Stay interview – what, why and how

I know what a “job interview” or an “exit interview” is, but I had never heard the term “stay interview” until I read the article “Stay interview: the leader’s role in engaging and retaining talent” by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans today.

It is an interesting term for a concept that makes total sense for me. I wondered why I had not heard about it earlier and why it is not practiced widely.

We always do job interviews before hiring someone. Periodically we do performance reviews when we evaluate employees. And occasionally, we do exit interviews when an employee decides to leave.

But we rarely interview employees who are just staying.

Conducting a stay interview is a fairly new trend. After reading about it, I think stay interview is a great tool to retain valued employees and to avoid exit interview down the road.

Conducting a stay interview allows you to assess what’s working and what’s not, make your employees feel valued and heard, and build better relationships.

Stay interview questions could include:

  • Why do you stay with us?
  • What is it that keeps you here?
  • What might entice you away?
  • What are the things you like about your work?
  • What do you like best/least?
  • Are we fully unilizing your talents?
  • What makes for a great day at work?
  • What is it that keeps you motivated?
  • What is something new you would like to learn this year?
  • What can we do differently to best assist you?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change about your job?
  • Are there things you would like to change about your team or department?
  • Has something caused you to consider leaving? Has it been resolved?
  • What’s your dream job, and what can we do to support your progress toward it?
  • What is one thing that would make your job more satisfying and rewarding?
  • Do you feel supported in your career goals?
  • Do you feel we recognize you?
  • What kind of recognition would be meaningful for you?

Some people are concerned with “what if” fears. What if I can’t give what they want?  What if they don’t trust you enough to answer honestly? 

Be hones and admit that you can’t provide for your employees everything they want, but you can listen to them, hear their concerns, validate their feelings, reviewing their feedback, express your support and assure them that you will do what you can to explore options.

Whatever you do, be sure to follow up, and by all means, keep your promises!

Now take the time and ask your employees – “Why do you stay?” – before it’s too late.

Losing weight the natural way

If you need to lose weight or are thinking about losing weight, (who doesn’t in this day and age?), the following 10 tips from Dr. Mercola’s article What are the 10 Things that Can Pack on Pounds? will for sure help you achieve what you want, in the most natural way possible.

#1: To Lose Weight You MUST Eliminate Fructose from Your Diet

# 2 You MUST Plan Your Meals

#3 Avoid All Sodas, and Especially Diet Soda

#4 Be Sure to Eat PLENTY of Organic Vegetables

#5 Make Sure You Do Peak 8 Exercises Once or Twice a Week

#6 Avoid Drinking Fruit Juice

#7 Eating Outside of Your Home

#8 Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption

#9 Avoid Consuming Fast- or Processed Foods

#10 Avoid Condiments and Idle Snacks

Academic Triathlon Awards Ceremony

The 2010-2011 U.S. Academic Triathlon Awards Ceremony of School District 833 was held today at Cottage Grove Middle School at 7 pm.

The cafeteria at Cottage Grove Middle School was packed with USAT participants and their families. Principals or their representatives from participating elementary and middle schools were present to honor the students from their own schools.

Academic Triathlon is an after school enrichment program offered to 5th graders and higher through the District’s Gifted & Talented Office. Nancy Vague, Coordinator of Gifted and Talented Services, presided over the awards ceremony. Superintendent Mark Porter was also present to offer his congratulations and to hand out medals to each student. 

Every USAT participant received a customized medal. It has “2010-11 USAT” on the front and participant’s name and school on the back of the medal.

This year, District 833 had 26 grade 5-6 teams and 7 grade 7-8 teams with 172 students participating in the USAT.

There were 56 coaches who helped the teams practice weekly and organize the meets, they certainly deserve a lot of recognition. Without these parents serving as volunteer coaches, the program would not be possible.   

Thanks to all the coaches, including my son’s coaches Todd Nelson, Jim Fenner and my daughter’s coach Tonya Dolezal for your hard work and efforts. Thanks also to Nancy Vague and Laura Vogel from District G&T Services for coordinating the USAT program, and to all educators for your support.

Is your glass half full or half empty?

I like to be around people who are positive and encouraging,  who emanates positive energy and have a can-do attitude, who see glass half full rather than half empty.

Who likes to be around people who complain, criticize and put others down all the time? Probably no one. But we all know people around us who are complainers and whiners.

While we all have negative feelings and complain at one time or another, some people are down right negative and chronic complainers. No matter what you do and say, those who see the glass half empty can always find something wrong and complain. 

It doesn’t feel good to be around them. They suck energy out of us and make us feel down and drained.

While I am not a chronic complainer and negative person, I know at times and in certain situations, I do complain and think negatively.

Let the following words of wisdom serve as a reminder to myself and everyone reading to think positive and be positive.

“You are what you think; you are your thoughts.” – Earl Nightingale

“People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  —  Abraham Lincoln

“We become what we think about all day long.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” —  William Shakespeare

“As you think, so shall you be.” — Bible

Pay attention to what you think and say. Be around people who are positive and optimistic. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, or at least say it in a positive way.

Remember, a glass half empty cannot become full by complaining. Positive change cannot be brought about by negative thinking.

Poor in wealth, rich in love

Today I went to my Pastor Frank Sanders’ retirement and Frank & Kathy’s 42nd anniversary celebration at Lake Elmo Inn and Event Center, sponsored by AmeriPride Services, a company where Frank has worked for 43 years.

It was a wonderful celebration.

Hundreds of people came, his families, friends, and coworkers. Some came out of town and had to drive a few hours. The parking lot was so packed I couldn’t get out. I had to ask someone working at the Lake Elmo Inn to help drive my van out of the parking spot. There were too many cars parked too close.

My friend Bobbie and I sat together and talked about Pastor Frank.

Pastor Frank is authentic and down to earth. He is caring and compassionate for people. He is passionate about God. He has a loving family with three wonderful kids all serving in churches in different capacities. He is loved by many friends. We were touched by such a great turnout and the great impact he has had on many people’s lives. 

Pastor Frank might not be rich in wealth and earthly goods, but he is definitely rich in love and friendships. He is a blessed man who has blessed others. He really made us think what’s important and how we should live this earthly life.

Pastor Frank started the Sprit of Life Bible Churchin Woodbury in 2001 with a dozen of people. Now the Church has grown to a couple of hundreds of people.

He was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went through chemo and radiation treatments at Mayo Clinic. Please pray for his total healing.

The food was great, especially the cakes. I heard that the desserts from the Lake Elmo Inn Restaurant are the best in the Twin Cities. That’s probably true. The ones I tried were very yummy, not too sweet. I really liked it.

Minnesota transportation funding

A reader raised a question in responding to yesterday’s post Let your voice be heard – Minnesota GO: “How can MN build infrastructure with a $5 billion deficit?”

I think Minnesota, or  the US in general, cannot afford not to build a better infrastructure. Even public transportation in China is much more advanced than in the US. Here is a post I wrote on this topic after my trip to China last summer.

Yes, Minnesota has an estimated $5.03 billion two-year budget deficit. But Mn/DOT’s funding comes mostly from designated sources, almost half of its funding comes from the fuel tax. Approximately 80 percent of Mn/DOT funds are appropriated by the legislature and 20 percent is statutorily appropriated.

The following charts show where Minnesota’s transportation funding comes from and where it goes (for fiscal Year 2010)

Sources of Minnesota state transportation funds

Uses of Minnesota state transportation funds

Mn/DOT is a multi-modal agency. Its activities include transit; aeronautics; freight and commercial vehicles; construction; maintenance; and operation of 12,000 miles of state highways. Approximately 30 percent of Mn/DOT’s appropriations are state aid to local governments for road and bridge projects and other activities.

*Source of information: Mn/DOT Funding and Finances

Let your voice be heard – Minnesota GO

What’s your vision for the transportation system in Minnesota for the next 50 years? What’s your expectations for transportation today as well as for the next generation?

Mn/DOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) wants to hear from you – citizens of Minnesota.

On March 24, Mn/DOT launched Minnesota GO. Through Minnesota GO, Mn/DOT is engaging Minnesotans from all walks of life in both online and in-person activities to help craft a transportation vision for today and for generations to come.

From now until August 2011, Minnesotans have the opportunity to get involved through online activities, advisory groups, public workshops, hearings and other targeted outreach.

Please check out to participate and also for updates, discussion questions, surveys, and videotaped interviews on a range of topics. You can watch a short video about Minnesota GO.

A 29-member steering committee representing public agencies and community organizations will help review public comments, advisory group discussions, and quality of life research. The group will then draft and recommend a vision statement and set of objectives for Mn/DOT senior leadership to adopt.

At the end of the process, your vision will be incorporated into the updated statewide multimodal transportation plan and other investments and plans for roads, rails, transit, airports, ports and trails. Your input will help Mn/DOT prioritize among the multiple goals, objectives and expectations and help create a transportation system that will sustain and connect a vital economy, healthy environment and strong communities.

You can help shape Minnesota’s transportation system.

Let your voice be heard through Minnesota GO. You can also connect via Facebook.

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Go natural

It seems like human nature that we always want something we don’t have, and desire to be different or look differently than we are natually.

I am not someone who likes to follow the latest fashion trend in any way. Today I happened to catch the headline of an article titled The Taming of the Curl published in the Wall Street Journal on March 23, 2011. I was quite surprised to find out that women would spend that amount of time and effort to straighten their curly hair.

I have thin and straight hair. Yes, I wish I had thick and curly hair, because curly hair looks pretty to me. However, I am not willing to spend the time and money necessary to curl my hair, and to have it chemically treated on a regular basis and to risk the damage to my hair. So go natural is my solution and in my mind, the easiest and best thing to do.

I don’t care now whether my hair is curly or straight. I don’t care whether other people have curly or straight hair. I never pay attention to that. I don’t think other people care what my hair looks like either.

In China, people think lighter skin color is more desirable and beautiful. So in summer when it’s very sunny, a lot of people, especially women, use umbrellas to keep the sunlight away to prevent their skin color from getting dark.

But here in the US, some people with light skin tone go tanning to get their skin color darkened under the sun or in the tanning salons. They think darker tone looks better and healthy.

Isn’t that interesting?

If we can be happy with what nature gives us – our looks, our hairs, our colors, etc. and be content with what we have, life would be a lot easier.

Don’t let any companies or marketers tell you how you should do your hair to look more professional. You can’t go wrong with going natural.

Pothole Repair – Who’s Responsible?

An old joke says that there are two seasons in Minnesota – Winter and Road Construction. 

Maybe we should add another season – pothole season.  

Right now we are in the pothole season. The potholes can be quite annoying.   

Last week after I stopped at the Sam’s Club gas station, I took the road between Sam’s Club and Staples on the right side and Caribou Coffee and M&I Bank on the left side toward Commerce Drive. That road through the parking lot is very short, but full of big potholes, with gravel spreading everywhere.   

I didn’t dare to drive through. I had to zigzag to parking lot on the right and left to avoid the potholes. Otherwise I was afraid my tires would be damaged.   

As I was driving, I was thinking: “They better fix these potholes quickly.”   

But who are they?  Is the city of Woodbury responsible or are the businesses (or the property owner) in the area responsible? Honestly, I was not 100% sure.    

Later I found out from the City that Woodbury is responsible for all publicly owned city streets. But for the privately owned properties including the commercial properties such the Sam’s Club, Tamarack or Woodbury Lake shopping malls, the property owners are responsible. If you find potholes in their parking lots, the property owners need to be contacted.

You can find the contact information from the City. They will also contact the property owners on your behalf directly.  

For your reference, I listed below the contact information for reporting potholes in Minnesota.  

For city streets in Woodbury –

Call the Woodbury Public Works Department at (651) 714-3720 or send an e-mail to For more information, visit the website.

For privately owned properties in Woodbury –

You can use the general contact information for the City of Woodbury as listed above. Or you can also contact Matt Novak, Code Enforcement Officer in the City’s Inspections Division, at (651) 714-3543 or  

For Washington County State Aid Highways / Washington County Roads –  

Call the Washington County Public Works Department at (651)-430-4300.     

These roads have signs that look like this: 


For Interstate and State highways –  

Contact Mn/DOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) using this Pothole Reporting Form. This website also contains links to the county and city websites.  

Interstate and state trunk highways such as I-94 and MN-36 have signs that look like this: 


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Unimaginable tragedy

An unimaginable tragedy happened to a friend of mine 5 years ago that I just found out today. 

For about two years (1999-2001), my family lived in a Burlington apartment on Energy Park Drive in St. Paul, Minnesota.

One of our neighbors in the apartment building is a Chinese from Shanghai. Qinuo was married to a jewish doctor named Edward Van Dyk. Their boy Carl was the same age as my son. So they played together. When Qinuo’s mother came to visit from Shanghai, she became friends with my parents who were visiting as well. 

After the Van Dyks moved to Dartmouth College around 2000, we lost contact.

Today I talked to Qinuo’s mother in Shanghai on the phone and heard the horrible tragedy that happened to her daughter. She was surprised that I didn’t know about it, because the news not only appeared in the US, but also in Shanghai.  

Thanks to Internet, a quick Google search brought up the sad story that happened on Sat., May 27, 2006. Apparently, it was a big news and reported by the news media including AP, CBS, Fox, etc.

Even if I heard about it at the time, I probably won’t have made the personal connection. 

Edward Van Dyk killed his two young sons, Spencer, 4, and Carl, 8, by throwing them off the 15th floor of a luxury South Miami Beach hotel before leaping to his death, while the couple was on vacation to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

The full story can be found here:

Man who killed his sons, self left no note (USA Today)

The Miami Herald

This is an unimaginable tragedy no matter whom it happened to. But when it happens to someone you personally know, it becomes even more tragic and unimaginable.

I can’t imagine what my friend has gone through in the last 5 years. I am praying for her. May God bring her peace, comfort and strength as she faces every day and rebuilds her life.

I also pray for her mother. She said she still cries and can’t sleep whenever she thinks about it. She worries about her daughter. A tragedy like this will break every mother’s heart.

God bless the mother and daughter.

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