Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Creating Exceptional Workplaces and Extraordinary Results
Roberta Matuson's Blog

Turning Failures Into Successes

overnight successTomorrow, I will be launching my first virtual session of Move Up/Manage Right. I never would have considered doing this, had I not failed in my attempt to cross the Canadian border and deliver a live session of this program. That whole ordeal is something for another post. For now, let’s focus on how I was able to turn what could have been a huge failure into success.

After being denied access into Canada, I was left with a room full of students waiting for my arrival. Fortunately, a colleague was presenting another program at the same hotel and was able to set up her laptop so that I could present virtually. I had never facilitated a training program virtually and had no idea how this was going to go. All I knew was that I had no choice but to give it my all. The two day virtual program turned out to be a huge success! Here’s some lessons learned:

Your better at doing things than you think. I’ll be the first to admit that technology for me is a double-edge sword. I try to embrace new technology, as I find the potential exciting, yet I do so with one hand on my cell phone waiting to call the troops in for help. We certainly had some blips during our two-day session, due to poor Wifi in the hotel meeting room where the class was in attendance, but by the end, we took the situation and used it as a case-study on what to do as a leader when the unexpected occurs. This session wound up being one of our highest rate programs. I guess I’m better at using technology than I think. I also learned that providing people high levels of value is much more important than trying to dazzle them in the classroom.

No one expects perfection. As a consultant, you always want to give your clients your best work. It took me a while to figure this out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your clients expect perfection. Things happen. It’s how you recover that matters most. We thought some people would be demanding refunds or choosing not to return the second day because of my travel snafu. In anticipation, we decided to offer everyone downloads to recorded teleconferences of their choice. I also offered participants a complimentary coaching session to ensure they received personal time with me. Much to our surprise, not one person requested an adjustment and everyone returned for day two.

Mistakes can be a great launching platform. A year ago, I was asked to facilitate a virtual training program for Suddenly in Charge. I came up with a million reasons why this would never work. I did so out of fear. Who would want to attend such a program? Don’t you have to connect with people one-on-one in order for them to learn? What happens if the technology fails? Tomorrow, I am letting caution fall to the wind. I’m going to log into the system and connect with participants from all across the country. I know that by the end of our fourth session, they will be better prepared, than they are today, to lead their people. Am I afraid this will fail? Absolutely not and if it does,  I’m certain I can turn that failure into success as well.

I hope you’ll consider joining me virtually or in New Orleans for the next Move Up/Manage Right session.


Posted in Learning and Development, Management

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And The Oscar Goes To…

Depositphotos_Oscar golden trophy_lHonestly, does anyone even care who the Oscar went to last night? As usual, the show was predictable with the exception of Lady Gaga, who brought the house down with her Julie Andrews tribute.

Predictable is a word that describes a lot of leaders these days. The executive, who permits some members of his team to show up late daily, because he  hates conflict. The manager, who hasn’t turned in a performance review on time since she was promoted, is consistently late with her reviews even though her boss has discussed this with her. The leader, who churns employees faster than HR can replace them, is still in place. These same leaders are touted as star employees, in spite of their lackluster performance. How can this be?

The answer can be summed up in one word—politics. If you watch closely, months before the award show the nominees can be seen campaigning for that golden statue. They are doing the late show circuit, as well as showing their faces on YouTube. The same thing happens in organizations—campaigning that is. Savvy workers know who in the organization has the power to make them a star and they play the game as seamlessly as those Oscar contenders. If you want to compete for the trophy, (and the cash that comes along with it) then you must take matters into your own hands. Here’s how.

Be memorable. Most of last night’s nominees gave memorable performances, which will be talked about for years to come.  You need to do the same. Do your work so well that others can’t help but notice how great you are.

Sing loudly. Lady Gaga held nothing back in last night’s performance. You can’t afford to hold back either. You have to sing your own praises loudly to be heard in a sea of cubicles. I talk about how to do this in my book, Suddenly in Charge.

Be different. I’ll admit that I didn’t care for the movie Birdman. However, it was certainly a film that was different than what I’m used to seeing.  The producers  took a huge risk making this movie, but as you can see from last night’s results, this strategy paid off. What risks are you taking in your career? Are you playing it safe so you can have a seat at the table or are you creating your own table?

Last night’s Oscars are now but a faded memory. The slate has been wiped clean. What are you going to do today, to ensure you are a shoo in, when your company nominates their star performers at next year’s company awards ceremony?

Posted in Leadership, Managing Up, Performance Management

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A Day In The Life Of A Paparazzi

IMG_0434If someone would have told me that I would be spending one of my precious mornings in NYC stalking a celebrity, I would have told them they were crazy. However, this is exactly what I did this week on one of the coldest days of the year. I joined the ranks of the Paparazzi in search of Taylor Swift.

I didn’t start my day with the intention of trying out a new career, nor did I intend to become one of those crazy fans who camps outside the door of a well-known celebrity. But sometimes things happen and you have no choice but to go with the flow.

Looking back, I now realize my first mistake was telling my fourteen-year-old daughter that we were staying in the same neighborhood where Taylor Swift resides. Our plans to see some of the better known sites of NYC were quickly tossed aside for Taylor. It’s amazing how much research a teenager will do when the topic is of interest to her. With a flick of an I-Phone, we had a fairly good sense of Taylor’s whereabouts as well as her NYC address. Apparently our idea to visit Taylor’s flat wasn’t all that novel, as there were other teenagers standing their with their equally crazy moms.

It wasn’t long before Taylor’s security detail arrived to help pack up the superstar. Right behind them, was the paparazzi, who seem to travel in packs. You think you know exactly what someone’s job is, but you really don’t until you do it. I spent two hours standing in the freezing cold weather getting to know one of the photographers, who was a full-time fire fighter and a part-time celeb chaser. He warned me that we might be standing there for hours (a thought that I did not find comforting) and that there were no guarantees we’d actually see our celeb. He shared stories of leaving the job site for a restroom break or to grab lunch, only to find out that his target had departed while he was away. All the more reason for me to stay in place, even if it meant frostbite.

I was three hours into my new career and fantasizing about joining the pack on a full-time basis when the news arrived. Ms. Swift had indeed been in her apartment, only she was no longer there. She slipped out the back door just about the time I was capturing pictures of her luggage. I almost  cried, but my tear ducts were frozen. I turned around to ask my new paparazzi friend how much a picture of Taylor’s luggage might command on the open market, only to find that he had moved on. He was either on his way to the airport in search of Taylor or on route to the restroom. As for me, my stalking days are behind me. That is until this summer when Taylor tours in New England and returns to her home in Rhode Island.

I must say, I now have a heck of a lot more respect for the paparazzi now that I’ve walked in their shoes. Trying on the job of someone else should be a required exercise in every organization.

Posted in Careers

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Why A Coach Might Be Exactly What You Need

Depositphotos_Coach_lCoaching has come a long way since the days when companies used an outside resource to help fix toxic behavior at the top of the organization. Today, coaches are widely used across all levels of the organization to help people accelerate their development and improve their performance as leaders. Heck, even quarterback superstar Tom Brady has a coach or two! A great coach can help you make the most of your natural abilities and find ways to work around your weaknesses. So why would you even think of passing up this wonderful opportunity to up your game?

You may be thinking my company will never provide me with a coach. For some that may be true. However for many, coaches are available for the asking. Here’s what you should be looking for when selecting a coach to help dramatically boost your performance.

  1. Seek someone who has been there. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane with someone who has never skydived. So why would you hire a coach who has never done what you are seeking to do? When searching for a coach, find someone who has achieved the level of success you are aiming for.
  2. Forget the certifications. Coaching is like the big bad West. There is no widely accepted certification granting organization in the field of coaching, although some may argue they are indeed the only ones who can deem people coaches. While I applaud people’s efforts to be effective coaches by attending certification programs, I would not turn someone away who has worked directly with clients to improve their conditions, simply because they didn’t have initials after their name.
  3. Chemistry-At the end of the day, it comes down to fit. If you watch Dancing with The Stars, you know what I mean. Some stars perform at a higher level when their teacher is a taskmaster, while others need a more subtle approach. You know yourself best. Find a coach who will take you out of your comfort zone and will make you the best you can be.
  4. Focus on the quality; not the price-We can get to the same destination in a four-cylinder car, yet some of us choose to drive a high-performance vehicle that will get us there faster. Of course there is a cost to making this choice. Like cars, coaches come in a variety of models. Know what you’re getting and be sure you’re not sacrificing speed for cost.

To learn more about coaching and my programs, please contact me at

Posted in Coaching

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Job Searches Are Up As Snow Falls Down

Winter WeatherIt’s been a tough winter here in New England. Over the past several weeks we’ve been blessed with three major snow falls. Accumulation on the ground, as of this writing, appears to be about three feet. More on the way.

I’m hunkering down and catching up on my writing. However, it appears  I’m not the only one taking advantage of this time to move my New Years resolutions forward. Job site Monster just released a report on the impact these winter storms are having on businesses. It turns out that while most companies shut down in the North East last week for Winter Storm Juno, many of us were still thinking about work — just not our current jobs. According to search data from Monster, in cities where forecasters predicted several feet of snow — but the storm ultimately delivered inches or less — people used the unexpected day off from work to look for a new job.

The report from Monster revealed that searches for jobs in New York City, which received less than 10 inches of snow, were up 40% over the previous Tuesday. In Philadelphia, where they expected a foot of snow and received just a dusting in some areas, job searches were up 45%. And nearby to New York City, in White Plains, job searches spiked by 72 percent week-over-week. That’s a lot of looking! I expect we’ll receive a slew of new job announcements in three month’s time.

As a leader you know you won’t be able to hang on to everyone forever. In fact, you probably have some people on your team who you hope will go sooner, rather than later. (We’ll save that issue for another post.) However, there are things you can do right now to convince people that it’s better in your employ than elsewhere.

Start with you. Your job as a leader is to make sure your people have opportunities to develop and grow. When is the last time you tapped one of your high potentials or new managers on the shoulder and suggested he or she attend a program that will improve their skills? Some of you may be thinking that I don’t have the budget to send them offsite or I can’t commit the time. In less than two weeks, I will be facilitating a Move Up/Manage Right virtual program for leaders interested in dramatically boosting their leadership skills. The price is right, as is the location. Consider registering several of your people today, before they take a day off this week to go interview with one of the companies they’ve been speaking with on their snow day off.

Posted in Leadership, Learning and Development, Management, Retention, Suddenly In Charge, Talent Acquisition and Retention, Talent Maximization

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Ground Hog Day All Year Long

Depositphotos_Ground Hog_lToday is Ground Hog Day, although it may feel like it’s Ground Hog Day all year long in your organization. Every day, your staff is marching into work and doing the same things they were doing yesterday. After a while, the team goes on auto-pilot. Sound familiar?

How will you get ahead if you don’t move forward? And here’s the thing. If you are not moving ahead, you are falling behind. Another company will surpass your organization in terms of quality, product offerings and service. How else can you explain why some organizations that most of us have never heard of just a few years ago, are now the ones to beat? Speaking of “beat.” Take the brand “Beats.” Bose used to own the music headset market. Then came along Dr. Dre and his Beats. I’m still sporting my Bose Noise Cancellation Headsets while all the cool people are now wearing Beats. You can bet that I’ll be checking out this brand the next time I’m in the market for new headsets. In the mean time, I’ll have to borrow my fourteen-year old daughter’s pair when I want to look cool.

Here are some tips to get you moving:

Remove the words, “We tried that already,” from your vocabulary. Nothing shuts down new ideas quicker than someone who makes it very clear that your ideas don’t matter. Yes, maybe you did try it and it didn’t work the first time around. But things change. At the time, the timing may not have been right, so why not give this further consideration?

Shake things up. Try hiring people who don’t exactly fit the old mold and see what happens. I’m betting they will bring new perspectives and ideas that are simply too good to resist.

Reward failures as well as wins. Many a company (thing 3M) developed their most successful products based on failures. Celebrate failures as well as wins.

Encourage employee turnover-Some companies run their businesses as if they were the Hotel California. You arrive and somehow never leave. No employee turnover or extremely low employee turnover means that you are breathing your own exhaust. Most likely you’ve got people who have overstayed their welcome. Help them pack their backs and make room for new energy and ideas.

Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most beloved and furry seasonal prognosticator, saw his shadow this morning (despite overcast skies), portending six more weeks of winter. There is not much we can do about it at this point. Luckily the same is not true for you unless of course you decide to do what you’ve been doing all along.

Sign up today for my newsletter, The Talent Maximizer for additional tips on how to create dramatic growth and market leadership.

Posted in Creating Exceptional Work Places

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Are You Making A Blizzard Out Of Nothing?

Cute little girl playing with snowAs I write this, I’m one of the many survivors of what was supposed to be a blizzard in my part of the state. Like my neighbors, I fretted about what was to be and finally put my butt in gear (and my car on the road) in order to ensure we had provisions in the house. Doing so, allowed me to rest easily knowing that we could survive long-term if we had to. Well, we did have a storm indeed, but not of epic proportions.

It’s funny how we always seem to anticipate the worst, and then find ourselves wondering why we allowed ourselves to get worked up over things that really weren’t all that bad. I see this a lot in management. Leaders failing to take action because they believe that the task on hand is much larger than it is. This is especially true when it comes to managing the performance of others. Managers simply choosing to ignore poor performance because they hope it will go away. It rarely does.

Earlier in the day, I facilitated a sold out webinar on How to Manage High Maintenance Employees. It seems high maintenance employees are becoming the norm in organizations. I believe this is so because their managers fail to call these people on their behavior when they first note that something isn’t right. Here’s what I told today’s participants, which I believe will be helpful for you. Most people don’t intentionally set out to be difficult at work, although at times you may think they do. Sometimes an honest conversation is all that is needed to bring these people back in the fold.

Think about this the next time you forecast an explosive conversation with someone, who possibly has no idea you are unhappy with his or her performance. Chances are, the blizzard you’ve conjured up in your mind is something that will turn out to be only a minor inconvenience.

Posted in Performance Management

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Employee Turnover And The Blame Game

businessman hiding face not my faultEmployee turnover is on the rise. Here’s some of the best excuses as to why this is so.  I call this the Blame Game.

  1. It was simply a bad batch of new hires – If only this were true. Could it be possible that something has changed in your organization? Have the needs of the organization changed but the hiring profile has stayed the same? Have you stopped holding managers accountable for their hiring decisions? Are you failing to provide interviewing training for newly promoted or hiring managers?
  2. The employees we hired were the best of the bunch – If that is truly the case, it’s time to begin thinking about ways to increase applicant flow so you have more choices. There are a number of things that can be done regardless of budget. The solution may be as simple as asking your employees for referrals. Or perhaps your needs require a more strategic approach.
  3. If they stay for a year we will have gotten our money’s worth – Would your stakeholders agree if they knew how much the company is losing whenever an employee walks out the door? Begin by quantifying the cost of replacing an employee when someone leaves your organization. You can do so by using my complimentary Employee Turnover Calculator. Do you still believe you have gotten your money’s worth?
  4. This is the best we can hire given our pay ranges – Granted, money is usually not the main reason employees leave their jobs. However, let’s be real. People want to be adequately compensated for their efforts. If employees are continually leaving your firm for more money, then it’s time to look at reallocating resources. You can probably survive if you don’t replace the three-year old copy machine in the mail room with a model that costs significantly more. Take the money saved and reallocate it to your merit budget.
  5. These are only entry-level positions, so who cares? Your customers care, so maybe you should as well. Companies spare no expenses when it comes to hiring their executives, yet so little is invested when hiring front line people like cashiers, bank tellers, and receptionists. Clients communicate with these people more often than with the CFO. In many cases, these employees are the only people customers interact with. Perhaps it’s time to rethink regarding the importance of your entry-level personnel.
  6. Our turnover has always been high – Congratulations for maintaining your position! Maybe it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to take home the award for high turnover. Right now you’ve got a bunch of employees in your organization who are thinking about leaving. If you want to keep these people, you must find the root causes of their dissatisfaction. The best way to do so is to ask employees why they are considering leaving. It’s no secret that employees will respond more honestly when this is done by an outside firm, so don’t even think about attempting this on your own.
  7. Even though employee turnover at our company is 40% we are still below the industry average – Would you be so accepting if this year’s revenues were down by 40%, even if it were a little better than the industry average? Of course not. You’d be bringing in teams of people to get you out of this tailspin. You can begin to pull yourself away from the pack by paying attention to factors, like employee fit and well-trained managers, which are key contributors to employee retention. Don’t know how to approach this? Learn how or ask a trusted advisor.
  8. If it doesn’t work out, we can always replace these people – Yes, but at what cost? Will your most valued clients hang around while you replace their main contact person for the third time this year? Do you have the resources to source for new candidates or have these people left as well? Consistency is key for most organizations and it’s impossible to retain if your workforce is in a constant state of change.
  9. We don’t have the staff to address this issue right now – You cannot afford to wait. You don’t have to go this alone. Bring in an expert who can design a strategy and implement a program that will help you prevent this situation from happening time and time again.
  10. It’s no big deal – If this were not a big deal, you wouldn’t have finished reading this article. This problem can be fixed if you are open to making changes. What do you have to lose?

It’s easy to place blame for employee turnover on all of these factors. However, this approach doesn’t position you well to win the game on customer satisfaction, employee retention, and increased profitability. It’s your move.


Posted in Employee Turnover, Leadership, Retention, Talent Acquisition and Retention, Talent Maximization, Thought Leadership

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Purposelful Hiring: How To Attract Millennials To Your Workplace

Purpose Green Road SignDeloitte just released its fourth annual Millennial Survey and the findings suggest what Millennials (and me) have known all along. Employers are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to hiring. That may very well explain why businesses are having an extremely difficult time attracting and hiring talent. Business leaders need to take a step back and reset the way they go about doing business if they are to acquire the talent needed to fuel business growth. Here’s what purposeful hiring looks like.

Focus On People and Purpose. Today’s workers (especially Millennials) want to be part of something bigger than profit making. Millennials want to work for organizations with purpose. For six in 10 Millennials, a “sense of purpose,” is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte Global, sums this up best. “The message is clear: when looking at their career goals, today’s Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and how it contributes to society as they are in its products and profits. He goes on to say,  “These findings should be viewed as a wake-up call to the business community.”

I’ve helped a number of organizations dramatically improve their ability to pull top talent in by making a few minor adjustments. We begin by identifying how the world is better as a result of their company being in business. We then take this information and look at ways to convey our message, both internally and externally, so that the organization is better able to attract and retain the right people. We then work with the hiring managers to ensure the conversations they are having with perspective employees accurately reflects the partnership we are attempting to achieve. The word partnership is important here, as today’s workers want to be viewed as a business partner and not just merely an employee who is easily replaceable.

Career Development-More Than a Training Program. I’m a huge fan of Millennials, as most are extremely bright. They recognize (as do I) that career development is so much more than a one-day training program. Those companies who move away from the one-size-fits-all career development models they are using will come out as winners.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for training, but it’s not the only option nor is it the best option all of the time. I  believe that career development is a two-way street. It’s not simply something you do to an employee. Employees must also participate and guide their own careers. In fact, they should be driving the bus on this. Don’t be afraid to provide development in some unconventional ways. For example, I  facilitate round-tables for groups of leaders who are in similar places in their careers. This kind of development demonstrates to the employee that the organization is very invested in the partnership and allows the employee to grow at his or her own pace.

Emphasizing what your organization is doing around career development will help you attract Millennials. If you don’t have anything to say about this, start making changes so your company is better aligned with the wants and needs of the today’s workforce.

Revisit The Type of Leaders You Are Promoting or Hiring. It’s no secret that people work for their bosses. It’s also one of the top reasons they accept a job offer and why they leave companies. This means that if you are going to be successful at hiring Millennials, you’ll need to know what they are seeking from their leaders. According to the Deloitte study, today’s Millennials place less value on visible (19 percent), well-networked (17 percent), and technically-skilled (17 percent) leaders. Instead, they define true leaders as strategic thinkers (39 percent), inspirational (37 percent), personable (34 percent) and visionary (31 percent). How do your leaders rank when it comes to what today’s candidates and employees are looking?

Take a closer look at your current approach to hiring. Most likely the questions and process you are using will no longer yield the results you are seeking. Especially if you believe like I do, that a large number of organizations don’t have the type of leaders in place that Millennials are seeking. I’ve designed and implemented enough programs on hiring to know that your hires are only as good as your hiring process and those responsible for making hiring decisions. Mis-hires happen more often then they should and can be quite costly. Here’s a free tool you can use to determine how costly this mistake can really be for your organization.

If you serious about staffing your organization with the best, then take the money you are using to create more perks at work and invest it in purposeful hiring. In return, you’ll have more time to focus on your products and profits.

Posted in Careers, Coaching, Creating Exceptional Work Places, Customer satisfaction, Employee Engagement, Hiring and Recruitment, Leadership, Management, Millennials, Talent Acquisition and Retention, Talent Maximization, Thought Leadership, Workplace

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The Real Truth About Employee Engagement

Disengaged EmployeeEvery company I know is working towards improving employee engagement, yet engagement is at an all time low. Why? Because employee engagement programs don’t work. You cannot buy your way into engagement, although many companies try. Nor can you bully people into getting on board the engagement train. Engagement must grow organically, from the inside out—One employee at a time. Here’s where to begin.

Hire happy people. We all know people, who quite frankly are miserable. No matter what happens, they still retain their victim mentality. Usually we wind up looking for ways to distance ourselves from them. Easier said than done, especially if they reside in our workplace. Even worse, if they live in a cubicle that is positioned next to ours.

A company cannot turn an unhappy person into a happy productive worker, unless they are willing to spend tons of time and money on therapy. And even in these situation, there are no guarantees. I remember being on the phone with a CEO who had to abruptly end our call. You see, he was running late for a therapy session with one of his employees. I kid you not. He actually thought he could save one of his employees by attending what turned out to be marriage counseling sessions. I suspect this relationship ended in divorce, although I don’t know this for sure.

Hire people who are willing to do the work. Everyone comes to the workplace with baggage. However, few are willing to throw the baggage overboard so they can travel lightly. I see tons of employees walking around with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Some are martyrs, while others simply haven’t found the locker storage room where they can temporarily or permanently unload their luggage.

Employee engagement comes from within. It happens when an employee is willing to take responsibility for how he or she shows up every day. This takes a willingness to look inside oneself and to be truthful. Something that seems difficult for many. For example, asking yourself if the job you spent years preparing for is really making you happy can be quite frightening. What if the answer is no and you still have years left to pay off your student loans? Or worse yet, what if you have to tell a loved one that you can no longer go to work every day pretending to be fully present at work?

Make it okay for your people to come to you for a reassignment. Clear the way so they can be with you because they want to be. Not because they have no other choice.

Begin engagement with action; not more surveys. Companies are spending billions conducting additional employee engagement surveys to hear what they already know. Do not send out another survey until you have taken action (or communicated to your people that you won’t be making changes) on every item that scored a “needs improvement.” Instead, funnel this money into fixing what needs to be repaired. Do this now.

Grow engagement from the bottom; not from the top. Right now, scores of executives and their teams are spending countless hours plotting on how to best engage those who are closest to the customer. Yet few bother to ask these people for suggestions on what can be done to increase employee commitment and productivity. Years ago, I spearheaded  the design and implementation of a Gain-Sharing program where employees at all levels of the organization were asked to participate and make recommendations for changes in the business that would lead to growth. They then shared in the financial gains that resulted for their ideas. Some of the best suggestions came from the least formally educated people in the organizations. These ideas were quickly embraced, since they came from the very people who were responsible for implementation.

People aren’t engaged by programs. They are engaged by people. Yes, it’s that simple. Now go out there and start working on becoming an inspirational leader and start connecting with your people.





Posted in Employee Engagement, Leadership, Management

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