Lead

Onboarding a New Salesperson

Onboarding a New Sales Person

I heard a story from a colleague about her first day as an outside sales representative. “I was supposed to meet my new boss at a local coffee shop at 9:00 am. I waited for him to arrive for about 30 minutes and then called him, somewhat in a panic, thinking that I was at the wrong meeting place. No answer, no response. Around 3:00 that afternoon, he called me back to tell me that he was confused about the day, had other stuff going on, and that it would be better if we met a couple of days later.”

Hearing this story almost sent me into a state of shock. What kind of message did the “no-show” deliver? What did it do to her level of enthusiasm and motivation, right out of the gate?

While this story is undoubtedly out of the ordinary, many managers do rush through the onboarding process in hopes of getting the new person up and running—out selling, as quickly as possible. When designed with thought and intention, the onboarding process provides the foundation for future success. Pulled together haphazardly, or not done at all, it has the potential to be a costly mistake.   

Here are my Do’s and Don’t’s when onboarding a new salesperson:

  1. Provide an Overview of the Onboarding Period. You need to have a plan for the training/onboarding, ideally in writing for easy reference. Establish goals.  Articulate what you want the employee to have learned and mastered by the end of the period. Doing so demonstrates that you are serious about success and have given thought to what it will take.

  2. Plan, but be Flexible. As important as it is to have a plan in place, recognize that everyone learns differently, and at a different pace. Also, business needs may cause you to move things around. Communicate this on the first day.

  3. Share Your Mission and Vision. When employees feel connected to a purpose beyond their actual responsibilities, their motivation level increases. The best time to lay this foundation is on day one. Consider the Bricklayer parable:

    Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

  4. Build Connections and Relationships. As much as you want your employees to feel connected to your company’s purpose, you want them to connect with the team and the other players. As part of the orientation, build in time for genuine relationships to blossom.  Schedule team lunches, job shadowing, etc. Establishing a mentor can be a huge win. The new employee has a second resource. You can delegate some of the training responsibility. The mentor has an opportunity to develop and feels valued.

  5. Celebrate. A small welcome gift or a note expressing your excitement demonstrates that you are a class act and look forward to more celebrations to come.  

Starting on the right footing does not guarantee success, but it serves as a great foundation. Take advantage of this opportunity to take the next step in building a top-performing team and culture.

Leading: Body, Heart, Mind, and Soul

We all want to hire the best people and build a better company. To attract and retain top talent, it is imperative that we cultivate an environment where our people have the tools to do their jobs effectively and the motivation to do so. This will ensure a positive culture, but is no simple task. It is a mission that requires us bring our best selves to the show.

To lead at our highest potential, we must intentionally care for our bodies, our emotional well-being, our minds, and our spirits. 

Body—We gain strength and stamina by taking care of ourselves physically, which expands our capacity to work. Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. 

Heart—To get the best from others, we must communicate effectively. As leaders, we are on a stage. We need to “respond” rather than “react,” and keep our cool, even when we want to blow. We gain interpersonal effectiveness, empathy, and self-regulation from taking care of ourselves emotionally. Disconnect from work. Laugh. Practice gratitude.

Mind—When we take care of our minds, we are more focused and much better at problem-solving. Plan and manage our time. Take mental breaks (even for five minutes). Minimize multi-tasking.

Soul—We are at our best when we feel connected to a purpose greater than self-interest. In so doing, we increase our effectiveness at work and our motivation level is high. Journal. Meditate. Stop and take a breath. Find the practice that works best for you. 

When we manage these four dimensions of our being, we lead with greater intention and have a meaningful impact on those around us. We create a thriving environment, and the results are profound.

Want to learn more? Attend "Leadership and Professional Effectiveness" on May 30 at the CBA.

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.

Single Point of Failure

Several months ago, a friend of mine took a new position as a project manager with a large company. I ran into him last week and asked how things were going. “I like what I am doing,” he replied, “but the manager who hired me is now in a different role, and my new boss…well, he’s a real piece of work.”

I asked him to elaborate.

He went on to tell me about one of his peers, who was battling a severe disease and was needing to take medical leave. “I heard my manager refer to this guy as a ‘single point of failure.’ And if I heard him, others did as well.”

Clearly, this manager did not consider how his words might impact others on the team.

As leaders, we need to remember that it is not just what we say to people; it’s what we say about others. Everything we say and do is observed by others, scrutinously. We build the best teams by using this stage to empower the team through humility and doing the right thing.

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.

Holding Time and Space for Your Team

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In the educational publishing world, where I spent the first 20+ years of my career, we would generate almost 70% of the business for the year during the spring. January through April was like running a marathon, necessitating 60 to 65-hour work weeks. It was the nature of our sales cycle.

The first week of March represented the halfway point in this race. It was also the time of our “spring meeting,” where we would convene to review what was/was not working and map out our strategies for the rest of the spring.

Some years, at the same time in my northern geography, the weather would break, and the smell of spring would permeate the air.

Unconsciously, I began rewarding myself in some way each March. The first year, I purchased a Coach station bag, classic black with the aroma of good leather. It was an extravagant purchase for 24-year old me, but carrying it put an extra skip into my step. A friend of mine planned a 3-day ski weekend each year to accomplish the same.

As I grew into a leader, I, even more, appreciated the spring “midpoint” and the accompanying spring meeting. We would spend a precious couple of days, not just strategizing, but slowing down the pace, recognizing our hard work, and celebrating our team. A nice dinner, lots of laughs, and “let’s make sure to wrap up by noon so that you guys are all home to start your weekend early” demonstrated that I valued their well-being and had their backs.

As a result, they, too, had a bit more skip in their step during the second half of the race.

The most talented and dedicated teams, when immersed in a long and arduous project, will be laser-focused on the prize, and will work, work, work, even to the point of exhaustion. Holding time and space for folks to come up for air and experience joy reinvigorates the team so that best results ensue, while morale and loyalty build.

Leadership: Why I am Grateful to Millennials—Part Deux

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A few months ago, I wrote about my appreciation of the millennial generation, and how their needs (purpose, authenticity, clear expectations) and their critical mass (38% of the workforce as of 2017) are requiring us to be stronger, better leaders. As the self-proclaimed “leadership safety patrol,” (I possess zero tolerance of poor leadership), I am thrilled to see that leaders need to step up their games to attract and retain talent.

From time to time, I speak to groups about Leading Millennials. Recently, I “spruced up” my talk to starting discussing the entry of Gen Z into the workforce, and how they are similar to/different previous generations. Some distinguishing characteristics of Gen Z include the need for security, strong work ethic, and competitive drive. As I discussed these traits, someone (Gen X) in the audience gave an audible sigh of relief. “You mean they are more like us!”

I am sorry, fellow member of Gen X…but you are missing the point! No matter the generation and their defining characteristics, strong leadership is simply non-negotiable.

This means:

1. Leaders clearly state expectations.

2. Leaders are authentic, transparent and selfless.

3. Leaders communicate and provide ongoing feedback

4. Leaders provide learning and development

For companies to grow and sustain results, they must lead in a way that is meaningful and motivational to their talent. Do so, and the results will reflect it.

Why I am Grateful to Millennials....

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“Millennials in the workplace” has become a very hot topic in the business community, and for good reason. In early 2015, the millennial generation (born early 1980’s-1995) surpassed Generation X (born 1965-early 1980’s) as the largest population in the U.S. labor force. The percentage will keep growing. By 2020, this generation will contribute 46% of all individuals in the workforce.

For those of us who are GenXers, or Baby Boomers, we can feel the our work world changing, and let's face it....there is resistance. When the word “millennial” is mentioned in a group of GenXers or Baby Boomers, it is usually met with a collective groan, followed by a story about someone at the office who set up a hammock in the break room, brought a dog to work,  or asked for a 30% raise and two additional weeks of vacation on day 12 of employment. 

Having managed folks from this generation for over a decade and armed with a few lessons learned, I recently gave a talk about millennials in the workplace, discussing the factors that have shaped millennial perspectives, what this group as a whole wants and needs from work, and what leaders need to do to bring out the best in their millennial talent (which, of course, is of benefit to both the employee and employer).

My four “must do’s” are as follows:

1.       PROVIDE CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

2.       BE AUTHENTIC AND TRANSPARENT

3.       COMMUNICATE REGULARLY AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK

4.       FACILITATE AND ENCOURAGE LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

In the absence of the four "must do's", millennials will not stick around, and a company will not retain its top millennial talent. Period.

The irony is that the four items above are all critical components of strong leadership. In their absence, NO ONE should stick around. We all look to our leadership for these things. Millennials are simply more likely to leave a company because of poor leadership, and they will do it without hesitation. 

No matter your age, no matter your perspective, the critical mass of this generation and the attention placed on retention is forcing better leadership: honesty, caring candor, and accountability to their people.

Pervasive strong leadership will make the WORK PLACE a BETTER PLACE. And for that, millennials, I am grateful.  

You Can't Manage Results....Only Behavior

Success in sales, or lack thereof, is easily measured by looking at the results of any sales professional or team. The same goes for any goal--you measure the result. BUT...what we need to remember, is that you cannot manage that result. You can only manage what you do to get there. Over time, results are a reflection of what we do day in and day out. But this isn't necessarily the case in the short run, and if we fixate too much, we can even hinder our success. Consider the individual trying to lose weight. If this person eats an entire box of cookies, the scale the next morning probably won't reflect it. It may even show a weight loss. Does that mean that should he/she eat another box of cookies?

MY THOUGHTS:

BE RESULTS-DRIVEN. BUT NEVER PANIC ABOUT IT. I learned the hard way that obsessing about a sales result can be counterproductive. In one selling period that was a “nail-biter”, I made myself physically sick in worry. My worry about the result forced me into a position that I could not TAKE ACTION that would help to reach my goal.  

THIS GOES FOR LEADERS TOO. If a leader is worrying too much about the result, the effectiveness of that leader will be hindered. A team can feel it and they will not respond positively.

ONE GOOD RESULT DOESN’T MEAN THAT EVERYTHING IS OKAY. I remember a case where a new rep started in a sales territory where all the stars were aligned—she had a huge first year without having to do too much. Because the numbers were good, no one really realized that she had major gaps in her skills and behaviors. Until year 2. Sometimes, businesses fail to examine the day to day activities until the numbers show that there is a problem. Focusing on the activities is the important step in making sure that the numbers stay strong. 

A wise manager friend once told me “you can’t manage results....only behavior.” The desired result should always be our starting point in mapping out a plan. But then, we need to break it down and do what is needed each day. The “day in and day out” is what we can truly manage and the only clear path to our desired result.