Yearly Archives: 2014

4 Ways to Maintain & Improve Communication

Communicating with coworkers, managers and employees honestly and effectively takes skill- especially when there is a sensitive or challenging issue at hand. Good leaders establish communication methods at the beginning of any relationship and regularly reassess this process for the best results. If you would like to improve workplace communication, here are methods to practice.

Multiple communication methods

Keep multiple lines of communication open. For example, have text and email protocols and of course direct call instructions for everyone to choose from. Let others know how they can reach you and which methods are preferred.

Preference for discussions

It is very easy to misinterpret responses and instruction via email or text. When there needs to be a clear understanding, a phone or face-to-face meeting is always preferred.


Often, if a problem is discussed, it can take a while to get to the root of the issue. Encourage coworkers to focus on only one problem at a time. Focus on a solution for the problem, and then schedule another meeting to follow up while staying focused on a resolution.


Co-workers want to know that you can keep a confidence. When a team member comes to you with concerns or questions, they need to know the conversation is in confidence in order to maintain trust, and an “open line” of communication.

Encouraging Workplace Collaboration

Highlight Meaning – From entry-level positions to seasoned managers, employees want to know what they do is meaningful. Meaning in the workplace includes individual purpose and company purpose. Those who are involved in the wine industry have an interest in and passion for wine, which creates a natural basis of meaning for motivation and enjoyment. The key is highlighting this shared meaning between all employees to foster workplace collaboration. Often it is too easy to slip into a state of complacency instead of shared meaning. When the focus is on meaning and purpose, positive work ethics and collaboration naturally fall into place.

Designate and Fluctuate – Not only do employees want to clearly understand their responsibilities, they also often want new experiences and responsibilities in the workplace. Responsibilities are often valued differently by each person, as one employee may think certain tasks are mundane while another may think the same responsibility exhibits trust in them. By learning about different responsibilities, you can balance out these perceptions and create a more expansive type of job awareness.

Create Community – Workplace interaction can reach a plateau, where employees relate to one another as acquaintances rather than as friends. By creating events for the workplace (such as a holiday party or birthday month celebration), you encourage employees to better know one another. When friendships form in the workplace, collaboration, teamwork and empathy naturally increase. From seasonal themes to sports and events themes, there are many options to get employees involved in working on something together.

When Not Everyone Agrees With You

News From Napa…
As I am sure you have all heard and seen the images from Sundays 6.0 quake.  Thank you so much for all the calls and texts, and emails.  We were very lucky – the Benchmark family is safe and intact. We had a few few minor breakages, but overall we are grateful and our hearts and prayers go out to our neighbors and friends who did not fare as well.  

We wish a speedy recovery to our industry friends and families.

When Not Everyone Agrees With You
The more invested we are in an idea, the more likely we are going to present an idea persuasively. And even if we do present it well, there will likely be some resistance to some or all aspects of it. How we react to resistance is a determining factor in both the growth of our ideas and ourselves.

What is there to do when not everyone agrees with you? You could rejoice at the evident diversity of perspectives, but realistically, you must remember that this is not a personal evaluation. Keep discussions objective and tightly anchored to the original idea.

Perhaps you feel very strongly about something. As situations become more qualitative than measurable, the ultimate redress may be impossible to define. As you may have previously noted, others will have their ideas and beliefs at least as strong from another perspective.  

Perhaps you have taken great pains in presenting an idea. Opening ideas up to questioning allows you to use the knowledge gained from experience and research to further elaborate on the merits of the issue. As you rationally express your points, you will learn more deeply about the subject, as well as increase your general ability to maintain a positive and productive attitude.

When Bad News Happens to Good Leadership

As is most often the case, we prefer to exist in a predictable world, where life functions almost like clockwork and without significant interruptions.  We say we understand that this is not a real possibility, yet we balk at delivering bad news or accepting the reality of adverse situations.  (Why me? Why now? Actually, why ever?)

In the ebb and flow of life (and business) each perspective provides necessary feedback to keep the entities vital.  News can contain some of both positive and negative, and effective leadership can see and convey the promise in the bad as well as the cautions inherent in the good.  Just as physical pain is ultimately a natural safety feature to prevent worse injury, working through bad news can stop an impending problem from becoming potentially worse.

A good leader will recognize and not shy away from difficult situations. Let the buck stop with you.  If you are delivering a message, say it concisely, clearly and compassionately.  If your company is at fault, own the responsibility.  Any specific plan in place to prevent reoccurrence or to compensate for any inconvenience should be addressed in a concise manner.  Then get out of the way, rather than belabor the effect of any negative situations.

When you detect incoming trouble, what is your response?  Are others comfortable sharing information without fearing a negative reaction from you?  Do you respond in a confidence-inspiring manner, whether or not it involves immediately addressing the problem?

Bad news can make for some amazing teachable moments.  A good leader appreciates the opportunity to help solve problems and to show others how to learn and grow from them.

Contact us for current wine industry career opportunities.

For Want of a Nail: When Little Things Make a Difference


“For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of horseshoe nail.”

The following article is by Carlyn Rowe

This week, my partner and I had the opportunity to sit in on a client’s weekly status meeting at their headquarters. Each week, the client’s corporate branch gets together to discuss leadership principles and ideas. This week’s lesson was about The Butterfly Effect.

The Butterfly Effect is the idea that small actions have greater consequences. The idea gets its name from an American mathematician and meteorologist who believed that a butterfly could flap his wings on one side of the world and set a series of events in motion that could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. If you are a Jurassic Park fan like me, this may sound familiar to you. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) mentions it to Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) in this scene of the movie.

How does this idea translate to business?

Every business, big and small, is only as strong as their internal organization. Each department and individual staff member are working toward a larger common goal. Because of this, every business must live in the everyday. This is not to say that big picture thinking and ideas are not important, because they are. They are the common goal that keeps all of the separate parts in motion.

Because businesses must exist in the everyday operations, small actions become very important. Decisions made on a daily basis affect the larger organization. This is where the Butterfly Effect becomes important.

Here’s an example. Company A has a weekly morning meeting. At the last minute, a sales executive schedules a meeting for a client in the same room as the company meeting. The administrative assistant must now scramble to find a new place for either the weekly meeting or the client meeting. The assistant keeps the client meeting in the room, and moves the weekly meeting to a smaller room in a different part of the building. The assistant sends out an email, but because of the last minute decision, many people will not receive it in time for the start of the meeting. This will cause in late arrivals, the meeting start to be delayed, and the work day to start later. What will be missed because the meeting started late? How will the company course-correct?

Here’s another example. An ice storm hits the night before work. The decision is made to keep the office open the next day. The walk up to the office is slippery, but the groundskeeper has stayed home today. If the walkway is not iced, people will slip and fall. This will cause possible injuries that could stall production. An office manager arrives early with salt. The office manager salts the walk and places orange cones over the slick areas. The office manager made a decision that morning. Their action created a safe walkway, which allowed workers to arrive to work without injury, and production to continue. A decision is made that leads to an action that leads to a safe work environment and no halt in productivity.

Small decisions and actions may not appear to have larger repercussions, but they can affect larger actions that can affect the whole organization. The organization must be organized and willing to adapt when these actions, both negative and positive, occur.

The Butterfly Effect reminded me of an old proverb called “For Want of a Nail.” The poem explains how a small horseshoe nail leads to a series of events that cause a pivotal battle to be lost, and a kingdom with it. Paying attention to small details and actions can make all of the difference. These actions can have negative or positive outcomes for your business, even if that outcome may not be clear at first. Don’t let your business be lost for want of a horseshoe nail. Be aware of decisions and their effects on your organization.

Hiring Great Talent


The key to hiring great talent is to cultivate a company culture that makes your company a place where talented people want to work.  Offering a great salary and generous benefits is all well and good.  However, talented people are that way partly because they love the work they do.  They also know, being talented, that they are in demand.  Hence they will be attracted to companies that cultivate this and empowers them to accomplish great things.

The first way to make your company a desirable place for talented people to work is to always give your employees respect.  That also means setting high, but achievable expectations.  Follow that example yourself and your employees will follow suit.

The next way to attract and hire talent is to always place your best employees in positions of power and influence.  This gives a signal to talented people that they will be able to grow in your company if they perform up to and beyond expectations. The sort of people you want to work with will consider this a challenge and will strive to achieve.

Finally, you need to be heavily engaged in the hiring process.  Many managers tend to slough off the drudgery of selecting and interviewing applicants to someone else, such as the human resources department.  The person applying for the job will be working with you, so you need to be involved in every stage of the hiring process.  You will be able to access the applicant’s skill set, intelligence and emotional intelligence in order to determine whether that person is the best fit for the position.

For more information, contact us.

Key Factors of Motivation

He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them. – Aristotle

Is motivation a plan, a state of mind, or an action? Motivation involves several key areas that start in the mind and move forward. First, in order to feel motivated, you need the energy of motivation itself. This energy can be found in the core of being where we find what matters to us.

Motivation for professional success, healthy living, and helping others all relate to one another because motivation increases with each area of life that we put energy into. The beginnings of motivation often relate to ambitions and the desire to accomplish, which is also what helps us maintain high motivation when we face problems and difficulties.

It takes time for motivation to turn into reality, yet through consistent efforts, we become able to actualize what we envision for ourselves. Motivation doesn’t stop when we accomplish one goal or one-hundred goals: it keeps propelling forward, feeding itself toward greater and greater accomplishments that lead to a profound sense of life purpose.

Another way to maintain motivation is to take pride in what you do. Jobs and tasks well done involve enormous attention to detail, awareness of extenuating circumstances, and knowledge. This process of attention, awareness, and knowledge doesn’t stop either: it grows as we grow. If we don’t take time to appreciate when we do a good job, then we in turn lose motivation. Whenever possible, congratulate yourself for the things you have accomplished.

Motivation and success mean little over time unless we care about what we do. In this sense, motivation becomes a way to create meaning in our lives. It involves understanding how and why you care about certain goals and aspects of life. Remember that no one can tell you what anything means to you, as you are always tasked with the responsibility of creating meaning for yourself. Everything you see and do has meaning, and other people only influence you as much as you allow.

Best Advice: Shut up and Listen


The following article is by Dave Kerpen

When I first started out my career as a salesperson for Radio Disney at the age of 22, I was young and foolish (well, even younger and more foolish than I am today). I thought I had a great product to sell and that people would love to listen to me talk about it. I thought I could be charming and persuasive and convince decision-makers why it made sense to use my product to solve their marketing problems. I thought I could talk my way into anything.

I thought wrong.

Several weeks into my job, I was failing miserably, despite what I considered to be loads of charm and ability to persuade. My mentor, the Regional Sales Manager for Radio Disney at the time, Peggy Iafrate, said to me, “How well are you listening to what your prospects have to say? How many questions are you asking them to better understand them? How are you showing them that you care about them more than you care about selling them?”

“Dave,” she said, “Remember this one thing: Shut up and listen.”

 I hadn’t been doing a very good job of listening. In fact, by my very nature, I’m a type-A personality, full of thoughts, running a mile a minute, an impatient New Yorker who always has something to say and rarely slows down. So, it took some real dedication and practice to listen to what Peggy told me about listening and heed her advice.

I began asking my prospects more questions. Listening to their problems, listening to their interests, listening to their every word became my obsession. I thought very little about how to sell them on advertising with Radio Disney and instead focused on listening attentively to everything they had to say so that I could better understand them as people and better understand their organizational needs and challenges. Once I understood them, I could do a much better job of delivering what they wanted and needed, both in the product I was selling and in the way I sold it.

Things quickly started to fall into place once I started listening. Within six months, I was the number-one local salesperson in the country, and a year later, Peggy awarded me the “Mickey Award” for sales success. All for shutting up and listening.

Salespeople, leaders, entrepreneurs and business people are full of ideas. Many of you have ideas all day long every day about how to make the world a better place, make money, solve problems and lots more. But the very nature of active listening requires us to put aside our ideas completely, if only for a moment, in order to focus on what someone else has to say.

As difficult as that can be, it’s through listening to customers, prospective customers, colleagues, employees and others that we can better understand what their needs and motivations are, and ultimately make our ideas better and more executable. It’s leaders like you who need to learn to listen better, even more so than the world’s followers.

J.P. McEvoy said, “When you talk, you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

So, as Peggy said to me years ago, please, for your own good and the good of the world, shut up and listen.

Original article can be found here


The Trouble with Hanging on to Misfit Employees

 The following article is by Judith Sherven, PhD 

It would be ideal if recruiting worked perfectly and all new hires were perfect assets to your specific workplace culture. But that’s not ever going to be the case. We humans are a widely varied bunch and every process — recruiting, onboarding, and management — is dictated by the uniqueness of the people involved.
So there are always going to be some new hires that in due time reveal themselves as inappropriate to the requirements and spirit of your workplace culture. And typically, all too often, these people are kept on and on and on until the inevitable has to happen. They must be let go. But usually this follows months and even years of team upheaval, manager distress and disappointment, and of course inadequate work ethic and output.
What’s the problem? Why is it so hard to pull the plug on these folks early on?

Three Key Management Traps:
1 – False Hope
You believed in the person when you agreed to hire him/her, so you want to give that person as much time and freedom to get acclimated and prove you were correct in your decision. You know it’s often challenging at first when someone joins an existing team or takes over for a leader that has now left the company or been promoted to new stature and greater responsibilities.
So you continue to hope that all will be well — in due time — even when the signals start to appear that it won’t. After all, you are terrifically busy and you don’t want to believe that you made a mistake and now have to let this person go and hire someone new. After all, that’s going to be a drag on your time AND on your ego AND on your professional reputation.

2 – Not Wanting To Hurt Anyone’s Feelings
Most people would prefer to never hurt anyone’s feelings or upset the status quo. And business managers and supervisors are no different. So rather than bring up the evidence that someone is having a difficult time, or is acting out their dissatisfaction by coming late to meetings, refusing to be present in team meetings by monkeying around in their iPhone, or routinely turning in their work after the deadline you wait, you put off the “big talk for small boys/girls.”
And it just gets worse. And worse. And even worse. Until you absolutely have to take action or your entire team or company will be all over you to do something.

3 – Hating To Admit The Mistake In Hiring
It’s not just that you have to face having confrontational conversations with the misfit in question; you also have to come to terms with the fact tat you got it wrong during the recruiting process. And even if you inherited the person when their former manager left the company or got promoted, you still had faith that everything would work out.
But now there’s no room for turning a blind eye, hoping against hope that you will be redeemed as having made a good decision in bringing the person on and/or having hoped they will turn themselves around and become reformed. You must accept defeat and it feels terrible.  So what to do the next time?

Three Management Misfit Musts
1 – Address Issues Immediately
The biggest mistake managers make is to wait to bring up problems. It gives both people a false sense of optimism that everything will be alright when it isn’t now and may never be. Nip problems in the bud, as they say, and you’ll be way ahead of the game when the person does step up to the plate OR they continue to spiral downhill making their exit a foregone conclusion.

2 – Allow Only One Second Chance
The second biggest mistake we see is managers waffling about what to do. They announce one thing (“You have to meet the next deadline or we’ll need to meet with HR.”) and then do something else (“I appreciate that there was some difficulty in your family this past month, perhaps you can get everything on track now.”) leaving the manage to believe they have many more options and/or chances going forward and therefore making the task of letting them go more prolonged and more painful—for both of you.

3 – Cut The Connection ASAP
We’ve seldom seen a PIP (performance improvement program) lead to someone turning it around and being able to stay on the job. We’re not saying never do it, but it’s cleaner and more in keeping with fair treatment to let the person go, allowing HR to take care of the specific details, so that the person can get on with their professional life and you can move on to recruit a more appropriate replacement. The sooner you can come to the conclusion that the person will not ever be a good culture fit, the better for everyone involved.
The key to moving forward with less pain and considerably reduced use of your precious time is to remember that almost never do people change their stripes in order to fit in where they don’t actually belong in the first place.

Original article can be found here

Refreshing Your Resume

Dawn Bardessono Careers in Wine January 16, 2014

The beginning of each year is a good time to review and refresh your resume. Having invested significant time and energy into gaining skills and experience, you will also need to update your resume so it reflects your professional accomplishments.

Focusing on specific experience and skill sets are imperative in any job search. Keeping your resume direct and concise will create a better reflection of who you are and what your objectives are in your career.

The following resume template example is for a Direct to Consumer sales position. A resume for this position should include sales performance metrics, experience with customer outreach methods, marketing and branding knowledge, and key performance indicators.

Resume Template