Abandon Your SMART Goals

6 Reasons Why SMART Goal-Setting Does Not Work

 By Lei Wang

You’re probably familiar with the concept of SMART goals. SMART is commonly defined as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Organizations use these goals with two primary aims in mind. When addressing each aspect of the initials in SMART goals, the anticipated result is a clearly—defined direction for employees, and a well-set timeline to overcome procrastination and motivate employees to stay on track.

It is easy to see how you could expect SMART goals to work best when you are trying to reach a well-defined concrete target under a steady-state situation. Where you can see the target as realistic and the progress within your control, they are great for providing short-term direction and planning progress toward a long-term goal.

But when should you abandon them?

It is dangerous when SMART goals are blindly applied to every pursuit. For people who are aiming for big dreams that venture into new territories, or organizations that want to truly achieve ultimate greatness, especially in a dynamic environment, SMART goals are often inadequate, and sometimes detrimental.

To avoid such mistakes in applying SMART goals, it is helpful to know where and why they do not work. There are six primary problems inherent with SMART goals.

1) Focusing Too Narrowly on a SMART Goal: Fixating on a single SMART goal, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing it as the only goal. Looking at the SMART goal in the context of the competing and contributing goals will likely influence your actions regarding the single goal.

2) Using SMART Goals to Measure Success and Failure: SMART goals need to be specific and measurable, so you can objectively evaluate if you have reached the goal or not. It is effective in managing progress when working on projects in a controllable environment. However, if you apply the same criteria to measure success or failure, it can motivate people in the wrong way, and when the situation is dynamic or extreme, it can even be dangerous.

When success is measured by a SMART goal, people end up pursuing that goal for a narrowly-defined success, and letting that exclusive target take over their identity. Failure to meet a SMART goal can make employees feel as though their lives are meaningless. They only see losses, unable to appreciate what they have. What drives them to success when things go well may send them into a tailspin when they do not.

3) Sacrificing Long-Term Success for a Short-Term SMART Goal: Turn to any business or market news channel, and you will find a big portion of daily news is about how much the stock price of companies rises or falls because they beat or missed their quarterly earnings target or market expectations. To an outsider, earnings appear to be the most prominent metric for a company’s performance. Because of the likely severe market reaction for missing their earnings target, firms commonly take extreme measures to meet earnings projections, even if it means sacrificing long-term growth or manipulating their accounting. Such companies operate as if the world ends every ninety days.

They put meeting the quarterly SMART goals set by Wall Street at higher priority than their customers and their long-term success. Eventually, that strategy will be fatal for business.

In more extreme situations, when your competitors are engaged in unethical tactics, and you are at risk of missing your financial target or losing your ranking in the field, what do you do?

4) Giving Up Too Soon, and the All-or-Nothing Approach: A SMART goal can be discouraging, either before or after reaching the goal. Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I don’t have time,” when excusing yourself for not doing what you had planned for that day? Time management is one of the most popular applications of SMART goals. When you think about allocating time to do a certain task, it’s often in terms of all-or-nothing.

SMART goals are viewed as a complete entity, and when you are unable to do everything as planned, you can become discouraged and give up the entire goal.

When a SMART goal is the sole focus you work so hard for, it often becomes a negative incentive. When all eyes are on that SMART goal, you lose sight of the achievements and fulfillment of the journey.

5) Failing to Realize One’s Full Potential: Even when people reach their SMART goal, it may not be a real success.

There are plenty of examples of smart people starting a company based on a great idea or product. They work hard to bring their dream product to life or to take the company from private to a public offering to attract investment money. Once they reach their SMART goal, they relax and the company’s growth curve dramatically flattens. They could have built a great company with many brilliant products, but instead they rested on their laurels.

While working toward SMART goals can motivate you along the way, they can often operate like a stop sign that makes you fall short of your full potential. Setting goals that are too easy will not move people to achieve more than the minimum they are capable of, they miss the opportunity for growth, and they will never know what they might have achieved if the goal had been more challenging.

6) “Realistic” and “Achievable” Can Be Misleading: When you are pursuing “realistic” and “achievable” goals such as your next promotion, next higher sales numbers, next award, you should pause for a moment and question, “at what cost?”

People who are so self-driven have a tendency to overload themselves with too many high priorities. An item is number one for a reason, so with too many number one priorities, the number becomes meaningless. Something has to be number two, number three, and so on.

When you look at each goal in isolation, it’s seen as realistic and achievable within a certain time frame. The tendency is to be overly ambitious, thinking, “I will figure out a way to fit it in!” But “realistic” is a relative term, not an absolute term. It is not just considering, “Is this goal realistic considering my capability?” but also, “Is this goal realistic considering all my other goals?”

Pursuing a lofty dream and fulfilling your greater purpose requires a broad vision, one that goes way beyond the immediacy of the next SMART goal. SMART goals can serve as checkpoints in your long journey to keep you on the path toward success. It is important to measure progress by growth and effort as well, because it is the growth and learning along the way that are of the most value.

Lei Wang is an internationally-recognized adventurer, motivational speaker and author of After the Summit: New Rules for Reaching Your Peak Potential in Your Career and Life. The first Asian woman to complete Explorers Grand Slam (climb the highest peak on each continent and ski to both poles), Lei channels her experiences to convey a message of perseverance and steadfast determination that her audiences can use at work or at home. For more information about Lei Wang, please visit www.JourneyWithLei.com.

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Be a Force Multiplier

Accomplishing More with Existing Resources

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickThe U.S. Department of Defense defines “force multiplier” as a capability added or employed by a combat group that significantly improves their combat potential, enhancing mission success probability. A force multiplier could be anything from new weapons technology to fresh food in the mess hall; anything that perks up and improves the effectiveness of our world-class armed forces.

The Challenge-Discernment in Using Resources: In the general workforce of corporate America, problems are many times solved by throwing resources at it—time, money, and effort. However, that’s not always the wisest course of action and much of those valuable resources could end up wasted. For those trained in the armed forces, their approach is different. Due to their training and experiences, their ability to enhance the effectiveness of the existing resources they have at their disposal is really the key behind the phrases about working smarter—not just harder.

The Solution-Force Multipliers: Incorporating the unknown elements and outcomes of a new strategy can sometimes be met with trepidation since it usually requires people to embrace the unfamiliar. However, with force multipliers, the foundational elements are usually already known and what changes is an updated strategy or reconfiguring other correlated elements that will inevitably improve its overall effectiveness and result.

Here are six multipliers you can explore and implement to help you work smarter:

1. Technology: To be most effective in both business and life, the ability to react is necessary, but being proactive and taking initiative first is where you will find the battle is won. Certainly, when you look to the likes of Apple or Facebook, their proactive stance on new technology leverages into a significant force multiplying advantage. This tech might be the defining force multiplier of your time. However, technology is moving into a plateau period where everyone has access to technology, balancing the playing field. There will always be innovative products. The game changers that propel things forward, but most of us aren’t engaged in enterprises that rely on innovation in that way. 

Instead, the force multiplier looks at technology and determines how its use extends effectiveness, for the multiplier themselves or for members of their team. A sales manager may, for example, implement an app that provides field sales staff with past ordering information for clients quicker. Field sales use this information to respond proactively during client calls. Effectively using the capabilities of smartphones has come a long way since the era of the revolutionary briefcase-sized cell phone.

2. Data: The smartphone example underscores the importance of data. On the battlefield, it’s called intelligence, reconnaissance or simply knowledge of one’s own numbers of personnel and hardware capabilities. Having complete and accurate information multiplies the chances of effective decision-making. Knowing where an enemy is, their numbers and the weaponry under their control permits an accurate and measured response, rather than sending blunt forces in the enemy’s general direction.

Consider the sales manager again. There’s no sense sending field sales into a suburb when they sell industrial cleaning products. It’s a simple example, but without knowledge of a region as suburban, effectiveness is diluted. 

3. Collaboration: Delegation is one way to use human resources, and that is essential. In traditional hierarchical organizations, that top-down direction of management is typical. It’s also quite rigid. Information and innovation typically follows that hierarchical pattern as well.

The contemporary world shifts to collaborative work groups largely due to the lateral spread of information that the computer age grants. Length of service with a company no longer describes experience with information or tech. Therefore, information is shared laterally as well as hierarchically. Multiple-pronged communication becomes more natural and, for the Force Multiplier, more critical to success.

4. Psychology: The most obvious psychological force multiplier is of course morale. Positive morale motivates a fighting unit in precisely the same way it boosts the efforts of a workplace team. Shared vision unifies effort and provides natural group cohesion.

Negative morale divides teams. In military terms, propaganda is a tool used to negatively affect opposing forces, which can counteract a number of factors that might otherwise aid the enemy’s advances.

While bringing down competition may not be a practical goal in the business world, bolstering the positive and avoiding the negative in work groups is critical function for the force multiplier.

5. Strategy: The Force Multiplier is always thinking in terms of strategy and implementation. Effective leaders take the knowledge of what resources can accomplish through tactical means. As the other aspects of force multiplication take effect, plans adapt to the increased capabilities. For instance, with the right tools and training, a sales team of three can increase sales in an area where six used to simply maintain current levels.

6. Leading by Example: Becoming an effective force multiplier means constant attention to improving your own skills and knowledge. When you start asking more from others in your organization, you better believe they’ll be watching you to lead the way. They know that you can’t be in the trenches with them all the time, but they need to know you can get your hands dirty and are willing to serve beside them. And of course, demonstrating that is a force multiplier technique.

As you become more aware of your force multiplier capabilities, you will realize that it’s almost a lifestyle choice with far reaching implications. Better still, force multiplication inherently implies continual improvement—of yourself as a leader, of your systems and of your team. Rather than something that’s overlaid, continuous improvement naturally emerges from the force multiplier process.

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker, author, and authority on leadership. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book, “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life.” Elizabeth teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.

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How to Make Your Training Stick

How Much Information Sticks during Training?

By Brannon Dreher

Your company delivers an expensive new training program to employees and then, like any smart company does, spends the next few months measuring the effects. Immediately after sales training, you find that your newly trained salespeople are only using two of the six selling approaches that training presented to them. Or six months after you trained your front-desk hotel staff, you discover that right after training, they started applying some of the customer-service strategies you taught them, but have now abandoned them and it’s back to business as usual. 

Frustrating? Costly? Infuriating? Yes, it’s all those things, and worse. How can you get trainees to absorb more of the information you give them, and increase the chances that that information will stick and be put into use for the long term? Let’s take a closer look.

Cognitive Load Theory: According to psychologists who have studied how people learn (like Prof. Ton de Jong at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, John Sweller at the University of New South Wales, and many others), the human brain can be expected to absorb a relatively small percentage of the information delivered in a learning situationat times as little as 10 percent. But it is possible to improve that percentage dramatically.

To understand how that percentage can be increased, it is important to understand Cognitive Load Theory, which is a way of understanding the effect that sensory inputs have on your ability to process information and learn. When your senses are processing a lot of input, they filter how much information gets passed on into your short-term memory. As an example in training, your learners are dealing with a lot of input that is competing with the information you want to teach. They’re adjusting their eyes to see your slides, getting distracted by other trainees at their tables, trying to get comfortable in their seats, and maybe even getting their first gulp of coffee.

When information does get around that sensory/cognitive load, it makes it to your short-term memory, where you think about it. You judge it and if it is memorable, it then gets passed into your long-term memory where we can use it later.

To summarize, if a learner decides that information is important when it is in short-term memory, he or she will unconsciously transfer it to long-term memory. That information becomes what he or she learns because of training.

How Long Does Information Reside in Short-Term Memory? The answer to that question will probably surprise you, because new information only gets processed for between ten and fifteen seconds in short-term memory. If that information doesn’t stick during that time, it is lost. So, think of short-term memory as a kind of buffer zone that fills up quickly, and then empties as new information flows in.

What Can Help Get Information Passed from Short-Term Memory to Long-Term Memory?

  • Mnemonic devices: Back when you were a student in high school, you might have memorized the sentence, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to help you memorize the planets in our solar system in the order in which they appear from the sun. (The words in that sentence stand for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.) Acronyms are useful in training too. For example, the acronym AIDA (standing for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) is sometimes used to remind sales trainees of different stages of making a sale.
  • Activities: Participation in shared group activities is another effective way to reinforce concepts and help them move into long-term memory. So are quizzes and self-tests delivered at key moments during training that reinforce concepts and skills.
  • Resources to be used after training: A content library for trainees to use once training is done can be very effective in making sure key concepts move into long-term memory. For example, you can create an online content library for field technicians to access; it explains procedures and concepts that were covered in training, though probably not fully absorbed.
  • Storytelling: Let trainees tell stories that explain experiences they have had that relate to a concept or skill you are teaching. (“Here’s what I once did when a customer was having that problem . . . “) Storytelling reinforces key concepts for the person who is telling the story and for the people who are listening too.
  • Scenario-based learning: Present a simulated situation and let trainees work through and try solutions. This helps learners realize, “If this happens, this is how I will handle it.”
  • Certificates and certifications: They allow trainees to feel satisfied and rewarded for learning specific skills or behaviors. When trainees have been recognized for learning important information, it tends to stick.

And Include Games Too: Games resonate especially well with millennials, although everyone likes them. They work much better than bombarding trainees with information. For example, you can have trainees practice new skills in a virtual environment that replicates one of your stores.

And add a competitive element, because competitive games can help training concepts stick. Healthy competition, in which learners try to outperform other trainees, can go a long way toward getting learning to stick. For example, you can give a quiz and keep score on a leaderboard until someone wins.

In Conclusion: Evaluating training programs can boil down to one simple, but somewhat profound, question:

Why are you spending time and money on training if nothing changes?

There are many ways to get a better ROI from training. You can revise your materials, hire more energetic trainers, send trainees off to a weekend retreat, and take other steps. All good ideas, but ultimately unlikely to provide a big payback unless you make sure that you are delivering training that sticks.

Brannon Dreher is a client engagement manager at Tortal Training. In the learning and development space, Brannon provides blended learning solutions for companies based on need and to create customized learning solutions for the clients, while increasing the effectiveness of company’s human capital. Brannon brings a continual learning focus, and communication skills to produce quantifiable results. For more information about Brannon Dreher, please visit www.tortal.net

The HR Department of the New Millennium

Four Skills to Compete in the New Hiring Landscape

By Magi Graziano 

Magi GrazianoThroughout the last decade it has become painfully apparent that while most CEOs recognize there is a drastic talent optimization problem, they have absolutely no idea how to fix it, nor time to take it on alone. Most CEOs address people and workforce issues like a hot potato—they want it off their plate immediately. This is where the twenty-first century HR (human resources) professional steps in.

Today’s budding HR professionals have a whole new set of concerns that set them apart from previous generations. The human resources departments that remain from the twentieth century are ill-equipped to manage the scaling concerns of the twenty-first century enterprise.

In the early days of business and industry, human resources emerged as the answer to increasingly challenging and demanding labor relations’ problems. But what fundamentally worked in the pre-information age is grossly ineffective for optimizing the workforce of today’s wisdom age.

Today’s human resources teams must grow beyond what HR requires. They must develop themselves and their teams into savvy business professionals who leverage talent, optimize people at work and deliver tangible returns on their ‘people program’ investments.

Whether you are a seasoned professional on the ageing side of a successful career, or a newcomer entering the field, it is imperative that you gain the knowledge to address today’s workforce challenges head-on and strategize winning solutions that reduce or remove these constraints from adversely impacting the business.

By learning these four imperative skills, you position your business to compete in today’s hiring landscape.

1) Develop an Executive Summary: The first skill you will need to develop is the ability to write an executive summary. You must evaluate the major workforce challenges to your specific business faces and outline your plan to rectify them. If you do not establish a stout plan to address these issues your business almost will face an uncertain future. How do workforce gaps and frequent turnover impact the customer experience, employee partnership, innovation, and the business’s’ bottom line? As a businessperson specializing in hiring, you need to know how to communicate both written and verbally, in a way that can be heard.

2) Learn the Importance of Utilizing Big Data: The second skill you need to develop is the ability to resonate with, speak into and listen from data. Big data rules today’s world, and understanding it and how to make it work for you is imperative to your success. Sorting critical data from superfluous data is another key to getting your point across and keeping your audience’s attention.

In order to catch the ear of people who can solve a problem from a strategic and financial point of view, you need to speak to them in a financial and strategic manner.  This means you need to be able to read a profit and loss statement. You need to understand the total cost of labor and staffing in your company. Most decision makers in business have a strong preference to evaluate propositions through three-to-four salient points grounded in accurate, relevant data. To speak with someone who understands and responds to data, you must elevate your ability to think from data and make recommendations that speak to improve the data.

3) Cultivate Confidence: The third skill you need to continue to develop and nurture is your confidence. Standing for stronger people-optimization in the workplace and human systems transformation is a pretty big stake in the ground. If not you, who? Someone needs to keep people present to the commitments around the workforce.  Most managers in most organizations fall astray from their talent optimization commitments as soon as the pressure of another commitment overshadows it. Without someone standing for—and in some cases fighting for—doing the right thing and making people and talent a companywide focus, your competitive advantage initiatives fall out of existence. It takes confidence and stamina to create sustainable change; it takes a continual, unwavering commitment, sometimes in the face of no agreement—and that takes confidence.

4) Find Comfort in the Questions: The fourth skill you need to improve is your ability to be comfortable in not having all of the answers. Curiosity is a major strength of people who succeed in the new HR world. Having all the answers and knowing how things are going to or not going to turn out is a trait that no longer serves the business professional of the twenty-first century. In today’s world, curiosity, agility and creativity are how you win.

Fostering a workplace of collaboration and innovation begins with you. You need to be the change you want to see. Facing problems with an eye on understanding the systemic impacts on the business and the people in it opens you up to hear from people you might not otherwise hear from. Inviting ideas and solutions from your team gives you a much wider perspective and develops your balanced decision making skills, which are a requirement for a twenty-first century business professional.

While on the surface if might not be obvious, but the keen HR professional is the key to the successful evolution of optimizing people at work. Every business, in every industry needs someone in HR focusing on the future of people and talent optimization. From reducing unwanted employee turnover and filling the leadership gap to hiring better and transferring today’s knowledge to tomorrow’s workers, the right HR pro doing the right things, affects every single strategic lever in a company. The effective attraction, engagement, and optimization of high-quality people in any organization, may be as—or more important—than your services or products themselves. Therefore, the right HR pro is just as important as the right coder or right sales rep—choose and develop your twenty-first century HR team wisely.

Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of Conscious Hiring® and Development, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than twenty years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the daytoday operation. For more information on Magi please visit www.keenalignment.com.

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Enduring Enterprises

Eight Essential Strategies for Achieving Business Longevity

By Jill Johnson

Everyone who starts or leads a business dreams of passing it along to the next generation. But few are successful in making it happen. Every year, countless businesses and organizations fail. Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. Long-term success takes more than hard work and a little luck. Leaders and entrepreneurs who achieve exceptional business longevity share seven business practices that move them to long-term success. They think differently. They operate differently. And they lead differently.

1) Engage in Ongoing Planning with a Realistic Vision: Successful executives and entrepreneurs prepare for success on an ongoing basis, not just when they are in start-up mode. They move beyond their initial business plan to augment their success by leveraging new opportunities and seeking ideas to enhance operations and profitability. They are disciplined in writing down their plans, reviewing them and sharing with their key employees and advisors. They know on-going planning keeps them focused and moving forward. These leaders continually, and formally evaluate, what is working and what needs changing.

2) Establish a Realistic Vision for the Future: Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. They leverage one success into another rather than rapidly making huge leaps beyond their capabilities. Those who don’t have a realistic vision risk everything because they reach too high before their cash, talent or operational capability is ready for higher levels of success. Enduring leaders actively and effectively manage their transitions and hire sophisticated talent to match their future needs. Their success is sustainable because they build it on a viable foundation that is based in reality not on wishful thinking.

3) Use Disciplined Approaches to Developing Leadership and Executive Skills: Leaders who operate enduring enterprises understand experience is critical; not just with the operational or technical expertise, but also with the ability to lead, manage and weather the daily challenges of not having someone tell you what to do. These leaders understand they need to continue cultivating their ability to manage and create strategies. Those with enduring success continue developing and enhancing their skills to build their business arsenal. They read. They hire the consulting and professional talent they need to augment their internal expertise.

4) Implement Sound Fiscal Management: Fiscal discipline is fundamental to long-term business or enterprise success. Yet few leaders have the self-discipline to manage their cash flow for the inevitable peaks and valleys. They respond to immediate pressures and spend money they don’t have. Too many leaders spend money on the flash and glitz trying to impress people. They never prepare for the future because they’re focused on living in the moment. Some make ill-advised decisions that create financial crises rather than making prudent commitments they can realistically handle. Successful leaders of enduring enterprises focus on building real net worth by being masters at financial discipline and tightly controlling what they spend.

5) Adapt to Changing Circumstances: Markets change and technology advances. Those who are successful over the long-term understand and adapt to change. They invest in people and technology to enhance productivity. They stay on top of competitors and respond as necessary. By continually adapting, they are able to leverage the evolving trends that are fundamentally transforming their industries. Enduring leaders create enterprises that last well beyond their tenure, always looking ahead to identify tools, resources, ideas and technology that can enhance their organizational success.

6) Build Substance into the Enterprise: Businesses and organizations have come and gone over the decades. Some succeeded brilliantly, but most failed to meet the expectations hyped by their founders and owners. The primary reason is lack of substance to the enterprise; most of what was promoted was smoke and mirrors. Sustainable enterprises have substance. They deliver on their promises. Clients, vendors and employees can count on them. These enterprises demonstrate a consistency of product and service quality that can be trusted over time. An on-going reputation for dependability is often a real predictor of long-term enterprise success.

7) Control Growth: Those who survive long-term carefully and deliberately manage the size and growth of their enterprises. Those who focus on growth ensure they have adequate finances, equipment and staff to meet their evolving needs. Those who maintain a smaller size often find they can better manage the stability of their overhead and fixed costs. Maintenance-oriented enterprises may even make more money and have less stress than their growth-oriented peers. Both growth and maintenance oriented leaders who succeed over the long-term effectively manage their appetite for risk and keep business scope within their comfort zone. They maintain leadership enthusiasm through controlled growth or by achieving sustained financial success.

8) Maintain Motivation: Staying motivated is tough in any enterprise after the euphoria of taking over or starting up dies down. Once the day-to-day activities begin to become routine, most people lose their enthusiasm. Even harder is dealing with the real stresses of leadership. Boredom is often a leader’s worst enemy. Leaders of enduring enterprises motivate themselves and their employees by continuing to look for new opportunities to better meet client needs. This provides at atmosphere of innovation and ongoing success measured in revenues, customer satisfaction and employee retention.

Final Thoughts: Leaders who enjoy enduring business success have learned to constantly adapt and evolve. They respond to continuing competitive pressures by finding ways to meet evolving client needs. The secret to long-term sustainable success is doing things with discipline and excellence. Leaders of enduring enterprises both big and small do more than just dream of success. They make their success a reality by taking the actions necessary to achieve it. And make it last.

Are you ready to become a leader of an enduring enterprise? If so, what is the first strategy you need to begin to implement?

Jill Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions series. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com