What did 2020 force you to have to do better?
In speaking with many of my clients, I am reminded how 2020, while poopy on so many levels, forced many of us to rethink how we do business. What worked in the past didn't work so well now. Or, maybe what wasn't working great anyway was absolutely not going to work anymore. We were given little choice but to critically look at the ways were were comfortable doing business and serving our clients and exercise the part of our brain where we innovate and think of new ideas for old business.
Personally, I was forced to face what I already knew but hadn't acted on yet - I needed to diversify my client and revenue streams. The training work I was travelling to do was put on 'pause' in March and is beginning to start up again virtually. But.....the unwelcomed slow down in work for the past several months provided me with a great opportunity to rethink, rejig and revitalize how I engage with, and add value for, my current and future clients.
I am often guilty of spending too much time working 'IN' my business relative to the valuable time I need to spend working 'ON' my business. Since March I have spent quite a bit of time working on my business and you know what? It feels pretty good. The ongoing result of the hard work I am putting in, with a little help from my friends, has me now very excited about 2021.
In those quiet moments of walking the dog and convincing myself to get out of bed this past weekend, I started to take a mental inventory of what 2020 motivated me to do differently (better) that I likely would not have started, or even more likely not finished, if not for this past year of challenges.
Here is what I came up with (so far):
Further, as I will be creating and delivering more content from my home office, I have invested in some new technology:
That's a lot right?!
But really, I had to in order to survive/thrive beyond this year. That's what 2020 did - it presented many of us with the opportunity to adapt. To grow. To be even better at what we do. To be....MORE BETTER!
I would love to hear how 2020 encouraged you to be more better. Let's hear what you did or are working on!
Hey business leaders: Are people on your team comfortable putting their hand up so to speak and sharing ideas freely?
What are you doing to encourage them to offer up new ways of doing things?
Clients often tell me they wish their team was more creative and developed more innovative ways to solve problems or take advantage of new opportunities. Leaders I work with often feel like the responsibility of coming up with new ideas or solving a current problem rests primarily on their shoulders.
I recall a meeting I had in the fall of 2019 with a large Winnipeg company. They told me one of their biggest challenges was getting employees to share their ideas more openly. Too often in meetings people would shut down an idea by saying things like 'We tried this 10 years ago and it didn't work.'
How often do you hear people say something similar in your organization?
In that meeting we discussed the opportunity to promote an environment that encouraged:
In my research for this blog post I found a really good article called Good Questions Encourage Creative Thinking by Nagesh Belludi
Nagesh shares that creative thinkers ask open-ended, accommodating, and exploratory lead-in questions such as:
Wait – don’t these sound like the kind of questions we can ask when, as leaders, we are Living Above the Line? My associate @patlipovski would say these suggestions posed as questions are “Que’gesstions” designed to encourage thought, discussion and engagement.
In my quest to seem ‘more’ smarter (trademark), I am going to once again refer to the Harvard Business Review.
In the article, Rebecca Shambaugh refers to the need to ‘facilitate spaghetti throwing’ (I love the reference). She notes that research reveals that an overwhelming majority of executives — 94% — are unhappy with the innovative performance of their company. She further states that leaders need to facilitate experimentation and encourage people to see what sticks and what doesn’t. To do this, leaders not only have to ask people to share outside-of-box-thinking, but to also lead by example.
Lastly, I am going to refer once again to the Forbes article I noted last week (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/living-above-line-building-succession-plan-scott-donald/?trackingId=xKl1D8e0u04gH4B9naMjiQ%3D%3D).
In her article Three Reasons Why The Best Leaders Ask Rather Than Tell, author Sinive Seely notes that asking opens the door to new ideas and possibilities.
“Asking open-ended questions requires both the leader and their team to dig deep for answers to problems that have no obvious solutions.”
A common theme I see is organizations tending to rely on what worked in the past. This year has pretty clearly shown us that we can’t rely on what may have worked in the past. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into a new pandemic reality that demands we tackle these new challenges head on with new ideas and better ways of doing business. While 2020 has been horrible and devastating on so many levels, I am encouraged by the incredible amount of creativity and innovation we are seeing from people. I have read about and spoken with so many professionals who have come up with new and better ways to run their business, help customers, earn new customers, communicate their message and just do what they do, but do it even better.
Let’s make the best of what we can control. And we can control asking good questions and inviting our teams to share their ideas and suggestions.
Do you think a succession plan for your role, and for your organization overall, is important?
If so, what are you doing about it?
Some things to consider:
· According to ERC, research figures show that the number of people in leadership roles that plan to retire in the next few years is higher than the number of people entering the workforce.
· A study conducted by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF) found that, “only 40% of Canadian private companies have a clear business ownership succession plan in place.”
· According to a PWC report, there are substantial benefits to be gained by identifying talented employees – including those deep in the organization with specialized skills – and coordinating their training and development to prepare them for the future.
With this in mind, let’s explore opportunities to be more mindful of building your succession plan.
First, how often do you find yourself doing ‘stuff’ because if you just do it yourself, it will be done faster or ‘I know it will be done right’? Do you realize that while that could be true in the short term, in the long term you are robbing yourself of time to do other work? More high level, strategic and/or proactive work?
Further, you are robbing the team you lead the opportunity to take on new challenges and learn new skills that allow them grow, learn and evolve.
You may be thinking ‘yah great Scott but this is easier said than done. I’m busy and succession planning takes time’!
May I suggest, for the 3rd week in a row, Living Above the Line as a way to help you think about and build your succession plan .
One really easy way to build your succession plan is to
Yup - instead of doing it yourself, identify opportunities to ask questions. Instead of telling your team what to do, think about appropriate questions you could ask.
This Forbes article articulates this really well. The author suggests 3 main benefits of Asking vs Telling and the third is 'Asking enables others to lead'.
“When others are encouraged to bring their best thinking to the table, they demonstrate leadership regardless of their position or title. Enabling others to lead and then supporting them in growing their confidence and ability helps to create more leaders within an organization.”
In a recent coaching call, we were exploring the benefits the person I was working with received from using the Living Above the Line model. She used the term ‘purposeful delegation'. That’s a gooder. Because she had an ‘a-ha moment and did a wonderful job of sharing her experience with me, here are my notes based on how she described the process from her perspective:
Looking at tasks from a different perspective. Less tactical, now more strategic
Inviting people to come along for the ride
When you give up control, people will work really hard and:
To increase your chances of being promoted and have an even ‘more awesomer’ (that’s a word!) high-performing team, invest your time in building an even better and stronger team of successors. Living Above the Line provides a simple and powerful model to guide you in that journey. It begins with something as simple as less doing and more asking.
(We offer a 60 minute webinar that further explains the Living Above the Line model and helps attendees better understand when and how to best implement this powerful tool.
Does it frustrate you that that no matter what you do, some people on your team just don’t seem to be engaged? They won’t make decisions, offer suggestions or take initiative on any projects. Do you wonder if there is anything you can do as a leader to get them to contribute more without being told what to do?
You may be asking yourself, ‘what’s wrong with them?’
Maybe…stay with me on this point…it’s not (just) them?
I’ve done research on top complaints about managers and some common themes come up:
Top complaints about ‘bad bosses’, in no particular order include:
3. Resistant to change
5. Not empowering employees
Last week I wrote about using the concept of Living Above the Line to gain back some of your time. This week I want to focus on Living Above the Line as a leadership method for helping you help your team be even more engaged and empowered.
The above graphic is used extensively by the Envision Team (http://www.envisiongroup.ca/) when training and coaching our clients around the world. It’s probably our most popular leadership tool according to current and past program participants and coaching clients.
Why? It’s so simple and provides an easy, visual tool to guide leaders through the process of helping others “Live Above the Line”. The secret? Start asking employees questions to get them thinking ‘above the line’ about a positive future state and how they feel you can best get there.
Think of it this way - are you more likely to be engaged on a project if you come up with an idea or if your boss says “here’s a problem we have and here’s how I want you to fix it’? Living Above the Line encourages us as leaders to empower our teams with the confidence and courage to become part of the solution instead of just being told what to do.
In his e-book Great Leaders Ask Questions, Bob Tiede Founder & CEO of LeadingWithQuestions.com writes:
“Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers, as it is about knowing the right questions.
Questions are the golden keys that unlock hearts and minds.”
Instead of telling your team what to do, could you ask more questions? Questions like:
“What does your experience suggest is the best way to do this?” Or
“Interesting, what do you think we should do”?
Even IF you have the answer, or an opinion, you don’t always have to interrupt your other responsibilities to offer it up. If someone on your team is encouraged to share their ideas and act on them, they tend be more engaged on the issue or project. And, if over time, that employee is encouraged to act and is acknowledged for not only sharing their ideas but also on a job well done, it’s also more likely they will do it more often. They’ll be even more engaged in their work and feel more empowered to share ideas and take initiative. They may even start to ‘put their hand up’, so to speak, in meetings and suggest a course of action or share an idea they have. So yah, be even more engaged.
Living Above the Line helps leaders enhance the culture of empowering and engaging employees. I will share with you a recent email I received from a current coaching client to drive this point home:
“Living Above the Line positively encourages team members to come with thought out solutions to the problem(s) raised, rather than just throwing their hands up in the air and complaining about an issue. In turn, it encourages innovation for them, collaboration, creativity, independent thinking… etc.
For me, it means I get more time to do the things that need my direct attention, as opposed to just being everyone’s problem solver.”
What strategies have you found to be successful in your leadership role? I’d love to hear your comments, experience and questions. Also, If you want to learn more about Living Above the Line and how it can help drive an even more positive culture in your organization, visit my website at http://sdbdsolutions.ca/ or drop me a message on LinkedIn.
Last week I had a great conversation with friend and marketing guru Tim Phelan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/timphelan10/). He helped give me some clarity on several ideas I have bouncing around inside my cavernous melon.
For example, a few weeks ago I made a post that science shows that we get ‘dumber’ when we try to multitask. We think it’s helping to get more done, but in fact we get less accomplished, make more mistakes and lower our creativity. Further, it contributes to the frustration of feeling like we didn’t get enough accomplished again today. I have struggled with this and I am making a concerted effort to try and stay on task and not get distracted by ‘squirrel’!
I bring this up as I have noticed a recurring theme in many of my coaching calls recently where clients want to Get More Done. In other words - Better Time Management. Many people feel as though they have to increasingly do more with less.
A concept that I use in training and coaching, Living Above the Line, points us in a direction that can help. Here is one example:
As a leader, think about a typical day. How often do you have peers and/or people on your team popping in to see you to ask a question, get clarification or complain about something that ‘isn’t working’? Do you typically have the answer……and give it to them? Or tell them how to fix it?
Are you the ‘answer’ person on your team or in your company? The go-to person that almost everyone comes to for answers because of your education, training and experience? Feels good to help people and be the one they come to for answers, right?
Well STOP IT!
Yah seriously, stop doing that. At least stop doing it so often. As long as you always give them the answers, they’ll keep interrupting your day. Think about it – how often does the person asking the question probably already know the answer? Or, how often with a little help, they could go and figure it out themselves? Additionally, how often are they simply wanting to bitch about somebody or something?
While it’s helpful to vent, we need to move the conversation to a positive place or outcome.
We need to get, you, and them, Living Above the Line. This is all about your frame of mind, your approach or perspective. For example, what may happen if you said to them something like:
“What do YOU think we should do to fix this”?
“How do YOU suggest we move forward”
Imagine all the different and good things that can happen from this. First, you are creating the environment where they come with problems AND solutions; or at least ideas. Second, they will eventually start to figure these things out on their own and come to you less and less. From a time-management perspective, imagine this: a team that is, eventually over time, more confident, more engaged and independent. Would this future team come to you less often for answers. Can that save you 30 minutes a day? An hour? More?
Many of my coaching clients have found that getting better, even incrementally over time, at Living Above the Line, has many benefits, including giving themselves more time to work on their own work. Some even spend less time fighting fires, dealing with other people’s problem and being less task focused and (gasp) more working on big picture strategic initiatives.
Sounds awesome right?
Stop having ALL of the answers ALL of the time. Identify the appropriate opportunities in your day to help someone answer their own questions or find their own answers (good leadership right!). Besides being good for them, it will also help you gain some time during your day.
Work with me here:
Think of your favourite (yes Canadian spelling) hockey team (GO Jets Go). You watch all the games and are a huge fan. Let’s say their 5 on 5 game is good, Penalty Killing is near the top of the league, but the Power Play is ineffective and not only doesn’t score, it takes momentum away from your team. The Power Play has sucked for a while now and nothing seems to work. But they keep doing. The same. Dam. Thing. Man that's frustrating, right?
As a fan are you screaming at the TV for the coach to ‘do something’? (I don’t do that by the way). Maybe fire the GM? Or change it up and put so and so in front of the net.
"If it’s not working, why don’t they do SOMETHING? Anything?"
As the coach, if you knew the PP was hurting your success, wouldn’t you look to update and improve your power play?
Additionally, what if they didn’t track this part of their game (analytics/KPI’s) and don’t even realize the extent the Power Play and is hurting the team’s success? That would be irresponsible to the players and the fans. Especially the fans.....
Wait a minute - does this maybe, possibly, even a little bit...sound like your sales game plan?
While I have your attention, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your sales strategy?
2. How do you measure your effectiveness?
4. What does your sales funnel look like? (Does it look like a funnel?)
If these questions were difficult to answer, or you didn’t like the answers, should we fire the coach? Of course not. But it does drive home the fact that if we took a page from sports in terms of our approach to sales and sales leadership, we could probably be even more successful.
Here’s another example to hopefully drive this point home: Think about the amount of time sports teams invest preparing and planning for their games. Football for example takes an entire week to review game film, devise a game plan specific to the next opponent, run drills at practice, more drills, pre-game preparation etc.
To maximize the opportunity for a successful outcome.
In our case that may be a sale, but it may also be another meeting. It may be an opportunity to get in front of more decision makers to even better understand how you can help them. It may be the opportunity to submit a proposal for the first time with this account. Those are all 'wins' that lead up to the 'championship' – a new client.
How many of us show up to our calls and meetings prepared with a well-defined sales game plan?
No? Ok that’s it! FIRE THE COACH!!!
Kidding again of course.
But, maybe you could hire a Sales Coach to work with your team. One that has the experience to help guide team players and management on developing a sales game plan that will lead to increased success. Someone who could put processes and structure into place that will lead to building that capacity internally so that you can eventually run your own game plan. Someone that could help with practice plans and provide a safe and fun environment to practice your various skills so that when you get into the game - sorry met with a customer - you are prepared to be at your best, help the customer and invariably, make the sale.
Somebody who is funny, witty and with boyish good looks and charm for days. I know a guy…
Imagine what it would look like if teams measurably improved their overall performance and had an even more positive work environment?
Over the past couple of years, I have learned how much I enjoy professional coaching and how incredibly rewarding it is. When you work with someone 1 on 1 and can help them evolve professionally, and especially when they have that ‘ah-ha’ moment, it feels fantastic to know you helped them find their own answers.
The research is clear that there are undeniable benefits to having a professional business coach. The International Coaching Federation provides the following statistics:
· Increased Productivity (up to 70%) Includes Work Performance, Business Management, Time Management, Team Effectiveness
· More Positive People (increase up to 80%) Includes Self Confidence, Relationships, Communication Skills, Life/Work Balance
· Return on Investment (86%)
Further, sales teams who use a sales performance coaching had 161% more wins (salesforce)
Based on all of the articles and data I was seeing on the benefits of investing in a business coach, I decided to get feedback from some of my current and past coaching clients. Their feedback could be summarized into 3 primary areas of benefit:
1)A confidential conversation with someone external to the company to provide an independent perspective
2) Help with performance improvement and professional development
3) Ability to speak openly and freely
What my coaching clients are saying: http://www.sbdgrowth.ca/testimonials.html
If professional athletes can benefit from working with a coach or multiple coaches, so can you!
Based on my own experiences working with people, and fully backed up by a whole bunch of data, coaching works. If you feel that you and/or people in your organization could benefit from working with a coach, let’s set up a time to have a conversation to explore how I can help.
I had lunch recently with someone who said something I really liked. We were talking about the noble profession of sales, how difficult it can be and how many businesses struggle or fail because they don't invest the proper time and energy into sales and marketing and/or they don’t respect (or understand) the profession of sales. His comment was about the fact that while he may not have the specific expertise that his clients have, why do ‘they’ so often feel like they know how to sell/do business development!?!?
That’s a great question and something I wrote about in one of my first blogs over 4 years ago: “How hard can it be?”
It is still baffling to me how often really smart people feel that if your organization has a great product or solution, that's essentially all you need and growth will simply occur.
My lunch date also shared a story of a scientist who came up with a new ‘invention’. He was asked how do you expect to grow revenues for this invention and his response was they would write a couple of papers......
In another example, I recently had a conversation with an association that represents engineering professionals in their province. We were discussing leadership training and the conversation turned to sales. To paraphrase her comment: Engineers are smart people that don’t have a clue how to sell. (Not picking on engineers!)
In prepping for this blog I found a LinkedIn article that I liked, especially point 5.
The author quotes Henry Ford "Nothing happens until someone sells something”.
The more I thought about the quote the more I appreciated how profound it is. You can have the greatest product or solution but without a strong sales and marketing plan, and someone to execute it, not much is likely to happen in terms of growth. You can assemble the best team of professionals and create a great solution for customers but…..somewhere along the line there has to be an effort to find a potential customer, an initial conversation with the right person, a relationship and trust built, an in-depth understanding of the challenge/opportunity and then a solution presented that fits that need and helps the customer.
If all of this was easy and anyone could do it.....
There is an undeniable synergy between the art AND science of selling. If sales was easy there wouldn’t be so many books, articles, training systems, etc. out there designed to help people get even better at selling.
Sales takes hard work, constant improvement, training, failure and learning, a genuine desire to help, time and energy, more hard work and more training, more failure and learning.
Also I wouldn’t have gray hair if sales was easy. Although I think it makes me look smarter.
So to be clear, I don’t know how to be a:
· Software Developer
· Exotic Male Dancer (apparently I am ‘too old’)
· IT Expert
· NHL goalie (I wish tho)
· Supply Chain Expert
· Operations Expert
· Network Designer
(I think you get the picture)
And if you are really good at any of these, chances are pretty good you could use some help growing your business.
Further, it’s precisely my lack of expertise in all these professions above that allow me, and other sales/business development experts, to help your organization grow. It is the coming together of experts with different areas of specialty and collaborating that create the ingredients for success and revenue growth.
My 30+ years of experience in sales and my renewed commitment to professional development has reinforced for me that if you try to sell off the side of your desk, or if you don’t invest the appropriate time and energy in your sales team (hiring, training, mentoring) and sales processes, you are very likely to be disappointed in your growth results.
So if you and/or your company are looking to do any of the following: improve revenue, increase margins, shorten sales cycles, earn more business, reduce sales turn over and help more clients, think about having a conversation with a sales consultant. I know a guy.
Further to my post last week, recent events have given me time to think….. and as a result, re-focus on what I love doing: sales training and coaching
Last week I posted about the ongoing and rapid evolution of the sales profession.
Old school tactics and ‘tricks’ don’t work and created a lot of inappropriate sales behavior that tarnished the view that many people had (or have) of sales and sales people. It likely also resulted in many good people avoiding or leaving the profession because many of these old school approaches didn’t sit well with them.
"The sometimes poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me either. I am going to do my part to help people and organizations who want to grow. "
Organizations rely on sales people and sales departments to grow their business, move into new markets, introduce new solutions, increase market share, create positive experiences with new and existing clients, make ice cream taste better, improve margins, grow revenue and help our dogs love us even more. (just making sure you are paying attention and getting the point about how important the sales function is within your organization).
The above points, well most of them anyway, reinforce how important it is to focus the appropriate time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams to increase the opportunity for success. Imagine a hockey coach having a great break out plan, speed and numbers through the neutral zone, strong zone entry plan, offensive zone set up and then…..crickets. No plan to create high danger scoring chance. Do they think ‘We’ll figure it out when we get there’?
My sports analogy aside, there are many organizations that spend considerable time, energy and money on great products and solutions. They develop top notch products and services, with high quality engineering and development teams, highly educated and skilled finance and operations teams etc. Ask yourself if you are investing the corresponding time and energy into hiring, training and supporting a world class sales team? One that will, after considerable effort, eventually put the puck in the net or push the ball into the end zone?
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. These diverse teams of business all-stars are helping me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow into even more effective sales professionals. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
I think you get the point.
Initially the plan was to deliver these as ½ day and full day in-person training experiences. Circumstances dictated that these will now be delivered in 90 minute webinar modules. These programs will be ready to launch in the very near future and I am excited to share them with you once they are ready.
My goal is simply this – to help sales professionals continually improve and to love what they do. What they do is help people solve problems and leverage new opportunities. Like any professionals in business and in sport, we need a plan - and then to practice based on that ‘game plan’ so we can continue improving our skills, to grow and to reach our potential. Investing time and energy into professional development in order to constantly evolve and grow just makes sense.
That’s where, as professionals committed to constant learning and growth, we can benefit from the opportunity to work with a trainer and coach who can help us.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
I have always felt that the notion of ABC was rubbish.
Remember when we were young(er)…..and we were taught to Always Be Closing (ABC)? It didn’t feel right.
I didn’t feel natural. That’s not how we have real conversations with actual people. Imagine the following scenarios:
“Hey, I know we just met but if I could show you that I am a good person, would be good with kids and make a good living, would you consider getting married?”
Or how about this one:
“This should be fun year of beer league. So I was thinking….if I prove to be a good teammate, a good guy to hang out with for a beer and helped you move heavy furniture when required, can I borrow your new truck to go on holidays this summer?”
Who talks like that? Nobody talks like that.
Rubbish (I like that word and plan to use it more). Those tactics don’t work anymore and never really did
Lastly, how many of you have had an experience like this at some point in your sales career: “Here's all of our product specs, features and benefits sheet and crappy outdated prospect data base, now go sell. Oh and your quota just went up”
When we think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all) and the all too common scenario of aggressive, ever-increasing targets and misguided comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting with clients - so it’s not a surprise that we often saw desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
"Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations."
If you go onto LinkedIn Learning, read books and articles and watch sales vlogs (that the right word?) you can see lots of examples of just how much sales has evolved in recent years. In one of the articles I read recently there was a definition of sales I really liked:
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Further to this, I have read a couple articles and completed the LinkedIn Learning module by Lisa Earle McLoed on what she describes as Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who focus on their purpose—to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas) actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
How do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals?
Well, elite athletes tend to have a plan and are intentional about working on specific skills. They make time to practice and work on getting better - all the time. They have a coach, or many coaches, to guide them on the journey and help them to adapt and evolve in ways that allows them realize new levels of potential. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations have always relied on sales people to drive revenue. They are the front lines in our relationships with customers. Today, more than ever, sales professionals are vitally important in growing revenues and will be called upon in reviving our organizations revenues as well as the overall economy.
Let’s invest in their abilities and skills and by doing so, arm them with the right tools, skills and confidence they need to help them be even more successful.
SBD Growth Strategies is working with several partners to help sales people grow into sales professionals.
More to follow on this…..