Mulligan Stew

Mulligan Stew. A traditional dish thought to have originated with poor Irish (“Mulligan,” get it?) immigrants whom, managing through tough times, would literally throw whatever they could find into a pot, boil it up & serve. Potatoes, onions, carrots, squirrel, ham, cabbage….you get the idea. Sounds freaking horrible. It IS freaking horrible.

With that knowledge in hand, my sainted Irish mother will still try to serve up Mulligan Stew once a year. THIS is the power of tradition; five generations removed from Ireland, my Mom is still sticking to a few of the “non-negotiables” that define our heritage. Even the gross ones.

The image of Mulligan Stew hit me when discussing a culture issue with a client. I don’t think any of us will argue with the real “power” of company culture. In no way is that more apparent than during the merger integration process, where seemingly insignificant “traditions,” values, habits, and behaviors begin to undermine the success of the merger itself. Instead of prioritizing the critical non-negotiable values and/or “flash points” (Pritchett, Culture Integration) at the front end, we are left with this….a big stinking pot of Mulligan Stew.

(Once again, it bears repeating – Mulligan Stew is horrible.)

The question is, how do you reverse the recipe if you’ve already gone through the process? How can you remove 95% of the ingredients (personally, I’d start with squirrel) to leave the essential components of the new entity?

In the weeks to come, that’s the question we’ll try to answer. “We,” in that you are the people who have lived this experience, or you may be living through it as we speak. Where do we start?

*Editors Note – No squirrels were harmed in the posting of this article


Sackett and the D-List

Tim Sackett, whom I have nicknamed the”Michigan Me,” with some insight into the life of a “D-List” Public Speaker.

Just got through another fall conference season and I think I’m starting to pick up a few things and understand the game a little better.  I’m definitely not an A Lister, or B Lister, hell I’m not even on the C List, but I like to think I’m a Top 10 D List Conference Speaking selection!   As you run around the circuit speaking, those A and B Listers will definitely give you some pointers, the C’s won’t, they’re all high and mighty about how they’re no longer on the D List, so they kind of hold stuff close to the vest.  It’s a great education that spans much more than just your ability to go on stage and “Dance Like a Monkey“.  The Conference Speaker education has to do mostly with human behavior and likeability.

Knowing I only have a few secrets I wanted to share them with you before I get dropped from the D List, either up or down, we conference speakers only have small windows in time to share our very specific knowledge.  Here are my D List Conference Speaker Secrets:

  • Everything should be sunshine and rainbows!  The best content you can produce is actually content that challenges how someone does their job. Think – “5 Reasons You Suck at HR and How to get Better”, but while that content is great, it bombs on the speaking circuit.  People want to come and hear speakers tell them that they made a great life decision to be in this career/position they are in, and here’s 3 Silver Bullets that will change your life forever and make you prettier and thinner. By the way, that’s my 2014 Conference Season Session: “You’ve Made Great Life Decisions: 3 Things You Can Do Today To Be Prettier and Thinner”.
  • There are no Silver Bullets, but you always have to have Silver Bullets.  Let’s face it we live in a USA Today society.  We want to be told quickly how to make everything better, without doing any work to make it better.  That can’t happen, but as a D Lister, it’s my job to sell you on the fact that you can do that. That’s why there is a lot of Dancing on the D List circuit.
  • The differences between an B Lister and a D Lister is that the B Lister is usually a lot better looking, taller and much more polished in their Dancing ability.  The knowledge content usually isn’t really that different, the B Lister is just much better at how they share that knowledge.
  • The differences between an A Lister and D Lister is that the A Lister is selling an ‘idea’ and that idea is usually something they’ve trademarked and written a book about. Think: 7 Habits, Good To Great, First Break All The Rules, Who Moved By Mercedes, etc. Or, the A Lister is famous for something (business, political, sports type celebrity) and they are sharing their own story about how they became famous and while you’ll never become famous the same way, they try and make you feel like you could also win the fame lottery, but you can’t.
  • When being paid to speak, for all those under A List status, who gets paid and how much has a lot to do with how much someone making the pay decision likes you personally.  That’s hard for a lot of speakers to take. Some have great content, but they aren’t very likeable or even approachable.  Some have crap content and aren’t even that good at speaking, but are extremely likeable. Those people get paid!
  • Having a book makes you ‘smarter’.  It really doesn’t, but on the speaking circuit it does.
  • Being a Practitioner makes you know more about a subject. It really doesn’t, but on the speaking circuit it does.  This one is really funny! Because conferences now say ‘we want practitioners’ to speak.  Do you realize those speaking as “consultants” where great practitioners that were so good they made a career out of selling their knowledge.  They were the 1% best practitioners.  But, no, really, let’s listen to Mark from Albuquerque explain why his hiring process he just developed is so cutting edge…

That’s it, the only D List secrets I have. If I get to the C List I’ll let you know what else I find.  My guess is it will have to do with being able to negotiate first class travel, or least I hope it does!

Tim is a friend and colleague, albeit a little slow on the cross-over dribble. Speaking of dribble…check out some of his other musings on (original URL, Tim)

Act Like You Belong…

In recruiting, you can feel like your hair is on fire 24 hours a day. Today was one of those days, so as I grabbed the stack of JVR’s (that’s Job Vacancy Requests, y’all) cluttering my desk to add to my ever-expanding pile of “Priority One” tasks, I managed only a quick glance to see the Meeting Reminder populating my computer screen: “Staffing Strategy Meeting, 1:00pm, C101.”

Not good. I had roughly two minutes to make it to a meeting room five minutes away.

Blue flame following me, I managed to get to the room just as the door was closing, my eyes focused on the one empty chair remaining in the room. Avoiding eye contact with everyone, I quickly sat down, still breathing heavy from the sprint. I slowly gazed up at my meeting partners and saw something unexpected. Suits. Ties. EVP’s, SVP’s, VP’s, and other very important, distinguished looking gentleman with whom I had rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to meet. I didn’t know what meeting this was, but it most certainly wasn’t a “Staffing Strategy Meeting.” 

Holy Christ, I was in the wrong meeting, and I was wearing khakis. I looked like the cabana boy at an Executive Retreat.

If you know me, you’d know the thought of standing up and gracefully leaving the meeting was an unthinkable option. Nope, I was just going to act like I was supposed to be there.

Deftly avoiding more than a cursory glance up from my copious note-taking, I managed to survive the hour without having to say a word. As the meeting adjourned, I left a contrail in my wake. I was a ghost.

Back in the warm bosom of my own office, I couldn’t help but laugh deliriously at my experience. Apparently, I wasn’t alone – as I sat there, I received a call from Nick, our CIO. “You were in the wrong meeting, weren’t you?” Busted.

“Yep, I was actually hoping someone would pull the fire alarm.” After he stopped laughing at/with me, he made the moral of the story crystal clear – “Act like you belong, and I guess you do.” 

Prologue: This little escapade happened to me over 15 years ago, but it’s obviously one that stuck and it never fails to get a chuckle. I like to remind my boys (12 and 9) about things like this to share a few pieces of “wisdom” they might retain:

  1. Everybody screws up, get over it.
  2. Roll with the punches, you may end up with a cool story to tell.


If This Is a Marriage, Where’s The Cake?

“Merger of equals” is a nice phrase….brings to mind harmony, togetherness, compatibility, and a common concern for the well-being of one another.

It’s also, for the most part, a total fabrication.

If you’ve been through a merger, you already realize this. If, on the other hand, you’re viewing this with cocked eyebrow and a look of disbelief, consider the code broken.

In an effort to minimize the emotional response of employees involved in an acquisition, you’ll hear terms that are meant to remove the sting. Referring to a merger as an “equal” proposition rarely does the deal justice. Somebody is the winner, somebody is the loser.

If you’re unsure which category your company falls into, well….I’d like to invite you to my next poker game.

Ball 4 – Loren Sanders

Happy New Year! Continuing the tradition of learning more about some of our HR colleagues, we’re starting off 2014 with a Q&A with my buddy and former CVS Caremark colleague, Loren (Palma) Sanders. “LP” is good people, you’ll see….

  1. You were president of the Northern Illinois SHRM branch for 4 years ~ what scandal forced you from office? You can tell us, promise.

Very good question John, no scandal really, I just feel like if you do the same thing for too long you stagnate. I feel like if people do not take the time to step back from “control” every once in a while that they will stop learning.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like to lead and do lead many things, but I know how to be on a team too and I think that is important for all good leaders. 

       2.   You were in recruiting roles for a long time, what’s the single best question you ever asked? 

My favorite questions have always been around someone really having to explain something that will indicate if they are just giving you BS or if they really know what they are talking about. I like to ask questions that show whether people can take accountability for issues.  I really don’t have a best question but one I do ask often is this:  Describe a time when you were working on a project team and things were not going well, what was the situation, what was the course of action and how was it resolved.  I like to find out whether the candidate blames others and appears to be the knight in shining armor that saved the day, or, if they can identify the part they played in the challenge and describe what they learned in the process.  If they are the hero, I usually ask them what they think they could have done differently or better.  That usually tells me a lot.

3.     If LinkedIn had the ability to play a theme song whenever someone viewed your profile, what song would we hear when accessing yours?

This is so not an HR response but so many ideas are shaped by my personal faith that I have always told my close friends that my theme song is “For the Moments I feel Faint by Reliant K, here is a link if you want to listen:

If I had to go more mainstream it would be “Live Life Loud” by Hawk Nelson

4.     CVS Caremark comes to you tomorrow & says, “Pick one objective you want accomplished next year, we’ll fund it.” What do you say?

Carte Blanche?  My soapbox is and has always been that everyone only understands their personal job and not how we impact each other.  I would start a rotational program based on work streams that work together in order to get specific tasks done.  For example, I currently work with the Implementation team.  This is the group that does new client on boarding, however, the role of the Implementation Manager interfaces with multiple work stream partners. I would like to create a rotational program where people in the Implementation work stream spend some time understanding the nuances of all of those work streams and vice versa by actually spending some time working side by side with someone in that role.

If someone wants to connect with you, where do they find you?

Come to the gym with me…or…You can find me on LinkedIn (duh), you can come to one of the conferences or educational sessions I am speaking at this year and/or you can also read the few things I have on my blog site.  I am a terrible blogger due to time, but I have a couple things out there and I am working on another ( My personal email is, which is probably the best way to reach me…btw, I am also sponsored by Team Refuel and X-1 Audio for my athletic endeavors and those are basically my way of getting the word out for their products and are not really HR focused. But I can get you a killer discount on awesome headphones that are water and sweat proof if you send me an email. They can help you tune out some of the noise.

Value for Value

“When in doubt, tell the truth.” – Mark Twain

I missed my opportunity to share New Years Resolutions with my FOT compatriots; input was due whilst I was still navigating the back roads and mountain passes of New Mexico. Sporadic 3G coverage at best – you know, just like the pioneers. I did, however, have a resolution that was still formulating…until this week. The gray area in my professional life is being re-colored in black or white. For instance:

1. “Hey man, do you know any good candidates?” – Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I’m not a recruiter, but I’m a pretty good networker & it’s not uncommon for me to know a handful of exceptional professionals who are seeking a new job on the down-low. So, when you are using me as your sourcing resource, Daddy’s getting paid.

2. “I have an HR question I wanted to run by you.” – Okay, that sounds juicy! Now, let’s clarify an hourly rate…you know, since you’re calling for professional advice as opposed to asking the 8-Ball.

3. “Could you do me a favor and help me with my CV?” – You bet, although my experience tells me I’ll receive an outdated, incomplete document & your expectation is the Magna Carta in return; I also enjoy the consistent follow-up emails you send to motivate me on my progress. Let’s go ahead and say that has a small fee attached now, ‘kay?

4. “Dude, things are crazy here – I need you to help me find a new job.” Good thinking, get ahead of the curve & start your search now. The whole “job search” thing can be quite a struggle, so I’m happy to dedicate some time pro bono to assist you in your quest. And, of course, send your resume over too!

Understand this – I’m a professional wise-ass. I kill me, I really do…so, if you’re in Human Resources and aren’t familiar with any of these little exploitations, kudos to you. And, of course I’m still going to get caught up in helping a friend, a family member, a friend of a friend, an old colleague,this girl,→ → → → → → → → → → → → → → →                                                                       

damn straight

or various other individuals. At some point, however, don’t we owe it to ourselves to expect value for value? Not to over-inflate the role of Human Resources, but we do find ourselves in a very strategic role if we choose to look at it as so.

Is it wrong to put a dollar amount on that? I need your input…and yes, I realize I owe you a couple bucks.

Why Tigers Eat Their Young….

Now I know why tigers eat their young.” – Al Czervik, “Caddyshack”

The older I get, the more impressed I am that my parents didn’t decided to abandon or sell my brother and me somewhere along the vast expanse of Interstate 20. We were one of those “Griswoldian” type families that loaded up the family wagon at least once a year to visit family ~ Tupelo, Mobile, Charleston, Augusta ~ 10-12 hours of family time in the same vehicle, interrupted only by the license plate game or another Stuckey’s billboard. (Editor’s Note –  If “pecan log” rings no bell in your memory, that last reference really fell flat.)

My wife & I have continued this rather insane tradition with our own children. So, fresh off a 20-hour roundtrip to New Mexico, I decided to share with you some of our simple rules that could save the lives of your offspring.

  1. The window rule ~ it’s an easy concept…long car rides, especially in the altitude of New Mexico and Arizona, will result in non-industrial gas emissions. The best way to excuse yourself is to roll (“…in the name of all that is holy…”)…down…(“…we really need to get that kid to a doctor…”)…your window. The driver will pardon all offenses if window action is taken immediately, but you will not turn my car into a Dutch Oven. (*It should be noted that the driver is granted immunity from this rule.)
  2. The Voting Booth is Closed ~ You know what kids love to argue about? Everything. You know what gives them a great opportunity to argue even more? Ask them where they would like to eat. Close the polls, pick a spot, alternate choices, whatever – voting is for amateurs and democracies, your car should be a dictatorship. Which leads to another topic…
  3. Avoid the drive-thru ~ It defies every one of my natural instincts, but I had to learn to avoid the quick-fix of the drive-through window. It’s worth the extra 20 minutes to avoid the disaster that will surely follow. This is not a roadie with your college roommates, these are family members, and they WILL destroy your car. I’m still finding hot sauce packets from Thanksgiving 2009. And, unless you want to backtrack 10 miles to pick up the missing beef taco, the drive-thru is your enemy. The additional bonus of this policy is….
  4. If you stop, you drop ~ Gas stops, snack stops, food stops = coordinated bathroom visits. This is non-optional. I’m sorry you “don’t have to go” – you and your bladder get back in there and flush the system (no pun intended.)
  5. Co-pilot Domain ~ If you want an engaged navigator (and a happy marriage), radio control must reside in the realm of the co-pilot, even if that right is blatantly abused (i.e., country music, Katy Perry). Bad music won’t kill you, but the woman to your right just might if you insist on talk radio.

One final note – never, never, nevernevernever EVER relinquish the steering wheel. Driving the family may be stressful, but the “Mommy seat” involves way too much compassion for the average man ~ Kleenex wiping, spill maintenance, snack distribution, bouncer, peacemaker, Sheriff, therapist….not me, man, not me.