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Plumlee & Associates

How do you like to communicate? How does your client/business partner/employee prefer to receive

communications? Have you reach the pinnacle of the communication summit? If not, please keep reading!


Communication: when it works well, it is as beautiful as hearing your favorite band’s album or attending a

well-rehearsed musical performance. However, when two parties (or groups) are not communicating in a

proper fashion, challenges are likely to happen. Assumptions can be made, bad decisions are executed and

chaos can result at the extreme.


Danny Cahill, a long-respected Executive Recruiter and owner of Hobson & Associates, shared this hierarchy

of communication styles with the top recruiters in the United States recently at the Pinnacle Society meeting.

Any creative license is purely my own! I encourage you to think P.E.T. when working through the hierarchy of

communications. Remember to communicate in the manner that is best for the other party!


Phone – in this day and age, seems like we are talking on the phone less and less. Personally, I tend to do

most of my calls on my cell phone in-between meetings or business commitments. According to Mr Cahill, use

the phone to “persuade” someone. If you are passionate about your product or service, then the other party is

going to hear it in your voice. I love to stand and pace when I am on an important call. My confidence goes up

and my brain is fully engaged. Believe science and physiology experts might agree.


Email – Danny is an advocate of using electronic mail (email) to educate someone. You have the luxury of

taking time to formulate your thoughts and build a cohesive argument. Of course, you want to use this tool

when you have an existing relationship. “Cold calling over email” is far from ideal and will likely never be read

by the recipient. Sometimes, simply sending an email to request time to speak via phone will save heartache

(and a potential headache) both in the present and future!


Text – certainly a great method to get a quick response in 2016, especially from a Millennial!  However,

according to Mr. Cahill, you should only send a text “to get action.” For instance, an answer to a “yes or no”

question. Asking open ended questions via an SMS text may not elicit the intended response. Again, a great

mechanism to schedule a time to speak “live on the phone” with your client, business associate, significant

other or family member.


As I tell my teams (at Plumlee & Associates and in the Army Reserves), effective leadership comes down to

effective communication and setting expectations. So if you are great communicator (in person, via phone and

electronically), my hat is off to you. If you occasionally struggle like me, then it is my hope that you can

leverage the P.E.T. principles to increase your personal, professional and overall life success!

Memorial Day is about recognizing those men and women that have given their lives in military service.  Let us honor them on Memorial Day especially.  However, sometimes we forget that spouses, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and other family member continue to deal with grief and loss.  It is my hope that we hug them a little tighter and love them on this day but also on those days that do not result in a day off from work or the normal routine of life.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I in Europe.  Over the past century, 623,357 Americans have sacrificed their lives in major conflicts (WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Afghan War and the Iraq War).  This is the size of a middle-market American city.

As a native of Nashville and a proud citizen of the Volunteer State, I decided to pull the latest census numbers for Metro-Davidson Nashville.  The population in 2010 was 626,681 for “Nashville proper.”  It is very hard to put into context 600,000 plus lives and their families and impact in and around their community.

We can only hope and pray another major war never happens.  Our nation and its’ military must be prepared just in case it does and democracy and security is threatened.  As we look forward to the future, let us never forget the sacrifice made by men and women in uniform.

As noted in the Holy Bible, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  May God Bless America and our military men, women and families.



With 2016 just around the corner, it is imperative that candidates “plan to win” when embarking on a potential career change.   A critical thinking approach and successful planning will increase the likelihood receiving a market competitive offer. If your ultimate goal is often to join a new team and organization that more closely aligns with your personal values and professional goals, then please keep reading!

Here are five tactics that will improve your position in the complicated process of interviewing.  Think P.L.A.N.S.!  As Sir Winston Churchill stated, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

1.  Preparation is critical.  This starts immediately upon securing an interview.  With today’s tools of technology, it is overwhelming the amount of information that is available.  Allow yourself adequate time to conduct in-depth research.  Larger companies are impressed when you have reviewed recent financial results, as well as the latest press releases.  For smaller companies, take the time to connect with friends or potential allies at this organization and obtain information.  This is absolutely imperative and must go below the surface.

2. Leverage powerful questions.  My advice to candidates is simple: impactful questions, grounded in business acumen will help you progress further in the interview process.  The synthesis of your intellect, experience, company knowledge and understanding of the role can often catapult you to the top of the candidate mountain.

3.  Activate a proper follow-up plan. Interview follow-up in 2015 is different than fifteen years ago during my initial days in recruiting.  Today, consistency is key without crossing the line of appropriateness.  Ask the hiring manager about their decision making timeline and how to best remain in contact.  A balanced mix of email and phone calls will work.  When you call, try hiring managers early and late in the day.  Make three attempts to call; on final attempt, it is acceptable to leave a voice mail.

Another game-changing tool:  a 30-60-90 day plan.  I am surprised by how few candidates take the time to analyze and compile a short-term plan to accelerate their integration into their new team.

4.  Negotiate even the best offer.  It is so exciting to receive a job offer from a company.  Even if it is ALL that you ask for, you should always ask for something.  Hiring companies expect you to negotiate.  Potential levers include:  sign-on bonus, six month review, company paid insurance premiums, 12 month retention bonus and/or extra week of vacation.

5.  Stay in contact during transition period.  This is an often-overlooked item.  You will be in touch with Human Resources and your future manager.  However, it is a great idea to remain in contact with others that you met during the selection process.  Be gracious for their support and convey your excitement about joining their company.  The more advocates you have in the beginning, the faster you will reach an appropriate comfort level in the company.

Best wishes if you are considering new career opportunities in the future.  May your PLANS be successful!

-Martin Plumlee is the Founder and Owner of Plumlee & Associates, a Talent Optimization firm based in Nashville and Franklin TN.  The company offers Retained and Engaged Search services, as well as Executive Onboarding, Coaching and Outplacement Services .  Plumlee & Associates is the local equity partner firm for Career Partners International (CPI), which provides talent management services with specialization in career management, leadership development, executive and leader coaching, career transition and outplacement services.

In a third party recruiting scenario, there are three critical stakeholders: Clients, Candidates and External Firms.  Even in today’s candidate-driven market, competition remains the name of the game.  Top candidates are receiving two or three job offers, not to mention a counter-offer to remain with their current employer.

Whether considering a career change currently or completely fulfilled in your role, here are a few recommendations to candidates.  This thought process will guide your thinking and ensure your “career brokers” are set up for success.  If possible, have these rank-ordered prior to your phone consultation or face-to-face meeting.

  1. Company & Culture. For some candidates, this will be very high on their priority list.
    A. Prepare a list of 10-15 companies in which you would drop everything to take that interview. Be prepared to explain why each company is attractive to you.
    B. Explain the type of organizational climate/culture that you are targeting. This is more about management style, degree of empowerment, creativity and community involvement.
  2. Career Path. This lens is about upward mobility, as well as the diversity of assignments and job functions/assignments.  If joining a Fortune 1000 company, then global relocation becomes an option.  Be very transparent on this note as you progress through interviews.  Recognize that the industry norm for promotions is at least 24 months.  Remember the hiring manager at your new company, along with their supervisor must support you and expose you to new opportunities.  As you approach the offer stage, start asking these questions.  Once “in the seat,” you have forfeited some of your potential leverage.
  3. Compensation. Think about both “hard and soft dollars.”  They are both important!
    A. When transitioning from one company to another, expect an 8-12% bump in total cash compensation. A desired increase of 20-25% by candidates (which we see more and more in this growing economy) is not impossible, just simply rare.
    B.  When companies offer flex-scheduling, full-spectrum insurance plans (medical, dental, vision) market-competitive 401Ks and company match on charitable giving, those should be given ample consideration as well.

    We consult with candidates about “real wages.” How many hours do you work in a week?  It is about net pay, not just gross wages.  Another factor to consider is the company’s expectation around working on weekends or in the evenings.  That real wage starts to quickly decrease…

  4. Commute. We are blessed to be living in the thriving Middle Tennessee and Nashville region; in 2015, extended waiting in traffic is the new norm.  Markets like Chicago, LA and NYC have been challenged with this for years.
    A. Be very specific on how far you will drive and how much time you are willing to be in your automobile.
    B. Great to ask potential employers about telecommuting; we always recommend that you ask this towards the end of the hiring process. Timing is everything!

Hope this advice will help you or someone you care about.  The Boy Scouts’ simple motto: “Be Prepared” is a great reminder when preparing for the next step in your career.

This past week, I had the privilege of attending two very distinct, yet related events here in the Greater Nashville area.  The first occurrence was a statewide human resources conference, centered in the healthcare industry vertical.  To conclude the week, enjoyed a dinner at a local college campus honoring military students.  Allow me to tie these episodes together.

At the HR Healthcare conference, there were several great speakers that shared insights during 10+ hours of formal meetings.   One of the speakers was an Assistant Professor from Vanderbilt University, Dayle Savage.  Having seen her speak formally several times, I have always found her to be dynamic, intelligent and relevant.

On Saturday evening, was able to attend Belmont University’s inaugural Veterans Welcome Dinner.  It was wonderful to hear from a great American and true leader of character, Lieutenant General (Retired) Keith Huber.  His remarks were very much appropriate for a diverse audience: academics, university administrators, business leaders and newly arrived military students.

Analyzing these two sets of remarks leads me to an acronym.  Allow me to share some thoughts, utilizing the letters of V, E and T.

  1. Value: Every employee, soldier, student or patient wants to be respected.  Each person wants to be appreciated for their unique set of skills, talents and abilities.  Whether fresh out of a four year university or after twenty (or more) years of distinguished service in the US Military, every individual wants to feel important.

As Dr. Savage so eloquently stated, people in business are more alike than they are different.  Today’s media makes it easy to highlight our differences.  As a “Generation X” individual, my peers (and I) tend to value autonomy, flexibility and challenging work.  My hypothesis is that many others in all age brackets would be in directional agreement.

From the youngest Millennial to the most seasoned Baby Boomer at the office, almost all of us want to feel like our work matters.  Again, we are more similar than sometimes we care to admit to one another.  Relationships matter and they take time to build at the office.

2. Engagement: This is so critical in today’s world of never ending data, distractions and dilemmas.  How can leaders articulate a vision that will resonate across their organization (or as we say in the military – “across the formation”).  Compelling both the minds, hearts and spirits is essential in the military; in the business world, it is important as well.  Incremental effort, applied consistently over time, makes a good company a great one.

In today’s modern military, the younger soldiers and sailors want to know whyas much as the what and the how.  With only about 1% of Americans ever wearing the uniform, the old autocratic, militant culture of barking orders is fading away.  Military leaders ask more than they order subordinates to accomplish tasks and missions as LTG Huber mentioned in his recent remarks.

3. Trust: This is the foundation of everything.  Business in the late 1800s and early 1900s was as simple as a handshake – “your word was your bond.”  Today, it seems as if everything must be in writing (or it simply never happened).  In the American military, our young men and women believe that their chain of command has their best interests at heart.  Honor and integrity are the bedrocks of all of the Armed Forces.   As Lieutenant Huber stated the other night, “People allow you the privilege to lead them.”  In Corporate America, that altruistic concept is forgotten more often than not, especially in your large organizations.

Working/serving in any organization can be daunting at times.  My encouragement to you is to remember that each person is important and that “Together Everyone Achieves More: TEAM.”

As we approach the 4th of July (or Independence Day) weekend, let us all remember that “freedom is not free.”  Our nation’s military veterans have all served and sacrificed; some have paid the ultimate price and given their lives.  As a Citizen-Soldier, I am proud and humbled to wear the uniform but certainly recognize that countless other heroes (and their families) have given so very much to this country.

When I completed my active duty Army service obligation in 1999, I joined one of the nation’s premier military placement firms.  The opportunity to learn about Corporate America and assist my fellow Veterans was fulfilling in so many ways. Fortunately, my transition was practically seamless; joining a “paramilitary organization” was fun, challenging and rewarding.  The opportunity to learn about Corporate America and assist my fellow Veterans was fulfilling in so many ways.

However, the transition from military fatigues to business attire is challenging for some military veterans.  The Department of Defense, local governments and the private sector are doing a much better job today than in years past; it is wonderful to see the creativity, passion and collaboration in this unique public-private partnership.

Companies that embrace discipline, values and esprit-de-corps are often successful in onboarding former military personnel.  In fact, over the past 15 years, some of America’s premier large companies:  GE, Johnson & Johnson, P&G and FedEx have fully embraced military hiring initiatives.  Certainly, it can be daunting for small and mid-size businesses that lack the infrastructure and resources to ensure these individuals are successful as they join new teams and organizations.  Yet, as we enter a period of time where the Active Duty military is reducing in size, our business communities must improve their knowledge and ability to interview, assess and potentially hire our heroes!

As we enter 2015’s second half, the US economy is growing.  Just read that unemployment was down to 5.3% nationally.  Some parts of the country are booming (such as our home – Greater Nashville).  There may be some human capital challenges on the horizon.  Over the next 10 years, our nation faces a significant labor shortage as the Baby Boomers complete their exit of the full-time workforce. Specifically, the manufacturing industry could see as many as two million jobs remain unfilled (per Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, February 2015).  So, how might companies leverage the military veteran population to fill critical roles, both in the leadership ranks and in technical roles?

I was fortunate to attend a luncheon last week, hosted by the Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resources Management (MT-SHRM). The topic was Military Hiring Best Practices.  The keynote speaker, Bob Ravener, Chief People Officer for Dollar General Corporation did a wonderful job of detailing his track record at his present company, as well as at Starbucks and Home Depot.  A portion of his remarks centered on the “3 A’s” – Aptitude, Attitude and Aspiration.  Allow me to elaborate on each briefly (all definitions are from Miriam-Webster.com).

Aptitude is defined as “a natural ability to do something or to learn something.”  Military candidates are highly trained, beginning with their initial training.  Our officers and sergeants develop the ability to not only “complete the mission” but to also critically think and problem solve.  Most companies can benefit from this inherent ability.

“The way you think and feel about someone or something” is known as your Attitude.  Most of our military is perceived as positive, make-it-happen type of people.  When you are guarding a post at 3am in the rain or fighting a gritty enemy in a fire fight, your disposition makes all the difference.  In the workplace, a positive outlook can help influence others and raise the productivity of departments and entire companies.

A select number of our young people volunteer to join the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.  Some of them have an Aspiration, defined as a strong desire to achieve something high or great.”  Whether leading a team of 25 or 25,000, military leaders want to excel in all that they are given.  In the globally competitive marketplace of today, this attribute is not only needed, but could be called critical.

In closing, military veterans want to be challenged in the private sector.  They want to compete and earn a job offer, along with opportunities to learn, grow and excel.  With a proven aptitude, an optimistic attitude and a real aspiration to succeed, our military patriots are uniquely qualified to succeed in a variety of roles and a plethora of industries.  Please consider hiring a veteran today; my experience tells me profits and retention are likely to increase.  Happy 4th of July!

Modern business is complex in every way, from advances in technology to multiple workplace generations. More than ever, skilled and emotionally intelligent executives are necessary. Hiring and retaining key leadership talent is an imperfect (art and) science. Innovative organizations understand the positive benefits from investing in their new leaders, as well as the significant costs when they fail to invest in executive development from the beginning.

Multiple studies state that the replacement cost for a departed executive to be at least three times their initial annual compensation. Additionally, “[r]esearch shows that the average cost of a failed executive hire is $2.7 million USD.

Why and how can these direct and indirect costs be so significant? Two main reasons to consider:

  1. Most employees are averse to change. True risk exists to organizations that are not deliberate and systemic in their executive onboarding methodology. “Employees who witness regular turnover of senior leadership frequently adopt a “wait and see” position when a new leader is hired and resist changing direction until they are sure the new executive will “stick” in the role.
  2. As Millennials (Generation Y) continue to progress in today’s workforce, their desire to work for organizations with clear visions and values will propel them to depart companies when they fail to observe inspirational leaders. Executives must be in tune with “people and products.”

Executive onboarding can help mitigate these costs. These strategic development programs proactively address real-world typically faced during these transition periods. Ideally, these programs provide sufficient space and time to assess skills and gaps of new executives. According to Michael Watkins from Harvard Business Review (2009): “70% of senior HR professionals think success or failure during the transition is a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the job.” In other words, a successful onboarding experience will serve in most instances as a “leading indicator” of how new leaders will perform in the future.

The end state objective is to accelerate preparation and organizational intelligence for these new executives. Upfront investments in these programs have demonstrated their ability to positively impact the bottom line down the road, as organizations are able to capture the value-adding capabilities of executives sooner in the transition process.

Progressive firms should strongly consider investments in executive onboarding as a fuel source that will accelerate meaningful success. Potential benefits include: increased employee engagement, higher organizational learning and more frequent innovations, higher productivity, improved annual earnings and reductions in turnover costs (fewer external searches, relocation costs and retained institutional knowledge).

Partnering with senior leaders and executives in their onboarding process yields both tangible and intangible dividends for companies. Good luck in unlocking the inherent power of your existing talent – for today and tomorrow!

This post originally appeared as the Nashville Chamber‘s March 2015 “HR Notes”.

Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials; what a great mix of people, ranging from age 22 to 62+ across the business world. Growing up in the ’80s, I had a Rubik’s Cube. Unfortunately, was never really good with that item. In recent years, a 6×6 Rubik’s Cube came out. I would offer that this is a great visual analogy of the complex issue of motivating and synchronizing the efforts of your seasoned employees, management team and your brand-new hires.

So, how do we successfully integrate 3 generations, allowing us to properly leverage wisdom/experience, energy and technology acumen? Well, I do not claim to have the answers generations in the workplace(secret sauce), but would offer three tools/practical concepts to “move the ball forward.”

1. Communicate across all spectrums. Boomers love face-to-face interaction. Phone calls are acceptabl; written notes (even email) will generally work. Gen X’ers greatly prefer the phone and sometimes want you to limit after work calls. Millennials (aka Generation Y) are all about email, texting and social media. So, if something important needs to be communicated, vary the timing and platform of your message. Redundancy takes extra time and effort but will help, especially for those bigger companies with a wide range of full and part-time employees.

2. Clear expectations solve most problems. As successful leaders do more often than not, they articulate a specific vision and detail expectations of the department/division/company. Boomers may be hesitant to embrace technology; if that is an issue, be sure they absolutely understand this reluctance may prevent their further progression with the company. Generation X loves schedule flexibility; they are often raising families and crave the opportunities to catch a baseball game or cross country meet with their child. Let them know when it is acceptable and when they need to be in the office. Assumptions can get the best of both managers and staff. Millennials may need mentoring on workplace standards and business etiquette. Give them the benefit of the doubt and ensure someone with more experience guides them properly.

3. Most people want to be appreciated and/or recognized by their employer. This my be a hand-written note from the CEO or department head. Could be a picture with the “big boss” when they over-deliver on a stressful project or meet a pressing deadline. It could be a check for referring a top-notch employee (formal employee referral program or not). Might be recognition on the company’s intranet or newsletter. At the end of the day, simple gratitude goes a long way to improving retention. More often than not, employees leave bosses, not the organization.

Additionally, community service days, mentoring programs and team-building events are fun for all and gives EVERYONE the chance to interact outside of the daily routine. Pick up that Rubik’s Cube and work with it. Stay with it; be disciplined; ask for help; someone on the team can and will help you solve it! Humility and a willingness to ask for assistance show that you value the inputs of others. In the end, when your team knows you care, they will care more about the bottom line.

Thanks for reading!

Happy 4th of July. When you think of this very American holiday, we see images of fireworks, family, friends and food. Before we begin these festivities, take a moment to reflect on a fearless legend of America’s Game – baseball.

After reading today’s article about Lou Gehrig in the Nashville paper (The Tennessean, courtesy of USA Today Sports), it moved me to take a moment to highlight his life, but even more importantly his character. Mr. Gehrig was a model of courage, class and consistency. A few thoughts for your consideration.

Courage – I believe a majority of people consider themselves brave, even some would label themselves as fearless. Imagine facing a catastrophic disease today, how overwhelming that can be for you and your family. Turn back time 75 years and think how you might react. All indications are that he faced his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), now known simply as Lou Gehrig’s disease, with grace and determination. The manner in which Mr. Gehrig stood tall inspired a nation and resonates in 2014. His “luckiest man on earth speech” is still well-known today. When faced with challenges in life and in business, may we strive to follow the model depicted by American heroes like Lou Gehrig.

Class – In today’s world, I would offer that our society can sometimes lack in this area. Whether discussing reality shows or the prevalence of social media in our daily lives, certain individuals will make outlandish claims that are often based on little or no facts. I wonder how Mr. Gehrig would be received today. Think it is safe to say that he would conduct himself in the same manner and display the highest standards of personal conduct; just might be slightly more challenging.

Consistency – This is a topic near and dear to my heart. In life, when I sit with clients, friends or family members, it is my deepest desire to be the same person in every setting. Lou Gehrig embodied that, not just on the ball field but in all facets of his life. In business, it seems like many want to work hard for the short-term, when the spotlight is brightest. However, sustained excellence is the true benchmark of world-class organizations. Just last month, the San Antonio Spurs won their 5th NBA title in 15 years. They have the best record in all of pro sports over the past decade and a half as well. Mr. Gehrig’s ability to perform at the highest level for 17 years, working on the biggest stage in New York is simply incredible.

On a day where we mark America’s independence, may we all strive to be classy, courageous and consistent in each and every undertaking. American heroes like Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken (who broke his record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995) would likely nod their head in appreciation. Happy July 4th!