BEING OBSESSIVELY COMPETITIVE….with balance!

Competitive Balance

I’m pissed off!! I just recently lost a “Fitbit Challenge” over the weekend and I was at least 8,000 steps ahead of the nearest person to me, and all of sudden out of nowhere some person who wasn’t even in the top 5 going into the home stretch zooms past me to take the victory. Now, I’m not saying something nefarious took place….I’m saying something NEFARIOUS took place. Yeah, you can say I’m a poor loser and why would I get so upset over something so trivial (as my wife has said to me), well I do have somewhat of a problem with being obsessively competitive. I compete for just about anything that I deem worth competing for….which is pretty much everything (LOL!). While some would say that’s an admirable trait and of course since I fall into that category I would tend to agree, but, I understand the other side where it can potentially be a serious disorder. Having “Balance” in one’s life tends to have better outcomes and being obsessive with anything has its consequences. Most people would have chalked up the “Fitbit” loss as a minor defeat that has little impact on world peace and that’s true however for me it was a DEFEAT. Hey, I’ve always been that way and it has helped me and hurt me.

Mental Competitive Balance

 I agree what the h*ll is “Mental Competitive Balance”? I heard this phrase the other day so in tune with my competitive self I researched feverishly to find a true definition of the phrase, and of course what I found was ambiguous at best. However, what came up in most of the searches (not including the gazillion sports analogies) was this distinction between overconfidence and confidence.  Highly competitive people apparently have a “confidence gene” that’s rabid. A recent quote I found is contrary to what you may believe is how overconfident people look at competition:

“An overconfident person cannot accept competition and believes firmly that he/she is the best. He/she will believe that come what may they are the most skilled individuals and hence no one can defeat them. On the other hand, a self-confident person is aware about his/her skills and knows that he/she is going to give their best. Many may disagree and suggest that a firm faith in winning in whatever one competes for is not overconfidence. One way of ending the controversy is by observing the intensity with which one wants to be the winner and the attitude with which one faces failure”.

I do agree with the last statement of the paragraph which speaks to the balance of being competitive, and that’s the intensity/effort someone gives and the perspective from failure. I don’t agree that you should accept failure however a healthy dose of context based on “self-development” is how we should ALL look at failure. The “Mental Competitive Balance” as I see it is someone consciously pursuing the benefits of self-development or specifically self-improvement. In other words, I can have a healthy appetite for competition as long as whatever happens as a result of that competition I’m continually learning from the experience and getting better from that experience. When I loss the stupid “Fitbit” weekend warrior competition I immediately went on the negative warpath from the defeat….rather than lick my wounds, learn from it, and strategically plan on winning the next go around. Being overly competitive but having “Mental Competitive Balance” is a good thing and an approach that’s more strategic and productive.

Business Competitive Balance

In corporate America I was devastatingly competitive, now as a consultant I’ve moved to the stratospheric level of competitiveness (LOL!). However, even in business there’s prudent balance one needs to have because failure is pretty much guaranteed. Those companies/CEO’s who are ultra-competitive will probably tell you that losing a bid, merger, account etc hurts, but not learning from it and leveraging that knowledge for later victory is suicide. APPLE got its clock cleaned on numerous occasions by Microsoft HECK Steve Jobs was booted from APPLE at a time when he was wildly successful and yes obsessively competitive….yet he maintained that balance. Licking his wounds he learned from that butt-kicking and came back to revolutionize personal computing and creating today’s most iconic brand. The lesson I learned from Steve Jobs is not how he became successful or even his failures, it’s what he LEARNED from the journey that helped him reach his aspiration. And if he was alive today he’d probably say “I still have more to learn”. Competing in business today takes teaching balance which very few companies either have the competency to do so or disastrously avoid doing so. I’ve always submitted that leading, strategizing, and executing with balance is critically important and conversely is the reason why the APPLE’S/GOOGLE’S of the world continue to thrive. In my recent whitepaper (The Customer who is she/he?) I reviewed the recent hardship facing retail legend JCPENNEY whose beginning premise was to have stores run with honesty, and a deep respect for the customer. Somewhere along the way JCPENNEY lost that balance of inspiration with the customer and has succumb to the same  imbalance many of its notable competitors (e.g. radio shack, sears, K-mart) have suffered. Business is global which breeds turbulence, volatility, and uncertainty so it stands to reason that the climate for which business operates in is imbalance….hence businesses have to ride the “imbalance train”. We see this a great deal in turbulent market’s whether it’s Oil, Gas, IT, Healthcare etc being able to stay balanced in an environment that’s not balanced is a challenge, however, reacting to the imbalance is a different thing…that’s where balance comes in. Maintaining a foundation of balance in business has a lot to do with that business’ vision. As a large or small business owner if I were to ask you to tell me about your vision and how often do you refer back to that vision, could you do so in a succinct manner? If your answer is yes you have just joined the “1%”. Business owners/CEO’s can give you their elevator “Mission Statement” but when asked “Who are you”? & “Where do you want to be”? The answer is usually……crickets. Perhaps the strategy for business to stay balance is not only learning from the journey of “competitiveness” but establishing a “Vision” that becomes a key reference point to sustaining balance.  I’m always amazed at the companies that never seem to go away they’ve lasted over the test of time, and have remained true to their vision which has helped them to be “Business Competitive Balanced”. Below are 10 of the oldest and most successful corporations in America:

  1. Caswell-Massey est 1752 (Soap & Toiletries Company)
  2. Lorillard Tobacco Company est 1760 (Tobacco Company)
  3. Bakers Chocolate (Mondelez) est 1764 (Chocolates Company)
  4. Ames (Griffon Corp) est 1774 (Manufacturer of Shovels)
  5. Bowne (RR Donelly) est 1775 (Financial, Marketing, Communications Company…started out as a printing company)
  6. Bank of New York (BNY Mellon) est 1784 (Oldest Bank in America)
  7. Cigna est 1792 (Healthcare Insurance)
  8. State Street est 1792 (Financila Services Company)
  9. Jim Beam (Bean, Inc) est 1795 (Whiskey Company)
  10. JPMorgan Chase est 1799 (Banking & Finance Company)

Over half of these “INSTITUTIONS” I’m not familiar with and perhaps that’s the key…to be balanced is to stay under the radar. My message: It’s okay to be obsessively competitive as long as there’s balance, and if that balance contains a healthy appetite for “Learning”, “Experiencing”, and “Developing” then by all means compete against me at “Fitbit” (LOL!).   

 

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. 
Sun Tzu

 

BEING OBSESSIVELY COMPETITIVE….with balance!

 

Thank you!

Take a look at our whitepaper: “The Customer”….who is she/he?

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/the-customer-strategy1

http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is just giving direction ENOUGH?

Giving Direction

 

To all my CEO’s, President’s, Vice President’s, and Corporate Head’s when you give direction to your direct reports do they get it right? Do you find yourself giving that same direction again and again? Well, I would say the majority of this problem falls on you….not your direct reports.  Yep, I said it it’s your entire fault but it’s very understandable. We’ve all had those moments at the office where we feel we have to literally hold the hands of our employees in order to get things done. Before you stop reading this post and declare it just another smash against corporate leadership or a lecture on the fundamentals of good communication, wait just a minute you may find a different angle here. Being on both ends of the scale as someone giving the direction and receiving it, I have compassion for the CEO who provides direction only to find it falling on the floor like a broken egg. The office is often a bustling world wind of chaos, personnel running late for meetings, printing machines churning like crazy, and the side conversations taking place in the hallway….not an environment for patiently giving orders like spoon feeding a baby (LOL!). However, I will always argue that the person giving the direction in the midst of chaos should discipline themselves to slow the world down. Let’s be frank, if something needs to get done through someone else it’s incumbent upon you as the “direction giver” to ensure it’s communicated in a way that’s understandable and executed on.  While this all may seem like common sense, rarely is it practiced and the consequences typically fall on the head of the receiver as incompetent or slow in taking orders. This is a problem that can damage a career.

Validate…then validate again

Some people will argue that if you have to “Check-in” more than once with the individual you gave the direction to then it’s a sign of incompetency on the side of the individual receiving the direction. Consequently, the person receiving the direction will not ask for clarification for fear of being seen as incompetent. Now, you have the start of a communication crisis that turns bad very fast. All of this is why I fight against “AMBIGUITY” in the workplace and that it shouldn’t be tolerated as a corporate rite of passage.  As I’ve mentioned I have been the giver and receiver of ambiguous direction and have faced severe repercussions because I didn’t validate….then validate again. I can remember like it was yesterday when I literally sprinted to my sales director’s office to give him direction on responding to a customer complaint we received. The sales director had been hounding me that one of his rep’s customers complained of not receiving a follow answer to a request she had regarding one of her patients. The request was outside the rep and sales director’s responsibility and could only be addressed by someone at my level. Rather than picking up the phone and speaking to the customer directly I chose to delegate the transmission message to the sales director who in turn inaccurately deciphered my message to his rep who delivered the message to the customer……the result was horrifying. Long story short we lost the customer…and patient. Whose fault was it? Absolutely, it was my fault and I fell on the sword avoiding throwing my sales director and the sales rep under the bus. I failed spectacularly in so many ways in that situation, yet similar incidences like that take place every day in corporate America and it’s brushed off like just another day at the office. Giving direction to an employee has to be taken seriously and with kid gloves, and this is NOT to say you should coddle your direction you should validate it. Ensuring there’s total alignment on how you want your direction executed is on YOU and I’ll say the same thing holds true in one’s personal life. We’ve all I’m sure played the game where a message is passed among a group of people and by the time it gets to the last person the message is just a tad bit different than its beginning origin.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your direction is accurately understood

THE FIRST TIME.

  • #1 ask if your direction is clear and understandable. What’s wrong with “Are we aligned”? “Do you understand…are you sure”?
  • Use short, simple sentences. Compound, complex sentences may work well on paper, but they can be confusing and difficult to follow when spoken.
  • At that split moment ask yourself subconsciously “Did I make myself clear”? Most times a self-check helps a great deal.
  • Think of how you react to someone who is unclear. How receptive are you to the person’s information? It’s easy to become impatient with people who can’t deliver a message clearly.
  • Watch that “corporate office speak”. People are more interested in hearing your thoughts clearly without all the latest hallway jargon.
  • If you sense that you are on a tangent, quickly segue back to your main point/direction. Acknowledge that you were off-track (distracted) and reiterate your main point/direction.
  • Use clear, concise language, even in the hallway casual discussion. This will help you be aware of the need to speak clearly and will give you more chances to practice clarity….and less ambiguity.

 

It’s the old adage “Inspect what you EXPECT” and that goes for giving direction!

 

Is just giving direction ENOUGH?

 

Thanks!

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading across the Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

Leadership in my eyes….NOT YOURS!

ALL EYES

 

Want to have a “fun” argument with a friend, wife, husband or significant other? Ask them what good leadership looks like. While having what I would call a friendly disagreement with a friend on what effective leadership entails I noticed one important thing…it depends on who you ask. In an attempt to grab some consulting business from the commercial wing of her company I asked her about the competency of her company’s VP of Sales & Marketing. The response I received wasn’t really a ringing endorsement of the VP of Sales & Marketing. However, when I pursued my line of questioning to get a better understanding of what “I guess he’s okay” means I was somewhat bewildered by the additional information I received. Answers like “Well he doesn’t really listen well”, “He’s not really aggressive, he’s somewhat passive”, and “He has favorites”. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to evaluate or review talent like I have the first rule of thumb is remove your biases, prejudices, stereotypes and any other “mental obstacles” that get in the way of objectively evaluating performance. But since we’re all human let’s get real, we evaluate others based on our personal preferences. The “Leadership Industry” is so lucrative and the reason for that is NO ONE has really defined it. Think about it the most coveted subjects (e.g. leadership, happiness, success, life) all are interpreted differently again depending on who you ask….and there’s a lucrative industry for those wanting to share their opinion. However, I will argue till my very last breath that there’s not 1 book I’ve found on “Leadership” (and I literally have hundreds) that explains in an objective manner what effective leadership looks like in application. You know why? Because it’s not really “Leadership” it’s “Receiver-ship”. How we receive direction is based on our own personality which makes this a very complex issue and the reason why compartmentalizing effective leadership is absolutely wrong. In my humble opinion and I say this with all sincere humility that “Leadership” takes unimaginable versatility and flexibility to which very few have excelled. And to be honest I cannot name the very few. If you hired me tomorrow to run your commercial operations the one thing I can guarantee you…some will like my leadership style….some will hate my leadership style. How will you measure that?? Now, I know some of you are saying it’s not who likes your leadership style that matters it’s the results you get, and to that I would say you’re partially correct. Yes, results are important heck they’re critical but over the long haul you’re ability to consistently inspire people to follow your lead matters BIG TIME. I’ve seen people step into leadership positions and have phenomenal 1st & 2nd year performances only to flame out or get fired their 3rd year because their people are no longer inspired by them. When you find leaders that have excelled in their roles for several years and their people feel as though their leader was just hired yesterday…..you have a leader that has unimaginable & flexible skills. As I’ve mentioned these people are few and far between, but they exist. “Leadership” is an “Eyes of the beholder” trait but the one constant I see that everyone enjoys from their leadership is their ability to “INSPIRE” and that takes unimaginable & flexible skills.

More than EQ

 Some of you I’m sure are saying “Okay, how does someone develop unimaginable & flexible leadership skills”? “This sounds like Emotional Intelligence mumbo jumbo”. First, I do think there’s an opportunity to develop leadership skills that are flexible and yes can be unimaginable. Secondly, I’m a fan of “Emotional Intelligence” leadership however I think it’s become such a cottage industry that many of its principles have become watered down. Let’s attack the 1st question (   “Okay, how does someone develop unimaginable & flexible leadership skills”?). “Now that we are a fully integrated global society, Multicultural/Multigenerational teams are as part of today’s workplace as the morning routine” so says Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee global leadership strategists. Both strategists agree that a “flexing” style of leadership is the most effective especially when leading people who are different from you. “It’s fluent leaders, or those who can flex, that get the best out of diverse teams”. In their book Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences, the two explain ways the next generation of leaders can inspire and get the most out of their employees:

Leaders need to set aside their own biases about what it means to be effective and efficient and to recognize that there are different ways of communicating

As a leader, you need to recognize the different backgrounds on your team, as well as strengths and weaknesses. Once these are identified, you can better determine how these pieces can help solve your problem, rather than spending time trying to mold employees to approach problems as you would. Sometimes this will mean you need to ask questions about what people know. Everyone brings work experience, along with perspective from their personal lives, to the table. Curiosity is essential for leaders who want to consistently get the most out of their teams.

We’re all naturally attracted to people who are like us, but teams end up having blind spots if everyone is in agreement. Diversity can bring healthy conflict.

The biggest differences we often run into in the workplace come between indirect versus direct communicators. For example, an employee with indirect communication style may not bring up issues unless he is asked, out of respect for authority, while a supervisor with direct communication style may expect that employee to speak up. This creates a power gap between the two that needs to get closed in order to develop trust in the relationship. It is important to note, say Hyun and Lee, that neither style is right or wrong. As you catch yourself making judgments, it’s the ideal time to try and flex your style. Remember, someone has to initiate the conversation, and you can’t expect someone else to take the first step. When you remain observant, stop making assumptions, and have a conversation, chances are you’ll get a more complete story with new insights that can help you and your teams create more innovative solutions.[1]

The most flexible/agile leaders lead unselfishly and empower greatly. While most of what has been said has an “Emotional Intelligence” resemblance, the one area that deserves distinction is the ability to consistently “INSPIRE”. A leader’s ability to listen, support, develop, and of course lead their employees takes more than just adjusting leadership styles…it takes commitment that’s unimaginable & flexible.  

Leadership in my eyes….NOT YOURS!

Thanks!

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading across the Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

[1] Develop Flexible Leadership Skills for Better Business Relationships (June 10, 2014 Microsoft for Work)

 

“IT’S ON ME”…accountable leadership!

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

 

 

Taking the credit for a bonehead decision is tough, especially when your career/life hangs in the balance on that decision. Machiavelli once said “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively”. Niccolo Machiavelli known for his win at all cost leave no prisoners philosophy actually has a great point when it comes to decision making and accountability. Today’s leaders constantly face tough situations and in my opinion paid the big bucks to make big decisions, yet many of them are slippery in holding themselves accountable when those decisions fail. Whether it’s someone saying “It’s on me” or “I’m sorry” for an incompetent decision, more times than not we get the “spin cycle” without a clear answer on WHAT THE HELL HAPPEN? Super Bowl XLIX (2015) will probably go down as the most talked about “leadership” moment in sports history. Those of you who saw the game are probably thinking I’m referring to the questionable decision by the Seattle Seahawks football coach; actually I’m alluding to his answers after the game regarding his decision. Most people are in alignment in saying he made one of the worst play calls in Super Bowl history which is probably more hyperbole than accurate, it definitely appears to be not a well-informed decision after the fact. But, the Seattle Seahawks coach’s answer after the game was more striking:

“Boy this is a hard thing to take and I know that there are so many people on the outside, the 12s, our fans and the people that love us so much and the people that follow us so closely. I hope they can only imagine how it hurts our players that have worked and done so much and put so much forth to be champions today. The coaches, the families and all that stuff, everybody feels it. Let me just tell you what happened because as you know, the game comes right down and all the things that happened before are meaningless to you now. It’s really what happened on this one sequence that we would have won the game, we have everything in mind, how we’re going to do it, we’re going to leave them no time, and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal line, it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football, so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste that play. If we score we do, if we don’t, then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, with no second thoughts or no hesitation in that at all. And unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome. So I told the guys in the locker room that they’re a great team and they fought to prove that, and they did everything to do that again tonight. And they’re on the precipice of winning another championship, and unfortunately, the play goes the other way. There’s really nobody to blame but me, and I told them that clearly. And I don’t want them to think anything other than that. They busted their tails and did everything they needed to do to put us in position, and unfortunately it didn’t work out. A very, very hard lesson. I hate to learn the hard way, but there’s no other way to look at it right now. Unfortunately that’s what happens. So what do you want to know?”

If there’s any silver lining to be uncovered after a bad leadership decision, one would hope that the person in charge takes full accountability and I appreciated the coach doing just that.

Leading Courageously

Today’s most effective leader simply knows what they stand for and follows their own values and ethics. They are inspired to endure difficulty, taking intelligent risks, and uncommonly make themselves uncomfortable in order to be about their values. I’ve always respected and valued leaders in my career that demonstrated courage, decisiveness, and lived with their decisions. Resolute leaders tackle problems and deal with issues head on…they don’t avoid them. One of the things I find interesting is that when decisions are made and they fail often times it’s not the failed decision that’s upsetting; it’s the reaction after the decision. Most of us go insanely mad when there’s NO ACCOUNTABILITY after a poor decision, we almost forget about the actual bad decision. As noted in the “managers playbook” there are situations and decisions in which the most appropriate action carries with it a backlash of negative reactions, concerns, complaints, problems and even the possibility of personal risk…it comes with the territory. However, a competency many leaders lack is the ability to effectively communicate accountability after a failed decision. I liked the answer from the Seattle Seahawks football coach after his risky decision that failed because it wasn’t a diatribe of cliché’s or measured response; it was simply “I am to blame”. “I am to blame” takes courage but more than courage it takes a moment of self-reflection and personal principle. Principled leaders are diamonds and when you identify them….you keep them. They ALWAYS know what they stand for and behave in ways consistent with their values, the old saying “what you see is what you get with him/her” often refers to them. An area of leadership often overlooked is “Consistent Leadership”. We’ve all had in our careers the “Two-Headed” manager where you didn’t know which personality you were going to get on a day-to-day basis. Consistent leadership whether it’s good or bad at least provides a predictable outcome of how a decision will be made based on prior behaviors. The challenge with inconsistent leadership is that it sometimes calls into question principled or ethical leadership, which of course undermines “leading courageously”. Leading courageously also requires sometimes going against the grain even when it differs from what others with higher authority or power want. Everyone has heard of “managing up” which I’ve coined Internal Influence & Negotiation. It’s a basic strategy that when you want to implement something that isn’t popular, getting a thorough understanding of the opposition’s point of view before you make a final decision is always prudent. I typically encourage those I mentor that prior to presenting your position in favor of a decision decide how strongly and for how long you are willing to push or stand firm on a position. What is your bottom line? Are there compromise opportunities? Then extremely important pay attention to the impact of your behavior so you can accurately monitor its effect on the other party. Whatever the outcome is of your request, be gracious because being courageous takes an abundance of humility.

Dealing with Poor Decisions

We know that every decision will not have the desired outcome, that’s just reality. They say humility is the 1st order of business when dealing with a poor decision, and I tend to agree with that sentiment. Addressing the consequences of a poor decision is never easy especially when you have the “after the facts savants” telling you what decision you should have made. While it’s fitting to demonstrate some humility in accepting the consequences from a poor decision, I submit that confidence is right up there as a complimenting behavior to humility. Lack of confidence may result in the perception that you cannot handle or manage crisis which is not a valued leadership trait. When dealing with the repercussions from a poor decision I’ve always maintained the position to not overreact even if the situation is severe. Our worst reactions on conflicts happen when the mind doesn’t have time to unscramble and what occurs is another bad decision based on the original decision (a cycling of bad decisions). Below are steps to consider when dealing with a bad decision:

  • Slow Down: The immediate reaction to a poor decision is to make it better quickly, which leads to another bad decision that is emotional….not operational.
  • Take Inventory: It’s always best to reverse course and identify the origin of the decision made (e.g. prior experience, similar circumstances etc). When backtracking for reasons why the decision was made there’s always an opportunity for “lesson’s learned” and personal development.
  • Own it: Perhaps the most important step is taking responsibility for the decision. Crisis from poor decisions arise when there’s no accountability, because there’s a human reaction to find blame….even if it was the best decision under difficult circumstances.
  • Communicate Effectively: The sharks come out when an explanation regarding a poor decision is ambiguous at best. Clarity is key when explaining the reason for a particular decision; most of us are not as experienced as politicians are at spinning answers when it comes to addressing poor decisions.
  • Exercise Humility: If the decision made impacted others in a negative way apologizing to those affected is always a good 1st step…however it shouldn’t end there. Providing transparency on WHY the decision was made increases accountability and places context around the decision. A simple “I’m sorry” is not enough.
  • File Away: History does have a tendency to repeat itself, chalk the decision up as a “lesson’s learned” but file it so that it can be referred to later. The absolute worst decisions are those that are made over and over again, and are not learned from.

One of the best quotes out there on accountability:

“Accountability breeds response-ability”

Stephen Covey

 “IT’S ON ME”…accountable leadership!

 

Thank you!

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading across the Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

“LEADING CHANGE”….through dissonance!

disrespecting-the-boss

 

When asked “What’s the most difficult aspect of your job as a manager”? Most managers will say emphatically PEOPLE. Doesn’t matter what context every dilemma/challenge a manager faces has to do with people….according to most. I say according to most because I for one don’t believe that, on the contrary I think people make the job of a manager easy when expectations and accountability are aligned. The most challenging responsibility the management of today faces is “CHANGE” unequivocally. As the New Year officially kicks off I’m sure many of you are in the midst of dealing with change and if you’re not I say wearily to you Good Luck.  With the fierceness of today’s global business competition   the terms change and evolve are suitable synonyms required in order to be successful. Yet, the reality is that change can be very unpopular and generally the person leading the charge is seen as the most hated. It’s clear when there’s very little transparent communication coupled with an abundance of ambiguity, change can be daunting to implement….let alone getting people onboard to support it. So it stands to reason that people aren’t really the stick pins in the side of management it’s change and management’s inability to successfully lead through it. With large corporate mergers, global competition, and ferocious customer expectations not changing or evolving is a sure death nail for any corporation, even ones presently at the top of the heap. The most successful companies have “Change” incorporated in their business plans and have set up a communication and an empowerment infrastructure that makes it acceptable to internal employees. That’s not to understate however the tremendous pressure on managers to lead their designated area of the organization through changes implemented by the organization. In order to be effective at leading change one can’t simply manage it; they must passionately champion change and influence others to buy in.

Champion Change/Influencing Others

Business leaders can no longer accept “it’s always been done that way” or for that matter accept that sentiment from their employees. Business Inertia in my humble opinion has its place and cannot always be seen as stalling creativity, however, repeating failed status-quo activities not only impacts creativity….it’s insanity. As a manager to crack the unwanted lock of inertia and influence your employees to support change, try these possible ideas:

  • Encourage and challenge your employees to participate with the “Change Process” (e.g. gather feedback/opinions of improving business and work processes, engage them on the transition processes, empower and collaborate on decision measures). Use various venues (staff meetings, national meetings, conversations with key stakeholders, HR meetings etc), this will stimulate and inspire the need to make continuous improvements.
  • Eliminate organizational barriers like “Ambiguity” that undermines change implementation. For example:
  • Because there’s a tendency to overlook stakeholders outside your expertise who also may be affected by the change, collate people from various areas when developing transition plans or new ideas relevant to the upcoming change.
  • Do not “Communication Assume” (assuming everyone is aligned because it’s company direction). It’s necessary to overcommunicate, oververify, overfollowup.
  • Encourage and reward flexibility. “It’s always been done that way” is often a safe harbor for the inflexible and placing incentives that recognizes creativity and innovation around the change can help influence its acceptance.
  • Remove communication/collaboration barriers whenever possible (e.g. silo’s, turf battles, misalignment). When there’s little transparency or a feeling of not being involved in the process, people will take refuge in counter thinking and behavior that will negatively impact the change transition.
  • Identify those who may have hidden agendas or motives for maintaining the status-quo. Setting up communication where there’s an opportunity to listen to their dissent, looking for alternative ways or compromises that meet their needs. Ignoring or steamrolling over the dissent could impact change rollout.
  • Support those who challenge assumptions and question the way things are done. Unfortunately, organizations sometimes champion those who are politically astute and do not rock the boat which festers the “Ambiguity”. Promote openness and feedback by actively encouraging questions and positive challenges.
  • Be flexible to the possibility of changing your decisions after you have made them….and importantly communicate that possibility to your employees. “Change” can sometimes be fluid and being able to adjust within the complexities of change is a critical competency.

Culture Change

Empowerment is so critical when it comes to organizational change. A management structure that “Leads by Example” in demonstrating its mission of transparency and empowerment can enjoy not only seeing their changes embraced but interwoven quickly into company culture. When change is implemented properly you have the following results:

  • Organizational Alignment
  • Full Engagement- Cross Functional and Cross Business Teams alignment
  • Competitive Advantage, Best in Class Benchmarking
  • Continuous and Effective Communication (minimal ambiguity)
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Best Practices for future change

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Loosely translated from the French this means “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. In the words of Machiavelli, “There’s nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things”. These quotations point out two basic and somewhat opposite concepts about change: No change is final….Change is difficult. As a leader leading change should expect resistance upfront, develop strategies to deal with it, and ALWAYS communicate, empower, communicate, empower….and repeat rinse!

“LEADING CHANGE”….through dissonance!

 

Thank you!!

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your “SUPERSTARS”…are going to leave you soon!

 

losing-talent

Your “SUPERSTARS”…are going to leave you soon!

 

They can be selfish, egomaniacs, narcissistic, aggressive….and impatient. Impatient is a key word and many corporate leaders are unequipped in curing the “impatient bug” of their top people. Typically at the beginning of any year is when you have heavy recruitment activity of top talent, companies across the globe are looking for the “business savant” that will take their business to the next level….conversely those savants are accepting the call. Yes, those folks in your company or on your team who deliver profits and value are looking for a better option and it’s not personal just inspirational (notice I didn’t say “just business”). There are many recipes available on ways to keep your top performing employees fed & happy, and usually the ingredients consist of “money”, “education”, “development”, “attention” and sometimes even “power”. On its surface any one of these accouterments would appear to be effective in keeping someone of high caliber from sneaking to that competing company interview, but those incentives are no longer appealing to the new generation. There’s a great deal of discussion out there on how to motivate millennials and there’s one thing abundantly clear…superficial enticements don’t excite them. Top performers understand their value, the days of just giving them trinkets as a way of showing them your appreciation is no longer effective. If you think about it critically that “Value” per se already comes with many of the items I’ve listed, someone who’s at the top of their game is going to achieve financial and personal reward….couldn’t they get that someplace else other than your company? Many leaders of business I think make a lazy mistake (yes, LAZY) in assuming that most top performing people are motivated by the “tangibles”. Along with money, trophies, and plaques the other indifferent platitude provided to top employees these days is smothering them with plastic attention. Smothering top employees with the best attention money can buy is the biggest mistake and often times is the reason why many of them leave a company. Having been on both sides as the “smotheree” and “smotherer” the burden of receiving so much attention was more difficult to deal with then actually working my tail off to achieve performance success.  When they say it’s tougher staying #1 what’s implied is that the attention becomes more intense, who thought giving more attention to the top performer was an incentive for them? (haha!!).

“NON-tangible”…gift that keeps giving

I’ve always believed that the most successful people aren’t just driven on being a success, they’re driven on being consistently inspired. The challenging thing about success is not necessarily attaining it….it’s mistakenly trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations of what success should look like. Not to continue with philosophical parables, but, to say how we view success aligns with how we interact and lead successful people. It isn’t always confirmed that your top employees are driven by having their name on the top of the list, making the most money….telling them they’re great…they may just want to be inspired. I was fortunate to have the #1 salesperson in the country on my team they held the spot seemingly forever, it was a standing joke among the team and company that the travel department would reserve their room at the President’s Trophy at the start of every year. They were that good…yet I lost them to another company. To keep this rep I gave them all my attention, compensated them well, even sold the company on sending them to Wharton for a leadership seminar and they still bailed. After doing the proverbial exit interview it came out that they were just bored and not excited about the job. JUST BORED!!! NOT EXCITED ABOUT THE JOB!!! I screamed to the top of my lungs….I felt I was betrayed. That was the problem, I managed/led the person based on my assumption of what success meant to them by showering them with things they were indifferent to. I pretty much practiced “selfish leadership” and ceased to inspire them. Inspiration is a “NON-tangible”….gift that keeps giving. To inspire someone is much stronger than motivating them because it requires selflessness, focus, energy, patience, and humility….traits often missing with today’s corporate leadership. When someone asks me how to keep top employees from leaving their company I immediately shoot back “How do you inspire them”?  

INSPIRING TOP EMPLOYEES

Below is an offering of ways to inspire top employees, while not guaranteeing these methods to be foolproof or roadblock preventions to departures they may provide alternative opportunities to engage your precious asset:

  • Foster Open Communication; establish an infrastructure that allows for open exchange of information and viewpoints. There’s an assumption that everything is okay in the world of a top employee.
  • Inspire Trust; establish trust, increase and regain trust, develop an integrity dynamic relationship with the top employee.
  • Lead by Example, perhaps the most important attribute a manager can demonstrate in keeping their top talent. Top employees still look to their management for leadership.
  • Establish an “Internal Mentor-ship Program” that offers both a professional & personal support infrastructure, and is an integral part of the “Succession Planning” process.
  • Encourage top performers to be mentors themselves, it’s been shown that an impact on others boomerangs impact back (causing inspiration).
  • Establish “Empowerment Projects”, where there’s an opportunity to work on initiatives outside present role but have a focus on assisting others.
  • Every employee should have a “Career Development Plan” not just the top performers, however top performers should be coached and expected to lead by example from their plan. The goal is to keep the top performer engaged.
  • Build a “Grow Skills Program”, a program that is built by the manager and top employee. Teaches “process building”, “collaboration”, “building competencies”, and strengthens the relationship between manager and top performer. A nice “connection program”
  • Set up “Exposure Meetings”, an opportunity for top performers to get “face time” with upper leadership. Corporate leadership should have better relationships with the folks who are driving profits….but those relationships have to be meaningful.
  • “Corporate Rotation Program”, many companies have a process in place where high potentials have the opportunity to experience others roles. This is an old standby that can be very effective in keeping the top performer inspired.

In most cases it’s not the “tangibles” that guarantee a top performers loyalty….it’s the “non-tangible” that can’t be bought….but takes a lot of your “INSPIRATIONAL ENERGY”!

 

Check out my recent 2015 Whitepaper “The Customer”….who is she/he? (Hint: Inspiration!)

Click on link: http://slidesha.re/1B21gaa

Or website page: http://ah2andbeyond.com/whitepapers/

Thanks!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

 

HELP!!….I’ve taken over a lousy team

Stress

 

Perhaps the New Year has blessed you with that well deserved promotion, or after going through a series of tough interviews you finally landed that dream managerial job, life is good….at least at the moment. I speak a great deal about corporate ambiguity and how it can literally bring a company to its knees; nothing is more revealing of ambiguity as to receive an opportunity that looks too good to be true. Promotions and winning that lucrative job is one of the best feelings in the world at its outset, and quite frankly it should be. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had mentees tell me that if they had to do it all over again….they wouldn’t have accepted the opportunity. Recently I’ve been barraged with requests to provide input on what to do when you suddenly learn “I’ve just accepted the responsibility of leading the bad news bears”. Let me first admit I was one of those thirsty ambitious idealists and yes cocky sales managers who felt he could turn a disastrous sales team into victors. Not only was I in over my head as a young man it was the first time in my life where I contemplated ending it all…true story. That experience along with other missteps moving towards being a better developed leader has provided me a perspective that understands what it’s like taking over an underperforming team. With all that said there is a badge of honor to be able to pull a team out of a ditch and steer them towards prominence, but that scenario comes with a great deal of rough terrain. Typically my first question before I go into “advice mode” for those finding themselves in such a predicament is to ask them WHY are they a lousy team? To say the answers I receive are general would be an understatement. Truly the answers range from having an inexperienced team to flat out and I have been told this…“they’re stupid”. After receiving the entire onion of generalities I work with the despaired manager in peeling back the onion to find the specific reasons why the team is so lousy, and to NOT my surprise we find that the team is actually fairly capable. A saying that will stick with me forever and some would describe it as cynical…“trust but verify”.

“Trust but Verify”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that most people moving into a leadership role do so blindly. A big issue I had earlier in my career is that I trusted the opinions of others way too much. Not saying some of those opinions didn’t help, just saying more verification of those opinions on my part would have helped more. When taking over a team whether it’s in sales, marketing, IT etc it’s prudent to get information on personnel, not doing so is fairly dangerous. The key is what you do with that information and how it may help with the transition. I mentioned earlier in my career I had some struggles with taking over teams in large part due to the bad perceptions those teams had prior to me taking over leadership of them. So, naturally my perception and importantly energy in interacting with them was let’s say less than inspirational. In one memorable situation I fell victim to believing “the press” about the team I was to inherit and actually led them accordingly…without doing any type of verification of my own. The information provided to me about my team came from the very top and as a young impressionable overwhelmed neophyte it seemed credible to me. Well, it wasn’t in fact not only was the intelligence about the team I inherited incorrect there was a push for me to terminate ¾ of the team…a move that would unjustly fire capable people who weren’t led properly prior to my arrival. Sometimes in corporate America perception is “subjective reality” without thorough validation. You can argue that my naivety earlier in my career was part of the problem and I wouldn’t win that argument, however, the fact remains and I have evidence from the mentees I mentor that there is still a lack of clarity and validation of a team’s competency. To be clear gathering information about personnel is prudent….validating that information is being competent.

“Validating Team”

Below are inventory items you can take to ensure your team is on track for a great 2015 year:

There are 3 Key Business Imperatives I call “A.D.D.” (Accelerate Growth/Develop People/Drive Efficiency)

Accelerate Growth (Market Landscape)

  • Review & research markets that offer the best future growth, this will establish long term business relationships. Construct or revise business plan that incorporates everyone’s input.
  • Review primary domestic and if applicable foreign competitors that could impact the market and customer segmentation process.
  • (If it’s a global team) Do “Insights of the Customer” segmentation with the flexibility that data could vary from country to country. Analyze issues important to the business.
  • Determine the appropriate global-local balance (team communication plan)
  • Ensure communication technology is adequate in order to solidify collaboration and partnership. Minimize ambiguity, encourage accountability and empowerment.
  • Organize and track domestic/global projects that impact the business
  • Develop your “Strategies”/“Business Goals” as it relates to assessing your team’s performance. What are you trying to achieve from a business performance perspective?

 

Develop People (For Optimal Performance)

  • Review team tenure, validate its impact on performance.
  • Take “Introductory Inventory” of the current performance of the team, call it “Internal Analysis”
  • Meet individually with each direct report to discuss their career goals and identify skills they need to achieve goals. “Connection Session”.
  • Develop incremental resources to help in the assessment process (e.g. HR, Talent Management, Training, Development Plans etc).
  • Develop tracking tools (e.g. 9-Box Grid Development Tool or “Culture/Performance Tool”)
  • Review if each direct report has a career development plan to review and update. A development discussion will take place on every 1-on-1 discussion.
  • Verify that development plans can be officially reviewed quarterly.
  • Check to see if there’s a tracking system put in place to keep up with employee succession planning process.
  • Stretch assignments will be provided for those who have demonstrated performance and an interest to gain further development.
  • Stay alert if there are company updates, and insights for tips that could help teammates through the development process.
  • Emphasize development in the business planning and performance-management practices.
  • Identify readings, training programs etc to help supplement the person’s development and ways to help them apply training to current job.
  • Complete quarterly a 360 Feedback review from my team on my performance. Leading by example.

 

Drive Efficiency (Business Processes)

  • Review/Validate Budget Allocation & ROI Justification.
  • Prioritize spending to match company performance target goals.
  • Track allocations that impact the business (and do not impact the business)
  • Review if there’s a Budget/Milestones/P&L in place.
  • Review Match budget with milestones to justify ROI.
  • Check to see if there’s assigned budget ownership to ensure accountability.
  • Validate consistent budget communication to ensure alignment.
  • Ensure there are Status Reports & Weekly Update Reports.
  • Ensure month end business status report to leadership team (create template if one doesn’t exist)
  • Review Information Technology: efficient and competent use of “Big Data”, review if reports can be transmitted easy and more consistently, validate if data can be easily stored, uncovered and delivered.

 

Don’t take someone’s word as valid on the competency of your team…do your personal inventory first!

 

HELP!!….I’ve taken over a lousy team

 

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

 

“THE RIDICULOUS NATIONAL SALES MEETING”

no-limits-awards-sm

Save your money on the over-priced narcissistic motivational speaker!

I apologize; I’m way too late on this post you’re probably just finishing up preparing for 2017’s National Sales Meeting Kickoff.  Typically getting a committee together with representatives from each department, organizing the agenda/content, bringing in vendors, having meeting run-through’s etc takes additional time…so I should have crafted this public service announcement September/October time-frame. However, for those of you who enjoy the “Crisis Challenge” and find it exhilarating to wait until the last minute to prepare for your big National Sales Meeting, then this post is perfect timing. Okay, let me first start by saying that I’m not one of those curmudgeons who promotes an all work and no play environment when it comes to preparing for an important kick off meeting, I just don’t support the “all play” meeting.  Having participated in roles that allowed for cross functional leadership I consistently ran into obstacles where we had to prioritize between entertainment and application. “Application” to be clear involved examining commercial strategy and workshop/breakout simulations. There was always a challenge finding where things fit and where things had to be taken out…there was never enough time to do ANYTHING. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of motivational speakers that’s just my quirk, however, I get their utility in bringing energy to the meeting but I question is there anybody in the company that can provide that same energy? Where are the charismatic leaders in the company? To have a high priced hall of fame ex-football player or media figure is cool I will admit but how long will that awestruck last? Not very long as a matter of fact by the time you get back home from the exhaustive rock concert meeting you’ll have forgotten the name of the “Motivationalist”. I like the idea of having a keynote speaker someone who relates to your business and has had similar experiences with regards to failure and success. In a previous company we had such a speaker and the impact from their message resonated with the entire group because their content was relevant to our plight and it had more meaningful inspiration. I’ve always tried to sell the notion that National Sales Meetings need to be “INSPIRATIONAL” not motivational. Motivation lasts about the length of a coffee break whereas Inspiration lasts a lifetime. The content of your agenda for the National Sales Meeting should have an overall vision of inspiration that will carry the participants for the rest of the year, and if you have the right team in place that can come up with that content then you’ll have the best meeting ever…believe me.

The “Get Together”

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy national sales meetings because it’s usually held at the 1st of the year and everyone is excited for the upcoming sales year. It’s also a time to visit and catch up with colleagues you haven’t seen in person for a while and share pleasantries even with the phony ones….I been there (haha!!). It’s a time to re-group after the previous year, share best practices, re-evaluate strategies, and my personal favorite….application, application, and application.  However, what I’ve found through experiencing literally about 100 National Sales Meetings is that most of them are nothing more than rock concerts or pep rallies as opposed to roll up the sleeves let’s prepare to put our beginning year 2016 Sales & Marketing Strategy plan to test. The problem is the balance between “the get together” and the application is out of balance. There is absolutely no argument from me that there should be time for team building, morale, and just plain fun but not at the expense of business acumen attainment and competency building. When I was in charge of leading the National Sales Meeting planning committee inevitably the feedback we consistently received was “The workshops/breakouts weren’t long enough”, “There was very little time for input”, “The workshops seemed hurriedbut we had fun”. That to me was a FAIL. Again, I’m not a stick in the mud but when the lasting perception you receive from your internal customer on one of the most important meetings of the year is “but we had fun” that’s not the feedback you want that gives you confidence that your team is prepared for the year. The financial cost for putting on a National Sales Meeting is gigantic and many companies don’t place enough accountability on the R.O.I. for such a meeting and so you get the “get together” type meeting. Meetings like the National Sales Meeting are so critical because you don’t have more than one opportunity to get everyone together under one roof to focus on the year’s vision, and that’s why the balance between entertainment and application has to be evaluated microscopically in the planning process.

I’d like to see an overhaul of the entire National Sales Meeting planning process so that it doesn’t turn out as “The Ridiculous National Sales Meeting”. The absolute first thing I would do is have the planning team agree on the “Vision” of the meeting, which should align obviously with the 2016 corporate forecast objectives. What I find often times is that companies like to play off a “Theme” (e.g. “Teamwork 2016”, “Collaborate/Communicate 2016”, “Winning in 2016”), which I can’t tell if they’re meant to provide direction or my least favorite…motivate. Typically, these themes come from a deficit company leadership feels the employees are not responding too. If there’s an ambiguity problem then the theme is “Communicate Effectively 2016”…or some un-inspiring message….that’s not a “Vision”. By the end of July no one can remember the theme let alone what they’re supposed to do to execute on the theme.  The vision can yes be inspiring but has to spell out specifically (no ambiguity) what each participant should gain and be able to pull-through from the meeting. The vision should be unwavering; a pact that everyone agrees upon at the National Sales Meeting, accountability is a must. How many of you require an action plan from each participant at the meeting outlining milestones to be reached from the “Vison”? To ensure EVERYONE is in lock step with what needs to take place the entire year you need to have a 2016 VISION, replace the “Theme” with a vision and your team will feel they’re a part of something bigger…than just a catchy phrase.

Build an inspired National Sales Meeting agenda….your team will reward you with inspired performance the entire 2016 year!

 

 

Do you have a Cross Functional Leader leading your National Sales Meeting?

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle”

Click on link:  http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

SURPRISE!…..you don’t meet expectations

businessman-surprised-shocked-with-nedgative-reviews-Open-Access-BPO-

 

SURPRISE!…..you don’t meet expectations

 

Well, it’s that time of year no not the holidays…the dreaded “Performance Review”. I say “dreaded” because for many of you it’s a stressful intense time where your year’s performance is center stage. My argument has always been that this should be the most positive “look forward to” experience of the year. If the performance review truly reflects what took place during the year then both parties should have the expectation that the conversation is a reflection on lessons learned and progress moving forward…..unfortunately this doesn’t always take place. Often times the performance review is a crap shoot where the receiver of the review goes into the meeting having NO idea what the result is going to be. This is unacceptable. I can certainly place blame on the leadership (e.g. boss, manager, “the big cheese” etc) for the lack of consistent feedback/communication during the year which would minimize any surprise during the review, but the employee is just as much at fault. If there’s consistent coaching on the part of leadership and proactive follow through from the employee the performance review at the end of the year should be a formality. In other words the “Performance Review” should be implemented throughout the entire year if you think about it. In the sales business we would have what’s called a “field conference report” that would be utilized throughout the year to consistently measure sales performance and the competency of the sales representative. It’s a wonderful tool for the sales manager to implement as a coaching apparatus while also keeping tabs of performance so that by the end of year you have solid performance data. By performance review time if the sales manager and sales representative had consistent work sessions and dialogue during the year the performance review was much more a productive/positive meeting. This same process can be implemented for other internal disciplines (e.g. marketing, operations, HR etc). One of the most unfortunate occurrences that take place during the performance review is the exposed lack of clear communication during the year between manager and employee. For senior leadership in an organization the performance review not only provides performance metrics….it exposes how employees work together or for that matter not work together. I give this example often and have highlighted it in my recent whitepaper Cross Functional Leadership…. “Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle” , it comes from my favorite author Ferdinand F. Fournies:

“It has become quite common in recent years to blame performance problems and organizational conflicts on poor communication. The face-to-face medium is the predominant medium of communication between manager and employee; therefore, it is of critical importance. I remember a story in the New York Times, following a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The story explained that when the score was Boston 5, Yankees 3 in the ninth inning, and the Yankees were at bat with two outs and two men on base, a new relief pitcher was sent in. The coach instructed him to pitch tough. The first pitch resulted in a home run. Afterward the coach was quoted by the New York Times: “If that’s pitching tough. I don’t know what pitching soft would be like”. Obviously there was a lack of communication”.[1]

“The Ambiguous Review”

Have you ever received a performance review that seemed out of left field? It didn’t line up with what took place during the year….the good ole “Ambiguous Review. This by far is what gives the performance review process its bad name and causes the bulk of the stress. I use to anticipate quite accurately how a performance review setting was going to go by watching the beads of sweat roll down my leadership team’s forehead. From a leadership perspective this didn’t provide me satisfaction in part because I felt responsible for the stress of not properly preparing my team throughout the course of the year. Again, and I repeat the performance review process should be a formality in capping off the year where both parties are expecting the same result…whether it’s a good or bad review. Ambiguity often occurs when both parties haven’t had the same level of commitment towards communicating what has taken place throughout the business year. I say commitment because there’s no effort to ensure there’s an agreement on “Expectations”, “Performance”, and “Accountability” during the year which causes the ambiguity at the end of the year. Make no mistake both parties are at fault for the ambiguity and unlike many I do not believe it’s just a management problem, employees have just as much accountability to ensure throughout the year there’s communication with their leadership that expectations are being met. To be surprised of a “Not Meets Expectations” or poor review should be unacceptable and not tolerated if you’re in a senior leadership position. As a matter of fact there should be an evaluation on that type of response because it clearly demonstrates what didn’t take place throughout the course of the year….COMMUNICATION. The ambiguous performance review can cause all sorts of HR issues that need not be spelled out (I think you can name a few), but critically can cost a company millions of dollars if ambiguity is allowed to continue metastasizing in a corporation.    

Steps to Avoid the “SURPRISE!…..you don’t meet expectations” review

Below are steps both management and employee can take throughout the course of year so as to avoid the stressful “Performance Review”:

  1. FORGE A PARTNERSHIP: be predictable by letting each other know what you expect from a leadership and subordinate perspective. Lead by example and inspect what you expect consistently throughout the course of the year. Effective communication is a must.
  2. INSPIRE A COMMITMENT: ensure that “Development” is a focus on every work-session, and placing a feedback/tracking system to keep both parties engaged and aligned to performance and development expectations.
  3. GROW SKILLS: create an effective learning environment; discuss with each team member and gain agreement on ways to work with them that will promote partnership and a learning opportunity throughout year. Weekly Status reports from team will also help aid the development process.
  4. PROMOTE PERSISTENCE: ensure the team remains focus on executing objectives/goals. Each team member will be held accountable to execute results in their given responsibility (through status reports, sales results, and development plan). Each work-session will begin with the review of prior actions plans that were completed to ensure follow through.
  5. SHAPE THE ENVIRONMENT: (For Management) complete quarterly a 360 Feedback review from your team on your performance. Ask team members what kind of feedback and support they would like from you. Recognize development efforts and continue creating an environment where learning, consistent feedback and accountability are the culture.

SURPRISE!…..you don’t meet expectations

 

Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle”

 http://bit.ly/1sgdtjc

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper

Thank you!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

http://www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

[1] “Coaching for improved work performance” (Ferdinand F. Fournies)

 

Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!

Multi-racial business team sitting around an office boardroom

 

 

Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!

 

Because I’m in the “Solution” business as a consultant I speak to sales leaders quite often who are having a rough go at leading their sales teams. So, you can imagine this time of year I’m fortunately or unfortunately reached out to too share my thoughts on what could have been done differently this past year to achieve team sales success. My modus operandi has always been to ask few but specific questions…and listen more. At times I frustrate the heck out of my clients because they expect this magical wisdom to come out of my mouth and provide them these innovative/disruptive jewels that will turnaround their career….I purposely don’t provide that gift even during this time of year.  Not that I have all the answers they’re looking for, I pretty much convince them that they do they just choose to ignore them. The session typically starts out by asking them “HOW” do they lead their salespeople, and on the surface it seems like a normal simple question right? Nope, the answers are all over the place and I’m not specifically requiring a right answer…just a cogent one. The consistent and I might add typical uninspiring answer I receive is “I provide my people specific direction and support to be successful in executing their job”, that was verbatim from a client. Now, looking at that answer I’m sure many of you are saying to yourself “makes perfect sense to me” and I can’t argue with that because from a textbook definition it makes sense to me as well. However, it doesn’t inspire an ant. Isn’t giving specific direction and providing support a requirement of the job? Does that differentiate a “Good Sales Leader” from a “Great Sales Leader”? Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set! An ability to inspire people to leap over and beyond their expectations is what separates the good from the great. This is why I continue to argue that your best salespeople are NOT your best sales leaders. Yes, you read correctly your best individual salespeople are not your best sales leaders. I can emphatically say that because many organizations prematurely place their best salespeople in leadership sales positions without the adequate development prior, as if somehow thinking the talent will ooze from their pores into the pores of their salespeople. There have been cases where successful salespeople have been great sales leaders but it took a lot of deprogramming. One of my mantras and I’ve stuck by it my entire career is “When leading a global sales organization there are 3 behaviors required: “Humility”, “The willingness to be EDUCATED while EDUCATING”, and embracing “DIVERSITY”. As a successful salesperson entering into the wonderful world of sales management it took me a long time to let go of my ego and hubris to become a successful sales leader…along the way however it was h*ll.

Why do you have to be “SPECIAL”?

I think in order to be a “GREAT” sales leader you have to have special skills in order to lead salespeople. Let’s agree salespeople are a different breed of species (haha!!), and speaking as someone who has been in the sales business for most of my life….we’re NOT easy people to deal with. I hear the stories from sales leaders and I think the reason why they’re comfortable speaking with me about the things they go through is because I’ve experienced them. In any role where you’re leading human beings you are going to have at least one episode of heartburn, and if you don’t you’re not leading. Salespeople can be arrogant, narcissistic, prima donnas, and also wonderfully loyal if lead correctly. “Special Skills” are developed over time and companies that are patient and have thorough “Succession Planning” and “Development Programs” in place I’ve found to have the best sales leaders in place, and conversely higher sales profits. Below I’ve outlined 5 metric points that most special sales leaders have that distinguishes them from the pack:

1.     FORGE A PARTNERSHIP

  • Build an “acumen” understanding of direct reports.
  • Demonstrate consistency in your words and actions as the leader.
  • Be fair but stern: Treat everyone with respect and demand excellence of performance. Everyone will be evaluated based on their performance and competency.

2.     INSPIRE COMMITMENT

  • Ensure that “Development” is a focus on every work-session.
  • Ensure Development options for “ready now employees”.
  • Track and Sustain Progress.

3.     GROW SKILLS

  • Create an effective learning environment.
  • Coach Plans will be done after each work-session.
  • Ensure learning opportunities exist on every one-on-one.

4.     PROMOTE PERSISTENCE

  • Ensure the team remains focus on executing our sales objectives/goals.
  • Ensure feedback is consistent and has high impact.

5.     SHAPE THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Be a powerful role model for development
  • Align organizational polices and processes with coaching and development

Finally, the 4 key principles to leading a sales team successfully are:

  1.  Individuals will have the opportunity to improve and capitalize on their developmental competencies. 
  2. Sales Development will help define specific action steps designed to help pull-through competencies in the field.
  3. Training will have an unwavering monitoring process designed to review training initiatives and identify skill competency gaps.
  4. Partnership/Teamwork with Sales, Marketing, and Training will ensure individuals are impacted and fully competent in all 3 areas.

 

Having the thought process and temperature that “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER” will not only solidify team energy…..it might just bestow on you that different “Special Skill Set!

 

Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!

 

 

Checkout my presentation on “Building A Global Sales Team”: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/developing-a-global-sales-team-for

 Thanks!

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

http://www.ah2andbeyond.com