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2 Dangerous Things A Year

Every year I resolve to do two new dangerous things (by my own definition of dangerous.) One of my goals for this year was to learn guitar and singing, then to perform both in public – with a view to developing a new show incorporating some comedy songs. This is my first public performance with some singing students so the audience wasn’t really expecting any comedy. Pretty happy with it as a platform upon which to build.

The Book Show


Here’s my segment from a recent episode of ‘The Book Show’ in which I’m interviewed about my books ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ & ‘The Guide: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you’d need to know.’ I’m no expert on publishing but if you think you have a book in you, my tales might provide some pointers…

Behaviour-Based Core Values Are The Foundation Of Your Recruitment Brand

In the ballroom at New Plymouth’s ‘Plymouth International Hotel’, Terry Williams (The Brain-Based Boss) talks here about behaviour-based core values as a platform for building a recruitment brand.

Secrets Of Building Winning Teams


Successful organisms and groups in nature rely on diversity as a defence mechanism and to provide tools to deal with a wide range of situations – business is no different. Here’s the rest of that thought, expressed in my lead article from the Careers section of The NZ Herald on 20th July 2013. To save me re-typing it, here it is in image form with a link back to the Herald’s original online article.

Herald Jobs Article Terry Williams The Brain-Based Boss 20July2013 Entire

Companies Engaging Customers Via Social Media. (The Importance Of Sock Etiquette)

Barkers Panel

It’s interesting to observe how some businesses are trying to engage their customers or potential customers via social media. Clearly, if your company name is being ‘talked’ about online, you’d like to know. And if not the details, then the general mood of the room. I know some celebrities (and some real people) run little robots to search their names to run reports so they can fret &/or respond to perceived trolls and so forth, or bask in the glow of perceived adoration. Some do it personally rather than run the robots but who has that kind of time? Oh yeah, celebrities.

I’m no social media expert or even much of an expert on business communication or marketing. I’m just a customer and low-rent user of social media myself. This is more of a story. It started with me buying some shirts online. Risky you might think but there are basically three providers of shirts I generally use for me and my son. Again, I’m no marketer but to my mind they seem to inhabit three different strata.

Hallensteins is where my mum bought my clothes decades ago. They’ve updated themselves and very successfully polished themselves up but they’re still proudly in every mall and very much an affordable and accessible chain of stores. If my teenage son and I walk into one of their stores, the staff will talk to him which is great as that gives me time to complain about the music to myself and wonder, given that the store also houses a hairdresser, why do all the staff need a haircut? They’re great, good value for money and a successful retailer in even tough times. That said, once you know what range they have and what size you are, clothes are a commodity that a mere male can purchase online.

The same can be said for Barkers and 3 Wise Men. Barkers is younger, classier and more expensive. It’s great quality and I have many a Barkers item. 3 Wise Men is younger still, upmarkety exclusive, only have a few very-non-mall locations and quite business-oriented or, at least grown-up oriented. “3 for a hundy” is their catchphrase. Their adverts are witty, provocative and subversive. They explain their shirt logic and technology. I dig them even if I don’t buy much.

Anyways, I saw some shirts I liked in-store at Hallensteins with my son and went back online to buy them. I believe what I did to that bricks n mortar retailer is called ‘showrooming.’ They did the legwork in real time and space but they didn’t get the sale. This happens a lot and will do so increasingly. I did the same with a camera tripod recently.

The woman in my life Mandy observed and complimented me on one of my new shirts. I took it as a compliment but it may have been phrased along the lines of, “Oh, that’s new. It’s nice. Did you get that by yourself?” That’s probably a side issue, the analysis of which would need a blog by a psychologist or counsellor so let’s park that for now. What it did do was prompt me to write a joke. I then posted a couple of different versions of it. The one on my comedian FaceBook page got a couple of dozen ‘likes.’ That’s pretty good for me. Here’s the other version from my personal FB page. My family liked it and they know Mandy.

FB extract

I then posted it on LinkedIn and it got a lot of ‘likes.’ So I thought I’d experiment and tweet a version for Hallensteins, a version for Barkers and just see what might happen. Could be some co-promotional love for a future show if I could schmooze a clothing retailer ahead of a comedy festival? (Nope BTW.)

Hallensteins never responded at all. I don’t know if they scan social media for references to themselves. They might do. Maybe they only respond to glaring complaints. I’ve seen good and bad examples of that. Some companies strip out negative remarks, failing to address them, leaving only seemingly overwhelmng positives. Some like Air NZ fall on their sword and do something about them as much as they can, and, more importantly, get seen to be doing so which often gets them likes and retweets etc. The reality is that businesses are going to get justified and unjustified noise about them from customers online. They need a plan. Doing nothing might be a good plan – why pour fuel on a fire, right? But doing nothing out of ignorance, laziness or disinterest will bite back eventually.

Barkers however did respond:

Barkers Tweets

Did they fail to get the joke. Are they over earnest? Or, is this quiet and clever marketing? I suspect that they got the joke. They did ‘favourite’ it. But they used it to everyone’s advantage in a non-pushy, non-manipulative way. And they did so to promote a feature of their site that would benefit anyone who has ever wondered what the hell “smart casual” or semi-formal” means on an invitation!

Barkers online have a panel function – an online forum where your burning questions about tie-knotting or hat-matching can be dealt with professionally by experts. Or smart casual or semi-formal. Neat. Really neat. I always did wonder about short-sleeves for work and the woman in my life at the time was of little help either. Barkers’ panel is definitive on the subject. I’m not sure if Barkers’ experts are anonymous or female but it’s a great idea. Certainly I would’ve liked that function for my camera tripod purchase online. I’m sorted tie-knot-wise (Windsor) and hat-match-wise (no hats unless sunny then a Breakers 3-peat championship cap.) But on photography, less so.

Retailers could learn from @Barkers. Maybe they got the joke and chose to ignore it? Either way, they intrigued me and via social media got me to discover one of their functions that is a point of difference for them and got me to blog etc about it. Short of them sending me some FREE SHIRTS, or SPONSORING MY NEXT FESTIVAL SHOW, everyone wins out of the whole experience. Except maybe Mandy but she’s used to that.

I’ve subsequently tried the joke out on stage and it kills. It’s not got me any free shirts but it has got me free drinks.

Congratulations On Your Engagement


Today’s business section in the Herald runs my latest column on employee engagement.

Q: I want to be a great leader. What’s this thing called “employee engagement” I’ve been hearing about? Is it just consultants coming up with some new term to sell me their services, or what? I’m hoping it’s real. Economic times are tough. I need something to get more out of the team I lead.Bewildered of Birkenhead

A: Dear Bewildered of Birkenhead,

The phrase “employee engagement” might be new and it certainly is flavour of the month in leadership literature, but the underlying concept is true and timeless human nature.

Employee engagement is not “morale” or “satisfaction” or “happiness”. Plenty of unhappy people are highly productive and plenty of deliriously happy folk are fine with showing up, punching a clock, getting paid and going home regardless of whether anything productive happens. Employee engagement is the extent to which an employee chooses to apply discretionary effort. It’s doing more than you have to because you choose to.

So, there are engaged employees doing more than they have to, present employees who do only what they have to, and disengaged employees who are reading this careers section at work to find a new job with anyone who isn’t you.

The numbers vary a little across time, industry and geography, but they’re remarkably consistent: 26 per cent are engaged, 28 per cent are disengaged and 46 per cent are present.

These are averages. What are the proportions in your workplace?

Click here for more…

Employees React Negatively When Prompted to Think About Money


Here are some studies that show that reminders about money led consumers to react against people who would normally influence their decisions.

For all the talk and research about the extent to which money motivates people, I’m certain its very important. My personal stance is that people get a job for money but, unless they have a routine, linear and unthinking job, money doesn’t motivate them to do any more or better work. Money gets people to show up and it’s a control mechanism. Calling the carrot or stick of money a motivator is giving it too much credit. And if there’s one thing money doesn’t like, it’s credit.

How Can You Make Your Own Luck When It Comes To Recruiting And Retaining The Best Employees?

Recruiting and retaining the best employees shouldn't be a matter of luck

Recruiting and retaining the best employees shouldn’t be a matter of luck

This recent article in the business section of the New Zealand Herald cites research conducted by a firm of recruitment consultants. I’m not suggesting for a moment that they have a vested interest in interpreting the results in any particular way, but they interpret the results in a particular way… that says employers aren’t recruiting effectively. (If only there was someone around who could help them?)

Sarcastic and cynical as I am, I’m not disputing the results of the survey – just their narrow interpretation of the cause. There’s never ONE cause. Maybe poor recruitment contributes. I bet it does.

The Hudson survey “paints a bleak picture for employers”, saying: “Of every 10 employees: four are not good hires, eight aren’t engaged in their work and six are actively seeking other employment.” Ouch! This is born out by other research I’ve been reading over years and around the world. There’s a bit of variation, mostly by industry, but this survey isn’t that surprising and New Zealand isn’t that bad. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of scope for improvement.

Apart from the recruitment tools being used which the recruitment company focuses on, the primary cause of the problem implied is that employers are recruiting almost entirely for skills – technical skills. It’s that old mindset of, “I’ve got a vacancy, I’d better fill it because it’s costing me money” without doing the correlating maths on how much it costs to fill that vacancy and get it wrong – to fill it with someone technically competent (and that’s even assuming they get that bit right) but quickly disengaged or a misfit in several other ways.

Bad luck? Like most games, you make your own luck in the recruiting game. I was meeting recently with a manager who hadn’t had a single instance of negative turnover for nine years. Yes, people had moved on but for the right reasons such as internal promotion. He used the usual suite of tools to find a pool of potential applicants, whittled them down through CV checking, interviews, reference checks and even the occasional behaviourial profile. But he added another step. Shortlisted applicants all got to sit in on some actual work with some people who, if their application was successful, would be their co-workers. Those co-workers got a right of veto. I used this myself in the past with some success in a call centre that wasn’t a typical call centre. It gave applicants a dose of what their potential working reality could be. Sometimes they got put off by us and our work; sometimes we got put off by them. Either way, it’s better for both parties that be known early and up front so neither employer or employee have to suffer the consequences of misfitting. And those are greater than the costs of vacancies.

Another means of increasing your odds is to encourage referral of potential applicants from existing employees. Some firms even offer a commission for this. BUT if you do that, ponder how this might affect behaviour and what exactly it is you’re wanting to incentify and provide commission on. Any commission should be for a successful applicant who is still there after a predetermined period and performing well. Not just for putting someone with a pulse into a vacancy. Rather than just advertising to the great untargetted masses for your specific vacancy, wouldn’t it increase the chances of success if you sought via an informed gene pool – the people who are already aware of what it takes to do the job and who is likely to prosper there?

Wringing the final life out of my luck metaphor, when it comes to those few shortlisted candidates who are demonstrably technically competent but you’re not absolutely certain that they’ll fit and be engaged, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run. Often it’s better to walk away and play another day. Cheaper in the long run even if baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Look Like You Mean What You Say.


Looking and sounding like you mean what you say is called congruence.

Here’s a Freakonomics blog post about the advantages of looking trustworthy. They reference a, perhaps not unsurprising, piece of research which found that, “… people are more likely to invest money in someone whose face is generally perceived as trustworthy, even when they are given negative information about this person’s reputation.”

In researching my current book, I came across one so-called research finding that concluded that people with assymetrical faces made better leaders. The reasoning behind this was that beautiful people have it easy their whole lives so they don’t have to put in the effort with people to influence them, whereas not-so-beautiful people had to develop influencing skills their whole life because nature didn’t give them any natural advantages. This does seem to contradict books like ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.’

Both are interesting possibly but is either of any use to a leader in the workplace trying to be a Brain-Based Boss and get better results by applying this thinking in the real world of work?

I suggest that while it may be possible to change how symmetrical your face is in order to enjoy any supposed benefits, that’s a tad crazy. (Crazy isn’t like pregnant. No one’s ever a “tad pregnant.” You either are or you aren’t. With crazy however, there is an abundance of shades.)

My point, surreal as it was getting, is that the face-shape research might be amusing but it isn’t usefully applicable in the real world of work.

Looking trustworthy has more potential usefulness. I couldn’t tell with just a skim read of the article but I hope that whatever trustworthy looks like isn’t something you’re born with but is a set of behaviours you can learn and use. And by “use”, I don’t mean “fake and manipulate.” And I don’t just mean raised eyebrows and a smile. There must be a combination of micro body language movements that reflect a genuine trustworthiness.Straight posture, open gestures, eye contact and many more that a mere still image in a lab test cannot hope to portray.

If you are trustworthy, it’ll enhance your professional communication and leadership effectiveness if you can also look trustworthy. Here are some clues:

Trustworthy Faces

No disrespect to the follically challenged, and I get that these are simple computer generated images, but I think the +3SD guy would look even more trustworthy if he added some hair (though not not in beard or mustache form) and lost the black t-shirt…

10 Things Economics Can Teach Us About Happiness


This article in The Atlantic by Derek Thompson makes lots of interesting research-based correlations between wealth and happiness, for individuals and countries. Have a read. In short the answers are, “Kinda”, “Up to a point” and “It depends.”

From my interest area of employee engagement, some key comments were that its not so much the lack of wealth that makes unemployed people unhappy. Its the unemployment. And the self employed are happier than the jobbed (until they’re not.) Work (or ‘jobs’, if you prefer to use that similar but not totally synonymous word) provides us humans with more than money. We’ll take the money we need, and the lack of it up to a point will make us unhappy, but past a further point, more won’t make us happier. Those points are different for different people and change with time and circumstance. The unemployed get sick and depressed partly from a lack of money but mostly from a lack of a sense of self worth, inclusion, contribution and development. Plenty of people in sucky jobs get the same negatives even if they have an income. That negatively impacts on health, attendance and productivity.

To me, the overwhelming theme of the findings is that people are different. Average findings about wealth and how it relates to happiness (if wealth really is any kind of an indicator about employee motivation) might be interesting but it isn’t useful. People are different. That’s the level of research that becomes useful. And that is the level when you as a leader observe and investigate the individual people you lead. What works for them?

Happiness is a staggeringly shifty set of goalposts to aim for and really isn’t the same as engagement. But if you grow a workplace culture that supports self awareness, movement towards skill mastery, increasing autonomy, some sense of purpose and the ability to influence others, then you’ll engage your people. If they’ve got that, they won’t be unhappy.

A lot of my blog readers come from countries celebrating a public holiday today – Queen’s Birthday. It’s a bit anachronistic but a holiday is a holiday and in the southern hemisphere, there’s a long, cold and dark winter until the next Monday off in the Spring. The definition of employee engagement is when an employee chooses to do some work they don’t have to do. They engage in a discretionary activity and that activity happens to be some work. That occurs at the workplace and these days the workplace is very hard for many to pin to a single location. (Wherever your smartphone is, there you are!) So, on a public holiday, people are getting all discretionarily active all over the place. What are you doing? What do you get out of that activity? Are there aspects of your work where you get the same jollies? If not, you could be one of the three quarters or so of workers who are either disengaged or merely present at work. Maybe spend some of your holiday thinking about that and make a change?

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