Talent Spotting: A Critical Manager Skill

Learn to spot the “Big 5 Talent Behaviors”

 

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Promoting a new manager from within is arguably the single most critical strategic decision an organization makes. Consider the economic implications:

 “When companies can increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.” -Harvard Business Review

Simply put, competent and engaged managers are a lead indicator of long-term profitability!

 

Building an effective talent management pipeline starts with talent spotting skills. Each organization’s culture and business requires unique capabilities. However, the following “Big 5 Talent Behaviors,” are strong indicators of an individual’s potential to be a next level leader in your organization.

Closely observe team members who consistently demonstrate these “BIG 5 Talent Behaviors” in their current role:

  1. Self-Starter. Effective leaders have a bias for action and self-initiative. These folks embody Nike’s vision statement – Just Do It! Rarely does the boss need to provide direction to this individual.
  2. Strong Team Orientation. Their language is imbedded with the pronoun “we,” rarely “I.” They always accomplish their responsibilities and naturally reach out to help others. Cooperation and collaboration make up their DNA.
  3. Excellence Reflex. In Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table, he shares how his team looks for this trait in new hires and potential next level leaders. Simply put, these employees are driven by high performance standards and results, and are repulsed by mediocrity. These folks hate working with slackers.
  4. Always On The Improve. This employee was seemingly born with the core value of continuous improvement. They are always sharing ideas to improve products, services, operations and the customer experience. This team member sees the big picture, understands the value creation process, and is proactive with suggestions for improvement.
  5. Mastery. This individual loves learning and growth, and possesses high expertise and competency in their craft. If this employee gets bored, or burned out, they are ripe for poaching from the competitor. It’s critical this team member is provided rich assignments and leadership projects to keep them engaged.

 

The potential leader in your current ranks might be categorized as a servant- leader:

“The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership

Skilled talent spotting managers recognize that individuals who naturally possess the “Big 5 Talent Behaviors” are ultimately humans first and heroes second, never vice-versa.

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring.

–Steve

 

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Create Compelling Sales Urgency, NOT Sales Pressure!

TWO Sales Skills to Help Build Urgency for Change

A sales cycle that drags on without a solid buying decision greatly lowers the probability that a positive purchase will eventually occur. The long, exhausting hunt often results in returning home with just a goose egg.

How can you create compelling urgency rather than aggressive pressure to positively influence a buying decision? The TWO Sales Skills below will help you create a methodical sales process that mitigates the relentless and cruel march of sales time.

 

The Status Quo is the enemy, not your competitor’s price. It’s not news that most people have a strong aversion to change, especially if there is a perception of risk involved. The thinking goes – my current situation may be undesirable and stressful but at least it’s familiar. Your process should fixate on creating the urgent conditions necessary for buyer behavior change. Behavioral science supports this universal human condition of possessing a strong aversion to loss, as captured by this quote:

“Losses make us hurt more than gains make us feel good.” -D. Kahneman and A. Tversky

 

TWO Core Sales Skills* for Creating Compelling Sales Urgency:

*It is assumed that the rep has built a trusting, credible relationship with the prospect or buyer before attempting to dive too deep and too soon into a customer’s business. If not, your approach is guaranteed to feel pushy, disrespectful, and your sales attempts will be rejected. Your humble intention to help, not sell, must shine through.

#1 – Find painful (e.g. expensive) problems to solve. Every prospect and business owner has lots of problems, just like you and me. However, there is often a singular one that is most costly. Find it. No serious problem = no serious pain. No pain = no urgency. No urgency = no solution, and you return home with yet another goose egg.

This says easy, does hard. You must be patient, persevere and be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable while the prospect or buyer mulls over and quietly marinates in their current dilemma. Your penetrating questions, however, foster the crucial tension, or compelling urgency, that begins creating cracks in the formidable status quo.

#2 – Help prospect or buyer convincingly answer – “Why Change?”

Your non-aggressive persistence has paid off – the buyer, with quiet introspection, admits how her actions keep leading to the same discouraging business results. You can relate to her, as every business has their share of festering problems.

 

Behavioral change is often preceded by pain; this vital knowledge directs our sales process.

 

Gently, yet assertively (never aggressively) help the customer feel the pain of their key problem. Simple, insightful questions help facilitate the buyer’s thinking about the very real costs associated with the current situation:

  • What is the business cost of your current situation?
  • What are the non-financial costs of having this problem?
  • What benefits would you achieve if this problem were solved?
  • What would happen if you simply chose not to address this problem?
  • How does this situation prevent you from reaching your goals?

Humans’ natural bias for the status quo is a formidable sales foe. The science of human influence and change strongly suggests that our sales approach creates the prime conditions for change: compelling business urgency and pain. These two core sales skills are instrumental in facilitating this change process.

 

“An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”  -Newton’s First Law

 

You cannot control time but you can control your focus in each sales conversation! Make a mid-year resolution to invigorate your sales process with a purposeful sense of urgency and disciplined approach that steadily raises alarm bells that the status quo is unsafe and dangerous. The two skills above are fundamental for creating the conditions of buyer behavior change.

It should be noted that these skills remain relevant but are often insufficient for more complex B2B (business to business) sales where products can be expensive or have lengthy implementation steps.

Future sales topics will examine additional skills critical for keeping sales time AND momentum on your side!

As always, check out the resources page for some helpful tools and additional information to further your goals.

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!  -Steve

How to Leverage Positive Conflict

Five Tips for Conflict Resolution

It’s quite apparent that conflict will happen within any team. The most intrepid manager-coaches know how to distinguish the difference between productive and destructive conflict, and foster the productive while stifling the destructive.  Successful implementation of this fundamental skill is conflict resolution.

The Small Business Chronicle defines constructive conflict as conflict that “generates productive, mutually beneficial, shared decisions.” Anyone who has attended one of my coaching workshops or webinars will recognize right away that difficult conversations which culminate in commitments to improve behavior or performance perfectly fit SBC’s definition. Often, destructive conflict stems from management’s shaping of the company environment and processes as one-size-fits-all. It’s vitally important for manager-coaches to remember that each team member needs personalized coaching styles and for company culture to reflect flexibility. Poor conflict resolution skills stem from poor empathy, lack of understanding, resistance to change, and feeling vulnerable. It’s management’s responsibility to remove these roadblocks.

 

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” -Margaret Heffernan, former CEO of iCast Corporation and MBA Lecturer

 

Here are 5 Tips to enhance your conflict resolution skills (Forbes):

  1. Define Acceptable Behavior – yelling, cursing, or shutting down is common but not acceptable
  2. Be Proactive – identifying potential sources of destructive conflict before they occur can be the best way to prevent a bad situation in the first place
  3. Walk in Their Shoes – try to understand the other person’s point of view and empathize with them
  4. Pick Your Battles – don’t look for conflict where none exists and know when to confront people (6pm on a Friday isn’t going to produce good results)
  5. View Conflict as Beneficial – an opportunity to improve is always a good thing, frame your conflict resolution in this way

 

It’s clear that conflict is beneficial to organizations when managed properly. And, since conflict is inevitable, the process of turning negative conflict into positive conflict is absolutely crucial for all manager-coaches. One of the best opportunities for positive conflict resolution can be found in difficult conversations about a team member’s work ethic or attitude. By using the above skills, a great manager-coach can pivot the conversation to make it constructive. Take your coaching to the next level by becoming an expert, watch the replay of the Managing Difficult Workplace Conversations webinar today!

Three Performance Sales Coaching Skills to Master

Sales Managers — How do you tell a sales rep they aren’t as good as they think?

Effective sales manager/coaches understand that providing accurate and candid feedback of their sales reps’ abilities is the primary tool for continuous sales improvement. However, what if your sales rep does not agree with your honest assessment? The following is an all too common sales coaching dilemma:

Consider Cindy, a top performer on Matt’s team. She and Matt do some sales role-playing, and Matt offers her a candid assessment about where he feels she could improve. Cindy quickly responds, “I normally do much better in front of a customer—you just make me nervous! Look at my numbers if you want to see how great I’m doing.” Matt must admit that Cindy regularly exceeds quota, and wonders how he can argue with success.

How do performance-driven sales coaches address observed sub-par sales skills, regardless of whether a sales rep has met sales quota, or not? Mastering the following three performance coaching skills provides sales managers the confidence and competence to gently, but directly, address this universal dilemma.

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 1 — Know what great looks like and hold people accountable for exceeding expectations.

Competent tennis coaches know what the body biomechanics standard is for a great tennis serve. They coach and train the athlete to meet and exceed that standard. Just because the athlete might be a current top performer, a coach worth her paycheck would not allow the player to rest on historical performance laurels.

A sales skill, such as handling objections, can be broken down into fundamental elements, repeatedly trained, and provided with real-time feedback. Sales managers must know what it looks like when sales skills miss, meet, or exceed expectations.

 

“Constant, incremental improvement is the mantra of great coaches.”

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 2Coach to lead indicators, not lag. Lag (the “numbers”) is easy to measure but difficult to influence. Lead activities, or inputs, are controllable and predictive of future success. Effective sales coaching should focus on the behavioral change, skill development, and knowledge acquisition that leads to desired results.

Even if your company “only cares about the numbers,” you as an inspiring leader ought to broaden the definition of results with your reps to include professional capabilities such as leadership, collaboration, strategic thinking, building resiliency, and adapting to change.

 

“Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”  —Navy Seals adage, Harvard Business Review

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 3During training role-plays, remain confident that the sales skill ability you observe is the rep’s dominant response under stress.

The above scenario where the rep states, “I normally do much better in front a customer, you just make me nervous,” is wrong according to social facilitation theory. This theory confirms when a person’s performance is being assessed they experience psychological arousal, or stress, and this pressure produces the individual’s dominant response, which is the most authentic and trusted representation of their skill ability.

Respected business leader Max De Pree claimed that “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” and social facilitation theory provides managers the confidence to do so.

This theory is so well validated that it guides the rigorous training of fire fighters, martial artists, law enforcement, military personnel, and other professionals who must perform at high levels under dangerous conditions while making split-second decisions. Successful sales managers have internalized the value of training like other elite professions.

Telling sales reps a targeted sales skill is below expectations can be challenging, particularly if they are meeting their sales goals. However, trust that what you see in that moment is the rep’s highest capability under stress. Be sincere, be caring, but insist the rep continually practices under gentle pressure to build up skill levels under stress. Master coaches understand that this is a trusted training pathway for sustained high performance.

Newsletter February 2017

Effective Sales Manager-Coaches

Don’t Add Sales Training, They Embed it!

 


Steve’s Newsletter Promise: Valuable content will be…

  • Driven by real manager challenges and opportunities
  • Pragmatic – offering “how to” solutions
  • Instructional – teaching specific sales leader skills, mindsets, and principles

Most sales managers know they should provide more sales skills training, but don’t. While coaching and training is no motivational silver bullet, strategically deployed it can improve performance up to 19%.

Top expressed sales manager barriers to coaching and training include:

– I’m buried with manager duties and can’t find the time
– My sales reps resist my coaching and training efforts
– I’m not confident in my ability to teach and train sales skills
– There is no budget for training

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Peter Drucker

Embedding, not adding on, sales training and coaching into daily workflow overcomes all of the above barriers. The 80/20 principle of results guides the strategic manager’s thinking. She believes that consistent training is a lead indicator – a predictive activity that will lead to increased sales results.

 $ The Money Question $
How much could your sales revenue increase if your sales reps had 20 additional hours of annual, focused, sales skills training and coaching? If your answer is close to “a lot,” then embed the following plan immediately!

 

Winning Sales Leader Mindset: I am responsible for coaching each of my sales reps, however, I am not responsible for training all of my sales reps.

I can’t stress enough that effective sales leaders delegate sales skills training to their team!  Learning and collaborating together is a best practice for ensuring your team develops the capacity to be adaptable and nimble in a fast moving, changing marketplace.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

Embed this Sales Training Plan into your weekly team meetings:

Your FBO (Flash of the Blinding Obvious): You must replace 25 minutes of *trivial meeting content and replace with vital training focus. *Sobering Tip: Ask your team what is trivial, they’ll educate you.

Your Delegation Action Plan: 1) Explain to the team the new training plan, 2) Answer “What’s in it for me?”, 3) Gain buy-in (this doesn’t mean 100% agreement!), 4) Delegate the weekly sales skill training plan – who is teaching what (co-partners work best because they need to develop a very strong role play script that targets real customer scenarios).
Teach/Lecture – Top 2-3 best practices of one targeted sales skill (5 min)

Strong Real/Role Play – Use sales reps real customer scenarios (15 min)

Q&A, Feedback, and Plan next week’s sales skill focus (5 min)

PRACTICE = PROFITS! 25 min x 50 work weeks = 20 hours of annual sales skills training!

Embedding sales training into normal workflows is a sure bet to increasing the team’s motivation and engagement. And why not? Elite sales performers understand that perfect practice makes perfect!


Enjoy this month’s Newsletter? Follow Steve on social media for even more great advice! And always feel free to drop Steve a line for any of your questions.

FREE ASSET: Access a free copy of The 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.

Coming soon: Free Sales Coaching Webinar titled  Practice = Profits.

2017 Top 10 Coaching Tips for Managers

Reverse engineer a great manager-coach and we might quickly brainstorm hundreds of ideal traits, skills, and capabilities. The following Top 10 Coaching Tips for Managers list, while certainly not exhaustive, contains the DNA of those bosses who don’t just manage people, but instead help make their team members great while achieving significant business results.

  1. View coaching as a strategic priority, not an action to be crossed off a list. Dedicated managers/coaches understand that adapting to tomorrow’s business uncertainties requires building team members’ capacities today.
  1. Treat calendar real estate as the holy ground for business priorities. They prioritize their time and let their team know it. A good practice to follow is scheduling all your coaching 1:1s twelve months out. This loud act signals to the team that coaching and development is a key driver of performance.
  1. Use coaching models as a framework, not a cage. They have a proven coaching process but remain flexible to meet each unique team member’s motivational drivers and goals.
  1. See coaching as a collaborative partnership built on trust. Great coaches think and say “we.” Their actions communicate to team members that they have their best interests at heart. The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” sounds trite but remains true.
  1. Remember that complacency is the enemy. Effective managers/coaches swarm complacency and eradicate it like the disease it is. Expecting and demanding high performance incubates a culture that attracts and retains top talent.
  1. Model and demand a growth mindset. They reject any team member beliefs that talent alone— or even experience— creates enduring success. High-performing managers are driven and guided by Jack Welch’s management mantra:

“Change before you have to.”

  1. Stretch, not stress, their people. Effective managers/coaches leverage the performance power of good stress, known as The performance curve (Yerkes-Dodson Law) informs how you appropriately challenge each individual.
  1. Sharpen core coaching skill sets. Top managers/coaches ask better questions. They deepen their listening. They behave like a business “thinking partner and trusted advisor.” They provide candid and caring feedback. They co-craft SMART next action steps that emphasize growth and accountability.
  1. Never consider hope a strategy— inspect what you inspect. This is not micro-management! A culture of accountability is built on two fundamental, self-reinforcing processes: 1) Individuals continually making and keeping agreements, and, 2) Management holding themselves, and all team members, accountable to established agreements. At the end of the day trust is built on agreements.
  1. Make work fun but not everyone gets a trophy. Mangers/Coaches know that they must make regular time for relaxed team gatherings and to celebrate effort and results. They ensure that recognition and reward initiatives focus on individual and team performance.

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!

-Steve

 

Want to share these ideas with your team to help improve your company’s bottom line? Contact Steve to learn more about his coaching services.

3 Reasons You Must Pay More Attention to Company Culture

“The best companies in terms of long-term financial performance are the ones that are able to combine profits, passion, and purpose.” –Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness

Company culture has been a very prominent focal point of popular business analysis for half a decade. From the laid back beach-side offices of Snapchat to the rigorous high-performance culture of Amazon, thousands of articles have been written about how to make company culture work for you.

But the need to cultivate culture goes beyond making a place where people feel good. Creating a strong, purposeful culture is the talent manager’s trusted strategy for fostering fierce employee loyalty.

Here are 3 Reasons that company culture needs more of your attention:

  • Hedging Against Headhunting:

Headhunters luring top people away are currently catching organizations and their managers off guard. The best defense is a good offense. Cultures that are tightly knit with purpose, strong social bonds, recognition, and achievement help repel external threats to your talent pool.

  • Engaging Millennial Team Members:

News for us Baby Boomer managers!—Millennials do not care about our title or the company’s organizational chart.  However, Millennials are attracted to leaders who are inclusive, who provide appropriate autonomy, rewarding job assignments, and regular coaching and feedback. Creating an environment where these points are nurtured will ensure that Millennials stay on the team and develop into top performers.

  • Company Culture Happens With or Without You:

Culture is created with or without intentional leadership. All cultural elements—orientation, on-boarding, community-building events, recognition and rewards programs, and business planning sessions should promote a coherent message about the values and expectations of your enterprise.  Managers who are cavalier about culture building might as well just give the keys to the business away.

Cultures that value training and leadership development are talent magnets.  Whether your culture is quirky, or conservative, a clear development pathway should be integral to your organization’s employee value proposition.

Want more high-impact coaching on company culture and managing talent? Sign up for the free eBook series on my website: www.steverudolphcoaching.com.

Keep it Simple, Keep it Focused, and Keep it Inspiring.

Taming Stallions: the 3-C Pathway to Coaching High Performers

In his book, The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin describes two ways of breaking a stallion. One is to tie the horse up, sit on it, spur it, you know, show the horse who’s the boss.

The other way is to patiently build a relationship with it by daily petting, feeding, grooming, and speaking softly and gently until the horse gets used to you and begins to trust your intentions.

If you’ve led and managed people long enough you understand that coaching some high performers can feel like taming a fiercely independent stallion.

 A True and Current Story

 (An inspiring manager I work with, and her equally awesome sales rep (not real names), graciously shared the following work story with me. Their inspiring journey provides the backdrop for the 3-C Pathway.)

Sam’s natural managerial instincts follows the path of a horse whisperer – get close to your people, build professional respect and trust, while establishing clear expectations and direction.

Tara is a tenured and accomplished professional sales rep, having proudly won several top company sales awards. Tara’s previous manager did provide sporadic coaching, but as long as her numbers were good he left her alone to run her territory.

There are few tougher job assignments for managers than inheriting a tenured team whose previous managerial style was in contrast to yours. Managers who wade into these cultural waters often encounter a wild stallion who actively resists your sincere coaching efforts.

How do effective managers develop a strategy for winning over high-performers? It says easy, does hard! Below is a rough map to help you and your high performer forge a working partnership.

 The 3 C-Pathway for Coaching High Performers

#1 Concern and Consistency – Effective managers are able to manage the tension of these two dimensions. Concern says, help me understand what’s going on for you; I care about you and your perspective. Consistency says, this is my management style and I’m not going away. Developing a strong partnership with high performers requires managers to be comfortable in their own skin.

Consistency also declares – you can count on me to be highly engaged with your business and professional development. The effective manager, in dialogue with her high performer, will make clear distinctions between what constitutes a good manager from a micromanager.

Because Tara’s previous manager allowed her high levels of autonomy, she naturally resisted Sam’s more forward, coaching and collaboration approach.

Lacking emotional fortitude less effective managers will back pedal and second-guess themselves when a high performer bristles and pushes back. Not Sam. Taming the stallion requires resolve, patience and persistence.

In Tara’s words, “I had to trust her that she had my best interests at heart.” I asked Tara, did you believe Sam? She replied, “no, not at first.”

Newer Managers Take Notice – Sam didn’t wait to “build trust” first with Tara in order to have candid conversations about performance, expectations, and the path they will travel together. Trust gets built incrementally through consistent deeds and actions; it’s not a magical moment somewhere in the future.

 “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” Daniel Pink, Drive

 

#2 Clarity and Conviction – If you want the stallion to voluntarily go where you want to go, especially when the relationship is fragile, you must provide a compelling business case and meaningful strategy.

Sam’s performance history and deep understanding of her industry gives her some credibility with Tara, which she firmly leverages. Sam presses Tara with the need to change, to sharpen her sales skills, and to examine areas where she is disengaged at work. The stallion kicks back.

It’s difficult to argue with success. Tara’s perspective is legitimate. She’s been a solid performer, and while currently going through some difficult personal and professional times (e.g. passed over for a promotion), her numbers are holding.

Sam’s clarity about business direction and conviction of strategy remains steadfast. Sam continues to provide Tara with specific feedback in areas that must be improved. Sam lays out her non-negotiables. Tara is presented with crystal clear choices, neither presenting an easy path.

 “Autonomy Comes With a High Price Tag.”

 

#3 Courage and Collaboration – Applying carrots and sticks as a way to motivate and punish people has well known limitations. However, they are management tools that when appropriately leveraged can achieve better outcomes, or at the minimum disrupt a person’s view of reality.

Despite Sam’s efforts, Tara chose to resist Sam’s coaching and stick to her well-known work routines and habits. Not an acceptable choice. Sam put Tara on an action plan. Action plans, when implemented fairly, provide an employee an opportunity to make course corrections to succeed while holding them accountable for past performance.

Tara reflected, “This was a significant professional blow.” As she put it, “As humiliated as I was, it forced me to look at myself.”

A good manager – coach understands that what people want, and what they need, are two different things. Tara, by her own admission, needed to be jolted out of the professional rut she was in.

 “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” –James Hollingworth

Sam’s managerial courage to follow through was driven by her sincere intention of helping Tara be successful. Tara didn’t believe her, asking Sam, “Do you want me to leave?” Tara made the difficult choice to give Sam the benefit of the doubt, and “do my part.”

Create Upward, Virtuous Cycles

Sam gave credence to her words by collaborating with Tara on how best to move forward. Tara agreed on her weak areas and became receptive to Sam’s training and coaching.

Tara summed up her own version of courage by implementing her newly developed sales skills and behaviors with her customers. Her customers were clearly more engaged during Tara’s sales visits, causing immediate and newfound excitement for Tara. In turn, Tara’s motivation for receiving more training and coaching from Sam increased. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 “Sometimes we have to act our ways into new ways to thinking.”

Trust levels are proportionate to the rigor of the journey together. Sam and Tara are currently working extraordinarily well together and business is strong. Their arduous journey produced deep professional respect and trust for one another. Tara further credits Sam’s endless positivity in influencing her new attitude and engagement at work, claiming, “I was trying to be more like her, and that helped.” Take note managers!

Experienced managers know that there are no silver bullets for managing and coaching high-performers; however, following the 3 C-Pathway might influence the stallions to take the journey with you.

 Keep it focused, keep it simple, and keep it inspiring!

 

As always, check out the resources page for tons of great content that can help you improve your manager-coach skills today.