Home » Our Blog » 5 Leadership Lessons From Crossing the Delaware
back to the top
5 Leadership Lessons from History

5 Leadership Lessons From Crossing the Delaware

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Leadership Lessons From History

Several years ago in a meeting, we were asked to share the name of the best leadership book we’d read in the past year. My colleagues suggested books by Maxwell, Gladwell and Collins, yet my mind went directly to the historical account of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River in 1776, depicted in “To Try Men’s Souls” by Newt Gingrich.

You may remember the story from high school history class. In December 1776 during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was demoralized and on the run. Christmas night, while camped along the Delaware River, Washington realized that their only chance to win – or even to survive – was to attack the British at Trenton.

It wasn’t evident at the time of course, but historians now consider the events of that evening and the next morning as the turning point of the Revolutionary War. As we study Washington’s decision-making during these extraordinary circumstances, five leadership lessons emerge.

1. Heroes Exist in the Unlikeliest of Places

Henry Knox served as Washington’s chief artillery officer, and before the war, Knox managed a bookstore.

According the Washington, Knox’s efforts made the attack on Trenton possible. As a devastating blizzard engulfed the area late on Christmas night, the river seemed impassable. Knox coordinated efforts to load the army’s few remaining artillery pieces onto the creaky flatboats and to navigate the ice-choked river. Once across, it was his leadership that allowed men to transport heavy machinery up and down the icy hills in the midst of an historic blizzard.

Washington later said he was stunned by Knox’s confidence and impressed by the routine, matter-of-fact way Knox explained his plan. He had horses drag artillery pieces up frozen hills in the middle of a snowstorm, in the dark, using malnourished and barefoot soldiers, yet Knox made it seem like an ordinary, routine event.

Like eagles, leaders don’t flock together. You most often find them one at a time, and sometimes a bookseller helps you win a war.

2. Hold Steady in the Face of the “But Sirs”

Once Washington made his decision to cross the Delaware and attack, he never wavered. As soon as the order was disseminated through the ranks, leaders were hit with a barrage of “but sirs.”

• “But sir, the river is filled with ice.”
• “But sir, these boats weren’t designed to transport cannons.”
• “But sir, my men haven’t eaten in three days, they won’t survive the march.”
• “But sir, the British are well-rested and well-fed, what chance do we have in battle?”

But sir, but sir, but sir. As a leader, how often do you deal with resistance to a tough decision? Washington responded by increasing the level of communication so that everyone had better understanding of his decisions, as illustrated in this brief aside to his officers:

“If we do not win soon, there will be no army left. When there is no army left, the rebellion will be over. When the rebellion is over, we will all be hung. Therefore we have little to lose.”

3. Frequently Communicating Vision is a Necessity

Washington didn’t say it just once, he repeated himself over and over, up and down the line of soldiers. The vision: Cross the river, move the artillery and cross Jacob’s Creek. In twelve hours.

Did everyone agree with his plan? Hardly. Did they execute the mission? Definitely.

4. Be Visible

A Continental soldier’s diary recounts that for every mile he covered, General Washington probably covered twelve. Riding back and forth, checking on the front line, then crossing the creek to check on the men at the back of the line, then back to the front again. The soldiers knew their leader was invested and that he was fighting right by their side.

A good rule-of-thumb for leaders: the tougher the mission, the higher the visibility.

5. Leaders Aren’t Called to Do Their Best

Washington knew this leadership secret better than anyone. He knew that most of his men’s enlistments expired in a week and that he was outmanned and outgunned. He knew that their only chance of survival was to attack and win at Trenton. Everything else was irrelevant.

It didn’t matter that the river was filled with ice, or that half his men had no shoes and hadn’t eaten in days. The boat boarding passcode that night was “Victory or Death.” This is what Washington believed and it was how he led his army. He knew that as leaders, we are not called to do our best – we are called to do what is required.

Washington’s army went on to win the battle at Trenton, and to win again at Princeton. The momentum of those wins turned the war in their favor, eventually leading to American independence fifteen years later. And I believe the momentum truly began with the perseverance of one man, directing his forces to victory through a blinding snowstorm.

Nearly two hundred fifty years later, General Washington’s leadership lessons are as valuable today as they were that snowy night on the banks of the Delaware River.

Jim Quillen

by Jim Quillen

Author Bio: As director of tax at Paycom, Jim Quillen is responsible for ensuring payments and returns are filed timely and accurately. Quillen, a CPA by training, has worked in many fields during his career, including finance, auditing, recruiting, sales, business development and software implementation. Prior to his current role, Quillen has served Paycom as the director of business intelligence, director of new client implementation and director of recruiting.

Unconscious Bias

3 Steps to Prevent Unconscious Bias in the Interview Process

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

You do it. I do it. We all do it.

No, I’m not talking about converting oxygen into carbon dioxide – although you may need to take a deep breath before reading further. I’m talking about that unquestionably human habit of prejudging someone or something, whether in a positive or negative light.

That little prejudge is known as unconscious bias. Most people harbor some bias, although they may not realize it. For employers, unconscious bias can cause big trouble if interviewers unfairly favor or dismiss a candidate during the hiring process.

According to Harvard Business Review, when interviewers without standardized questions are left to decide which candidate to hire, their decisions tend to be subjective and unconsciously influenced by fixed thoughts on race, gender and ethnicity. Considering the strict regulations set forth by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), interviewers can get into hot water quickly, without even realizing they’re doing something wrong.

To help avoid risk, empower your hiring managers to follow these three steps.

Introduce performance-based questions

As the great equalizers, performance-based questions center on what employees must do to be successful in their roles. This includes questions to assess how they have addressed challenges in other roles, and hypothetical questions to judge how candidates would approach the challenges your company faces. The trick is to ask each candidate the same questions so you have a fair assessment.

If you’re wondering what a performance-based question sounds like, here’s an example: “Thinking about a time in which a project didn’t go as planned, what actions did you take to correct it as quickly as possible?”

Measure applicants’ answers

Performance-based questions are worth nothing unless you have a system to compare applicants’ answers. Next, you’ll want to compare their responses with something called a standardized rubric. Using a rubric means everyone involved in the hiring process agrees on what the important questions are and what an excellent answer would be. Without it, comparisons simply are not apples-to-apples. You easily can create a rubric by asking those who already perform the role what success looks like.

Train your staff

Finally, train your staff to recognize and counter biases during the hiring process. This is especially important when multiple interviewers screen for an open position. Make sure everyone knows to take good notes so they can compare candidates’ answers with the rubric. It’s important that everyone involved is on the same page, especially with which elements indicate future success.

Eliminating unconscious bias in the interview process is hard, especially when multiple parties are involved. That’s why it’s critical to factor performance-based questions into the equation, making it much easier to focus on candidates who possess the right skill set for the position at hand.

Learn more by downloading our free e-book, Discover What Your Front-Line Managers Need to Know About Hiring, Diversity Inclusion and EEOC Compliance.

Related articles:

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Blog, Compliance, Employment Law, Featured

Monica Johnson

by Monica Johnson

Author Bio: As Paycom’s client marketing specialist, Monica Johnson utilizes a mixture of marketing and human capital management knowledge gained from years of industry experience. A graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma, Johnson has been with Paycom since 2013 and has served in numerous roles during her career with the company. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, exploring Oklahoma City and sipping coffee, while reading a good book, at one of her favorite local shops.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

5 Offbeat Holidays to Celebrate at Work … and Boost Employee Engagement

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Halloween, Thanksgiving and the “holiday season” all fall in the fourth quarter, meaning the last three months of the year are jam-packed with celebrations and events, not only in your employees’ personal lives, but likely in your workplace as well.

But that festive atmosphere doesn’t have to fall only when the leaves do. Thanks to little-known holidays or theme days, you can easily discover things to celebrate throughout the year with your team. In fact, businesses may see benefits by doing so.

Impact on morale

Gallup found that 51% of employees who have a close work friendship consider themselves engaged, while 75% who have a best friend at work said they plan to be employed at their current company one year from now. Furthermore, those reporting having best friends at work were found to have higher levels of health stress management, even though they experienced the same stress as those who did not have good friends at work.

Building time for your team members to get to know each other and strengthen relationships is clearly good for morale, which is good for business. So how can your employees really get to know each other? With your help. Celebrating holidays or theme days year-round gives your employees opportunities to build connections with each other without the extra stress the traditional holiday season often brings.

Bonus tip: Get leadership involved! If employees see their managers skipping the events to stay at their desks, they’ll feel like they shouldn’t participate, either. Make sure to get buy-in from everyone and clearly state the beneficial impact of engagement.

Start with these

You can give your employees something to look forward to every year if they know your business makes a regular workday a day to celebrate something small. Start a tradition that’s unique to your company. Here are a few holidays that might be right for your organization to celebrate.

Jan. 26: Fun at Work Day

Make this day one your employees won’t want to miss! Maybe you bring in food trucks for lunch or schedule a team-building activity at a local place that holds corporate events and specializes in team-building (like cooking or painting classes). For extra fun, keep the day’s activities a surprise and try to do something different every year.

March 14: National Pi Day

What better way to commemorate 3/14 by holding a bake-off with a trophy for the office’s best pie? The winner can keep the prize on his or her desk and have bragging rights for the year.

April 26: Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day

Every organization may not be able to have an event like this during the workday. If not, you could organize an event after work as an open house to encourage employees to share with their children what they do. It also will give your employees an opportunity to introduce their families to each other without having to wait for your holiday part. Plus, it’s never too early to start recruiting.

May 4: May the Fourth Be With You

Named for sounding similar to a catchphrase from a super-popular movie franchise, May 4 is a fun “holiday” to recognize at the office, particularly if you know you have fans of the galactic saga. You might organize a costume contest or perhaps play one of the films in the company cafeteria or a conference room.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

This one’s pretty easy: Buy doughnuts for your staff. Take a midmorning break and enjoy them together. Maybe spring for some coffee or bagels, too.

You can keep track of holidays like these, as well as critical HR and compliance deadlines, by downloading our free digital 2018 HR & Payroll Calendar.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog, Employee Experience, HR Management

Callie Johnson

by Callie Johnson

Author Bio: As a writer for Paycom, Callie Johnson creates content for the company’s various marketing and communications initiatives. Having earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and web design/development from Full Sail University, she has written for companies of all sizes. Outside of the office, she enjoys hand-lettering, going to the movies and spending time with her family and dogs.

2018 Form W-4 Changes Employees Should Consider

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Ever since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law last December, payroll professionals have been anticipating an updated IRS Form W-4. After issuing new federal income tax withholding guidance in January as a result of the TCJA, the IRS released the 2018 version of Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, on Feb. 28.

The 2018 Form W-4 has been implemented in the Paycom system.

Interim guidance

The IRS previously released Notice 2018-14, which provided guidance on the usage of the existing 2017 version of Form W-4. Among other things, this notice:

  • extended the effective period of the 2017 version for purposes of claiming exemption from withholding temporarily until Feb. 28, 2018
  • described the procedures employees may claim exemption from withholding for 2018 using the 2017 Form W-4
  • temporarily suspended the requirement that employees must furnish a new Form W-4 within 10 days of changes in status that reduce withholding allowances they are entitled to claim
  • allowed employees (including newly hired employees) to use the 2017 Form W-4 to update their withholding allowances until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4’s release (March 30)
  • stated that employees who furnish new Form W-4s using the 2017 version do not need to furnish a 2018 Form W-4 after it is released


Changes to consider

Solely due to the changes passed in the TCJA, the IRS is not requiring employees to submit a 2018 Form W-4 to their employer, although they may if they choose. However, substantial changes have been made to the worksheets associated with the 2018 Form W-4, so employees should consider how the new rules will affect their specific tax and withholding situation when making the decision.

Despite the TCJA’s removal of personal exemptions from year-end income tax calculations, Form W-4 still includes a Personal Allowances Worksheet. Its credits section has been revised to allow for:

  • the increased child tax credits as adjusted for income
  • adjustments for credits claimed for other dependents
  • a new line for “Other credits” that will be calculated by the employee using a worksheet found in the 2018 version of Publication 505 (yet to be released)

Additionally, the form’s Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet has been revised to adjust for the new values for standard deductions, as defined by the TCJA, while the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet contains updated wage brackets in the tables used to calculate allowances depending on multiple job households.

‘Paycheck checkup’

To help employees see the differences that completing a 2018 Form W-4 will affect their take-home pay, the IRS released an updated Withholding Calculator online.

The IRS encourages all employees use it to conduct “a quick ‘paycheck checkup’” and use the information it returns to determine if they would like to adjust their withholding. These values can be entered by the employee directly into Paycom’s Employee Self-Service tool to complete a new Form W-4.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

Tags: ,
Posted in Blog, Compliance

Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.


Contact Us

  • Are you a current Paycom Client?



    • Talent Acquisition

    • Time & Labor Management

    • Payroll

    • Talent Management

    • HR Management

  • Subscribe me to Paycom's newsletter.


We promise never to sell, rent or share your personal information with a third party unless required by law. By submitting this form, you accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.