Managing Smart People: Leaders and Experts

CAN’s success depends on our ability to provide great jobs to innovative and creative professionals. However, managing these highly intelligent and creative people can be challenging.  Smart people want clear career paths, frequent meaningful promotions, and competent managers.  If smart people perceive a position lacking, they quickly lose motivation.  For example, smart people quickly lose respect for a manager they perceive as being incompetent or  less intelligent.  CAN has tried to address the challenges of hiring smart people.
First, we have limited the number of positions that are not core to the business. If possible we have outsourced any position that is not sales or operations. Essentially we have outsourced for quality not price. This has created an organization were almost every position has a clear career path. This has allowed CAN to focus on building in-depth training programs that allow us to develop our people so that they can earn frequent and meaningful promotions. (more…)

Inspect What You Expect

Inspect What You Expect
Several weeks ago I had a meeting with Raz Zehnacker. Raz is the former President of First Data. We met to talk about things I needed to be aware of as CAN grows, because according to Jim Collins “most companies don’t die of starvation but of indigestion”. Some of the best advice he gave me was to “Inspect What You Expect”.
Raz explained that as a leader you need inspect what you expect. During his time at First Data he used audits to make sure that he could stand by his promises, and that he could coach and grow his team. He used audits to encourage a culture of fixing things before they were delivered, instead of making excuses after it was too late.
I have been practicing Raz’s advice to “Inspect What You Expect”. At the beginning and end of each day I ask myself, “What do I expectt my team to accomplish?” I use the answers to inform my communication with them. I start by collecting as much information as possible, such as timelines, budgets and issues. I want to be able to ask the right questions to make sure that my team has thought through the project, that they have all the resources they need to overcome any issues to deliver on time, and learn how I can help them.
Inspecting what you expect can be uncomfortable, especially if someone has something to hide or they feel as if they are going to be judged.  If they have something to hide, then it is essential that you inspect what is going on.  However, it is also important that you communicate that you are not trying to judge, but that you want to help them. If your team is uncomfortable, it can be very tempting to leave them alone. In the end you as the leader are response.  You need to make sure that you inspect what you expect so that you can stand by your promises.

Cold Calling Works Again

Cold calls used to work, then they didn’t and now they work again. I used to agree with most people, that cold calls do not work. In fact, I established my sales career on referral networking. However, I have rediscovered the power of cold calling and how to do it effectively.  Networking is still important, but now I don’t have to wait around hoping for referrals.
Before the internet cold calling was effective because talking to salespeople was the most effective way for most people to learn about new products and services. As long as you had a good product, solid reputation and solid sales skills you could be successful. If someone wasn’t willing to take the time to listen to your sales pitch then they weren’t open to learning about the latest and greatest innovations that could transform their company.
However, the Internet made cold calling ineffective. It provided a more effective alternative to talking with salespeople that typically didn’t value people’s time and attention. Now, people had the ability to learn about new product and didn’t need someone to “sell it to them”.
Cold calling no longer worked because people no longer had problems to solve that they couldn’t solve using the Internet. They didn’t want a salesperson to create a problem. They certainly did not have time to listen to another sales pitch. If they had a problem they could solve it themselves, and this essentially took the power away from salespeople.
Salespeople transitioned from cold calling to networking and developing referral relationships. This worked because it established trust with prospects, and trust was something that the Internet lacked. The buyer did all the research to find possible solutions to meet their need, and then asked friends for a referral to someone they could trust to make answer a couple questions, provide a recommendation, and take the order. However, it is difficult to build a reliable sales system through networking and referrals, because you are relying on someone else to make the first move and then making sure that you are positioned in cahoots with the first person that they would ask for advice.
What cold calling and the Internet had allowed buyers to do is find products and services that they had the need, willingness and resources to purchase. The secrete is talking to the right people at the right time. With the right timing cold calling can be effective again, and sales people can once again activity take control of their pipeline.
Once we realized that timing was the secret, CAN set out on a mission to get our timing right. How could we build a system that would allow sales people to find leads when they had the need, willingness and resources to purchase?  The solution is Predictive Lead Generation. Predictive Lead Generation allows you to build a detailed profile of your ideal client that identifies what factors trigger prospects to have the need, willingness and resources to purchase your product, and find leads that have the attributes of someone who is ready to purchase, and find supporting evidence you need to successful call and build trust.  Instead of calling 100 people to get one person that is interested in your product, CAN is able to give you a list of 10 people.  You still have to have a great product and solid sales pitch, but Predictive Lead Generation can help you focus on talking to the right people.
We have been using Predictive Lead Generation internally for four years. Before Predictive Lead Generation our sales team used to spend the entire week attending networking events hoping to snag a solid lead, and make up excuses about how sales is all about luck and can’t produce reliable results. Now, our sales team is focused on building relationships with the right people, and I am confident that my team will be able to deliver each month.
I encourage you to use Predictive Lead Generation to put cold calls back into your arsenal. If you want to try out cold calling search the Internet and find a company you decide needs, wants and has the resources to purchase what you sell, spend 10 minutes learning about the person you are calling, and then call someone who actually needs what you are selling, and will be glad you called. If that produces results, then you might be a good candidate for CAN’s Predictive Lead Generation system. While referrals may always be the easiest phone call, cold calls are now some of the most effective.

Make Employee Feedback Believable

Make Employee Feedback Believable

This post is part of a series of interviews with experts in business intelligence, sales management, marketing, customer retention, management and strategic planning.  Everyday, the CAN team interacts clients, mentors, and friends who are leaders in their fields, and we started this series to share their expertise.
Research shows that employees who focus on improving their strengths consistently out perform employees that focus on their weaknesses (Read a Related Post).  According to Gallup, employees that focus on developing their strengths are more productive and are 6 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and 3 times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.  However, it is difficult, demanding, and often counterintuitive to think through who you are and what you do best. Studies on the reliability of performance ratings have repeatedly shown that people struggle to rate their own performance.  The most accurate performance ratings come from others. Given this, it shouldn’t be assumed that we truly know our strengths or weaknesses.
One of the simplest ways to encourage employees to identify and focus on developing their strengths is by creating a feedback loop that connects an employee’s behavior with the results of their actions.  According to Industrial-Organizational Psychologist  Josh Kuehler, when feedback is more detailed and frequent, it creates more self awareness; a primer for performance improvement.
However, employee feedback is most commonly offered as a response to events that are negative, rather than positive, in nature. In other words, it is easy to see the performance gaps and therefore easy to offer employee feedback when performance falls short of expectations. Negative employee feedback also has a tendency to be more frequent and detailed, when compared to positive feedback. When the performance problems occur, it is easy for others to see the specific actions to fix performance problems. It is more difficult to recognize the specific actions taken that led to a successful task or project.  According to Josh, this can be attributed to the fact that while employees are expected to do positive things, typical management is focused on correcting poor performance rather than praising good performance.
This type of employee feedback as a response to negative events creates a negative loop of interaction between managers and employees where the employees act to avoid punishment, instead of focusing on developing expertise in their positions. Management by exception is a poor model, yet is too common. To help balance negative and positive feedback, Josh recommends that managers make providing frequent and detailed feedback part of their management routine, rather than solely in response to negative events.  Josh is currently developing software that helps managers support the expertise of their team by making detailed and frequent feedback a part of their weekly routine.
Josh recommends that managers provide frequent and detailed feedback to their employees in a way that connects how an employee’s behavior produces specific results.  Instead of using feedback only for correcting negative behavior, managers should focus on developing and amplifying the excellence of their employees.  This requires that the managers act as a sensor and decision system, monitoring behavior and outcomes, and providing the employee with an understanding of how their actions contribute and create outcomes on a grand scale.

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