Leadership Tips to Live By

An Interview with Dave Herda Sr.


During a college course on leadership in the workplace, one of our assignments was to interview a prominent leader of any organization. At the time, I worked for Ameritech when Dick Notebaert was CEO. I tried to get in touch with him, but to my disappointment (and his) he would be in Europe on vacation for several weeks.

There are leaders all around us. They don’t have to be the president of a large corporation, or have a big title. What they do need is the experience of being a good leader in which their reputation attests time and again that they are worthy of recognition and greatness. Therefore, I chose to interview David Herda, superintendent of the Northern Illinois Gas Company.

Below are 8 interview questions on leadership that I asked Mr. Herda.

1. What is your philosophy on leadership?

“To lead by example. You can’t ask subordinates to do something that you wouldn’t do.”

“You can’t compromise your scruples or morals.”

“You must encourage your subordinates and support them.”

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When You First Realize You Have History

digital comp


For the first few years of being fresh in the workforce, you are gathering all kinds of experience. Not only are you acquiring actual work experience while garnering a paycheck, you’re learning how to organize your time and how to deal with coworkers and clients. Meanwhile, you’ll be judged, sized-up, and oftentimes criticized (gently or harshly), not only by your manager, but by your coworkers as well.

If we are lucky to live long enough, we acquire our own history. In my personal view, this “history” I speak of is usually a self-enlightening moment when you say to yourself, “Hey! I’ve been working in this field for 10 years now. I know what I’m doing. I understand what works and what doesn’t. I know this industry.”

A good 10 years – at anything – is a pretty good test of time to really feel you have solid experience. Those 10 years give a person a “rite of passage” to be able to attest to what works and what doesn’t at their job. I’m not just talking about someone with 10 years of tenure at the same company. I’m talking about work experience in any field throughout that time.

After 10 years in your field, you may start saying things like:

  • I’m not selling myself short anymore.
  • I’ve done this before and I know it works.
  • These great ideas of mine come from a lot of experience.

My point in this blog is when you have that “Ah-ha” moment and realize the experience you’ve acquired in order to throw down that trump card. You begin to build some backbone. Your confidence has finally been earned. It’s a great feeling.

Being in the work force for over 40 years now, I look at my history this way:

Year 10 – Wow, I have 10 years’ work experience.

Year 20 – Say, I have been around the block.

Year 30 – I’m confident I can do anything.

Year 40 – Move over, punk.

Become a Master at What You Do in Order to Find Your Passion

moneyWith so many careers to choose from how do you select just the right one that will drive you to be successful and fulfilled?

In my early college days, I already knew that I wanted to be in the commercial arts. In fact, I knew early on that I was going to be a creative in some capacity. In order to make steady income, many of us artists went the commercial route. Yes, this was B.C. (before computers)

After being employed and learning the trade while attending college classes, I learned that an art director could make up to at least $65k/year back in the early 1980s. So, I tried to achieve that goal but for some reason, while my work was good, the opportunity never presented itself to me for a variety of reasons, and so I settled for lower wages as just another staff artist.

At least I was always happy in the capacity of being a graphic artist and my employers were happy to have me aboard. If they were happy with my work, then I felt successful in return – happy to please, happy to bring home the bacon.

There are some people who consider their job as their career. For instance, my career right now is TNS. Back in the 90s my career was Fel-Pro. There are others who consider their field as their career – such as nursing. You can be a nurse anywhere. However, if you are a nurse at a given hospital, you can consider making your career at that hospital. It all depends on your point of view. Ultimately, you decide how you want to look at it.

In a recent article in the Sunday Wall Street Journal, writer, Dennis Nishi wrote an article entitled, “What Does ‘Success’ Mean, Anyway?” In it Nishi mentions that many employees who are dissatisfied with their career choices are not entirely to blame. Their ideas about success are not their own. Nirshi writes, “It happens early and often subconsciously. People are influenced by the simple reward systems learned in high school and college and by what is portrayed as success by media and in popular culture.” Nishi adds that there are strong influences by parents and their expectations to continue a family business. The result is that some people wake up years later dissatisfied with their career choices.

You can change your career any time you want to provided you have the time to expend to go to school and if not school, you still have to find the time to learn of or start something new.  It’s scary too! Many of us become complacent and don’t want to run the risk of recreating themselves – especially in a downtrodden economy where all we hear and see in the news media is how unemployment is up. However, in my view, the alternative is to recoil in your current role and let your passions pass you by.

Whatever it takes, find your passion in something you love to do and make it happen. Step by step, little by little. I’m glad that I choose to be a graphic designer even if a lot of it is creating forms because I find that there is creativity and a little math too that challenges me on a daily basis. I have an open mind too, thank goodness and once I’ve learned something new and mastered it, THEN I become passionate about it.

If you are a young college student not knowing exactly what career path you want to go and despite all the interests tests you take, you’re still confused, I say go for what makes money for now. You may not know what your passion is until you’re actually working in that capacity, and that can come a little later in life. I believe passion doesn’t come until you learn what it is. It doesn’t happen until you go through some heartache and losses first. Now the drama and life lessons are building until you hit that crescendo! Now, you can declare work as YOUR passion because you put so much of your own blood, sweat and tears into it.

Employee Engagement Survey Used as Best Communication Tool

86089312_4When you think about conducting an employee survey, consider the benefits of it being one of the best and most significant communication tools you can use at your company.

Employee engagement surveys are not used strictly for collecting feedback. Pre-survey communications; advertising that the survey is coming, should relay survey goals, anonymity and post-survey findings. These communications should come from the organizations top leadership.

  • The first message should be that the organization’s leadership is genuinely interested in what employees have to say.
  • Each question on a survey should be examined thoughtfully to ensure they are consistent with the company goals.
  • Show where there are areas of strengths and weaknesses and communicate to employees how the company intends to change them.
  • On the survey, remember to ask about employee benefits. This may be the only time you can elicit feedback about them.
  • Employees should be able to share their thoughts without retribution when they voice their opinions – whether on an employee survey or in person. Does your company have a culture of trust? If employees do not trust the organization, they may not answer survey questions honestly if they fear retribution.
    Some employees think that online surveys are much less anonymous than paper, because they think their IP addresses will link survey responses to individuals. They must be assured by management that the data and feedback collected will never be singled out or individuals identified. TNS ensures that privacy and anonymity is lock-tight when using our online survey technology.

What’s the Difference between Employee Satisfaction & Engagement Surveys?

  • The difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement surveys is that the drivers for both are studied differently. Engagement is about an employee’s personal accomplishments, goals, and work/life balance. Satisfaction is being satisfied with pay, equality, working conditions, safety and security. Further, an engaged employee is more committed and not considering leaving the company.
  • The most common measurements of engagement are cognitive, emotional and behavioral, of which there are many drivers. As experts in this field, TNS will be happy to assist you to ensure all relevant drivers have been included.



Manager’s Bad Advice Could Lead to Dismissal

managerHere’s one for the books. I know someone who works for a major food chain here in the Midwest. I’ll call her Jane to protect her identity. Jane is just reaching her one year anniversary as a part time florist. A few times she has had to clarify certain procedures and protocols with her boss. Naturally.

Due to Jane’s boss not being able to extend her more working hours as a part-timer, she asked her boss if she could arrange her schedule should she be called to work at another occasional part time job – given enough notice. The boss told Jane that if that opportunity landed on a day she was scheduled to work, she should just call in sick that day. Jane took offense to the advice of lying and calling in sick because she has a good work ethic. Not only did Jane’s immediate boss tell her to call in sick but so did the store manager who has years of experience with this particular food chain.

Jane has asked several times for more hours and it turns out her coworker is getting double the amount she is  – which is another matter altogether. Jane was told by her boss, that this other coworker is getting 20 hours while Jane was only getting 10, is just the way it is because she cannot afford to lose her. The coworker is a college student and she will probably not make the store her career. Meanwhile, Jane is much older, likes the job but needs more hours.

After listening to Jane tell her story, the conclusion sounds simple enough and that is to tell her union steward the problem. It’s hard to come up against her store manager and immediate manager after working there for only one year. It’s easy for someone else not in Jane’s shoes to tell her what to do. However, as long as Jane has tried to discuss the matter with both her manager and store manager, and came up unsatisfied, she should go to the next person in the chain of command, which is her union steward. That’s what the union gets paid to do in the first place, settle disputes.

Jane is worried about repercussions between her and her boss, but if she were to follow her boss’s advice by lying, she could be dismissed if found out. Anyone with a good conscience could hardly work at the other place knowing they lied and called in sick.

Do you have a manager who invites you to lie? You shouldn’t have to lie about anything. If you do, you could be dismissed as well as the bad manager telling you to do so.

Can One be Overly Engaged at Work?

sucking-up-to-boss3What is just the right amount of engagement or is there just no such thing? Either one is engaged or not. There are no shades of gray. However, I wonder how others may view this thought.

I don’t ever want to be that person who is always “sucking up” to the boss, and yet, there are some who might misinterpret a good working relationship between a boss and a subordinate. I don’t think you should ever have to make excuses or explain to anyone why you have that good working relationship unless it’s just to say that you have good karma, while still being very much engaged.

“Sucking up” to the boss also doesn’t mean you’re engaged. In fact, in many cases it can mean the opposite because a person’s motives for buddying up to their boss could mean they want a promotion, more money, or special favors. Who knows? Brown-nosing does not equate to employee engagement. Brown-nosing or “sucking up” is all about the person doing it. They have the “me syndrome.” It may seem like they are engaged, but their motives are very deceptive.

An employee who is truly engaged, does great work and is recognized with a pat on the back by their boss, deserves accolades – not favors. Anyone witnessing the pat on the back may just be envious, while at the same time, happy for that person who deserves the merit. Envy of someone’s situation is not jealousy. Jealously harbors resentment. Envying someone for doing a good job with recognition should only inspire others to achieve success at work.

I believe that the notion of someone being “overly” engaged is only in the mind of the observer. Either one is engaged or one is not. Anyone who believes that any of their coworkers are overly engaged is perhaps mistaking them for being enthusiastic or passionate about their work.


Managing Managers’ Feelings

Business HandshakeIt’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another, when we have a manager that just doesn’t like us for some reason. Who knows why? You try your best to figure it out with coworkers and friends, and still you get a weird vibe. What’s this all about?

Well, managers are human too and so are personality clashes. That’s a very human trait and sometimes you don’t even know why you clash with someone. But underneath it all, there is a reason and you have to do some brainstorming to get to the bottom of it. But how?

After just writing about a jealous boss, maybe there’s a social case where it’s not jealousy but a genuine personality clash. Personality clashes can be as intricate as personalities themselves. You don’t have to have the same kind of personality to have a clash. You could be two polar opposites whereby you’re not liked for you’re A-type, bombastic personality, while your manager is B-type, quiet and reserved.

Coaching managers to understand his or her subordinates better and to smooth out personality quirks, is the best way to go if you ask me. In fact, if a manager is trained to understand personality types, then he or she will certainly understand his or her subordinates much better. Most of the clash is due to misunderstanding where people are coming from.

plsunderstandmeHaving both manager and subordinates take personality tests are not only fun, but will help clear the air. There are many personality tests, but the one I find best, is Keirsey-Bates. (David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates – Please Understand Me; 1984) Below is Amazon’s the book description:

Does your spouse’s need to alphabetically organize books on the shelves puzzle you? Do your boss’s tsunami-like moods leave you exasperated? Do your child’s constant questions make you batty? If you’ve ever wanted to change your mate, your coworkers, or a family member, then “Put down your chisel,” advises David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates in this book of personality types. We are different for a reason, and that reason is probably more good than bad. Keirsey and Bates believe that not only is it impossible to truly change others (which they call embarking on a “Pygmalion project”), it’s much more important to understand and affirm differences. Sounds easier than it is, you might say. Well, this book is a guide for putting an end to the Pygmalion projects in your life and starting on the path to acceptance.

A few years ago, we took personality tests during a week-long training session facilitated by an outside party – a real pro! We found that many of the personality group descriptions were spot on for most, and others were quite surprising, but they told us it was spot on.

You can get the book for a tuppence at Amazon and conduct the test yourself. I’d start with the manager and subordinate who are experiencing the clash. You have two great workers who you don’t want to see leave over this and what a better way to resolve differences once they are understood? … better yet, once they understand each other.

What Prevents You from Doing Your Job Well?


From time to time, perhaps it’s a good idea to rid ourselves of distractions that prevent us from doing our jobs well. Oftentimes, I allow myself to be distracted by things that are either in my control or not. For example, I should have my cell phone off while at work. If anything is really urgent, as in a medical emergency, my nearest and dearest know my work phone. You may think that a simple text is not distracting but consider that you answer a text which involves a social situation with one of your friends. It’s not necessarily the text that’s distracting or your reply, but it’s thinking about the situation afterward. If it doesn’t bother you and you can jump back in your work like a horse with blinders on, then this is not a problem for you.

Yes, I know we’re all human and don’t want to work like robots all day long. I believe we do need to break away from our work stations at regular intervals. This situation is not only for office workers on computers. This affects us all in any industry. So, set aside time to call or text on your break.

As we know, there are different strokes for different folks and what bothers one person may not bother another. Therefore, make a list of distractions and work on eliminating, avoiding, or controlling them.

The title of this blog is “What Prevents You from Doing Your Job Well?” It’s not only audible or visual distractions that keep you from doing your job well, but perhaps something more, like admitting you need more professional training on certain software. This is a common problem and if someone is always lost on how to do something and consistently asking for help, not only are they preventing themselves from doing their job well, but they are distracting others from doing theirs.

Here’s an example of what prevents me from doing my job well.

  1. Not prioritizing my workload.
  2. Helping others too much with last minute rush jobs putting other tasks on the back burner.
  3. Not focusing on the task at hand. Scatterbrained.
  4. Over multi-tasking.
  5. Inability to just say, “no” to additional tasks when already full.
  6. Allowing too much socializing with “drive-bys.”

These are things I can work on and if they are out of my control, it’s time to sit with my supervisor and ask him or her to help me prioritize my work.

Is Honesty Still the Best Policy?

George TreeOf course honesty is the best policy for all the reasons in this debate. Honesty is not always about telling the truth when asked a question. Being honest is a lot more. For instance, are you honest about the time you spend on a job? Are you honest about getting or giving the right change? This type of honesty is more or less covert. You may never be found out, and yet you never know when you’ll be asked whether or not you are honest about these types of situations.

What if you are at a job interview and an unusual question is posed by the interviewer. She asks, “Imagine you have been with the company for a full year. Do you feel entitled to take a pen home?” Yikes! Who hasn’t taken a pen home from time to time? Quick, think. How do you answer? You could deflect and say, “It’s not right to take anything home from work that’s not your own property.” Or you could tell a semi-lie and say, “Yes, I admit, I have taken a pen home from time to time, but only by accident, and brought it back to the office the next day.” Or you could spill your guts and say, “Yes, I did. And I knew it was wrong and unethical, so I apologized to the office supply cabinet.”

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TNS Floats to HRMAC Summit 2014 in Rosemont



On October 23rd at HRMAC Summit 2014, we are taking part in a very special venue. Our CEO, Mike Schroeder will speak at one of HRMAC’S Industry Knowledge Sessions held during the show.

Industry Knowledge Sessions is an opportunity to present unique thought leadership content or a case study to the Summit attendees through a 30 minute information-based session.  This session is intended to be educational in nature and focus on industry knowledge through best practices or a client case study.

Since we just published a book on tips for managers on how to engage their employees, we found that the requests for the books were so overwhelming that we printed more and now want to present these very helpful tips at HRMAC.


Mike will be presenting his session (C5) at 12:15 pm in Room 14.

Check in, Session Times & Room Assignments: All breakout sessions are located on Level 1. Please go directly to the room your session has been assigned (room changes may occur if necessary but will be prominently communicated via on-site signage).

Come see us at booth 320!