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.

4 Tips When Selecting Sales Training for Your Team

Ponder

Sales training is one of the most important resources you can provide your team. With companies spending an average of $1,500 dollars per person each year on sales training, it’s no wonder sales managers continue to look for ways to justify the spend. Even more challenging, how do you measure the effectiveness of the training itself? How can you prove what, if any, lift was created by this training.

It is reported that less than 30% of the training sales people receive, is incorporated into their selling efforts. While sales leaders look for candidates who possess the ability to adapt and flex with changing circumstances, when it comes to how they sell, sales people tend to be quite resistant to change. Many believe, and operate, with the “what got me here…” mentality. If you’re the Sales leader, how do you decide what content you want your team to learn? What’s the best approach that aligns with your buyer’s journey? How will you distribute the training content? Online, classroom, a combination of both? Who will produce and deliver the sales training content to your team? These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask as you evaluate your options. Here are 4 tips to consider before selecting your training program:

  1. Your personal selling philosophy? What’s your background? How do you approach a sale? Are you a relationship builder? A challenger? Are you a scrappy, street brawler? Your own philosophy on selling, mixed with your ability to evolve and change, should be considerations as you select training for your team. After all, you’ll be accountable for your team’s results which will produce the ROI results you’ll be sharing with your CEO. A note of caution: it’s both challenging and frustrating to deploy a sales methodology  that is in direct conflict with your abilities to teach it and support it. This misalignment will create frustration for your team and for you. Take the time to do some deep thinking relative your personal selling beliefs.
  2. Sales CRM. Are there tools and a process in place to reinforce the sales methodology you plan to deploy? Do you have a sales CRM? If so, is it capable of being customized enough to track and report on the key metrics required to execute your selected sales approach? What templates or frameworks have been created for your sales manager’s to assist them in reinforcing this training? Training can only be effective if it’s able to be reinforced, and results measured.
  3. Buyer’s Journey. Have you mapped out your buyer’s journey? Do you know the steps your buyer goes through on their purchasing journey? How do they educate themselves? Where do they do their research? Who are their trusted advisors? Is the sales training you’re considering aligned to this journey? I have been exposed to dozens of different sales training philosophies throughout my career. Some I have liked, others not so much. As I’ve grown and evolved as a sales leader I have learned how to customize sales training, taking some aspects of one method, and blending it with others in order to arrive at a solution that will work with my specific buyer. Note of caution: I do not believe there is a silver bullet for sales training. One method may work with a specific buying journey while others will not. I realize this statement may create some controversy but none the less I have found this to be true throughout my career. Whatever sales methodology you decide upon as the Sales leader be sure to consider your buyer FIRST and then your team’s capabilities second.
  4. Current Sales team composition. Are you building a sales team from the ground up? Are you focused on improving the production results of an existing team? Do your sales people sell face-to-face or via an Inside model? Are you in the B2B space? B2C? B2B2C space? Is your solution sold directly to the end user or is it through a channel, an influencer, or trusted advisor? Are your existed sales people and managers continuous learners? Are they consistently reading, sharing new ideas with the team? What traits do they possess that suggest they can absorb, assimilate and practice new ideas? Do you have access to profile tools and assessments like the Caliper, DiSCForte, Kolbe, or Myers Briggs?  Once you understand how your buyer buys, understanding your team’s abilities to execute on a specific sales methodology is critical.

One last consideration, that I’ll explore in a future blog post surrounds Sales Enablement. Your sales enablement capabilities, or lack there of, should also play into your selection process. There’s a lot to think about and consider. With both time, and money at stake, sale training is one of the most important decisions a Sales leader will make for the company.

 

Why Hiring Up Pays Off

SteveJobs

Building a high performing team is the #1 responsibility of all leaders.  It requires vision, skill, intuition, conviction and a clear understanding of the company’s objective and purpose.  It also requires courage.

Early in my career I received some hiring advice that was worth its weight in gold from my boss.  She said “hire people you wouldn’t mind working for in the future.” I have lived by this advice throughout my career and it has served me well.  Here are the two major take-aways from living this hiring philosophy:

  1. Your focus should be the candidates capacity, and desire, to learn new things and not based solely on what they know today.  To a large extent your focus should be on their attitude not their aptitude.  With the right abilities, the proper does of desire, and some passion, any one can accomplish anything.
  2. The circle of life is more than just a famous line from the movie Lion King.  Work in a management or leadership role long enough and you’ll experience people coming and going, and moving up and down.  I see it as a blessing that I have been able to provide leadership to many who have risen in the ranks, some even faster than I.  Being able to develop a new generation of leaders is something I’m most proud of.

By hiring up, you demonstrate confidence as a leader.  We’ve all seen leaders (I use this term loosely) who hire a warm body.  A robot.  Someone willing, and able, to take orders but not capable of having an individual point of view.  And then there are those leaders who everyone else wants to work for.  These are the people who hire up.  They look for those that are smarter than they are, have more ideas than they do, and who see the world through a different lense.

Assembling a team of talent that surpasses your own, demonstrates your leadership strength. I’d much prefer to be surrounded by people smarter than me than to be the only one with any answers.  There’s great truth to the saying, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” Build a team that can teach you as much as you teach them.  A team that can generate ideas faster than you can on your own.  A team that is willing to take on any issue, problem, or challenge because they know they have a better chance of winning by leveraging their collective brilliance versus trying to win with a single idea from just one person.  Hire really smart people and then get out of their way. I think Steve Jobs was onto something here.

Hire up.

 

 

Stop Managing Change, Start Inspiring It

Leadership

Today’s leaders believe they must be skilled at driving change, leading change, and managing change.  It’s their job.  It’s what they are supposed to do.  But is it?

Many leaders wear their “change” credentials like a badge of honor.  They know how to drive change. What they might be saying is that they know how to force change.  Driving, or forcing change may in fact work initially, but if your “followers” aren’t aligned, in sync, or haven’t embraced the change because they can’t quite see or understand it, the change itself won’t last.  When you hear leaders describe their company as “always changing”, beware.  If something has to constantly change it may just mean that it hasn’t yet found its calling – it’s grasping at straws.

Also think about what image “driving” evokes. If you’re driving something that means you’re behind it.  You’re in the back pushing. How can you lead from behind?  Leaders should always be in front. Being in front may be symbolic, it may be ceremonial, but no matter it’s leadership.

If I force a change to take place, it’s likely that I’ll have to force another change shortly.  However, if I inspire change, if I rally those around me, if I can paint a clear picture on what that change will produce or deliver, then I have a much better chance of getting folks to rally not just around me, or the change, but around both.

If you’re a leader in any size organization consider this…

People don’t want to be led. Human beings simply don’t like being told what to do.  No.  Going back to the beginning of time our ancestors learned the importance of working together toward a common goal.  Whether that goal was to produce fire, transportation, or medicine, people need to understand the goal first, and believe that if they achieve that goal they will benefit and prosper.  Imagine if fire produced no heat, and no light.  What would the benefit have been to “invent” fire making?  There has to be a clear goal with benefits, to serve as the first ingredient to an effective change recipe.

It’s your job as the leader to provide this vision.  If you can inspire those around you to see the value in the change you’re suggesting you’re well on your way to building an effective, sustainable, and adaptable workplace.  Your team will trust you when they know why you’re asking them to do certain things and to make certain changes.  This does not mean you need everyone to vote in your favor.  No.  This is not about singing Kumbaya and holding hands.  Inspiring change is about leadership.  It’s about having the courage and conviction in the value of the change you’re asking to be made and those you’re asking to make it with you.

 

 

Caution! Employee Morale Not As Good As You Think.

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Employee morale seems to be quite high.  Management teams everywhere breath a sigh of relief after seeing their satisfaction surveys results.  They’ve got it under control.  People are happy and satisfied.  Executives look at this data and believe all’s well.  But it’s not.  Not really.

Many employee satisfaction surveys test for how happy, or satisfied, the employee is with the work they do each day.  But this measure can be misleading.  While I may love building spreadsheets, I might not like the environment in which I have to perform this work.  I may really enjoy creative writing, but don’t like the team I’m on, or the boss I work for.  Measuring how happy an employee is with the work they do, just might provide a false positive reading on satisfaction.

In a recent SHRM study, they surveyed 600 employees on 43 different criteria related to job satisfaction.  The overall employee satisfaction score came in at 86%.  However, in diving deeper into the analysis there is cause for concern.

The survey found the most important criteria to employees is being treated with respect.  Across all 43 criteria, 74% of employees rated this category as #1 in determining their satisfaction.  However, only 33% of employees gave this criteria a satisfactory rating.  The second most important category at 64% was trust between employees and management. Yet again there was another major disconnect with only 24% of employees scoring this criteria as satisfactory.

The lesson here is simple.  Reading the cumulative satisfaction score is comparable to evaluating someone’s health based entirely upon their ability to read an eye chart.  What about blood pressure?  Or cholesterol levels?  Or their weight?  I could have 20/20 vision, but be 100 pounds overweight with high cholesterol…am I really healthy.  There is so much involved in truly understanding employee morale and obtaining a true measure of their satisfaction.

In 20 years of building teams, managing teams, and leading them, I have found the only true measure of employee satisfaction is by having a genuine connection to your team.  Sending out a survey to trumpet a score, or a title on the greatest places to work list, can be quite dangerous if you place 100% confidence on just the score.  Dig deeper. Ask the tough questions. Be courageous. Be brave.  And most of all be willing to recognize that no company is perfect.  Think about that for a minute.  If there was a perfect company that would mean they have perfect employees.  If they had perfect employees that would mean you’d have no need for a performance review system as all of your employees would be exceeding (perfect) your expectations.  No.  Companies can only be as perfect as the people whom they employ.  So be ready to confront reality.  Be ready to take action to address all employment related criteria and not just those that are convenient.

How Happy Are Your Employees?  Find Out in 3 Easy Steps.

  

Turnover. Theft. Sick time.  These are just a few ways poor morale manifests itself in the workplace.  Data shows that most employees leave a boss not a job.  Data also shows that stealing office supplies is actually less costly to the company that stolen time. Water cooler talk, extra long lunches, and lengthy hallway conversations are examples of stolen company time.  There’s a difference between hallway conversations that foster collaboration versus those that fuel the rumor mill.  But how do you, or can you – the boss – tell the difference?

Some companies spend thousands of dollars to survey and test for employee morale.  From an informal Survey Monkey to much more formal nationally recognized surveys, companies try to measure the engagement level of their employees on an ongoing basis.  What’s important to note is that these are only tools.  Best case they are a snapshot in time.  Worst case they are the result of highly skeptical employees providing the responses they think “big brother” is expecting.  Truth be told – and a truth many companies don’t want to acknowledge – is that most employees are highly suspicious of these “confidential surveys”.  I’ve worked in more than half a dozen firms where these survey’s were used and employee sentiment is generally the same everywhere.  This means that the results produced by these surveys are potentially flawed.  It also suggests to employees that it’s easier for management to send a survey rather than engaging them directly.  

If you really want to know what’s happening in your business be courageous and try doing these 3 things:

  1. Skip Level Meetings.  These are meetings where the boss meets with employees one ot two levels down in the reporting structure.  These meetings are meant to be informal.  The goal is to establish trust and to work to let the employee know how much the leader cares about them and their team’s morale.  
  2. Town Hall Lunch & Learns.  Keep groups small, no larger than 20 employees.  The speaking executive or manager should present a short “State of the Union.”  At the end of the presentation turn it over to the employees for questions.  If there are no questions the executive should work to engage the audience by asking for their opinions and why they feel the way they do.
  3. Management by Walking Around.  Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the first leader to practice this tactic.  It provides the leader with direct insight into the day-to-day workings of a business.  It also allows the leader to be seen as engaged and “in the fight” alongside their employees.

Whether you decide to try one, or all three, the key is to be authentic.  Employees know when you’re running through the motions.  They can spot inauthentic leaders a mile a way.  If you really don’t care, nor are willing to take action to address concerns you may hear, you’re better off not doing any of these things.  Of course if that’s the case you already know just how unhappy your employees already are. Remember they’re only modeling what they see from their leaders.  Care deeply, act deliberately.  

8 simple steps to creating a strong brand promise

In my prior blog, How Difficult is it to Change Your Brand Promise, I talked about some companies that did an excellent job of delivering on their brand promise, as well as one company in particular that didn’t deliver on their promise.  A visible disconnect between your promise and what is actually delivered, many times is the fatal flaw that brings down a company.  Even companies who are considered “Great” by today’s standards can fall prey to a faulty brand promise.  Therefore it is crucial that you ensure your promise is aligned, and able to connect to your delivery.

Developing a strong brand promise requires attention to detail.  Having a process to follow as you build or revamp your promise is necessary to maximize your success.  Here are 8 simple steps to creating or modifying a brand promise:

  1. Involve key stakeholders – having the right people involved from the onset of this journey will help with alignment at the end when implementation is critical.  People are most likely to support something they had a hand in developing.
  2. Talk to your customers.  Not just your favorites, or the customers you know will say good things.  Test the waters using VOC tactics to obtain a broad and random voice.
  3. Understand your competitors.  One of the most commonly missed steps of the process.  Why?  Because most people/companies think they already know everything about their competitors.  Wrong!
  4. Size your market opportunity to justify a change in your promise.  Think Amazon Prime.  Amazon changed how merchandise was shipped.  They strengthened their promise but not before researching and understanding the potential takers for this service.  Earlier this year the Business Insider indicated Amazon had reached 10 million Prime members.  At $79 a year that’s not a bad addition to the top line!  All from taking the time to understand the market opportunity.
  5. Develop your core brand attributes and identify statement – value proposition.  If a core attribute of your business is “easy” then you need to make sure that everything you do checks back and balances to easy.  If you market an “easy set-up” and set-up is actually time and labor intensive you’re already disconnected from your promise.
  6. Establish an Advisory Group.  Create a Council or Group of 9 to 11 members…always an odd number to ensure voting efficiency on topics and items that require decisions.  Use this group to test attributes, messaging, and most importantly experience.
  7. Talk to your employees.  Too often companies exclude the “rank and file” from this work believing it is an executive function only.  The problem with this mentality is that it’s all wrong.  I have witnessed countless times when an employee reviews branding work and raises a topic or issue that no other executive caught because the employee is closer to the action.  Involve your employees and you’ll see results in improved morale, better processes, and overall better performance.
  8. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Once you’ve locked into your brand promise share it.  Tell your story.  And most importantly monitory your results.  Is our promise connecting?  How are our customers and prospects reacting?

I will post future blogs diving deeper into each of the above 8 steps.  Until then remember:  “Do what you say, and say what you do”.  That’s your promise.