You’re in Sales and Introverted – Is Social the Answer?????????

Some people would see the title of this page as an oxymoron. How can you be in sales and be an introvert at the same time?

Well you can and it is not easy. For years I have heard about what an extrovert I am. Well the people that see me as an extrovert, do not see me at the end of the day when I get home. The person who immediately heads for some solitude to get relief from the demands of being a sales introvert.

I have been doing this for 40 years. Try being an introvert and entering a room full of people. How do I talk to them? It is not easy. For years I stood in a corner and waited until someone would approach me. The fact is I didn’t really want them to. I just wanted the event to begin. Once I did get into a conversation, I then had to share myself. It took a lot of learning, but eventually I became good at overcoming my fear. I had to or I wouldn’t survive and the funny thing was; I loved selling!!!

The only way I could develop a style was to create an actual relationship. If I was able to connect with the person, I could feel comfortable, because I now knew something about them. That also allowed me to open up about me and voila, we began to do business together.

Well today all that has changed. Try getting an appointment with a C Suite person. It is very difficult. Back in the day, I had the largest drug retailer in the country ask me if I had a bed there. Not today. If you get to see an account twice a year, you are doing well.

OK so now how does a current day introvert survive in this demanding business environment. Well thank goodness for social and you know what, social makes it easy for all of us introverts to compete on the same level playing field as the extroverts! Take that you extroverts.

Today, being successful in social demands that we create relationships. We are back to “in the day”. I know many of you have had the hard sell on a social network like LinkedIn. You connect with someone and immediately get a sales pitch in your inbox. Thanks, but no thanks. Those are the hard sell extroverts. I am not saying they do not have success, but they lose a good number of potential customers with their hard sell attitude.

The nice thing is that if you use social effectively, whether an introvert or an extrovert, you can create relationships that can ultimately result in a sale.

It is not about selling a product, but about relationships. Back in the day, I never led with a product, program or campaign. I always ensured that I made the person safe by asking about them and showing genuine interest. People love to talk about themselves. That hasn’t changed. If you engage people and forget the business speak, but truly engage with them, you are on your way.

What can you do for them besides sell them a product? Can you introduce them to a person in your network that they see as a potential customer? Is their child in a sporting activity and needs a good coach and you can direct them to one? You get the idea.

Doesn’t that sound like the relationships you have in your personal life and wouldn’t you give those people in your personal life your business if you could? Wouldn’t they do the same for you? Of course, because you have a relationship.

So good news introverts, social allows you to be in front of the people that you want to connect with and levels the playing field with the extroverts in a safe environment. As we all know, once we have the relationship, the face to face meeting is not an effort, but a wonderful experience with a trusted friend.

So, use social to create relationships first. Once you have established that, the business will take care of itself.

Sticking To It

I’m reading a recent Management Journal and I come across a new article by Ken Blanchard that reads “Too often companies spend too much time finding and peddling the hot new management concept. How many leadership programs do you need to make a positive difference in your organization? Only one if you stick to it.”

Putting aside that all leadership programs (ill defined concept that it is) are not all equal and that very few are applicable in many organizations, Blanchard is right. The phenomenon he mentions is very prevalent. Repeatedly, organizations get on a management philosophy / leadership style / innovative concept bandwagon, and devote enormous time, money and energy to learn and implement some new way of doing things.
But that initiative rarely lasts. After one or two months the enthusiasm from the leader’s motivational speeches has ended and everyone goes back to square one to wait for the next wagon. And of course, each failed implementation of a promised panacea reduces the credibility of management and the belief that things will ever change.

Blanchard suggests that many of these failed programs would likely have been beneficial, if only the organization stuck to it. That might be so, but unless they were ever implemented, we’ll never know whether the programs were indeed effective or not.

And this brings us to the key issue in this ubiquitous organizational performance problem. “Sticking to it” is easy to say; as if it’s just the result of the managers not trying hard enough, or lacking the will to persevere. But this attitudinal or personal characteristic of not completing new initiatives misses the real problem. The real problem is almost always because the organization, not just the manager, has neither the inherent means nor the skills to implement change. Irrespective of whatever initiative was on the bandwagon, the organization was unable to instill the new way of doing things into its operation.

Lean Management, New Leadership Styles, Quality Assurance, Respectful Workplace, Customer Service and many other positive and potentially very effective initiatives frequently fail because the organization is simply unable to implement them. And this inability to implement those changes is more often prevented by the organization’s successful resolution to the Three Essentials for Organization Success (absolutely critical for implementing change). They are:

[1] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone knows what to do and how to do it — i.e. the new way of doing things?
[2] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone receives support to make them successful with the new way of doing things?
[3] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone follows through and is accountable for meeting his or her performance expectations and obligations with the new way of doing things?

Leadership Begins and Ends at the Top

I continue to be stunned by leaders who just don’t get it. They spend thousand of dollars searching for employees, training them, developing them, etc. They throw them into the new role and expect them to be able to do the job from day 1.

I understand that when we hire for wisdom, experience and skills, there is an expectation. However, every company is different, just like each employee is different and we have different expectations for how the job is to be done. We cannot expect that a new employee will automatically be accomplished at their job immediately.

First of all, do you have a job description that clearly defines their job duties and then also defines the measures you will use to determine success in the role? If not, you can expect that the person will determine the duties and measures for themselves, and you will get what you deserve, something you didn’t want. You will likely then determine that the person is not right for the role and they will be transitioned from the company.

Now you go through the process all over again and you will also spend (not invest) in hiring, training and developing someone new.

Leadership starts at the top and the leader is the person to blame for this situation.

If you do not have job descriptions that clearly define a role and how it will be measured you have failed. If you have not provided the person with the tools to do the job so they can be successful, you have failed. If you have not linked the persons job to the success of the company (why to do it), you have failed.

You are in charge. It starts with you and not only do you need to make sure the preceding three duties are accomplished, you also need to ensure that you inspect as opposed to expect, so that the person does not fall of the rails.

They have joined your company and put their good faith in you for a reason. Don’t let them down.

Recognition is Planned, and Not by Chance

To keep the workforce happy and content, some companies pay their employees more than they really need to. The pressure from employees for more money might not have been there had the company simply showed sufficient appreciation for their employees during the course of their work. I’m not saying that employees shouldn’t receive a fair and equitable paycheque, but “pay” is not an effective means to reward good work. Employees typically get paid because they showed up for work and the payroll clerk issued the cheques on time; not necessarily because the employee did the job well. Benefits and company socials are important as well, but they usually don’t reward or reinforce specific job performance; and to be effective, reinforcement must be for specific work.

Employer: Thanking an employee and giving sincere appreciation for specific good work is a fundamental management responsibility; it’s not just being nice; it’s a requirement for all management and a principle of managing people. But the dilemma is that although most employees want to be told they’re doing good work, managers are rarely aware of everything an employee does. So if your employees expect you to be out there thanking them every time they do their jobs well – they’re going to be out of luck and very disappointed.

Instead, schedule frequent, one-on-one update meetings with all the employees you supervise, not just with the new ones. Unlike an annual performance review, this is their meeting to review their performance with you. They know what they’re doing so let them come to you and give you specific examples. You can then double-check that they are on track and thank them for their good work.

New Employee: Don’t sit and wait for “thank you’s” from your supervisor. Be proactive and update your supervisor from time to time. Let the supervisor know what you’re doing, and if needed, ask for help. Be specific with your examples and give your supervisor this opportunity to show you his or her appreciation. And when you receive some recognition, don’t forget to thank your supervisor – the supervisor needs appreciation too.

It’s Lonely at the Top

It really is lonely at the top! As a CEO, you have many pressing issues in your business that challenge you every day. Most of the challenges come from forces that you have not encountered previously.

While your Management Team can be a source of support, in many cases you cannot share the challenges with them. Sometimes it is one of them that is the challenge. The non-performer and how do deal with it. The need for capital in the business and where to get it without alarming your team. The fact that you want to exit the business and are looking for a transitional strategy.

You do not want to seem vulnerable or risk the confidence of your Board, Team or peers and so you fret over the challenges and allow it to affect your performance. The problem is also the fact that most people have not walked in your shoes and so they cannot provide the perspective and balance you need to address the challenges.

If you don’t get support, you will likely not erase the challenges or at best you will create a make shift solution that will be a patch.

Get help. There are many peer-to-peer groups for you to join. You will:

  1. Improve the growth and profitability of your organization.
  2. Obtain accurate benchmarks and best practices on key issues.
  3. Provide the opportunity to learn in a safe and confidential setting.
  4. Learn how to work “on” as opposed to “in” your business.
  5. Etc.

Do your research and find a group that is right for you. Size matters! Get with a group that is relatively the same size as your revenue so that the challenges are similar. If you are a $10M company, the value that a $1B company will bring to you will be limited, as your input will be to them.

Review the industry. If you are in manufacturing, then get in a manufacturing group of non-competing companies to generate best value.

There is much more to research, but you can now see that help is available, and what you need to do is take advantage of the help available in the marketplace. Members of peer-to-peer groups enjoy on average operating margins of 22.6%, as opposed to an industry average of 10.26%

What are you waiting for; take charge and start today.

Total Quality Means Having Your Act Together

October is “Quality” month and industry seems frantic to climb upon a bandwagon called Total Quality Management. It’s an old idea dressed up as the new cure-all for the economic woes of small business. I’m not against it — it makes good sense — concepts like: do it right the first time; make sure that everything your employees do is the best that can be done; get everyone in your organization providing top quality service; negotiate with your suppliers and talk with your customers to help you do this! But what owner or manager would have ever planned or hoped for anything different? Have business gurus now realized that doing the job right is the secret of success? Get serious. The drive for quality is not new.

What’s new is that the Japanese, once known for poor quality (at least in the 1950′s and 60′s) are now consistently producing top quality, while some leading North American organizations, once proud of their high-quality work, can’t seem to hit the mark. This affront to their egos leaves these organizations searching for the Japanese “secrets”, forgetting that scores of North American and European companies have always provided top quality product and service and still do.

But if you operate a small- to medium-sized business, the issue isn’t that you need to appreciate the importance of top quality from all your employees. To me that’s a given. Of course, you value quality and for most operators you know what that quality must be or you wouldn’t be in the business.

Manufacturers know what top quality is for their products. Merchants know what top sales service should be. Restauranteurs fully understand quality in food preparation, presentation and service.

The real issue is, how do you get control over your organization so that you can ensure top quality happens all the time? And for many, this issue is a Catch 22, because if you haven’t been able to control the quality of work in your business up to now, you can’t expect things to suddenly be any different just because you launch a Total Quality Management campaign. Why should you suddenly be able to get everyone to do their jobs as you would like, if you weren’t able to do that in the past?!!

The “secret” to getting quality is this: companies who have their acts together constantly produce the quality they want. Companies who don’t have their acts together, can’t. The difference between the two is a lot of hard work.

So, to control quality in your company start doing the following:

  • Analyse why you weren’t achieving consistent quality in the past and plug the holes. Could it have been, for example, that your standards and procedures for quality weren’t clear, documented, communicated or enforced?
  • Set quality standards at the level you really want for all jobs in the organization. Don’t settle for second best quality anywhere, just because a few people object to doing their jobs the correct way or to being held accountable for their performance. Everyone can do his or her job the right way if you make it clear that’s how the job has to be done! Extensive research has shown that employees in all industries perform much better when they know what’s really expected of them. So don’t be afraid of being precise and demanding.
  • Systematize as much as possible. Make the capacity to achieve consistent high quality as system-dependent as possible — rather than being dependent upon individual employees. Top quality has to become “the way things are done” and built into your organization.
  • Enforce “quality” through a general management system which makes “quality” a condition of work and an integral part of all jobs. Your profits will improve dramatically if you prevent quality problems from happening through consistent adherence to quality standards, rather than trying to fix up quality mistakes after they’ve happened. Ensuring quality does not mean adding a few more quality inspectors!
  • See that all your managers are themselves managed, from the top executives to the shop floor supervisors. If you don’t, your attempt to implement a total quality focus will fail. In particular, make sure that all your managers are, in fact, coaching or giving direction to their employees the way you want it done.
  • Set measurable performance standards for the way people are managed and then ensure it happens. Don’t just presume it will. You’ve got to control your management before you’ll ever control quality.

Leadership Post-Mortem

A friend phoned for advice about a recent disaster in his business. A project fell to pieces, or as he said, “the wheels fell off” and his employees headed for the hills, leaving him to clean up the mess. The joys of leadership!

“What went wrong? We were a team, working together for the common good of the firm. But a few goals weren’t met on time, one of our suppliers didn’t come through, customers began screaming at us and the troops deserted! What should I have done differently?”

“Do you think that before we started the project we should have clarified individual accountabilities and made sure everyone knew what each was responsible for? I guess each of us expected the other would pick up the pieces, and as a result, no-one did. Or what about a contingency plan or a disaster plan? Should we have prepared alternatives in case our original plan failed or our assumptions changed?”

Of course he’s right. There’s no such thing as group accountability, only individual accountability. Any project is bound to turn out better if everyone involved knows his or her role, what’s expected of each of them, what authority they have and for what results or actions they’re held accountable. If not, people will be less certain about what they’re doing, less likely to show initiative, more defensive, and more likely to blame the other guy when things go wrong. And anticipating the uncertain future by developing contingency plans is always a worthwhile exercise.

But although his self assessment was probably correct, the most important result of my friend’s bad experience was that he learned from it – in this case by using me as a sounding board!! Since things never go right all the time, don’t bank on perfection. So after a failure, do a post-mortem and learn from your misfortune.

What will keep you from making the same mistake again, whether it’s a failed project or hiring the wrong person for a job? Build the prevention into the operating procedures of your business. And just as important, make a post-mortem a regular process in your business. After all, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them.

Implementing Organizational Change

Implementing change can be easy to do . . .

if your organization is organized !!

Your organization’s ability to implement organizational change, including new plans, strategies, goals, values, programs, policies or procedures is a characteristic of the organization, more than it is a personal characteristic or skill of your management or employees. Reviewing the barriers (and requirements) to successful organizational change shows that most of these requirements are organizational characteristics. And the majority of these requirements all centre on the need for an effective Performance Management System. Without this core System, the change will be enormously difficult and expensive and it will almost always fail.

The bottom line is that sending managers to training programs to learn how to implement change, or even conducting motivational rallies to sell the employees on the benefits of a change are less likely to achieve success, than strengthening your organization’s capability to implement change.

What have we seen for years: dozens of innovative, potentially useful programs, concepts and approaches for leading and managing people and organizations, that businesses spend fortunes in time and money to learn. These perceived ‘flavour of the month’ seminars, workshops, books and videos rarely get positive or lasting return on the investment; and the change fails or quickly fads away. The organization members learn that “change” usually fails, lowering their confidence in managements’ ability to implement change, and consequently the likelihood of successful change in the future diminishes.

The tragedy (and it is tragic because of the expectations raised and the resources wasted) is that many of the concepts are quite legitimate and potentially very beneficial. They have likely worked successfully in other organizations. But the means to implement these changes in the organization trying to change was almost always missing. And what was missing was an effective Performance Management System.

An analogy would be selling the heart attack emergency drug epinephrine to a first aid centre without letting the staff know that it has to be injected into a patient and not taken orally. The staff did not know this, nor did they have the equipment to administer intravenous drugs. They gave epinephrine orally, and patients consequently never received any benefit of this lifesaving drug.

A principle of organizational change is that you cannot purposefully change what you cannot control. Any change in an organization ranging from new values to new procedures must eventually result in the behavior change of effected members, and the Performance Management System is the organization’s tool to do that. Without this System, behavior – past, present and future — is left to chance. As a supervisor once told me in a company trying to implement a Quality is #1 program; “They couldn’t control the terrible quality we had before! How do they expect to ensure we have proper quality now just because we have a newsletter, posters, and pep talks?”

What Would a Performance Management System Have Done?

A Performance Management System ensures that:

  1. Everyone knows the new expectations related to a change
  2. The expectations are measured
  3. Management supports everyone in successfully achieving the required performance
  4. All employees including Management are managed

Summary

A Performance Management System is really a Leader’s principal tool for implementing organizational change. A Performance Management System has tools to translate the “change” into expected employee behavior, and then to make it happen – this is the fundamental essence of implementing any organizational change. Implementing concepts or philosophies such as: Teamwork, Respectful Workplace, Initiative, Customer Service, Quality Assurance or Continuous Improvement into your administration or organization can be easy and happen as a matter of course if you use an effective Performance Management System.

An organization with an incomplete, or an ineffective, or no systematic means to manage performance – has little to no capacity to implement change successfully.

Real Leaders Are Accountable and Recognize Accomplishment

I was working with a company recently and as a part of the process the CEO asked me to speak with her direct reports, so that I could get a good handle on whether the culture she was trying to instill was having a positive impact. The business was growing, and she knew that the example she set for the company would play a large role in how the rest of the employees would respond to her challenges to grow the business.

The meetings were going well and it was obvious that she was having a very positive impact on the culture of the company and her managers and the employees desire to follow. The answers to my questions were enlightening, but it was a story told in my meeting with her Director of Finance that crystalized her ability to lead her team for me.

The Director of Finance attended each monthly Board meeting to report on the financial health of the company. This offered him the opportunity to see the CEO communicate to the Board. He told me stories of how whenever there was a situation that may not have gone as planned, objectives weren’t met on time or were missed, or there was a performance management issue, the CEO always took responsibility and would never point the finger at any manager, employee or group of people. Her standard answer was; I am in charge and therefore I must accept responsibility.

The kicker for him was that every time there was a success in the company, the CEO was always first to share the success with the Board and also give the credit for the success to the manager, employee or group that achieved the success.

In conversation with Board members following meetings they always told him how much respect they had for her because, of her ability to be a true leader. When he told his fellow managers how she managed these situations in the Board meetings, they were stunned and so appreciative. She was someone that didn’t reflect the norm in their experience.

Great CEO’s lead by example and if the example is a great one, they will generally get a great response from their managers and employees. It really is about respect. This CEO earned the respect of her team by not worrying about who got the credit, and ensuring that she was accountable for the business.

This doesn’t mean she didn’t hold people accountable when things didn’t go as planned, she did, but she did it one on one, and kept it between her and the individual. She is a leader we all could follow.

Effective Communication is Your Responsibility

I was working with a CEO recently and she couldn’t understand why it was that her employees had difficulty in remembering the key objectives of the company as they related to mission and vision. She told me how she had posters printed with the objectives and had them posted in all of the working areas of the company. She had them on the screen savers on all of the company computers. She had them included in the monthly company newsletter.

Unfortunately, this is the case with many of the clients that I work with. Despite their efforts to create a visual impression of their values, objectives or vision/mission statements, there is a lack of universal knowledge or understanding of them throughout the company.

All of us have pictures that we hang on the walls in our home. When we first put them up, we see them, admire them, and compliment ourselves on how wonderful they make our rooms look. Alas, it is not too long before we no longer see the pictures when we enter each room. They have become a part of the familiar landscape and do not catch our attention. It is no different in the workplace.

In the early days of my business career, I worked for a large retail book seller. We had discounted books displayed at the front of the store on tables to generate impulse sales. It was mandated that we move the books to a new table each week, so that the consumer would think that we had new offerings to entice them. Some were new, but most were not, but because the store looked different, the perception was that we had a great deal of new inventory.

So, like the pictures in your home, the methods you choose to use to communicate with your employees may also be getting stale.

If you really want your employees to know and understand what you are trying to accomplish, you have to make it personal. The old saying “see it, say it” is very applicable here. When you see them do something well, compliment them and tell them how that action relates to one or more of your objectives, values, mission/vision. If they do something that needs to be changed, do the same thing, help them understand how it could have a negative impact on your objectives, values, mission/vision.

This keeps the message consistent and relatable for them. Employees do not want to do the wrong things, and they want to earn the respect and admiration of their leader. Make sure your managers are doing the same thing. If they are constantly reinforcing these key aspects of your business, they will obviously be on the same page with you. In every employee meeting, go over the recent key accomplishments and make them relatable to the message. You will soon find that not only will everyone be on the same page, but they will all be able to communicate the key objectives, values, mission/vision of your company internally and externally. Soon your posters, screen savers and newsletters will have even more impact.

It starts with you. You are in charge and if you want to successfully have every employee on the same page, you need to build the foundation yourself, through effective and meaningful communication.

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