The Road to Success


by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Hal was a professional. He was my friend.

A couple of weeks ago, Hal’s wife called me with the news.  My friend Hal had died.

He was 84 years old.  He worked throughout his life as a CPA.  He worked almost every day and retired at age 80.  Until the end, he was reading books, magazines, and the WSJ.  He didn’t have an “off” switch.

We met about 1985.  Our CPA firms had joined a national marketing consortium.  He was in St. Louis, and I was in Kansas City.  During 1980’s, the CPA profession embraced advertising and marketing.  St. Louis and Kansas City were exclusive territories.

Hal and I became instant friends.  Hal’s demeanor embodied “professionalism.”   He was stoic, methodical and focused.  Over the years, I came to respect his comprehensive knowledge of taxation, auditing standards, accounting pronouncements, and practice management – the daily language of CPAs.

We visited from time-to-time and talked about our families, politics and business issues.  Over time we became good friends.

As a professional, he simply went about his work.  He was a devoted family man.  After he and his first wife divorced, he managed to provide for his daughters’ education and raise his teenage son.  It wasn’t easy, but he did it.  Quietly and privately.

I came to respect Hal as a servant leader.  His second wife Gerry, also an accomplished professional, told side-bar stories of his contributions of time and money to Catholic charities and attendance at daily Mass, and morning workouts.  He quietly served his congregation as an usher at Sunday services.  No fan-fare.  No grandstanding.

Hal had no outside activities – no golf, no fishing or hunting, no cards with the guys.

In fact, Gerry would often tell my wife that Hal and I were two peas in a pod.  Our business lives and our families were our lives.

A few years ago, I was talking with our Rabbi about “acquaintances” and “friends.”  Personally, I have always had many acquaintances and knew a lot of people; but had very few friends.

The Talmud teaches that we meet many people during our lives; however, those we genuinely call our friends are few.  If a man lives his whole life and has but one friend, he should think of himself as fortunate.

Hal was my friend.  He was a professional.  He was a gentleman.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Is it Time for a Conversation About Ethics and Morality?

Look around.  Observe us.  We are inundated with conflicting facts, spin, half-truths, and innuendo.  In the middle are individuals, families, priorities, and decisions; influenced by media, business, government, technologies, and social environments.

What are those accumulated stresses doing to our fabric – our ethical and moral compass?

Some define freedom as a moral laissez-faire.  “If it feels good, do it” or “I look out for No. 1,” even if it includes harassment, bullying, smearing, cheating, thieving, etc.

At risk of appearing self-righteous, I ask a question.  Is it time for a rigorous and deep discussion about ethics and morality?

Not just a casual exchange, but a continuing dialog including people from all walks of life – families, kids, adolescents, adults, students, faculty, business, religious, and political leaders.

Forget sound bites.  Do we need a deep re-examination and clarification of the ideas expressed by those who navigated centuries before us?  Ideas like respect, truth, duty, honor, nobility, honesty, integrity, and virtue.

Were bullying and abuse “Ok” before social media?  Were theft and corruption “Ok” before technology?  What changed?

Perhaps it’s worth distinguishing how we talk about “ethics” and “morality.”

To many, “ethics” are one’s professional ethics – groups creating their code, monitoring themselves, and making amendments as necessary.  While some guidelines are substantive, others are window dressing.  Few suffer penalties when violating professional ethics.

On the other hand, morality is the code of personal conduct and responsibility.  Strong codes of individual conduct knit us together and nurture mutual civility.  High moral standards raise us above the mean.

We have spent the past fifty years talking about “leadership.”  Where’s the discussion about “morality”?  Every day, the media reports stories about people in leadership roles abusing, assaulting, smearing, and stealing.

Shouldn’t leaders subscribe to a higher moral standard?  They are role-models that include Moms and Dads, teachers, ministers, and company presidents.

Leaders must demonstrate integrity, honesty, fairness, and trustworthiness.  Our responsibility is to lead by example.  They must possess a deep understanding of what it means to be a “role model.”

Leaders are either respected or disrespected.  When they put aside principles for ego or popularity and behave poorly or dishonestly, they still influence us.

What place is there in any environment for harassment, bullying, and lying?  In business, those problems exist because management tolerates them.  In our institutions and broader society, they exist because we tolerate them.

Most agree that we cannot legislate morality.  One observed that when men are moral laws don’t matter, and when men are immoral all the laws don’t matter.

With knowledge and technology compounding every couple of years, do we as individuals, have the maturity and character to integrate the moral and technological challenges of our society’s future?

We are not at a point of no return, but we are approaching a tipping point.  It is time to initiate a deep discussion.

As leaders, we each have a significant role.  We are each role models.  We are each responsible.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Embrace Performance Reviews – Get Real






For many of us, annual performance reviews are a pain – whether we are preparing them, giving them, or receiving them.  Anticipated emotions, conflicts, and surprises raise anxiety levels.  Ugh!

Salary discussions are often front and center.  Performance often takes a back seat.

Studies show that many think they are above average.  They want to be RATED and PAID as such.

Take a random sample of ten people – a couple are unusually strong, a couple are unusually weak, and the rest are somewhere in between.  Eight average performers “meet expectations.”  Therein lies the difficulty.  Many can’t admit being average.

People who expect their performance to “exceed expectations” come face-to-face with reality.  They only “meet expectations” while some are “below expectations.”  It is in black and white.

Some take it personally, and they offer reasons, excuses, and extenuating circumstances.

Then there are the action plans for follow-up and correcting weaknesses.

Some managers find it easier to praise strengths than to discuss weaknesses.  They take the easy route and avoid confronting any people problems.  They see everyone as an A or B player.

Get real.  Not everyone is an A or B.  There are many C’s, D’s, and a few F’s – in your organization.

Human Resource people tell us that personnel files are poorly documented.  Often when an employee needs terminating, his files are loaded with “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations” ratings.  Meanwhile, everyone knows that he is not doing his job, and hasn’t been doing his job for a long time.

Suggestion: give performance reviews more frequently – quarterly.

Three results: (1) familiarity reduces tension, (2) personal goals and recent situations are top-of-mind, and (3) performance is detached from annual salary discussions.

Try it.

You say people are your most valuable asset, prove it.  Create opportunities for feedback.

How can you better use your time than motivating A Players to keep “exceeding expectations,” coaching B’s and C’s, and managing D’s to become C’s?

What to do with the F’s?  Terminate them.  They are not bad people.  They just don’t fit.  There’s no time for coddling and hand-holding.  Everyone knows it.  Long term, you are doing them a favor.

Performance reviews are not easy.  However, the more frequently you do them, the less stressful.  Effectively done they take time, critical thinking, and skill.  Don’t gloss over them.  Face reality and grow your people.  The payoff is enormous.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

One-on-ones empower everyone’s performance

We often hear people complain about weak communication and guidance.  We hear it from all organizational levels – including supervisors, managers, and executives.

Early in my career, I spent an hour a week, one-on-one, with each direct report.  The sessions were valuable to both of us.

I listened and learned from each person.  We discussed each workflow, questions, and concerns.  Goals and priorities were clarified.  For each of us – manager and employee – our conversations and agreements were empowering.

Those meetings were an opportunity for us to communicate.  The conversations connected me to each person’s actions and processes inside and outside of the department.

As the company changed, one-on-ones became more important.  Accelerated growth required more listening and communicating as transactions increased and issues expanded.

The one-on-one process is simple.  It is scheduled and uninterrupted.  It’s not a micro-management opportunity.  It is an environment to discuss issues and concerns, identity pro’s and con’s, alternatives and next steps.  It empowers employee and manager.

I challenged each to take ownership of their one-on-one meeting with me.  Prepared agendas could include anything related to people, processes and projects; metrics and budgets; and near-term commitments.

My role was to listen, clarify, and ask questions.  The sessions were mutual learning opportunities.  They encouraged 360-feedback and built trust.  They improved coordination inside and outside of our departments.

When complex matters needed consideration by others, we deferred decision-making until the Weekly Staff Meeting (here) where colleagues could discuss the situation, ask questions, and offer suggestions.  We had our share of disagreements, but everyone’s input was encouraged and respected.

When matters outside of our departments needed coordination, we organized our thinking and determined how to best approach the right people from other functional areas.

One-on-ones are a valuable leadership tool.  People crave connection and communication at all organizational levels.  People need direction and feedback.

In a world of emails, detailed phone messages, and impersonal communication; nothing speaks louder about respect and empowerment than routine one-on-ones.

After you have adopted the practice of routine one-on-ones with your managers, insist that they conduct routine one-on-ones with each of their direct reports.  It won’t take long to see and feel the improvement in productivity and morale.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

The longer you ignore an unhealthy business, the more dangerous the threat becomes.

There’s no denying it.  An unhealthy business can rapidly deteriorate.

Chances are your business is your most valuable asset.  It is the source of cash-flow for your home, your kids’ education, weddings, vacations, parents’ expenses, and your retirement.

Here are some indicators of a sick business:

• Poor financial performance • Denial • Overreach • Leadership issues
• Unclear goals and expectations • Cash flow problems • Out-of-control growth
• Lender fatigue • Frequent crises • Excessive diversification • Hubris
• Shaky customer base • Too much or too little Inventory • No succession plans
• Missed forecasts

If a few of these symptoms sound like your business, what’s your Plan to fix it?

The path from underperformance to failure can be measured in months.  The longer the deterioration, the higher the risk, the more difficult the fix.

Here are five key strategies for turning around a business.  Consider all of them.

  1. Leadership: Make an Assessment. Take control.    Cultivate support.  Admit errors.  Make changes.  Act on the top priorities.  Balance urgency and calm.
  2. Stop the bleeding: Manage cash and control expenditures.
  3. Increase: More selling efforts at reasonable margins and cash collections.
  4. Restructure: Organization, products and services, debt and supplier payments.
  5. Contribute more capital.

An unhealthy business does not recover on its own.  It takes Specialty experience to diagnose and prescribe strategies leading to recovery.

If your business is frail, get some help.  Now.

Business Edge is a Turnaround Specialist.  If you have an unhealthy business, talk with us.  We are Specialists, like ER doctors.  We are ready when you need us.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Synchronized Planning and Execution is Key to Organizational Alignment

We have consulted with many organizations in the past 30 years.  It’s safe to say that a very high percentage had no effective plans or planning processes.

Many have annual budgets that often become so mired in detail that efforts lapse into frustration and last minute (undocumented and uncommunicated) decisions.

Sometimes data is twisted to rationalize opinions.  Often, valuable assumptions and information are buried deep within lengthy explanations.

When their annual plans are finally complete, the only things remembered are the top-line and bottom-line projections.  The plan – “how-to get there” – is oft forgotten.

Once completed, few teams refer to their plans, review them or update them.

One synchronous planning process integrates all three plans – Strategic, Annual and Monthly.  It is Leadership’s tool for maintaining organizational alignment.

The End in Mind

Planning and executing plans are the basic disciplines that drive value at every level of business.

Planning and execution is an iterative process.

Plans change, and they communicate change – what, when, and who’s leading.

Plans keep everyone on the same page.

Effective plans – Strategic Plans, Annual Operating Plans and Monthly Plans – are synchronized, fact-based and goal oriented.

Each plan is a working document – 3 to 5 pages – and is brief, flexible and easily accessible.

Plans provide tools for evaluating progress.

Successful people plan continuously.  Moreover, they always have contingency plans.

Get started

To get plans out management’s heads and onto paper, begin by eating the elephant one bite at a time.

Planning begins with the end in mind.  Ask:

  • Where do we want to be? By when?  Why?  How?
  • How do we get from here to there?

Look out 3-to-5 years to provide context, growth targets, and to leverage the right resources.

Consider goals, business scope (products, markets), capabilities, processes and arrangements, and execution.

Answers provide a general direction for the Strategic Plan.

Then segment the Strategic Plan into Annual Plans, and then Monthly Plans.  All altogether, One Synchronous Plan.

The Strategic Plan

Creating and executing strategy is a major leadership challenge.  Anyone can ponder opportunities.  Skilled leadership teams choose the better opportunities and invest their resources to achieve them.

Observe a typical company’s 3 to 5-year opportunity horizon:

  • You need to re-shape your customer base;
  • You need to upgrade your image and marketing strategy;
  • You have key customers demanding cycle time and cost reductions;
  • You will be introducing new products and services;
  • You need internal software and management process upgrades;
  • You have a competitor salivating over your most profitable distribution channel; and
  • You have key people planning retirement.

Get together your senior managers and key staff to build a Strategic Plan.  It will likely take a few meetings and painful repetition.  Build consensus and ownership.

As the leader, sketch out your guidelines and early observations.  Challenge them to embrace the desired results.  Listen to their concerns.  Outline broad planning strokes.

Consider goals, business scope, capabilities, processes and arrangements, and execution.

Scribe a framework of broad goals and objectives.

Consider products, services, life cycles, major projects, customers, markets, facility locations.

Are the right people in the right places?  Bend, fold and twist the organization.  Keep it real and keep re-focusing on legitimate strategies and actions for getting there.  Expect conflict.  Manage it.

Refine how-to get there.  Brainstorm possibilities, processes, and third-party arrangements.  Anticipate problems and contingencies, identify early actions, prioritize expected time-frames, and early accountabilities.

Determine progress measurements and objectives for markets, product families and significant projects.  Thumbnail gross margin targets.

Summarize the efforts into draft plans and priorities into a 3-to-5-page Strategic Plan that includes year-by-year goals and targets, organizational structure, financial benchmarks, and assumptions.

Effective planning takes leadership, consistent effort, discipline, focus, and flexibility.  Some cultures are starting from zero.  If you’re starting from zero, consider getting an outside facilitator.

Annual Plans

Segment the Strategic Plan into doable annual pieces.  Some objectives and issues will need addressing sooner than others.  Balance the agenda and pace-of-play with available resources – people, time and money.

Annual Plans should include protecting the base-business, targeting new customers, forecasting sales, balancing inventories, hiring and cultivating talent, investing in products and equipment, projecting profits and cash flows; among others.

Step back.  Are each year’s Annual Plans doable?  Or, are you just wishful thinking?  Make amendments.  Consider the impact on the overall Strategic Plan.

Break down the Annual Plan into quarterly pieces.  Are contingency plans needed to balance people, time and money issues? Too aggressive?  Not aggressive enough?

Monthly Plans

Detailed Monthly Plans are the specific actions and responsibilities that move the business toward accomplishing the Annual Plan and its strategic goals.

Achieving monthly plans and targets are critical to success.  If you make the month, you make the year.  If you make each year, you increase the likelihood of realizing the strategy.

Soon after the month is complete, performance should be reported and compared against that month’s plan.  The key questions are:

  • Are we on the path to meet Annual Plans?
  • If not, why not?
  • What needs correcting? By whom?  By when?”

If there are delays and disconnects, include corrective actions into the next Month(s) Plans.  Assign accountability.

At the monthly meeting, review the next few months’ (90-day horizon) goals and plans.

The result is that everyone is using current information and realistic assumptions.  Adjustments and reasons for changes are communicated clearly and timely.  Update changes to plans promptly.

Clear communication permits everyone to add value.  Benefits are top-down and bottom-up.  Resources are conserved, and everyone adds value.

Quarterly (or Semi-annual) Reviews

Using the synchronous planning process, leaders and key staff have a concise set of tools for evaluating performance in all three dimensions – aligning the Strategic Plan, Annual Plan, and Monthly Plans.

Schedule quarterly (or semi-annual) reviews to evaluate each quarters’ and year-to-date results.  Analyze results and Monthly plans through the lens of the Strategic Plan and the Annual Plan to assure that current activities are contributing to longer-term goals.

Conditions change.  Plans must be flexible and periodically amended.  Keeping them brief and focused makes them easy to use, amend and communicate as working documents.

When plans are usable and understandable, the information is consistent, and fewer assumptions are necessary.  Efforts to support the next year’s planning cycle are greatly simplified.

This year’s repetitions provide the foundation for continuing next year’s planning process.

Core issues are always top-of-mind.  As Leader, you’re always in the mode of anticipating, thinking and evaluating core issues rather than reacting.

Planning anticipates and improves execution, customer service, cash flows and profitability.  Take control.  Create the path.  Manage it.  Communicate it.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Many managers hand off the same old problems to their successors.

The Biblical Ecclesiastes said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

I was destroying client files from the 1990’s.  Aside from the nostalgia, I reconfirmed what I have learned after 25 years consulting: the names change, but the issues are the same.

Despite innovative technologies, products, and services; the people are people.

Whether an organization is for-profit or not-for-profit, the only question is how long before it tackles the same old problems.

Henry Ford observed that most people spend more time going around problems than trying to solve them.

Consultants have made fortunes selling books and programs addressing the same issues with new terminology and nuances.  There are a plethora of books, articles, and jargon.  Google phrases like continuous improvement, or leadership, or customer service.

From company to company we observe the same client issues in one form or another:

  • No written plans, poor communication, lack of trust, no accountability,
  • Constantly changing priorities, complacency,
  • No software training, poorly integrated management processes,
  • Lack of confidence in the numbers, no operating performance measures,
  • Infrequent employee reviews, inability to recognize and solve problems,
  • More politics than empowerment

Even worse, some believe that leaders and managers cannot effectively plan or control in today’s rapidly changing environment.  Aren’t leaders and managers paid to plan and execute?

For each generation of managers, the “old” is “new.”  Regardless of your experience level, make a serious commitment to have a long-term impact on your businesses.

Resolve to take ownership of “those same old problems,” and solve them.

There are no magic bullets other than personal discipline and challenging work.

Don’t follow the politician’s strategy of kicking the can down the road.  ACT.  Take charge (here).

Be the manager who declares, “I won’t hand-off the same old problems to the next person.”

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

The Buyer’s Integration Plan is critical to M & A success

Mergers Teamwork
How often do you make a significant business purchase – say $10,000,000 – on the idea that the ‘synergies’ will add value to your company?

An investment banker friend said, “If I hear the word ‘synergies’ one more time, I am going to scream!”  He’s right.  Enjoying downstream investment benefits requires focused planning and execution.

From time-to-time we see companies buy companies, and Buyers don’t assemble their Integration Plans until after closing.  They have ideas but no firm plans, commitments or employee buy-in.

During Buyer’s due diligence, a key objective should be to assemble an Integration Team from both Buyer’s and Seller’s camps.  Charge the Team to layout and execute the Buyer’s Integration Plan.

The Plan details cost savings and revenue increases.  It establishes how, when and by whom?  It asks and answers questions like:

  • What will the new organization look like – at both the Buyer’s company and within the newly acquired company? What are daily decision-making processes?  Decision limits?
  • How will the transaction be announced and promoted? What’s the marketing message?
  • Who will visit the acquired customer base? How will customers be integrated into the new operation?
  • How will Seller’s operations work within Buyer’s operations and policy structure? What policies and processes will simplify the new operations?
  • What management processes will be needed to integrate sales, operations, financial reporting, financing, human resources, employee benefits, and technology? What can be streamlined or eliminated?
  • How will data and technology platforms be managed? Staff training and education needed?
  • What projects are in process – which ones to fund, which ones to cut?
  • How to report progress-to-plan and corrective actions? How often?  To whom?

There are numerous people benefits too.  The Integration Team forges its working relationships that will make or break the deal.  Meals, coffee, and cocktail discussions open communication, bridge issues and resolve concerns.  Mutual listening and discussion build respect and trust.

And, the planning process exposes potential turf battles.  We have seen some acquisitions where the CEO told people, “Nothing will change for now.  It’s business as usual.  Expect some changes as time goes on.”  Experience shows that the sooner the elephants-in-the-room are exposed and resolved, the better.

During your next acquisition, create an Integration Team and challenge them to prepare the Integration Plan before closing.  Once the deal closes, the starting-gun is up, and the race is on.  Business, as usual, isn’t good enough.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at, or Tom at

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Use “Strategic Selling” principles to break the log-jam in your sales funnel.






When I moved from public accounting into consulting, I found that I needed to learn to sell.

I spent a lot of time at the local book store browsing and buying from the sales and marketing aisle.  I read everything I could find on selling: identifying leads, closing, and everything in between.

Then, I found a book that coalesced everything – Strategic Selling, by Miller & Heiman (here).  It made sense then.  It makes sense now.

In a team oriented environment, virtually every B2B sale is a strategic sale.  The seller (you) always has a position and the position is always in motion.

A key concept of strategic selling is – when more than one person must approve a sale, the sale is a strategic sale.

How many times have you talked with a buyer, and she says, “We will have to ask others because they will be stocking and reselling your product.”  Or, “before saying “Yes” we need to talk with our teams in Production, Technology, or Marketing.  They will have some questions.”

Strategic selling is a process cultivating support for your products or services from key organizational influencers before asking for final approval.  Influencers are:

Economic Buyer – has final approval.  Can say “Yes,” or “No.”

User Buyer(s) – must use or supervise implementing your services.  Can say, “No.”

Technical Buyer(s) – evaluates your services to determine if they meet specifications and company standards.  Can say “No.”

Coach(es) – want to see your services to succeed.  Willing to help you navigate the organization.  Cannot say “Yes” but can help you understand and clarify.

Notice that many can say “No.” Only one can say “Yes.”

Ignoring influencers can delay or sabotage your sale.  If you circumvent the influencers and go directly to the Economic Buyer, her decision might disrupt the organization.  If that happens, she loses, the organization loses, and you lose.

Your job is easier if you identify and cultivate an internal Coach.  He sees and understands that the benefits of your project, product, or services exceed costs and risks.

The Coach is willing to help you understand each influencer’s concerns and doubts so that you can resolve those issues with each influencer.

Also, beware that timing within the Buying company may be an issue.  Some companies are growing so quickly that they feel there is no time to consider your proposal or some companies might be in trouble or crisis.  Others may see no reason to consider your ideas, while others might be so over-confident that they fail to see the benefits of anyone’s proposals.

The seller’s job is to align the influencers and the time-frame for closing the sale.  The Economic Buyer usually will not say, “Yes” until the influencers are satisfied and the timing is right.

These are some of the “core issues” of strategic selling.  No matter what your area of responsibility in a B2B organization – C-Level, management or key staff – read Strategic Selling.  It will expand your thinking and provide processes for breaking the sales funnel log-jam and increase your order-book.

Happy hunting!

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at, or Tom at


by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

When you say, “Well done,” mean it.








Our Executive Team was sitting through a sales presentation.  The supplier knew we planned to spend $500,000 furnishing a new office space.

Their presentation was dreadful.

You’ve been there.  You ask yourself if they’ve seen the specifications.  They stumble over facts and drone-on.  People glance at their watches, roll their eyes.  No questions.  No clarifications.

At the end (finally), our CEO expressed his hearty “Thank you,” and he told them that they had made a great presentation and their preparation showed.  Really?

After the “Good byes” and the room cleared, and I stuck around.  Before I could say anything, our CEO said, “Wasn’t that an absolute disaster?  Did they understand our specifications?  They stumbled around.  What an embarrassment!”

I asked him two questions:  Why did you compliment them? And, in the future, when you compliment me or anyone else in the Company, should we take you seriously?

He was startled.

But I was serious.  If you cannot be sincere, don’t say anything at all.

“Sincerity” means that appearances and reality are the same.  (Chambers)

Compliments convey appreciation, and they encourage similar behavior in the future.  Compliments acknowledge excellent work and the recipient should know that the one giving the compliment means it.  It’s a matter of integrity and trust.

Leadership holds people accountable.  When one misses expectations, a good leader privately compliments his efforts, tells him he missed the mark and how he might improve.

Those who tend to pass around disingenuous compliments are neither leaders nor managers.

Some people think that flattery is meaningful.  If a leader offers a hollow compliment, what’s the inference?  Others ask, “Is he just too weak to say, you missed the mark?”

Hollow compliments also send mixed messages.  Those who don’t deserve a compliment think their contribution was on-target.  You can expect comparable results in the future.  Those who deserve a compliment wonder if you’re just trying to be nice.

Many say, if you can’t be sincere, don’t bother.

The next time you feel wanting to give a compliment, think about whether it is deserved or simply a habit that you need to break.  Maybe a simple “Thank you” is better.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at, or Tom at