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Create a competitive workplace with a contented workforce

No business—not even small businesses—can hope to compete in an uncertain economy without the enthusiastic Multi-ethnic group portraitengagement of every person on its payroll. The way to get that commitment and enthusiasm is to create “contented cows” by becoming an authentic leader—someone who genuinely cares about the people who get the work done, says Richard Hadden, co-founder of Contented Cow Partners and co-author of Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows Moove Faster.

Hadden, speaking to a group of business leaders at a recent meeting of Executive Advantage (, a professional- and business-development group for Jacksonville-area CEOs, stressed that leaders who create organizations populated by “contented cows” will find their bottom lines blossom. As proof, he pointed to results of two studies he and his partner Bill Catlette did, in 1998 and 2008.

He and Catlette identified a number of high-performing companies, which they dubbed contented cows, and compared them to a number of good (at the time) but not extraordinary companies—common cows. They discovered the contented cows surpassed the common cows in a number of different ways: Growth (6:1), profits ($192 billion more), profits per employee (20:1), and market value added (MVA, also known as wealth creation), 17:1.

Richard Hadden

Richard Hadden

How did these companies accomplish so much? Hadden said they exhibited what he calls a contented cow strategy. They were determined to:

• Grow faster,

• Be more productive and profitable,

• Have lower turnover,

• Generate more jobs,

• Recruit more talented employees, and

• Create more wealth.

This strategy worked for the contented cows companies, and it can work for you, said Hadden. But to make it work, you need to have engaged, committed employees. “You can get a lot of people—especially in this economy—to go to work for you,” he said. “Work is contractual. But effort is personal—a conscious decision. That conscious decision makes the difference between being a contented cow and a common cow.”

What is a contented cow?

Contented cows—team members who are engaged in their work—are:

• Committed. They diligently and loyally work to achieve the business’ mission;

• Enabled. They are equipped with the tools and systems to do their jobs and use their talents;

• Cared About. Their leaders tell them the truth, whether it is good or bad; “feed their troops first;” say “thank you” for their efforts; and take a genuine interest in their personal and professional lives.

Contented cows don’t magically appear, said Hadden. They become the result of true leadership, which is characterized by honesty and integrity, compassion, decisiveness, flexibility, optimism, and authenticity. These characteristics, he said are also “oomph!” factors. “Oomph! Is reciprocal. If you give oomph!, you will get it back from your employees,” he said.

Oomph! will happen if:

• You care more than others think is wise;

• You risk more than others think is safe;

• You dream more than other think is practical; and

• You expect more than others think is possible.

Richard Hadden is co-founder, with Bill Catlette, of Contented Cow Partners (, a Jacksonville-area firm that helps businesses become great places to work so they can make more money. Executive Advantage ( is a professional- and business-development group for Jacksonville-area CEOs that provides a forum for growth through coordinated discussion and exposure to expert speakers.



Concrete tips on how to create contented cows

You don’t have to be a big company to have a contented cow workplace, says Richard Hadden. To create that workplace:

• Hire good leaders. (And develop your own leadership skills.) Don’t let bad leaders hide behind good numbers, said Hadden.

• Challenge people to speak out. Encourage your team to tell you something you are wrong about and then reward the most courageous and helpful response.

• Listen to your employees. Conduct surveys; feed the results back within 30 days; and act on the results.

• Hire for fit. You can teach a person how to do a job, but you cannot teach them to fit in. To hire for fit, identify the non-technical fit requirements for your company. Use behavioral interviewing to identify candidates that meet those requirements. Most of all, don’t compromise. Keep interviewing until you find people who match your needs. You won’t regret it.

• Define your business’ mission. And communicate it clearly. You will know if you have succeeded by asking employees, “What are our top three priorities?” If their answers are different from yours, you have more work to do on clarifying your mission and goals with your team.

• Give your team the right tools and equipment. They might be able to hammer a nail with a stapler, but they would do it better and faster if they had a hammer.

• Simplify your workplace. Get rid of a policy, procedure, system, or habit under your control that hampers the flawless execution of your mission.

• Show people how their work matters. Put them in contact with customers; let them see and experience other people’s jobs.

• Give more authority. Don’t be the sole decision-maker. Empower people to make decisions, and train them how to do it.

• Provide frequent informal feedback. Be specific and timely, and give feedback about the good work employees are doing as well as what they need to do better.

• Say ‘thank you.’ Saying it to a team member in person is nice. Sending a handwritten note is even better.

• Acknowledge special days. Send notes or cards on their birthdays and anniversaries.

• Spend time with each team member. Every day spend a few minutes with each person who helps make your company successful—that’s everyone!

• Improve your Oomph! Pick one leadership behavior you know affects the Oomph! of your team and resolve to improve it over the next 90 days. Make this an assignment for other managers in your company.



What is behavioral interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a method of screening job candidates. It asks about past behaviors as indicators of future success. In a behavioral interview, instead of asking general or hypothetical questions, the interviewer asks for specific examples.

The first step in conducting a behavioral interview is to identify the characteristics and behaviors you value in employees, such as teamwork, critical thinking, detail orientation, professionalism, and initiative. Once you identify the behaviors that are critical to the job and your business, you develop questions that probe into an applicant’s experience for evidence of the behaviors. 

Examples of behavioral interviewing questions include:

• “Tell me about an instance in which you had to deal with an angry customer.”

• “Give me an example of how you solved a problem affecting your work.”

• “Tell me about a time when you confronted your boss about something you were not in agreement.”

For more information on behavioral interview, go to these Web sites:

• The College at Brockport

• Quintessential Careers,

• Job Searching,

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