“My boss supports me …”

What a difference it makes when a person can say with all sincerity, “my boss supports me”.worlds-best-boss-mug

That very statement implies a lack of fear and a high level of trust.

Translation?

Higher levels of engagement and productivity.

The flip side represents a very different picture as we all know.

When I ask what the behaviours are of a boss who supports team members, some of the words that people use include:

    • Proactive
    • Consistent and fair
    • Values-driven
    • Engaging
    • Straightforward in giving direction and feedback
    • Demanding (but in the right way and for the right reasons)
    • Coaches for the purpose of achieving my ongoing learning and development
    • Listens and seeks to understand
    • Understands and respects me as a person
    • Encouraging and rewarding
    • Holds and communicates clearly a vision for the team and for the business

The list could go on, but these words paint quite a compelling picture of a boss who is a leader.

A boss who engages with his or her people in order to propel them to perform to their best, and who is focused on their ongoing learning and development.

A boss who looks for the team and individuals to be recognised ahead of him or herself.

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Know your true value

Having recently read “Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?” by organisational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, I was interested to watch his TedxUniversity of Nevada talk.7cc6ed383e659743d46859944e78c1b8

One of his joking statements stuck with me when he was describing how in his native Argentina, men particularly have an over-inflated view of their worth.

“If you want to get rich, buy an Argentine for what he is worth, and sell him for what he thinks he is worth.”

It got me thinking about the many people I have met and worked with over the years who really do not know what they are worth, in both directions, some over-valuing, others under-valuing.

Under-valuing can be especially costly for those who are freelancers.

It also applies to many salespeople I have met, who do not recognise the value they bring to their customers through their ability and willingness to ask difficult questions, to challenge the customer’s status quo in order to help that customer achieve greater success.

I reflect on a conversation many years ago with a colleague who was about to step out of the safety of the corporate world and become a freelancer.

At the time he asked what I thought he should charge per hour. He was thinking the rate his current corporate employer was paying him.

I asked what rate did the corporate charge him out at, significantly higher.

My advice was to charge out at that rate, after all, and this is the crucial bit to think about, what will the client be not getting when compared with before.

After thinking for a short period, he responded, “nothing less”.

That was a lightbulb moment and has certainly paid off after 10 years freelancing.

For salespeople who believe they are selling just a product or service, to what extent do they add additional value?

More importantly what is their belief in the value they bring – of course assuming that they are.

The conversations with salespeople who are selling fundamentally equal products to their competitors too rarely include their own value proposition as a competitive advantage.

They simply do not think about it.

In a world that is rapidly changing our view of work, this self-belief in the actual value of the person as perceived by the customer is becoming more and more important.

It’s your personal brand.

What contributes to happiness?

I received my copy of the “World Happiness Report” a few days back and it makes for interesting reading (if you avoid delving into the statistical methods).

It reminded me of a quote I heard (and can’t remember the source) some time back.

“Happiness is not about what you have, but what you do not have to worry about.”

The variables used in the WHR include:

    • Social supportinspiringquote5
    • Healthy life expectancy at birth
    • Freedom to make life choices
    • Generosity
    • Perceptions of corruption
    • Natural log of GDP per capita

The top 12 in the list is dominated by countries such as Finland (1), Denmark (2), Norway (3) through Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Australia.

Interestingly, each one of these countries has programs that ensure every citizen has access to education (in many of these countries education is 100% government funded) as well as healthcare accompanied by expectations of shorter work days and weeks, paid annual leave and so on.

These structures of society have significantly reduced the major causes of worry and dissatisfaction common for people in other countries.

This applies equally to a business organisation.

For example, a business that uses fear to drive performance, which displays little to no care for people, automatically creates a fear and worry strata.

People fearful of what their future might hold.

A manager who shows little concern for supporting his or her people, and instead criticises and judges, triggers fear and worry.

Or the manager who simply does not engage with his or her people.

On the flip side, those organisations that ensure transparency, who proactively provide support to ensure each person achieves success, who have structures in place to develop and grow their people remove a layer of fear and worry.

Who show genuine gratitude and generosity.

Add to that those programs focusing on the wellbeing of each person, encouraging healthy life balance not only become attractive as employers of choice but also experience higher levels of productivity and less talent churn.

For individuals, energy is used for positive activity, rather than being used to deal with fear and worry.

Actually it is quite simple. Be human!

You can access the full report at http://worldhappiness.report/

Be curious and constantly learning

There is little surprise that the most effective leaders, the most effective salespeople make constant learning a key part of life. They are by their nature obsessed with curiosity.

Let’s look at a salesperson as an example.4694494-Jane-Fonda-Quote-Stay-curious-keep-learning-and-keep-growing-And

Salesperson A shows little to no curiosity about his or her customer and that customer’s situation.

This same salesperson is the one who talks a lot, who has mostly one-way conversations about products showing little concern for the customer’s understanding and needs.

No wonder these salespeople are primarily transactional, and who will typically develop what they imagine to be friendships with customers, while at the same time becoming a doormat in order to achieve sales.

These people are becoming increasingly expensive to run relative to the returns their employer gains, and over time there will be less and less need for such salespeople (to the relief of some customers I am sure).

Salesperson B displays high levels of curiosity, interest, and care for the customer, proactively building mutual trust.

Conversations are typically powered by asking targeted questions and spending more time listening than talking.

These are the salespeople who, because of what they are learning, are positioned to appropriately challenge a customer, and then provide targeted solutions, not to mention how they’re perceived by the customer.

More likely to be seen as trustworthy.

They have an inbuilt philosophy of win-win; working to achieve the best outcome for their customers whilst also working to achieve the best outcomes for their own business.

Unsurprisingly customers view these salespeople as bringing real value to the table, intangible outcomes, as well as at the relationship level.

Relationships that are sustainable, long term and of benefit to both parties develop.

Salesperson A is likely to opt for the cheap and lazy way out to get a sale (or take an order). Equally, these are the guys looking to offer discounts or incentives in order to get their customers to buy from them.

Salesperson B displays a high sense of value in what he or she brings to the table, hence there is never the thought of discounting.

When you think about it, looking to be constantly learning is what drives curiosity, which in turn drives good questioning and listening behaviours.

Of course the same applies to those in positions of leadership, although I would argue that a manager who is not proactively and constantly learning is probably not really leading.

Are we losing integrity in selling?

I had an invitation on LinkedIn to connect with a total stranger, and, as I have done once or twice in the past (breaking my ‘don’t connect with strangers’ rule) thought, “ok, I will, but I think I am just going to be sold to”.integrity

Sure enough, the first communication is a hint that there are services I might want to buy, with the addition of an offer to endorse me.

I fire back “how can you endorse me when you know nothing about me”?

The response was some garbled attempt to explain that an endorsement is different from a recommendation.

Really?

It may be, but only in very subtle and minor ways.

Anyway, endorsing still implies knowledge.

So I trotted off to a dictionary to test my assumption.

Here’s the dictionary excerpt:  An endorsement is a form of public support or approval. Endorsements are given to politicians and products. If you give something an endorsement, you’re basically saying “I approve of this person or product.”

So if a person endorses me without knowing anything about me other than that I exist, and do particular work that he or she has not experienced, how can that person with any integrity offer approval of who I am and what I am capable of?

Interesting question in a world of increasing grey, of increasingly blurred meanings.

It’s up there with previous examples of connections (each of them brief I might add after I have had chance to have a play) who have told me that I need their services without asking a single question about me.

All lazy stuff, and we never got to the obviously upcoming ‘sell’ attempt.

And yes, as you may have guessed, those connections have been disconnected, and the conversations deleted.

Here’s to the return of integrity in relationships, in spite of a world where the tools exist to cheapen it!

Is the ‘Peter Principle’ alive and well?

The Peter Principle entered the lexicon in the late 1980’s with a book arguing that people rise to their highest level of incompetence particularly in hierarchical organisations.

Advancement because the person is good at their current role and not for the future, or simply because they have been in the organisation a requisite length of time and it is their turn.peter-principle

In Australia and probably elsewhere there was a much more colloquial description of the principle in the form of something or other floating to the top!

Somewhat tongue in cheek, well, that’s at least what the author claimed, but we all know of individuals who actually prove the principle.

What reminded me of the term came from one of the books I am currently reading, titled “Why so many incompetent men become leaders – and how we can fix it”.

Parking the gender comparison for the time, the book is a firm reminder of how people who are not suited to leadership, lacking core capabilities for leadership actually end up in leadership roles.

I have seen a significant number of these people actually lack any desire to lead, and instead focus on enjoying the title and what comes with it, employing all sorts of defensive behaviours to protect their position, and I suggest, image.

The costs to organisations and those they interact with are high, as is the cost of churning talent.

It is sad when I meet people who I consider as being of high value to any organisation describe their manager (frequently the most senior person in the country) as being an incompetent leader.

They describe characteristics such as an unwillingness to listen to others, combined with a narrow view of business driven by their own background.

For example, a senior manager with a sales background will often demean the role of operations, and vice versa.

The silos that are then created can only negatively impact on company performance, and it seems that is when the blaming starts.

Senior leaders will be effective when they display that they are working to learn all they can about every aspect of their business.

They are effective when they engage with their people and actively listen.

They do not place blame but rather work with their people to find solutions to problems.

It really highlights the critical importance of getting the recruitment of a senior manager absolutely right, and then providing the support mechanisms to coach and challenge that person to display truly effective people and business leadership.

Why not grow your own leaders?

In a speech sometime last year, Obama talked about leadership and his leadership journey, his experience being that leadership is fundamentally the same no matter at what level.Happy child playing outdoors

Leadership begins at the grassroots level.

Should that not be applicable to business?

To what extent is your business identifying and developing future leaders?

What might be the impact of developing people, no matter what their role or title, for leadership, now and for the future.

You may be thinking ‘leadership pipeline’ at this point, and yes, that is part of it.

I am arguing that by developing leadership capabilities across an organisation there are significant benefits, and I am quite comfortable with the fact that many of the people involved in the development process may never ever be in a formal leadership role.

What are the gains in real terms?

Firstly, a core of people within the business who understand and have bought into the vision and values of the business and what that means on a daily basis. They communicate and reinforce this message regularly.

Secondly, people who will lead by example, and challenge others who are straying from the path, challenging in ways that are motivating and supportive, but direct.

These are the people who will make the links for others between the big picture and everyday contributions, meaning higher levels of satisfaction, engagement and productivity.

Not everyone wants what you want

How many times have you had some enthusiastic person argue on your behalf that you should make a particular decision, take a particular action?tumblr_inline_mlmtm2Spb71qz4rgp

Unless they have put in the effort to establish enough of a relationship to be clear on what your aspirations, values and beliefs are, they are most likely applying their own beliefs and aspirations based on the assumption that you are just like them.

I must note that there is an alternative which is they are simply attempting to manipulate in order to meet their own needs.

If you are in a position where you are required to be an influencer of others, such as a management role or a sales role, it’s perhaps time to check as to what level you focus on engaging with others to show that you understand and respect their views, their needs, their aspirations.

Charlie Green in his trustworthiness equation refers to the importance of ensuring a low level of self orientation in order to build trust.

Of course that is not the complete picture, but it highlights the incredible value that arises from focusing on what is important to the other person rather one’s own needs.

When you reflect back on your own interactions with your team members, or with customers, to what extent are you separating your thoughts and actions from your own needs in order to focus on the needs of others, or needs of the organisation?

Do you plan for top sales performance?

Last week I posted on the future for the transactional salesperson.

The order taker.

I want to step back from that a little and ask you about your business.

What is the plan you have in place to recruit and lead salespeople who will be proactive and generate constantly new and profitable business while retaining and growing current business?

This is especially relevant for small to medium businesses, but the question is “what is your plan to ensure ongoing top sales performance”?

There are cultural factors to consider, but what is often missing is robust process and structure.transformation_brand_science

I know of many small to medium businesses who do not engage their salespeople in annual sales planning, and many who do not have in place any form of process for ensuring accountability and support through effective coaching.

Whether it be written or verbal, I believe an important part of any salesperson’s life should include some form of reporting.

I can hear you thinking, but our CRM does that.

Apart from the fact a lot of small to medium businesses do not have an effective CRM, a report should not just be about hard data.

More importantly is that it provides an opportunity for the salesperson, ideally shared with colleagues, and definitely shared with the sales manager (who should be playing a coaching role of significance), opportunities for reflection and learning.

A focus on reflection and learning is a must, supported by appropriate processes.

After all, the more effective salespeople, leaders, all seek to be challenged in order to learn and grow, a characteristic that should be key when recruiting.

Opinion or fact?

‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”dt.common.streams.StreamServer

Those words belong to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and they have a particular resonance in our current age of toxic public discourse.

What we are now seeing are standards and expectations, as they fall ever lower, becoming accepted at each new, lower level as somehow “normal.”

In particular we seem to live in a time in which critical thinking, and indeed integrity when it comes to identifying what is fact and what is not is compromised.

Worse is that people in the public eye reinforce these low standards.

An Australian political player and aspiring member of parliament recently made a statement (paraphrased): “We are entitled to our own opinions, why not our own facts”!

Alternative facts I believe they are called.

This is dangerous for our society, made so much worse by the ability people have to communicate to the world their opinions disguised as facts.

Critical thinking, challenging whether something is fact or fiction, appears to have gone out the window, which leaves us open to manipulation by those who have power of control over media.

Final question. How skilled are you at separating one facts from opinions, especially when you may be tempted to hold you own opinion as being facts.