decided to work on changing your own mindset.

There are many ways to help motivate employees, some specifically work related, some not. Let’s look at some work related ways.

First, Dale Carnegie likes to talk about setting up SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-phased. Every person should have a goal to work towards, not as a punitive measure but as something which helps track progress. If you have something to shoot for, you have a reason to exist. This is a good time to work with someone one on one because you can ask them for their input on the goals you both want them to reach for.

May 15, 2013 at 09:13AM
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Conversation is a great motivational tool because most employees say they really don’t know what’s expected of them by management. This leads into motivational idea number two, that being to make sure the lines of communication are always open.

I know that many organizations have to deal with rampant rumors, and most of those rumors are negative. I’ve always advocated making sure your employees know what’s going on, within reason.

If your company is going to have layoffs, but upper management doesn’t want you to release that information, you can always let your employees know things aren’t going well with the organization in other ways. When things are going well for the organization, or your department, they would appreciate hearing that also. Allowing employees to ask questions and answering them as honestly as you can motivates them because they know they can trust you, and people always work well with those they can trust.

A third motivational tool is consistency in behavior and demeanor. Even bad managers who are consistent gives employees a chance to get used to a certain management style, and will keep things running smoother than working with someone with an erratic personality. You don’t want employees walking around on pins and needles because they’re not sure which version of management is going to show up in the morning.

If people are wary to come to work or be at work because of the behavior of their leaders, then it’s up to you to those leaders to change their behavior. I’d hope for positive changes, but if that’s something a leader can’t achieve and goes in the other direction, just be consistent with it.

Non-work related ideas don’t have to be difficult and can offer beneficial emotional motivation. Those can be as simple as food related things such as doughnuts or lunches, or they can be more complicated, such as bowling night, picnics, etc.

I’ve been asked to present a motivational speech to two different companies before conferences; that might be a bit expensive, but motivational messages can be effective if employees are primed for them.

I knew a manager years ago who used to give motivational CDs to employees he felt might be going through a rough time in their personal lives. He’d ask them to listen to them during work hours, and then come back and talk to him about it later in the day. He said it not only helped employees get out of their funk but it helped him develop more intimate relationships with them.

I’ve also known managers who bring in homemade cookies, or allow their employees to set up one day a week for specialty items for the office; getting others involved, especially if they volunteer, always helps motivation.

To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, you should always be working on motivating your employees, because you have to eat everyday also; nothing is permanent. So go out there, enjoy the holidays, eat a holiday cookie for me, and get motivated; another great year is coming.
 

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Me: “Man…”

Her: “What?”

Me: “That car in front of us is only going 30 and the speed limit is 45. It’s irking me.”

Her: “What are you in a hurry to get to?”

Me: “Wherever I can be sooner than where I am now.”


Almost all of us hate when someone else is holding us up, whether we have something defined or not. For me, if the speed limit is 55, I want to at least be doing 55. For my wife, if the speed limit is 55 she’ll get there in her own sweet time because it’s rare that she’s worried about being somewhere as soon as she can get there. For each of us, these are habits that we can’t change, and neither of us are really in the mood to change these particular things about ourselves.

There are things that each of us do want to change about ourselves. We each want more money. We each want more freedom. We each want to lose weight. We both want it now!

That’s not how change works though. In the original version of The Secret, Esther Hicks states that when people want things in their life they usually want it now, but it’s probably best that it doesn’t happen immediately because either we’re not ready for it or we haven’t thought about all the consequences of what could occur if it did happen now.

Let’s look at weight loss. It turns out that one can lose 2 to 5 pounds in one day by doing a host of different things. You can get into a sauna, dry or steam, and sit in there for a couple of hours to drop even more weight than that. You can try running a marathon without drinking any water along the way. You can get liposuction and have them remove upwards of 10 to 11 pounds.

The thing is, each of these things isn’t good to do. The weight loss you lose on the first two will come back as soon as you drink some water. The weight loss on the other is too extreme and can cause health issues later on, as it’s recommended to remove far less than that at one time.

Change can be tough to deal with. I proved that doing something over a period of time when you really don’t want to be doing it, even if you’ve committed to it, won’t change your behavior whatsoever. You need encouragement, and you need to see beneficial outcomes for you to believe that particular change is necessary or moving in the right direction.


Knowing this doesn’t change anyone’s mind when it comes to trying to make positive changes that are known to be needed. I remember trying to close a deal with a vice president years ago when he acknowledged that there was a disconnect between his hospital and most of the physician’s offices in the area. We talked for about 90 minutes, and we agreed on a strategy that I had basically come up with on the fly because I understood the issue.

The problem? He thought that everything could change within 3 weeks and he could be done with it. I knew that it would take at least 3 months to see some positive changes. After all, these weren’t people who already agreed that they had mutual interests. Thinking that just because you’ve brought them together for breakfast to begin the process of opening a dialogue after years of fighting with each other over processes and importance could be accomplished in a few weeks wasn’t realistic. When I told him that I felt an immediate freeze. I knew that contract was gone, and his not picking up the phone over the next few weeks confirmed that to me later on.

I also remember being in a hospital that had downsized the business office by 20% just after installing a new computer system and having their receivables growing and their cash falling faster than they were prepared to deal with. I told that vice president that it would take at least 3 months before he started seeing any changes at all; he didn’t like that, but that’s just how things usually go.

You can’t correct anything without doing a diagnosis, discovering what skills might be lacking, figure out what else might be missing and finally deciding on a plan of attack. The hospital did start seeing some things change two weeks before the three months, but I was only contracted for three months so I never found out if the changes I started were ever continued.

There are changes that just take time to come to fruition. You can throw money at some things. You can bring in more people. You can yell and scream and pout and cry all you want. If you’re a smart leader, you’ll recognize that quick changes don’t necessarily bring quick results. Once you get past that mindset, change management becomes a bit easier to deal with.

Leaders can be great agents of change, but they also need to be patient. There will be changes that can be swift and necessary that might work out fast and fine. For anything of real importance though, it’s going to take time. Get used to it, just like I had to wait almost 12 years to finally make a best of leadership blogs list. With the company I’m in, that was worth the wait! 🙂
 

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Hospitals have two main problems when it comes to finances. One is revenue, as in they’re not generating enough, and the second is receivables, as in they’re not collecting enough on the revenue so they can pay bills and buy other stuff.

charge master consultant

Every hospital has a charge master. A charge master is a full listing of all procedures that a hospital provides. The reason there is a charge master is to help make the process of charging for services easier and faster. Charges are usually already priced and coded. The reason I say usually is that some charges aren’t priced because a hospital might be trying to track certain non-chargeable services, while other charges may have the procedures coded by medical records (such as many surgical procedures) instead.

For those charges that aren’t coded by medical records, this means that they have to be coded in the charge master. Most charges only have to be given a procedure code once, and then it remains that way forever. However, many others change on a regular basis.

The average number of years that facilities have someone come in and review their charge master is 3 to 5 years. Since big changes occur around the beginning of every year, and small changes occur quarterly, this means that hospitals may be charging for services that don’t exist and not charging for new services that have codes, and not getting paid because their codes aren’t up to date. On the first issue, even mistakenly charging for services that don’t exist could be considered fraud by Medicare, which could issue financial punishment by as much as triple the amount of charges they say a hospital fraudulently charged for.

Procedure codes aren’t the only thing one checks on in a charge master review. One also checks revenue codes, classifications which tell insurance companies where services are provided. One also compares what hospitals are charging for services and compares them with Medicare fee schedules (there are two different types) to make sure hospitals are billing more than what Medicare reimburses. This is because Medicare will only pay based on what they’re billed, so if the hospital charge is lower, not the actual fee schedule price, hospitals could be losing reimbursement dollars.

If a hospital has a charge master coordinator, or someone who’s only job is to perform this function, then an annual charge master review probably isn’t needed, but it can’t hurt to have someone check things out every 3 or 4 years; even accounting departments get audited. If they don’t… well, the consequences could be costly.

I spent six months at a 2-hospital system in New Jersey years ago doing their charge master, as they hadn’t had anyone working it in almost 2 years. I also did a check of their revenue. It turns out they’d actually had a charge master review by someone else 3 years earlier, but never implemented anything that had been recommended. By the time I left, they’d increased revenue by a couple hundred million combined. Later on I spent a year at a hospital in Westchester County. By the time I left there, they had more than doubled their yearly revenue.

Charge master reviews don’t take all that long to do if everything is set up properly. First it’s a review of all files. Then there are the department interviews, which is the timely part if access to the directors of all the ancillary departments takes time to pull together. Like most organizations that do this work, we charge based on the size of the facility. The larger the organization, the more complex the work, which means more time to do everything properly. Money on expenses can be saved if both parties are set up to do video or phone conferencing.

A charge capture, or revenue review, takes a little bit longer, and it probably works best to have it become part of the charge master review. The interviews with department directors are more comprehensive. They’re also educational, as anyone worth the work wants to spend more time with the directors and possibly some of their employees, giving instructions on charge capture, coding, and anything else as needed.

How much does all of this cost? Each organization has their own processes for coming up with the fees to do this sort of thing. To determine my fee, I start off with the hourly rate I want to get paid, estimate how long I think the entire process will take, then I give a project price for the requested work. If there are other projects the hospital wishes to explore, those fees will be add-ons, but the rates will be less if added to the original project that if it became a standalone.

Besides, that’s the wrong question to ask. A better question would be how much your hospital would be willing to spend if revenue increased by millions of dollars a year that you didn’t previously have, especially if you estimate than your reimbursement will average anywhere from 20 to 30%. Even if it was only 10%, no consultant’s fee is going to be anywhere close to that. 🙂

If you’d like to know more, check out my two-part series on what it is that charge master consultants do. Any questions or comments, please feel free to add your comments below.
 

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