Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?


Take a minute to ask yourself this question. Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

The Difference

A thermometer tells you the temperature in the room; it reacts to the environment around it. A thermostat sets the temperature of a room; it regulates an environment.

Thermometer leaders consistently react to the situations and conditions they confront. Their reaction is often driven by the environment that’s created for them rather than one they define.

Thermostat leaders regulate their business environment and don’t settle for less than defined best practices. It’s uncommon for a thermostat leader to compromise the standards that they’ve established for themselves.

5 Compromises You Should Never Make When it Comes to Workplace Excellence

As a leader, setting the temperature of your environment begins with understanding the climate you want to create. Here are five factors that thermostat leaders regulate continually.

  1. The Hiring Process
    My belief is that people are the foundation of your business. That being said, why is it that so many leaders fail to connect the hiring/selection process to their business in a meaningful manner? Belief in their “gut feel” creates a compromise that is problematic at best and catastrophic in a worst-case scenario.  A best practice option is to take a balanced approach that considers both the subjective factors (gut, experience, and likeability) and the objective factors (behaviors, driving forces, competencies, and capacity) related to hiring ideal candidates. You may want to check out the recent Thoughtwave on selection fatigue.
  2. Safety
    Nobody wants to go home differently than they came to work as a result of a workplace injury. That’s why best practices related to creating a safe work environment must be clearly defined and enforced relentlessly with consistency. Easy to say and far harder to ensure, if best practices regarding safety are allowed to go undefined or be compromised regularly. Non-negotiable would be the term that best describes the required attitude by leaders related to applying the best practices of safety in their organization.
  3. Personal Standards
    There’s a difference between a compromise that’s mutual and compromising your standards simply to make someone else feel comfortable. Defining personal standards is a choice. Leading from those standards is about defining a set of personal best practices. How others feel about those standards is largely irrelevant as long as they aren’t destructive to you, others or your company. Mediocrity, in the form of people who want you to lower or abandon your standards, has a way of trying to chip away and erode what they may feel is too demanding or intense for them individually. Let me be clear. This is not your problem to resolve.
  4. A Culture of Communication
    Awareness is a powerful ally of excellence. Communication is a foundational element of awareness. Defining an environment where the two go hand-in-hand sets the tone for better insights, interaction, and decisions. The impact to a defined standard comes in the form of optimized results. These are the most effective results possible and the factor that establishes impact and differentiation is communication.
  5. Personal Accountability
    Being answerable for your individual actions sets the leadership temperature for your team. It’s about being willing to take ownership and accept personal responsibility for the outcomes. This begins with the ability to proactively self-evaluate every aspect of your leadership and see new possibilities by examining your personal approach. Thermostat leaders define their successes and mistakes and make them a part of their leadership progression and evolution.

Final Thought           

As you go through the week, think about whether you set the temperature or tell the temperature.

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Are there any other factors you would add to the list to ensure workplace excellence? Let me know in the comments.


I’m not quite sure where it all started. Casual Fridays? The home office? Aloha Friday? What began with an emphasis on relaxing the traditional dress code on one day of the week in the late 90’s has turned into the steady casualization of the American Workplace in appearance, mindset and behavior.

Let’s Be Honest

How often do you really associate sloppy appearance with an enhanced professional image or personal brand in the workplace?

When was the last time a casual mindset really struck you as forward-thinking and contributive?

Just because someone chooses not to wear socks with a pair of dress shoes doesn’t mean that the entire organization should adopt that as their new standard of appearance.

This isn’t about being judgmental or lecturing. I’ve dressed traditionally at work and I’ve dressed more casually. What I can definitively tell you in both cases is that it’s about attitude.

An Attitude of Professionalism

I don’t see the value in diminishing appearance simply for the sake of comfort. Just like I don’t value trendy simply because it’s well...trendy.

Granted, I’ve been referred to as hyper-professional on more than one occasion. There’s no doubt that I value the way I present and carry myself. I’d rather be known as hyper-professional than overly-casual. It’s an attitude.

We represent ourselves in how we look, behave and communicate and others determine how seriously we are to be taken based on these factors as well. When we over casualize anything we put our credibility and professionalism at risk.

The Practicality of it All

Have you ever noticed how people continually try to encourage and help you lower your attitude of professionalism simply to justify their own limited view?

I wear a suit on a regular basis. Recently, there’s been an uptick in the number of people who’ve commented that “wearing a suit is over the top and unnecessary in today’s business climate.” The two questions that run through my mind each and every time are the same.

“Is that a fact or is that your opinion?”
“Is your comment more about my attitude or is it more reflective of your attitude?”

For me, wearing a suit has nothing to do with today’s business climate or what someone says is required, preferred or in style. My appearance, and by extension my suit, reflects my attitude toward myself, my clients, our relationship and my mindset towards our work together.

Check out this Lifehack and you’ll gain immediate perspective on why an attitude of professionalism and corresponding appearance matter practically.

In 2010, just nine short years ago, UBS, a Swiss bank, published a 44-page manual for employees on how to dress. It included everything from practical advice such as, “"If you wear a watch, it suggests reliability and that punctuality is of great concern to you,” to the personal: "The ideal time to apply perfume is directly after you take a hot shower, when your pores are still open." While the employee dress manual was over-the-top, it acknowledges and re-enforces a simple and practical point for anyone who’s looking to influence outcomes and results.

Your attitude of professionalism and how you present yourself matters.


Don’t lower your standards to what others view as “the norm or acceptable”. Suit up and define your attitude of professionalism.

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Let me know your thoughts on casualization in the workplace in the comments.

Family Business and The Core Belief in Cash

There’s a saying that goes something like this… “Show me a person’s checkbook and calendar and I will show you what that person values.” Today, we’d need to adjust that saying for the era of electronic banking. Or… we would simply need to recognize the simplest of truths. How you spend your money and time reflect what you value most.

The value systems in a family business run deep. So deeply that they’re often referred to as core beliefs and they serve as the foundation of decisions and choices both individually and organizationally among owners and leaders.

The Commonality of Core Beliefs

Among the core beliefs that make-up the value system within a family business, there is one in particular that stands out for me as being essential to long-term success. Like many sayings offering timeless wisdom this core belief is simple, can be applied by everyone and is mastered by a few. This is the core value of dry powder and debt.

Dry Powder and Debt

In business, the term dry powder refers to cash and is the fuel for growth. Debt is a ratio to be managed correctly in relationship to that cash. Translated as a core belief of family business, the premise is simple. Don’t let a bank dictate your decisions. Manage your cash (dry powder) so that you can fund your future growth and opportunity. The leadership, relationship and ratio between the two is about one simple concept...CHOICE.

Owner’s Choice

When faced with the decision, the owners of family business prefer to control what they can control. This is what we refer to as the owner’s choice. This is the specific reason that keeping cash reserves high and debt low in relationship is a core belief of so many owners of family businesses. They recognize the long view requirement of smart financial decisions and their impact on advancing or restricting the opportunity for growth within their business.

Imagine the opportunity to grow the business exponentially based on a strategic choice. Now imagine the frustration of a business owner that is so leveraged with debt that they’re unable to pursue the very opportunity that would have accelerated their business to the next level. Conversely, imagine the options for the owner who has lived by the core belief of maintaining high levels of dry powder and low levels of debt.

In a word, it’s all about CHOICE.

The Value of Simplicity

On a personal level, I’m grateful that my parents instilled the simple, yet profound, core belief of financial competence in my life at a very early age. There are three things that my parents said over and over again to bring practicality to financial knowledge. These are the same things they tell their grandchildren today to instill a core belief across generations. The great part about something that’s simple is that it often times requires no more explanation. Such is the case with the timeless and simple wisdom of a school teacher/administrator and business owner.

  1. Spend less than you make
  2. Don’t live beyond your means
  3. Save and invest something from every paycheck and you’ll be the one signing the paychecks

Thoughtstarter: Control What You Can Control

If you’re interested in increasing your financial knowledge let me encourage you to check out a couple of resources that you may find useful, starting with a guy by the name of Dave Ramsey.

If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, you may want to invest the time to learn about him. 30 years ago, Ramsey filed for bankruptcy. Today, he’s considered “America’s trusted voice on money.”  He’s the owner of Ramsey Solutions, the voice of The Dave Ramsey Show, a New York Times Best Selling Author… and he has an estimated net worth of about $55 million.

One of my favorite quotes from Dave, of which there are many, is “You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” Think about that as it relates to your core beliefs, choice and the value of simplicity.

Two books that are required reading for people I care about and who care about being able to make their own financial choices and define their financial future are:

  1. The Millionaire Next Door
  2. Everyday Millionaires

Here’s to the core beliefs of family business that are the foundations of decision and choice.

Be authentic. Be purposeful. Make it meaningful.

P.S. I want to hear your thoughts - please share them in the comments.

How Many Hats Are You Wearing in Your Family Held Company?

When you work in a private or public organization, your role is clearly defined; you do not face the ambiguity that comes with family and ownership. However, when you hold a position in your family company it gets complicated. As a shareholder member of the family you wear more than one hat. The tough part is figuring out which hat to wear when faced with a particular situation.

Three Hats

A family member may hold many positions within the organization. Regardless of their role, each member wears three hats as a shareholder that works in the family company, and each hat requires a different approach to the business. Deciding which hat to wear in a given situation is not always black or white.


Owners have a financial stake in the success of the business; they must see the big picture and focus on the long-term goals and strategy that drives the company to success. Their financial and emotional investment in the company is high and if the enterprise fails to prosper their entire economic well-being could be at stake. The pressure of being a business owner increases exponentially when the financial health of your extended family is also at risk.

There are many rewards and challenges that come with being an owner in a family held organization. One of the most stressful times for most owners is when the interests of the business conflict with the family. E.g., when the Director of Sales fails to hit established sales goals the company suffers a financial setback. If the Director repeatedly fails, they must be removed from their position in order to ensure the survival of the organization. In a typical employment situation, the Director would either be fired or demoted. However, when the Director is your brother you are not just firing a poor performer, you are negatively affecting the economic situation of your family member. In this scenario, the Owner hat must be firmly in place in order to make the correct decision for the company because erring on the side of the family could cripple the business.

Positional Role

Each family member working in the business holds a specific role in the organization. They may manage other family or non-family members, or be an individual contributor. They are still owners regardless of their position in the company.

Being an owner/contributor is a delicate balance. Your relationship with non-family staff can be complicated because they know you are also an owner. They may not be willing to share information with you in the same way they would with other team members. The good news is there are actions we can take to minimize the potential negative impact of the “owner” perception.

  • Hold everyone in the business to the same standards to reduce the risk of being treated as “the boss” rather than a team member.
  • Avoid calling family by relationship—i.e. use Susan rather than Aunt Susie.
  • Treat family as peers rather than relatives.
  • Promote the most qualified person regardless of family association by benchmarking the position within the company and appropriately aligning people to positions based on their knowledge, skill, and ability.

The goal is to remove the owner hat and focus on the job at hand.

Family member

Family members may decide to sell their interest in the company. Alternatively, they may choose to leave their role in the organization to try something new. The owner and job role are transient and subject to change--we make a conscious choice to wear these hats. We are born wearing our family hat; we do not get to choose.

The informality and comfort level we have with our family can make it difficult to treat each other as peers and co-workers. We may shout at each other and use harsh words during a disagreement; something most of us would never consider doing with unrelated co-workers.

Setting ground rules can help everyone understand when to wear or set aside their family hat.

  • Benchmark the position; define key accountabilities (KA’s) and objectives for each position within the organization.
  • Clearly define the level of autonomous decision-making authority for the job.

Practical Application

Stop to consider which hat you are wearing in critical situations, and make a conscious decision about whether it is the right hat. Mentally step back and try to view the circumstances objectively.

Find a mentor or external advisor to use as a sounding board when you are unsure which hat is appropriate for a particular situation. Remember, it is always better to seek counsel than to worsen the situation by acting incorrectly.

Establish a board of directors that includes members who are not family, who understand the culture of the company and are external to the organization. When the majority of the board members are independent, it takes the family bias out of the decision-making process and focuses objectively on the business at hand.

Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.


Three C's

Why the Three C’s are Critical to a Successful Family Business

I have come to realize that many of the issues I see when I work with family businesses are due to a breakdown in one, or all of what I call the Three Cs--communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Effectively achieving the three Cs is a challenge in the best circumstances, but when you factor in the family dynamic and emotional baggage; it can become almost impossible.

The Complexity of Families

People and families are complex, and they come with their own strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and biases. When families come together to run a business the complexity increases exponentially.  The adage that familiarity breeds contempt is never truer than when you are dealing with dysfunction in the family business! Conflicting personal interests; sibling rivalry; old wounds from family feuds, and perceived favoritism are just a few of the familial issues that can muddy the waters. Unfortunately, the family dysfunction often adversely affects the health of the business. More than one family company has closed its doors due to a lack of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. The good news is that with work, focus, and intent these issues are not insurmountable!

Personalities Abound

Humans are multidimensional, and as such we all deal with the stress of family dysfunction differently. Some of us are pacifiers, trying to keep the peace and maintain the family relationships. Some are bullies that attempt to get their way with badgering and controlling behavior. Some are victims who blame their shortcomings and failures on circumstances beyond their control and never take responsibility for their actions.

Finding Common Ground

Whatever the personality type, we all have the same desire to be respected, valued, and understood. We need to know that someone appreciates us, and can see our point of view because this is how we know we’ve made a connection. Self-awareness and awareness of others is central to finding common ground on which to build or rebuild a relationship. Creating a connection to others is a fundamental building block for trust.


The Simplexity of the Three Cs

Dysfunction is so rampant in some family companies that members have come to accept it as a condition of doing business. As a result, they tolerate bad behavior on the part of others. However, playing family politics or pretending the problem does not exist worsens the issue and doesn’t address the required evolution necessary to minimize the dysfunction. Although we may never eliminate the family dysfunction, it can be addressed through authentic and transparent communication, collaboration and cooperation so that it does not negatively impact the business.

From Complex to Simplex

Simplexity is a phrase I coined to describe the process of breaking an extremely complex concept or issue into simple points. In this case the complex issue of dysfunction in the family business can be boiled down to a collapse in one or all of the Three Cs. Think of the Three Cs as the legs of a three-legged stool--take away one leg and the stool cannot stand on its own. The simplexity of minimizing dysfunction in the family business or organization comes from valuing and balancing the relationship between communication, collaboration and cooperation.


In order for a family company to achieve optimal performance, they must determine which leg(s) of the Three Cs stool are broken and then take action to deal with the situation. For example, a breakdown in communication will adversely impact collaboration and cooperation. When we identify and correct the challenges to effective communication we are shoring up the foundation of the Three Cs stool.

The more awareness, understanding and action created around improving communication, collaboration and cooperation, the greater the capacity of the people to understand how their contribution impacts the organization. Raising awareness is the first step toward maximizing family relationships and addressing family dysfunction.

In our next article, we’ll explore the first C—Communication and offer guidance on how to deal with dysfunctional communication.

Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Achieve Peak Performance from a Board of Directors

Selecting a board of directors is a critical stage in building a business, be it a privately held/family owned firm or a public corporation. The first step in achieving peak performance from the Board of Directors is selecting board members that are a good match for the organization.

Board members should share an organizations core values, and understand the company culture in order to be an asset, rather than a liability. When members appreciate the founding principles of the company, there is a greater likelihood that they will integrate quickly into the business and become valued contributors.

Achieving peak performance from the board of directors begins with selecting the right people. So how do we select a board of directors that will become engaged and productive members of an organization’s management team—not a thorn in their side?

Clearly Communicate Culture and Core Values

A company’s culture is a set of values, practices, and beliefs that are shared by the people that make up the organization. Although the founders first establish the culture of the company, as the company grows and begins to take on people, the culture will be influenced by the sum of the workforce. For example, during the startup phase of a business the culture may be to work 16 hour days, and sleep on a cot in the corner of the office. However, as the company expands and desires to attract talent, the culture shifts to a more balanced work life.

Core values are the building blocks of an organization's culture. While Apple values innovation, Ben & Jerry’s value sustainability. These are key differentiators between brands, and core values can give a business a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  Clearly, Apple Computer’s “Think Different” commitment to innovation gave them a distinct advantage as a startup, and continues to be the driving core value behind their success.

It’s difficult to communicate concepts like culture and core values to others unless we have clearly defined the parameters ourselves. If a company’s leaders haven’t analyzed what makes their business or culture unique, this work should be completed before the search for board members begins.

Cultivate Awareness of Self and Others

Self-awareness is the capacity to understand your own personality. Self-aware people know what sets them off; what motivates or demotivates them; and they tend to have a higher level of control over their emotions. It’s much easier to maintain self-control and objectivity when one recognizes what triggers a particular set of feelings or reactions. This is an extremely valuable quality to cultivate in your leadership and team members, and should be a required characteristic for board members.

Awareness of others is as critical as self-awareness--let’s face it there will be times that the board member and senior leadership won’t see eye to eye. When people are skilled at observing and interpreting the emotions in the “room” they are able to focus and guide the conversation to a mutually beneficial result. During times of contention, awareness of others and one’s self can be the difference between resolving the conflict and continued dissension.

Foster Diversity

We’re not just talking about gender, race or cultural diversity; we also mean diversity of thought. There are a plethora of studies that demonstrate diversity has a positive impact on the company’s financial success. According to research in McKinsey Quarterly  “for companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity, ROEs were 53 percent higher, on average, than they were for those in the bottom quartile” so let’s concede that demographic and cultural diversity are no longer optional for companies that want to succeed in the global economy.

Success in business requires diversity of thought, because thought diversity is the antithesis of groupthink. Where groupthink encourages uniformity, thought diversity disregards the status quo, and allows people to realize their full potential by tapping into their cognitive style.

Fostering diversity in the members of the board of directors will ensure business challenges are approached from many perspectives. Some may see risk; other’s opportunity; and both should be carefully considered before critical decisions are made.

Avoid the Yes

It’s easy to be comfortable around people that agree with you. The challenge is dealing with individuals that dispute your assumptions.  The fact is we learn more from those that confront our beliefs and force us to see things differently. The worst thing we can do is frame ourselves with people that agree with us completely. Take a chance, test yourself, and avoid the “yes."

Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.