PT Solutions Founder/CEO

Author: Dale Yake

What I Learned About Life and Leadership from Mister Rogers

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area like many 70’s kids our television had 4 stations CBS, ABC, NBC and the PBS channel.  The PBS channel was hard to find though because it required the secondary knob on the television to dial it in.  In addition, the rabbit ears had to be adjusted.  In other words, there was no remote and just changing the channel on the old black and white television required A mechanical/electrical engineering degree.  For those of you that have no idea of any of the above, you probably still can relate PBS show Mister Rodgers Neighborhood.  Most of todays older kids still watch reruns.  Now of course for younger children its Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers) was an icon of American television.  He along with Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street and Gilligans Island filled my childhood.  Fred was not just Mister Rogers on television.  He was a child advocate beyond compare.  Fred Rogers who passed away in 2003, has many credits including pastor, puppeteer, but mostly its the child advocacy and savior of Public Broadcasting that remain his legacy.  In 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before congress to stem off cuts from Public Broadcasting and preserved alternative child programming like Mister Rogers Neihborhood.

I began watching Mister Rogers and the red sweater most likely around age 3 in 1970.  At the time of course, I did not know the sweater was red.   Red did not show through on the old black and white television.  I probably watched the show at least 2 episodes a day.  I could quote the characters , all voiced over by Mister Rogers, verbatim.  Even as child, I used Mister Rogers situationally to overcome fears, handle fights with my brother, understand order, and overcome new situations.   Fred Rogers was a master of child psychology and he impacted my views very early in life.

I stopped watching Mr Rogers at some point along the way.  With his removal from my television viewing schedule went the red sweater, “will you be my neighbor song”, the trolley, feeding the fish and King Friday VIII.  I continued to speed through teenage years. By then Mister Rogers Neighborhood on PBS transformed into Eddie Murphy’s parody of the show on Saturday Night Live.  Through all of it somehow, Fred Rogers had an ongoing impact on my views.

While nearing the end of my time at Allegheny College I had a friend who interned with Mr Rogers.   Her roles included assisting in the production of the show and serving as an aide to Fred Rogers.  I was working near the WQED studios near Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.  Little did I know that I would meet and interact on multiple occasions with Mister Rogers himself.

What stunned me as a young college student was Mister Rogers on television was the same as Fred Rogers in real time.  Fred Rogers was genuinely interested in my chosen healthcare profession as well as in my growth as a societal contributor.  He was genuinely interested in young persons pursuits.  A sit down with Fred Rogers was like sitting in on the show.  His questions and tenacity for knowledge were softened by a fondness for the humans and a kindness for them.  He showed this to me at each of our meetings.  Here are a few of the things that I can recall from 26 years ago that remain with me today.  Here is what Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers) taught me through television, language and persona:

  1. Each person you come across in life has something to teach you.  Most of those lessons are unexpected.
  2. The first step in leadership is intellectual curiosity regarding people and process.
  3. Step 1A of leadership is kindness.
  4. We must invest in children to have a future.
  5. We as individuals control our destiny but not absolutely without others.
  6. Success is a path and there are no shortcuts.
  7. We each have role in this big world – fulfill that role and do it well.
  8. Recall where you came from and cherish it but don’t dwell on the past.
  9. A smile eases most persons concerns in life.
  10. He reinforced that God is in control.

I continue, like most, to relearn these lessons over and over.  Fred Rogers ascent to help society is rarely matched.  I hope to continue to explore further leadership lessons.  My hope is to continue to pursue that ideal with fervor.  Thank you for reading.

Who Is a Fit? Hiring Ingredients

When PT Solutions began with one employee and one person to assess, life was a bit easier.  I was human resources, physical therapist, accounts receivable, CEO, CFO, sales person, janitor, and customer service.  Let’s just say the day to day self talk was much easier than employee reviews.  That early phase was not without consternation, however. Arguing, distrusting, disrupting, angling, asking for greater role, asking for improved communication, more mentoring, improved schedule, and the ongoing quest for higher compensation could only be posed between competing areas of the one brain at my disposal.  Disconcerting could only be blamed internally to misaligned neurons as opposed to employees being the wrong fit.  Working for yourself definitely has its challenges.  Hiring and making employment decisions is best outlined as quizzical.

By the way, I count several hundred times that I have fired myself only to rehire me in the next few minutes. I say it is a competition between good fit and availability.  Or in other words to use a phrase of my favorite Pittsburgh Steelers coach, next man up.  Problem is when you are the only one, it’s you at all costs..

All of that internal struggle became external with hire number 1.  After 25 years of hiring, training, teaching, reviewing, advancing, encouraging, and most would say discouraging others in my employ, picking who will be around you is probably the second most important general skill.  In the hierarchy of relationships, selection is next most valued to first being able to build any type of relationship and in a close tie with the ability to communicate.  The question becomes, how do you select?  Let me count the ways I have failed.

I have done the long, short, multiple, and extended time interviews.  I have used the consultants and the recruiting firms.  I have used hiring panels and even at times removed myself from hiring.  I have employed professional business interviews solely where we sit in a conference room. I have conducted social interviews out of the office with and without food.  I have interviewed in the car, truck, and out on the sports playing field.   I have incorporated personality testing, gut testing, and off the cuff testing.  We have an outstanding human resources director today, but I have been through a long string of human resources directors, specialists, vice presidents.  I am sure the failure was mine.  Success rate with hires over 25 years – 40% good/55% not so good/5% not applicable.  My batting average would win a $25 million contract in baseball and fail out of most colleges.  If hires were exams, no doubt I have had several failures of final exams with many of those hires.  So I among many struggle in this area.

I truly have had some disastrous hires.  I have had car crash hires, dumpster fire hires, and generally stinky hires.  Of course hiring is the first step in the process of employment and without good on-boarding, training, outlining of expectations and an employment process of review and feedback, many hires don’t go well.  We will work through these later in the blog. I’ll focus first on hiring here.

What do you assess with respect to experience and pose no threatening bias on age, gender or other groups?  How do you avoid the train wrecks and keep a growing business growing without tremendous missteps?  Ultimately, how do you avoid what can be the most most blood pressure raising experience – a work breakup?

How do we measure a potential employee’s values, work ethic, grit, a will to win, and the ability to self maintain?

Now, even with all that percentage of failure, I have had great successes.  Both in my prior professional life and with PT Solutions, there are a copious amount of self-evolving persons.  Even very hungry birds can find worms occasionally I guess.  Most of that success I attribute to great blessings.  However I have spent a great deal of time assessing.  What were the attributes of the wonderful hires and what process did I employ? What should we employ as we go forward? What is the training regimen needed to get better?  Most importantly before we assess and begin the hiring process – I outline what I am looking for in all candidates.

Here are my top 10 things to look for in a new hire:

1. What Does the Candidate Value? Learning, Schedule, Compensation, Time off, etc?

2. Prior to All the Fancy Degrees – How Did They Pay for College, Car, Apartment, etc? What Was the First Job? Am I to Become Their First Employer?

3. Is the Candidate Focused on Their Benefits or Our Culture?

4. How Does the Person Depict Their Future Response to Feedback?

5. Does the Candidate Understand Work Progression or Are They A Deliver Me Now Candidate?

6. Does the Candidate Have a Sense of Humor?

7. Can the Candidate Frame Thoughts or Are They Unable to Maintain Pertinence?

8. Do I Enjoy the Conversation With the Candidate? What Are Both of Our Comfort Levels During Interview Time?

9. How Does the Candidate Demonstrate Work Ethic, Perseverance, and the Ability to Overcome?

10. Attention to Detail: Timeliness, Presentation, Resume Organization, Do They Have a List of Questions Written?, Do They Follow Up the Interview with Written Contact?


As I blog for the first time on this new site, I am reminded of how I got here.  Everyone must admit at some juncture they are a result of their environment.  We are at times true reflections of parents, teachers and coaches.  It is hard to admit but anything we accomplish is not done alone.  Boy, for me that’s even hard to write.  Noting that you have depended on others is not what’s sold, sometimes what is coached and the framework of success.

However success is relationships.  A relationship is success.

For many including me there is the wrestle between the forces of “I don’t want any help” and “I want it my way”.

Somewhere along the way the realizations of life hit.  Your parents do not appear as wrong as they appeared in the teenage years.  Your presumed crazy professor with one button on his sweater probably had it right when he would repeat,

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”.

Coaches along the way were great philosophers when they would say “I wish I could come back to play and be a part of a team like this”.

What we know from business and healthcare research is relationships in all facets of life are vital – spouse, patient, business associate and even competitor.  Most of the  esteemed entrepreneurs can be described in many different ways – power hungry, narcissistic, self-focused, temperamental.   Each only reached new heights when they began to understand relationship power:  Patriots coach Bill Belichick has Tom Brady, President Reagan had his wife Nancy, Microsoft’s Bill Gates had cofounder Steve Allen .  Even Steve Jobs came to realize he needed others in the many derivations of Apple.

Practicing relationship development has long been noted as a life skill.  Dale Carnegie first wrote it in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  Here are the skills I am still practicing and I encourage others to wedge these skills into their day.

1) Be Humble – relaying that you are not the focus.  Let others be the focus of conversations, business debate and especially with spouses or significant others be humble and learn to pause when it becomes about you.

2) Avoid Complaining – every time you complain of a person, situation, or plight that you have detracts from any relationship you are trying to form.  Generally human beings don’t like other human beings talking negative in any respect – even about others.

3) Smile – physiologically in any situation of loss, grief, embarrassment, argument or aggression smiling eases the environment, reduces respiration rate, mitigates heart rate response and releases well being serotonin.

4) Get Others to Talk of Themselves – no greater way to build a new relationship than to ask questions of others and give them space and time to give answers and elaborate.  Let them talk of their history, their family, their loves, their failures.

5) Admit Mistakes – this can sound good but admitting mistakes only works if you are genuinely taking responsibility for a failure or impairment.  Truly owning the mistake is critical to positive equity in relationships.

6) Aim to Not Win an Argument – come to the realization that there is no equity in winning an argument – when another person loses, a relationships is impacted.  Ultimately wins end up being losses.

I too am a work in progress and training relationships is very much like Ironman triathlon training – it is long, it is multi-disciplined and it is never over.

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