John is an executive recruiter & speaker sharing his thoughts on healthcare, recruiting, digital technology, career management & leadership. 

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7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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25 November, 2015 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Stories
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Slice of Americana

Posted November 25th, 2015 | Author: John G. Self

John is taking a couple of blog days off for the Thanksgiving holidays.  His thrice weekly posts will resume on Monday, Nov. 30.  Today’s post, Slice of Americana, originally appeared on Feb 8, 2013. Happy Thanksgiving! 


The news business will always be a part of who I am.

As a former reporter, I confess that while I do not miss the grind of working for a daily newspaper, slogging through flooded rice fields in the dead of night covering a fatal airplane crash, or moving through a bar on Thanksgiving day stepping over the dead bodies slain during their holiday dinner following a drug deal gone bad, I will deeply miss newspapers once they are gone in the current form.

I will especially miss the weekly newspapers, home to reports on local communities, the unintended hilarious stories of weddings, Bible study groups and the celebrations of birthdays, engagements, the births and the occasional wakes at places like Dairy Queen, Dot’s Diner or Babe’s Do Drop In.

Weekly papers are, if nothing else, a wonderful, rich slice of Americana.  There are times you feel you are reading something written by a sly comedian who is conning you, but the stories are too good to be imagined.

Weekly papers frequently appoint correspondents to report the goings on from the surrounding even smaller communities, population 50 to 200 or 300.  There may be multiple churches in the community but the only church news that makes the paper is from the correspondent’s church.  This usually is a brief summary of the pastor’s sermon and a few odds and ends about Bible study groups and women’s service guild.

In one East Texas County, according to the reporter, the Bethel Women’s Bible Society was studying some seeming conflicts between Old Testament prophecies and New Testament scripture.  They even invited the church pastor, Brother Billy Wayne Duel, to be a guest and help them navigate this confusion and avoid the heated exchanges that marked the first time the ladies had debated this subject.  The news article did not specify the Pastor’s sage interpretation but it did report that after a short business meeting, the Society women had lunch.  The menu included taco salad, Dr. Pepper and chocolate cream pie.

Wedding stories, also written by the local correspondent, with liberal help from the bride’s mother, provide detailed information about the wedding party and anyone else who participated, including the person who carved the brisket, made and then served the punch or iced tea, sometimes the brand of beer served, and of course, the name of the pianist or organist.

In one dispatch from a small North Carolina town the correspondent reported that the bride, Cordie Mae Philpot, daughter of Harold “Hog” Philpot, local dog breeder and dry wall installer, selected her cousin from the adjoining county to play the organ.  The cousin, according to the report, played numerous contemporary Top 40 selections, the traditional wedding march, and her personal favorite, “On Wisconsin!”

The article also reported that the groom was the night manager at Elway’s, a local gas station convenience store and pool emporium while the bride was a popular night waitress at the Mount Gilead Social Hall and Private Club. Regrettably, the bride’s high school accomplishments were mentioned as well.  Apparently she was the state women’s wrestling champion (heavyweight division).

Thank goodness details of the honeymoon were sketchy.

© 2012 John Gregory Self

© 2015 John Gregory Self

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23 November, 2015 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Leadership
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Can You Build And Lead Teams?  

Posted November 23rd, 2015 | Author: John G. Self

Can you build and lead teams?  

That is a common question in most interviews, especially those that use the behavior and values approach to sorting out candidates.  Since employees are an organization’s most important and valuable asset, I think that question is spot on.

leadWhen it is framed in that manner, interviewers are focusing on only half, and the least expensive part, of the equation.

I believe the key word in that question is not team, but lead.  Too often, lead the team really means to manage the team, producing a good work product on schedule and under budget.  But leadership is so much more and when you have turnover in your expensive asset base there is probably more management (control) and less leadership (inspiration).

Employee turnover is one of an organization’s biggest unreported/unrecognized expenses.  Every day, in businesses across America, people are hired and people resign.  Some that probably should not have been hired in the first place, get the sack.  This cycle keeps human resources busy and it is very expensive.  It all adds up.

I have written in this space on more than occasion that building a team is like getting married.   On the front end  there is excitement and great expectation leading up to the “I do” on both sides — the employer and the prospective employee.   But in marriage, like building a team at work, it is easier to get married than to stay married. On the expense side, very few people contemplate the cost of a divorce when approaching the altar.

Organizations attract talented people with a vision for the work — with expectations of innovation, success and a rewarding  experience.  The wooing is the easy part.  But it is really tough to sustain the passion and the commitment to work when that work turns mundane but necessary.

For the Baby Boomer and Gen X, those age cohorts that still control the majority of management slots in businesses across America, the tricks to leadership, which by definition includes effective communication, face some startling challenges as the Millennials begin to assume their rightful place at the table.  Millennials have a different set of motivators and satisfiers and the secret to leading teams going forward will, not doubt, be significantly different.  Understanding those factors will be critical to successful management of human capital going forward.

It is fashionable today for essayists to conjure convenient, easy lists of the best of this or that, or the hundreds of variations of five easy ways to hire the best, eight keys to reducing turnover, the four best traits for leading a team… You get the point.

Instead of falling into that trap, I want to hear from you.  I would like to know your secrets to leading and sustaining the team that was so costly to build.  Comment on this post or email us at

© 2015 John Gregory Self

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20 November, 2015 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Healthcare
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The Good and Bad of ‘Just Good Enough’

Posted November 20th, 2015 | Author: John G. Self

In the American jumble of providers and services that we like to call a “healthcare system”, there is a phrase that is the enemy of all that we are supposed to stand for — Just good enough.

just good enoughThis simple little phrase is infected with implications most of which are not very good when it comes to quality of care, safety and  patient/family satisfaction.  In my career, I have, unfortunately, seen hundreds of situations where  “good enough” is seamlessly substituted with the lame excuse of mediocre performance, “Well, at least the patient didn’t die.”

In defense of this phrase, there are situations when its use is more than appropriate, as in “Our 10 to 12 percent profit margin for hospital care is good enough,”  versus bullying our employees into submission, and endangering patients, to squeeze out 17 or 20 percent.

© 2015 John Gregory Self

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