- Be a continuous learner – what got you into the CRO role won’t keep you there.
- Create a culture of innovation – willingness to try new things without the fear of failure.
- Demonstrate teamwork and camaraderie – people will watch and observe your behavior before they act.
- Focus on the people – this means getting to know your colleagues beyond their quotas.
- Be authentic – this equals consistency and predictability. Wild mood swings are often due to people transitioning from their “real” self to their created façade.
- Be vulnerable – show you’re human, it’s okay.
- Confront reality – denial wrecks your credibility. Quotas are huge, don’t act like they’re no big deal.
- Provide a path to success – it may be a difficult path but a path none the less. Remember, the leader’s job is to provide the vision…the possibilities.
- Be honest – shoot straight, share what you can, not only what you must.
- Always have an active ear – listen…actively. People want to know how much you care before caring about how much you know.
- Never surprise your boss – understand what’s important to the CEO and how/when to best communicate.
- Be deliberate in your actions – an environment of uncertainty is a byproduct of hedging bets. Your team will know if you’re not all in.
- Be kind – nothing in this job should justify taking someone’s dignity.
- Be gracious – say thank you. Give credit and recognize people consistently.
- Look for the good – every day find a good deed, or success from a colleague, and then share it.
- Know your numbers – where are you this month to quota, next month, and quarter standings.
- Know your business – what external factors may arise to get in the way of achieving your goals and those of your colleagues?
- Always be planning – “In preparing for battle I have always found plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Stay fit – CROs tend to be the heartbeat of a company. Work hard to have and maintain a healthy heartbeat.
- Always, always, remember (and thank) those who helped you arrive – family, friends, former bosses, mentors. No one gets to where they’re going totally alone
I recently had dinner with one of my top sales people in San Diego this week and the conversation got around to whether people are born as natural sales people, or leaders.
I’ve never been a believer that people are born into a specific life path. What I believe is that each of us is born with a set of talents, capabilities, and competencies. We are all born with a specific attitude as well. A mindset, a glass half full, versus half empty thinking. A skeptic, an optimist, or pragmatist.
Here’s where the conversation gets fun. Believe it or not there was an interesting life lesson that has stuck with me for years from a rather unexpected movie – RAMBO III. In the movie the character of Colonel Troutman gives a pep talk to John Rambo. He tells the story of a sculpture who finds a perfect stone. He drags it back to his workshop and creates an incredible statue. When his friends compliment him on his creation, he says, he didn’t create anything. The statue was always there…he just chipped away the small pieces.
We are all born with natural talents. Some are blessed with athletic abilities, others with analytical strengths, others with caregiver strengths. The difference between those that achieve their full potential versus those who don’t, is finding a mentor(s) who helps validate and provide direction for your unique set of skills.
What if there was no Earl to Tiger Woods? What if no Joe to Michael Jackson? What if no Kurt to Michael Douglas? There are thousands more of these examples of folks who are not in the limelight but succeeded because they benefited from someone who recognized their talents and provided direction and encouragement. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have had a number of bosses throughout my career who have guided, counseled, and encouraged me to embrace my skills, take chances, and stretch. Without them, I am certain I would not have accomplished what I have thus far. And while I’m now considered “middle age”, my need for their input, guidance, and counsel still remains strong. Being a continuous learner never stops…until the heart does.
So what if you don’t feel like you have a person like this in your life? What do you do to find someone to fill this gap? The answer is easy. Look around. That person is probably closer to you than you think. It could be a spouse, partner, boss, friend, someone at the gym, someone sitting next to you on a plane. In fact, my love for American history was born on a flight I was on in 2004 when I met a gentlemen who asked me what types of books were my favorite to read. Foolishly I said none. He said, how can you spend so much time on a plane and not read. He told me I was missing all kinds of opportunities to expand my thinking. When we landed he gave me a book that became the catalyst for creating my voracious appetite for reading. That book was called His Excellency on George Washington. I can’t count the number of books I’ve given away over the years to people who I just met in similar situations. You never know who, or how you can impact the life of a stranger for the better. It’s incredibly heartwarming and fulfilling.
Life lessons are everywhere. Sometimes you just need to put down your phone, take out your ear buds, and just be…be present. Take an inventory of all the things you’re good at. Jot down what you like to do. Assess the crowd you hang with and identify a few people to approach to help you clear away those stones. Remember, the statue is always there…it’s just how badly you want to chip away at the stones to show your uniqueness and value to the world.
Positive growth can happen even under the toughest of conditions. Perseverance, determination, and the ability to adapt are what’s needed to push through the challenges and capture the growth that’s yours. New skills, new perspectives, new ideas.
As I walked around our property today I saw this beautiful petunia growing in-between some pavers. Oddly this is not a flower we have planted anywhere on our property, yet here it is. With temperatures in the high 90’s this past week, and no rain or water, seeing this thing of beauty grow in the most difficult conditions made me realize how possible growth is in any environment.
It reminds me of the line in Jurassic Park – “Life will find a way.” You really can do anything you set your mind to.
In today’s rapidly advancing digital age, information has never been easier to access. We shop for clothes, cars, computers, and countless other consumables and services through the internet. We research our customers, competitors, future employers and employees, and bosses. We share our experiences and opinions about banks, hairdressers, mechanics, and restaurants on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. In fact, by the time you finish reading this blog, more than 1 million posts will have been made on Facebook (assuming you can finish this in 2 minutes or less).
With so much information, so quickly accessible, why do businesses still operate in silos? Why do management teams, and executives, feel compelled to withhold information from their teams? Are there still people that believe in Jack Nicholson’s position in A Few Good Men? Perhaps some might not be able to handle the truth but most are far more capable than you may think. In fact, if you consider real-life General Stanley McChrystal, in his book Team of Teams, he talks about transforming the U.S. Military from a command-and-control operation to a “shared consciousness” where there is an organization-wide “understanding of the whole.”
So why do executives hold back? Why do they covet information at all? The answer is FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Fear of embarrassment, uncertainty of reaction, doubt in the character and tenacity of the people on their teams. Harold MacMillian said, “A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” This couldn’t be more true.
Sharing for the sake of sharing is a waste of time and effort, however, sharing for the sake of establishing trust is an accelerator of positive results. How do can you tell if sharing is real? If the information the leader is sharing is sensitive, in that it makes him vulnerable, he’s sharing. If the information is sensitive, in that it may make the company vulnerable, she’s sharing. If there is any level of personal, professional, or company risk, this qualifies for real sharing. When real sharing is being demonstrated, a culture of trust can begin to develop and teams begin to form. A leader who shares real stuff is confident, comfortable being vulnerable, and willing (and interested) in learning. Those are the leaders people seek to follow.
Still think sharing is a crock? If you need further evidence that sharing can accelerate growth, look no further than Berkshire Hathaway which currently holds the title as the highest priced stock on the NYSE at more than $320,000 for a BRK-A share as of this blog post. If you, like me, believe that sharing is a critical ingredient to building trust, consider the words of Berkshire’s Charlie Munger, “By the standards of the rest of the world, we over trust. So far it has worked very well for us.” It certainly has.
How much courage do you have to start sharing?
Business exists to serve peoples needs. It doesn’t matter if you work for a B2B, or B2C company. Somewhere downstream in the process, is a consumer who is making a decision to buy a product or service you make, or contribute to making.
Business is very personal. Only people can care, a business cannot. A business may be a culmination of caring people but by itself, a business is nothing more than an idea. People bring ideas to life. People bring passion to their work and workplace. People bring thoughtfulness and caring for one another and a community. That all happens with people. A business can only serve as a conduit to deliver what the collection of these people express.
When I hear “it’s not personal, it’s just business”, I would say, it’s all personal. People give their most valuable asset they have to a business…their time. With that time they could invest it elsewhere to generate different returns. With their families, with other businesses, other ideas, other objectives. It is a trade-off. Yet once that trade-off is made, an individual is committing themselves – their person – to the business. This is how business gets done, and it becomes very personal.
Empathy is a key emotion to bridge the gap between business and personal. Why? Because time is the only thing that binds us all together. We all have a set amount of sand in our hourglass. When it’s gone it’s gone. Take some of your sand, and use it with others at work to demonstrate that you hear them, you understand their challenges, and you have ideas to share that can help them. By doing this you add value. And while no one can put more sand into anyone’s hourglass, we can all put a little value into each other’s lives…in, and outside, of business.
By definition a leader is a person who leads or commands a group – at least that’s what Professor Google says. My definition is a bit different. Who wants to be commanded? Sure there are times, situations, and circumstances when being in command is required. Directing, ordering, and controlling are verbs that often come to mind when we think of leaders.
Just about anyone can be taught to do these things. Just about anyone can dish orders, direct others, and attempt to control. Many “leaders” regardless of training can do this for some period of time before being discovered as ineffective. Great leaders however, take a different approach. These leaders must do all the directing, ordering, and controlling as previously mentioned but it’s how they accomplish these things that set them apart.
Great leaders are great because they:
- Understand how to empathize
- Effectively communicate their vision
- Ask great questions, deep questions that provide insight
- Act in their own authentic way, not trying to be someone else
- Adopt a beginners attitude
- Surround themselves with people smarter than they are
- Spend time on self-reflection, how they operate and the result produced
- Network and connect with others to learn
- Ask for, and accept help when needed
- Lean on mentor(s) for coaching and perspective
- Roll up their sleeves, never asking others to do something they haven’t or wouldn’t do themselves
- Inspire others through their words, actions, and behaviors
So start today with some self-reflection. What are you doing? What do you spend most of your time on? How do you interact with those around you? What’s the reaction of others when you walk in a room, speak during a meeting, engage with others in a break-room? Consider this list and strive to embrace each one in a genuine way and you’ll find your results improve in a timely manner.
The business owner sat behind his desk staring out the window. He started his business 7 years ago and for the most part things were okay. He made it past the infamous first year when most start-ups go under, but it wasn’t easy. His sales were consistent, but flat over the past 3 years. Running a business was one thing, growing it was quite another.
The owner knew he needed to purchase a few super widgets to achieve his growth goals. He had heard through the grapevine that other businesses using these super widgets were making lots of money. He had to get them if he too wanted to make more money. He needed them now. He wasn’t sure where he’d find them, or who sold them. So he started his shopping the same way every other business did…
Like every business owner shopping for new products, he reached for the yellow pages and flipped to “W” for widgets but found nothing. How could that be? He thought some more and flipped to section “G” for growth. After all, the purpose of super widgets were to make businesses grow faster. Although his guess was correct, he wondered how long he would have looked if it hadn’t been. He would have kept looking if he hadn’t found them in this section, after all, the yellow pages is only so big. He found 2 pages of companies selling widgets. He wrote down the names, and phone numbers, of 5 businesses that sold these widgets and began dialing his phone. With each click of the rotary dial he was introduced to a sales person who offered to send him a packet of information which he’d receive in the mail in less than 10 days. This excited the business owner. In no time I’ll be making more money because of these widgets.
Two weeks past and the business owner sat in his office looking through 5 different packets of information from each of the companies he had called. From there he narrowed his search down to the 3 companies whose brochures most appealed to him. He decided to begin making phone calls to these 3 companies immediately.
As he made his calls, each sales person sounded identical to the other telling him how long they’d been in business, why they different, and how happy they had made all their customers. One specific sales person asked about his kids and right then and there the business owner was hooked. He had made his decision on who he would buy from. It was this sales person who asked about his kids that he liked best. “She shares the same values as I do,” he thought. She cares about my kids and my family. And with that he gave the order over the phone to purchase 5 super widgets. He hung up the call excited to receive the purchase order in the mail the following week. In no time he’d be up and running with his super widgets. In fact, it only took 3 – 4 weeks to receive them once his sales person received his signature on the purchase order and his payment in full. He sat back in his chair and thought about how easy buying these widgets was. It only took a matter of weeks to educate himself and less than a month later to select a provider and have his super widgets in hand. This was great…so he thought.
STOP THE PRESS!
Remember when? It wasn’t really all that long ago that this is how buyers made their purchasing decisions. It’s how you and I both bought products and services. It’s how we all shopped, considered, and purchased. We relied on the information we were “allowed” to have by the seller along with the claims and promises made by the seller relative to the value delivered by their products and services. We knew just what the seller was willing to release and not much more. You could say we were a lot like mushrooms just a short time ago. Kept in the dark and fed a lot of….
But that’s all changed. The age of the customer is upon us. She’s educated, connected, and socially engaged. She wants information. She wants a trusted advisor. She doesn’t want to be sold. She doesn’t need to be sold. She simply wants someone to help her along her journey, not the sellers journey, but her own personal journey.
If how you’re going to market still approaches the buyer like it’s 1999 I would ask two questions. First, why? And second, how’s it working for you?
At the recent Digital Growth Conference in San Francisco, Jill Rowley, Social Selling Evangelist, talked about the disruptive buyer. A sales persons job today is to “facilitate the buyer on their journey, getting them ready to buy.” Quite a different and refreshing approach to selling. A salesperson can no longer survive by having the brightest, shiniest widgets on the market. They must have strong business acumen. They must know how to use the tools at their disposal. Jill’s point of “a fool with a tool is still a fool” is quite thought-provoking. It’s also still how many companies operate. Produce the cool tool and let Sales run with it. Bad idea. Your buyers are way too sophisticated to simply follow the shiny bouncing ball. And not only will they not follow the bouncing ball, but they’ll kick it…hard…in the other direction making you have to chase after it to try to catch it.
Your job now is to be where the buyers are, and answer their questions where they raise them, when they raise them, and how they raise them. Build it and they will come no longer works. Leading with the sale equals failure, while leading the buyer to the sale equals success.
Why as consumers don’t we want to be pushed, prodded or strong-armed into a sale? We don’t like pushy sales people in our personal lives yet in business we direct our sales people to be exactly that. A robot can twist an arm, mail a piece of content, and do an online demonstration. That’s not what the buyer is looking for when she finally engages with a sales person. And forget value. All this talk about presenting value is overrated. What is value? In a recent study conducted by Sirius Decisions, the number one reason sales people lose a sale is because of the sales persons inability to effectively communicate the value proposition.
Your buyer is now the disruptor, more so than technology. She now drives the sales process, you don’t. She has all the control because she determines what information she wants, from who she wants it, when she wants it and how she gets it. She has access to social platforms that provide feedback about you, your product, your company, your brand, your reputation. She knows what you sell and how closely it delivers against your brand promise. The slightest disconnect between your brand promise and the experience delivered and you’re out of the game, kicked to the curb.
It’s your job to be engaged socially where she is shopping and learning. You need to be there at the right time with the right content to help her through her journey. She doesn’t want to be sold. She won’t be sold. She wants to be advised. She wants information. She wants hero stories…how others like her have benefited from following your recommendations. She wants to feel connected to you and your company. She wants to understand your brand…both brands…that of your company’s and you personally. She won’t settle for anything less.
The age of the buyer has arrived. Each buyer is unique. Each is on his or her own personal journey. Each favoring different points along that journey where they need or want help. So are you still leading with a sale, or leading your buyers through their individual journey to a sale? It’s time to answer that question.
Planning is important. Training is important. People knowing what the goal is, and the actions necessary to attain the goal is critical. But great planning and training is not enough to beat your competition. Companies spend millions each year doing both. The infamous “strat plans”, and training sessions, and off-sites all take time and money. Yet the list of companies that actually execute on their plans and achieve their goals is a much shorter list than those that fail. So what’s the lesson that business can take from the military when it comes to successfully executing a strategy? The answer is organization.
A well-trained employee (solider) can not be effective operating in an unorganized environment. A fairly trained employee operating in a highly organized environment can be very successful.
Current military leaders suggest that an enemy who is well-organized – regardless of training – is the enemy to be feared. Likewise, companies with strong organizations, processes, infrastructure, and culture of execution, will take the talent they have and win nearly every time. This understanding is summed up by the great management consultant Peter Drucker who said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”
Are you organized? Is your company? Your department? Do you have goals that are clear and understood by your entire team? Have your “organized” your business around meeting those goals? Or have you simply created a new goal to execute within an existing organizational structure?
Goals change each year. Sometimes more often depending on circumstances. That’s the nature of business. If all you do is change the goal without organizing you business around the specifics of that goal you’re bound to fail. The old saying, “what got you here won’t get you there” will prove correct. Take the time to test your goals against your current organization structure. Chances are you’ll quickly identify gaps in your structure that may prevent or hinder the achievement of those goals. Act quickly to identify them and address them. Once you do…you’re on your way to successfully executing your plan.
Our ability to change determines our probability to succeed. Of course success has many definitions. Success may look like a college degree, a new car, losing weight, obtaining financial freedom, paying down debt, finding a new job, rescuing an animal, raising money for a nonprofit, starting a business, or growing a business.
No matter what you’re doing in life, your ability to manage change, embrace change, affect change, and ultimately lead change will determine the outcomes you produce. When people fail to change they don’t grow. They don’t expand their knowledge, or insights, or perspectives. They remain static within a dynamic world. When businesses fail to change the results can be stressful and sometimes catastrophic. Downsizing, layoffs, reorganizations, increased leverage, bankruptcy, and in worst case scenarios complete shut downs happen due to a failure in the ability to change.
How can you prepare for change?
- Read more, and if you’re not reading at all, get started. Create a mix of categories including business, leadership, inspiration, fiction, and history. There is so much to learn from others who have come before us, as those who are currently on their own journey.
- Conduct a personal self-assessment. What are your strengths? Stop worrying about your weaknesses. Play to your strengths. In baseball, pitchers are known for having a perfect pitch. Could be their fastball, curve, slider, etc. Perfect your strengths so much so that your weaknesses are irrelevant.
- Find a mentor. Someone who will be brutally honest with you about you. A great mentor will help you become more self-aware. They can identify blind spots. Blind spots may or may not be weaknesses. The key is to understand what they are, where they are, and when they show up. A blind spot may be how your temper flares when things don’t go your way. Once you’ve identified the blind spot you can work on techniques that can help change your behaviors.
- Accept who you are. Sometimes the changes required to go from Point A to Point B do not align with your “who”. Don’t settle. When you attempt to do things that don’t align with who you are authentically, you will create stress in your life, and in the lives of others. Be happy with who you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Once you’ve accepted who you are you can chose those situations or activities that excite you from a change perspective. If you love turnarounds but hate mature businesses, don’t force a change to work at a mature business. You love the excitement of turning something around. Chose to do that and whatever changes you’ll face in a turnaround situation you’ll embrace and thrive upon.
- Reflection time. Build time into each day to reflect. Just 15 minutes each day will help you sort through what happened, how you acted, and the outcomes. More than likely you’ll arrive at the realization that a different action would have created a different reaction. It’s cause and effect. Take the time to think about your day, those you encountered, and what took place.
- Ask for help. Change is tough. Even if you’re changing an area that excites you, inspires you, and motivates you, chances are it also scares you. Going through change alone is even scarier. Having a strong support network is critical. Family, friends, mentors, leaders and teammates can help you with change. I also personally believe that having a strong spiritual belief and faith provides a sense of calm during the storms of change.
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.