leadership

For Your Development

I was recently catching up with a friend, and the topic shifted to work. “How have things been going?” I asked. “I’m getting frustrated. For over a year, they have been piling extra projects on me, telling me it is ‘for my development,’ and that I am getting ready for the next level. It feels to me like they are just giving me extra work because there is no one else to do it. There is no talk of what skills I need to develop, or any communication about when they think I will be ready for that next level.”

I suggested that he ask for a meeting with his boss to understand what skills he needed to build, get feedback on the work he had completed, and start a dialogue about his development strategy.

Providing special assignments, such as leading a cross-functional team or mentoring, is a fantastic talent development strategy. Ambitious employees gain an opportunity to grow and shine while meeting a business need of the organization. Often, the recipient gains increased exposure to leadership, an occasion to expand professionally, and a chance to demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond.

However, if not managed appropriately, this practice can go south, mainly if it is frequent, and create frustration for the employee. For best results:

  • Set the foundation with a development conversation. Ask the employee to articulate his/her career goals. In return, provide honest feedback about the development that will best serve the employee to reach said goals. Establish additional assignments as a vehicle for growth and discuss how they benefit both the person and the company.

  • At the onset, clarify expectations and illustrate how the employee will benefit.

  • Support the employee through the duration of the project. Provide guidance and feedback. Doing so is especially important if the assignment is a stretch for the employee.

  • Be appreciative.

  • Call a spade a spade. If it’s not a development opportunity, but merely extra work that needs to be done, do not misrepresent.

Taking these steps also ensures that everyone is on the same page, and that open two-way communication ensues, creating a win-win situation.

Simple Credos from a Life Well-Lived

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

"Tell the truth. Don't blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Forgive. Stay the course." This was the life code of George H.W. Bush, according to Jon Meachum in his December 5 eulogy for the 41st president.

The language is plain. The lessons are simple. And these qualities really matter to people when being led. No matter your politics, a leader who lives by these words creates the intangibles of a great team: trust, purpose, and community.

A few thoughts about each:

“Tell the truth.” Truth and kindness are not mutually exclusive. Sharing the good, bad and the ugly may be uncomfortable in the short run, but it ultimately builds trust. If I know that my boss will always tell me the truth, I can follow him/her, without worry of some hidden agenda.

Don’t blame people.” Own it. Learn from it. Apologize when necessary. Think about what you will do differently the next time.

“Be strong.” Remember that on the other side of any challenge is an outcome and a better result.

“Do your best.” Be all in, or don’t be there.

“Forgive.” We are all united in our humanity. We all make mistakes. We can only control what we do. When we don’t forgive, we carry on the negative emotion.

“Stay the course.” The course and direction may not be linear, but that’s okay. Put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

At the end of the day, we want to feel confident that we have led others in a way that makes a proud. We want to reflect upon “a life well-lived.” Following these simple credos is a big step toward leading and living in a meaningful way.

Promoting Your Superstar to Manager

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You are a business owner or leader, and you are looking to hire a sales leader. You might be thinking, “This is a no-brainer. I’ll promote my top performing sales rep. He’ll train everyone to do what he does, and sales will go through the roof!”

Not so fast. More often than not, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen, as the two positions require very different skill sets and motivators.

Over the years, I have known many highly successful salespeople who have jumped into a sales leadership role thinking it to be the “next logical step,” and quickly found it to be the wrong fit.

“All I do is deal with drama…I didn’t sign up to be HR.”

“Why don’t they just listen!”

“I’m tired of being a babysitter.”

“I just want to be responsible for myself.”

I’m not trying malign salespeople. I love the selling environment for many reasons and have surrounded myself with these folks my entire adult life. But let’s face it, many salespeople march to the beat of their own drum, like to create their own rules, and are a bit egocentric. Those qualities, while extremely helpful in sales, do not an effective sales leader make.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making this jump and potentially putting the right talent into the wrong seat.

Does s/he find joy in helping others? A strong sales leader loves to teach and relishes in the success of his/her direct reports.

Is s/he a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? I’m not looking for Pollyanna, but sales leaders must be optimistic and solution-oriented. No whining and no dwelling on problems.

Does s/he build genuine credibility with others? A foundation of trust is critical. This person tries to do what is best, and not just what is in his/her best interest. S/he is known for “having everyone’s backs.”

Is s/he self-aware and able to self-regulate? People are people and people have personal “stuff.” It’s essential for a leader to understand this notion and take things in stride without displaying frustration.

An effective sales leader learns how to amplify the employees’ strengths and mitigate their shortcomings. S/he wants the best for his/her people and makes them want to give their very best in return. Doing so requires advocacy, optimism, humility, and emotional intelligence. These words may or may not describe your sales superstar. Proceed judiciously.