It’s Not Fair!

Dear Dr. Jim,
Why did my colleague, who has similar background and experience as I do, get promoted instead of me?
– Richard*

Hi Richard,

This is a very complicated question.

But, there are a couple of things to think about:

1. Some people seem to have a knack of connecting with the right people, of doing the right things within the organization so they get noticed, or creating a perception that they have leadership capabilities or need to be promoted to the next level.

People perceive you in a certain way, and some people will perceive you as having leadership capabilities and others as not.

2. One of the important things here is to be willing and able to present yourself in a way that you are seen (as much as possible), understood (as much as possible), and recognized (as much as possible and appropriate).

3. If you really are interested in getting promoted, then the thing to do is to present yourself in a way that you are heard. One of the best ways of doing this is to regularly connect with your Next-Level Manager (NLM). Your NLM is probably the most important person in your career because they see things going on with you. Ensure you are well connected with them; don’t wait for your NLM to make the move.

It’s kind of a “just enough” thing. We want to put ourselves out there so that we’re seen, but not seen as pushy. So be wise, be strategic about how you’re presenting yourself, and ask others for feedback about your blind spots and how you come across.

Hopefully that’s helpful!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Make the Unknown Known

Dear Dr. Jim,
How do I prepare my team for the unknown?
– Valeria*

Hi Valeria,

This comes up a lot–when you’re trying to change the organization, or you’re trying to change a process, or when starting a new project.

Here’s one of the things people have recommended to me:

Get everybody involved using post-it notes (or a similar virtual tool), and have them just throw out all the things that could go wrong, so that people have a voice, and in a way it’s preparation for what might happen.

When you get a lot of people involved, they may come up with items that you hadn’t thought about, and now you’ll be prepared for it, if it does come up.

This tactic also creates space for the pessimists in the group to offer their input and, at the same time, the optimists are challenged to think about things that might go wrong. It’s a great conversation starter and everybody gets a chance to participate in the process! After you’ve done this, the next step is to prioritize the potential challenges in terms of their impact.

As the project is going along, whether it be a change project, or just a regular project, stop every once in a while, take a look at what’s going on, i.e., what’s working well, what needs improvement, etc. and take a look at your list–you might add to it, or you might realize: “Oh we’ve covered that, we thought that might happen, and we’ve actually handled that really well”. Sometimes discussing negative potentials is actually a way of preventing them.

Hopefully that’s helpful. Go for change!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Hybrid Hype

Dear Dr. Jim,

How do I know if my hybrid team is succeeding?

– Mika* 


Hi Mika,

First of all, you and your team need to have a clear agreement as to what “hybrid success” looks like. How do we know? What are our goals? What kind of experience do we want to be having? You need to set that so everybody’s really clear. And, it may be different for some people.

Once a week, I would highly recommend that you get together with your team, for no longer than 15 minutes and go through what we, at Vivo Team, call the D.O.S.E.—a direct, ongoing, swift, encounter. One at a time, each person shares what they’re working on. The second piece, after you’ve gone around and everyone has shared, is a stuck point. What’s a stuck point that each person has? And the final piece is a ‘win’. This is designed to get in touch and better connected with one another.

Now, another way of doing it is in a one-to-one. In no longer than 10-15 minutes per person, the leader connects with each team member and goes through:

  1. What’s working well
  2. What needs improvement

It’s a quick check-in.

Quarterly, I would recommend that you have some kind of an assessment. For example, we have the Vital Statistics Report™ (VSR™). I’d recommend that quarterly or semi-annually, your team do a VSR™. So in that VSR™, you get an idea of how that team is functioning in six key areas. In the second area, there’s an element called the Leader Behavior Gap, and that will give you an indication of how you perceive your behaviors as a leader, and how your team perceives your behaviors as a leader. And, if there’s any gap(s) it opens up a conversation.

Hope that’s helpful.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Business Finance – No Margin, No Mission

by Dr. Jim Sellner

A friend of mine, Neville Joffe, tells the following story as he was frustrated that his employees did not understand that a five-million-dollar business (revenue) does NOT make five million dollars (profit). 

Weirdly, many people do not understand this because they know their gross salary is not their take-home number.


Neville said his employees were skilled in the manufacturing process – not in finance, so he started teaching small groups of people why and how to improve profitability. Which he hoped they would understand would increase their job security as well as their pay.

He was not being effective, they were not getting it.

He then tried something outrageous. 

He withdrew $1,000 in small bills, crumpled them up, stuffed them into a bag.

He called a town hall meeting.

Standing in front of them he dumped the crumpled bills onto a table. 

“This is called revenue.”

Then, he placed a handful of cash in a bucket labeled “wages.” 

Continuing the exercise with different buckets labeled

“rent,” “maintenance,” “insurance,” = overhead or fixed costs, must be paid regularly.

Variable costs, “materials” etc. = cost to provide services or produce products.

He then started tearing up $20 bills.** and throwing them into a bucket called “waste”, lost tools, damaged equipment, project overruns, re-dos

People were stunned into silence when he tore up the bills.

“Why are you so surprised?” he asked. “You do this every day, but

you just don’t see it.”


At the end of the demonstration, some cash remained on the table.

He said, “What’s left lying on the table is called profit.” 

Neville shifted some of the remaining cash towards the crowd and said, 

“This is for all of you for your hard work this year. 

The remainder is for the owners/shareholders in return for all the financial risk they

take to support this business.” 

The team was stunned.

They finally understood the message he was trying to deliver. 

As a result of this eye-opening experience followed up with more information

key financial metrics dramatically improved.

Inventory levels decreased, accounts receivables were collected faster because . . . 

we delivered what we promised, low margin products were eliminated, people stopped saying “yes” to every change to a project, because they understood the principle of contribution margin, unprofitable customers were let go, discounting and “special offers” decreased.

Over time, having created a culture of financial accountability

with the right metrics, common language, and accountability, combined with wage increases and bonuses, the entire landscape of the business changed. 

Equally important people were engaged and committed to the sustainability of the business for themselves.

In a nutshell – NO MARGIN, NO MISSION

** No real bills were harmed in this experiment.

Accountable Hypocrites

Dear Dr. Jim,

My manager can be hypocritical. What can I do to hold them accountable?

– Gurjot*


Hi Gurjot*,

This is a difficult issue. There are a couple of things going on.

I’m going to assume that what you mean is that your manager doesn’t follow through and do what they say they’re going to do, or they ask you to do things and they don’t model it. This could be a big issue because a lot of managers are very busy—they get overloaded and then they just don’t follow through on things.

Another reason may be that this manager is not very competent in what they do. But the question that you have that is most poignant is: how do I hold them accountable?

Simply, you can’t! What you want to do is engage with them in a way that they can help you get what you need.

So one of the things I recommend is that you put it in the form of: “I need some help…” You may be very clear about what you need to do, but you’re asking for help and opening up the possibility that your manager is going to respond in a helpful way.

Another way of opening up is to say: “I’m really stuck and I’m not sure what to do based on what I heard your instructions for this to be”. It’s your responsibility, and I know this is very hard, but it’s your responsibility to stay as focused as you can, to stay specific about what you need, and what you want.

This is a very difficult situation. Keep at it. And, if it’s not working, then you might want to talk to a colleague or another manager. Be proactive.

In emotional intelligence, it’s called leader assertiveness and it’s really important for us to be assertive (not aggressive) in terms of getting what we want.

I hope that’s helpful.

Thank you for the question—that’s a great one!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Developing Leaders

Dear Dr. Jim,
I promoted our communications coordinator to manager. She is skilled and experienced, but her direct reports are still coming to me instead of her. How do I help her assert herself?
– Will*


Hi Will,

Your statement: “she is skilled and experienced”—yes, skilled and experienced in communications, as a coordinator, but not skilled and experienced as a leader or manager (yet).

So, your job is to help her learn how to become a better manager. If she’s lacking development, she’s going to become what we call an “accidental leader”, and she’ll likely not succeed in the new role. Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify articles for her to read about leadership and management.
  2. Initiate/establish weekly meetings with her to talk about (1) what’s going well in her new job and responsibilities, (2) what needs improvement, and (3) what might be missing.
  3. Finally, encourage her!

The other thing that’s really important—if her direct reports keep coming to you, direct them back to her. (I’m assuming you’ve been through significant leadership or management training and you know how to do these things.)

If you too are an accidental leader who has been promoted but not developed, that’s a problem. Consider connecting with us!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

K.I.S.S. Your Data

Dr. Jim,
There is so much employee data available now, how do I decide what to focus on?
– Connie*


Hi Connie,
I always always operate on the principal of K.I.S.S. the data: Keep It Simple, Silly! That means, first of all, make sure you really know why you want to collect the data.

Is that data going to be used to improve performance? What is your objective? Will you be able to easily report back to the people you got the data from? Finally, are you willing and able to take that data and show whether there are improvements or not and how that relates to business results or increased engagement?

There is another aspect to consider, and that is data around learning and development, which is our specialty. Some is personal stuff, like how the person operates, what their values are, etc. Then there’s teams. If most of your work is done as a team, it’s really important to have data on how well the team is operating. That’s going to help you increase productivity, effectiveness levels, and the overall satisfaction of people working on the team. If there’s mostly individual work, then you collect data based on that.

Yes, data can be a struggle. Make sure you pare everything down to only the amount that you really need. In a sense, it’s better to have not enough than too much. If you’ve got too much it can be expensive and people won’t pay attention to it. Hopefully that’s helpful!
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Building Remote Culture

Hi Dr. Jim,
What are some more ways to build culture when working remotely besides team meetings?


Hi Sandy.
My definition of culture is the series of behaviors that are going on within a team or within a company. Now, we have the definition of a culture, but then we have the reality in terms of the actual behaviors.

One of the things I would do is ask people to send each other, maybe to a central place everyone can access: In one sentence please describe our culture. Another thing is to ask people every once in a while, during an online meeting or in a chat, to shoot out to the rest of the team members a win they’ve had in the last week. Or what’s a challenge they are having that they would like help with.

It’s the interactions of people sharing and connecting with each other that’s really important.
– Dr. Jim


*names have been changed

Connect Casually

Dear Dr. Jim,
What are some ways I can grow and develop my team virtually? 
– Anil

Hi Anil,

Think about what you were doing before working remotely to grow your team. Go through those elements and see what you can apply virtually.

I would recommend people meet with one another in a less than business-like way maybe once or twice a week to do a check in. At Vivo Team, we call that a D.O.S.E. (a Direct, Ongoing, Swift, Encounter) in which people do a quick check in about what their priorities current are, what problems or stuck points they’re and the impact on the team, as well as a ‘win’ they’ve had in the last seven or ten days and the impact on the team. That helps people stay connected.

I would also encourage people to check in with each other on a casual basis, with those colleagues that they feel close to and actually did connect with when they were in the office – that’s another way. One of the other things to do is to get together once a week or every two weeks and have a presentation on some new thing that you or somebody in the team has recently learned. These ways of staying connected can be really helpful.

There are lots of webinars, for example Vivo Team puts out lots of what we call “Swag Bags” for people to check-in. Watch one of those (videos), they’re only one or two minutes and then stay together after that to have a conversation about what you learned, how you might apply it, etc. It’s all with the intention of staying connected with one another, because what we’re noticing, working with a multitude of teams, is that people generally don’t tend to do the more casual connecting like they did in the office. You can do that virtually, it just takes a little bit more discipline to do on a regular basis.

So there are some tips to try!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Zoom Zombie?

Dear Dr. Jim,
We’ve all heard of Zoom fatigue, but what else should I be aware of or watch out for?
– Marie-Hélène


Hi Marie-Hélène,
During this time of Zoom meetings that seem to be back to back, by the end of the day you’re like a marathon runner who’s run out of gas – you’re struggling and trying to keep your thoughts together.

So that’s one thing: too many meetings too close together. Another thing is going to meetings you shouldn’t be in. You should also be aware of taking time off during the day. Go for a walk. Even 15 minutes can make a big difference.

Now, I want to explain something that goes on when you start getting Zoom fatigue, and this research is from Dr. Travis Bradberry (see diagram in video):

  • Boredom/Depression: When we’re down here, we’re kind of bored, depressed, and wondering “What am I doing?” We hear this from little kids: “I’m bored, Mom,” because there’s not much going on and there’s a low stress level.
  • Increased Attention/Interest: What happens as you start performing more and there’s a little bit more stress, you have increased attention and interest, and that’s why it’s really important to be doing things that are of interest to you because you can handle a fair bit of stress (which is part of life) and do well in terms of what you need to do at a certain level.
  • Optimal Performance: Then you get up to this optimal performance level, and that’s where we’re at our best. It depends on:
    • Skills
    • Motivation
    • Surroundings
    • Organizational impact (e.g., too many demands, not enough demands, unclear demands, etc.)
  • Strong Anxiety: What begins to happen when our stress levels get higher, but the demands are still there, people start feeling strong anxiety and then performance starts going down.
  • Complete Meltdown: After which you can get to an awful place of complete meltdown, where you just can’t function anymore.

One of the cues to look out for when you’re working is whether you can still have clear thoughts and move through your priorities that you have set. If you find yourself staring at the screen, unable to maintain concentration, you’re getting into anxiety area, and that, on a long term basis is very self-destructive to your health.

Take care of yourself.  Thank you.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed