Thursday, January 28, 2016

Month in a Minute

Happy new year!

We are off to a busy start this year, hope you enjoyed the holiday season and those in DC/NY survived storm Jonas. Our month included trips to NYC and Chicago with some amazing clients. We also kicked off our next round of Ego vs EQ webinars on January 14th. If you missed the kickoff program, feel free to check it out here. We have some exciting events coming up that are open to the public. Take a look at our calendar page on our website. Hope to see you on the road!

Pam with Mark Giura and Phil Cecil from McDonnell Investment Management

Pam and Steve with Wei Huang from Park Central Hotel

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What Not to Do

It's time for my monthly installment of real-life business blunders from the field.  But, since we are embarking on a new year, I thought I'd share some mistakes from the "big guys" just to drive home the point that none of us are immune to making mistakes.  

Since social media has become an integral part of any successful business, I'm going to share an article from Techrepublic, the Top 5 Worst Social Media Brand Blunders of 2015. I'll get you started with the first two, just click the link to continue reading.

5. New York Times Magazine's poll
In October, Twitter gave users the ability to poll other Twitter users. New York Times Magazine took advantage of this tool by asking readers if, given the chance, they'd go back in time and kill baby Hitler. Much mocking ensued. Also, in case you're curious, 43% of people said they would.

Lesson: Maybe Twitter is not the place for serious ethical thought experiments.

4. Clorox's insensitivity
In the quest to be timely on social media, it's easy to get your brand in trouble. Back in April, Clorox tweeted about Apple's new emoji—they sent out a pic of a bottle of Clorox made up of emoji with the text: "The new emoji are alright, but where's the bleach?" Here's the thing—that new round of emoji included, for the first time, racially diverse emoji. iOS now gives users the ability to pick different skin tones and hair colors for anything from a thumbs up to a simple face. Clorox's tweet sounded downright racist, and the company deleted the tweet.

Lesson: Don't let timeliness make you sloppy.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Where Did I Earn My Degree? Nordstrom.

In 1986 I had just graduated from high school and was living in San Diego to go to school at SDSU. I needed a college job and had retail experience so I went to my favorite store at the time, thinking an employee discount there would be the best benefit I could get. Turns out, the discount was a just bonus, the real benefit I got from working at Nordstrom was the college-worthy business and leadership skills I took with me when I left the company. At the time, we were a West Coast company, with Mr. Bruce, Mr. John and Mr. Jim at the helm.

Here is what I learned:
  • The Best Leaders Serve Followers – During my tenure as Director of Training, I would show during our new hire orientation class a company org chart in the shape of an upside down pyramid. Customers were above the pyramid on top, the first tier was our front line employees, the middle managers came next and at the bottom the senior executives and Nordstrom family, in the small point, supporting everyone else. We used to say “At this company you work your way down.” As a department manager I worked for my team, not the other way around. Our roles were very clear.
  • Profit and Loss – As a 19-year old department manager, I was responsible for setting my own budget each year. I learned how to do forecasting, how to understand the difference between fixed and variable costs, how to manage costs associated with payroll, overtime and inventory. I was allowed to set aside a “Make the Customer Happy” budget to provide exceptional customer service without having to go through layers of approvals. I basically learned how to run my own little business within their department store. That responsibility came with accountability that me and my peers took very seriously.
  • The Power of Yes – Every policy at Nordstrom was focused on ways to say yes. “Yes, I can return those worn shoes for you.” “Yes, I can give you back cash or credit.” “Yes, you can just sit here and listen to the piano. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” We had a policy that no front line employee could say no to a customer: you needed a manager for that. Analysts used to say that the return policy would bankrupt the company with too many people taking advantage of us. The Nordstrom’s were confident that most people were honest and refused to set a policy that penalized the majority because of the minority. It’s a small thing but unbelievably impactful on employee morale to be able to focus on the good and say yes to your customers, instead of trying to catch bad guys and say no all day (like 99% of other retailers out there). Do the right thing and it leads to profit, I’ve seen it firsthand.
  • Humility – The Nordstrom philosophy was promote from within which meant every one of us that ended up in management had worked in a stock room or a sales floor at the beginning, including the Nordstrom family. I worked alongside Mr. Erik in those days (now one of the co-Presidents) and he spent many sale days with us ringing, bagging, stocking and helping customers. No one was above the hard work of retail no matter what your last name was.
  •  Use Good Judgment – This is rule #1 at Nordstrom. Instead of either giving employees no empowerment assuming they can’t handle it or micromanaging each person, the Nordstrom culture was one of accountability. Everything had consequences so we were judicious in our actions and decisions. Management was there to support us, but still made us independently find solutions to problems. Good judgment was rewarded well and bad judgment required a reflective discussion. Learning from mistakes was mandatory.

These business principles are relevant whether you work on Wall Street or Main Street. I am still a proud “Nordie," and, in fact, highlighted the company in my book as a role model of good leadership. The only reason I left in 1993 is because I wanted to pursue a career in learning and development, and ironically, there was no such career path there at that time. I am thrilled to hear how successful they remain, there was a great article in Delta Sky magazine last month about them ( if you’d like to learn more about this amazing organization.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

People Feature: New Year, New Skills: Shops Update Training

People Feature: New Year, New Skills: Shops Update Training
Article published on January 4, 2016
By Clare Trapasso
Many firms are kicking off the New Year by rolling out, or amping up, training programs designed to give staffers the edge they need to successfully compete in the evolving fund industry.
Janus, for example, plans to up the emotional intelligence of its distribution staff in 2016, while Vanguard is offering more training for middle managers and emphasizing role-playing real-world scenarios over classroom lessons. American Beacon Advisors, for its part, is rolling out leadership development programs at the behest of its employees.
“The market changes, the skill sets change,” says Jeanne Branthover, head of the global financial services practice at Boyden Global Executive Search. “Without training, you’re letting your employees be good but not exceptional.”
This year, Vanguard aims to teach its middle managers to better set performance expectations, coach and initiate critical conversations with subordinates, says Tamara Ganc, chief learning officer at the Malvern, Pa.-based mutual fund giant. The training will consist of in-person sessions as well as online videos and case studies.
The firm also plans to move many of its classroom-based programs online, so workers can access them at their convenience. In addition, the firm will encourage employees to role-play everyday work scenarios to hone their skills.
“We help replicate real-life situations and people get in-the-moment feedback,” Ganc says.
American Beacon unveiled a leadership development program for all of its roughly 100 employees late last year at the request of its staffers. The Irving, Texas-based manager of managers plans to add more training this year.
“For a company to continue to evolve, a focus on continuous improvement must be at the forefront,” says Donna Merchant, American Beacon’s manager of human resources.
Outside consultants lead four-hour classroom sessions on topics such as team effectiveness, improving decision making and resolving workplace conflict.
Denver-based Janus is betting that teaching its more than 100-member distribution staff in emotional intelligence will provide an advantage.
The firm teamed up with Kolbe Corp., a Phoenix-based human resources consultancy that offers assessment tests, to help workers become more self-aware.
All sales and marketing employees at Janus will take the online Kolbe tests in the first part of 2016 to analyze their problem-solving and decision-making skills. The assessments will help them understand how they work with colleagues and function in a team setting in order to identify areas to work on, says John Evans Jr., executive director of Denver-basedJanus Labs.
“We are in the relationship business. Emotional intelligence is fundamental for success,” says Evans. “This is a vehicle to connect more meaningfully and emotionally with our financial advisors.”
Between eight and 10 distribution leaders will also attend a two-day training at Kolbe during the first quarter during which they will learn more about the assessments and how to train others in conducting them, he says.
Forging deep connections with clients is critical to any salesperson’s success, says Mary Anne Doggett, managing partner at Interactive Communications, a New York–based marketing and distribution consulting firm.
“Bottom line … targeting, the opening and advanced questioning will distinguish old school from new school wholesalers,” she writes in an e-mail.
Wholesalers should know how to quickly prepare for advisor calls using Google andLinkedIn, and use such background research to craft personalized pitches, she says.
Firms should make investing in staff development a priority, says Boyden’s Branthover.
“It’s much more cost effective to train strong employees to be as good as they can be at their jobs than to get new employees,” she says.
Fund workers must know how to use data analytics to track client behavior. Social media adeptness is also important, she says.
With increased focus on social media skills must come compliance training, says Jen Shirkani, founder and CEO of the Bedford, N.H.-based leadership development consultancy the Penumbra Group.
Presentation skills, whether it be on an investment strategy or articulating an idea to management, is also more common among staff beyond just client-facing sales pros, Shirkani says.
And while Boyden’s Branthover notes that grooming staff to step into leadership roles as part of broader succession planning is an area of increased focus for fund companies, Penumbra’s Shirkani says that young workers often clamor for training opportunities.
Staffers must also be accountable for their own continuing education, says Shirkani. Workers should use their performance reviews as an opportunity to identify a few areas for improvement and then lobby their firms to offer — or pay for — external training in those subjects.
Individuals can also hire their own career coaches, sign up for classes at community colleges or take free or low-cost courses and tutorials on YouTube, Khan Academy and
“They should be considering their career goals,” Shirkani says. “What do they want their next job to be, and how do they get themselves ready?”
Clare Trapasso is a print and multimedia journalist at the New York Daily News with experience writing breaking news and feature stories in urban and rural communities.

As a general assignment reporter on the Daily News’ Queens Bureau and Metro Desk, she covers everything from schools being closed, to naked bike rides, to grisly murders, local politics and everything in-between.

Prior to that, she was an Associated Press reporter in the wire service’s New Hampshire Bureau. During the six-month assignment, she covered state and national news and put together several multimedia projects. She also edited stories and wrote broadcast news.

She became passionate about journalism at the State University of New York at Purchase College, where she graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 2002. In her senior year, she created a campus women's newspaper called The Cycle.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Independent Samoa in the South Pacific, where she learned Samoan and taught college-level journalism classes in the capitol.

When she returned to America, she began graduate school. In 2007, she earned a M.A. in Journalism from New York University. As a student, she interned for the Daily News and The Village Voice. After graduation, she did an internship in the Associated Press New York City Bureau.

Clare Trapasso is interested in writing stories that can effect change. She can be contacted at