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Friday, June 23, 2017

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Image result for moneyball
By: Thomas Eden

Management consultant Peter Drucker said these words more than 40 years ago, and they are at the heart of what Google does to produce Great Teams and Great Bosses.

Fans of Brad Pitt, playing Oakland A’s Baseball Coach Billy Beane, will remember the lessons of Moneyball. For over a century, baseball managers were using the wrong metrics to make management decisions to draft professional baseball players. Moneyball tells the story of desperate risk taking coach who changed everything for major league baseball player selection.  Enter Peter Brand, a computer whiz with an economics degree from Yale. With his glasses and middle-management jackets, Peter looked like he should be crunching numbers at an accounting firm. But he had a baseball clutched in his hand, a love of the game in his heart and he wanted to throw the world a digital age curveball.

In 2001 the A’s finished second in the American League West, but that October, in the game that opens the movie, they lost the Division Series to the New York Yankees. The score was 5-3, but the numbers that flashed across the screen — $114,457,768 vs. $39,722,689 — was the payroll of each team. With Peter Brand’s computer whiz metrics, Coach Beane helped transform the Oakland A’s, one of the poorest in baseball, into serious competition for the wealthiest franchises. He did it by ignoring everything he’d been taught about the game and instead relied on the data. When the old scouts talk about a minor league player with the perfect baseball look, Coach Beane admonished them,Your goal shouldn't be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins.” When Peter is asked by Coach Beane why he likes a certain player, he responds – “Because he gets on base.”
When evaluated based on the metric proposed in Moneyball, the “slugging percentage,” became like Google’s use of “Objective and Key Results,” or OKRs. By having access to OKRs, Google tests and tweak strategies, analyzes the results, refines their strategy and repeats. The results must be specific, measurable, and verifiable.It does it for everything from how applicants are located, team members are interviewed four times by a cross section of people, they are on boarded with a first day one-on-one with their new team leader, Upward Feedback Survey of their boss - you name it Google measures it.  

What Google discovered by use of Big Data, was what Peter Drucker knew 40 years early ago. Google used Mission + Transparency + Voice + Big Data to create in 20 short years one of the most world changing companies to ever exist. Google’s Mission is to “take the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” How many times each day does Google exceed your expectations. Coach Beane remarks at the end of the Moneyball, we're going to change the game." Follow Google’s Big Data blueprint for success and your team might just might hit it out of the park!

Want to Learn More? Attend Great Teams + Great Bosses + Happiness = Competitive Advantage! TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM.  $25 Lunch is included; LOCATION Saugahatchee Country Club 3800 Bent Creek Rd, Opelika, AL; SPEAKER Tommy Eden, Esq. - Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP. Registration link at or email

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Mark of the Beast: The Rest of the Story

By: Thomas Eden

Consolidation Coal Company in West Virginia installed an attendance tracking system for payroll purposes at their Robinson Run Mine that requires employees to electronically sign-in using a biometric hand scanner. This technology creates and stores electronic information about an individual’s hand geometry for purposes of future identification.

Employee Beverly Butcher is an Evangelical Christian with 35 years of service at the Mine. When faced with the biometric logging in, he stated that he had a genuinely held religious belief that would not permit him to submit to biometric hand scanning. Butcher then provided his manager with a letter that he wrote discussing his genuinely held religious beliefs about the relationship between hand scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast and antichrist discussed in the Bible, and requested exemption from hand scanning because of his religious belief.

His managers later responded by handing Butcher a letter written by its scanner vendor, Recognition Systems, Inc., addressed to “To Whom it May Concern.” The vendor’s letter discussed the vendor’s interpretation of Chapter 13, Verse 16 of the Book of Revelation contained in the Bible; pointed out that the text of that verse references the Mark of the Beast only on the right hand and forehead; and suggests that persons with concerns about taking the Mark of the Beast “be enrolled” with their left hand and palm facing up. The letter concludes by assuring the reader that the vendor’s scanner product does not, in fact, assign the Mark of the Beast.

Butcher proposed that he continue submitting his time and attendance manually as he had previously done, or that he be permitted to check in and check out with his supervisor. At a later meeting, his managers proposed that Butcher should submit to hand scanning of his left hand turned palm up rather than his right hand. Butcher rejected their offer stating that he is prohibited by his religion from submitting to scanning of either hand. The managers declined to accommodate Butcher’s request to be exempted from the biometric sign-in telling him that he would be subject to disciplinary action if he refused to use the biometric hand scanning system.

Butcher promptly retired and specifically informed his managers that he was retiring involuntarily, telling them that he was retiring under protest and felt that he had no choice but to retire because of their refusal to grant an exemption from biometric hand scanning.

At least two persons employed at the Robinson Run Mine at the time that Butcher requested religious accommodation were permitted exemptions from biometric hand scanning due to missing fingers. These two persons were permitted to submit their time and attendance by other means.

After hearing the above story, a jury awarded Butcher nearly $600,000 in the EEOC’s suit filed in West Virginia U.S. District Court alleging religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The rest of the story is that this week the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s award rejecting consol’s “Mark of the Beast” appeal saying that “it is neither the employer’s nor the court’s place to question the correctness or even the plausibility of Butcher’s understanding of religious doctrine”.

Common Sense Counsel: A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his/her religion and still work. An employer might accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices by allowing flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, or modification of login requirements.  Religious discrimination is a hot button issue for the EEOC. Have a well drafted employee handbook, dress code, job description with essential functions and be in an “accommodating” mood when employees approach you quoting scripture. Engaging in a bible sword drill with your employees in the interactive meeting is not a wise strategy. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

U.S. Department of Labor withdraws Obama guidance on independent contractors, joint employment

Image result for joint employer

The U.S. Department of Labor announced June 7, 2017 that it has withdrawn informal guidance issued by the Obama Administration related to independent contractors and joint employment. The guidance on independent contractors was issued in 2015, and the guidance on joint employment was issued in 2016, both in the form of so-called “Administrator’s Interpretations,” which was a form of guidance the DOL adopted when it ended the longstanding practice of issuing Opinion Letters.
Here is the government’s news release from the DOL website:

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today announced the withdrawal of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2015 and 2016 informal guidance on joint employment and independent contractors. Removal of the administrator interpretations does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, as reflected in the department’s long-standing regulations and case law. The department will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Common Sense Counsel: This development is welcomed news for all businesses who seek to legally distance themselves from the independent contractors and temporary employment services they utilize. However, the terms of the independent contractual agreements and temporary staffing contacts, are still critical to reducing the risk of being considered a joint employer under a variety of state and federal laws.

This article originally appeared as a Constangy Bulletin drafted by  Constangy law partners, James M. Coleman and Robin E. Shea.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happiness as a Competitive Advantage

By: Tommy Eden

 A positive and engaged brain is a competitive advantage, according to author Shawn Achor in his book Before Happiness. Shawn’s 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Sustainable Positive Change, and a Competitive Advantage, are: 

1) The Most Valuable Reality. Help your team see a broader range of ideas and solutions by changing the details on which their brains choose to focus. Your brain has only a limited capacity to focus on what is going on in your world and if your brain goes to the negatives, then the positives will be crowded out. The ADVANTAGES game takes a negative, like a sink full of dirty dishes, and turns that into an opportunity to show my wife love. Have your team play the game like this, give one point for all the negative descriptors for that “choice” and three points for positive descriptors. Multiple positive visions will give your team the opportunity to choose to make it a meaningful and productive activity. By priming your team members’ brains with positive alternatives, grateful hearts or a memory that makes them smile, sales can rise by 31 % and you are more likely to be promoted by 40%. 

2)  Success Mapping. Set goals oriented around the things in life that matter to you most. Sometimes when we are coming into a stressful situation your team looks for a way to escape. If you will help your team think of stresses as meaningful challenges, then they become opportunities for the team to win. Encourage team members to embrace the challenge, and channel the meaning buried within the stressor. That way they can make their own team map toward success. 

3) Positive Inception Transfer. Positively planting a thought in the mind of another can cause the other person to see the world in a more positive light. For example, Oshsner Health Systems implemented the 10/5 Way requesting that staff at 10 feet of a patient make eye contact, then smile and to say hello when they were 5 feet away. Six months after picking up this small habit, the patients entering the hospital started picking up this social script of eye contact, smiling, and then hello. Not only did the patient referrals increase, doctors’ happiness levels were higher than in a decade and the patients’ perception of quality of care improved dramatically.  Once others found out it was OK to be positive they joined in on the new social script. Employees are 31% more productive, 3 times more creative, and had higher levels of energy when they choose to first make others happy. 

4) The X-Spot. Use success accelerants to propel your team more quickly towards its goals. When you can see a goal then you speed up and accelerate to the finish. That is why most heart attacks for marathoners occur in the last 100 yard of a 26.1 mile run. Sometimes just taking time to recall and be thankful for your teams past successes will accelerate the team to achieve the next goal. 

5) Noise Canceling. How do we turn our brains into noise cancelling headphones? External noise makes you feel more negative. Worry is an example of internal negative noise that will not let your team focus on the present. By increasing the positive things your team watches and surrounds themselves with, you will help them put on their noise cancelling headphones. Mind PT is one of the techniques suggested by the author for this purpose: Mind PT is a free app available for download on itunes.

Common Sense Counsel: if Happiness is the joy you feel moving toward your potential, the science of happiness as practiced by Google is the secret sauce that gives it a competitive advantage so that each Google employee brings in 1 million of income. Great Teams + Great Bosses + Happiness = Competitive Advantage.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and can be contacted at or 334-246-2901 and blog at

Friday, May 26, 2017

Build a Better Boss – Don’t Buy Them

 Project Oxygen started at Google in 2009 with basic assumptions
·         People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them;
·         The first is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters;
·         The second is that they don’t like or respect their co-workers;
·         The third is they have a terrible boss — biggest variable;
·         Google, saw huge swings in the performance reviews ratings that employees gave to their bosses; and
·         Managers had a much greater impact on employees’ performance and how they felt about their job more than any other factor.

In Project Oxygen Google made it all about data
·         the statisticians gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers across more than 100 variables, from various performance reviews, feedback surveys and other reports;
·         Then they spent time coding the comments looking for patterns;
·         Once they had some working theories, they interviewed managers to gather more data looking for evidence that supported their notions; and
·         The final step was to code more than 400 pages of interview notes and then they spent time rolling out the results to employees.

8 Qualities Identified by Project Oxygen to build a Better Boss

The final result was eight behaviors -- things great managers do that make them great. They are, in order of importance:

1. Be a good coach.
2. Empower; don't micromanage.
3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.

4. Don't be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
6. Help your employees with career development.
7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

Once Google had its list, the company started teaching it in training programs, as well as in coaching and performance review sessions with individual employees. It paid off quickly. Google was able to have a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for 75 percent of its worst-performing managers,

What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.

From Worst Boss to Better Boss
One manager who employees seemed to despise because they found him bossy, arrogant, political, secretive, became a turn-around story. Many wanted to quit his team. They said he was brilliant, but he did everything wrong when it came to leading a team. Because of that heavy hand, this manager was denied a promotion he wanted, and was told that his style was the reason. But Google gave him one-on-one coaching, rather than hiring from the outside. Six months later, team members were acknowledging in surveys that the manager had improved and was a much better boss.

Common Sense Counsel: the great message from Project Oxygen is that better bosses can be built not bought. Combined with the lessons from Project Aristotle in my Column last week on Building Great Teams, the decision is yours. Start investing in both today and reaping the rewards! 

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and can be contacted at or 334-246-2901 and blog at

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tommy Eden's Funeral Talk for his father on 5.24.2017

An old Irish Headstone reads “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leave a memory no one can steal.” 

Tom Eden Jr Five Rules for Life -  in your program you will see a space. 

1) Rule 1 - Don't Live a Limited Life.
dad was intent on poking his finger into the stomach of life and seeing what popped out.
first male twirler for auburn university cheerleaders leading the AU band in the Truman Inaugural parade on Jan 29, 1949 in Washington DC and by the end of that year women played in the AU band for the first time in history – and I am sure Dad played a hand in that as he truly loved women. 
who but Lt Tom Eden would dare to convince a tugboat captain to pull alongside a United States Navy transport and climb up a cargo net as 800 Marines glared down at him because he missed his ship the Bohaire headed for Korea, all to give his new bride a kiss goodbye on the dock in Norfolk, VA.
30 years ago, Dad called my cousin Roger Reardon in Virginia as he and mom were going to visit my uncle and aunt Bill and Shirley Pleasants in Salem, VA to watch the NCAA finals. He asked Roger what beer he liked; Roger said PBR, Dad shows up at the house with a six-pack and he and Roger drank it during the game. Roger told me later that was probably the only beer ever drunk in Aunt Shirley’s house. 
2) Rule 2- have passion believing you can make the world a better place.
23 scouts made eagle in five short years while dad was scoutmaster of Troop 30 because he passionately believed they could and had this magical power of persuasion that caused them to believe as well. 
and as Murphy Murphy will tell you he pushed that passion into the boys he believed in - and 100s of other people sitting here today can tell you the same story. Each of you achieved the un-achievable because of dad's passionate belief in you.  And next, he was hands on as Trey Johnston framed it, coaching them to achieve their dream.
Forestdale Nativity - is still going strong after 50 years of telling the story of the birth of Christ Jesus on 4X8 sheets from the perspective of the shepherds and wise men, along with building a full nativity at the top of the neighborhood, because Tom Eden and Lee Cannon passionately believed that their Christian faith should be shared and not hidden.
3) Rule 3 - build a great team.
before Steve Jobs of Apple and Eric Schmitt at Google, Dad figured out the mystery of building great winning teams and scout troops and it was around the "mystery of the campfire"
around the campfire every boy had an equal voice from cry-baby Dr. Woodley Jones to Super Scout Sherman Phillips who leap tall buildings in our eyes.
the campfire was not over until every boy had a chance to speak.
around the campfire each boy was encouraged to go after their dreams.
around the campfire, there was an emotional support system that lifted all up towards the goal of Eagle Scout and beyond; and 
dad was a great active listener who coached everyone individually after he understood the dream that God had placed in their heart.
4) Rule 4 - don't do it for the money.
Tom Trotter told me the story of how he needed 2 dollars more to get back to Columbus after going on a Troop 30 outing – Dad reached in his pocket and gave Tom his most special 2-dollar silver certificate bill so Tom could get on the bus that night. 
I can't tell you the number of people that dad has helped during their hard times, or merely saw an opportunity that he wanted to encourage someone to venture into and gave freely to them. 
no telling how many Scout uniforms, sleeping bags, backpacking trips, groceries he paid for out of his own pocket just to make sure everyone had an opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential and dream.
Building them up to discover the calling that God had placed in their hearts was the treasure he stored up for himself in heaven.
5) Rule 5 - be an encourager of others.
raise your hand if Dad Encouraged you?
around the campfire 2000 years ago was an act of encouragement. 
the most discouraged man in history had days earlier denied Christ three times before the cock crowed. That man now sat at dawn face-to-face on a pebbled shore on the Sea of Galilee, with smoke curling from a campfire, eating a fish sandwich, waves lapping on the shore, and looking into the same eyes he had stared into across the courtyard of the high priest.
with 7 simple words, and a divine fish sandwich, Christ encouraged Peter. 
Peter - do you love me?  Peter answered - Lord you know I'm fond of you – Jesus said - feed my sheep.
Christ then asked Peter the same question and two more times Peter gives his same non-committal answer. Christ said - feed my sheep.
Peter “come to terms with your calling in me” was Christ’s encouragement across the flames of that campfire as he breathed his faith into Peter’s spirit. It was the “mystery of the campfire” that set the scene for Christ’s great miracle since his resurrection. 
days later Peter preached to 3000 in Jerusalem who were saved in the name of Christ Jesus because Peter accepted Christ’s vision for himself when he had no vision of his own – but only back to fishing. 
and the world has never been the same; 
and the ripple in the lake of Dad’ encouragement in love can still be seen in you here today and death cannot steal that.

One of the troop 30 scouts Dad greatly encouraged was my friend and classmate Bill Goodwin. I am going to ask Bill to come up and speak on behalf of all scouts that Dad encouraged to give you the rest of the story.  May God bless you all and may God grant to each of you His divine favor for being Dad’s friend and the friend of our family.