Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ Category

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Leadership in a Matrix Environment

March 30, 2011

As a professional speaker, the toughest crowd is the one filled with folks who talk for a living.

Salespeople understand how to tell stories; they understand that the customers’ story is where it all starts. Then, on to proposing and closing…and whoever tells the best story, wins. Delivering a product or service in a complex sales process is never the work of just one individual. Resources must be engaged, in order to respond to the RFP, or address particulars of technology, service level agreements (SLAs), etc. Many times these required resources have no direct reporting responsibility. In other words, the challenge facing sales executives is how to create leadership, without real authority. Creating a keynote on leadership can be challenging, especially for a bunch of sales pros. But, who wants the easy route, anyway?

Some believe that it is easy to inspire good behavior when you have the power and authority to influence bonuses, paychecks, and annual reviews. However, relying solely on a title, or the ability to hire and fire, is not about true leadership. Managing the day-to-day actions of a team of employees is a separate task from leadership in a matrix environment. Handling your reports is about direction; leading others without authority is about inspiration.

In a recent presentation to international sales executives at HP at HP Sales University, the topic of “acceleration” came up. In complex sales, there is no real way to accelerate the IT decisions or cap-ex (capital expenditure) investment that major corporations will make. However, it is possible to accelerate the role of the leader, fostering greater trust in a matrix environment.

Inspiring team members (even virtual team members) begins with recognition. Identifying and connecting with others means understanding a person’s unique contributions. Sure, it’s easy to see that the engineer or security specialist brings their own particular talents to the customer engagement; but what’s beyond the skill set? How can you recognize the unique contributions of the individuals on your team? More importantly, how can you demonstrate your ability to value (and leverage) those contributions?

Recognition really starts with “Why?” We all do our thing from 9-5, to collect our paychecks. But not all paychecks are created equally (even if the numbers are exactly the same). Consider: Why do you do what you do? Just to make money? OK, maybe so…but what does that money allow you to do? What are you able to do for yourself, your family, your church, your parents…because of what you do? Understand your “Why”, and then understand the “Why” of your team members. Get engaged in their story, and they will get engaged in yours.

Leadership is about influence.

It starts with recognition of others, as the first step towards trust. True leaders are able to be clear and transparent with their teams. By understanding the capabilities and the needs of the members of your team, you understand how to create an environment where individuals are not just recognized, but valued. Everyone, at every level, wants to make a contribution that is recognized, and valued. Prove that value to others, and you are telling the story that everyone wants to hear. Through trust and recognition, you earn the right to lead — not just in a matrix environment, but in any environment.

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The Ten Commandments of Email

February 22, 2011

Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using email appropriately (and effectively):

  1. Thou Shalt Not Reply All.
    Resist temptation and it will flee from you. Please enjoy the Bridgestone commercial, until the beverage cart arrives.
  2. Thou Shalt Keep it Clean. No porn, no pictures, no sharp language. Why? Look at this button, it says: “Forward”. Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting and a smart signature ~ no need for fourteen lines about your academic and professional accomplishments, if we work together every day. And, please: NO unprofessional content, language or pictures.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Rant. Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising that right means using it the right way. If you disagree with the recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure. How will that get any meaningful results? Sure, you may feel better…until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude. Or, worse yet, an even stronger conversation about your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not into words …and then sending them to Jesus, Moses, and the 12 apostles. See commandment #1.
  4. Thou Shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE. Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why?

    Email, after eTrade?

  5. Plan that time-sensitive info will FAIL, via email. Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling – assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday. What works best in email: Information, Instruction (or confirmation) and Documentation. Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face-to-face. Email can’t do it all!
  6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely. When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!
  7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people. It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc:ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc:ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).
  8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool. Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers, or others.
  9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers inbox with enormous attachments. Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox or some other service. Be smart about large file transfer. ‘Nuff said.
  10. Send commands via email wisely. Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need.

Before you hit “send”, ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email. Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law – there’s no ‘manual’. But, there are expectations. What are yours?

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Chris Westfall is a professional development coach for top-tier MBA programs, including Texas Christian University, and an award-winning instructor at Southern Methodist University’s Business Leadership Center. He was recently recognized as the grand prize winner of the ‘118’, the elevator pitch competition sponsored by celebrity CMO and author, Jeffrey Hayzlett. He works with companies and individuals on branding, leadership and sales strategies.

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Your Career Potential

December 3, 2010

For more information on reaching your potential, consider one of the upcoming seminars in Dallas – featuring career management strategies with Chris Westfall.

December 6 – Career Strategies with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates LLC

December 17 – Interview techniques with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates, LLC

For more information: Contact Chris Westfall at Westfall and Associates, LLC http://westfallonline.com

214.205.4662

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The Interview Question

November 16, 2010

What’s the one question that most job seekers forget to ask, in the interview? Professional development coach Chris Westfall provides insight that can help you to know exactly how you compare to your competition, and what you need to discuss in the interview to move your career forward.

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Professional Development Coaching

October 4, 2010

Chris Westfall talks about “what they don’t teach you in business school” (video)

Are you looking for ways to capitalize on the value of your educational experience?

Produced by Your Online Video, Inc. Dallas, TX  http://youronlinevideo.net

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What’s the Value of an MBA?

September 29, 2010

There are some things they don’t teach you in business school…

What’s the value of the MBA degree? Every program has a cost, whether you pay through student loans or scholarships.  And, there’s also an investment – whether you go to school part-time, full-time or on the weekends.  So, there’s an investment of time.  Of course, there is the quality of the teaching in the classroom that has to be considered.  But what is the value of the MBA?

We all know that thousands of students graduate from MBA programs each year.  But the value of the degree is more than the cost, more than the quality of the teaching, more than the investment.  The value of the MBA can only be found in action.

The real value of the MBA is based on what the students make of it.  Top MBA programs realize that they have to give students real-world insights that can help them to apply their knowledge in a new economy.  Studying the work of Deming, Porter or Bennis is crucial to establishing a knowledge-base.  But, it’s what you do with that knowledge that establishes the value of the degree.

In my coaching sessions with professionals and MBA students, I focus on what they don’t teach you in business school.  Topics include:

  • Personal branding: Going beyond “sensible shoes, matching belt” to create executive-level interaction
  • Business Development Strategies:  Emails that Get Results, How to Bridge the Gap between Gen-Y and the Hiring Manager, Web 2.0 & Search Tools
  • Leadership:  Communicating at the executive level, and establishing yourself as a leader (no matter where you are in your career path)
  • Promotions, Raises, and Responsibility: How to Negotiate like a Pro, and Know When It’s Time to Move Up (or, Move Out)

Going Beyond the Classroom

The economy has changed, and MBA programs need to adapt.  More than the employment picture, MBA programs must consider the value of their brand – the application of the knowledge they provide.  By providing students with insight that they can’t find elsewhere, schools create competitive advantage, and enhance the value and prestige of their institution.

In my career, I have answered phones, done data entry work, and even delivered food.  I’ve also run a global sales force, with responsibility for 1200 systems integrators and distribution in 68 foreign countries.  In order to move from “smiling, filing and dialing” to the corner office, I had to become a student of success – observing and noting what skills and techniques were rewarded in the workplace.  For top-quality graduate programs in the new economy, the prestige of the degree (or the institution) isn’t enough.  Professionals have to understand how to apply their new-found knowledge, if they want to maximize the value of their degree.