6 Reasons Your Best Employees Can Lose Their Motivation


Lolly Daskal

Employees require a certain amount of energy and motivation to be engaged and feel fully committed at the workplace.

According to a recent study of 1.2 employees at 52 organizations, most of them Fortune 1000 companies, there’s cause for concern. Most employees start out with high levels of engagement and enthusiasm, the study finds. But after six months on the job, their morale declines sharply—and it continues to deteriorate for years.

If you’re losing good employees to apathy and disengagement, it’s critical that you regain their enthusiasm. Otherwise, you stand to lose your best people—the ones who will always have options—as they head for your competitors, leaving you with the dregs.

Poor employee engagement and retention are leadership issues, and it takes leadership to fix them. And that process begins with knowing what employees need that they aren’t getting. Here are some of the most common issues:

Lack of autonomy If your smartest and most talented employees are not allowed to make decisions on their own, if everything has to be decided from top down, they’ll quickly lose their motivation. Empower them to make decisions and have faith in their judgment.

Lack of professional development. Opportunities for learning and development are an instant boost to employee motivation—especially among the best. Employees like to feel that they’re are expanding and refining their skills. Providing opportunities for people to attain new knowledge and share it with others is one of the best ways to revitalize a stagnant workplace.

Unrealistic workloads. It’s important to keep expectations and demands reasonable. If your employees feel pressured to work longer, stay later, and work most weekends, they will soon become disillusioned, stressed and lacking in motivation. On the other hand, an employee whose workload is too light or not varied enough may quickly lose interest. Set reasonable, realistic expectations and check in from time to time to make sure workloads are still where they should be.

Lack of flexibility. If your workplace doesn’t honor work-life balance, even the most enthusiastic employees will burn out before you know it. Encourage time off, flexible work options and other solutions to keep employees happy and focused.

Lack of communication. Communicate to your employees, and do it often. Because not only does clear communication throughout the organization make for an efficient workplace, it also has a major impact on employee morale and confidence.

Feeling undervalued. An employee who feels that their efforts are not recognized or appreciated will soon begin to lose energy and commitment. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate successes and give credit where it’s due. Try to make sure that every achievement and effort is rewarded, even if it’s just with a simple thank you.

Leaders are often surprised that their best employees are demotivated—and even more surprised when they leave—but if the issues listed above aren’t being handled well, it’s only to be expected.

The signs are always there when there’s a problem; the questions for you as a leader is whether you’re watching and what you’re going to do about it.

Lead from within: To retain and keep your best employees, do what it takes to keep them motivated and inspired.

Protestantism Made Me Catholic


September 20, 2019 by Casey Chalk

First Things has been running a fascinating and provocative series of articles that question the principles and beliefs of most of its readers. In May, it published “Why I Became Muslim” by one Jacob Williams, a Brit who grew up Anglican and then converted to Islam. More recently, the magazine published “Catholicism Made Me Protestant,” a reflection by Onsi A. Kamel, who grew up a “non-denominational, baptistic evangelical,” then seriously considered Catholicism before returning to Protestantism, though one more self-consciously Reformed.

Perhaps as a coup de grace First Things could next publish a piece entitled “How First Things Made Me Stop Reading First Things” (kidding!). In seriousness, the controversial series is welcome, because however much such pieces incite annoyance or anger, they help clarify weaknesses (or perceived weaknesses) in Christianity and Catholicism. If we don’t take the time to understand why our critics disagree with us, how will we ever dialogue with them? Yet a response to Kamel’s criticisms of Catholicism is still warranted, and I’d like to give one.

Kamel has three main criticisms of Catholicism. First, the Church does not have the best claim to the Church Fathers, given that there are “discrepancies” between Catholic apologists’ conception of Holy Tradition and the tradition Kamel encountered. Sometimes, he observes, the Church Fathers say things that sound much more Protestant than Catholic. Moreover, many Reformation-era Protestants quoted the Church Fathers at great length.

Then there’s Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman. Kamel argues that Newman’s theory of doctrinal development “tells against Rome’s claims of continuity with the ancient Church.” Yet, Kamel claims, one only perceives doctrinal development as congruous if one is already committed to Rome’s doctrinal claims. In Kamel’s case, he found, not continuity, but contradiction. He also finds Newman’s arguments regarding private judgment to be problematic. While “Newman castigates Protestants for refusing to ‘surrender’ reason in matters religious,” Kamel asks “if my reason was unfit in matters religious, how was I to assess Newman’s arguments for Roman Catholicism?” In effect, says Kamel, Newman’s attack on Protestant private judgment cuts both ways, thus undermining Catholicism.

Finally, “the infighting among traditionalist, conservative, and liberal Catholics made plain that Catholics did not gain by their magisterium a clear, living voice of divine authority.” Indeed, notes Kamel, someone has to do the interpreting of magisterial documents; and these interpretive authorities, it often seems, are in disagreement with one another. Every new, additional magisterial document only compounds this problem.

Thus Kamel remained a Protestant, though now one conservant not only in low-church evangelicalism, but a broader Reformed Protestant tradition that includes “Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, Herman Bavinck, and Karl Barth,” among others. These Protestants, says Kamel, “out-catholic the Catholics,” because “their answers [are] not only plausible, but more faithful to Scripture than the Catholic answers.” Sitting in his dorm room, Kamel “discovered justification by faith alone through union with Christ,” that first and foremost of Lutheran doctrines. “Luther transformed my understanding of justification: Every Christian possesses Christ…. Christ had joined me to himself.”

I would first like to examine Kamel’s underlying presuppositions. His paradigmatic approach is visible especially in his assertion that Protestantism is “more faithful to Scripture.” Such thinking, as I’ve argued elsewhere, presumes the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity, or the clarity of Scripture. This doctrine—though it is diversely understood within Protestantism—typically teaches that individual Christians using ordinary means (e.g. a good translation of Scripture, prayer, listening to biblical preaching) will be able to divine the Bible’s true meaning.

Yet presuming one paradigm when evaluating another paradigm is to a priori stack the deck in favor of one’s own position. It’s also question-begging, because it presumes something (Scripture’s clarity) that Catholicism doesn’t. It’s no surprise then that he found Catholicism to be wanting—he evaluated it on Protestant terms.

And how reliable are those terms? It’s not a little ironic that Kamel memorializes his discovery of “justification by faith alone” given the only place “faith alone” appears in the Bible is in James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” The Lutheran/Reformed paradigm thus must apply an extra-biblical exegetical framework to try and harmonize Luther’s famous dictum with passages like the above. Even more problematic, Protestants have come to disagree not only with Luther, but with each other, about Scripture’s “plain meaning” on the very essentials of the Christian faith, including which persons truly “possess Christ.”

Now for Kamel’s particular critiques of Catholicism. First, as for the Church Fathers, anybody using Google can find quotations from them that sound more Protestant than Catholic. The Catholic Church has always taught that Tradition appeals to the consensus of the Fathers, recognizing that there could be significant division among them on particular topics. How Kamel could determine Protestantism has a better claim to the Fathers than Catholicism I cannot fathom, given the widespread consensus among them on such un-Protestant teachings as apostolic succession, episcopal juridical/interpretive authority, Petrine primacy, baptismal regeneration, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, and Marian devotion, among others.

On to Newman. Newman’s theory of doctrinal development does not undermine Catholicism’s hermeneutic of continuity. The passing of time and generations necessitates both change and a subsequent interpretation of that change. This is something, pace Kamel, that Protestantism needs to do as well. There was no complete biblical canon without it, for instance, nor an explicit formulation of Christ’s person and nature. The teachings of the Church on these concepts, and many others, developed over centuries. All Christians must make sense of such developments.

Kamel also misunderstands Newman’s argument regarding private judgment. Newman’s point is not that an individual’s reason cannot be used to evaluate any religious arguments. Of course, one needs reason in order to evaluate arguments regarding the existence of God, or which religious tradition has the best historical claim to authority. Otherwise, how would an individual be able to reason that the Catholic Church had the authority to bind his conscience? Indeed, the motives of credibility appeal precisely to reason. Rather, recourse to an individual’s personal reasoning is insufficient in theological matters regarding the authoritative interpretation of Scripture and/or that require divine faith. Thus, even if a person reads Scripture and accurately intuits a conception of the Holy Trinity, such an interpretation couldn’t be normative, because that person lacks interpretive authority. Only the institutional Church founded by Christ possesses this.

Finally, Kamel’s criticism of Catholic infighting says more about human nature than about the Church. If everyone in the pews, or even all the bishops, agreed on every particular of the Church, it would suggest the institution was more a cult (i.e., the bad kind) than a human organism that has stood the test of 2,000 years. Of course, the disagreements regarding Catholic teaching, even among the hierarchy, are disheartening. But they can also be embellished, particularly by her detractors. In truth, the Church has explicitlydefined methods for determining the interpretation of Scripture, Tradition, and magisterial documents. Many inter-Catholic disagreements stem from a lack of familiarity with these methods.

We should carefully observe the reception of Kamel’s article among Protestants. Will they gush over its succinct rhetorical power? If so, as was the case with Roman but Not Catholic—a widely celebrated Protestant polemic against Catholicism—it will once again prove the lackluster character of Protestant apologetics writ large. I reviewed the book last year, and the response of the two authors, Kenneth J. Collins and Jerry L. Walls, was, to put it charitably, sadly instructive.

Alternatively, if we observe Protestants acknowledging the kinds of deficiencies in Kamel’s argumentation I’ve cited above, it would intimate a most welcome development within conservative Protestantism—one that is willing to acknowledge its paradigmatic biases and misreadings of Catholicism and try harder at dialogue. As a former Reformed Protestant, and one deeply invested in this ecumenical project, I pray it’s the latter.

Classic Leadership Mistakes To Avoid


September 19, 2019 by Jane Perdue

Avoid these classic leadership mistakes

SmartBrief illustration

Pay, prestige and the opportunity to serve all come with being a leader. Know what else does, too? Pressure. Lots of it. Most of it not good.

There’s pressure to perform, conform, make money, keep the boss happy and do more with less. The demands come from every direction in the organization — up, down, across –as well as from within. We feel the pressure in discussions with the boss, at performance-review time and in interactions with our colleagues or direct reports.

Fearing the shame of failure, leaders find ways to deal with the pressure. Some coping methods can evolve into counterproductive practices that, over time, sabotage our performance and morale.

Pressure mistake No. 1: Having all the answers

People tend to look to the leader for solutions when problems arise. The leader feels pressure to have answers — and gives them, every time. This “do-as-I-say” cycle eventually kills engagement and fuels egotism.

Inclusive leaders avoid the all-knowing trap by balancing giving answers with asking questions. Even if they know the answer, effective leaders ask questions to build their staff’s critical thinking skills and bring them into the solution. They involve.

Pressure mistake No. 2: Not admitting to being wrong

Academia, business and culture reward us for being right. Admitting to messing up, on the other hand, can bring criticism, which marks us as failures.

Well-rounded leaders recognize that no one gets it right 100% of the time and that being a true leader involves accepting responsibility and blame, no matter how uncomfortable or unflattering. Accountable leaders refuse to fall back on the lame acknowledgment that “mistakes were made.” They own up.

Pressure mistake No. 3: Settling for the quick fix

The perceived need for a speedy resolution tempts leaders to fix symptoms and ignore root causes. The quick-fix approach may appease the big bosses who demand a solution now, but it often creates bigger problems down the road. Serving the urgent at the expense of the important rarely turns out well.

Effective leaders steer clear of the quick-fix approach. They take the time to ask “the five whys” to identify root causes and resolve problems once and for all. They check it out.

Pressure mistake No. 4: Avoiding constructive feedback

It’s the rare person (right?) who wholeheartedly embraces being the cantankerous old coot who happily points out every flaw, real or perceived. More common are leaders who mistake the act of disagreeing with being disagreeable. Out of a fear of not being liked, they avoid giving feedback or pushing back on really bad idea. They confuse nonproductive conflict with productive conflict.

Legitimate leaders recognize that conflict is inevitable and not something negative to be ignored or conquered. Instead, they see differences as opportunities to be addressed together through trust, compassion and acceptance. They engage.

Pressure mistake No. 5: Not knowing when to quit

The perils of quitting too soon are easy to recognize. That awareness is often missing, though, in recognizing that the time to let go happened long ago. Quitting a job, letting a poor performer go or pulling the plug on a project riddled with problems may feel like negative actions given all the time, effort and money that have been invested. They aren’t.

Effective leaders make a conscious effort to not let a fear of loss get in the way of potential gains. Calling it quits doesn’t mean conviction, character or commitment are lacking. Rather, knowing when to quit signals the presence of courage and smarts. They let go.

Pressure can prompt us to turn a strength — like being knowledgeable, persevering or quickly solving problems — into a weakness. Being good at these things probably got you the leadership role. Be a wise leader and don’t let an overused strength become the reason you fail.

3 Simple Blogging Projects for More Revenue


July 22, 2019 by Lena

Still in the throes of summer break with your kids, or just want to work ahead? Either way, I wanted to throw out a few ideas for things you can be doing on your blog now to prepare for the fall.

That’s the hard part about being a blogger and a mom…all the times that we need to be preparing for the blogging busy seasons are the same times we’re busy with our kids. 

I never feel like I’m fully prepared for the fall/holiday blogging busy season…but I try my best!

My summer blog revenue is usually the lowest of the year. Instead of working hard to increase income when I’d rather be outside with my family, I focus on increasing revenue for the fall and winter months by thinking ahead. 

To me, as long as I am getting paid fairly for the time I’m spending on my blog, I don’t care if the revenue comes now or in 5 months. I just want it to arrive eventually!

Want to join me on this quest for boosted blog income later on this year? Let’s get started!

If you want to get ahead on your blog, do these three blogging projects in the SUMMERTIME that will boost your FALL and WINTER income! Working ahead like this always works out better than constantly playing catch up.

3 Simple Blogging Projects to Do NOW for More Revenue This Fall

Here are three things I like to do to get my blog prepped for the upcoming season in the limited time that I have between summertime family moments:

1) Write Some Christmas / Other Holiday Content

If you have never given holiday traffic a try, I highly recommend it. When you strike just the right topic, your traffic can soar and give you a nice bump in ad revenue!

I know it seems silly, but working way ahead on holiday content is imperative if you’re using an indexed based method of distributing your content (like Google or Pinterest). 

Your content needs time to get indexed in those search engines. If you can publish it now, rather than waiting until November, you’re going to have a shot at getting found this Christmas. But if you wait too long to publish, your hard work won’t be found until the following Christmas.

So, post something this summer and backdate it to last December to get it out there. For me, this means publishing it then scheduling it out on Tailwind. Finally, once the holiday season gets closer, start repinning it.

For example, I like to add a Christmas printable or two to my blog post database each year. Those always bring great traffic for me and are super easy to produce.

2) Brainstorm a Black Friday Post

If you have any kind of audience that you can reach on demand,  whether it’s your Instagram audience (which I am just now getting into myself), or maybe your mailing list….use it! 

Everybody (or almost everybody) in the U.S. loves Black Friday deals. 

I always wait until the last minute to put together my Black Friday post and email, but this year I’m brainstorming it in August so I’m not busting my tail to get it together the week of Thanksgiving.

Don’t overthink this – just put together something around a theme that you think your audience would like. This early on, I will just write the intro and blog post placeholder. Then I leave a space to put the deals in list form down the page. 

When the time is right, you can just add in the deals.

If you’re collecting deals from fellow bloggers in your niche, I recommend emailing them ahead of time to ask for their discounts, when ready. You can go ahead and list their products without a price, then add in the actual amount once it is released. 

For instance, if I was going to list deals for moms of toddlers, I could ask Becky Mansfield if she is going to run a sale on her potty training book. If she is planning to do that, I’d list the book image and a quick description in my post now then add the sale price/discount code when it goes on sale. 

Simply put — I am setting myself up for success. 

So easy.

Another idea could be a roundup of all the Amazon deals that your audience might like for that day. Although that one would be harder to prepare ahead of time. 

Lastly, you could go the easy route. If you have several products of your own, list only the deals you’re offering on your own products.

You get the idea! Once you have this format down, you can reuse it in future years and just update the publish date on the post! This is the Black Friday post I did in 2017 for blogging deals. I just updated it in 2018.

3) Assemble a Gift Guide

Full disclosure: I didn’t understand what gift guides entailed for the longest time. Come to find out they are literally just lists of toys or gifts that you think someone might like to buy for a specific person. 

You could go as broad as “Best Toys for Christmas 2019” or as specific as “Amazing Gifts for the Camping Enthusiast in Your Life.” Anything goes as long as it fits with your audience’s interest.

I try to add a couple of gift guides per year which helps keep my Amazon income elevated during the holidays.

Hint – If you brainstorm and do a bit of outreach you can probably get some sweet FREE gifts for your family just by promising to review the items on your blog (in the form of blog posts, Instagram stories, YouTube reviews, etc). 

I’ve done this in the past for toy companies, but only when they contacted me. This year I’m reaching out for the exact toys we want.

Well, there you have it! Three small projects you can work on now that will result in a great injection of revenue later this year….right at the time of year when you might need some extra cash!

I know it seems weird to think that far ahead because it’s the middle of summer here in the US. When it’s hot, the last thing I want to do is think about is winter. But we need to think like magazine editors!

Statistics Can Uncover Unreported Killings


When investigative journalists Sheila Coronel and her team began counting drug-related killings in the Philippines last year they turned to statistician Patrick Ball to reveal the truth.

September 17, 2019 by Kyra Gurney

When investigative journalist Sheila Coronel and her team began counting drug-related killings in the Philippines last year, they encountered a problem: Many of the people who had been killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs didn’t show up in police records or media reports. In some cases, even the local priests hadn’t heard about their deaths. One priest told the reporters he’d only learned about a homicide when he smelled a rotting corpse and followed the stench to it.

How many other killings had gone unreported? Coronel and her team wondered.

The journalists enlisted the help of Patrick Ball, a statistician with the San Francisco-based Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

Everyone who has been murdered should be remembered. – Patrick Ball

Ball analyzed the data reporters had collected from a variety of sources – including on-the-ground interviews, police records, and human rights groups – and used a statistical technique called multiple systems estimation to roughly calculate the number of unreported deaths in three areas of the capital city Manila.

The team discovered that the number of drug-related killings was much higher than police had reported. The journalists, who published their findings last month in The Atlantic, documented 2,320 drug-linked killings over an 18-month period, approximately 1,400 more than the official number. Ball’s statistical analysis, which estimated the number of killings the reporters hadn’t heard about, found that close to 3,000 people could have been killed – more than three times the police figure. Recommended reading

Ball said there are both moral and technical reasons for making sure everyone who has been killed in mass violence is counted.

“The moral reason is because everyone who has been murdered should be remembered,” he said. “A terrible thing happened to them and we have an obligation as a society to justice and to dignity to remember them.” Patrick Ball explains a new model for multiple systems estimation to some visitors to the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. i HRDAG

Ball first began applying data analysis to human rights violations in the early 1990s when he traveled to El Salvador with Peace Brigades International, a group that accompanies local activists. A Salvadoran church asked Ball for help indexing files and he ended up creating a database of crimes reported to the non-governmental Human Rights Commission. Ball was able to compare that database with the career histories of Salvadoran military officers to determine who was in charge in a particular area when a crime took place.

Since then, the Human Rights Data Analysis Group has used statistics to estimate the number of killings in conflicts around the world, including the civil war in Syria, and to calculate the number of homicides committed by police in the United States. Ball also served as an expert witness in the genocide case against Guatemala’s General Efraín Ríos Montt and had to leave the country when he and other witnesses faced threats.

Although Ball has worked with journalists in the past, his collaboration with Coronel and her team was his first experience being closely involved in a journalistic investigation. Ball said he sees an opportunity for more collaboration between reporters and statisticians.

“I always urge journalists not to try to do statistics on their own,” he said. Sheila Coronel goes through records of drug-related killings in the Philippines. i Sheila Coronel

Coronel, the director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, agreed that data scientists can play an important role in investigative journalism.

“A lot of the work that investigative journalists do is trying to figure out the magnitude of the wrongdoing,” she said. “There are limits with what we can do with documents and data given the lack of documents and the lack of data. I think machine learning and statistical modeling provides a way for us to be able to get a bigger grasp of the problems we are investigating.”