Communication, Leadership, and Writing Your Own User Manual

Unfortunately, newborn children and team members don’t come with a set of instructions.  But here’s your chance to write your own “user’s manual.”  Creating your own set of instructions for yourself can be a great way to build stronger relationships in your organization.  It’s a technique we use at Performance Strategies Groupin which two or more people jot complete a series of sentences to identify ways to better coach and be coached, allowing team members to create a common baseline for behavioral and cultural dialogue.

This tool may be particularly useful to do so when new team members join an organization, enabling the parties participating in the exercise to accelerate an understanding about what is important to each of them.   Often, we employ this exercise to compliment our use of several behavioral profiles we use in leadership and teambuilding exercises and become the foundation for creating a coaching culture.  With that understanding, please complete the following sentences with the realization there may be one or more ideas that come to mind.  Try to identify the two or three things that are most important to you, rather than list all your possible responses.

  1. If you want to motivate or energize me, you should…
  2. If you want to frustrate or demotivate me, you should…
  3. I give you permission to….
  4. If I have done something well please…
  5. If my productivity, accuracy, or some other performance measure by which I am gaged falls short, you should…
  6. I would prefer…
  7. I like a work environment in which….
  8. It is difficult for me to…
  9. It is really important for me to…
  10. Conflict is…
  11. As I understand them my primary responsibilities by which my performance will be measured includes…
  12. I need help when…
  13. I get upset when…
  14. I am the kind of employee/manager who values…
  15. I think our organizational culture values…
  16. When I am under stress I tend to…
  17. I feel devalued when…
  18. I feel valued when…
  19. When our organization is undergoing change in policies, people, or processes, I would appreciate
  20. I am not sure who is responsible for…
  21. I am at my best when…

Keep in mind this is only a brief list of statements, not a comprehensive one.  When discussing your responses with someone else in your organization, you will likely find yourself adding to the list.  You should feel free to do so and revisit this dialogue regularly.

If you’d like more information about how Performance Strategies Group can help you and your organization improve your communication, sales and leadership skills, or with our strategic planning process, contact principal consultant, Jim Owens at jim@psghsv.com

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Performance Matters: What did you do last night and uncertainty.

Uncertainty. 

It can cause us everything from a bit of anxiety—that pit in our stomachs—to outright panic. But when it comes to our relationships when can feel uncertainty when we walk into a crowded room, meet a new boss, or make a sales call. And at the core of those experiences, we all want to reduce our sense of uncertainty.

So how can we lower that uncertainty quickly and build better and more productive relationships? By learning how, when, and where to ask the right questions. 

Consider this question:  What did you do last night?  It’s a simple question.  But it has a possibility of evoking a remarkable variety of emotions based on how, when, and where we ask. 

If it’s said gently to a teenager, even when we believe they’ve been up to something inappropriate, it might evoke a quiet, “not much.”  But if we ask it in the form of an accusation, WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? it’s likely to evoke a denial, or worse, anger. And if we wake them in the middle of the night ask—no matter what tone we use—we’re only creating more uncertainty and anxiety.  But what if we phrased it this way after the teenager has slept the night, had breakfast and is wide awake?  Tell me about your evening last night?  Wouldn’t we avoid some uncertainty and have a more productive conversation?

When we’re with a prospect—particularly one who might not know us well—each us trying to lower uncertainty.  The prospect wants to know if we are competent, honest, and that our product is fairly priced and best for him.  So we might ask him, “What would you like to know about me and my company or our products?”before anything else. If you’re a sales person and want to become a trusted-advisor,reducing your prospect’s uncertainty first will allow you to offer something about your expertise, the benefits of your product, or even personal references in return.    Once we’ve done that, we can move on to ask our own questions about his business needs and do so in such a manner that inspires confidence in us as an advisor.

There’s much more to be said about asking questions and reducing uncertainty—and we know the teenager example might seem a little extreme.  But in the coming weeks, we’ll show you have you can use this technique with employees to lead more effectively, reduce stress, and improve employee engagement.

Until then….

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

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Performance Matters: Strategic Planning and Engaging Stakeholders

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered a variety of issues related to creating a straightforward, meaningful strategic planning process for your organization.  We’ve stressed the importance of continuous planning, answering critical questions, and implementing only needle-moving strategies and tactics.  This week, we address the importance of engaging stakeholders in the process.

If you want buy-into your strategic planning process and its goals, you must let   people weigh-inthroughout the process.  If you’re leading a 7-member organization allowing everyone to weigh-in is simple, and relatively easy.  But if you leading a 700-member team, getting them to weigh in will be a challenge.  So develop a representative list of team members and, if nothing else, give them the opportunity to point out what they see for your organization in the way of threats and opportunities.  A brief survey throughout the year can be a remarkably effective means of generating needle-moving strategies.

In larger organizations, leaders can become far-removed from their customers.  They might not see inefficiencies in the production process.  Or they might be unaware of some emerging threat or opportunity simply because they don’t have as good a communication channel as they believe they might, or they don’t have the time to wander around the organization and talk to enough people.  Be sure to let your stakeholders know what you’ve reviewed their ideas and, if possible, make sure they know why you haven’t acted upon them. Doing this will help minimize disengagement by letting your team know you take their input seriously.

As you’ve begun to identify strategies and tactics for implementation, let your team have the chance weigh-inon those too!  Most organizations struggle to keep everyone engaged and that costs them productivity.  By keeping them engaged throughout a continuous process, you will improve organizational trust, commitmentand, ultimately, results!

Finally, make sure to engage your customers!  At the end of all our planning and tactics there sits a customer.  If possible, talk to them.  Ask them why they chose to business with your organization, what would make them decide to choose another provider, and how you can insure they will be your customers for life?  Brief surveys, dinner with a group of significant customers, and focus groups throughout the year can be an extraordinary and high-return investment on the time and money you will invest in this process.

If you’d like more information about how Performance Strategies Group helps our clients build meaningful, actionable and differentiating strategic and tactical plans, email Principal Consultant, Jim Owens, at jim@psghsv.com.

 

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Performance Matters: Conflict–Don’t Argue with Me!

Conflict. 

Unless you live on a deserted island, you’ve probably experienced it with someone. Sometimes, conflict manifests itself in an outburst of emotion and sometimes it’s just a sense of tension between two or more people. And sometimes there’s conflict we aren’t even aware exists (which is the worst kind).  But whatever the case, conflict distracts us and makes our teams less productive if we don’t address it.  And as leaders, we have to take action.

So what can we do about it? 

First, we need to recognize the source of the conflict.  Is it over an idea?  A different way of doing something, solving a problem or how to seize an opportunity.  Or is the conflict arising from different behavioral stylesand how we communicate?  Or is it because you or someone else has an agenda—maybe a selfish or altruistic one?  If we can identify the source of the conflict, then we have the opportunity to resolve it effectively.  It might not be easy, and it might take some courage, but it is possible.

If we’ve identified the conflict is over behavioral and communication styles, we can attempt to adapt our own style some and invite others to do the same.  Maybe we are analytical and detail conscious.  So perhaps we need to be willing to look at the big picture in a given situation.  And if we are a bottom-line, let’s just get to it and make a decision sort of person, perhaps we can become more thoughtful, more willing to listen to someone who needs to work through all of the risks and opportunities of a given situation.  We need to seek an agreement with others to keep focusing on the idea, problem or opportunity.

Dealing with people with an altruistic agenda isn’t nearly as difficult as when we suspect they have a selfish agenda.  In this case, we have to recognize there’s little we can do to prove our belief.  The only thing we can do is take responsibility for our side of the relationship—what, when, and how we say something.  We may need to gently challenge someone with this type of an agenda by asking, “Help me understand why you believe this so strongly.”  Or when we are offering our own positions, we might suggest, “I might be wrong, but here is what I think.”Accusations rarely accomplish much.  But we might actually learn something from someone that can help us build a better relationship.  When someone has an altruistic agenda, we simply have to stay focused on the ideasregarding how resources are allocated to solve a problem or achieve a goal.

Finally, we have to realize conflict itself natural. And it can be very productive.  When people trust one another, spirited debate is possible.  And that debate can help us expose biases in our decision-makingand leadership styles. It can help us produce new ideas, innovate, and become more productive.  And if we never have any conflict within our teams, chances are we are missing opportunities for our organizations to prosper.

Now please, don’t argue with me.  I know I’m right!  Or maybe not.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

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Performance Matters: Taking Action, Building Teams

As we’ve discussed what makes a great leader  with people over the last few weeks, we’ve heard some interesting concepts and some frustrations.  It’s all about taking action and risk.

Simply put, leaders who won’t act frustrate their teams and engage in all kinds of unrecognized risks.  For example, one leader we know of had a challenging employee. This employee was irritating co-workers and clients alike.  Our had known about the situation for a while, but he had done nothing about it. With time, his employee was gradually alienating just about everyone around him.

There may have been plenty of reasons this leader was paralyzed in some sense.  Maybe he was busy with other priorities.  Maybe he didn’t agree with other’s assessment of the offending employee’s behavior.  Or maybe there we some things the employee did that were so valuable the leader feared confronting or coaching him.  But delaying some—and failing to communicate why—decision and action left the rest of his team wondering why.

Without realizing it, this leader was frustrating his own team.  He was losing their respect for his inaction.  As you might imagine, the chatter around this topic was adversely affecting the performance of his entire team.

So what should he have done?

First, he should have investigated the concerns he’d heard expressed about the problem months before he chose to do so.  Simply put, problems don’t solve themselves.  And leaders must take action when a genuine problem exists.

Second, his follow up might have included talking to some of his company’s allegedly offended clients.  Getting firsthand information allows us to really understand the damage we need to repair.  Perceptions, when it comes to people, vary from different constituencies.  So getting as much data as possible would help this leader make an informed decision.

Finally, if during his investigation he had learned what the cause of his team member’s conduct, he might have averted the damage done his team’s productivity. He might have helped them understand something within the employee’s personal life that warranted understanding rather than condemnation.  Obviously, he would need to be cautious to comply with HR rules, but life is difficult for all of us sometimes and this kind of authentic leadership can lead to an increased sense of purpose for everyone on the team.

Obviously, there’s far more to this than we can cover in a brief essay.  So we will stop for now—and next week we will discuss a bit about how this leader ended up handling this problem.  Until then, have a great week.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.psghsv.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

 

 

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Performance Matters: Must be present to win & sales plateaus

Leadership & TeamworkAn Evangelical Mission

I’ve been on an evangelical mission lately, preaching the gospel of self-care for leaders and sales people.  And my message has been pretty simple.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of other people.  So what the heck does that have to do with teamwork and leadership?  If you’ve ever bought a raffle ticket stamped with “must be present to win,” you will have some idea of what I mean.

Leaders have the responsibility to care for their teams.  And they’re confronted with a seemingly endless list of needs, expectations, and questions from their teams.  And they get fatigued.  And fatigue, as Patton (I think) said, “makes cowards of us all.” Stress, fatigue, anxiety, and impatience may be symptoms you aren’t taking care of yourself.  Leadership requires your presence.  It requires your engagement.  You have to “be present” to lead. So if you want to become a better leader, make sure you are taking care of yourself.  You’ll make better decisions, be a better-problem solver, be more patient, and probably, a lot more fun to be around if you do.

 SalesBreaking Through Performance Plateaus:

If you’ve ever hit a plateau in some athletic pursuit—a race time, maximum bench press weight, or such—you know you have to change something to break through it.  Sometimes identifying “why” you can’t break through it can be the biggest challenge you face in raising your performance to the next level.  So what do you do?

Chances are you’ve settled into a routine because you’re successful enough.  You’re doing the same things over and over again and getting the same results. During December, take a couple of hours to examine your sale process from top to bottom.  Examine how you find prospects and who they are.  Take a look at how you prepare for sales call, develop proposals and deliver them. Look at the deals you lost carefully. Then ask yourself these three questions:

 

  • Am I calling on the right people or wasting precious time on people who will never become my client?
  • Am I calling on enough of the right people to break through my performance plateau?
  • Am I doing the right things in front of my prospects and clients?

 

Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at some strategies you can use to help you break through the plateaus all of face at one point another in a sales career.

 

 

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

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Performance Matters: Lessons from My Father & Social Media

Performance MattersWe’re listening! We’ve changed the format of week’s blog post based on some of your feedback.

 Leadership & TeamworkLessons from My Father:  Onboarding and Engagement

Of the many things I’ve learned from my father, there is one professional lesson he taught me about leading people which stands out.  People want to know three things, he said, when they join an organization.  For leadership and teams to be effective, employees must be able to answer three questions:

  • What’s job?  That seems simple enough, but making sure a team member knows exactly what they should do, how they should do it, and when they should complete whatever tasks they’ve been assigned isn’t always clear to them as we might like to believe.
  • How am I doing? In other words, they need regular feedback about the quality, timeliness, and appropriateness of the work they are doing.  And that doesn’t mean an annual performance review!  Ongoing dialogue and coaching is essential for them to continuously improve and maintain a high level of performance.
  • Does anybody care? Answering that question for an employee means making sure they know their work and their presence on your team is valued.  That can mean giving constructive feedback when someone’s performance falls short and when they are doing a great job.

So ask yourself what evidence you have that they can answer all those questions if you want to build a more effective team and be a more effective leader.  By insuring you’ve answered those three questions for your team members, you will improve their performance and insure they remain engaged.

SalesTalk to Everyone You Know2.0

In our last edition, we addressed the importance of telling everyone what you sell—not just the people you think are prospects. But what are some creative ways to do that?

First, you can use social media as a platform to highlight converting a prospect to a client.  You might post something on LinkedIn or Facebook like this?  “Celebrating providing an IT solution to a $20,000,000 manufacturer that will make them more efficient and save them time.”  This is a soft way to quickly and broadly tell your network what kind of work you do.  If the post is “Liked” by others, follow up with an email or phone call to ask them if they know anyone else you can help.

Second, you can build an email list specifically for communicating your successes as a professional sales advisor.  Without revealing confidential information, you should briefly describe the client’s unique problem, the nature of their industry, and how your efforts paid off for the client.  Be sure to include something that your contact list members will find useful, rather than just gumming up their inboxes.  This strategy can help you build both reputation as an expert and will keep people top of mind when they encounter others who might have the need for your product or service solution.  And ask them for feedback on what you’ve shared when you hear back from your audience so that you can improve the quality of those communications.

 

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305

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