The Void - Offboarding

We exist in an era in which the leaders of high-performing family businesses have become highly purposeful with the onboarding and integration plans for people that are joining their company. Their focus stems from the intent and desire to engage and connect people with the culture of the company and decrease the chances of someone becoming disengaged or choosing a job-hopping departure.

Uniquely, these same leaders seem to have forgotten about the other end of the equation and that has resulted in large numbers of people, most of them over the age of 60, choosing to keep quiet about any and all plans to announce that their career focus is changing or coming to an end.

According to Bersin by Deloitte, the average cost per hire is almost $4,000. Statistics on offboarding are far more difficult to identify. Experience has shown me that if it’s not being measured, it’s likely not getting done.

The Void

The leaders of privately-held and family-owned businesses must plan for, and deal with, the end of career process (offboarding) as seriously as they do the beginning (onboarding) otherwise, they will face a potentially catastrophic outcome that I refer to as The Void.

The Void  is the empty space created by leaders of companies who fail to establish a process for transferring the large amount of internal knowledge possessed by key people to the next generation of leadership.

Left undefined, this void creates a massive disruption to the business of the business.

Conversely, when clearly thought through, offboarding should be viewed as the catalyst for performance, knowledge and generational continuity within the high-performing environment.

A Key Step

Offboarding should be viewed as a key transition in the life-cycle of individuals who have contributed significant knowledge and value to the company.

Within family businesses, closing the gap on The Void begins by looking at the situation through a different lens. Instead of focusing on this career phase as a conclusion with limited conversation, it should be seen as a phase of definition with expanding dialogue and knowledge share between generations.


  1. How are you consciously expanding the conversation and knowledge share between the generations?
  2. How are you defining and practically capturing internal knowledge from key people while they’re still a part of your company?
  3. Define knowledge sets that are held primarily with one person in your company. Begin purposefully expanding the circle of people who have awareness, understanding and knowledge on those topics.

How are you avoiding The Void? Let me know in the comments.


Think about friends who are an important part of your life. These aren’t acquaintances. Beyond family, you favor and care about these people. They are the people who are attached to your life and that you would call at 3 a.m. if you had an emergency or needed something. More importantly, they would answer that call, stop what they were doing and be there for you. Why? Because that’s what true friends do for each other.

Some friendships have been built over the course of a lifetime. You grew up in the same community or neighborhood and continue to live there today. Others began at a certain point in our lives and continue forward beyond the affiliations, experiences, children or life events that brought us together. Other friendships come into our lives for a moment or purpose. These friendships exist for a period of time and regardless of how brief or how long, we are better off for having had them in our lives.

An Introduction

I’d like to introduce you to Carlton. Carlton was a short, charismatic Italian originally hailing from Rhode Island. He lived and owned a company in California when we met. He was fast talking, quick witted and had bold vision. In my eyes Carlton was fearless. He had a gift for challenging people in a way that was both encouraging and inspiring. He caused people to discover abilities they never knew they had or advance skills he felt were being underutilized.

As I began working with him - which was a whole series of circumstances in its own right - he quickly became the brother I never had and my mentor as well. All of this in a period of three years. Who I am and what I do today wouldn’t exist without his friendship and mentorship.

Worth, Value and Challenge

Carlton was such an important figure in my life because he initiated something in me that I had chosen not to initiate myself. He identified potential that I had only thought about and compelled me to act towards utilizing that talent. He drew it out of me through friendship, mentoring and tough brotherly love. The deepest of friendships provide worth and value between people. This friendship and mentorship was all of that and more. Carlton was never shy about telling me what I needed to hear ahead of what I wanted to hear.

I needed to evolve my thinking and transition my mindset to one of abundance and thriving versus limitations and reluctance. Carlton taught me to constantly assess where I am and what I’m doing in relationship to where I am and what I’m capable of doing. He would frequently remind me that you can’t be the victim of your own choice.

The Importance of Mentors

In my mind, mentors are models of excellence in some shape or form. They aren’t however models of perfection. These giants of influence are people who have an ability to see more in us than we see in ourselves at times. They are the people who require us to define ourselves so others don’t. When they see potential, they are relentless in their pursuit to get it released, utilized and maximized.

The importance of mentors, like true friendships, is that they both hold a common bond of worth, value, trust and authenticity. They don’t judge and yet they aren’t afraid to challenge. They are supportive and clear on the difference between talking with you as a part of your development rather than about you as a part of their progression. Mentors, like friends, are the people you can call at 3 a.m. and they will answer the call.

A Final Note

Nearly 16 years ago, my friend and mentor passed away suddenly. Anytime I write about Carlton, I do so with his memory and mentorship in mind. In our work together we traveled extensively. As such, Carlton felt the need to assign nicknames as a way to generate a laugh and keep a smile. His was Mother Goose and mine was Roving Hen. Where that came from I still have no idea. To this day, the memory of him calling me and saying, “Roving Hen, Mother Goose here… how’s everything today?” still brings a smile to my face and an appreciation for all that he was and all that he did for me through his friendship and mentorship.

Thank you, Carlton. Like many things I write, this is my tribute to you.


  • Who is a giant of influence and mentor in your life?
  • What are three things you have learned from them?
  • How are you using what you learned from them to mentor someone else?
  • Last week I encouraged you to let this person know how much you appreciate them. Did you?

Until next week,

P.S. I'd love to hear about your mentor and the guidance they provided you. Leave me a note in the comments.

A Storming is Brewing and Its Name is Conflict

On the Arizona horizon, on any given summer day, you can see when a storm is brewing. Monsoon season brings with it all of the volatility that Mother Nature has to offer in the form of an intense dust storm, affectionately called a haboob, microburst, and torrential rain.

Monsoon storms and haboobs are unique in the sense that they can seemingly come out of nowhere and with an instantaneous furor. I’m not a meteorologist so I can’t tell you which one comes first or which one causes the other in weather sequencing. What I can tell you in layman’s terms is that when a monsoon storm is brewing, it seems to take shape in one of two forms.

The first will seemingly come out of nowhere. In one minute the sky is blue and clear. In the next minute, almost instantaneously, the sky and landscape are covered with dust for as far as the eye can see. Yes... you can taste the dust as well. The second will build and build throughout the afternoon. The clouds getting bigger and higher by the minute and hour. It’s likely that these clouds built over the mountainous regions of Arizona and show their intensity as they roll furiously into the Valley of the Sun. The monsoon lightning across the skyline of Arizona is a painter’s paradise.

Storm Warning

Here’s an alert you won’t likely get coming across your cell phone or smart device.

A storm warning has been issued for your company. The storm, named Conflict, is on a path that targets all growing organizations where humans work. Conflict is a serious storm and is different than previous storms such as a small argument, minor disagreement or brief upset. Conflict expects to hit landfall in companies where protracted issues are common among humans due to a lack of awareness, interaction, understanding and consistent communication.

Conflict’s path of destruction is well documented and detailed in the loss of satisfaction, interaction, authenticity, transparency and engagement on the part of humans in their companies. Numerous leadership careers and legacies have already been cut short, rendered ineffective or completely derailed at the hands of Conflict. It’s anticipated that companies struck by Conflict will suffer the significant and prolonged loss of direction, purpose and performance.
It’s anticipated that Conflict will cause the complete departure of humans in some companies as they focus on heading for areas generally not impacted by the storm.

Preparation Mode

Forward looking leaders with a high degree of awareness have been in preparation mode. They have thought about what they need to do and have established a plan should Conflict arrive at their door. They know full well what Conflict could look like and have a perspective on the devastation and havoc it could bring.

The leaders of these companies are prepared to act and are actually lining up to welcome humans from Conflict torn companies and offering them the opportunity for a new start and a better way of life. They have recognized that the best way to both survive and thrive through a storm of this nature is to offer exceptional communication and consistent interaction with humans. They view these relationships as critical to advancing their business beyond the storm and achieving recovery and resolution quicker, sooner and faster when the outer bands of the storm threaten them.

A storm is brewing and it’s headed for your company unless your leadership awareness and communication consistency cause it to take a sharp left turn towards to the easier path of someone else’s company.


  1. Are you watching the storm of conflict seemingly come out of nowhere? What are the contributing factors and how can you deal with them?
  2. Are you seeing the clouds of conflict build and build until they roll in furiously? What are the contributing factors and what’s your plan to deal with them?
  3. Define how you expect your humans to deal with Conflict.

Your business meteorologist,

P.S. What do you think is the largest cause of Conflict in companies, particularly family business? Let me know in the comments.

Out of Your Control

I like to control what I can and don’t much care for the things that are beyond my control - particularly if I’d prefer that they were.

Realistically, doesn’t everyone want to control the course of events in their life?

When we are in control we feel energized and empowered. When things get beyond our control we may feel frustrated, confused or even overwhelmed.

Growing up as the son of a science teacher, I would often hear my dad talk about the controlled environment that was part of an experiment. As a part of the experiment, he would reference the control sample. The common reference point to both was rooted in stability. The ability to create an environment of equilibrium. “A fancy word for balance,” he would say. “The relationship between the internal factors and external factors and their impact on something.” Note: This exact bit of fatherly science teacher wisdom on equilibrium helped me win a blue ribbon in the 7th-grade science fair.

In business today, we face a constant battle of equilibrium. The relationship of balance between internal factors impacting our business and the external factors. That which we can control and that which may be beyond our control. Forces working collaboratively to our benefit and at times working in direct opposition to our detriment. This is the scientific state of business that demands our agility to achieve stability.

This all gets very real when we understand that at any given moment there are external forces that are more than willing to challenge our business balance or, worse yet, our very business existence.

The belief that external factors or forces will never impact you or your business is unrealistic. Just remember that your competitors would have no problem taking your business if you or your company ceased to exist, or became irrelevant, in the mind of the customer or client.

Beyond Your Control - What Would You Do? #Thoughtstarter

You're driving a car at 70 mph on a crowded freeway with cars in front of you, behind you and to each side. You’re listening to music and doing your own version of carpool karaoke. Suddenly, a large piece of cement debris falls from the overpass and lands on the freeway just a couple of cars in front of you. What would you do?

Prior to leaving for work, you’re catching-up and reading the latest Google Alerts on several of your customers. While reading, you discover that your largest customer had a major fire at their only manufacturing facility and the owners have decided to cease operations and shut down the business. What would you do?

You arrive at work only to discover that the EPA has shut the doors to your energy plant for unsafe operating practices. There has been no communication to the employee team and you are all arriving at work only to find that this isn’t a business as usual day. What would you do?

As the famous philosopher, Mike Tyson says, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” A good friend and colleague of mine put it another way. He says, “Watch out for the sucker punch. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to come but when.”

The sucker punch is the unexpected blow. The punch that you didn’t plan for. In that moment; when we confront things that are out of our control because we will, we all have a choice. What will you do?

Until Next Week,


P.S. I'd love to hear what would you would do in the scenarios above. Let me know in the comments.

When Crap Hits the Fan

Changing it up. Here’s a series of #Thoughtstarters to start you off this week.

  1. How do you identify stress in your life?
  2. How does stress impact you?
  3. How far are you willing to let stress move you off your game?
  4. How will you deal with stress?
  5. How is the morale of your team impacted when your reaction is defined by stress instead of your leadership?

When the proverbial crap hits the fan, how do you handle it? Is it a time when your leadership is on display or is it a time when your leadership has gone missing?

I’m asking you because these are the same questions a mentor of mine required me to ask and answer when it came to how I handled stress at one point in my career. Why? Because there were times when internalizing my stress meant that my attitude was negatively impacting the attitude, performance and morale of my team.

If you can name a problem, you can solve a problem. It’s the awareness of stress that allows you to confront it and define an approach to handling that stress. There’s nothing quite like stress to show you the truly unique nature and behavioral makeup of a person - so pay attention.

Yes, there’s good stress and bad stress. There’s everyday stress and situational stress. There’s relational stress and extreme stress. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of stress and it’s got nothing on us. Then there are times where it gives each of us a swift kick in the butt and we recognize that we can only control what we can control.

My chosen area of consulting specialty is the business of family business. I’ve seen good and bad responses to stress, including my own, over the course of 30 plus years of experiences and exposures. What I have come to value is that no matter how well prepared you are to handle what confronts you, sometimes your objective and best bet is simply to make it to the next day, and then the next day, and along the way encourage people to do the same.

It’s been my experience that the people that are a part of family businesses have a spirit about them that is best defined as unrelenting and a belief that is indomitable. The question that most often follows in conversation is stated in one word… why? Here’s my answer.

When stress looms over the business, leadership must loom larger in order to preserve the culture and commitment of the people that are the core of a company. In times when it feels like all we see, feel or experience is stress, there’s nothing quite like leadership to elevate morale and impact action.

Until Next Time,

P.S. How do you handle stress? Let me know in the comments!

Conducting Job Interviews: Are You Asking the Questions You Should Be?

I want to take you back to a time when I was a young manager. A time when I thought interviewing was about being as challenging as I could be in an interview based on the questions I asked.

My first and earliest interviews weren’t really focused on expanding the conversation and getting to know the person applying for a job; they were focused on seeing whether a candidate could outlast the rapid-fire sequence of questions that I would pose.

How confused and misguided I was. The idea of asking questions was a good one, but my approach and interviewing style had a greater tendency to shut people off rather than getting them to open-up and allow me to learn more about them.

Thankfully, John, a leader I respected invested the time to sit in on several of my early interviews and offered this simple, yet profound, guidance. “The objective of an interview is to create an exchange in which the person being interviewed shares information that allows you to get to know them and how they think. In return, you share information that allows them to get to know you and how you think. They get to understand the leadership philosophy and culture of the company. You both get the opportunity to determine if there’s a fit.”

After three decades, hundreds upon hundreds of interviews and 20 years of advising family-owned and privately-held businesses, I have come to understand and appreciate this important thought:

The questions you should really ask in an interview are the ones that allow you to get to know the person you’re talking with and reveal their thought process. The key word here is person. An individual. Someone worth learning about and understanding. Determining mutually if the role, culture and mindset are a good fit that will bring success and allow them to maximize their capacity.

I’m an intense person. I live by the mantra that if you’re going to do something then do it well. Truth is that I don’t value mediocrity in anything and mediocrity tends to not enjoy spending time with me. My intensity, sometimes drill sergeant like in my earliest of interviews, could be seen as alienating the person being interviewed, rather than understanding them. What John taught me as a young manager was the importance of balance and understanding. Balance between my interviewing intent, approach and desired outcome. Between talking and listening. The ability to share thoughts in order to get thoughts. The understanding of what you may ask and what you aren’t  allowed to ask.

In the world of family-owned and/or privately-held business, every hire makes a difference. Why? Because typically, the size of the company or number of team members doesn't allow for someone not to be a fully-engaged and contributive member of the team. The quality of the question impacts the quality of the answer. Poorly developed questions provide the potential for equally poor answers. That exchange provides for really poor understanding and connection. That’s a direct pipeline for poor choices on many fronts.

If you want to get to know the person you’re talking with in an interview, here are three types of questions you should really consider asking:

1.         Thinking and reasoning questions. In this sequence you want to know how thoughts are formed, decisions will be made, or leadership will be lived out. “Define a time when you had to…”, “When confronting a complex problem, how do you…”, “When learning something new, what are your first steps to…”

2.         Scenario based questions. In this sequence, you’re representing scenarios that are typically faced in the work environment and your objective is to understand how the person being interviewed would handle or respond to those situations. “How would you handle…”, “What would you do…” and “Walk me through your leadership mindset regarding…” are all phrases that expand the conversation in an interview.

3.         Individual understanding questions. In this sequence, you're getting to know the person at a more one-to-one level. “Tell me about a time in your life when…”, What is the most important thing you learned from…”, “Who has had the greatest impact on…”

There is one important #Thoughtstarter for you to consider asking after each of the above question types have been answered. It is perhaps the most important question you should really ask and yet the simplest way to expand your awareness and understanding of a person you’re interviewing for a position in your company.

Could you tell me why? Made even simpler… Why?

Why? Because the understanding of a person being interviewed begins with an understanding between you and the person being interviewed.

Until Next Time,


P.S. What is your favorite question to ask in an interview?... Why? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

NOTE: Each of these types of questions are open-ended and designed to bring understanding in a way that is consistently asked and equally appropriate to everyone being interviewed. If there’s ever a question as to whether a question is legal, or able to be asked, make sure you get with the person responsible for human resources within your company and clarify the question before it’s asked of the person being interviewed. There are clearly acceptable and unacceptable questions and approaches in an interview.


My week didn’t go the way I expected it to go last week.

Whatever my plan was, events mandated a new plan.

Life’s experiences have a unique way of conditioning you into a new state of normal.

You can theorize or intellectualize leadership and then you confirm that what’s most important is the living out of leadership.

Does this sound like a week you’ve ever had? Can you relate?

This past week highlighted 10 important leadership lessons that have further shaped the importance of my view on awareness and an eyes wide open perspective.

  1. You truly don’t know what you don’t know. You can only control what you can control.
  2. No matter what you know, there are moments where that knowledge is both completely relevant and irrelevant at the same time.
  3. No matter what you know, there’s more you don’t know that can, and must be learned.
  4. Smart, intelligent, intuitive and wise are uniquely different characteristics and well-developed leaders possess a balance of all four.
  5. Pressure will reveal the true nature of a person.
  6. People are the most complex part of a company. Empathy makes people less complex.
  7. Building relationships and developing teams is the result of the experiences you share together.
  8. Relationships inspire commitment and commitment is your currency.
  9. The character of your leadership when no one’s looking, had better be the same as when everyone’s watching.
  10. Growth, development and awareness, beyond what we know right now, most definitely matters.


Reflect on how these lessons relate to you, your experiences and your growth.

With increased awareness,



P.S. Have you ever had a week like this? Share with me what you learned from it.

Are Your People's Problems Important to You?

If there’s one thing we talk about in Thoughtwave routinely it’s that you have a choice in every interaction.

One of the most important choices you can make in an interaction is the choice to be empathetic or sympathetic.

Now, rather than thinking of empathy as an unnecessary soft-skill, think of the difference between sympathy and empathy like this: You can choose to look at the problem alone, or take interest in the person helping you solve the problem.

There comes a point when technical skills alone won’t get you any further and people skills become imperative. Skilled leaders know that the true business they operate in is the business of people.

Are your people’s problems important to you?
If you’re a High D (like me), or High Dominant person, fixing problems is in your nature. The phrase, “A problem is just a solution waiting to be found,” might resonate with you. However, attached to those problems are people, and often, empathizing with the person or treating the situation with empathy will get you to a better solution.

Sympathy Versus Empathy at Work

Situation: One of your employees needs to miss a day of work to go to a funeral.
Sympathetic response: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Empathetic response: “I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for you. Thanks for taking the time to let me know in advance.”

Situation: A co-worker shows up with a broken leg after the long weekend.
Sympathetic response: “At least you can walk with crutches.”
Empathetic response: “I know how it feels when you can’t do everything you’d like as easily as normal. Let me know if I can help.”

Situation: A co-worker has hit a sticking point in a project.
Sympathetic response: “That’s too bad. Keep working on it.”
Empathetic response: “How can I help you look at the problem differently?”

Leadership is multifaceted. There are many ways to be a “good leader.” The best leaders however, understand this core truth--solutions are the result of people working together effectively--and act accordingly. When you lead with an awareness of others, you become a stronger leader. It’s why we at PDI, believe in the power of behavioral assessments and why we’re constantly talking about thinking beyond your own boundaries.

Sympathy is responding without awareness. It’s a blanket of acknowledgment without understanding. Empathy is responding with awareness. It’s the choice to understand how the situation truly feels to another person. And before you think I’m talking too soft, when you respond with empathy you unlock much more than a person’s feelings, you unlock insight into their reactions, concerns, and motivations. Empathy equips you with the information you need to make better decisions.


1. Are your people’s problems important to you?
2. What is one problem that needs some empathy pumped into it this week?
3. How can you empathize with your customer to make your sales pitch more effective?

Make it a great week,

PS - Want to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

3 Ways to Hone Your Leadership

As a regular reader of Thoughtwave, you likely know that I’m an avid Peloton Rider. For me, the bike is about both mental clarity and physical conditioning.

While my rides and instructors vary by the week, my preference is to pick challenging rides and challenging instructors. This is how I maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of my time in the saddle.
Read more

Set Yourself up for Success

Starting this week and during the month of December, Thoughtwave will be coming to you in an abbreviated form. One idea, tip or trigger that helps you set yourself up for success.

As a part of setting myself up for success, this also allows me time to recharge the writing batteries as we head into January.Read more