The Madness of March

How March Madness Affects Business Culture | By: Kristen Haldeman | March 26, 2019

In the 2019 March Madness season it was estimated that $4 billion was lost due to unproductive workers. Certainly the 1 in 5 workers who take no interest in work during this month contributed to that number - totaling $134 million in “lost wages”. Whether a college basketball fanatic or not, a total of 70 million brackets were completed in 2017. March Madness reports as the greatest workplace distraction, only surpassed by Facebook and texting.

With such a drastic decline in quantitative productivity, it would seem that managers would want to discourage logging into the NCAA bracket pools. Such division between the workers and managers could cause workplace negativity and hostility, especially if one’s bracket is doing better than the other’s.

However, an OfficeTeam survey concluded that the March Madness investment may not be so detrimental after all.

After interviewing 1,000 managers, Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, found that 20% viewed the basketball tournament actually promoted a positive workplace atmosphere. He says, When enjoyed in moderation, there are potential benefits to March Madness activities at work. They can be a morale-booster and bring out team spirit in the office. It provides an opportunity for employees to bond as they talk about scores and root for their favorite schools.”

Similarly, when employees are open about their use and manager permit the coworker competition, the culture in the office becomes friendly and positive. When the supervisor gets involved it promotes camaraderie and motivation increase. A study shows that hat it gave opportunity for office outings that would not have happened otherwise.

The phenomena of workplace cohesion due to a unifying source should not come as a surprise. Almost 150 years ago, American philosopher and sociologist George Herbert Mead proposed the theory that there are three cores around which an organization can unify: meaning, language and thought.

Meaning: The coaster of a bar in California that everyone has in their office reminds the employees of the trip to the west coast they took two years ago when Jim, Terry, and Sam got drunk and sang “Sweet Caroline” from the balcony at 3am.

Language: Last month, the new intern tripped over a pushed out chair flinging his cherry jelly donut into the air ill-fatedly landing on the boss’s white button down leaving a perfect ring of sugary stain. Now, whenever someone says “Ringer,” it means someone did something clumsy that resulting in an unfortunate consequence.

Thought: The NCAA tournament provides an opportunity for workplace camaraderie and positive competition by decorating the bulletin board in a giant bracket and the winner receives a gift from everyone in the office, and bragging rights of course.

As illustrated, the unifying core can represent a myriad of examples. What is not different is that each brings the office together to promote a positive workplace atmosphere. Stories may change and there may be moments of negativity. Interacting with a unifying symbol encourages employee morale that results in higher performance.

The key is that the managers and employees are on the same page with whatever the symbol is and represents. If the employees see the NCAA tournament as a time for friendly rivalry while the manager views it as unproductive, a disruptive work environment will likely arise. However, if the manager is on board with some fun contests, the month of March may not be so mad.

What stories or symbols does your office connect with? Are they atmosphere encouraging or discouraging?


Lessons from Legos

By: Kristen Haldeman | March 22, 2019

If you have ever experienced the joy of gifting a Lego set to a 12 year old child, you know that seconds before the hundreds of  pieces are scattered on the floor like a minefield, they are organized in little bags based on size, shape, and color. These bags denote the exact pieces that are needed for the project. Perhaps included are a few extra in case one, or five, goes missing. Regardless of how many extra pieces there are, there will always be enough.

And, how thankful the parents are to the Lego company for not skimping on the number of Legos! Can you imagine coming to the end of a 4 foot roller coaster detailed with hills, loops, and twists and missing the carts for the miniature people! The horror of the child and the dread of the parent to look at the incomplete project for weeks until someone has the courage to deconstruct the sad fixture of failure.

Having a plan, being well prepared, is essential for any successful business venture. A plan bridges the initial passion behind why a business does what it does and what exactly it does. For example, at McCarley International we believe that people have potential and we aim to help them tap into that potential. How we do that is through professional, leadership business coaching by exploring the unique features that distinguishes one particular organization from another.

It’s why we emphasis that “A dream plus a plan becomes a goal.”

It would be foolish for a business owner to commit to a contract without first evaluating if the business was capable of upholding its own end. Planning what one is able to accomplish prevents failure and embarrassment and provides opportunities to making new connections.

On the contrary, risk-taking centralizes the life of an organization. It could be argued that a company will not grow if risks are not taken. At a closer look, risk-taking does not mean reckless wagers on every opening that arises. Instead, risk-taking is calculated and carefully planned. The key to harmonizing risk-taking and planning is to calculate and develop a step-by-step process that outlines a successful path.

In the Simon Sinek Golden Circle, HOW is the link between the WHY and WHAT of a person or organization. The “how” allows for the “what” to happen and gives tangibility to the “why.” Developing a plan makes success attainable.

Don’t be the person who builds a Lego roller coaster without first evaluating if all the colored pieces are present. Be aware of resources and calculate opportunities.


Running a Marathon SMARTly

By: Kristen Haldeman | March 14, 2019

Shoes are properly tied. The lucky neon yellow tank top worn like a champion’s cape. One sweat band around the head and two around the wrists are there to catch any blood, sweat, or tears that may fall. The runner stares through the hundreds of other heads all focusing on the starting line. The sound from the gunshot bursts through the cool Autumn air and the runners begin.

To the average human, the thought of running a marathon seems daunting and impossible. Going from the distance between the couch to the refrigerator to a whole 26.2 miles will not happen shortly. Diligent training must precede.

Mike Figliuolo explains how to incorporate SMART goals into the corporate culture. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals provide a guiding path to larger successes. For example, Ada Chen Rekhi, Founder and COO of Notejoy sets a SMART goal example as “Plan and execute five customer education webinars this quarter with 15-plus attendees per event and 80% or higher satisfied/very satisfied response on content.” All of the criteria are found in this one sentence.

Certainly, understanding and supporting the why of the goals presents it’s own requirements. A marathon runner will not train for a marathon “just because” (or maybe the crazy ones do). In the same way, employees will find it difficult to enact goals with excellence if the purpose to their tasks is hidden or confusing. However, even the passionate people need direction.

Detailing small, quantifiable goals is the first step to completing any intimidating task.

Ask Anthony McCarley. He completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming (The English Channel crossing, circumnavigating Manhattan, and crossing the Catalina Channel in California). He did not jump in the English Channel the day after deciding he was going to do it Instead, he planned, he trained, he practiced, and he swam. Then he trained, practiced, and swam some more. It wasn’t until he was a strong enough swimmer in the pool did he even venture to the ocean. By setting goals for himself, he was able to finish.

Marathon runners do not suddenly finish a marathon. They run every mile one step at a time. Being able to stand at the starting line insinuates months of determined training that consisted of consistently putting one foot in front of the other. The SMART goal method will make an attainable process of any complex undertaking.

Four and a half hours later, the neon yellow tank top sweatband wearing runner crosses the finish line.

Leadership of Integrity

Moving from aspiration to practice | By: Kristen Haldeman | March 3, 2019

We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action. - Brene Brown

Without the walking of the walk, the talking of the talk evolves into white noise. The observer dismisses anything the talker says with indifference or disgust. Imagine the family that establishes respect as a household value and the father and mother daily engage in yelling contests. The children observe this behavior and model after it.

Leadership is not about entirely about receiving the accolades for well accomplished work. It is not entirely about innovation and authority. At the base level, leadership is about integrity: does the walk exemplify the talk.

According to a survey by Robert Half Management Resources, 75% of workers and 46% of CEOs responded that leadership is the most important attribute in a corporate leader. The conclusion of this study offered three managerial practices, the first being to set the right example.

Imagine the family that establishes respect as a household value and the father and mother calmly converse about their differences. The children observe this behavior and model after it.

The discomfort emerges when upholding the established values requires difficult conversations and venturing into the unknown. Upholding respect may result in mediating between two employees who compete in unhealthy comparison. Upholding innovation may require letting the team use their ideas instead of your own. However, the discomfort can be replaced by confidence if integrity is already practiced. Arriving to work on time is a small yet significant way to begin demonstrating integrity. Taking out the trash once a week as promised is a small yet significant integrity practice. Handling the more intimidating tasks, like upholding respect and innovation, will seem less daunting because the habit of integrity has been accumulating through previous small, significant practices.

Integrity and leadership cannot be divorced, even if it means getting some coal burns on your feet.

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Building your repertoire of metal and skill | By: Kristen Haldeman | March 2, 2019

A father carries the laundry to the washer to find that the washer makes that funny noise that only washers make. Reaching for the tool box, he grabs the manual and an old pair of gloves. The wrench tightens the bolt in the back. The hammer bends a piece of metal back into shape. He refers to the manual to ensure proper technique. Two screwdrivers act as a pair of long pliers to remove a colony of dust bunnies. And, according to the tape measure, the amount of already piled up laundry says that he needs to find a bigger space before baby number five arrives. He places the gloves on the shelf beside the manual and the toolbox. The dirty work is completed, well, except for the laundry.

“Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a hammer, pliers, a saw, a screwdriver, a rule, a glue-pot, nails and screws. -- The function of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein

The metaphor of a toolbox illustrates the importance of continual preparation for the unknown and the unexpected. Simple tools carry the potential to solve significant problems if properly used. While each tool has a unique function, the tool can be used in a variety of situations. Circumstances can be complex but determination and dedication result in a smoother functioning system.

Tools are not always physical ones manufactured from metal. In business, and in relationships, the tools in the toolbox are interpersonal skills that allow us to navigate specific situations. For example, conflict management should be a tool readily available. Be mindful, however, that the specific approach of conflict management is practiced in the appropriate situation. A Phillips screwdriver is not helpful when the screw fits a slotted one, even though they are both screwdrivers.

Other examples include a positive attitude, empathy, leadership, negotiation, and teamwork. At McCarley, we believe that incorporating the values of patience, dedication and prioritizing optimize potential for success.

Google has 91,300,000 results on how to effectively build a toolbox of both metal and skill kinds. What’s in yours and how can we help to improve it?



Key to being helpful and effective | Kristen Haldeman | March 1, 2019

At one point, we all sat in the doctor’s office listening to a medical description completely foreign to us. “Doctor, I am experiencing arm pain.” “The pericardium is innervated by C3,4,5 (Phrenic nerve). There may be some neuronal connections to the intercostobrachial nerves.” We are a deer in the headlights of an oncoming panic attack driven by a misunderstanding of medical jargon.

These confusing and often belittling interactions happen not only in the doctor’s office, but also in the business environment, lawyer’s circles, and the farmer’s field. The problem is not that they are presenting us with inaccurate information; the problem is that the information is not accessible.

By the end of 2018, 2 million apps were available for download from the Apple App Store. Information of all categories is accessible with one touch of a fingertip. With such vast and instant knowledge it makes sense for the jargon-filled societies to also make their content accessible.

This need for accessibility is exactly why Anthony McCarley shares his story of swimming the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. While the experience itself may not be relatable to every person, the values within the story (determination, preparation, consistency, growing, and even failing) are connectable to everyone.

McCarley shares this story as a helpful tool in conveying these values that ultimately allow for businesses, and people, to thrive. Like the doctor, if business jargon was left encrypted, the patient would leave the office perhaps in worse shape than when he or she arrived because of the fear and confusion of not understanding, and not being able to do anything with, the information.

“The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people's lives just by doing our job a little better?” Steven Krug

In order to be helpful, in order to be effective, one must allow their message to be accessible.


Why “why” works

Understanding the importance of purpose | Kristen Haldeman | Feb 24, 2019

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain.

A 2017 study by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge concluded that 13% of American found no passion in working their jobs. A Harvard Business Review research found that less than 20% of leaders strongly understand their purpose. It is no surprise, then, that organizations with unclear purposes and a disengagement from core values are hurting.

The simple fix is to understand your “why.”

Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and organizational consultant, adamantly promotes that understanding your why, understanding your purpose, fundamentally changes you output. Imagine asking someone to sing Amazing Grace. Certainly, the singer could produce the notes and sing the words beautifully. Now, ask the person to sing Amazing Grace as if they just overcame a seemingly unbearable circumstance. The words will be exactly the same AND there will be passion, motivation, and purpose to the song, ultimately making the song better.

Finding purpose does not remain at an individual level, but it moves and makes itself effective in the room of organizational culture.

Kaylie instructed her team to develop a pitch for an upcoming meeting on how to raise $400,000. The team began brainstorming and presented a detailed plan for raising the money. However, the proposal was stale, not innovative, and unimpressive. Frustrated, Kaylie approached the team and informed them that this project was extremely important. The team asked for more information and Kaylie explained that another department had had a setback that affected multiple departments. Without the money, there would be budget cuts and potential layoff. However, if their team could provide a solution, not only would there be no cuts, but also opportunity for advancement. Motivated and understanding of the purpose, the team devised and executed a plan that profited $950,000.

The need for a common understanding is essential to improving any organization. Clarity of values and purposes enhances the opportunity for group cohesion and performance. Personal investment encourages effort, and effort produces results.

Why is it important to knowing your why? Because your why can change the outcome.


What Not To Do: Show & Throw

Anthony McCarleyAnthony McCarley | January 17, 2019

“Show Up and Throw Up” happens all the time.

Show Up and Throw Up is when the sales person shows up to a meeting or presentation and heaves up everything he/she knows.

It almost always happens when the sales person doesn’t understand the difference between “Features & Functions” and “Benefits”… which unfortunately happens too often. Knowing the difference between “Features & Functions” and “Benefits” is one of the most important fundamental skills for every sales person. (We will discuss the fact that everyone is a sales person in a future post. Yes, we can hear you arguing already.)

Features & Functions are often drummed into the heads of new sales people by their companies or a well-meaning manager. The thinking goes like this... “If the prospect understands everything that our solution does, the sale will be easy. Of course, they have to buy from us. Our solution is wonderful.”

So, the new sales person memorizes everything - every big thing and every little thing – the company purports the solution can do. They work hard to secure an appointment; they Show Up to the meeting; and then regurgitate (Throw Up) everything – including every little thing – every little Feature & Function - they know. For some reason the other person’s eyes glaze over; they start thinking about next week’s golf game, or their planned run after work. And guess what, the sale doesn’t happen.

Why? Because the sales person talked about what his/her company cared about… not what the other person cared about.

What the other person cares about are the “Benefits” of the solution – the things that the solution will do for them.

And this brings to mind what may be one of the most ignored facts in the world: People buy for their own reasons, not yours. And while this may seem obvious to everyone, it isn’t. The actions of many sales people proves they simply have missed this important perspective. In many cases they have actually been trained and encouraged to ignore it. Or as a high level (and super smart) software engineer recently said to us, “If we build it, they will come”. And he actually meant it and believed it.

We will do a deeper dive on the critical skill of understanding the difference between “Features & Functions” and “Benefits” in future posts… but in the meantime, please don’t Show Up and Throw Up. Talk about the things that matter most to the other person.


Selling: Winning Blister Free

By: Stephen Smith

For Coach John Wooden,the Wizard of Westwood and legendary UCLA basketball coach, the key to winning ten championships came down to preventing blisters.

During the off season, Coach Wooden was scheduled to attend the basketball camp at Campbell College in North Carolina. Wisely, the Campbell College coach, Billy Smith, planned a meeting with Wooden to pick his brain on how to run a successful program.

When Smith first met Wooden, he explained that this was his first season and wanted to know the basics of how to be a great coach. Wooden replied, “I’ll be happy to do that. Just give me a second.”

As Wooden goes back to his room Smith thinks that he will return with a conditioning method or magical play. Instead, he comes back with a pair of socks. “Billy you can never have a quality team if the team’s feet are not in great shape. Blisters will really hurt your ability to train your players.” He takes his shoes off and starts to show Smith how to properly put on socks. Disgusted, Smith thinks “How can he be the best coach if he won’t divulge anything about how to play the game? This makes no sense!”

After a while, the lesson sunk in. Wooden wasn’t challenging his footwear competency, he was really talking all about the fundamentals. If you have a blister you can’t run; so let’s not talk about running a drill until you know how to put your socks on correctly. And putting your socks on just the right way is only one of hundreds, if not thousands of details that must be addressed by a winner no matter the situation.

This is not a story about getting a single detail right; it is about getting ALL the details right. For any substantial goal you may have in life, there are many tasks to be completed – maybe hundreds or even thousands. Each one of these fundamentals must be completed, and completed well. If a person addresses all these fundamentals, and does them well, they can accomplish great things.

Specifically in the sales world, for each sales-related task skipped, or performed poorly, the probability of losing the deal increases. Albeit perhaps it increases only by a small amount, but it does increase it nonetheless. At the end of any unsuccessful sales campaign, we can analyze this pattern and see that missing minor details, while not in and of themselves significant, will sabotage the deal.

Take if from a sales manager: if my team soundly completes ALL the fundamentals, they will win far more often than their competitor.

What are the 'how to put socks on correctly' fundamentals that are overlooked keys to your personal productivity and professional joy? What are the blisters? What are the small but ultimately debilitating problems that need to be named and addressed as carefully (and gently) as the Wizard of Westwood addressed his athletes about socks?

It really is all about the fundamentals. If you have a blister, you can’t win.

A New Predictive Tool Worth Exploring

By: Anthony McCarley

The BBC article, 'The secrets of the ‘high-potential’ personality', offers fascinating predictive tools for anyone who enjoys to study performance. 

Psychologists have now identified six traits that mark out high achievers – and like most good things, they are best served in moderation. Hard to disagree that the six traits identified are important.  We tend to call “Conscientiousness” “Tenacity” – but the meaning is similar. And the point about moderation is a good one.  It has been know for a long time that a person’s greatest strength is often also their greatest weakness.

It is a little easier to argue with “Ambiguity acceptance”.  We have found that most successful people are laser beam focused on a goal.  Yes, there are many shifting factors (changing circumstances) in any long term success, but there is genius in simplicity.  If simplicity is a problem – then the simplification was poorly done.

Their definition of “Competitiveness” appears to be binary.  In most cases in business and life, the real battle of competitiveness isn’t with others – it is with self.  For you to become a success – to become your best, doesn’t mean others can’t.  Success isn’t typically a zero-sum game.  Think of Monet, Renoir and the other Impressionists working together – bringing out the best in each other.

We break down “Curiosity” into multiple parts – be a life-long learner, (respect and) learn from everyone, learn from failure, and learn from the experiences of others.

As the author of the article points out, it is also interesting what this predictive tool leaves out.  The most glaring is “ethics”.   I know a company where the highest level executives most likely would have scored well on all six traits of this predictive tool, but many of them ended up costing the company billions of dollars in market cap and spending time in jail.  If I were a hiring company, I would want to measure ethical traits.

As is the problem with many predictive performance tools, they attempt to simplify in a clumsy way.  People are more complex than 4, 6, or 100 traits.  The real challenge isn’t to identify traits that identify high-potential.  The more impactful challenge is to define success.  


Onward and upward,



Happy Ears

By: Anthony McCarley

When a sales person hears what he/she wants to hear it is called “Happy Ears”.  If the prospect says to the sales person that he/she “likes your solution” and sales person reports back to the boss that “the prospect is going to buy from us” the sales person has “Happy Ears”.  They heard what they wanted to hear.  The prospect did not say he was going to buy the solution.  The prospect didn’t say that the solution solves his problem.  The prospect may even like someone else’s solution better.  The prospect simply said something polite – “I like your solution”.   Happy Ears mess up sales forecasts.  Happy Ears waste time.  Happy Ears don’t increase sales… or make anyone happy in the long run.  Listening with Happy Ears is dangerous.  Asking precise questions - and listening with precision – lead to real problem solving and better results.   A good sales person will always ask the hard questions; especially the questions they are most afraid of.  And then listen critically.  Only then will they deal in reality.  

(This applies to dealing with your children, partner, co-workers… and politicians as well.)



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