Mark Fenner Joins John Maxwell’s Certified Leadership Training Team

Mark Fenner is now certified by the John Maxwell Company to coach, mentor, and teach a range of Maxwell leadership principles.  Maxwell’s philosophy and principles will be an integral part of Rise Performance Group’s talent management services. From acquiring talent to developing leaders, companies of all sizes can create powerful and productive leadership teams at all levels within the organization through results-oriented tools, training and coaching services.

“Leadership is not limited to the executive suite,” said Mark Fenner. “Nearly every person can grow as a leader with the proper training, coaching, and mentoring. High-performing organizations recognize the importance of strong leaders at all levels of the organization.”

Rise Performance Group conducts workshops, seminars, coaching, and individual and group development programs for organizations and individuals to aid in personal and professional growth. It also offers a broad range of services and solutions designed to improve hiring practices and improve employee retention for organizations of all sizes.

Mark Fenner to Point Way to ‘True Leadership’ at Credit Union League’s Leadership Conference

  JMT Cert MemberDALLAS, August 20, 2013 – Creating leaders at every level of a credit union is a definite way to achieve success for the organization. That’s the message Mark Fenner, president of Rise Performance Group, will bring to the Cornerstone Credit Union League Leadership Conference and Expo September 5-7 in San Antonio, Texas.

Fenner, whose consulting firm works with several credit unions in Texas, will tell conference attendees how to achieve “true leadership” not just for themselves but for everyone in their credit union. This is accomplished by gaining and wielding influence throughout the organization, and his session will focus on how to do that.

“With better leadership skills, you improve problem solving, generate breakthrough ideas, increase member satisfaction, and enhance financial performance,” Fenner explains. His company has helped numerous Texas credit unions accomplish those objectives.

Rise Performance Group works with a broad range of clients, but credit unions are a specialty for Fenner, who worked for five years with a credit union-owned payment processor before he launched the consulting firm.   Mr Fenner said, “As a John Maxwell Certified Speaker, Coach and Trainer, I offer workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding personal and professional growth through study and practical application of proven leadership methods.”

The Leadership Conference and Expo will be held at the Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio.

Why Do Good People Underperform?

By Mark Fenner

Why Do Good People Underperform?

For a new hire, you may now be wondering what you saw in that person in the first place. For existing staffers, there may be a change for the worse in their performance, and you’re puzzling over why.

There are a few general reasons why someone is underperforming. Especially in the case of a new hire, maybe you just misread them and they really don’t have the capabilities you expected. Or perhaps the job – or a promotion or lateral move – just turned out to be a bad fit. There are other reasons, too; maybe the goals, objectives, and deliverables weren’t as clear as you thought. Or bad relationships developed between the employee in question and his or her manager or co-workers. Or maybe it’s the work atmosphere.

Let’s look briefly at each of these and how to prevent or deal with it:

  • Capabilities: A new hire might have overstated his or her capabilities from the start, and the mismatch didn’t become apparent until it was too late. The answer there is thorough assessments for all new hires and for anyone considered for a promotion, transfer, or change of roles.
  • Poor job fit: Assessments can also prevent this from happening. Even if a person has the right skills and capabilities, there may be a temperament mismatch or a bad cultural fit to the team. Behavioral assessments can spot that, especially when the existing team members take the same assessment, so you can determine the prevailing behaviors and characteristics of a successful team.
  • Unclear goals and objectives: The thing to remember is that goals should be realistic; they should be very specific, not vague; and what you expect from someone should be measurable, and framed within a clear timeframe, in order to determine success.
  • Bad relationships: Between a supervisor and employee, this could be a communication problem or a style problem, and should be addressed from both directions. Between team members, it may have been triggered by some kind of change, whether that is a new team member, or a new supervisor, or some change in a team member’s role or even events outside the office, in their personal life. It may require a little detective work, but the source of the problem can usually be found.
  • Work atmosphere: Maybe your company thrives on energy, drama, and near-chaos, but a new employee prefers quiet and orderliness. Or maybe you’ve changed the workplace physical layout, and it just doesn’t work for one or more employees. These kinds of issues can be prevented through behavioral assessments, as you find out what environment works best both for existing and potential employees.

There are, of course, many other (and more complicated) reasons why someone might be or has become an underperformer. But most fall into one of the reasons listed above. Which is why it is so important to do behavioral assessments and do them regularly, both for job candidates and existing staff. Assessments reveal a lot that you may not have realized about your company’s and your teams’ cultures, and can go a long way in preventing underperformance problems.

TDECU Embraces Rise Performance Group Assessment Tools to Enhance Hiring, Job Moves

DALLAS, July 29, 2013 – TDECU, one of Texas’ largest credit unions, is now using powerful job candidate assessment tools from Rise Performance Group in its insurance and investment divisions, to optimize its hiring and internal promotion and transfer decisions.

TDECU, the largest credit union in the Houston area, serves 170,000 members through 32 branches and other service locations, and has more than $2 billion in assets. Beyond the standard credit union products and services for members, TDECU offers investment, insurance, and real estate services in and outside of its immediate service region.

What led TDECU to embrace the Rise Performance Group assessments was the difficult time the credit union was having finding qualified individuals who fit the organization’s culture. The assessments are designed to help TDECU determine the best qualities among its employees and then determine how well potential new hires or job transfer candidates fit with those qualities.

“Our strategy has been to identify up-and-coming agents in whom we can invest in terms of licensing,” explained Vandi Theriot, Vice President of Talent Services for TDECU. “It really helps to have the assessment information in what is otherwise a very subjective hiring process.”

The credit union, which anticipates hiring some 180 new employees this year, has been using the Rise assessment tools since January, and Theriot said they are working well not only for new hires but for assessing individuals for other positions in the credit union.

“What we are seeing is that this really helps us with providing information from an overall workforce planning perspective,” she noted. “It gives us additional support for transitions and placements. When you look at employee performance plus the assessment data, it helps when we transition people to other roles.”

Mark Fenner, President of Rise Performance Group, pointed out that as TDECU continues to leverage the various assessment tools, it will further improve employee performance and retention.

“Like other Rise clients, TDECU will see that by hiring to a validated performance model and then also using the assessments to coach existing employees, they will see a reduction in the time it takes for a new team member to become fully productive,”   Fenner said.


Founded in 1955, TDECU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative with 170,000 members and more than $2 billion in assets. TDECU currently has 32 service locations, including 25 branches, and offers a complete selection of convenient, innovative, and competitive products and services, including a full suite of deposit products as well as mortgage, auto and personal loan products, online and mobile banking. TDECU also offers, through its subsidiaries, retirement planning and wealth management, personal and business insurance products, and full title and realty services. Members can also access a nationwide network of more than 50,000 surcharge-free ATMs. For more information visit or call 800.839.1154.

About Rise Performance Group

Rise Performance Group, founded on the belief that the right people are an organization’s greatest asset, offers a unique approach to helping organizations elevate performance. Rise Performance Group provides the tools, services, and expertise that can be applied to the entire talent management spectrum, from acquiring the best candidate for the job, engaging new employees into the culture, and identifying and developing leaders who can take the organization to the next level. For more information about the company, visit


Kevin Tanzillo
Dux Public Relations

It’s Time for a People Inventory

By Mark Fenner

It’s Time for a People Inventory


Taking inventory is something a lot of businesses do monthly, or at least annually. They log

what’s on the shelves, what’s in the warehouse, which items are hot sellers, and which ones are not. But what most businesses need to do – and they don’t – is to do inventory on their people.

Sure, everyone knows how many employees they have. But an inventory of people is much more than just counting heads. Done correctly, an inventory can identify the strong performers, the underperformers, and the people with great potential. It can also identify gaps in skills that indicate it’s time to hire some new people to fill those cracks.

An essential part of an inventory process like this is objective data. Before you start categorizing people as underperformers, for instance, you want to be sure you understand why they aren’t living up to what you see as their potential. Part of an effective employee inventory involves moving poor performers out to make room for top performers.  But you want to be sure that termination action is well justified, and documented, before you take it.

Conducting personality, abilities, and interests testing will shed a lot of light not only on the suspected underperformers, but everyone else as well. You may find that an employee is simply not a good fit in one position, but may have strong potential in another available spot. Maybe this person’s strength is in front-line customer service,  but they ended up in a lonely back office somewhere, which would account for their poor performance.

Or you may find that for whatever reason, that person was a bad hire or a cultural mismatch who just won’t fit anywhere in your company, and has to be let go. The testing data will provide some objective insight to aid in your decision.

On the positive side, this process can also uncover hidden gems. You may find people in the middle levels of the organization who have the traits to rise to the top but just haven’t had the chance. You can better assess someone’s long-term value to the company and if you see a lot of potential, act on it. Give that person the chance to develop the skills and experience he or she needs to shine.

What any inventory should also tell you is that you can never really stop your hunt for high-quality outside hires. I guarantee that there will be gaps uncovered through your inventory, and while some of these gaps can be filled with existing staff, some can’t. That highlights the importance of always being on the lookout for good people.

Should You Hire a Superstar


By Mark Fenner

Every once in a while, an opportunity comes along for a company to hire someone who looks like a “superstar.” This person has a great reputation in the industry, a great track record, and for whatever reason, they’re on the market at the same time you’re looking to fill a key position.

Should you do it? Should you hire the star? The answer is … maybe.

It’s easy to get overeager – or starstruck, if you will – when it comes to the chance to add someone like this to your team. Our advice is to slow down, put your emotions aside, and look at this as analytically as you do any other major hire. We recommend the following steps:

First, do you have any internal stars or potential stars of your own who could move into that key position? Not only does it cost much less to hire internally, but external hires pose a greater risk of failure. And the higher the level of the position filled externally, the greater the risk.

Why? The outsider, who may have done a fantastic job in a similar role elsewhere, just may not fit into your company’s culture. And they come into their new position without the relationships that may have been a key to their previous success.

Second, do you really need that position filled by that person right now? Or are you just trying to find a way to get the superstar into your organization? If that’s the case, the superstar could end up being a square peg that won’t fit into your round hole, because as good as he or she may be, they just don’t work in that position.

Third, be realistic. Stellar performance isn’t always portable. For instance, star performers whose positions require consistent cooperation and collaboration with others have a hard time maintaining their high performance in a new organization. It may require a significant time investment and some mentoring for the new person to establish relationships and begin to replicate the conditions that fostered his or her original success.

Fourth, don’t be too eager. In your rush to get an available superstar on board, you might be tempted to shortcut your normal selection process. You need to treat this hire like any other, with all the background and  reference checks, thorough interviewing, and personality, abilities, and interests testing. Maintaining the integrity of your normal selection process will pay off, regardless of how much you may be chomping at the bit to land the superstar.

Finally, if you do hire the superstar, be careful in how you present this person to your company. Don’t build him or her up to the point that it creates jealousy or resentment among existing employees. Not only does it make it difficult for your new hire to live up to the hype, but some employees may consciously or unconsciously try to sabotage the new person’s performance. It is up to your superstar hire to build the credibility themselves, without you forcing it on your team.

Becoming a Leader that People Want to Follow

LeadershipBy Jason Ingram

One of the great debates about leadership centers on whether leaders are born or made. A 2012 study by Biola University in Los Angeles found that “the majority of researchers today believe that the origins of leadership go beyond genes and family to other sources. Work experiences, hardship, opportunity, education, role models, and mentors all go together to craft a leader.”

Notice that the study doesn’t disregard the possibility that certain leadership attributes are in-born, just that the fuller picture of leadership involves external factors. Regardless, if you are a leader – or if you aspire to be one – then you need people to follow you…otherwise, you simply aren’t much of a leader. You may have the authority that comes with a leadership position, but do people want to follow you, or do they merely snap into lockstep behind you for a payday, some benefits, and the thrill of corporate pursuit? The answer to this question could mean the difference between years of satisfaction and success, or years of struggle and scraping by.

The Biola study referenced above also noted that “raw material essential in people in order to lead is not scarce,” and that “the lack of needed leaders is a reflection of neglected development, rather than a dearth of abilities” (italics mine). That means that you can craft leadership skills – whether you were born with them or not – and become a leader that people want to follow. Here are three questions every leader needs to ask themselves about their leadership style, along with recommendations for adopting a style that will attract more followers.

1. Are you a visionary, and are you actively pursuing that vision?
Much has been written about the limitations of money and perks to motivate the modern worker (just Google “motivate employees without money” if you don’t believe me; Google will return nearly five million results). For better or worse, the global workforce has changed; a paycheck every two weeks just isn’t enough to get the best effort out of increasingly detached employees anymore. Workers want to feel like they’re conquering Wall Street, hoisting the Lombardi trophy, and storming Mt. Doom all at once. In short, they want to feel like their work matters; they desire a vision that will compel them to give their best effort to achieve a seemingly insurmountable goal. That’s where vision comes in.

Simply put, vision is a picture of your preferred future. Whether it’s making your first million, winning a championship, or destroying the One Ring and freeing Middle Earth, the picture that accompanies that preferred future is the driving force that motivates dreaming, ideating, planning, hard work, and achievement. Effective leaders know how to harness the power of vision to motivate themselves and others when money and perks are tight, or even non-existent (such is the case in almost all startup businesses).

Leadership guru John Maxwell has said that a leader is someone who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” and that “people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” Do you have a vision? Do your coworkers and employees know what it is, and do they believe in it – and in your ability to get them there? Everyone likes to ride the rides, but eventually, even the most laid back people want to get somewhere.

2. Are your boots “on the ground?”
One of the great secrets to effective leadership is effective delegation: knowing whom to trust with which responsibilities and at what times to maximize their talents and your company’s productivity. Effective delegation begins with hiring the right people, training them in your company’s culture (this is more than just dictating policy, it involves imparting your vision to them), and understanding that their fulfillment and buy-in is directly proportional to how well you’ve taught them, and how much you’re willing to trust them.

Delegation is also essential for you as a leader, because it frees you up to focus your time and effort on your natural talents, thus fulfilling you, energizing you, and getting the best out of you. Andy Stanley, author of “The Next Generation Leader”, calls this “only do(ing) what only you can do.” You can’t be – and shouldn’t be – everywhere. “Do what only you can do,” says Stanley, “and delegate the rest.”

Having said that, do your people see you working, both with them and slightly ahead of them? This doesn’t necessarily mean daily status reports or micromanaging; that would be the exact opposite of effective delegation. What it does mean is that sometimes, you have to lead by example – usually when your people need to see you taking the point, not necessarily when you feel like making a leadership statement. If the project is big enough – if it is essential to your company’s vision – you may need to strap on the boots and wade into the mud with your troops. Nothing deflates company morale faster than orders barked from a detached leader to demoralized troops. When necessary, are your boots on the ground?

3. Are you affirming?
So, you’ve promoted your company’s vision and empowered your people; now, what happens when the results start rolling in? If you’ve done your homework – crafted an effective business plan and hand-picked the right people to help you – you shouldn’t face a constant string of setbacks, but problems will arise (they always do). As a leader, how you handle problems says more about you than how you handle success. Squeeze an orange. What comes out? Orange juice. What you are inside will inescapably burst forth when pressure is applied. This blog can’t provide you with inner peace (sorry), but it can provide you with a few helpful hints for dealing with disappointment while maintaining a leadership style people will want to follow.

  • When it comes to criticism or correction, measure twice and cut once. This is business, and results are a top priority, but The Golden Rule always applies, even when – especially when – you are at an emotional or occupational tripping point. If the criticism or correction is severe, take a break – go for a short walk, drive to the corner Starbucks for a coffee – before saying your piece. Remember, your employee didn’t want to make a mistake; they’re likely as frustrated with themselves as you are. And, you have to work with them again tomorrow.
  • Conversely, when it comes to affirming those who excel, lavish praise on those who do well – and don’t wait for a homerun. Singles win games, too, and waiting for that grand slam might cause you to miss a smaller, more intimate opportunity to shine the spotlight on someone who doesn’t usually stand out.
  • When possible, personalize your praise. No two people are alike, and the public acknowledgement that fuels one employee’s tank might make another shrivel in fear. Dr. Gary Chapman, speaker and author of “The 5 Love Languages”, breaks appreciation down into five basic categories: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. While hugs and backrubs are discouraged in most workplaces (and for good reason), giving a small token of thanks, doling out verbal “attaboys,” and spending a few moments of “non-work” work time with a standout employee are all effective ways of showing appreciation for a job well done.

Hopefully, as a leader, you have already given much thought to the nature and effectiveness of your leadership, and perhaps even begun to incorporate ideals from other leaders into your makeup. If not, don’t be discouraged! The only things standing in the way of you becoming a leader people want to follow are learning and a little hard work. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said that, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

Which leadership characteristics inspire you to follow? Which cause you to pull out your hair?

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