The Perfect Tool In an Imperfect World

Business owners and managers are worried about their remote workers. If you’ve never had anyone work away from the office before, it can be unnerving. How can they trust what is going on? Are hours being used wisely? How can I make everyone more accountable?

On the flip side, employees who work remotely worry they are not going to be given credit for the effort they spend and the work they produce.

Having this air of uncertainty doesn’t help anyone feel productive. I’ve heard of talk about upping your communication. What does that mean? More zoom?

Leaders providing clarity of purpose, assignment, and mission must have ways to drive accountability. Simply talking more won’t get there.

It’s Not a Perfect System.

How can the two sides connect to provide clarity of expectations and certainty of delivery? Well, you can have daily zoom calls, but who wants to do that forever?

You could build a giant database but who needs that burden piled on top of the already difficult process?

There is actually a very simple yet elegant system I’ve used for years. Calling it a system may scare some people away already. Maybe process or habit is better.

Explaining the Solution

The process is called Big 5. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time I’ve written about this before.

But now is an especially significant change in workforce activity.

Big 5 can be the missing link for all you leaders who are worried about productivity and workers who wonder whether the boss knows your value.

Here’s How It Works.

On a regular basis, every employee (managers included) writes out five goals or expectations they have for the upcoming month. These would be your ‘big rock’ priorities or ‘must wins’.

Next you write down your five biggest achievements for the past month.

Neither of these sections is long text in paragraphs. No, it’s simply bullet listed items.

You can add some comments about resource needs, constraints, etc. But focus first on goals and accomplishments.

Then send it to your boss.

gratitude smile

The boss can review and give feedback. It becomes a flash moment of coaching between manager and employee.

“I like your goals 1 thru 4, but let’s talk more about number 5.”

“Wow, I had no idea you got so much done last month. Thank you for such a big contribution.” Or…

“Sam I like what you can do for us. However I see you’ve been struggling with this remote working environment. Let’s talk about ways I can help you.”

When the next period rolls around, the things you said were goals should become accomplishments. Now, you update the goals.

Take really big, longer term goals and break them down into those bite size tasks.

Frequency of Reporting

Usually, when I teach Big 5, we start with monthly check-ins. However, with the massive change in the workplace, like what we have right now, you might ask for weekly updates.

I once ran a large project with very high velocity, rapid-fire activity. A weekly check-in made more sense. I was providing my client with a status report every Monday, so I had my team do a weekly Big 5.

When they left on Friday, they dropped me their individual reports. I could compile them into a summary picture I gave the client on Monday.

It was powerful, productive, and very effective. Huge goals were achieved, deliverables were met, and the client was very happy with the results.

What About Me?

You might be saying I don’t have a team, but I do have a boss.

Ok, write your Big 5 and give it to the boss. When he/she says “What’s this?” Explain it to them. Say you want to create more clarity and you believe this can help.

That is exactly how I was introduced to Big 5. The colleague who created it actually worked for me many years ago. We were going through tumultuous times in our industry and days flew by.

Finally, one day he dropped a printed copy of his report on my desk. Sure enough, I said, “What’s this?” He explained. We had a brief discussion about the content. He left with perfect clarity of my expectations for him and his team.

Next month he was back again with an update.

And we thrived after that with better clarity, alignment, and a sense of achievement. Sure, we had meetings in between, but the big objectives were being conquered.

Fill the Gap

If you are worried about the productivity of your team, introduce the Big 5 process. If you don’t think your boss understands what you do, give them a Big 5 report. Rinse and repeat.

Big 5 has even replaced employee ranking and annual assessment tools. If you’re doing Big 5 monthly, when the annual review comes around, you have 60 data points to discuss. That, my friend, is powerful.

It’s by far not a perfect work world right now. Why not use a more perfect tool to manage the crisis?

Big 5 Performance is created by Roger Ferguson of ISIHRConsulting. Big 5 has a cloud-based app to automate the process. It even manages the reporting with the next level up managers. If the app is something you want for you, your team or your company click here.


6 Steps to Build Better Teams

Do you think your work team is just average? Have you ever thought about ways to make it better?

What if you had a highly effective and productive team?

Being a leader at work, at home, or in your community suggests just that. Your team has to be hitting the right marks to make you feel like your leadership is going somewhere. When I start working with my executive coaching clients, we usually start out with very personal thoughts and ideas. They usually are looking for ways to improve something (or several somethings) about their ability to lead.

Yet upon reflection, the issues they frame as personal matters inevitably manifest as team-level issues. On one hand they are saying “If I did more of ‘X’ I believe I would become a better leader.” What is really happening is them saying “My team would operate at a higher level if I could help them with (blank)….”

It makes good sense that leaders should seek ways to influence their followers.

If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just walking around.
John Maxwell

The Study

In a recent study published by Google, they revealed the findings from a two-year deep dive into the makings of their highest performing teams. The effort was named Project Aristotle.

While they uncovered several key aspects that contributed to making a great team, there was one that stood out. In the study, they discovered the number one attribute present in all the best teams was something called “psychological safety.”

Read the whole section on this idea and you learn they are talking about trust.

Team Trust

So you get it. Trust is the right stuff to make a great team. How does a leader build trust?
I’ve uncovered six key questions employees ask themselves about the teams they are on.
Each question builds on the previous one(s). If leaders fail to provide clear and meaningful answers to these questions, employees either are not clear about the mission or not committed to the cause.

Fail on too many questions and the team is downright dysfunctional. Get them right though, our team will be unstoppable.

Here We Go

These are the six questions to know and understand.

People – Do I even want to be here? Each team member asks this fundamental question. Each member of the team must satisfy this basic question before any other work can be achieved.

Purpose – Do I understand why we exist as a team? Is there clarity around our mission? Each member of the team must satisfy this next question to gain clarity before commitment.

Plan – How is this going to be done? I understand the purpose but tell me more about how we’re going to do this. What is the plan that will be followed to get things done?

Process – What drives the way we will do things? This is the practice step or execution. What works and what does not? If we discover something is not working, how will we change that? There should not be any artificial roadblocks in the way of team success.

Performance – How will we measure success? Will it be a fair assessment? Fair and equitable standards and tools for performance evaluation and measurement are required. Old, stale ways of waiting for annual reviews must be eliminated. Today’s workforce demands better feedback and coaching from their leaders.

Payoff – What is the payoff for accomplishing everything we set out to do? Are the rewards worth the effort? Rewards are not limited to monetary compensation. Think about recognition, pride, self-esteem, and other measures of achievement.

To learn more, visit the page I have dedicated to the team Trust Model.

Lunch & Learn on October 22

The Silver Fox Advisors monthly program Lunch & Learn will feature Dr. Peter Pisters, President of MD Anderson. This month’s event is the last of the 2020 series.​

Dr. Peter Pisters

If you have ever wanted to know more about the world-renown cancer research and treatment organization, this is your chance. Dr. Pisters will be speaking about organizational resiliency, an especially significant topic in the face of today’s challenging world.​

Thursday, October 22

12:00 Noon to 1:30 PM​

If you registered already, you’re all set. You should be getting a countdown reminder.

If you have not yet registered, there are still a few seats available. The webinar is FREE, but you must register.

CEO Education Series Part 4

On Monday, September 21 at 12:00PM, a panel of Silver Fox Advisors will be sharing their insights and best practices to help small business owners. The focus topic will be on processes and systems.

The CEO Education series presented by the Silver Fox Advisors was begun in 2020. Little did we know the COVID-19 pandemic would be upon us, impacting businesses at all levels.

These important workshops have helped hundreds of Houston area business owners with tips and ideas about customer acquisition, pivoting in times of chaos, managing and leading through crisis, and managing your financials.

In the episode, you will be hearing about ways to ensure your process and systems are up to speed, scalable, and reliable.

The program will be a webinar format. Pre-registration is required, but there is NO cost to attend.

Register here.

To learn more about the Silver Fox Advisors, visit

Rich Hall

New Member – Rich Hall

HOUSTON, TX (Sept. 9, 2020) – Today the Silver Fox Advisors announced its newest Silver Fox Advisor.

Rich Hall

“Rich Hall was elected a Silver Fox Advisor at the organization’s Sept. 9, 2020 Membership Meeting”, announced Bill Herman, President of the Silver Fox Advisors.

Herman added. “Rich has an extensive background in the business world and all aspects of corporate strategy, financial responsibility, technology, and daily operations. In addition, Rich is a true believer in giving back to his community to make it a better place to live, work, and raise a family.  Rich is active in several business and service industry organizations.

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Expertise

Rich focuses on developing leaders to become better every day and to overcome their personal challenges for success. He helps develop high-performing teams and elevates each member along the way. He will roll up his sleeves and work relentlessly to help clients identify core barriers for success and help them develop a plan to destroy those barriers.

Rich understands the nuances of private and family-owned businesses and the challenges they present. He provides expertise as needed in the following roles:

  • Servant Leader and Success Guide
  • Executive Coach
  • Leadership Development Professional
  • Succession Planning and Family Member Development Guru

Business and Career Background

Rich is the Founder and Chief Success Guide for Rich Hall Group, an executive coaching and services firm. He has extensive experience in the corporate world that he leverages for his clients. Representative successes are:

  • Leader of a global 68-year family-owned business that he led the transformation from stagnation and financial losses to record profits and revenue in the same year.    
  • Executive leading Client Services at a 25-year family-owned software company in a very mature market. He transitioned the company to a world-class service organization (as measured by Net Promoter Score) that participated in a very successful exit.
  • Key leader of a small, outsourced service company to participate in an event within first year of hire. Result was a triangular merger that achieved a strong exit for investors.
  • Leader of team that developed the world’s highest capacity legal discovery processing solution for the largest and most complex bankruptcy in the world (Enron). Savings for the creditors were identified as over $150M in two years.

Rich’s specialty is to leverage his experience to help clients rapidly identify the challenges holding them and their companies back from achieving outstanding success. He then helps them develop a plan and guides them along the way. He ensures the leadership team is prepared to continue without him through leadership training, coaching, and mentorship.     

Silver Fox Advisors are proven business leaders who advise, coach, consult, and mentor business leaders, CEO Roundtables, and entrepreneurship programs.

Silver Fox Advisors have been sharing their knowledge, experience, and skills since 1986. For more information visit:

Mr. James Olson

Lunch & Learn July 23

Please join us Thursday, July 23, 2020 for our monthly Lunch & Learn program featuring Mr. James Olson, former Chief of CIA Counterintelligence.

Mr. James Olson
Mr. James Olson

Mr. Olson will take the audience into the world of espionage as he lived it during his 31-year under cover career. The theme of his presentation will be “Traitors I Have Known,” a discussion of his personal experiences with American spies who betrayed our country for money, ego, or sex. He will describe why these traitors did what they did, how they operated, and how they got caught. Mr. Olson will leave time at the end for questions about his career, the CIA in general, current events, or anything else on the audience’s mind. He will also provide an overview of his new book, “To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence.”

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991 many academics, media commentators, and even senior government officials declared that the Cold War was over and that we were in a new era of Pax Americana. Jim Olson was not one of those who was deluded by the changing currents of international affairs.

From his post as Chief of Counterintelligence for the CIA to his professorship at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Jim has studied, analyzed, and tracked the intelligence activities of hostile intelligence services as the international community evolved. He has warned of the continuing focus of the intelligence services of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba on the United States. These hostile services are not only penetrating our government and its military and intelligence services, but are also focusing on economic and cyber-attacks.

Professor Olson in his new book, “To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence”, demonstrates the devastating success of hostile Intelligence services against all elements of the U.S. government. He has also shown the evolution of U.S. counterintelligence activities and the positive nature of these changes while acknowledging the difficulties of effective counterintelligence in democratic societies.

“This program promises to be an interesting dive into a world few of us know anything about. It will be informative and entertaining. Mr. Olson has previously presented at one of our events and the audience response was very positive.” says Bill Herman, President, Silver Fox Advisors.

Mr. Olson is our featured speaker on July 23 as part of the monthly Silver Fox Advisors Lunch & Learn. The program will be in webinar format. Please register in advance.

Shellye Arnold

What’s Happening at Memorial Park?

Houston’s Memorial Park is one of the crown jewels of Houston’s unique culture. Join us on June 25th as we hear from Shellye Arnold, the President & CEO of the Memorial Park Conservancy. The mission of the Memorial Park Conservancy is to preserve, restore, and enhance Memorial Park for the enjoyment of all Houstonians, today and tomorrow. Memorial Park Conservancy is a private, nonprofit organization that operates and maintains 1,100 of the Park’s 1,500 acres.

Shellye joined Memorial Park Conservancy in 2013. Since then, Shellye and the Conservancy leadership team have grown the organization from 3 employees to over 30 and from a $500,000 annual budget to over $30 million in operating and capital expenses. Working closely with partners, Shellye and the Conservancy developed a long-range Master Plan for Memorial Park in 2015; initiated capital improvements and transitioned management and operations of 1,100 acres of Memorial Park to the Conservancy in 2016; and in 2018 secured approval for a plan to deliver over $200 million of capital improvements in Memorial Park by 2028.

Fundraising is underway for this Ten-Year Plan for the Park, with catalyst funding from the Kinder Foundation. This is one of the largest urban park restoration efforts underway in the U.S.  Project Partners in this public-private partnership include the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Memorial Park Conservancy, Kinder Foundation, and Uptown Development Authority.

The team is focused on:

  • Restoring the Park’s ecological systems and creating greater resiliency
  • Reconnecting the Park’s land, waterways, trails, and people
  • Consolidating compatible uses together in appropriate areas
  • Tending to the land and the Park’s cultural history, maintaining balance through responsible management
  • And enhancing the overall Park experience and amenities

Shellye brings a background in executive leadership and change management from her nearly 20 years at Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer Corporation and McKinsey & Company. Having studied public policy,

Early Career

Shellye spent the first part of her career with the Texas State Legislature, the Texas Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. She previously worked as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru delivering public health programs and speaks Spanish fluently.

Shellye holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. As a native Houstonian, Shellye cares deeply about Houston’s parks, bayous, green spaces and the wildlife that inhabit them.  Shellye volunteers in animal rescue and from 2011 – 2019 served as a leader for Girl Scout Troop 21, the nation’s only Girl Scout troop composed of women with differing learning abilities.

From the President of Silver Fox Advisors

Silver Fox Advisors’ President Bill Herman stated, “Memorial Park is actually larger than Central Park in New York City and is a Houston gem that is going thru a significant enhancement.  Come and learn about Memorial Park’s long-term vision.”

This special presentation will be held via webinar rather than the Silver Fox Advisors normal meeting format at the Houston Racquet Club. You must register for event by clicking here.

Henry Florsheim

The Silver Fox Advisors Add Henry Florsheim

Today the Silver Fox Advisors announced their newest member, Mr. Henry Florsheim. Mr. Florsheim was elected a member at the May 14th Membership meeting held virtually.

Bill Herman, President of the organization welcomed Mr. Florsheim by saying “Henry has an extensive and highly recognized career as former Managing Director of Houston’s ABC-TV Channel 13. His passion for the community and its growth are well known.”

Mr. Florsheim is retired from ABC-13, but is involved in numerous community activities including board seats with Interfaith Ministries of Houston and DePelchin Children’s Center. He is a former board member of the Houston Food Bank and Theatre Under the Stars. He volunteers with BakerRipley and serves in various voter registration activities for Harris and Fort Bend counties.

Silver Fox Advisors are proven business leaders who advise, consult, and mentor business leaders, CEO Roundtables, and entrepreneurship programs.

Silver Fox Advisors have been sharing their knowledge, experience, and skills since 1986. For more information visit:

Gerald Merfish was elected a Silver Fox Advisor

HOUSTON, TX (August 8, 2019) – Today the Silver Fox Advisors announced its newest Silver Fox Advisor.Gerald Merfish was elected a Silver Fox Advisor at the organization’s August 8, 2019 Business Meeting”, announced Bill Herman, President of the Silver Fox Advisors. Herman added. “Gerald has an extensive varied background in the business world and specifically in supply chain distribution and the steel pipe industry. In …

Read moreGerald Merfish was elected a Silver Fox Advisor