Developing Your Successor

Whether the issue is preparing a business for sale or enabling the next generation to take over, managers increasingly find themselves wondering where the future leadership for an organization will come from. They may wonder, “When will Jim finally step up and take some leadership around here?” or “Will Susan be willing and able to assume control when I’m ready to retire six years from now?” The more appropriate question is, “When will this manager execute a plan to prepare new leadership to take over this company?” It is ironic that for a leader to find a successor, they must take the lead in developing leaders.

The reasons for employees not pursuing leadership are fairly predictable. These reasons are based on preconceptions regarding their ability to do the job or perceived satisfaction of taking on such a job. The list of reasons can include:

  • Complacency – liking things just the way they are
  • Lack recognition of the key skills necessary for leadership
  • Lack of confidence
  • Intimidated with how the culture treats leaders
  • Do not see incentives for taking on additional responsibility

All of these reasons will require the employee to undergo personal, positive change before they can be ready to lead. For this change to happen in a timely fashion, four elements need to be present in the management culture: Goals, Rewards, Instruction, and Process. To remember them, I refer to them as GRIP; as in “get a grip”.

 

Goals: An effective goal set is multi-dimensional. They address both long and short terms and both tangible and intangible changes. To grow leaders, there needs to be a clear link between organizational and individual goals and management needs to teach members to hold themselves accountable for their goal success.

Rewards: The best rewards are win-win. A win for the company is a reward that gains the desired result without stunting the growth of the company. A win for the employee is being able to achieve the goal and receive a reward that supports a valued, personal goal. Win-win rewards are far more effective than cash rewards.

Instruction: To grow leadership, instruction and coaching need to be available to develop the key soft skills of communication, persuasion, time management, and productivity.

Process: The owner of a small business often personally directs how work is to be done. Businesses take a leap forward when they document roles and process. When members clearly understand how the operation operates, there is hope they will step up and lead the operation.

Many business owners need to undergo their own changes before they can get a GRIP. Change can be sped up with a good guide that understands their challenges. Please talk to me if you would like to explore how I might be able to support the development of your organization.

 

Executives Bonding with Sales

Perhaps, there is a reason that so many corporate CEOs come from the Sales organization. I have observed that successful businesses have strong teamwork between the Executive Staff and the Sales group. Everybody in a business understands that they are dependent on Sales to provide a predictable, profitable stream of orders. Yet, a surprising number of executives are unaware of what they need to provide to the Sales group to support their success. There are three elements that executives can provide that will support Sales.

Provide a clear two-year outlook for the companySome business owners have the attitude that if you give a sales force a good product, they should be able to sell it. A product needs to be really good and a bit disruptive to sell itself. In most sales situations, the product falls behind the sales representative and company reputation in importance to the buyer. Sales people need to describe to their prospects how the company’s investments and strategies align with the prospects’ anticipated needs. A lot has been written lately about how stories are powerful sales tools. A good story describes how a company came to their current mission and how customers can depend on the company to protect their future.

Accept responsibility for sales resultsQuality models suggest that sales people are accountable for sales and that managers are responsible for them. A company that enforces accountability, but shirks their responsibilities will have a sales force with high turnover. I have always believed that every employee’s performance impacts sales and that it is the executive’s job to assure at the company is responsive to potential and existing customers.

Lead positive change – When a sales person walks into a customer’s office for a visit, it’s common for the customer to ask, “What’s new?” Customers want their suppliers to be dynamic and not static. Sales people need current information that gives an interesting reply to the customer’s question. Once a customer becomes concerned that your business is not keeping up with change in technology and markets, the door is open for competitors to grab the account.

I would enjoy hearing reader’s opinions and practices regarding how they maintain marketing quality. I am scheduled to give two presentations on the topic in the Connecticut area and encourage you to attend and learn more.

 

Will They Remember You?

 

The essence of making a good business introduction is connecting with the other person. The great poet, Maya Angelou, captures this notion succinctly:

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

While it is important to tell people what they might want to know you, it is best done while putting people at ease.  Developing this skill requires taking time to get a sense of who you are and then taking that identity lightly. To help with this reflection, I find that focusing on the points Why, Who, What, and How to be useful.

Why      This point covers why you entered your profession and why you continue to do it. Of the four points, “Why” is the most revealing and often creates the most connection. Yet in an effort to be brief, people’s discomfort with talking about themselves will cause them to skip it.

Who      The best way to cover this point is to describe the type of customer you most enjoy working with.  Some people are tempted to keep this description as broad as possible; so as to not rule out any prospects. Yet, by being specific, people to will remember you when they meet somebody who might want to work with you.

What     Of the four points, this one is most mishandled. People most often will talk about what they do instead of what they do for their customers that makes them want to buy again. By using visual language that captures the impact your work has on satisfied customers, you become memorable.

How      This point explains how you uniquely deliver the “What” that makes you preferred over your competition. The “How” is never a technical explanation and does not have to be earth-shaking. It can be the value or practice that consistently draws satisfaction and makes you trustworthy.

For example, a real estate agent might say;

My home grounds me and is a source of my refreshment at the end of my day. So I work to reduce the time families feel the dislocation of selling and buying a house.  I most like working with young families in southeastern New Haven County looking to expand into a larger home that is still under $550K. My clients tell me they especially appreciate my ability to understand what they feel are the key selling points of their current property and then communicate persuasively to get interesting offers on the home.

As I wrote at the beginning, the words are not nearly as important as being genuine. Good luck.

 

3 Mental Keys to Being Awesome

 

Coming from a quiet, Midwest upbringing, I was always taught to “never get too full of yourself” or “don’t get too big for your britches.” While I understand that these expressions were well-intentioned attempts to reinforce humility, I always felt them as an admonishment to be compliant and conform.  Most people experienced comparable messages or worse as a child; as over 90% of criticism is negative. Unless you put aside those messages, they will only serve as obstacles on the road to awesome.

Some people dismiss positive affirmation as a pop-psychology gimmick. Executives, managers, and influencers should beware that, unless you consciously dismiss those old messages, they will haunt you for the rest of your career. We have all observed managers that avoid conflict, sales people who hate cold calls, or executives that cannot own a mistake. While these professionals may not consciously recall old messages, emotions will come into play that spurs avoidance, procrastination, or even aggression. These habits of thought can be broken and here are three keys for going forward:

 

Log your dreams and set goals to achieve them. It sounds so simple. Yet, most professionals I know do not set goals. Most of these people are highly productive and competent in their work. A common belief system is that it is an obligation to be highly responsive to the people and events around them. While that’s laudable, such a belief system results in other people and events defining the future.

Improvement requires both learning and letting go. You will never learn something new unless you want to change and believe you are able to learn it. Daniel Goleman, renowned expert on emotional intelligence, began his research by trying to understand why corporate training wasn’t more effective. He found that an overwhelming number of people did not know why they were being sent to the training and most would prefer to skip it. The result was that people returned from training with performance largely unchanged.

Professional athletes spend hours visualizing top performance to improve their performance. In the high-velocity world of professional athletics, athletes must respond intuitively; as there is no time to think. Not so obvious, business professionals face the same challenge. A client or employee speaks to you, and in a millisecond, your body language and facial expression flashes a response before you can even open your mouth. In the business world, responses to stimulus need to be intuitive and preconditioned.

Listening and observing to understand how to speak.

Most achievement is earned through the relationships you form and the level of trust and support you experience in the relationship.  Persuasion and accountability play a large role in recruiting others to support your goals.  In order to recruit someone, you must listen and observe carefully to understand what they want, how they like to be communicated to, and how they like to make decisions. Persuasion is 80% listening and 20% talking.

I will be conducting a class that meets weekly called, Helping People Buy, in Wallingford, CT June 20 to August 22nd. This class will help sales professionals improve their performance by exercising the concepts above. See the link below for more information.

 

Helping People Buy

Register Now

 

Succeeding in a Fake News World

 

Regardless of political persuasion, television news is full of upset these days. Deliberate misinformation is dishonest and meant to disorient perceptions of others and the truth. My strategy is to read the news from reliable news sources and take my time identifying the facts. Misinformation was not invented in Washington D.C, however. The business world is full of colorful characters that confuse what they want you to believe with the facts.  Failure to identify these players quickly can be detrimental to one’s career.

Deception in the workplace is always a matter of scale. In his works on Transaction Analysis, Eric Berne observed that whenever we receive communication that calls for a response, we make a choice to respond honestly or dishonestly. Most of the time, deceptions are small in nature and designed to avoid some behavior or to duck accountability. But in a stressed environment, the stakes can become large. I recall early in my career going to work for a troubled private company where stakeholders were positioning the company for sale. The entire executive team was fearful of being terminated with a stain on their career. This was the first time in my career that I became aware that managers were flat-out lying to me with the hope that I would somehow indict one of their peers to get them fired before they were. Over the next nine months, I learned much about maintaining integrity in a toxic work environment.

These are the key lessons I took away:

  • Make clear goals and set your intention before every meeting. Act on opportunities to move closer to your goal and resist attempts to be distracted. Don’t give up on your goal!
  • Make it a practice to separate facts from beliefs and opinions. Facts are observable. When I read the paper these days, I look for direct quotes and observed actions. Beliefs are the “I think”, “he should”, and all the other interpretations of what happened.
  • Monitor your thoughts and separate facts from beliefs there, too. We are all emotional creatures with the tendency to act on our emotions. When your emotions are stirred up, take a minute to identify the belief that caused the upset. Note that facts do not solicit an emotional response; missed expectations do.
  • Verify your source. If something feels a little incredible, find someone else that can report the facts.

The epilogue is that the company was acquired and I was promoted by the acquiring company.  I have found that it’s good to live by Robert Schuller’s quote, “Tough times never last, tough people do.” I have always observed that good companies fix bad management.  Feel free to share your experiences with a difficult culture and remember that Accelerated Achievement can help managers committed to fixing their organizations.