Friday, July 10, 2009

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Living All In

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

I hope everyone enjoyed the wonderful weather we had this weekend in Philly.

This time of year always makes me optimistic!

It just feels like we were meant to be here, doing what we love to do.

A great friend and mentor runs a Construction Knowledge website and blog, he posted a 'vonderful-good' article on one of the gentlemen from "Band of Brothers" ; you should check it out:

My favorite quote is how :
"When Forrest was injured on his jump into Holland, he was waiting in a make-shift field hospitals for a doctor to move up to the front. When the doctor finally came to treat him, Forrest realized his family doctor from the little town of Fogelsville, PA was also going to be his doctor in Holland. He loved that wild coincidence."

I challenge everyone to approach this year with renewed vigor, it is time to put our defensive strategies aside, and go "All In."

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

As we begin looking ahead to Springtime and the changes ahead, it's important that we plan for the future.

In previous posts I've mentioned that I enjoy Gardening, and it is the planning phase that will largely account for whether my garden is a success or a failure.

Although it's nice to sit outside and watch the butterflies, due diligence and proper planning are a neccessity.

Below is a clip from AIG that I feel points out the irony quite well.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quest to Learn

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

I found an interesting article on new teaching techniques at the "Institute of Play" in New York


New York's Institute of Play has officially announced the foundation of Quest to Learn, a new school for "digital kids" that will be accepting its first 6th grade class this fall, which "uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences for students."

It's fascinating to watch the principles of "Play Learning" maturing with technology.

They're also hiring teachers : LINK

Many moons ago, I recall a space invaders game at my school for learning multiplication, addition, and subtraction. I remember how profound the idea was at the time.

Tell us, how do you learn best?

Is it in a classroom, or a virtual classroom with avatars?
Do you prefer flashcards, or a game that incorporates those facts/figures into a learning exercise?

Comment below or visit us on LinkedIn
you can also find me directly for feedback at :

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Five Tips for a Great Performance Review

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


The anticipation.
The flop sweat.
The fear it won’t go as well as you want it to go.

It’s the annual performance review. Those aren’t the doubts of the employee. They are the uncertainties of the manager.

Everyone’s been there at least once. We’ve had memories of performance reviews, even when they were positive, where we wished the manager worded something differently, or clarified information in their message, or provided enough time for us to express an opinion about what was said. These are the reviews that scar new managers or propel them to vow they will ‘do right’ by their employees during evaluation periods. Then the time comes and they find themselves tongue-tied, nervous and unsure how to proceed.

One of the more weighty responsibilities of any manager is providing annual reviews to his or her staff members. They are a wonderful opportunity for both manager and employee to get one-on-one time and to discuss important career milestones and objectives, achievements, and opportunities for improvement.

While managers are given standardized documents and a process for capturing information about an employee’s performance, companies leave out how to process all the feedback, consolidate the message and deliver the positive and constructive information.

Some may debate delivering a performance review is more art than science; less formula and more finesse. To be sure, managers must possess a certain level of diplomacy when they convey what is in the evaluation. But, there are steps managers can take to ensure the experience is a just and fair one for their employees.

Following five straightforward rules of engagement, managers at any level of experience can deliver great performance reviews:

  1. Be prepared before you walk into the review. In reality, there should not be any surprises to the employee if the performance review process is executed properly. There should not be any surprises to you as a manager, either. Employees expect managers to have a comprehensive, accurate picture of their performance during the year. Collect feedback from others who work with your employee, even if your company does not have a 360 review process. Do not disappoint them by consolidating the feedback without reading or understanding all of it. Go back to the contributors and ask questions if you are unsure of the information returned to you for your employee.
  2. Focus on the strengths. Traditionally, there is polarity in the delivery of performance reviews. Much wasted time is spent on opportunities for improvement or focusing on weakness. Mention them and then move on. What is it that makes employees valued assets to the company, to the team, and to you? Emphasize those qualities, and discuss ways the employees can continue to flex their muscles in these areas.
  3. When delivering tough messages, place the spotlight on behaviors and not the individual. No one likes to hear negative feedback, especially if it is a behavior they unintentionally exhibited. Assume merit and positive intentions, but address the damaging behaviors that impact individual employees, their colleagues and the company. In order to properly course-correct without retribution, you must be just and fair in the approach. Come prepared with specific examples of how the behavior, not the individual, caused issues and provide suggestions on how the behavior might be altered to create positive results in the future.
  4. Use your ears as much as your voice. Allot time for employees to express their concerns and their expectations. As much as it is a review of performance, it is also a forum for them to talk about their career outlook and aspirations.
  5. Develop a measurable and meaningful action plan. Close the chapter on the year in review, and look to the future. Explore career growth, and how their strengths may be applied in achieving both their goals and your organization’s objectives. Map out a strategy that has clear milestones and deliverables, and discuss how these will be achieved realistically. Don’t be afraid to add challenge to the plan, but make sure to tie deliverables back to the agreed-upon plan.

How about you? Do you have any managerial tricks of the trade you employ when delivering performance reviews? Share them with our reader community.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Getting to Win: 3 Negotiation Tactics for Better Agreements

David A. Zimmer

David A. Zimmer
Practice Manager
Corporate Learning & Training
Veris Associates, Inc.

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Mention the word “Negotiation” and watch the reactions. Some shrink in fear, others start to salivate, some run for cover, and others sport a worn, plaid sports jacket. It is a word that means many things to many people. For the majority, it is a negative term. For those who “got one over,” images of fond memories come to mind. Why is that? Why can a word have so many meanings and evoke such variety of emotions?

Know The Basics

It boils down to the fact that most people are not taught the basics of negotiation, and yet each day, they negotiate some agreement. Granted, many agreements don’t have dire circumstances like a hostage crisis or millions of dollars saved by getting a lower price by just one penny.

Most negotiations happen without people knowing they are negotiating. For example, ask someone for a pen to sign your name and you’ve just “negotiated.” Disagree about a particular method of work and come to a consensus of a better way is negotiation. Speaking with your manager about the priority of work creates a negotiation session. And so forth.

As a project management specialist and managing many projects, I’ve had the opportunity to negotiate – some pleasant situations and some not so sweet. As project managers, typically we have responsibility for certain work being accomplished but no authority to make it happen. As a result, everything we do could be considered negotiation. Those who learn tips and techniques to gain the desired outcome do much better than those who bulldog their way through life. Ignorance in this case is costly.

Negotiation: Art not War

Let’s understand negotiation is not the art of war. Depending on the situation, we might need to strategize and map a course for our negotiation. Regardless of the circumstances, we must realize the art of negotiation is really the art of cooperation. While in the middle of it, it may not appear or feel like cooperation, but if neither side cooperates, no agreement will be struck. Cooperation from both sides is critical to successful negotiation.
Negotiation Definition

Negotiation is defined as:
  1. to deal or bargain with others

  2. to manage, transact, or conduct

  3. to move through, around, or over in a satisfactory manner.
All the definitions bear on negotiations between people. Therefore, three tactics help you become a better negotiator and arrive at better agreements.

Tactic 1: Know Your Opponent

Many people approach negotiation in a defensive manner. They clinch their teeth, steel their gut, and prepare for war. They know what they want from the deal and never stop to consider the other side’s viewpoint. Good negotiators understand their opponent.

Here are the areas to know:

  • Background. What is their background – culture, economics, social status, educational level, company position, etc. Are they putting on a front or air that facts don’t support? What are their goals? How will they benefit from the deal?
  • Needs. What does the opponent need from this agreement? What are the minimal requirements for them to feel satisfied? What desires would create a very satisfied opponent? Are they important to you? What is their motivation for the agreement?
  • Win. What would they consider a “win?” Can you give it to them without compromising or jeopardizing your position? Why are they negotiating? Why now? Can they wait for a decision or do they have to gain consensus immediately? If immediately, what is pushing them to that point?
  • Style. What is their style during negotiating? Are they laid back and unassuming or are they harsh, blusterous and forceful. Do they demand or are they willing to converse?

Interesting fact here: Most people don’t prepare themselves for the negotiation. They think they know what a win looks like for them, but they don’t understand their opponent.

What if you don’t have time to prepare or you can’t seem to answer some of the questions listed above? Simple. Ask! That’s right, ask your opponent those questions. You will be able to tell from the answers if they are bluffing or not. More importantly, it builds a rapport between you and them.

Three Types of Win

There are three types of “win:”

  1. Full Load – The agreement that gives you everything you could possibly want and more. It has all the bells and whistles. It even comes with whipped cream and a cherry on top. It is the ultimate deal.
  2. “True” Win – It has all the necessary components and desires met. It doesn’t have the bells or whistles, but it is complete.
  3. Negotiated Win – you’ve compromised, given some things and removed some things but overall, a very satisfactory result.

You need to understand the three types of wins for both sides to be truly effective.

Tactic 2: Know Your Plan

To be effective, you must create and know your plan. You must identify three things about your plan to be effective:

  1. Know What You Want – make a list of the items that must be in the agreement for you to feel satisfied. Consider this your True Win state. You’ve agreed to the important parts of the deal and gained some additional aspects. It meets more than your minimum requirements. It might have a few bells and whistles, but it won’t have the whipped cream and cherry on top. That’s ok; you’re on a diet anyway.

  2. Know What You Will Give Up – always enter a negotiation with things that add value to the agreement for you, but you are willing to give up to move the negotiations along. It must be something tangible and valuable to you, but you agree to not make them a sticking point. Your opponent will see it as your willingness to come to agreement.

    By the same token, you should have a list of items you are willing to give that provide value to the opponent but don’t “cost” you much in terms of the agreement. Both gestures give the impression of willingness to reach agreement – very important for a good deal on both sides.

  3. Know When To Walk Away – taken from a Kenny Rogers’ country-western song, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and you’ve got know when to fold ‘em.” Know your “walk away” level. No matter how important the deal is, there is a point where it is no longer profitable to continue the discussion or to strike the arrangement. It is better to walk away and do without than it is to come to settlement. You’ve have to decide that point BEFORE you start to negotiate. Make the decision before it becomes necessary and than stick with the decision when the time comes. Negotiations are inherently emotionally driven. In the heat of the battle, hanging in longer than the walk-away point does no one any good.

Tactic 3: Know Several Styles and Methods

Know your style of negotiation. Here are a few:

  • Pushy/Bullying – intimidates the other party into submission. Works for a very short period of time, but the other party is coerced and will eventually ruin the agreement
  • Confidently Promoting – Someone who appears to know what they want and waits to get it. They have all the time in the world, especially when you don’t.
  • Quietly Manipulating – very subtle approach using innuendo to convince you a particular requirement you stated is immaterial or minor to the situation when it might be a very important component to you. Mimics the peer pressure approach you experienced as a teenager.
  • Carefully Suggesting – one side suggests a particular “benefit” because they are looking out for the other sides’ best interest. They can come across as best friends with sage advice.

If you know your natural style, practice the other forms. By knowing and practicing different styles, you can use them to your advantage and switch as needed to best fit the situation. In fact, you might switch styles several times during the conversation.

Don’t settle on just one style or method. Have several types you can use at any time.

In A Nutshell

Negotiation is an every day event. We do it all the time without thinking about it. It is a necessary part of life. We negotiate with our spouse, children, friends, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, store clerks, doctors, lawyers, law officers, and more. In most cases, we don’t formally call it negotiation. We just do it.

To many, negotiation is scary simply because they haven’t done so well in the past and didn’t work towards satisfying agreements. Understanding three simple tactics can accelerate better agreements and more rewarding experiences.

Take the time to understand your opponent and their needs. Look at the agreement from their angle. If you help them meet their desires, they will usually turn around and help you meet yours.

Understand your plan. Know what the ultimate decision would be, back it down to “true” win for you, and most importantly, understand your walk-away point.

Negotiating is not really that hard. In fact, it can be down right fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lady Tech, Be Thyself: Authenticity As An ‘IT Girl’

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

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I read two interesting articles over the weekend. They could not have been from more different sources, nor could they have been more interconnected. One was from the May-June 2008 edition of Psychology Today called Dare To Be Yourself. The other was the August 2008 Wired Magazine cover story, Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the Secrets of Self-Promotion. In Dare To Be Yourself, it is noted the basic psychological needs are competence, a sense of relatedness, and acting in accordance with one’s core self or, being authentic. In the Wired Magazine article, the Machiavellian subject pictures herself as the main character of a magazine profile, establishes her story through random blog/Twitter postings and in-person appearances at various ‘important people’ functions, then builds her internet street cred with every response from fans and haters.

There’s a part of me that appreciates Ms. Allison’s moxie. She understands the game of being famous and plays it like an expert. She certainly tapped into at least two of her psychological needs – relating and competence – to be successful in accomplishing her goal of being a cult figure. I leave the authentic part up for debate; while I think she’s mastered the art of promotion, I’m not quite sure if she’s promoting herself or the persona she wants her public to know.

The two articles made me think about my career in IT. I work as an IT infrastructure consultant. The majority of my counterparts and customer sponsors are men. Don’t get me wrong: I dig working with the men folk. I’ve not only learned a great deal about the process, politics, bits and bytes of information technology, but I am now relatively up-to-speed on all things sports. (Although, Ultimate Fighting still eludes me.)

I’m happy to say I’ve had good female IT role models, too. I’ve learned a lot from them and it’s wonderful to have colleagues who understand the ups and downs of the IT sisterhood.

Geekdom Stigma

However, while overall employment rates in IT rose in 2006 from 2000, the number of women employed in IT has dropped almost eight percent. It’s a little disheartening to think the sisterhood is declining. Anecdotally speaking, there are a few reasons women are leaving or choosing other paths. Some say it’s a cultural issue. Historically, IT has not been generally known for its flexibility, which is important for working mothers. Some say it’s the image IT promotes. I know this is shocking, but there are many women who do not want to emulate the persona of guys with pocket protectors who can quote episodes of Monty Python and Dr. Who verbatim. (Although, I am a staunch Lost fan and feed the frenzy among my co-workers and customers who also watch.)

In other words, these items in the IT world conflict with women’s needs to be true to themselves.

How Do You Relate To IT As A Woman?

So, what if you are a woman who enjoys the challenge of what IT has to offer? How do you relate to the “it’s cool to be a nerd” environment? How do you remain true to yourself in a culture that doesn’t necessarily scream female-friendly?

It’s not a question of competence – because you know you can do the job. It’s a matter of having that sense of community and of being happy as a woman in a male environment without giving up what it is to be you.

Wondering how to do that? Here are a few guidelines:

• Learn the game. Know the rules of engagement before you act – or react. IT shops can be frustrating if you don’t understand the players, the work practices or the politics. Reduce that frustration with observation, understanding the way you learn and work, asking questions and your role as it relates to the company’s objectives and the department’s needs.

• Embrace the IT Sisterhood – and Brotherhood. If you are feeling like you are stuck or in a rut, remember there are other women – and men - who have been there, done that and still wear the battle scars. Consequently, become part of the experiential and knowledge collective and share what you know with other colleagues. It makes for a great support system.

• Find your bliss. Don’t try to be something you are not. When you know IT is for you, don’t be discouraged if the IT shop you are in originally doesn’t match up to whom you are and who you want to be. IT is a beautiful thing in that you can go everywhere and anywhere with the profession.

I wasn’t sure IT was the right gig for me when it first found me. After a few years in the industry, I discovered the joy and beauty of process in IT services. Process development feeds my need to have daily work challenges and to be creative. For other women who I know, there’s nothing sexier than database development and administration, or building applications, or creating new web spaces, or developing web portals, or providing ITIL best practices training. It’s all about finding what’s right for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be what people in non-IT fields define as an IT career.

• Feed the passion. Once you’ve found your bliss, don’t stop there. Read industry white papers, magazine articles and books. Register for classes. Find an IT networking group, whether it’s a formal organization or one you’ve established with your work colleagues.


It’s not about gender but about who you are that matters. Find your passion and pursue it. Whether you build applications, develop process, or work directly in the data center, do what you love. It’s true in any field but even truer in IT – if you stop growing, it becomes mundane and the little things begin to bug you. Embrace the bliss, reach out to others in your field, and make IT work for you.

What Do You Think

Let me know how you feel or what you think. Let me see your opinion. If you’re a woman or a man and this resonates with you – or if you disagree - voice an opinion. Hit the comment button below.