Thursday, April 28, 2016



- Friend's quite understandable reaction to my Brussels sprouts 6:00AM breakfast.

I recently made the commitment to Brussels sprouts each morning, as part of my return to a low-carb lifestyle. I can't think of any word more appropriate than commitment, as it implies not only follow-through with a difficult task - yet also some type of sacrifice. 

Inviting a friend into my kitchen recently in the very early hours of the day to share and savor my new best dish of boiled Brussels sprouts, I received a very understandable one word reply: yuck.

There's no getting around it, Brussels sprouts are just nasty. And if you think otherwise, I'm not sure I'd like you very much. But I would definitely love you.

This challenging breakfast is now replacing my recent waking up to a large bowl of Fruit Loops, half a dozen Mallomars, and a can of Pepsi. Not Diet Pepsi, I might add, but real PEPSI. No yuck there! It was an amazingly delicious way to start the day. And I packed on the pounds again, had to go out and buy larger pants, and yet worse than that, I needed naps at lunchtime everyday to recover from the sugar spikes. Am I oversharing? I guess the bottom line is that I've decided to trade short-term yuck for long-term yum - that of having a better looking and much healthier body.

I see this same reaction on some estates I've been invited into over the years to help them review their staff issues. Everyone knows that a commitment to a structured performance management system of establishing a vision, mission, and team values, establishing standards through a well-written and often referred to employee handbook, weekly staff meetings held with the staff and not just at the staff, along with the continuous and very frequent performance coaching reviews with each and every team member, is the right thing to do. And - the reaction was sometimes that of - yuck.  

The more delicious menu for those estates was for staff members to empower their 
own standards and behaviors, yet the missing piece of the puzzle was always the employers' long-term estate health: that which could have come from a well-kept and efficient estate, one which had a staff committed to being efficient through a first and foremost focus on the needs of the employer.  But commitments to being efficient, of course, often take a lot of work, require some real sacrifice of short-term pleasures, and are just never as fun as eating Mallomars. 

But... management by Mallomars is a decision - and we're all mature and intelligent enough people to know that no decisions are inherently good or bad; they are simply actions which are traded for a consequence. Simple.

All decisions are simply based on our willingness to trade today's reality for what could be tomorrow's. 

That amazingly delicious breakfast of Fruit Loops, Mallomars, and Pepsi created one reality, while a bowl of Brussels sprouts, other healthy food choices at 6AM and throughout the day - along with having returned back into swimming and other exercises - will now create another.

On your estate, you really can create any reality that you want. 

The only question is: which reality will you and the estate owner choose to create?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When Horseshoes Aren't Enough

Organizations that lead with a human voice don't put people on Performance Improvement Plans.  -  Liz Ryan, Forbes

They say that almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and that's the best metaphor I could think of when reading Liz Ryan's article today in Forbes, The Truth About Performance Improvement Plans, equally perplexed the article was highlighted in the weekly circular of International Society for Performance Improvement, which is well known to profess the analytical nature of performance in any organizational setting by examining first all three components: the work, the work environment, and the worker.

Liz goes for two out of three, focusing on the work and work environment and giving the worker a free pass, which, not surprisingly, is popular among many managers of all stripes. Her article has some good, however, in that it encourages one to not so quickly demonize the worker when poor performance becomes evident. As these things may happen, though, substandard workers are still not what the team needs, despite how humanistic both management and workplaces have shifted to in recent decades. 

The incomplete assessment can be seen clearly on many household domestic staff teams, where the estate manager turns out to be the revolving door position as the result of a culture of placing undue emphasis, as Liz would have it, on the work environment, and not enough on the accountability and initiative of the workers in question which the EM is responsible for yet often has little authority. Discarding the idea of a Performance Improvement Plan IMHO isn't the right move, yet instead setting the PIP as a 360-degree exercise, one which brings everyone - not simply the managers' shortcomings - into play. This is where Liz almost gets it, and I swear I could hear the clang of a horseshoe bouncing off the metal stake and skip-landing in the dry, dusty brown dirt a few inches away as I read her entertaining story.

The very word "Plan," however, has always been bothersome to me, as it seeks to get all jet engines fired up for performance only when a deficiency occurs... yet that could be avoided by trading the mindset of blame and repair for that of a total, overarching culture of performance improvement at all times. Simply keeping the status quo through mandatory and minimal efforts training and evaluation, as many organizations strapped for resources of time and money (or just plain, old-fashioned effort) are keen on doing, will only keep the similarly broken poor performance in play.

A culture of learning, of improving performance at all times, however, could be the minimum requirement in any organization, including small domestic household teams, and if the family office and principals are on board and supporting such continuous growth, they'll never be a need for a "Plan" again, with the attendant issues with spiraling failure and firings they often bring with them.

Performance Improvement Plans, though, are not they and of themselves the un-human or inhumane voices many have claimed them to be; they are simply one evaluation of the total picture responsible for performance; and how - not just if - they are spoken is the real issue and worthy of improvement in any workplace culture: that of holding work, work environment, and the worker accountable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Of Butlers and Hot Dog Eating Champions

I couldn't help contemplating the contrast between the spirit of this approach and that of other areas of our world, where people become defensive when weaknesses are pointed out, and the status-quo is all too often defended.  - Matthew Syed

As I'm guilty of doing, you may think of a hot-dog eating champion with an image in your mind of a large person who eats similar foods as the normal course of his diet, which then naturally would seem to make them a talent for eating large amounts of food and winning the contest.

And as I've done, you may also think of those providing really great, efficient service in a home with an image in your mind of someone who's been at their job for a number of years, someone who's been through the same weekly routines for so long that they're just naturally the best.

But what if both of these assumptions could be not only unfair stereotypes to both those persons who did and also those persons who didn't fit the stereotype - but also if the idea of years of practice was just plain overrated in the first place?

The hot dog world champion unfair stereotype...
What if becoming great at something wasn't necessarily how many years that someone's be at it, but if what they've  done has been that of highly focused attention - with the goal of looking for the very smallest of their errors during any of their tasks and then correcting them immediately and moving forward to locating the next error, then correction, etc., thus improving their talent with equally small, incremental advances?

And what if those small, incremental advances then added up over a relatively small amount of time, to the real champion?

Fair to say I don't have an interesting story to tell about Butlers becoming champions of their performance by focusing on finding and correcting small errors throughout the day -- but I think it could work. I think that the best staff training and learning possibly does not come from the ubiquitous 1-day industry seminars, nor even the more intense 8-week Butler schools, nor even the larger 10,000 hours of practice which author Malcolm Gladwell has insisted is needed for anyone to be good at just about anything.

I think the best learning and improvement could come from the same mindset which champion hot-dog eater Takeru Kobayashi has demonstrated, that of someone who had never done this before yet decided to approach the process with a highly self-critical approach of the smallest of details and thus advancing his efficiency one second (or hot dog) at a time, making the corrections needed to move forward one little notch, and adding up all improvements... thus winning the real championship: improvement and attainment of excellence based upon real, demonstrated performance instead of simply an arbitrary number of years which is guessed and assumed to create a talent. 

It's usually "three to five years experience" we see regularly on the online job board ads, but what if a truly great domestic worker could be created in just three to five weeks, or even three to five days, by themselves adopting this same mindset, discipline, and concerted effort?  

Takeru's challenge to the traditional measurements of proficiency reminded me immediately of the old saying, "Do you really have ten years of experience, or do you have one year of experience that's been repeated ten times?"  

And if it really does take ten years, or three to five years, or some other totally random selected number of years to become proficient with a skill, how does that explain those who dedicate themselves fully to learning and then become expert within just a few days?

And what if you saw this hot dog contest world champion walking down the street and would never have guessed in a million years by seeing his physique that he's the world record holder for not just hot dogs, but also for several other foods such as pizza and
...and the hot dog world champion 
reality, Takeru Kobayashi
grilled cheese sandwiches? What if instead of the stereotype we'd expect to see, this massive food eating champion was actually quite, um, well... athletic?

Would you then begin to question both the traditional physical appearance, background, and most of all - the training methods - for most anyone engaged in any endeavor, especially those who become evident as... "the best"?  

Including... the domestic staff industry?

Here's the fascinating story of how Takeru did it:

But! Not so fast here.. some of us may sniff and turn our heads... this was a hot-dog eating championship for the unwashed masses, after all, and not within the fine, ultra luxe environments where we find ourselves plying our trade. 

Yet, what if it were true that the context made no difference, and we could approach our own domestic service jobs with the same, critical evaluation of each task to advance performance, instead of just moving along year after year, toward that magical three to five year period, or that amazing 10,000 hour plateau, and just assuming that we're getting better at our game? What if, instead of just assuming that because someone has been serving wine, or cleaning a marble floor, or managing a service team for twenty years and this automatically creates great talent, we instead take a closer look is taken at how much can be learned in a very small amount of time, given a very honest, critical look by ourselves at how we perform during each second of the task

What if proficiency in a domestic skill could also be more about the mindset and dedication of the domestic worker to become proficient, and less to do with the training program?

And more importantly... what if you could recreate this hot-dog eating contest at your next staff meeting, for both fun and inspiration of this approach to continuous improvement on your estate?  

Now there's a staff meeting I'd gladly attend. I'm in!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gossiping Domestic Workers... They Don't Represent Us

...the staff gift-wrapping a present for Ms. Lewinsky, Mrs. Clinton calling Mr. Clinton a "goddamn bastard,"... President Kennedy's adventures with secretaries in the swimming pool...    - Wall Street Journal, Book Review, "The Residence"

The past week has been a roller coaster, and I am not pleased to report I haven't exhibited the unflappable nature expected of Butlers, as I briefly shut down The Domestic Staff Citizen - a silly knee-jerk reaction to someone attempting to convince me it's evil to maintain an "online presence" - and me erroneously believing them during a moment of misguided panic.  

I realized after a few calm days that I, like 99.9% of anyone online, have done nothing wrong - and any one of the 59,300+ visits to my blog over the past six years - and in addition, anyone who has actually known me over the past 27 years in this industry - knows that I, like the great majority of domestics, have never disclosed a confidentiality, not even once, nor ever broken a trust from any employer. 

These people do not represent the efforts
of The Domestic Staff Citizen
I suppose this is because that I, like most domestics who respect the privacy of their employers, do not disclose information whether it be good, bad, or indifferent, regarding what is seen within the walls of an employers' homes. 

Those who employ domestic staff have a very reasonable expectation that no information regarding any activity which takes place within their home will be disclosed to anyone outside of their home.

Oddly, a few domestic workers break this trust with their employers, however, those discreet and trustworthy domestic workers - the type who are building positive careers, positive workplaces, and positive communities for their colleagues - I have found prefer to focus instead on how to improve service to their employers, on how to build their technical skills, professional experiences and education, and are also looking for new ways of how to assist their colleagues in becoming better service workers; and that is what they spread around - on their websites or in their comments on LinkedIn, at their industry professional association monthly meetings, and when speaking to media about how the career field has grown and become more attractive as a real profession during the past 20 years.  

Sadly, though, some do not differentiate between good and bad behaviors and will lump all domestic workers into the same bunch, assuming that when any domestic worker is talking to anyone about anything, anywhere... confidentiality is surely being broken. This is a lack of critical thinking, and they are ultimately shortchanged, as they will make decisions which affect the success of their estate (or their clients' estates) based upon the limited and faulty information by which they allow themselves to be influenced. 

Those persons who cannot distinguish  between White House domestic workers writing a book disclosing what they have seen surrounding their employers' private lives - and my blog - which has only been dedicated to human resource management, performance management, and organizational development topics within our industry - this indicates an unwillingness to make sound, rational judgments about information which appears "online."

The answer is not for good, discreet, and trustworthy domestic workers - as most of us are - to run and hide from being "found online," fearful that we, ourselves, could be seen grouped in with the same workers who choose to disclose private activity they were once entrusted to keep quiet about, but instead for us to continue to help those around us become better domestic service household staff, and better domestic industry colleagues.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Road To Hell Is Paved With... Happiness?

When happiness is slated as a choice, unhappy employees can be characterized as dysfunctional, which ignores the problems that are making the employees unhappy.  - Will Yakowicz

I've come to the conclusion that "happy" is not simply an adjective, it's a marketing brand.

And I think it all started in the early seventies with those yellow smiley stickers you'd see on grade school notebooks (everyone over 50 will know what I'm talking about here), and then of course the ubiquitous smiley face emojis :) typed into emails and text messages countless billions of times each day, providing free advertising for this product; one that should come with a warning label, especially when used as directed. I'm not sure if all this actually paves the road to Hell, but, I was thinking it might have something to do with the map.

Is this your resume portrait...
or postcard from the eighth circle?
And lest anyone think this is just some well-wishing gone viral among the unwashed masses, even University of Pennsylvania has begun offering the Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree, in which they delve into the latest cutting-edge research, teaching an Ivy League discourse on the art of happiness - and what this brand can mean to you. You can drop over $100,000 in tuition to sit in a chair and force yourself to smile all day, and it seems to be catching on. Has anyone seen Invasion of The Body Snatchers?

Maybe all this happiness isn't really so good for us... and happy employees do not always equate to productive ones. For anyone managing an estate who's been told by their principals at some time or another to "just keep the staff happy," they will certainly understand the value of (and no doubt have witnessed) differentiating between happy and productive, and studying both the causation and correlations of factors which synergize within and without each of those.

Happiness, like any other promise of an elusive emotion or spiritual achievement, can be used as a tool for manipulation. Companies use happiness to get more out of their employees, not because they want their employees to be happy.  - The Surprising Myths About Happiness At Work

And as Mr. Yakiwicz alludes to, the absence of happiness can be the canary in the coal mine - and those same managers would do well to not dismiss this lightly, yet to peel away the domestic household staff onion instead of simply demanding more of a contrived, plastic happiness which is not only a bit creepy to witness 24/7, yet also setting the stage (or table for 12) with some real unresolved damage to contend with down the road. This is nothing remarkably new to reveal, yet easily sidestepped by those seeking short-term solutions to long-term staff and team problems. 

Those wishing to become more adept at systems thinking, organizational development, and more in general, human resources, however, will recognize these themes in The Fifth Discipline, one of my favorites on the Good Citizen Reading List (see homepage sidebar) and, IMHO, should be required reading for all people managers - household, estate, or otherwise. Things happen for a reason, including the realizations themselves. A nice primer interview with author Peter Senge can be found here.

Beyond the scope of The Citizen, yet still interesting enough to merit mention, is the "happiness backlash" detailed by a Newsweek article from way back in 2008, still making me smile big when I read the passage:

The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder, which argues that feeling down after your heart is broken - even so down that you meet the criteria for clinical depression - is normal and even salutary. But students tell him that their parents are pressuring them to seek counseling and other medical interventions - "some Zoloft, dear?" - for their sadness, and the kids want no part of it... Rather than "listening to Prozac," they want to listen to their hearts, not have them chemically silenced. 

And so goes also with organizational, workplace, and worker behaviors. Household Managers or their principals who silence the entire range of normal human emotions in their staff - which crop up for all normal humans as the rule, not simply the exception - are engaging in a perilous enterprise. Not only respecting the differences between happiness and productivity, yet also keeping aware that a certain fluctuation of happiness can be expected and harvested as valuable information - may just lead to some authentic, long-lasting happiness on the household team. Check out the Inc. Magazine article here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Earth Calling

Many of the posts here at The Citizen, I do admit, tend to be reflective and not always immediately usable at the ground level - where reality is usually calling. So, thank goodness for a very succinct and practical HR article on exempt worker mis-classifications which came across my desk today from the International Society for Performance Improvement; a bit of employee classification 101 which keeps appearing on sites everywhere as a reminder that this is an ongoing issue for just about all workplaces - including the domestic staff industry, which provides no shortage of horror stories about good working relationships gone bad, with once-productive and happy employees pressing the speed dial on their phone to their attorney after realizing the past several years of their service were not, in fact, exempt from being paid overtime - and suspect their employer knew better all along, resulting in a lawsuit (or a threat of one), one which displays quite a large number on the settlement check.

Employment relationships are, IMHO, very much like marriages... no one enters into them with visions of having a horrible realization a few years down the road about what the other person has done, and the resultant bevy of attorneys, threats, distrust, expense, and other such turmoil eating away at everyone's sanity for months, years, and perhaps even longer as peoples' estates continue to sue one another even after each others' ultimate demise. How sad that much of these feelings of inequities and persecutions can be avoided if both parties will become aware and follow a few human resource law basics (or at least have their trusted HR/payroll professional and/or attorney to review on a frequent and regular basis). The biggest of which always seems to be:

Employee exempt/non-exempt classification.

Don't rely on your workers' job titles 
or outfits, to determine their exempt status.
Now, before you click off the page, or quite understandably fall asleep here, hoping perhaps this would've turned into another fun and reflective posting by now, it's worth the few minutes of time required to instead understand just what exempt classification is - and here's a DOL primer that will get you going in the right direction.  

Basically, employers are exempt from paying a worker overtime - if the job position meets certain criteria. Having a big, impressive job title isn't one of them; what the government (and attorneys on both sides during that nasty lawsuit) will examine is the actual duties themselves. And with the current trend for employers assigning executive-type job titles to non-executive type domestic roles (i.e., calling your housekeeper a Chief of Staff simply because she's been around the longest), I anticipate this issue to be the largest human resource legal problem in the domestic staff industry for quite some time. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

What If Households Had To Recruit Like Fortune-100 Companies?

"Top candidates" come into the selection process already pre-qualified with the usual criteria - they don't need more reminders of the basics for virtually any domestic service position, nor do they need to be shouted at even before getting to the first interview.

It struck me as I was online recently, how almost every posting for domestic jobs I've seen over the past decade looks just about the same. Not only do I mean that many are simply cut-and-paste versions of ads taken from other job ads; yet the harsh tone, the dominating cadence... the approach.

Here's what I see in most job postings, and it doesn't really matter if it's for a Director of Residences for 12 large properties spread worldwide along with six jets and four yachts, or for just one part-time Nanny for a 3 year old and his little chihuahua:

  • Must have 3-5 years experience.
  • Must be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement.
  • Must have excellent references.
  • Must be able to multi-task.
  • Must be child and pet friendly. 
  • Must be available nights and weekends.
  • Must be able to pass a thorough background check.
  • Must (X-infinity number of more must-type items...)
  • Top candidates only!

This will attract some respondents, but if the goal is to find those "top candidates," will a list of demands actually bring them in? 

An attractive job...
it just may be nutty enough to work.
Curiously absent in many of these job postings is why anyone would actually want to work there, except for the implied notion of picking up a paycheck every two weeks.  

But is that what the domestic staff industry's "top candidates" being sought actually gravitate toward? And is that how actual, real-world successful workplaces locate, compete for, and hire, so they can have the best people?  Would Google ever have considered recruiting their world-class top staff with an advertisement like the above? And if they had done so, would ever have became the Google they now are? Or how about any other workplace on the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For list?

Here's what I see successful workplaces - the kind where the "top" (not those who just want to grind out a paycheck) workers want to apply for a job - doing differently than the typical  approach: These workplaces realize that "top candidates" come into the selection process already pre-qualified with the usual criteria - they don't need more reminders of the basics for virtually any domestic service position, nor do they need to be shouted at even before getting to the first interview.

Instead of a list of demands, what if domestic job advertisements listed the attractive qualities of working there?

In other words, employers at successful workplaces know this: they will attract the "top candidates" by selling the attractive qualities of their workplaces - to offer those same attractive qualities in a workplace that Gallup found that the best workers, across all industries, are looking to have:

1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?  

Do you have detailed job descriptions developed for each staff position in your household - and has each team member become intimate with - and agreed to - each of their responsibilities? Clearly understanding duties are the lifeblood of best workers and they cannot perform to your high standards without this information. Yet, the other workers will often avoid job descriptions, because they set a precedent for accountability... which then becomes a slippery slope into hard work and high performance.

2) Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?  

What tools does each domestic worker on your estate require, to perform their jobs to a high level of competence, whether those tools be hardware, software, or a well-developed organizational mission and performance system?  

Best workers inherently need to perform well - and are often observed at loose ends if they cannot locate the right tools. A great interview question is to directly ask your candidate what they need from you ~ to meet the performance requirements of the position which you've just outlined for them. Other workers will simply concentrate on which tools meet their personal standards, not yours. Yet, as the ad for Premier assured us, "The best is always worth waiting for."  And, fishing for!

3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?  

Do you know the strengths of each staff member, and are you allowing them the opportunities to perform to these strengths, every day? Gallup found that high-performing staff need to be on stage, so to speak, and to be excellent in some way - every day.The other type of worker will never pressure you into letting them excel at something every day, it's just not a concern. Are you willing to set up a stage for the good ones? You're the director - it's your choice which type will pass the audition!

4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

"Their paycheck is their praise." Having once owned a domestic employment referral agency, I've heard this sad line from employers more times than I care to recall. Yes, indeed, there are some workers who consider their paycheck as the only recognition they'll ever need. Yes... you know the ones I'm talking about.

The best workers, however ~ the ones who arrive at work earlier than you asked, stay even after the event is over just to make sure all is still well, and consistently deliver 150% of service in-between those two times when all you've ever asked them for was 110% - are the ones who simply don't have the ability to recognize their wages as their praise. 

High performers have shown up consistently, time and time again, to require frequent and meaningful recognition. High maintenance employees?... yes, you bet they are! And, is anything else on the estate that's worth having around... not so? Would neglecting to wash and simonize the Maserati ever be tolerated?  

5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

"Friendly without being familiar." Oh, yes, it's that quip, the one that's made the rounds in domestic staff training seminars and easy to remember because it starts and ends the sentence with two words that sort of sound alike (a slant rhyme, for those who study linguistics) and so it must be true? Yet the problem with quips is they can turn quickly into lifestyles and when we promote not caring too much about anyone ~ in either direction.

I confess to using this very same line quite a bit myself, before I truly understood how ridiculous it is. The truth is that employers can demonstrate genuine, sincere care and concern with their staff, yet that doesn't mean they've become your new best friends ~  the line is not as thin as the quip implies.

The best domestic workers, the consistent, high performers described in #4 above, need to know that other people - downstairs, upstairs, anywhere at work, actually - understand that they're a living, breathing, human being. 

6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Was anyone surprised that the best workers were the ones who craved support? That doesn't mean, necessarily, supporting time off for a Master's degree, although it may mean finding a way to help your domestic staff worker get better at what they do now, either through your coaching, their own opportunities to take on new responsibilities and get better through experience, or more formal avenues. Best staff want to work smarter... and to work harder... not just to always find the easy way out! Which kind of worker do you want inside of your home?

Try encouraging your staffs' development in their next performance review and check their reaction ~ you'll know instantly if you have those workers which Gallup found to be the best, among over one million surveyed.

7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?

"It's imperative to be invisible." Another soundbite that's been slightly over-marketed in the domestic industry. Yes, of course, while you're pouring the Merlot before dinner, Mister probably doesn't want to hear you chime in your opinion about when House Speaker Boehner will end the government shutdown. But, aside from those rare moments, being invisible to your employer, 100% of the time, is a behavior rarely displayed by the best.

Best workers know they have helpful ideas. Despite educational level or place in organizational hierarchy, the best workers will always figure out better ways of doing things around the house than were done yesterday ~ and they need that ability respected. Other workers? They won't care if their opinion is heard or not.... they'll find ways to occupy themselves and stay away, all the while staying completely, and safely, invisible. You get to choose the type you hire to justify your annual household staff budget with. 

8) Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Mission statements... eek gads! We've all probably seen one somewhere, most likely in the big lobby of a large insurance company or some such place, on a little wooden plaque next to the guest sign-in sheet... something about everybody being good at something, or, well, something like that! Yes, mission statements can be vague, as they are, rather purposefully, written at the 30,000 ft. level, and for a very good reason. And... your estate needs one. Why? Because the best workers want to succeed with something other than only the latest emergency, crisis, or catastrophe happening right now on the dining room rug with the poodle, and they don't want to look back in five years and remember nothing remarkable about the service they provided. They want to connect their jobs to something bigger, something which they can hitch their pride to and feel important with ~ and to perform to the same heights as they were inspired to. And, that's what a mission statement does. Not-so-best workers? Yes, they're much less maintenance; they can always occupy their thoughts and activities with something unrelated your mission. It's your statement to write... which type of workers do you want reading it? Better yet, ask your next candidate to propose a mission statement for your estate after giving them a tour. Will their mission be to find the break room?  Or to find the sunrise?    

9) Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

Reading a mission statement is a very lonely business... if your best workers have no one to read it with. Ditto for thinking about how to fulfill the employers' vision and improving

how things are done around the house. 

I'll never forget a candidate who listed with my agency after finally having had enough of dumbing-down her efforts, in order to get along with the other, less-inspired staff members.  "Don't work too hard - you're making the rest of us look bad,"  they'd tell her. Fortunately, this energetic gem was soon able to find a group of co-workers who both appreciated and inspired her to give more than what was expected, because they, too, were part of the best workers of the industry who didn't tolerate slackers and who wanted co-workers with a strong, honest work ethic. 

You get to choose the type of service pond you create; if everyone already on the boat is the type to inspire others to doing quality work, the real bass will jump in, too!

10) Do I have a best friend at work?

Familiarity rears it's head, once again. Notice the findings of over eighty thousand managers didn't discover that their best-of-the-best workers just wanted a friendly work atmosphere; what these high-performers needed was an atmosphere conducive to people becoming friends.  "Keep it professional...?"  Yep, and Gallup found that means keeping it human, more than one may think. And, that means having a friend at work. The best workers will want one... just FYI !

11) In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

Just like #6 above, only different. Development is a plan for the future, progress is that same plan now unfolding. Some domestic staff will never ask you about their progress,

because, like job descriptions, it just seems too much like work. Best staff do more than simply read the mission statement and come up with some ideas to save you time, money, and problems in your home. Best domestic staff also want to know they can keep getting better in some way ~ and that you've noticed if it's truly progressing in the way which really matters for both of you. This is a performance review, and Gallup found that the best workers will expect them.

12) This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Development and progress can be mostly internal constructs. Learn and grow? Those notions imply external opportunity, or are at least greatly helped by the condition. Does your estate provide them, directly or indirectly? Residential estates, usually small operations and unlike mid-to-large companies, may contain limited opportunity for some of your best staff to continue the growth they need to succeed. 

Thank you... and good luck!
Here's one punch list item which, despite best efforts and practices, estate management may fall short of, through no fault of their own. Although there may be some growth in any domestic position, learning and growing significantly new skills may be very limited outside of what's commonly become the cross-training of current positions. 

This means the best-of-your-best workers may, eventually, need to extend their fins and swim on to new waters which they've grown into ~ ones which may not be on your estate. Celebrate their growth with support and well wishes. By doing so, you'll pave the way for another best worker to step into their shoes and provide the type of very best service you've already come to know, enjoy, and deserve. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

9 Reasons To Start Boxing After 40

Let's face it, you've been trying to find a place of comfort and ease for years. Stop that, it's not good for you.  -

So what's a post about boxing doing on a domestic service website? Well, I'm not really sure, but I think there's some connections, I just haven't made them.. and all the dots aren't quite in place for me - just yet.

But I really like this site I've found with the tagline: Boxing. Rock. Laundry.

And pretty much anything in this life that shows some respect to the over-40 crowd will get a plug from me. So stay tuned.

And practice ur left hook until I get back.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Supersize Your Estate, Part-II

OMG, I want some.
We explored in a recent post Why Your Estate Isn't Running As Nicely As McDonald's the concept of standards as the way to have one's home running "like Four Seasons," a process by which individual domestic workers have agreed to turn off their own halogen look-at-me spotlights - and instead defer to the mission of a team, one which has dedicated exacting performances which are standardized to the clients' desires, in order for the clients to have a comforting, predictable experience. This is the true essence of luxury - predictability - and has been why some businesses such as Four Seasons - and McDonald's - have become such a huge success. The cost of the service or product is never relevant - throwing money at a problem and hoping it goes away can never substitute for simply getting the real thing. And the experience of having something this real can be experienced in midtown Manhattan for $2.45.

Despite what salespeople may have told you, luxury cannot be simply defined by sleeping on 1,020-thread-count sheets, or sipping signature martinis with organic olives shipped in from Crete on a yacht, or even by enjoying the wash n' dry function of my own personal favorite - the Toto Washlet S350. Those things are easy - you just write someone a check. Real luxury is more complex, and is why Four Seasons Hotel - and McDonald's - have both risen to the tops of their game. 

Real luxury means getting something - whatever it is - to the predictable standard which one expects the service or product to be delivered. That's it.

And it's very hard work - and that's the reason some domestic staff may not be doing it. Your staff may be simply escorting vendors in through the gates - and writing more checks. But that's neither hard work, nor real luxury.

My butler colleague at Four Seasons Hotel would often deliver a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to (guest's infamous name is, of course, withheld here) at 10PM nightly, made with Jiff Creamy (four tablespoons), Smucker's Concord Grape Jam (three tablespoons), and Wonder Bread (thin, Sandwich Slice). Such was carefully noted and entered into the standards procedural guides, and months later when the client returned, it was delivered again by the staff, by whomever was on duty at that time. They didn't try to sell him a porterhouse steak instead. They just gave him what he wanted, without judgement or snarky remarks, and without fail, prepared in the same, simple way - every time. It was a standard. And it was probably the only hotel in the world which he could count on, without fail, to give him this sandwich, prepared just as he wanted it - and without having to ask twice.

That's luxury. That's a crucial, unrelenting dedication to the clients' standards which eclipses the egocentric I'm-doing-it-my-way performances from hands-off staff members who set their own, unique, team-busting standards - having gained the tacit (or even stated) approval from the principals to behave in such a manner.

You can have your home running "like Four Seasons" anytime you want - you simply have to want it more than what you have now. I mean... you have to honestly want it.

And that's what your estate will need to know. But only if you really want it to run "like Four Seasons."  Or even better, like McDonald's.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mastering The Last Taboo

You've been fired. But maybe you didn't fail.

You're fired. 
Make America your estate great again.
Most people have been fired, at least once in their lives. In our own industry, their employers did not downsize their lifestyle, nor did they reorganize the household, or some other piece of fudge we've all been taught to serve on a silver tray during our next interview. It was, simply, being fired.

Let's take a look and see how things could improve.

The funny thing we forget is just this: the person interviewing us has already heard it all, and, even more so, she has most likely been fired at least once in her own career, too. Like you, she has been taught, by someone - or simply absorbed it through career osmosis - to "never say your were fired," but to (fill in the blank with the appropriate, less than honest spin). Our inquiry of this delicate and often painful topic should not stop at the career counseling level, yet should run deeper and more meaningful as to how an employee approaches their relationship with work, their employers, and ~ with setting themselves up for success, itself.

What matters, if the truth of one's core value to their employer matters, is we begin to look at the firing of workers as indicative of something other than failures; workplace failures being something our society has great difficulty approaching, much less mastering ~ so says industrial psychology researchers Thompson, Newton, and Khanna (Mastering The Last Taboo, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2008, Vol. 60, No. 3, pp. 227-245).

In the course of human history, the concept of failure in which lack of success is seen as a measure of an individual's personal worthiness is a relatively recent notion that is associated with the emphasis on individual responsibility for and control over personal destiny... whatever the individual's personal strengths and capabilities, inevitably, workplace failure is not an experience fully under his or her control... the reasons for any particular real-word failure experience may be found among a complex set of internal (effort, ability, and strategy) and external (organizational, environmental, task, and luck) explanations.

Yet, it doesn't take researchers from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology for us to know that failure in our society, of any sort, is taboo and is taught to be both shunned and hidden during the employment selection process, at any cost. Read most any book or consult privately with any career counselor; invariably will advise to creatively account for an involuntary termination as "it didn't work out," "the household was restructured," or, most ridiculous of all, "I'm really not sure."  However, the trouble with treating your next potential domestic employer as if they're clueless is that it casts even more doubt about your background when they discover the truth, which, as most often you're a stranger to them now, they're having a difficult enough time trying to suss out your integrity among the plethora of things which can go wrong when matching a candidate - possibly you - to their open position.

There's nothing truly creative about these stories from the outset. What remains to decide should not be how to hide yourself in the weeds and somehow remain attractively tall, yet what have you learned and how you can use that information to determine if the person sitting across the table from you, at this point, is a good match for you ~ individual  sets goals and takes on responsibilities with the anticipation of success; those expectations are based on his or her evaluation of personal competence... failure provides the data for realignment between self-perception and reality.

~ and whether or not the same misalignment will occur with them, by learning if their tolerance for your inevitable mistakes are high enough to compensate for the risk-taking which providing them ahead of the curve service often requires. Consequently, many long-term domestic employees have chosen, and perhaps cannot be blamed for having done so, to keep their heads down and only doing what is told, having done the math and decided a steady paycheck gets the edge over the soul-crushing acquiescence of keeping their real talents down far enough below the radar to navigate around the torpedoes. This strategy of playing it safe did not escape scrutiny by the authors:

Some people are more likely to experience failure than others... failure is more likely to the extent that people are willing to risk taking on challenges that test their abilities, have uncertain outcomes that are dependent on their actions, and entail personal psychological investment in the outcome.

The rub comes, then, from our equating termination of domestic staff, in any circumstance (including those where added value may be been created, yet just poorly presented) as failure, the notion being fed and growing stronger with every spin told countless times every day. Perhaps... even during your own most recent interview.

What, then, to do? The answer lies not so much in your choice of words during your next interview to explain away a past failure of sorts, yet in your choice of viewing the failure event itself. As a learning experience, what is most valuable is to understand what you truly have to offer, now, and what your next employer wants, now, and knowing then if you will have the talents and just as importantly - the internal resources and supports you'll need to draw upon to satisfy those wants. 

Household operations are, for the most part, very small companies with few, if any, procedures in place for detailed job analysis, descriptions, and careful selection, not to mention the on-boarding and performance management processes enjoyed by workers in most larger sized companies which are geared to ensure their continued success. To compensate, the due diligence falls upon you, fair or unfair as that may seem, to understand, with surgical precision, your own personality, your employ-ability against the specific requirements (although some might not be discovered pre/hire) of the new position, and the underlying culture, espoused values, and emotional stability of your next employer, when discovering what's required for your own success. This discovery takes time - if done right. Express both your enthusiasm and your confidence, yet now is the time to bring up the hard questions... and what you feel, exactly, it would take to see it through the long term. Because... they might not.

With the right mindset and making known your conscientious efforts to succeed, no matter what happens from that point forward, you will have certainly mastered.

And you will not have failed.