Question No. 1 (The Leadership Series)

Big Red Car here.

So we received a question from Austin entrepreneur and business owner — Joni G.  Old time friend of The Boss.  Very successful entrepreneur and Mom.  Creator of jobs, runner of businesses and all around great American.

A good question, indeed.

Dear Big Red Car:

If you have a proven way to get a job done right every time, how can you train your team to follow it every time and what do you do when they consistently don’t? 

Following directions, is it something the Y Gen is lacking?



Every business function can be ultimately be reduced to a “process” — a simple graphical description of the methodology — by which the business function is undertaken and completed successfully.  It is like a flow chart describing the business function from cradle to grave.  Ooops, from beginning to end.

The outcome of the business function — documented by the process graphic — can be identified as a final product with specific appearance or functionality.  At a targeted level of quality.  In a desired period of time.

Those of you who are familiar with public companies and have submitted your fortunes to the vagaries of public company regulation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board will be familiar with the process documentation requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley Act section 404 TDRA — top down risk assessment.  Bit of jargon there, eh?

SOx Sec 404 TDRA requires the public company to identify critical business processes and to create a graphic identifying critical risk points as a means of ensuring that the business process is sound, secure and has been optimized to reduce risk.  It is a worthy exercise and while initially daunting is quite logical and useful to ensure that critical processes are well designed and diminish risk.

So, Joni, the first thing to consider doing is to create a graphical description of the job that needs doing.  This is a tool.


Another tool which focuses and streamlines the efforts of a team is the creation of a checklist.

There is a wonderful book which addresses this subject:  The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawunde, an accomplished surgeon and a Harvard Medical School assistant professor.  A great read and concepts that are useful for every process driven environment from an operating room to flying an airplane.

Most importantly these checklists work and ensure consistent performance by individuals and teams.


Once you have in hand the process documentation and your checklist, now it is necessary to train the team to accomplish the task or produce the product.  Let’s discuss training, training materials, learning style, re-current training, testing and long-term post training documentation.

Training needs to be formal and presented professionally to ensure success.  Training materials also need to be representative of the quality of the outcome you are targeting and expect.  The better the materials the more receptive the trainees will be.  A training syllabus connects the lesson, the objective, the materials, the methodology of presentation and testing.

A quick comment about learning styles.  People learn in different methods — visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, solitary.  Go read that linked article for a deeper discussion of learning styles.

Your training materials have to accommodate the learning styles of your team.  To ensure that nobody is left out, your training materials will have to deliver in more than one channel or learning style.

A Power Point presentation delivered in a lecture style, a graphic, a checklist, a hands on walk through, a practice session and materials posted to a website will address multiple learning styles.  You can use your creativity to  provide more.

Once you have delivered the training, then it is time to test it.  Can the team perform the task the way it has been trained?  Testing is often overlooked as it comes at the end of the training session when folks may be a bit fatigued.  But it must be done to ensure that the task has been conquered.

The training should conclude — after successful testing — with the distribution of training materials.  Like that new checklist.  The training materials should also be posted to some central point of institutional memory like a website.

Depending upon the continuing performance of the team, you will require periodic or recurrent training.  This is much like the biennial training that licensed pilots must undergo every two years to both drive some preparatory training but also to demonstrate a continuing level of competency.

Training, training materials, training syllabus, learning style, testing, recurrent training, and post training documentation.  Whew!

Generation Y, the Millennials

The Generation Y workers — successors to Generation X and generally identified as born after 1982 — are a cohort who have not known any other life than one driven by the impact of the Internet.

Now you can get plenty of arguments on the exact definition of Generation Y and you can look here to get a good starting point but post 1982 birthdays is good for our discussion.

With all apologies to the Millenials — they are generally self absorbed, narcissistic, desirous of wealth (not necessarily of earning it, mind you but certainly of having it), have an enormous sense of entitlement, reject social conventions on a wholesale basis, reject religion and are generally less political than their forebears.

They are in the business of ME.

The Me Generation will expect great things from their employer and when the workplace fails to deliver, they will change jobs quickly blaming any shortcoming on their former employers.  They are not inclined to be loyal to an employer and their commitments are fleeting and illusory.

Wow, these are not particularly attractive employees and these generalities are just that — generalities.  But the question which emerges is — how hard will this cohort really work?

This explanation is provided to acknowledge what a difficult task any employer has in applying what may be life skills and experience as business owners when employing this talent.

So, yes, Joni, Generation Y — the Millennials — do represent a unique and perhaps daunting challenge.

Good luck!

Incentive compensation and recognition

In today’s economy, one would expect simply having and keeping a job would be enough incentive to perform but sometimes it is not.

You are in the business of getting a return on your training investment and if performance can be improved by incentivizing performance to achieve a favorable return on your training investment, then you owe it to yourself to consider this approach.

The design of incentive compensation plans is an art and a science.  Perhaps a worthy future topic for the Big Red Car to consider.


After you have documented the process, made a checklist, conducted professional training, had favorable initial testing outcomes, provided post training documentation and still the business function is not being suitably performed in the real world, the market — then you have to consider changing some of the team members.

If you have done your best and recurrent training is not providing suitable traction, then changing out team members may be your only choice.

Here is a bit of the News to provide solace.



But, hey, what the Hell do I know?  I’m just a Big Red Car.