January 30th, 2015


Some companies go through employees like water.  These are the companies that have not calculated the costs of replacing an employee.  Even to replace the lowest paid worker, a company will easily spend at least $5,000.  At higher salary levels the turnover cost increases more significantly.  For example, at the senior level, companies will usually spend four times the annual salary.  Additionally, unnecessary employee turnover creates workflow interruption, increased stress, morale decline, and loss of experience.

Of course, if we can preempt this finance and talent drain, then the company and the employee are happier.  And that is why we must have best practices in recruiting and hiring.  I have heard of some organizations that have hired a new worker based on a single interview and without performing any kind of a background check.

As businesspersons, let’s do all we can to retain good employees.  Equally important, let’s follow best practices up front at the recruiting and hiring stages.  After all, you don’t want to say that you did more research on your latest electronic gadget than you did on that new employee, do you?


January 29th, 2015


The ongoing debate between consumer privacy advocates and advertisers has reared its head in the world of medical data analytics for pharmaceuticals.  Internet companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers are collaborating to enable anonymous tracking of prescription drug use.  Jordan Robertson and Shannon Pettypiece describe the operation (“The Big Business of Selling Rx Records” Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/15/14–12/21/15), pp. 19–20):

In a process known as a matchback, third-party companies assign patients unique numerical codes based on their prescription-drug records.  . . . That lets pharmaceutical companies identify groups who use a specific medicine and send them tailored web ads.” (p. 20)

Consumer privacy advocates are crying foul, claiming that big-data brokers are probing too far.  I do not buy the argument.  The data that is transferred is done so with any personally identifying information scrubbed.  As Jody Fisher, director of U.S. product management for one of the major data brokers, IMS Health Holdings, affirms:

It involves tracking patients over time anonymously.  . . . It helps all stakeholders identify patterns of behavior that make delivery of health care more efficient.” (p. 20)

While I am all for privacy protections, this is a case in which many more people stand to benefit via enhanced healthcare delivery and efficiency.  Moreover, because no names travel with the data, we have no consumer-privacy issue here.


January 28th, 2015


If you do not take good care of yourself first, then you will not be fully prepared to take care of anyone else.  Working diligently as a professional is always a good thing except when it becomes out of balance.  The person who works constantly yet never carves out time for rest, recreation, physical fitness, and wellness is undermining his or her long-term success.

Just as in a high-altitude flight emergency you place the oxygen mask on yourself first and only then deal with your child, you must ensure that you are getting what you need to stay alive and fully functional.  Although the challenge can present itself in any profession, the caregiving and service sectors are among the most difficult.  Your passionate commitment to serving your clientele, while noble, will ultimately lead you astray if you lack balance.  A prime example of this struggle is the medical profession.  A recent study from the Mayo Clinic revealed these painful statistics among doctors (Brianne Pfannenstiel “Physician, Take Care of Thyself” The Kansas City Business Journal, December 12, 2014, p. 8):

45.8%—Doctors who report symptoms of burnout.  Specialties with the highest rates of burnout: emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology, family medicine.

37.9%—Physicians who report signs of emotional exhaustion, compared with 27.8 percent by workers in other industries.

24.9%—Physicians who report experiencing ‘high depersonalization,’ or the sense of watching oneself from afar.

Those numbers reveal much bad news.  The good news is that the trends are changing.  Increasing numbers of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations are recognizing the fundamental importance of facilitating physician self-care.  For example, Dr. Gordon Kelley (stroke program director at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas) is observing that:

The next generation of doctors recognizes that they need to take better care of themselves—and that older docs have come around too.  . . . ‘We’re trying to help doctors be better doctors by just being better people.’

Dr. Ravi Sabapathy agrees:

When physicians are healthier—physically and mentally—they’re more in tune with patients and are better able to address patients’ needs.

These dynamics are not restricted to the medical profession.  In your industry, you might face the very same challenges.  The good news is that you don’t have to settle for second best.  If you recognize the challenges and intentionally choose to counter them through a strategic self-care approach, then you and your clients will be the rich beneficiaries.

Yes, your profession is vitally important.  Just remember to prohibit it from becoming your master.  Keep it in balance with all dimensions of your life.  That will make you and your clients winners both in the short term and in the long term.


January 27th, 2015


How much of your genetic testing results should your doctor divulge to you?  This is an especially important question when the primary purpose of a genetic test is to assess “Condition A” but an incidental genetic finding reveals “Condition B.”  Because increasing numbers of healthcare providers are using comprehensive genetic testing, the question of how to handle the incidental findings is significant.  As Dina Fine Maron exclaims (“When DNA Means ‘Do Not Ask’” Scientific American, January 2015, p. 28):

The technical ability to find these mutations has rapidly outpaced scientists’ understanding of how doctors and patients should respond to the surprise results.

Sometimes, our science and technology outpaces our current thought structures for engaging our science and technology.  This is where healthcare philosophy must catch up with healthcare science and technology.  How well we all step up to the plate remains to be seen, and it will always be a fascinating question well worthy of our ongoing examination.

In the meantime, one viable solution being considered is to enable patients to opt in or out of incidental findings data.  What lends further validity to such an approach is the fact that genetics is not by default, destiny.  Genetics can reveal a powerful predisposition to a future disease state, but it does not necessarily guarantee that future disease state in every case.

These are great questions to consider.  Once again they remind us that we need to think deeply not just about our science and technology, but how we will choose to apply our science and technology.


January 26th, 2015


One of the gifts I received from my wife this past Christmas was a Saint John’s Bay sweater.  As I donned the sweater for the first time with the brand tags still attached, she, intending to give me a playful compliment, pointed to the four key Saint John’s Bay qualities and read them aloud (honest, genuine, well-made, classic).  Her affirmation was that those qualities described me.

We had a good chuckle over that.  However, the more I thought about the playful compliment, the deeper I reflected on its significance.  Although it may initially sound odd, consider these qualities from a clothing brand, and how true they should be for you and me both personally and professionally.

Honest.  Some people are honest and some are not.  My ethical standard is such that I simply cannot conceive of living my life in such a way as to be dishonest.  I remember the counsel of my parents at an early age that the moment you tell one lie, you begin a cycle of lies to hide the web of deception.

Genuine.  When you meet a person, one of the first things that you yearn for and sense is authenticity.  Is that person genuine or is that person just putting on a good act?  I sometimes use the term, “plastic person.”  A plastic person is one who simply puts on the act and has no sincere interest in connecting with you or with anyone else.  The plastic person just wants to put on the act to achieve selfish goals.  You are just a tool to that end.  On the other hand, we all enjoy the authenticity of the genuine person.

Well-Made.  When it comes to our bodies and our brains, we are not all equally well made.  Nevertheless, I believe that in the context of your own life, you are well made.  You are well made for the times in which you live.  What becomes equally, if not more important, is how you nurture and enhance that body and brain.  No exchanges are allowed.  However, to the degree that you nurture and enhance what you’ve been given, you will achieve success in life.

Classic.  Classic means that you will stand the test of time.  How reliable are you?  How steady are you?  Can people truly depend on you?  In that sense, we can all be classics.  As that happens, other people will seek your counsel, wisdom, opinion, and caring.  All that will reaffirm your honesty, genuineness, and the fact that you have kept yourself well made.  It becomes a cycle of quality growth.

These are interesting and potent lessons from some simple clothing brand taglines.  People today have an eye for these four qualities.  In our personal lives and in our professional lives, we need these things.  Moreover, the more we manifest these qualities, the more we create opportunities to move other people forward in them too.

Do you meet the Saint John’s Bay standard?


January 23rd, 2015


As I continue to read about all these companies bemoaning the baby boomer exodus to retirement, two things continue to confuse me:

Conflicting Messages.  While we never know for sure on this, there is some evidence that some of these very same companies that are crying about losing their legacy talent and institutional memory are the same companies that are directly or indirectly practicing age discrimination.  Yes, I realize that this is a subject open to much debate.  Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that it is happening to some degree when the messages being sent are so relentless.  “We need mature, experienced, qualified people.”  Simultaneously, so many of those “mature, experience, qualified people” remain unemployed.

Retire And Do What?  While I fully recognize that some baby boomers are forced into retirement by virtue of the economy, personal health, family demands, or disability, I remain baffled by those who choose to embrace retirement to do nothing.  I cannot imagine retiring that way.  The research has been extremely clear on this.  It is never healthy to disengage your life to the point that you have no purpose for jumping out of bed each day.  I have no problem with restructuring your life or changing career direction.  However, to simply sit and do nothing makes no sense to me.

Well, as the baby boomer exodus continues so too will these questions of mixed messages and the efficacy of retirement.  The questions are probably only going to become more interesting before we figure them out.  Yet for all our sakes, I hope we figure them out soon.


January 22nd, 2015


Recently an old friend and a dear former colleague contacted me to update me on his most recent professional accomplishments.  I was delighted to hear all his good reports.  It was heartwarming to say the least.

After reviewing his professional status and some of his personal victories, he made a statement that humbles me deeply:

I realized that without the mentoring you gave to me many years ago, I would never have accomplished these things.  So, I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Although I certainly am gratified that this person was able to affirm me in this way, the larger more important context here is that many other folks have mentored me and many other folks continue to mentor me.  I would never have been in the position that I was in to mentor my old friend unless so many others had not previously mentored me.  Therefore, I remain ever grateful to the untold numbers of friends, colleagues, family, and associates that took the time (and still take the time) to pour themselves into my life.  My wisdom bank has been richly endowed because of it.

Mentoring is truly the gift that keeps on giving.  Whom have you mentored today?


January 21st, 2015


Perhaps the one thing that we always hate is losing control.  It is never a pleasant experience.  Nevertheless, in our lives we all face situations in which we have lost or will lose control.  Situations over which we lose control include:

Clients and customers.
Company revenue.
Public relations.
Natural disasters.
Technology disruptions.
Your job or employment status.
Personal health or wellness.

Unfortunately, the list could go on endlessly.  It seems we are never at a loss for elements over which we can lose control.  A positive—albeit unhappy—supply!

The one item over which you always have total control is your attitude.  Regardless of how difficult the challenges may be, we each retain the free will to choose what our attitude will be.  If we choose a negative attitude, we usually find the rest of the day does not go as well as it could have.  If we choose a positive attitude even in spite of difficulties, it is amazing how much better that day progresses.

Although you may face many situations or circumstances in which you lose control, always remember that you can totally control your attitude.  Moreover, it is your attitude that will be your key to success.


January 20th, 2015


Some things you can handle and some things you cannot handle.  Some things light your fires and some things quench them.  Some things excite you and some things make you want to die.  Sometimes you encounter these things at pivotal points in your life.

Quite simply, some pivotal points in your life can confirm or change your direction and your destiny.  This was certainly the case for Terry Lundgren (CEO of Macy’s).  His original plan had never been the business world.  He was more interested in animal medicine, or so he thought, until he encountered a pivotal point in his life (“How Did I Get Here?: Terry Lundgren” Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/24/14–11/30/14, p. 80):

I wanted to be a veterinarian until I did an artificial insemination of a cow.  I transferred to the business school that day.

I suppose we could say, he had a cow.  This, by the way, is just another example of why I have counseled many students never to be afraid of switching majors.  It is far better to make a change to your path so that you can go forward successfully than to stay stuck in a path that will become a rut.

Pivotal points in our lives can happen anytime and anywhere.  They can confirm a direction or lead us in a new direction.  What is important is that we pay attention to them.

Would Lundgren have been as fulfilled and successful of a veterinarian today as he is a CEO?  Perhaps, but my guess is no.


January 16th, 2015


And we thought our legal system was slow!  India seems to take the lead for glacial speed on judging misdeeds.  For example, in the United States, for every one million people, we have more than 100 judges.  In India, that number is 15.5 judges.  (I wonder if the half-judge works at the same speed as the other 15.)  Tom Lasseter shares what we know about India’s clogged justice system (“India’s Stagnant Courts Resist Reform” Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/12/15–1/18/15, pp. 15–17):

At the end of 2013, there were 31,367,915 open cases working their way through the system, from the lowest chambers to the Supreme Court.  If [India’s] judges attacked their backlog nonstop—with no breaks for eating or sleeping—and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up.” (p. 15)

Whoever said that the wheels of justice turn slowly very well may have practiced law in India.