Before we get going on this part of my conversation on succession planning, here are the links to part one and part two of the series.

office promotions

The next piece is going to talk about the importance of figuring out the criteria for making the decision to move someone into a leadership position while following your succession plan, and just how big these decisions can be, both for the organization and the community at large. Most companies don’t consider the impact their choices might have where their company is located but, trust me, the implications can be huge.

D. The First Promotion

Previously I talked about the need for constant evaluation of potential talent being promoted to leadership positions, thus starting the process towards mentorship and even higher leadership levels. Below is the context for what I touched upon before, and both what happens now and what needs to happen in the future as it pertains to thinking about the long term process.

1. Evaluating all sides to promoting someone to management

For the process of promoting someone to leadership, there should be three steps to consider. Their importance isn’t close to being equal, yet they’re all still critical pieces:

a) Job Skills

As important as this is normally, reality proves that this piece has always been given too much weight when promoting someone into a leadership position. Technical skill rarely translates into someone becoming a good leader. Often when people understand the work very well, their empathy towards others who might struggle drops. This explains why athletes with incredible skill and bonafides on the court often fail when given the reins when it comes to managing other players. Still, it helps to have someone with a good knowledge of the job the employees do being promoted to a leadership position.

b) Social Skills

This skill is hit and miss, mainly because those in the hiring process have a horrible understanding of what “social” actually means when it comes to leadership. Someone who might exhibit traits of what we call a “social butterfly” don’t fit well as a leader for most positions in business. If the person previously in charge was judged negatively because that person had problems getting along with others, the belief that having someone a bit more gregarious might seem to be a wise decision. Instead, it leads to hiring by extremes.

Working girl
Tramidepain via Compfight

I’ve always considered someone’s social skills based on how well they can work with other people within the department. Most of us know “that person” who everyone goes to for help, even if the supervisor or director is around. They don’t mind being asked questions, take the time necessary to help their co-workers, and almost never have anyone who complains about them in any way.

Those who fit the second category are often very good leaders, even if they still need mentoring and training to get to where you’re hoping they’ll be.

c) Potential Leadership Skills

Let’s say you’re pretty confident you’ve got someone strong on your radar based on the first two criteria of skills. You’re not done yet.

You might have to think hard about what else you’re looking for in a leader who you hope will help the company grow. For instance, I always kept my eye on people who seemed to go above the job they were hired for. Taking on special projects, or doing well if you need to tap them to do something out of the norm, is a great way of evaluating talent. Finding out that their knowledge actually extends beyond what you’ve taught them via training is another.

This is when you have to decide what great leadership is supposed to be. The way I see it, great leaders have vision; they’re not afraid to take chances; they trust the people they work with by giving them opportunities to show what they can do; they’re considerate of people’s feelings without pandering; they take care and support those who work for them. There are more qualities, but you can handle that one.

2. Different sets of circumstances

This particular criteria starts with the standard way people are usually promoted, then mentions two other areas that probably aren’t considered all that often… but should be.

a) What’s good for the department

This one seems obvious, even if that part is true the people hiring for this position fail more often than not. What I’ve seen is that the people who hire lower management positions often don’t know the job all that well. This means they’re going off gut feelings more than anything else; they’re hiring more for their needs than the needs of the department.

b) What’s good for the organization

This one is rarely considered, but it’s quite crucial for more reasons than just having a succession plan. The business world has changed to the point where fewer employees are taking jobs expecting to stay with those companies all that long. Companies have come to realize that as well, but instead of incentivizing their employees to want to stay longer they bring them in for their immediate needs and are already planning their replacement.

The organizations that seem to end up with better leaders are those who are able to grow and nurture talent from within. They find ways to make sure those people are challenged and shown their long term value to the company, and their loyalty is more often than not reciprocated. This is where great mentoring can come into play because organizations are always more than what new leaders see on the surface.

c) What’s good for the community

3dprinting Night - Majocchi
WeMake Milano via Compfight

At the last hospital I was at, I lobbied for HR to recruit more minorities to work in the hospital. I was the only one who wasn’t either in housekeeping or the cafeteria, yet there was a significant minority presence in the area. Because I couldn’t get HR to do anything,

I rallied a couple of minority employees in housekeeping to decide who they thought had intelligence and talent in their community and have them come to the hospital and put in applications, then let me know they had done so. I promised I’d make sure some of these folk would get calls when positions opened up. Of course, I ended up hiring the first two black people who weren’t in those departments (there had been at least one non-black minorities before I got there), and what happened next was kind of remarkable.

Minorities in the community had always heard that the hospital wouldn’t even call anyone in for positions they applied for, let alone been hired. Once I hired a couple, there were a lot more applications at both of the hospitals I was working at. By the time I ended up leaving, more people of color were working there, and the hospital also had its first deaf employee, all of which helped the hospitals mission because now the hospital didn’t have to call someone in another city to handle translations for them.

Truth be told, it took two years before I learned what my presence at the hospital had meant for the minorities living in the community, since I lived over an hour away. I’ve continued to see how that type of thing works. When people see others who they perceive are like them in high positions, they tend to not only see those organizations in a better light but also believe they have a fair chance to gain employment at those companies.

3. What’s Still Needed

Now let’s talk about the critical steps needed to be part of any successful succession plan. We’ve covered proper training and mentoring and a few other things. The rest are outliers that might need consideration, depending on both the person and the long term leadership goals of the organization:

a) More technical training

I think of this like the training starship captains get on Star Trek. They learn all aspects of starships so that in an emergency they can take on any role if need be, or at least know the proper questions to ask when things start going wrong.

I liken this to my early training at the first hospital that employed me. I was in billing, but over time I learned auditing, verification, collections, admissions and emergency room processes. I was also familiar with the department that did the scanning, a process that was in its infancy in the 1980’s yet I knew how to do it if I’d ever been called on… which luckily I wasn’t. lol

The more your potential leaders know about the organization, the more valuable they become and the more valued they feel. Never let the learning process end, especially if the person is willing to learn.

b) More leadership training

I’ve heard the lament from a lot of directors about leadership training, saying “we have this every year and it’s always the same thing.” The real reason there’s leadership training every year is because upper management doesn’t do any followup after the sessions to see if managers are applying any of the concepts they learned during the training.

Once you decide to invest in an employee, you need to be prepared to go all the way. This means not only teaching them the ways you want them to lead, but allowing them to participate in outside training programs and even encouraging leadership courses at local colleges. No two leaders do everything the same, yet all good leaders follow the same principles. People buy into something when they can fully embrace it.

c) Continuity of mentoring

Mentoring is going to be big when it comes to training new leaders. Some of these ideas I’ve mentioned previously but not all of them in the same way I’m going to talk about them now:

1) Co-Workers

Learning how to work with co-workers gives new leaders great training, both in what to do and what not to do. Some of their peers will have the skills that they want to learn and you want them to learn, while others will be deficient in one or more areas that they also need to see. How they work with others will give you another way to evaluate their skills and qualifications for upper management while also offering you a way to possibly figure out what else they might need.

2) Upper Management

I can’t stress this one enough. Not only does upper management have to buy into the plan but they’re going to need to be willing to show these potential leaders the way to address issues, even when they might not be all that sure themselves. I talked about this in part two; not only upper management within their own departments, but from the C-level will make significantly positive impacts of the thinking and loyalty of your leadership candidates.

3) Executive Coaching

I haven’t talked about this one yet but it could be a lifesaver for any organization. The last study showed that 40% of Fortune 500 CEOs use executive coaches and other strongly positive ROI numbers associated with executive coaching in general. Another way of looking at it is these coaches being more like mentors for your employees, since sometimes people in management need someone else to talk to that’s not part of the organization.

4) Professional Organizations

I mentioned this one in part two; technical and trade organizations exist in all types of forms, and it’s not only good for helping to train new leaders but helps them with networking and business social skills. It’s a great way of interacting with peers who do the same type of work they do, and I’ve found that often there are some highly regarded members who might make great mentors for them, which can only benefit your organization on the back end.

Only one more part to go, and I promise it’ll be much easier to take in and read more for pleasure than as a learning tool. 🙂

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In part one of my succession planning for leadership diversity series, I gave a preamble as to why such a thing should be a necessary process in all companies. The next stage is to talk about the process of creating a workable plan towards that goal.

C. Creating The Initial Plan

1. Setting the Goals

goal setting

No plan works without first deciding what the ultimate goals are. In my opinion, the first goal should be in training leaders who understand your industry, your company and the types of employees you’re looking to hire and work with. After that, if there’s anything else you’re looking for to lead your company to greater heights, you can tailor your goals for that.

2. Hiring The Right Employees

This is the most critical part of the entire process for more than one reason. The first is that it costs a lot to hire someone and keep them at least through the probationary period. The second is that many companies hire people based on the wrong criteria. The third is that sometimes people are hired who aren’t a proper fit for the environment they’re going to be put into. Let’s take a look at some of these areas.

a) Criteria for Hiring

I’m going to base this part of the article on the criteria I set up in my Mitchell Employee Evaluation Module. I list the 3 areas of evaluation criteria as follows:

* Technical Skills
* Social Skills
* Unskilled Criteria

Unlike most company processes, this equates to 47 specific criteria that companies can decide upon to help them throughout the hiring and interview process. Whether you check out the module or set something up for yourself, my recommendation is to come up with anywhere from 5 to 10 criteria you want in any candidates you’re looking to hire.

Now let’s dig a bit deeper:

1) Based on Education

I hate this specific criteria, although I understand its use in eliminating a number of candidates you might feel aren’t qualified to do the work. However, I’ve found that a lot of people who scored the highest grades in college aren’t always the best people in relating to others.

2) Based on Past Experiences

This one is hard if you’re hiring people right out of college because what kind of real experience could most of them have to show you their leadership skills unless they were in athletics? If you’re hiring someone with at least 5 years of work experience this might work better for you, but it’s going to be difficult getting information out of previous employers to ascertain this one.

3) Why a feeling may or may not be sufficient

Although it only happened once, one of the best feelings I ever had about someone turned out to be the worst hire I ever made. The thing is, I had a couple other directors in on the interview with me and she fooled all of us.

That one mistake notwithstanding, everyone else I’ve ever hired has worked out wonderfully. Of course, having criteria to fall back on helped a lot, although I didn’t have that specific criteria early in my career. That’s why I recommend writing down and following what you believe you need for both regular employees and long term prospects for leadership; sometimes you can’t trust your own judgment.

b) Placing employees in a fair environment

Kodomo Kai Kids
Matthew Kenwrick via Compfight

The story I like to use for this one is remembering a large downstate New York company that always sent its recruiters to California to hire people who were at the top of their class in mathematics and engineering. Oddly enough, most of those people happened to be Asian… and I mean Asian, not Asian-American.

The company would hire these people based on their college grades and then ship them all the way across the country to work and live in a community that didn’t have a significant Asian population. This was the culture the people they brought over were used to. Not only that, but every year almost all the new employees they hired left to go back home, so there weren’t even a significant number of other Asians working in that company’s location.

In an environment like this, neither the employees or the company could succeed, and it took 5 years of doing this before management realized they needed to change their criteria because of the cost of hiring so many people who weren’t prepared for such a change in their lives.

3. Training and Evaluation

I’ve always been big on two things: written training and procedure processes and consistent and fair evaluations. I don’t see either of these all that often, and that means employees are either set up to fail or evaluated on what they’ve done lately instead of a body of work.

You can’t have good employees without good training; without good employees, there’s no chance to have a pool of people to consider for any succession plans. This means:

a) Evaluating training methods

Not only do you have to have training methods that are solid, but you need to test them to make sure they’re always proper, because things change.

b) Follow up on training

Even if you know your training processes should work just fine, you need to remember two things as it relates to the employees:

1) Evaluation of performance – you need to evaluate employees more than once a year; otherwise, you have no idea if they’re competent or not;

2) Continuous training – training never stops because processes are always changing. Even if you have to send people outside of the organization for more education, it benefits the company.

c) When trying to be fair breeds inequality

fairness and equality

I’m someone who always says that trying to make all criteria equal isn’t fair to those whose background might mean they learn and process information differently that everyone else. What I say less rarely yet is equally important is that even if this is something you should consider, it should be a consideration in the context that your efforts to be fair don’t create a visible bias in the wrong direction. No matter what you do, there’s always someone watching to make sure they’re being treated fairly, even if what you’re doing is none of their concern.

4. The Support System

Whether it’s general employees or candidates for management, there always needs to be a support system for them to thrive. These are the areas where upper management needs to take charge and help HR or whomever make the proper moves for the ultimate success of an organization:

a) Other Employees

There’s a place for camaraderie as far as departments and teams go but once someone has been deemed to be leadership material it’s going to take someone at a higher level to guide them the proper way.

b) The Manager

This is the obvious initial candidate for the job, unless the manager you have in place doesn’t exhibit the skills needed to groom someone properly to become a leader (remember that 85% I mentioned above?). This is a problem for companies to begin with but it might be difficult to make the proper changes at this level if there are a lot of mid-level managers and not enough really good candidates to fill the positions (another good reason for succession planning).

c) Mentors

Mentors are always a key and it doesn’t have to be overly obvious that they’re around until necessary. For instance, even though I mentioned my overall mentor above, I actually had two other people who were crucial to my gaining knowledge and a little bit of influence when I was working my first job.

One was the vice president of the department I was working in. The other was a C-suite executive who used to talk to me all the time and who’d give me tickets to go to the opera, which afforded us time to talk both before and after performances. I hadn’t even realized I was being mentored at the time, thinking that somehow he just knew I liked opera. 🙂

Let’s answer the two questions below:

1) Why Mentors

Mentors are the people who know what’s needed to be at a higher level, the types of skills needed and the type of personality that’s part of the organizational culture.

2) Who Should Mentor/Options

This one is a lot tougher to define. It’s probably not going to be a CEO or the overall VP of the company, and if the organization doesn’t have a lot of upper management and C-suite level employees it’s going to take a lot of thought to get proper people involved.

In general, the people who should be a part of it are those at the top level of each department, or people they and upper management trusts who sees something in an employee that might benefit them in a different area of the organization. In some circumstances a company might decide that someone on the outside would make a proper mentor for those employees.

I see this happening more often if the employee is involved in sales or marketing and those at the top level of the company believe that employees technical and leadership skills could be enhanced by working with someone like that. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it happen, though it takes a lot of trust between all parties.

d) Organizations

I tend to believe that there are some great trade organizations in the world that can offer education, training and mentorship outside of the company. Every budget should contain enough money to allow qualified candidates, which should include all employees, to join these groups and participate in the training.

The true importance of organizations like this are:

1) Camaraderie

Sometimes it’s easier for people to talk with those outside the organization about their issues and problems, especially if they might be the only one who does what they do where they work (for instance, there’s only one director of patient accounting at each hospital and there’s rarely anyone else working in the hospital for them to talk to for ideas about improving processes).

2) Certifications

Although not every company is concerned with every certification available, it allows employees to build up a nice resume of success based on their particular vocation and that criteria will help bolster those employees as far as either their technical or leadership skills are concerned long term.

This looks a bit complex, doesn’t it? Creating leaders isn’t easy work, but it’s necessary for companies that care about their long term success.

What; you thought we were done? Nope; two more sessions to go!

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I gave a presentation on the above topic in 2005, then again in 2009, but I geared it towards hospitals and health care. That’s because I know from personal interaction that hospitals are pretty bad at this, no matter how much every administrator I’ve ever mentioned it to tries to say it’s not true. If it weren’t true, we’d definitely see a better balance across the board, especially with minorities in leadership positions… it’s just not there.

Diversity under God - by Mimitalks, inspired by events of this week
mimitalks, married, under grace via Compfight

I’ve decided to write about all the topics I brought up but broaden the scope so it’s not just about health care. Health care hasn’t gotten any better I’m sorry to say, but other industries are going through the same type of thing. Even technology; all we have to do is read any stories about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley to know that women and minorities are not only fighting an uphill battle to get into leadership positions, but to just get into the door.

The only part of the presentation I’m not going to go over, which I brought up in the seminars, was when I talked about my own long time mentor, whose name was Chuck Conole. It’s easier for me to link to what I wrote about it back in 2006; wow, that’s a pretty long time ago!

This is going to be a multiple article discussion because I already know that if I made it one article it would probably be longer than the longest piece I’ve ever written for a blog, which was over 5,800 words. I think it would make things easier for those who are interested in the topic to be able to see it in chunks.

I think this is important, especially as we’re heading into the latter part of this particular decade. There’s a lot of things about to change, and I know that I’d feel better if some of the people who are going to be the future leaders in this country were trained better and ready to accept the mantle of leadership.

A. The Reality of Employee – Management Disenfranchisement

This part is definitely about me because I’ve seen a lot in the 35 years I’ve been in the job market. I’m one of the lucky ones in that I got into leadership positions while being a minority.

You know what? Except for one year out of all these years, whenever I had leadership responsibility or was doing my independent consultant thing, I was always the only black person in leadership.

The first time I was in leadership I was an assistant supervisor, and that made me the highest ranking minority in the hospital… almost 600 beds at the time. The second time was for a physician’s billing company and it was just me. The third time there was a period of a year where another black person was hired. The fourth time I was alone; that was the last time I was a full time employee.

succession planning

Then I got into consulting. The first assignment was only for a month in Dallas, and I kept getting stared at by people in the two hospitals I visited. I learned that there was only one black person in any of the positions of leadership, and he was an assistant supervisor in the supply area. The second hospital system I worked at in New Jersey had none. The third hospital system I worked at in Westchester County had none… I think that’s enough to highlight what I’m used to seeing.

Not that there were never any minorities along the way. There were also plenty of women; health care is generally pretty good there, except for C-suite positions. In Texas there were Hispanic leaders, though not that many. In New Jersey there was one African. In New York City the CEO was black as well as a couple other C-level personnel, and the assistant director I had was Latino, but all the other leadership positions were bereft of minorities… and this was in Harlem!

B. Reasons why Succession Planning is Important

I could write a book on just this topic, but no one would want to read it. Instead, I’m going to list a number of reasons why this should be seen as a major deal, but remember to tie them all to leadership:

1. By 2030, there will be more minorities in the United States than the group that’s in the majority now. That number isn’t going to slow down; it’s going to continue growing, and fast.

2. The number one “minority” group in the country is women, at around 52%. They hold 51.5% of all managerial positions in the United States, but only 4% of top leadership positions in the S&P 500 (while they hold 12% of board level positions worldwide). They make 72% of every dollar that men make.

3. The biggest reason I’ve ever been given for why there aren’t any (or more) minorities or women in top leadership positions is that there aren’t any who are qualified for the positions.

4. When I wrote my book Embrace The Lead back in 2001, a survey said that around 85% of people who were in leadership positions had never led anything else before. The closest thing I can find to that which is current states that 36% or organizations state they don’t have a true leadership strategy while 34% said their strategy is average at best. If those are the numbers across the board, imagine what they have to be for women and minorities.

Although I do leadership training programs, truth be told it’s probably not the best way overall to train and create the best leaders within an organization. The best way to create new and qualified leaders is to have a mentoring program, an evaluation process for finding talented people, and a succession policy to help facilitate the training and education of those who might not otherwise be given advancement opportunities. If the program is set up properly it could be all inclusive as well.

This is the first post in the series; more to come.

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Today would have been my dad and his twin brother’s 85th birthday if both were alive. I think about Dad often, but the times I really think about him are the day he passed away and the date he was born. I always have good memories of him, and the leadership lessons I learned just from observing him and observing situations that involved him.


There are many ways to describe what good leadership is about, or how it works. There are many different directions people will go in to be a successful leader. There is no one way that works for everyone, whether you’re the person who’s the leader or the person who’s being led. But there are some principles that stand out if you’re paying attention and hoping to be a good leader at some point in your life.

There are always a few items that need to be thought of as absolutes if someone is going to be an effective leader. I have one main item that, in my opinion, is number one, above everything else that anyone may think. Of course people are always free to debate this, but this is mine, and I get to it by way of a story involving Dad.

He was in the military for 26 years. He started his military career on his 17th birthday, spent 2 years in the army (because black people weren’t allowed into the air force, which is where he actually wanted to be), left for about 6 months, then enlisted in the air force (thanks to Harry Truman) and stayed for another 24 years. If he hadn’t had to retire because of military regulations he would have been a career military man.

Dad always had one goal when he decided to go into the military the second time around; to become a master sergeant. For many people that might not have seemed like such a lofty goal, since officers get all the press, but military life isn’t what most people think it is.

There are many qualifications for people to become officers, and it’s not always dependent upon whether you’re the smartest or brightest. Some officers are folks that came right out of military school. Some officers are folks who got a college degree, made it through basic training, and had a job skill that automatically made them an officer. If anyone watched the TV show Mash, you’ll remember that the doctors were all officers, yet they didn’t have much military training or discipline. What they had was a job skill that the military needed; thus, they become officers.

Dad left school in his senior year of high school; this means he didn’t have a degree. It also means he would never qualify to be an officer, but I don’t think he ever wanted to be one. He always wanted to be a master sergeant; not a chief master sergeant or a senior master sergeant, but a master sergeant. The day he attained that level he was one of the happiest people I’d ever known. I was still relatively young when it occurred, so I didn’t know until a little bit later that he had already achieved what he wanted more than anything else.

Something that most people who don’t deal with military personnel believes is that the military hierarchy is an absolute. That is, officers are always the people in charge, and the rank indicates who gets to make all the decisions.

Dad in Vietnam

That’s partially true. But every officer I’ve ever met has said that they wouldn’t have gone far without a very effective master sergeant on their side to bounce ideas off, someone who’s been in the trenches, so to speak, and actually gotten their hands dirty with some of the duties they’re given. I can fully understand this because, even as a director who’d done the job that the employees were doing, I knew that I had to have their input before making decisions because I hadn’t kept up on what was going on daily with them.

On most military bases, there is a separation of living quarters between officers and non-commissioned officers; that is, folks with rank, but who aren’t officers. In the last place we lived while my dad was in the military, the officers all lived on one side of the base, and the non-commissioned officers lived on the other side of the base.

The only time they usually interacted personally was where it concerned children, or when shopping on the base. There was an officers club and an NCO club; there was an officers barracks and an NCO barracks for those military folks who weren’t married. There was an officers gym and pool which was separate from the enlisted men’s gym and pool. That’s just the way things were, and everyone knew where they were allowed to be and not allowed to be; even the kids.

Based on the way the military sets things up, to try to eliminate fraternization between the ranks, you can imagine my surprise whenever officers would show up where we lived, or Dad would be invited to go to certain functions that only officers were supposed to be invited to. For some reason, people respected my dad’s opinions, and it wasn’t just those whose rank was lower than his, or equal to his.

Dad, Uncle Morris

Trust me, this wasn’t the norm; not even close. What also wasn’t the norm is that often these officers would show up in civilian clothing, even though they would talk about work issues… or so I assume, since I was always sent to my room whenever they came. lol

I said I was observant, right? What I observed over time was Dad proving something to me, something that I’ve taken to heart my entire life, and something that’s my first, and main, key of leadership: the position doesn’t make the leader, the leader makes him or her self.

Being a leader doesn’t mean that you’re always the person in charge. Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to be involved in every aspect of an issue or project.

Being a leader means that you’re someone others realize they can go to whenever they need to discuss something, or wish to have a problem solved or worked out. Being a leader means you care more about the results than the process of getting there. Being a leader means you’re not in it for the glory; you’re in it because there’s an issue, and you’re ready to help solve it.

It also means you can interact with anyone, regardless of where they might end up in the pecking order. Titles are just names; real leaders work towards results, and when other people see that, they want to know and work with those people as much as possible.

A dad lesson I get to share on his birthday; thanks Dad!

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Last week I led a presentation for my consultant’s group entitled Public Professionalism & Social Media. The overall discussion was about business people, whether they’re working for themselves or for someone else, needing to control their language as well as what and how they say things, even if it’s something they truly believe in, if it can negatively affect their business.

hateful image

I led with this image, which led to audible gasps in the room. It turns out no one had seen it, which shouldn’t have surprised me but it did. Of course most people are going to know what the genesis of this is, but there’s always backstories.

In this case, the first backstory is the candidate said he was trying to start a conversation and, since he was far behind in the polls, thought this would get things going. The second backstory is that he was actually a restaurant owner and a local pastor.

You can imagine what happened to both of them because of his billboard. He removed this one, and a few others that were quite incendiary, but the damage was done as far as his businesses were concerned. The scary thing; he still got 2% of the vote in his area.

After mentioning a few more things, showing how bad behavior has led to the ouster of some pretty high ranking people in their organizations, I shared something that I’ve kind of presented at different meetings for years, and pretty much got these responses:

I asked people if they censored themselves in these situations…

1. Do you curse around your parents?

No, because I respect them too much.

2. What about other adults, people older than you.

No, that would be disrespectful.

3. What about at work?

No, because I might lose my job.

4. What about your kids?

I try not to but sometimes they make me so angry I lose control.

5. You never lose control when talking to your parents, or at work?

Sure I do, but that’s different.

Have you ever heard or seen someone do something you know is absolutely stupid and wondered why they still did it? Have you ever asked someone why they did something stupid? If you have, isn’t the answer either one of these two things:

* I don’t know

* I thought it would be funny

The next part of this question is why people would risk their livelihood by doing something similar. Sure, in some circumstances people seem to get away with pretty much anything, but we all know that’s not close to being the norm. This isn’t reality TV, and even there we’ve seen where someone said something on one of those shows without thinking about it, only to see the rest of their lives affected by what they said when they’re not locked in that environment anymore. The usual response, after apologizing: “That’s not who I am.”

Here’s the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s who you are. It doesn’t matter the situation. Whenever something touches you deep enough you have to decide what’s worth saying something about and how you say it.

I figure that every single person has at least one trigger where they feel compelled to say something. I certainly have one, which is race, which is why I wrote a post like this back in February.

However, what I do is, hopefully, choose my words carefully so that I get my point across, at least when I have the space to do so (Twitter can be a bit more difficult to manage). I don’t call people names until they call me one, and even then those names aren’t profane (most of the time I use a big word that I figure they don’t know lol). I’ve learned over all my years of blogging that it might take an explanation to go along with my point of view rather than leaving a one line statement open for too much interpretation.

Then again, talking about diversity is part of what I do in my career, so it makes sense for me to bring race, and other isms up, as a topic when I feel it’s needed. That might give me a small break, yet I still need to make sure I choose my words carefully.

I also always remember that, when all is said and done, I’m an independent business person. True, there are a lot of people I’m never going to work with based on what they’ve said or what they’ve done who might not even know it. I’m sure the same applies to me (actually, I know it does, and I know it has nothing to do with my words…).

The best lesson I can share isn’t something I said, but something one of the consultants at the presentation said as the last words: “Don’t fight too hard for something that’s going to give you such a little return when it’s over.”

That’s a good lesson for all of us to learn. If you need a little bit more on the subject, check out the video:


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Just over 3 1/2 years ago I wrote a post telling some people in leadership that gang leaders are better than them. It was quite the controversial post, even though no one could go against the premise the way I laid it out.

The Crazy Gang! (IMG_0075b)
Dennis Candy via Compfight

This time around I’m laying out the reason gang leaders are such strong leaders, but I’m using business terms to highlight the points rather than some of the bad things we know about gangs in general. After all, I might be able to make a business case for the leaders within gangs from a business perspective, but knowing that these people will kill without regard, push drugs upon the members of their community, and pretty much terrorize anyone who gets in their way, I certainly can’t peg them as paragons of virtue in any normal way.

Let’s look at gang leaders as business professionals and the lessons that could be learned from them:

1) Total Visual Access

In most corporations, the employees rarely see the people at the top levels. They might read proclamations here and there, but overall they could walk right by a CEO and have no idea they did it.

When it comes to gangs, everyone knows who the leader is because the leader is going to make sure everyone knows who the top dog is. They dress better, drive a better car, and are always surrounded by a lot of people. They’re so well known that even people in the neighborhood who aren’t part of the gang know who they are.

2) Fearlessness

If you face every day as it possibly being your last because you know that there are a lot of people out to kill you, there’s no way you can’t be fearless. Being that way allows gang leaders to make decisions based on taking chances that to most of us would seem to be reckless and ill advised. Yet, they’re always looking to grow and make more money, and that never happens if they’re always trying to play it safe.

One of the most common things you hear from people who acquire great wealth is that they took some very big risks and made some life changing decisions that, somewhere along the way, someone else recommended they not do. Most of the time they don’t make decisions without a bit of research, but at some point it takes a lot of heart and guts to make those bold decisions. Luckily their actual lives aren’t on the line most of the time, but every person has that moment when the risk might make them feel that way.

3) Allow Others To Make Some Decisions

the gang
bwrahbwrah jonguh via Compfight

Something most people might have a problem believing is that gang leaders aren’t micro-managers. Many times they realize they might not be the smartest person in the room. It turns out they’re very good evaluators of talent, and that comes from allowing other gang members to come up with ideas and implement them to see what happens. As long as money’s being made, they’re not worried about what’s going on outside of their specific area of control Of course, if things go really wrong or a lot of money is lost, the consequences could be life taking…

Many times people in management are worried about the decision making of their employees. This happens mostly because they don’t take the time to either truly evaluate the people who report to them or don’t give them any training outside of the work that’s expected of them. You have to give employees the tools they need to succeed and then you have to allow them the opportunity to show you want they can do.

4) Loyalty

Gang leaders obtain the greatest loyalty from others who are in the gang. It takes great loyalty to get others to kill for you, whether it’s in the course of business or just as a lark. Colors, tattoos… no matter what it is gang members are loyal to a fault, even if they go to jail for something they didn’t do.

In business, it’s hard to get real loyalty from the majority of employees unless you’re a visible leader who seems to do right by them. Too often it seems like leaders are doing everything for their own legacy more than for the employees or the company. Without the force of true fear behind them, or the “real” possibility of making a lot of money by showing their worth, leaders need to find other ways of earning employee trust and loyalty… and it can be done as people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have shown.

5) Profit Sharing

A reality that most people don’t know about gangs that sell drugs is that the majority of front line drug dealers not only make less money than they would if they were working at McDonalds, but they have a higher percentage of losing their lives than soldiers in any war since World War II. So, where does the profit sharing come from?

Remember #3 above? Taking a chance and making a big score impresses the leaders of gangs, so much that they’ll usually give a big percentage of the new profits to the person who obtained it. Compare that to someone I know who worked for an organization that he obtained 8 patents for. The companies ended up making multiple millions from his creations but they only gave him a $1,000 bonus.

Every day at most businesses in the country, an employee makes a decision that makes a lot of profit for the organization but all they get is a pat on the back. Obviously every business can’t go around giving bonuses to every employee. Still, a bit of recognition, maybe lunch or a plaque would probably be appreciated and garner a bit of that loyalty I talked about in #4.

Did I help get you thinking about leadership in a different light? Don’t you want to be seen as a better leader than someone running a gang, other than the reason being you can’t kill them? Think about it. 😉

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell

I often think hospital billing offices make the general process way too hard to figure out. There are some things that can be put into place or enacted upon pretty easily that will help them long term.

My cubicle, updated
Ben Mautner via Compfight

The thing is, not all of them are directly related to medical billing; that’s the easy part. A lot of it has to do with leadership and working with other leaders within the hospital.

Other than the first thing on this list, which is specific to medical billing, the rest of these principles will work for all businesses… so y’all need to read this as well. 🙂

A. Alpha split versus insurance specific

Although I said this one is specific to hospital medical billing, I have a feeling there are other industries where this type of thing might be prevalent.

As it regards hospitals, I’ve always believed in the rule of numbers based on staffing. If you have a small staff, which means less than 10 people, it makes more sense to set up your office based on the letters of the alphabet than on specific insurance types. There aren’t all that many insurance types, and it’s known that some insurance types, such as no fault, are going to have fewer claims than others, such as Medicare. It also helps to have more people who know how to handle every type of claim so that the department isn’t overwhelmed if someone is out sick or on vacation, or if staff is short for some other reason.

When you have a larger staff, you have a lot more choices on what you might want to do. Alpha split within the teams you set up is still the smart way to go for a proper distribution of work, but you can create teams based on the amount of work or the type of work, such as inpatient versus outpatient.

B. Division of work; how much is too much or too little?

This is a much different issue than the one above. This one makes you be more managerial in determining the strengths of your employees, their individual talents, and who can actually handle the workload you might have to impart on them.

It’s not all about numbers when you get to this level. You might have some really talented people who can handle things that are a bit more complicated, rather than those people who can produce great output if you lay everything out perfectly for them.

Business Meeting
Creative Commons License thetaxhaven via Compfight

C. How much do your employees need to know, and what do you trust them to do?

I’ve never been one of those leaders who was worried that someone working for me might know more than I did. What I figured out at a certain point was that I would know more about strategy and procedures but the employees would know more about processes and what was actually going on with the system, since they did the work.

Because of that, I was always willing to share whatever I could with them. However, I know in many businesses that leaders either won’t or can’t do the same thing… most of the time “won’t”. This leaves employees doing things the best they can without all the knowledge they might wish they had, but knowing that the rules say they do their part in the process while someone else is responsible for another part, like certain types of factory work.

D. Is it best to go to other directors or employees in their department?

This is a tough one that depends on the type of business you’re in and the kind of trust you’ve built up. I was lucky in that I was allowed to talk to anyone based on the type of work I did, and I was fortunate that everyone would talk to me because they all knew I treated everyone fairly, no matter what work they did.

This is important for more than one reason. Sometimes other directors don’t want you to ever talk to their employees. Sometimes you know you need to talk to the employees because they’re actually doing the work that impacts your department. Thus, it behooves you to have a great working relationship with your peers so that you can easily move between everyone when you have to make sure you’re getting the proper information you need.

E. The patient isn’t always right, but they’re always the patient

I’m using patient because I started out talking about health care, but everyone else can use “customer”.

Sometimes you have to disagree with the people who you’re really working for who aren’t your employers, while at other times you might have to tell them something you know they don’t want to hear.


No matter how they take it, you have to work hard to remain professional instead of losing your cool or being sarcastic towards them. This doesn’t mean you have to suffer abuse that’s unwarranted. I once hung up on a patient three times because he began each conversation by calling me a profane name without knowing me.

The fourth time he called he asked me if I was going to hang up on him, to which I replied “Not if you don’t call me names and give me a chance to help you.” Five minutes later we were best buddies because I’d taken care of his problem.

All most people want is a bit of respect and some attention to the reason they’re calling you. Without these people you might not have a job; how much does it take to treat them with some respect?

F. What does upper management know about what you do?

If I’ve learned anything about upper management in all my years, it’s that they really don’t know what most of their department directors do. I’m not saying that to indicate that these aren’t intelligent people; it’s just that many of them have people who report to them that do things they’ve never seen or done.

In health care it comes down to a lot of the technical work. The departments that report to CFOs all do work that almost no CFO has ever done and probably hasn’t seen. Most of the departments that report to either the COO or Nursing VP do work that those folks have probably never done or seen.

Outside of health care… well, we know that the CEO of Wells Fargo just resigned because many of the employees were creating false accounts and basically stealing money from many of their clients to do it. He said he never knew it was going on, even though a letter showed up telling him that there was a possibility it was going to happen.

If you look at his background, you’ll see that he spent the overwhelming majority of his career in leadership positions all over the country, sometimes overseeing multiple departments at once. When you’re that kind of leader, it’s strongly possible that you don’t fully understand the type of work that others are doing to know whether or not it should be allowed.

From my perspective, I vacillated between how much I wanted to tell my CFOs. I needed them to know the good and bad things that were going on and how effective I was, but I didn’t have the time, nor did they, to go into the nitty gritty of the daily work unless it affected budgets and cash. Still, I had to make sure they knew what was going on since that’s how I was going to be evaluated on a yearly basis.

G. What are your language skills like? Are your employee problems derived from you?

I’m big on communication when it comes to talking to employees. I had to learn the hard way that sometimes terminology we get used to using in our profession isn’t always fully understood by the people who work for us.

When we don’t take the time to find out what our employees know and how they interpret what we’re saying to them, or if they don’t fully understand department goals, we’re setting them and ourselves up for failure. You can’t be too erudite nor condescending when you talk to people whose work your livelihood depends on. You also can’t be too secretive. If employees don’t understand what’s going on, trust me, it’s your fault if you’re the leader.

H. Conflicts are inevitable; what’s the best way to manage them?

This is a tough one for most people, but it doesn’t have to be. Although I always wanted to get to the truth, you’ll usually find that the truth is different when you have two people disagreeing about something.

In these instances I saw myself as a mediator. My first goal was to diffuse the tension; nothing could push forward until that took place.

My second goal was to get it resolved to MY satisfaction; the workplace isn’t always a democracy. If one person was wrong, I’d tell them so. If it was just a difference of opinion, I’d work with those who were involved to get to a resolution that was acceptable enough to get them back to work with expedience.

I don’t believe that most people working with each other have to be friends, but they certainly need to be coworkers and work towards a common goal if they’re working for me. Usually, by talking things out, the worst of tensions would be taken care of and there wouldn’t be any long term animosity. I’d like to think I did a good job because in all my years in leadership I had few people leave because of how I handled something… though it did happen here and there.

There you are, 8 specific things that might help you do your job better if you’re leading others. Please feel free to add to the discussion.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell