High Performing Teams
How would you like a process that can help your people deal with changes faster and easier than you ever thought possible? What if the process not only opened you and your team to endless possibilities but also ensured faster buy-in from all the various stakeholders you impact. I’ve been guiding serving leaders through change for over 20 years, from small startup businesses to family businesses over 100 years old continuing to change to keep up with the many challenges businesses face as they grow and prosper. In one client engagement, I was dealing with a large medical practice. I was assigned a psychiatrist to work with to determine how medical professionals deal with change in high stress specialties. I asked several of my better clients to be involved in the pilot program. This allowed me to explore the topic further and it gave me access to a great team of people who deal with high stress on a regular basis.
I can’t imagine a much more stressful job than running a small or mid-market privately-held business today. I share the best process I found and help you apply it to your life starting today. I use this four step process when dealing with my clients to help them see the possibilities in their life and organizations. The process is called Appreciative Inquiry Method and was originally developed by David Cooperrider, PhD. He has continued developing and evolving the process over the years. Continue reading
On Monday, April 8, 2013, we lost a truly remarkable lady and leader. Before there was Condi or Hillary, there was a woman who could stand up to men and lead their country to greatness. To paraphrase Churchill, I would say Prime Minister Thatcher was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. When Prime Minister Thatcher spoke, the world listened. After the she left the world stage we heard very little from her again. She was a paradoxical leader at a time when world freedom was at stake. She was a conservative feminist. She chose to lead in difficult times. What can we learn from this unique woman who helped create the world we live in today? Continue reading
How do you decide what you want in life? I find many of my clients are facing changes they couldn’t imagine in their careers. It doesn’t matter how old they are or what they are involved in, many are going through major life transitions. Some are as young as 30 and some are older, in their mid 60’s, but this extended, uncertain economy has given them a chance to reexamine what they do with their lives. I thought it might be helpful to share several questions I use to help these people reconnect with their passion and purpose in new ways. I use these three questions as an assessment with people to see what’s going on in their lives when they seem listless or just don’t seem like themselves. I use many different assessments in my role as strategic advisor. Most people enjoy them and I find they increase learning velocity versus more traditional methods used in the coaching and counseling profession. Continue reading
Why do so few entrepreneurs reach financial independence? I believe it’s because many entrepreneurs are willing to settle for less. They build an organization that will not grow without their involvement. Previously, we talked about the first three reasons why entrepreneurs start their businesses. To build an organization that people want to buy, you must be willing to work outside of your organization. Today’s blog talks about my favorite kind of entrepreneur, the serving leader. Let’s talk about what happens when you do everything right and achieve your goals that take your business from good to great. By thinking about how you’re going to leave the business early and often, you begin to create the future of your dreams. The difference in your results is staggering. The quality of your life changes in ways you can’t even imagine today. So, let me share with you how we can work together to change the world.
The fourth reason entrepreneurs start their businesses is to change the world. I find most of my better known clients have an incredible drive to change the world. They are passionate about what they do and they never tire of working with people and their key ideas. These people are visionaries and serving leaders. During the early stages of their business, they are able to woo people to their ideas and their business. They reach out to many different stakeholders in their communities.You can feel the energy coming off them when you sit down to talk with them or if they are in a room full of people. Continue reading
In the course of daily business activities, I spend time at various meetings, conferences, and other organized functions where I meet a lot of entrepreneurs. Inevitably, the conversation turns to, “So, what do you do?” I explain that I help entrepreneurs plan and get their businesses ready for sale. I’m amazed how often I get the response, “Oh, I’d never sell my business. My business is my life!” Really? Are you one of those entrepreneurs that started a business because you don’t have a life and this was how to get one? I didn’t think so, either. Entrepreneurs start their businesses for a wide variety of reasons, but here are the four most common ones and how planning to sell your business can help you accomplish them. Continue reading
I’ve been involved in mergers and acquisitions for the past 25 years. I’m always asked how my clients and businesses decide who to buy. Why do they choose to buy certain businesses and pass on others? Sitting in a conference on Succession Planning for Private Businesses last week reminded me of my earliest exposure to mergers and acquisitions, including working with a larger business bought by Berkshire Hathaway back in the mid 80’s and then working in several different divisions within that business. I came away understanding a key component to acquisition success is buying companies with enduring competitive advantage in their markets. This hasn’t changed over the length of my career. I was also involved early in my career with several venture funded buyouts that did not work out for either the acquired and/or acquiring businesses. I wondered why it worked out well for some companies while other acquisitions ended in failure. What made some owners financially successful when they sold their businesses, and others not? Continue reading
I’ve been involved in succession planning since the late 70’s. It was the first consulting job I did with clients and I still am actively working with organizations on their talent management and succession planning. I’ve worked on over 100 succession plans for key clients and partner organizations.
The first reason succession planning is not done is because there is always something more important to do. For most entrepreneurs, they are still actively involved in their business. They can find a hundred other things to do than talk to about who will lead their organization after their gone. Over 50% of my client s don’t put an emphasis on organizational sustainability. They are brilliant at what they do. In many cases, they’ve created visionary organizations. The problem for many is that they cannot see a time when they won’t be involved in their business. So why invest time into something that won’t build a lasting leadership legacy. My challenge is to get them to face their own mortality and still remain a long term client.
The second reason there is no succession plan is the founder doesn’t feel that someone else can do their job. For many in North American men, their lives are so tightly aligned with their careers, take away one and the other begins to falter. I have found than many market leading organizations begin failing when the founder can no longer see the future. Since many of my clients are technology based, the leader is unable to deal with disruptive technologies and capabilities in their markets. As their technologies mature, the type of leadership required also changes. Since many entrepreneurs are controlling by nature, when change begins to occur they may hold on tighter to the leadership of the organization. Leaders who have built significant organizations are not willing to bring in leadership that may add another dimension to their organization. In the worst case, they may begin chasing the out their successors, either because of fear of the unknown or they’re afraid they’ll be thrown out before they’re ready to go. The other part of this is that the leader can misread their own health and drive. They don’t notice health problems until it’s too late. I’ve seen several of my clients die before their successor is chosen. Sometimes it’s not a health issue but a random act the owner suffers. I’ve seen at least several senior leaders die in unexpected plane crashes and, in one case, it took out 3 of his successors. In the military, there are always succession plans to follow. You should have one too.
The final reason succession plans fail is that the leaders and their leadership teams underestimate the impact of a new leader on their organization. When Jack Welch named Jeffrey Immelt as his successor, several key executives left to run other organizations within several months. In the case of GE, they had incredible leadership depth to call on after the executives left. When a new CEO is named in a midmarket organization he or she may lose a critical member of the leadership team. If you’re in a small nonprofit, the moment you promote a new managing director, several of your team members may begin looking for roles outside the organization. You must be prepared to deal with these situations. The better you are prepared for the worst the less harmful it will be to your organization. We will talk more about how to do this in a future blog.
The challenges for a smaller business may also include a financial component to the succession plan. In many privately held organizations, when a team member on the leadership team leaves there is financial burden that the organization takes on. Since the stock is not publically traded many times the cash payout for private stock can cause additional hardship to the organization. I’ve also seen many smaller organizations struggle to pay both the former CEO and their replacement the compensation they feel due to them. This can undue and unnecessary stress during their transition.
Next week after the succession strategy conference, I will bring back the financial piece of the succession strategies process. For many of you CEO and Managing Directors, you will find this next blog incredibly helpful. I’ve got my copy of CFO for Dummies out and I’m not afraid to use it. Next week, we will share the financial secrets of succession strategies. See you next week.
The first lesson George Washington might teach us is that it’s better to dodge a bullet than take one. As a military leader President Washington had several horses shot out from under him in several different battles. He understood that you can’t make things happen from the back of the battlefield. Serving leaders are willing to lead from the front and are willing to do the things they ask others to do. He understood leaders must step up and take responsibility for their results. Entrepreneurs understand that if it’s going to be done right that sometimes means they must do it.
The second lesson to learn from Washington is that he had extensive formal training in the military. He had a formal military training in the British army. He learned the more traditional ways of battle from generations of great military leaders from England. George Washington didn’t let his advanced education and experience limit his ability to recreate the rules of war. He developed strategies that would allow him to use his fledging army to confound the world’s most powerful military. Entrepreneurs must know how to create their own opportunities in the markets they work in. Going straight at your opposition is most likely to end in a loss for your team. As you organization continues to evolve so should your go-to-market strategies. Be agile when you competitors are larger and dominate smaller markets to increase your profits.
The third lesson to learn from Washington is to know when to strategically retreat and regroup. George Washington understood you can’t win every battle. Use what you learned to step back and develop a different strategy. He was the master of using the environment to change the way we fought and won. He was willing to take risks and seize opportunities when others didn’t see them. He crossed the Delaware on Christmas Eve to surprise and defeat his enemies. Successful entrepreneurs must know how to seize new markets when they appear. You must create as many opportunities as you find. Leaving old markets to enter new ones is critical to your organization’s success and growth.
The fourth lesson to learn from Washington is to know what you are good at. President Washington was a man who was very comfortable with who he was and what he wasn’t. He invested his lifetime knowing what he did best and then delegated to others around him to support his efforts. He spent significant time knowing what he needed to create success both here and overseas. He then found the most capable men and women to support his dreams. Purpose driven entrepreneurs know what they do best. They then find others with complementary skills to do the things they don’t do well.
The final lesson to learn from President George Washington was to know when to leave. Succession is a hot topic today for many business founders. Knowing when and how to bring in the right people is critical to a sustainable organization. If any President was ever given an opportunity to be made King, it was George Washington. He chose to leave office because he understood that our country, and ultimately, our form of government could not be built on the back on an individual, no matter who they might be. In a truly courageous act, he helped create a Constitution and a culture that would far exceed his life and impact. Many great entrepreneurs have failed to create the culture and structure to live beyond their vision of the business. Entrepreneurs must be willing to plan for the unplanned and develop an organization that transcends the individual founding team and develop succession plans for key people within the organization. Then even the best leaders must be willing to step down and create future leaders in the process.
Most of us are very familiar with the stories about Washington; the infamous cherry tree, the silver dollar across the Potomac, the winter in Valley Forge. Looking past the school stories you’ll find we have much more to learn from the Father of our country.
I have several ideas and questions I’ve used to help my clients find the right professional for their sales teams. There are several intangibles that most successful sales professionals possess and you can uncover them by interviewing candidates several times and by asking specific questions during the interview process.
When I’m hiring sales professionals, I make sure that they’re interviewed at least three separate times by the sales manager. Each interview serves three purposes. First, I want this person to be honest with me during the process. Second, I want to know what I’m getting when I hire this person. And finally, I want them to know what I expect from them before they make the decision to come work for me. During these separate interviews, I may also use an assessment tool to better understand who they are and what they do best. There are many great assessment tools available but we can talk about them in a future blog.
There are several kinds of questions I love to ask during my interviewing process to help me understand with whom I’m interviewing. They are very simple to incorporate into your interviews and they give you a clear understanding of the type of person to whom you’re talking.
The first question is what type of sacrifices have you made to be successful? This is a great question, so wait for an answer. There is no right or wrong answer but listen to what they say. Selling today is a tough job. It requires emotional resilience and sacrifice if you hope to excel. So what have they given up in the past to be successful? Are they still capable of this today?
The second type of question revolves around goals. I like to ask, what is the toughest goal you’ve ever set for yourself? Stop, listen, and then begin asking follow up questions. My favorite follow up question is why did you set such a tough goal? This gives you a clear indication of who you are dealing with. I find that winning sales professionals set tough goals. You want people who set tough goals but also why they set them. Look for a complete response. And be sure to ask if they achieved the results they wanted. Don’t let them give you a preplanned answer. It may take time to understand their goal setting process. Some younger sales professionals may not set goals for themselves. Remember, reaching the goal is only so important. What you become to achieve it is critical to future success. Keep in mind that people frequently grow more through setbacks than success.
The third question is about how they respond to a competitive environment. Ask them to tell you the details about a tough deal they worked on. Listen closely for the specifics and how they responded. How would you expect them to deal with a similar situation? During this question look for a competitive drive in this person and how far they will go to win a deal. Do you feel they went too far or not far enough? Ask them why they did this. What drives them toward success? Look for clues on what success looks like for them. How do they see a competitive market and their role in it?
The final question I ask is simple. What are you driven to prove? This question gives you incredible insight into what you should expect from them if they are on your team. Most great leaders and sales professionals are driven to succeed by many different reasons. Reasons are what drive people to succeed in life. Don’t judge the reasons; just make sure that you understand them. Many sales hiring failures come from the breakdown between the employee’s reasons and the organization’s results.
If you ask these questions and help the person you are interviewing to answer them, you will be 90% home in finding the right sales professional. Try these questions out and you’ll be amazed at how much better you become at hiring sales professionals.
I have found over the past 25 years of guiding hundreds of flourishing companies in hiring the best sales professionals, there are several things that successful leaders do in hiring sales professionals that other leaders don’t do. I will share them here over the next several blogs to get you started in the right direction. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’d be more than happy to talk about your individual challenges.
The first step is to identify what you want in a sales professional. Do you understand what key skills will be required in the person you hire? There are many types of successful sales professionals in the market, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful in your organization. Most leaders tend to hire people like themselves. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Many entrepreneurs are very successful sales people in their own right. They tend to want someone just like themselves without considering what key factors are involved in the job if they are not doing it. Many leaders are very good at building sales at the beginning of their business because they are offering a new product to the market. The way you sell products when they first become available is different than how you sell when you begin facing the competition. Many early sales are unprofitable, but when owners look back on their early success they fail to remember this.
Many entrepreneurs fail to find the right sales professional because they don’t identify the key success factors in their organizations’ success. For example, they need a person with prior experience selling in a market similar to theirs. They may hire a sales professional who comes from a larger competitor without realizing the selling circumstances for the individual was completely different. It’s one thing for a sales professional to get an appointment with a potential client when they work for IBM. It’s another thing entirely when they represent a startup organization. Do you know how to position your product in comparison to your competition? Do you know who is the right person is to call on for your product or services? Do you have current clients in their industry? Most successful sales professionals are good because they are able to target their efforts to the right clients and decision makers. They have a finely tuned understanding of how to find these clients and how to take them through a sales process. If you’re unclear about your target, it could take your sales professional longer to achieve the success you expect. During the interview process you should try to uncover who the sales professional would try to sell your products and services to at first. Ask for specific examples and why they think these organizations would be good potential clients. Take time to discover who the sales person would call on but also why they would chose these clients. How does it match up with your current clients and future customers?
To increase your hiring success, develop a target client profile that will help you and your potential sales professionals understand the type of clients you want them to acquire during the initial stages of their working with you. I’ve found most midmarket organizations struggle to identify the type of clients they want to add to their customer base. They leave it up to the sales professional who spends significant time chasing clients who don’t fit or aren’t profitable clients for their businesses. When you are a small business you may have been able to be less selective in your customer acquisition process but as you continue to grow, you will need to become more focused on what type of clients your business can serve best.
To achieve hiring success, the more time you invest in understanding your business, the more success you will have in hiring the right sales professional. This initial research will help you better understand your business and will also allow for increased success in hiring the right individual at the right time. A bad sales hire can cost your organization between $300,000 and $1,000,000. It is critical to begin with a strong understanding of what business development skills you need in your next sales hire. This information will also help your current sales team succeed as well. I’ve used sales meetings to develop this material in the past and have been very surprised how it positively impacted my current sales team’s efforts, as well.
Next week we will talk about how to develop and interview guide that will help you structure your interview process for success.