Archive for the ‘team leadership’ Category

h1

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.

Advertisements
h1

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?

+++

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.

+++

h1

Practice to Win, or You Never Will

February 9, 2011

Your biggest competition in business is “don’t know”.

If the customer doesn’t know what your product or service can do, they’ll never buy. And, if your competition is telling your story for you, then the customer will never know how you can make a difference. (And, by the way, it’s “the” customer, not “your” customer, because of what they don’t know).  The same concept applies to the management of sales teams, where “don’t know” can mean the difference between a lost sale and a major victory. The way to defeat “don’t know” from a management perspective is to create an environment for sales practice.

a cool picture that didn't load

Professional sports teams and performers practice much more than they actually play – but in business, it’s just the opposite. How do you get better at sales, if you never practice?

If you are really in the advanced class for weekly sales meetings, then you have the skills to explain exactly what to watch out for, and what to do in particular situations. Ask for volunteers to answer the tough questions! In a “What would you do if…” situation, you play the customer, or the client. Call somebody up to the front of the room and let them shadowbox a little on the competition, or pricing, or other key objections. Let the best come forward and show their stuff. It takes guts, but if you do this right you will teach volumes to your team!

Look, I know that sales management isn’t acting class, but if you want a great performance from your people you better show ’em how it’s done. Practice makes perfect, but you can’t expect perfection if you don’t demonstrate it first.

h1

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

h1

What CEOs Really Want

September 14, 2010

Click the image to see more on this report

Recently, IBM surveyed over 1500 CEOs, to find out their most pressing challenges.  The complexity of the worldwide markets, combined with an increased rate of change, were the top remarks.  In attempting to deal with the challenges of the current economy, business leaders cited one quality above all others that can help employees to make a difference.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.  It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.  The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?  Creativity.

Surprising, when you consider the traditional definitions of creativity.  For “creatives”, that word is used as both a description, and an excuse (Ever heard this one? “We can’t/won’t/don’t do that, we’re ‘creative'”).  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.  Where do you find “creative” accountants, for example?  Answer: Jail.

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.  “Creative” is a department, or a compartment, reserved for individuals with unique talents that are not particularly commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  So, “creativity” is rare, shapeless, often negative, potentially dangerous and certainly counter-intuitive.  Has IBM generated a survey that appeals for an artsy-craftsy approach to business?  Or is there a deeper meaning that this author has carefully chosen to ignore, in an attempt to roll out a few one-liners? (Ah, you caught me….)  This survey actually says that it is time for creativity to turn this economy around.

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that we harness our imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey seek creative solutions to experiment and innovate.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo, and central to the necessary disruption that is required for our collective marketplace to get unstuck.

CEOs are looking for ways to shake up their portfolios, their business models, and their old ways of addressing challenges in the marketplace.

Business leaders expect complexity to increase, and the need for disruption to follow (perhaps even lead) the advancement.  Creativity is needed, above all else, in order to innovate and lead through this current financial climate.  Why?  Because business must create a new future.  That future must build on the present, but in new and meaningful ways – ways that can only be described as “creative”, because they haven’t been created yet!

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.  Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination – and new solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to churn and struggle, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill (awareness), but seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way – well, that takes some creativity.  Don’t you agree?

h1

The Right Way to Say Goodbye

August 25, 2010

Recently, a business partner who I respect was given an abrupt boot by a manufacturer.  Essentially, the manufacturer “fired” their business, due to lack of performance.  Despite a long history, numbers were down, and a one-sided decision was made to end the relationship. In this economy, there’s a lot more good-byes than good buys, and that conversation is always a difficult one.  Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this most difficult and final transaction.  Parting ways with a supplier, vendor or employee is never pleasant, but sometimes necessary.  For executive leaders, it’s not a conversation you have via email, text message or registered letter.

And yes, my friend John recently received a registered letter.  It was his first communication in nine months, and yes, it was a “Dear John” letter.  Is it right for a manufacturer and business partner to simply say goodbye, without as much as a conversation?  In a word, no.

Parting ways is the most difficult kind of conversation, because it always ends with one party wishing for a different outcome.  Even if the decision is a mutual one, and clearly a necessary move for both parties, there is still a sense of regret.  Here are three steps to make sure that the process goes through with dignity for those involved:

  1. Have the conversation – So, a letter (even a registered letter) is not satisfactory.  Painful as it may be, you have to show up for this appointment.  Out of respect for the (business partner, vendor, employee) you should look someone in the eye when you say goodbye.  The phone call is the next best thing, but second place is a looooong way from best practices.  It’s important to say, in person, that the relationship matters, even though it has come to a close.  Life is short and the world can be very small at times – you never know when your paths may cross again.  Face to face is the best way for closure.
  2. Explanations don’t help – Arguing a point after a decision has been made is moot.   When you hear ‘goodbye’, it is a wake-up call for change.  But turning your attention to the future is easier said than done, when you receive difficult news.   On the other side of the table, explaining a decision has little effect; after it has been made, it’s best for both parties to move on.  Still, out of respect for the past, a conversation is the least you can provide.  But ultimately, on both sides of the table: Whether you are seeking an explanation, or offering one, does it really matter?  OK, if it’s possible to take emotions out of the equation: does it really matter?  Rationalizations are not germane to the conversation; but respect and dignity for both parties must be maintained.  The decision is, by nature, one-sided and unilateral – delivering it  in person is the best way to dignify the relationship and the individuals involved.
  3. Anger is a natural reaction – “All progress is change, but not all change is progress” my friend Dean Lindsay likes to say.  Terminating a business relationship is a major change, and causes stress, challenge, and anger –  and all of that happens before, during, and after the decision.  Saying goodbye is a form of progress, but it can feel more like a punch in the stomach.  Or a kick in your favorite glands. There’s no way around it; anger will be in the room.  Best you can do is prepare for it, acknowledge it, and move on…in spite of it.
h1

Motivating High Performance

August 2, 2010

From a recent question on linkedin, regarding the “Pygmalion Effect”. Do high expectations and motivation create high performance?

We all know what makes for good performance. What makes for good motivation?

Motivation is a mystery; it’s one of those words like “stress”, or “jubilation” that fall into a category called “nominalizations”. These are words that we use to describe something that is intangible, and only exists for those who experience it. You can’t put my motivation in a bucket, or in a chair; it’s real, but virtually impossible for me to share with you. Expectations, on the other hand, can be described, quantified, and measured.  But, if my expectations are high, does your motivation improve in some way?

What Henry Higgins did in Pygmalion was not so much about motivation as it was education. I’m not sure what motivates anybody, and sometimes my own motivations are a mystery (even to myself). But, I can say with certainty that if I know how to do something, and I know why I should do something, that I’m a lot closer to taking action and …DOING SOMETHING. Action is the evidence of motivation, wouldn’t you agree?

Action creates performance. Motivation? Mysterious, no matter how high your expectations! If we seek high performance, what we need is action – action that comes from a base of knowledge and understanding “why?”. If you have a team that you want to perform, concentrate on those areas and you will create this elusive concept of “motivation”, with recognizable results.

What Higgins did was provide Eliza with the kind of education that helped her to see a new world for herself. (His motivation? It was a wager, and one that he came to regret!) She learned, she took action. The result was a complete transformation for Eliza; and Higgins was not the “hero” of the story.

If you want to create great performance, don’t focus on motivation. Give people the power to excel through teaching and communication, clear expectations, and an understanding of “why?”. Is money is a “motivator”, or a result of action? (Pick choice #2 – and that’s a subject for another post).  Great performance comes through knowledge. Do you and your team know how to win? That’s where great performance starts.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some excellent motivation….whatever the heck that is. 😉