All posts by Dave Blankenhorn

Giving Employees Feedback

Dave Blankenhorn


Do you believe you know how to give employees proper feedback? Do they learn and develop from your assessment?

If you believe you could do better think about some new ways to become more effective. No one really likes to hear criticism but there are ways to make it more palatable and productive for the organization and the employee.

When giving negative feedback decide whether it is better to do so immediately when you see the problem or at the time of more comprehensive review. No matter the approach when you give negative feedback be specific. While there is no need to bring up every single time the employee has erred it should be detailed enough that the employee clearly understands your concerns and sets the stage for a solution.

As part of this tie the comments into the employee’s values and goals. For example, If the behavior causes others to do more work the employee who values what others think about them will be more receptive to changing their behavior.

When giving feedback maintain a neutral voice and watch your body language. Yelling is counterproductive. Being calm sends the message that you are there for constructive purposes, that it is part of the normal business world.

Be specific about the solution. Be sure you have a remedy in mind before talking with the employee but before you do so ask the employee if they might have a solution to the problem. If it matches yours so much the better.

Lastly infuse any criticism with words of encouragement and praise for what they are doing well. This is a coaching opportunity to build confidence, communicate respect, and hopefully build a better relationship with the employee.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Change Leadership

Dave Blankenhorn



What are you as a leader doing to adapt to our fast paced world.? The skills that got you where you are might not be enough to ensure your success in the future. Recent studies by Accenture and others have revealed new focus areas for the successful managers of the future: They must be nimble and innovative in directing their organizations. Leaders must create a larger vision for their organizations and unite people behind a common mission. While these are not new their future importance is even more critical.

Navigation of ambiguity is another component as the leader of tomorrow will face ever changing cultural, regulatory, technical and social needs. Making sure you understand these ongoing changes will position your organization for success in the future.

Multigenerational management is another such area. The leader must be able to bring together millennials, gen-xers, and baby boomers as an effective team. By 2020 millennials will be 50% of the work force and will have a major impact on the economy. Creating harmony among these disparate groups will be essential. As part of that the leader must empower and promote co-creative teams to bring about the best results.

Measuring the results will not only rest on achieving the numbers but on your ability to reduce the turnover of those high value employees who make the organization what it is. Some things don’t change

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Have You Thought About Cyber Insurance?

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn


Having proper insurance coverage is vital in any risk management plan. In today’s world being covered for fire, theft, internal fraud, business interruption and general liability is not enough because one of the major causes for losses is cyber theft. Some businesses and nonprofits are more reliant on their computer sites than others but all need to think about purchasing a cyber insurance policy to cover any losses due to illegal entry in your systems. It is not enough to say I have a protection service as today’s thieves are quite sophisticated and know how to penetrate most of these. Evidence of this is the hacking of government sites and the largest retail chains.

If you buy a policy be sure that it includes coverage not just for a direct hacking event but includes coverage for a “voluntary parting” wherein the insured is induced into sending out information or funds by a fraudulent scheme, trick or false pretense. Some insurance companies have exclusions for these types of actions which negates one of the reasons for the purchase. There are many other gray areas when it comes to cyber insurance coverage which is why it is so important to understand coverage limits, and sub limits that may exist.

Because there are so many variables you might seek out a broker familiar with these new types of policies and is current with the ever changing dynamics of this form of protection. Cyber attacks are not going away so protect your nonprofit accordingly.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

So you want to go to Rio……

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn


If any of you are contemplating a trip to Rio this summer to attend the Olympics you might consider the risk profile you are willing to take given the state of emergency there. You might also consider the risk of visiting our own Hawaii.

The problem in both areas relate to the mighty mosquito and the virus it carries causing the Zica virus and Dengue fever. These two diseases can cause serious problems sometimes leading to death. The Centers for Disease Control currently have no vaccine or medications to deal with them.

I bring this all up as you normally wouldn’t even contemplate this sort of risk when traveling to some exotic and fun place. Now you will need to focus on the “risk-reward” of such a journey.

It may be a good time to revisit your own non profit’s Risk management plan to see if you have identified the current risks and updated your plans to deal with them. A recent BofA Merrill Lynch CFO poll indicates that most companies have plans in place for data security (91%), disaster coverage/protection (84%), and other types of fraud (77%), operational risk (71%), and succession planning (68%). Hopefully you have addressed these issues as well as the others that could affect your ability to perform your mission.

We are always available to review your current plan or help you establish one if you need help in doing so.

In the meantime if you still want to go to Rio or Hawaii check with the CDC as part of you pre planning. Enjoy.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

A Fresh Look at Employee Benefits

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn


As we enter the coming year you might want to consider some new ideas that might improve the morale and well being of your employees.

One idea is to give some thought to reviewing your employee review methods. Many employers have scrapped annual reviews in favor of more frequent informal supervisor/employee discussions. A survey of millennials by HR provider TriNet found that 69% see their current review system flawed and nearly 90% would feel more confident with more frequent performance discussions with their managers. Of interest 22% have said they call in sick due to anxiety about their upcoming review.

Another idea is to have a renewed focus on benefits. A recent Glassdoor survey found 79% of respondents would prefer new or additional benefits above a pay increase. More specifically they people placed a high emphasis on benefits such as healthcare insurance, vacation, paid time off performance bonuses and paid sick days. Other valued perks are retirement plans and flexible scheduling.

Finally consider promoting the work-life balance of your staff. This will become an even bigger issue as baby boomers retire and the work force gets younger. In a recent study by INSEAD nearly 50% of millennial respondents said they would give up a higher paying job in exchange for a better work life balance. Areas to consider are more work at home options, more flex time, or paid parental leave.

It is always a good idea to continually evaluate and tinker with your employee programs. They are after all your most valuable resource.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www,ECofOC,org

A New Form of Philanthropy

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn


This past week Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla, announced there intention of pledging $45 Billion (99% of their Facebook shares) over their lifetime to help solve the world’s problems. Rather than doing it the old fashion way of gifting through a foundation they have proposed to establish a Limited Liability Company to be called the “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative” after their new son and use this vehicle to invest funds in organizations that advance “human potential and “promote equality”. The “Initiative” will also invest in for profit companies in fields like education and health care which its owners believe will help achieve their philanthropic goals.

What is somewhat unique in his approach is the idea of showing both a financial return in order to be sustainable and a social one in order to obtain additional funding. To meet the latter goal certain metrics will need to be established to show how many lives were saved or how many were educated etc.

By setting up the LLC he can maintain control of his stock, avoid tax issues and continue to capitalize the LLC from the return on his investments. These funds can then be used to reinvest back into worthy recipients. This avoids the traditional giving dilemma of a foundation where monies are only replenished from its investments in stock and bond markets.

For nonprofits this new approach will be a challenge to managements and boards. They will be accountable in a way not seen before and will need to focus more closely on mission results as well as financial viability. If they can reach their goals funding will become more reliable giving everyone more time to achieve the mission and less on fund raising.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,


Becoming a More Effective Interviewer

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn


In her latest blog Adrianne DuMond refers to a book by Dr. Travis Bradbury on the most asked questions used to interview a new hire and proposes some safe answers for those being interviewed.

From a potential employers’ perspective it has been my experience that the most productive interviews are not based on pat standard questions but on unscripted conversation to put the applicant at ease which in turn allows for a open, more candid conversation. A relaxed person will usually say what they really mean and give the interviewer an idea of what the person is all about. It is very important to put the applicant at ease by talking about general subjects before delving into more specific things. Instead of questions like “what are your weaknesses” and “tell me about a time when you…” ask about their areas of interest, what they like to do best, their most memorable accomplishments to date, their career plans, etc. In other words ask questions that will allow the applicant to tell more about themselves. More questions can then be developed from their responses.

The interview is a two way process where both parties learn about each other. In addition to learning about the applicant the interviewer should not forget to talk about how his or her organization works, its culture and mission. Failure to do that might result in a mismatch between both parties.

Finally devote your full attention to the interview. Listen carefully and observe the applicant’s body language. This can be as important as the answers given.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Are Nonprofits Addressing the Real needs of its Beneficiaries?

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn

Is your nonprofit serving individual people in need but not the underlying causes which brought people to your door in the first place?

During the 19th and early 20th centuries philanthropists and charities focused not only on providing cash and shelter to the needy but on education and moral reclamation- on turning lives around and getting people on the right track. It aimed to make its beneficiaries more self- sufficient and give them some tools to become part of main stream America.

This philosophy changed during the 1960’s with the focus shifting from the personal to the systemic, from the moral to the political where it was assumed that people in need were victims of the vast impersonal economy or racism that doomed them to failure regardless of their own individual efforts or inner qualities. With the best of intentions major foundations and philanthropic groups pushed for social action and government based welfare solutions which in turn trapped many into a life of dependency without getting at the basic root cause of individual problems. Trillions have been spent with no appreciable improvement or reduction in the level of need.

However, there has been positive progress to fix this issue. More attention is now being focused on life changing programs that will restore people to society. These center on rehabilitation and education which hopefully will allow people to reclaim their own personal lives and give them the tools needed to become self sufficient and productive citizens.

You might take a look at your nonprofit to see if you are doing what is needed to “fix” the person and not just solve the immediate problem.

Author:  David Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Considering a Merger


Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn

In the corporate world mergers and acquisitions are a part of doing business as a means to enhance the economic return to the owners. Ideally combining two like businesses results in ecoconomies of scale with reduced expenses on increased revenues thereby creating higher productivity and profitability. Does this always happen? The answer is no but enough that the process continues.

While the nonprofit sector has mainly avoided this activity there are organizations that should consider doing so when they know of like firms performing the same mission and competing for the same dollars to achieve the same ends. By combining resources more can be done to benefit the end users.

If your nonprofit has identified a possible partner, form a board committee to research the subject. Knowing people in the other organization can be very helpful and can be used as contacts in moving forward. Consider working with a knowledgeable outside party for this project. When contact is made and there is interest from the other party form a joint committee of key board members and staff from each side to decide on the various issues. This is where the hard work takes place.

Both management and board members need to be objective and open minded. The easy part is analyzing the combined financials and identifying the savings for both groups. The hard part is resolving the people and ego issues. Who will be the ED? Who stays on the Board? How do we make the staff cuts? What name survives? Can we blend the cultures? Will certain donors drop out? The most difficult challenge in this process is to remain collegial and not let strong emotional feelings get in the way. Negotiations are always difficult.

Hopefully a deal can be struck. If not the process can still be unifying for the organization and can strengthen ties among its board and management.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Are You a Slave To Email?

Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn

The internet age was supposed to create and encourage efficiency but research shows it has morphed into a real time waster and productivity reducer for many. We all know the horror of returning to our desks after some time off to see a hundred plus emails all wanting the most immediate attention.

There are ways to curb this onslaught and use this technology more effectively. Here are some common time wasters and ways to become better users:

  • Copying too many people which results in the over use of “reply all”. Omit those people who don’t really need to see the email.
  • Writing responses because of the fear of offending a colleague. Many don’t want or need a response.
  • If a response is needed keep it short with the caveat “if you need further information please let me know”.
  • A brief personal conversation and/or phone call could replace an email saving a good deal of time in the writing and the response to it.
  • Investigate the use of Project management applications which store files in one place online where all employees can see, update or comment as needed. This reduces emailing and wasted time attending meetings. A few such apps are Task, Clarity and Basecamp.

Becoming more adept in email use will free up a good deal of time which can be used more productively in your organization and will give you more time to focus on your personal life.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,