Why You Want To Keep A Twinkie In Your Team Building Toolbox

A team that rows as one is a symphony of motion. A harmonizing of spirits. It’s magical. And it’s FAST!

Assembling such a team is challenging work. The coach repeatedly assigns each rower to different positions in the boat, rooting out their strengths. Rowers are moved, swapped, and replaced until a magic combination is found.

There’s an old story about a coach who just wasn’t finding that right combination. No matter how he swapped people and positions, the team failed to gel. Nothing worked. Frustrated and exhausted, he pulled his boat up to the team, intending to change them up yet again, but instead, he just stared at them. He was out of ideas. What hadn’t he tried? After an agonizing minute or two, an idea formed. He reached into his lunch bag and pulled out a Twinkie. The rowers stared at the Twinkie, confused. He then called a rower out of the boat and replaced him with the Twinkie. The rowers laughed, but the coach was dead serious. He sent them out to row with the Twinkie. One by one each rower took a turn sitting out, replaced by the Twinkie. A pattern emerged. Certain rowers were consistently outperformed by the Twinkie.

I think about this story most when I’m hiring, managing, and coaching. I find out how much each person, including myself, is helping vs. hurting the team as a whole. Would the team perform better if the person were replaced with a Twinkie?

A team can become something far beyond the sum of its parts when everyone outperforms the Twinkie.

Image by Nicki Dugan Pogue

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

These 3 Ps Make Finding & Keeping Good Employees Much, Much Easier

Employees are a business owner’s largest expense, and a massive source of wasted time and money in most companies. The ability to attract and retain great people separates thriving businesses from struggling ones.

Engaged people amplify business effectiveness, but according to research, most people are not engaged. That’s a tragedy, especially when we consider that everyone enjoys engaging work. When engaged, we’re at our best. Our work engulfs us. Time flies by. There’s no space for boredom, anxiety, or worry. Engaged employees are more productive and creative because they love their work. They treat people better. Engagement makes the company stronger.

According to the data, companies are not seeing people’s full capabilities. Essentially, they are maybe getting fifty cents of contribution for every payroll dollar they spend. That’s crazy!

Disengagement also provokes quitting, which imposes the following unwanted costs:

  • Covering job duties
  • Recruiting a replacement
    • Writing & managing ads
    • Wading through responses
    • Scheduling & interviewing
  • Onboarding & training new people
  • Fixing mistakes & missteps stemming from lost knowledge
  • Juggling the backlog that piles up

Every moment spent replacing someone shrivels the bottom line.

An engaging work environment can’t be commanded or forced. It must be cultivated. Maximum contribution is the prize and it bestows a generous advantage on the business owner that achieves it!

Engagement is cultivated by focusing on three Ps:

  1. Purpose: Get clear about why the business exists and what you stand for.
  2. People: Hire the right people, put them in the right places, and get out of their way.
  3. Progress: Define success and make progress visible.

Purpose is the bedrock of your company. It’s about articulating why your company exists and what you stand for. Connecting people to the purpose ignites passion and empowers everyone to clearly see the things that fit, as wells as those that don’t.

People are attracted to passion. Everyone wants to be part of something larger than themselves. Getting clear on purpose makes your company a magnet for people who are excited by its purpose. The company becomes a way for hopeful employees, customers, and partners to express who they are and what they care about. Hiring, sales, and marketing are all much easier when people are attracted to your company.

The third P, progress, is about defining success. Making progress visible feeds motivation. It keeps everyone in the game and focused on winning. Without a way to “keep score”, engagement evaporates. Efforts quickly feel futile. People need to know if they’re ahead or behind every single week.

Get these three Ps right and you’ll be amazed at how much easier running the business gets.

Few burdens are heavy when everyone lifts.


If you’d like to learn more, check out this free workshop.

Image by ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

Hiring? This Is How To Spot A Diamond In The Rough

Which would you choose to attend, a blockbuster TED Talk or a blockbuster movie? Do you read more non-fiction or fiction? How do you feel about documentaries? Do you listen to anything other than music in the car?

We all seek out a mix of pleasure and purpose in our daily lives. However, the mix that’s right for each of us varies. Paul Dolan and Daniel Kahneman introduce this concept as the pleasure-purpose principle in their book, Happiness by Design.

When you think about how you spend your free time, do you find that you’re more of a Pleasure Machine, or are you more of a Purpose Engine? Maybe you land somewhere in the middle, spending your time equally on pleasurable and purposeful activities. If so, you’re not alone, most people land somewhere in the middle, but some land solidly on one side or the other.

Pure pleasure machines love to play. If at all possible, they’ll find a way to make their living playing. Purpose engines live on the other side. They love to get things done.

When hiring, we usually hope to find a purpose engine. This is because, while purpose engines may not be the most fun at parties, when presented with a clear mission, effective tools, and autonomy, they are powerhouses. And who doesn’t want a powerhouse on their team? 

Therefore, the first task in assessing a job candidate is to determine where they land on the pleasure-purpose scale. You can achieve this by delving into how they use their free time.

Avoid asking hypothetical questions, because they’re speculative. Instead, focus on their past actions. Past actions always speak the truth. They even reveal things people don’t realize about themselves.

Find out if they watch TED Talks. Learn about their favorite TV shows. Ask if they read much, and if so, what they’ve read. What are they reading now? Uncover what they do with their time when they go on vacation. How much time do they spend hanging out at the pool versus checking out local museums or climbing mountains?

These types of questions may appear to have little to do with the job, but they will tell you a lot about the person sitting in front of you. Remember, you’re not hiring a part or a cog, you’re hiring a person. Learning about what makes them tick is the key to spotting a diamond in the rough.

Image by James St. John

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

This One Simple Counterintuitive Practice Will Make You More Successful At Work (And In Life)

Do you know the names of your eight great grandparents? Do you know any of their stories? How did their decisions impact your life?

We all know moments become days, then weeks, then months, then years. Short-term often becomes long-term. And sadly, someday too often becomes never. 

What story are you creating with your moments? Will your actions matter 50, 10, or even 5 years from now? If you could create any story for yourself, what would it be? 

“There is no wrong time to do the right thing.”

Charles M. Blow

To create our story, we need to take control of our moments. We need to get the right things done.

It’s counter-intuitive, but getting the right things done requires slack in our schedule.

Take a moment to think about each of these scenarios:

  • What happens on the expressway when it fills bumper-to-bumper with cars?
  • What happens to a computer (or smartphone) when it runs out of free space?
  • What happens to your brain when it receives constant input?

The answer is the same in each scenario: slowness. This is because systems require free space to do their work. Without free space, they get clogged. Things go wrong. Badness ensues.

Supplying your brain with free space throughout the day makes it work better. It enables you to spot the right path, avoid costly mistakes, and pivot when things don’t go perfectly (and they very rarely go perfectly.)

In the end, the decisions we make in each moment create our story. Isn’t it worth taking a moment to ensure it’s a good one?

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

Wondering how to build free space into your day? This article from Entrepreneur shares 9 ways successful entrepreneurs manage their time, and this one from RescueTime describes what happened to Brad Frost when he scheduled every minute of his day.

Image by joegoauk69

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

Research Shows People Bring Their Whole Heart & Mind To Work When These 3 Things Are Present

I was walking the beach with a friend when we came upon a sandcastle under siege. The ocean was sending wave after wave to destroy the defenseless fortress. Each wave surging ever-closer. The sandcastle would soon be erased from the face of the Earth. Its only crime was daring to stand in defiance of the mighty ocean. Something had to be done.

I immediately dropped to my knees in front of the castle and started building a defensive wall to hold back the tide. My friend just stood gaping, but soon enlisted in the cause.

The waves… they just they kept coming; relentless in their assault on our wall. Whole sections at a time were lost. We frantically repaired, extended, and reinforced it. It was Incredibly arduous work.

Our desperate quest captured the attention of a few other beach walkers. They watched as the battle raged. The intensity of the waves increased. Holes opened up. We were losing.


How To Transform Work Into A Game People Want To Play

On the day I turned 16, I was all gussied up and the first person out the door—determined to land my dream job. I chose the place because everyone working there always looked like they were having fun.

When I arrived, I sheepishly asked the girl behind the counter if they were hiring. She said, “I think so, fill this out” and slid a blank application at me.

I turned it in a minute later, and the girl told me to hang out for a sec. She disappeared into the back. Then an energetic guy hopped up on Mountain Dew bounced around the corner. He asked me if I had time to interview. We talked for maybe 20 minutes, then he offered me the job. I was to start that night.

I was ecstatic! I had landed my dream job at the local pizza place.

The beginning was hard. I was always screwing up. In my first couple weeks I managed to spill pop on a woman, overfill every single napkin holder, and dump garbage juice all over myself. I was always covered in pizza sauce, and smelled like old oregano.

But before long I started to get it and within a handful of months I was promoted to a PIC (Person in Charge). A PIC was a shift supervisor, responsible for making sure everything ran smoothly, and for “making labor.” To make labor a PIC had to line up total hours worked against total sales on a chart that looked like a multiplication table. A PIC was considered a rock star if they could make labor by more than 10 hours. The mission was clear, make customers happy and make labor. Everyone worked hard to make that happen. People fell into specialty areas that fit their strengths. David and Dana were the oven gods. I was a saucer. Jill and Liz were best at the til.

We all got better, a lot better. Every Friday and Saturday night there was a line around the building. People waited an hour and a half for our pizza. Wide-eyed kids would watch us through the parking lot window. We were rock stars. We worked there together for years and we still keep in touch. [Cue Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days]

Looking back on my time there, I now see that success wasn’t a happy accident. It was by design. The owner had eleven pizza restaurants and had designed a system for success. Every one of his pizza places were wildly popular with customers AND great places to work. However, we hardly ever saw him.

There were two main drivers behind his success, 1) trusting employees with autonomy, and 2) clearly defining success. The crystal clear success criteria, in the form of making labor, focused everyone on a single objective, and autonomy provided the empowerment to achieve the objective. Together, they drove the success of the restaurant.

Each night was a new game, with a slightly different team configuration, captained by one of the PICs. Each team worked hard to make labor… to win.

When people are empowered, and there’s a simple way to keep score each day, the stage is set for strong engagement (continual improvement & magic are the byproducts).

Feature image by David Stewart

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

The Counter-Intuitive Path To Accomplishment, Confidence, Appreciation, Wonder, & Well-Being

Each day brings a thousand blinking buttons screaming to be pushed. Most do nothing, but five… five will change your life. They bring accomplishment, confidence, appreciation, wonder, and well-being.

Joseph Moses Juran called this “The Law of the Vital Few.”

The list of people that have used the The Law of the Vital Few to achieve extraordinary things is long.

  • Warren Buffet owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments.
  • Steve Jobs applied this principle to make Apple what it is today.
  • Bill Gates famously took a week off at Microsoft regularly to step back and identify the vital few.
  • Jeff Bezos uses this internal process at Amazon to focus executives on a vital few ideas and products.

Look closely at any extraordinary accomplishment and you’ll find The Law of the Vital Few at work.

“You’re capable of more than you know.”

Glinda, from Oz the Great and Powerful

The Law of the Vital Few is counter-intuitive. It runs contrary to our sense of logic and fairness, which tells us that pushing 50% of the buttons should deliver 50% of the goodness. Casting this belief aside is the first step toward finding those five buttons.

You must also get clarity on what you want to accomplish. Warren Buffett’s 5/25 method can help. It has 3 simple steps:

  1. Make a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Nothing is off limits. Anything goes.
  2. Force rank your list, with the most important on top and least important on the bottom.
  3. Draw a big, fat line under the fifth item on your list.

The top five are your mission, your Vital Few. The bottom twenty are your enemy, your Avoid-At-All-Costs List.

To put your Vital Few into action, just read and reflect on them at the beginning and end of each workday. Tack this activity onto something you’re already doing every morning and evening, such as eating or brushing your teeth. As you reflect on your list, think of the next action you can take before 11am that will move you forward. The size of the action doesn’t matter. This small act will have a profound impact over time.

But beware the motion trap! Motion and action are not the same thing. Motion makes you busy. Action moves you forward. Keep moving forward.

The enemy will try to stop you. Each and every item on your Avoid-At-All-Costs List will do its best to distract you from your Vital Few.

Only by holding an active focus on our Vital Few can we sidestep regret and walk a path we’ll be proud of in the end.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

John Maxwell

Feature image by Les Chatfield

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

Sidestep Trouble and Set Your Business Up for Continued Growth with this One Activity

Our core values are tied to our sense of identity. The more something aligns with our values, the more we’ll fight for it. Our values are behind the objectives we set and the actions we take.

Shared values make up the bedrock of loyalty, for both customers and employees. We’re all hard wired to seek out other people “like us.” We all want to feel like we belong. It makes us feel safe, physically and psychologically.

Therefore, knowing our core values is critical for avoiding a dysfunctional workplace. Without awareness of our values, we can inadvertently set up a conflict situation. When team members are not aligned on core values, they will see objectives differently and disagreements over strategy, next steps, or work prioritization will totally derail us.

None of the energy required to resolve the conflict moves us forward. It only puts us in a better place, so we can start moving forward. It’s far better to avoid the situation in the first place by figuring out our core values and writing them down.

Here’s how it looks:

Belief statement

  • Exemplifying behavior
  • Exemplifying behavior

We believe that everyone has equal value.

  • We treat others as we would have them treat us.
  • We regard people’s time and other resources as precious.
  • We listen to and consider differing perspectives.

It’s easy to feel like this isn’t important when the team is small, because values are implicit. They show through the actions that everyone sees. However, as the business grows, not everyone sees the actions of everyone else. Pockets of teams with conflicting values will form. Those teams take actions that are in conflict with the actions of other teams. Before we know it, the wheels begin to wobble and the business engine is sputtering—wasting precious resources.

This common pitfall can be avoided by making our values explicit — writing them down and making sure everyone sees them. A great place to start identifying our actual values is with our story—how we got to where we are today. Write it out, paying close attention to the keystone moments—the turning points. Why did we choose one path over another? What beliefs influenced those actions? Our core beliefs are reflected in those actions. Group up those beliefs, slap a descriptive value label on each group, and publish them for the world to see.

But there is a trap. It’s really easy to come up with a list of nice sounding values. Ideals that look really good, but are not really reflected in our actions. It takes some time reflecting to come up with our actual values. Our values need to stand on a foundation of behavioral evidence.

We can know we’ve captured our actual values when we can point to how:

  1. we hire against them,
  2. create incentives around them,
  3. recognize achievements using them, and
  4. lean on them in difficult conversations and major decisions.

Feature image by Sarah Ward

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.

Knowing These 7 Simple Truths About People Will Get You Better Results

I’ve often read Event + Response = Outcome. To get a desired outcome we just have to respond in the right way. I don’t know about you, but frequently my response seems to happen without checking in with me first.

James Clear sheds some light on why it’s so hard to get in front of our responses in his book, Atomic Habits. It really comes down to our automatic responses — our habits. Habits reflect the actions that frequently get us what we want. They’re also tied to our sense of identity, which is why they’re so hard to change. He wrote, “The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior.”


How To Wisely Choose Your Next Action In Difficult Situations

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Victor E. Frankl

When we interact with anything, it changes. It’s like adding cream to coffee. The cream swirls about as it makes its way through the coffee. It takes some time to settle in. In our own interactions, we can immediately jump in mindlessly with more action (react) or we can pause, observe the swirling, and choose our next move (respond). Is more intervention really the best choice?

By taking notice of the space that exists before we react and choosing “our moment” we can be much more effective. With such awareness, we free ourselves from the urgent pressure to react. We find that the space is outside the immediacy of the situation. Placing our awareness on the space makes us an observer. We can watch calmly as the pressure to react passes through us [whooosh].

The space is not unlike the one that exists between our breathes… in (pause), then out.

To illustrate, here’s a couple screen grabs from The Matrix. BONUS!

Morpheous calmly choosing his moment.

Wait for it… wait for it… breathe… wait for it… breathe…




There it is.

Feature image by Andre Ribeirinho

Copyright © 2019 Telosiv, All rights reserved.