Should You Clean House? The most difficult question you’ll face as a leader.

clean-house

Cleaning house is often times the first primary action a new leader takes upon his or her arrival; to fire or not to fire? If you’ve been recruited to fix, grow, turn around, or realign a team, there’s a strong chance you’ll be faced with this question shortly after you walk through the door.  It’s not an easy question to answer.  Turning over a team is physically and emotionally draining.  Yet, leaders are expected to make these difficult decisions in relatively short order.

The question of who, or whom, to let go requires a number of considerations.  Board expectations, executive management, the financial condition of the business, and company’s culture are all considerations when faced with this decision.  No matter what the circumstance, taking away an individual’s job is something that should never be taken lightly.  The reality is that many lay offs, reductions in force, or single terminations are decided upon from afar. But in cases where you are making these decisions locally you need to be prepared to act with confidence and compassion.

If you haven’t been specifically directed to change out a team, you’ll still need to evaluate your players to determine whether or not each individual will be able to make the transition.  You must recognize that the addition of you, the new leader, suggests changes have already been made, and more are likely expected.  Your personal style, philosophy, and work ethic are all new ingredients to this workplace recipe.  Will your team be able to transform?  Who will embrace the change and who will resist?  Remember all eyes are on you and your ability to lead change.  Resistors to the changes you plan to bring will become distractions, obstacles, and in the worst cases will strive for the workplace equivalent of a coup d’état. Your team’s alignment with your visions is critical. The sooner it happens, the greater the chance of you will succeed, and your company progresses.

A recent article in Fortune magazine, titled Should a New Leader Clean House?, author Geoff Colvin presents strong evidence that cleaning house produces better end results than those produced by leaders who attempt to work with the existing team.  The existing team is responsible for generating the existing results.  In many cases, a new leader is brought in to change those results, change trajectory, change outcomes.  Of course the focus is on the leaders ability to produce positive change.  The key is whether the probability of effecting positive change can happen with the existing team, or if the new leader needs to clean house first in order to start with their own team.

Noel Tichy, University of Michigan business professor, and former leader of General Electric’s Crotonville, NY training center, suggests “you need your own team.”  Your plans, ideas, and values will likely be realized by those excited to join the team versus those trying to hang on.  Reluctant followers ultimately become poison to the business killing results, morale, and the culture.

Finding the right path is up to you…the leader.  It’s not an easy decision, nor should it be.  You need to evaluate each member of your new team to determine their abilities and capabilities as they relate to embracing the transformation you’ve been hired to produce. Attitude is far more important at this stage that aptitude.  Perhaps the single most important piece to this puzzle is to ensure you have your boss’s support no matter what direction you make…keeping or cleaning.  Without his or her support your future starts out on shaky ground.  While this may be an uncomfortable discussion to have with your boss you need to have it…preferably during the interview stage, but if not then, immediately upon your arrival.  You’ll find alliances, allegiances, and “witness protection programs” in nearly every organization.  Knowing who they are, where they are, and the latitude you have to deal with them will determine your early and latter stage success.

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Salespeople BEWARE: You’re About to be Sensored

ScaredSalesPerson

So you’ve chosen a career in Sales.  You’re excited by the thrill of the hunt, the change of scenery everyday and the opportunity to make as much money as you want. But could Sales be changing in a way that makes all this a distant memory?  You may be at risk of being replaced by a sensor…big data.

In a recent Fortune magazine article on Formula 1 racing authored by Stacey Higginbotham, she writes about how big data has changed the racing sport.  In “less than 300 milliseconds” data can travel from the farthest track in Australia to the UK where it can be analyzed and strategy adjustments can be provided back to the crew at the racetrack.   According to Alan Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, “Gut-feel decisions just aren’t made.”

Imagine big data eliminating gut-feel decisions in your sales process.  With CRM platforms, marketing automation systems, and a variety of sales enablement tools there is more data than ever providing insight into each sales encounter.  When contact was made, what was discussed, who was present, what the outcome or next step is, or what went wrong.  Crunching all this data and putting it into a useable format might just make the salesperson a thing of the past.

As baby-boomers are overtaken by millennials buying habits are changing quickly.  Millennials rely on mobile devices and testimonials much more than boomers do.  In fact, according to Business Insider, 62% of millennials respond to mobile offers versus 39% of boomers.  Additionally, 82% of millennials favor word-of-mouth from friends and family versus 52% of boomers.  That means marketers must adjust their branding, advertising and sales processes.

Is it possible that in the future the role of the salesperson simply goes away?  What if a company like Amazon was able to aggregate all of your purchases and with great accuracy recommend and predict future consumption…both product type and quantity?  Wait a minute…aren’t they already headed that way?  The Dollar Shave Club is already doing this with great success. Maybe this isn’t as far-fetched as you’d like to think it is.

Sales professionals need to recognize this tectonic shift.  Your ability to survive being replaced by a sensor collecting and analyzing data will only be as good as your capability to adapt and add value.  Reading, researching, and having your own teachable point of view are critical requirements of your survival.  In the absence of any or all of these requirements your sales role today will become a fossil for tomorrow.  Get curious and keep thirsty for new knowledge.

The Millennial’s New American Dream

millennials

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hearing a key-note speech by Tony Kuczinski, President and CEO of Munich Reinsurance America, at the 2014 MidYear Target Markets conference in Baltimore. His topic addressed how trends in the market will affect everything from how someone buys insurance to how that specific risk is evaluated.

Tony spoke of the major changes in the past 10 years. From social media, to the impact Millennials have on our economy, things around us are most definitely changing. And it’s not whether we believe those changes are good or bad, but it’s what we do to adapt to those changes that will determine our future success and relevancy in the marketplace.

During the week there were many points made about Millennials that impact all sellers of goods and services, whether B2B or B2C. Here are few to consider:
1. Millennials make up 36% of the workforce but represent only 7% of those employed by Fortune 500 companies.
2. Millennials are highly networked individuals focused on working for a company that is a cultural fit while providing meaningful work.  Perhaps a reason why this group tends to lean toward working for smaller companies rather than corporate behemoths.
3. 1.75 billion smart phone users worldwide. 60% will use their phone monthly to surf, research, and shop.  Millennials have created an insatiable appetite for better, faster, more accessible technology and mobile apps.
4. Given the rapid rise and adoption of technology, the Millennial generation requires instant feedback and ongoing communication at work, much like they receive in their personal lives with Facebook, Twitter, and texting.

The final and perhaps most intriguing change is the shift that’s taking place in where Millennials are establishing their homes…their roots. This demographic is a group that is used to, and requires, sharing. Sharing of everything. Pictures, experiences, ideas, emotions. All are shared via the electronic airways in some fashion or another. This need for “sharing” followed by the need for feedback and validation of what’s been shared has influenced the nature of where Millennials are most comfortable living.

The shift is not only apparent but is also a game changer. The traditional American Dream of a house in the suburbs is changing. Millennials are migrating back into, rather than away from, urban areas. City living is at the core of this demographic. The need for connectivity is growing, not just electronic connectivity but personal connectivity and interaction…the need to be a part of something greater.

This shift is something that cannot be ignored. The attitudes and needs of the next generation will be met regardless of your personal beliefs and opinions. It will be those who listen, observe, and respond who will flourish. The rest who dismiss or ignore will become irrelevant.

What will you do?