Leadership

What Makes for a Good Leader?

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Matrix corporate structure. Millennial mindsets. Artificial intelligence. Remote communication. As the business world evolves, some core, fundamental traits transcend the changing workplace.

Monster.com offers up an article highlighting 10 attributes of successful, strong leaders (they use the word manager which we tend to avoid). For a taste:

Problem solving

Companies rely on problem solvers to navigate unexpected challenges, says Kathy Robinson, founder of Boston career coaching firm TurningPoint. The best managers don’t just tackle issues, though—they also identify weak spots before serious problems arise.

We assess for this trait as it is critical to successful leadership. Any CRO knows that leading salespeople requires you to see problems before they take root. The reason is simple; your revenue success depends on it.

Empathy

Being able to read a person’s moods is a core quality of a great manager, which may explain why a whopping 96% of workers said empathy is important for employers to demonstrate in BusinessSolver’s 2018 State of Workplace Empathy survey. In addition, research from the Center for Creative Leadership found that bosses who show empathy to the people they manage are seen as better performers by their own managers.

Empathy is a component of Emotional Intelligence which is the focal point of much hiring today. Communication is only 7% verbal (i.e. words) while the remaining 93% is nonverbal. That nonverbal space is where empathy provides the leader the ability to read his or her people. The inability, or unwillingness, to read these signs is a significant weakness in any modern-day leader.

Lastly, the one trait that has charged to the forefront of leadership today.

Creativity

Top managers—like top-performing employees—generate out-of-the-box ideas that push businesses forward. These individuals introduce new strategies that improve their company’s workflow, productivity, and bottom line, says Karen Litzinger, a career coach in Pittsburgh. Put simply, they’re change agents.

Disruption is prevalent in almost all business markets today. The complementary trait for handling disruption is creativity. This trait provides the leader with the ability to move in new directions to stay ahead of the disruptive forces in play today. Stodgy, unchanging leadership will not survive. The ability to think outside the box in dealing with paradigm-shifting disruption is mission critical today.

If you are looking to enhance your leadership abilities, why not consider the RoundTable today?

Leader vs. Cheerleader

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Both contain the word “leader” but they are not equal.  Working with organizations all over the world opens the door to leadership models that run the gauntlet from good to bad to ugly.

Cultures can be toxic when products never work, core values are flawed, employees are abused, etc., but the one component you typically spot first is where cheerleaders are masquerading as leaders.

Most execs today have had enough managers in their careers to know there is a significant difference in leadership effectiveness and those differences can have massive impacts on the overall performance of the organization.  Those managers we worked for - and would gladly do that again - typically had the best organizational traction with delivering success as well as motivating exceptional employee performance.   The other group of bosses – the ones we would never work with again – always seemed to survive but could never cast a leadership shadow even on insignificant issues. 

Leaders
The best street level definition for leader we use in our RoundTable programs is simple: someone people will follow.  Any manager or executive candidate has a track record.  Find out if the people who reported to the candidate would ever volunteer to do that again.  The tools to locate those individuals are available today (clearly start with LinkedIn).  Strong leader profiles are always supported by their previous direct reports along with descriptions like honest, fair, responsive, challenging, demanding, direct, clear, etc.  Any absence of feedback about the individual or a “no” to question about another tour as a direct report are major flags that you are looking at a cheerleader.

Cheerleaders
This profile is a chameleon in that they find ways to take credit for everything positive and avoid anything going the wrong way.  They are the perpetual “success survivors” even when the organization is circling the drain.  The employees view them as empty suits meaning they only have their personal agenda about “how do I win” on their mind.  No career is burdened with only success outcomes – real leaders have all taken hits and had to navigate recoveries.  That is what establishes their leadership profile.  This is the first topic to explore and listen to how they address their role.  If your BS meter locks on tilt with their answer, you have the wrong leader candidate.

Peer Groups Provide the Power of the Pack

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Maybe the most important aspect of being a member of a peer group is the opportunity to share challenges.

When you are a CRO, you are expected to have the answers…to almost all difficult questions. The most important topic is revenue. CRO’s are measured by their ability to grow profitable revenue in the shortest amount of time.

We start each RoundTable with a discussion of the number 1 challenge for each CRO. The process here is bolstered by the power of the pack. Think of a wolf pack and how they work cooperatively to achieve their goals (hunting, of course, being the prime example). The same principle is in effect in the RoundTable. CRO’s, from different companies, markets, industries, etc., bring the power of their knowledge to help a member achieve a specific goal.

There is power in peer-level wisdom. Imagine having a team of the revenue experts that you can use as your own advisory group. The group usually has someone with experience in the challenges faced by the different members. Experience and expertise are key to any RoundTable meeting. What effect would your very own revenue advisory group have on your company’s performance?

Coaching for Qualifying

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As a CRO, you have many responsibilities, but one not to overlook is a concerted effort to coach your team. CRO’s are force multipliers - your ability to impart wisdom to your team will make your team more successful. The best ROI for your coaching time with your salespeople is qualifying.

Qualifying is the backbone of all successful selling. There are 5 stages of our Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that we espouse in our selling system. However, no matter what selling system you use, your team must be strong qualifiers to succeed. The responsibility for growing that qualifying ability falls on you.

Selling Power has a quick-read, archived article that describes some fundamental questions your team should be asking of any prospect. The author compares qualifying prospects to investigative journalism. From the article (emphasis mine):

In many respects, qualifying prospects is like investigative journalism. The reporter (or, in this case, the salesperson) has to find out the facts of the story, based on who, what, when, where, why, and how. That means coming up with answers to the following questions:

  • Does the customer actually have a need for our products or services?

  • Can the customer afford to buy what we’re selling?

  • Is my primary contact the person who has the ability to make a buying decision, or is this person just gathering information? If not, who does have the authority to purchase?

All qualifying starts with a need so the author is on target. The CQQ’s from our Revenue as a System include Message, Motivation, Money, Methodology, and Market. When you are coaching your team, always keep the qualifying topic at the forefront.

Leadership for Executives

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Leadership obviously has multiple components, but our years of RoundTable experience suggests there is one cornerstone component that stands alone.

Yes, toxic leader profiles and/or ridiculous business plans can neutralize any business opportunity, but the one missing component we observe with increasing frequency today is the lack of clear accountability. At CRO Executive RoundTable, we define a leader as someone people will follow.  When we meet with member company employees to apply this definition, two discussion topics typically evolve:  accountability and the 3 T’s profile.  These two are directly connected to overall success.

Accountability

Many executives have been trained, coached etc. to believe consensus is leadership.  The goal is to get ‘buy in’ by all participants but the real world outcome is better described as management by lack of ownership.   Margaret Thatcher said it best:

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?”

Accountability does put focus and varying levels of stress into the organization but success is not achieved by complacency or consensus.   If complacency is in control, the culture will deny, deflect and/or destroy all efforts for change.  Everyone is operating in their comfort zone while the business is consuming resources just circling the wagons…which may end up being the precursor to circling the drain.

3 T’s Profile

The profile that makes Accountability a leadership skill are combinations of Trust, Transparency and Timeliness.  These are almost boundless research topics but the employee engagement discussions are less complicated.

Trust - is earned; employees want to know senior leadership is more than committed than they are to delivering the results.  Execs wanting to be “consensus scorekeepers” are often viewed as just being along for the ride and producing zero contribution.

Transparency – employees know some topics are not fully disclosable but they want to know – or be able to ask – about all other matters that impact growth and success.  Executives that face questions and issues head on are aligned with where employees want to be.

Timeliness – we live in a 24/7 world today.  Employees don’t want to learn more about their company from the web than from leadership.  Employees are the top-tier stakeholders in any business so putting other individuals or groups first is a breach with direct performance engagement consequences.

Conclusion These are not hard tasks to understand or deliver except when effective leadership is not the top priority.  That may appear to be an oxymoron but it is clear to employees.

Business Is Just a Hockey Game

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Sales Perspective from the State of Hockey

Being headquartered in the State of Hockey (Thank You MN Wild) is either a plus or a minus depending on your interest in ice hockey.  Having invested decades of time watching youth association to professional level games, it is clear there are similarities that go beyond the scoring (above or below budget performance). 

Here are 3 items to consider getting ready for 2019:

  1. Talent – Teams with more talent win more games.  The talent part is a team issue – a composite of skating, stick handling, shooting and goaltending skills determine the outcomes.  What critical skills are needed/missing on your team to outperform the market?

  2. Speed vs. skill - Teams need both.  Speed players can move the puck fast but stick handlers can be just as productive.  Companies are always attracted to the big bio candidates but good stick handlers get things done too.  Stick handlers may have less speed but they have the peripheral vision (anticipate disruption) needed to keep moving forward.  Sometimes it is easier to find good stick handlers with strong team profiles.

  3. Adversity - What happens if you fall behind?  Normally that means you were not prepared (skill or disruption issues) or you underestimated the competition…or both.  Not a lot of options once the game (year) starts.  Typically, your top scoring lines get more shifts.  Bottom line – you leverage your talent and work your way out of the hole.  And yes, some coaches (CRO’s) get fired if the recovery effort doesn’t deliver in time.

Best of (Revenue) Luck to all CRO’s in 2019…and keep your stick on the ice!

Avoiding The Self-Inflicted Failure Trap

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After decades of working with highly successful companies, I have observed one failure trap that is still alive and well in today’s business climate.

It is avoidable but the more success a company achieves, the more likely it is to experience a “pivot” (great word for surviving a FUBAR catastrophe!) in order to continue. 

Companies typically become successful by doing something new that the market wants, accepts, and is willing to embrace.  Some examples could be electric cars, artificial intelligence for repetitive type functions, real time 24x7 communication etc.

Success ultimately stimulates internal growth and at some point, the organization has very precise roles with crafted job descriptions, KPI’s, compensation ranges etc.  The creativity that launched the company evolves into “structure” with clearly defined roles and expectations.  People are measured and rewarded by how well they execute their assigned micro tasks.

The result is creativity doesn’t flourish in structure.  Real creativity is unscheduled, amorphous, unpredictable and essential for addressing today’s business disruption.  Leadership teams own the disruption challenge - How much of your day is spent nurturing the creativity core needed in your business to succeed?

20 Traits of a Leader

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We worked through this topic at our recent RoundTable meetings and I thought the off-the-cuff list we compiled was fairly thorough.

Here is the list we developed:

1. Hiring skills

2. Vision

3. Integrity

4. Trustworthy

5. Confidence

6. OK with tough questions

7. Has your interests in mind

8. Cares about people

9. Delegation

10. Great Thinker

11. Good Communicator

12. Values Contribution

13. Good Team

14. Influential

15. Lead by Example

16. Strategic

17. Stable

18. Positive

19. Practices the Platinum Rule (treat others how they want to be treated)

20. Values you

DISC Styles Defined - Compliance

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Today we conclude our DISC series with the final style - Compliance. Here is more on the High C.

Compliance
This factor describes people that follow the rules, or comply.  C's are precise and exact in that they enjoy complex tasks and absolute answers.  C's are the least common style in the general population.  Their drive to comply leads them to be perfectionists, at times, and the "traffic cops" for any team.  They prefer to have an orderly life free of mistakes and errors.  The precise nature of the High C's work product often leads them into roles like finance, quality control and law enforcement.

Observable Behavior
Buy:  Very slow buyers; proven products.
Change:  Concerned of the effects of change.
Conflict response:  Avoidance.
Drive:  Careful, follow rules. Best drivers.
Decorate an office:  Graphs, charts, functional.
Gesture:  Very reserved, little or no gestures.
Goal Setting:  Good at setting safe goals, probably in many areas. Goals are safe with little risk.
Organization:  Everything in its place. Perfectly organized.
Read:  Nonfiction, technical journals.
Risk Factor:  Very low.
Rules:  "By the book." Knows and follows rules.
Stand:  Arms folded, one hand on chin.
Stress Relief:  Alone time.
Talk on the Phone:  Little chitchat. To the point. May be short or long depending on data needed.
Talk to others:  Direct. Questioning, clarifying.
Walk:  Straight line.
Writing:  Direct, to the point, with appropriate data.
Color noticed first:  Yellow.
 

Communicating with the High C

  • Prepare your case in advance.  Don't be disorganized or messy.
  • Approach them in a straightforward, direct way.  Don't be casual, informal or personal.
  • Use a thoughtful approach. Build credibility by looking at all sides of each issue.  Don't force a quick decision.
  • Present specifics, and do what you say you can do.  Don't be vague about expectations or fail to follow through.
  • Allow them their space.  Don't touch them.
     

Managing the High C

  • Involve them in defining standards that are undefined.
  • Clearly define requirements of the job and expectations.
  • Set goals that have "reach" in them.
  • Involve them in long-term planning.
  • Train them in people skills and negotiating.
     

Potential Limitations of the High C

  • Hesitant to act without precedent.
  • Overanalyze; Analysis Paralysis.
  • Be too critical of others.
  • Get bogged down in details.
  • Be too hard on themselves.

The High C is an uncommon style that can thrive in a highly technical, detailed sale.  The C enjoys the data-driven processes of most positions - they tend to love Excel.  You can expect the High C to know the rules and eagerly apply them to people who are breaking the rules.  They are task-oriented and can struggle, at times, with personal interactions within a team setting.  Their precision provides them with a breadth of knowledge about the solution they are selling.  Expect them to be accurate to a fault and driven to close the perfect sale.

Source: Target Training International

DISC Styles Defined - Steadiness

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Today we continue with our DISC series and the third style - Steadiness. Here is more on the High S.

Steadiness
This factor describes people that crave consistency, repetition and few surprises.  S's are drawn to routine and predictability which gives them the innate ability to excel at consistency.  High S's are loyal workers who bring a peacemaking ability to any team.  Their desire to find closure drives them to finish what they started.

Observable Behavior
Buy:  Slow decision maker; traditional products.
Change:  Does not like change. Needs much preparation.
Conflict response:  Tolerate, put up with it.
Drive:  Relaxed pace, no hurry.
Decorate an office:  Family snapshots, "homey" atmosphere.
Gesture:  Will gesture with hands, not large sweeping gestures.
Goal Setting:  Goals are short-term, low risk. May use daily to-do lists.
Organization:  Usually some type of system. A little on the sloppy side.
Read:  People stories, fiction and nonfiction.
Risk Factor:  Moderately low risk-taker.
Rules:  Will usually follow time-tested, proven rules.
Stand:  Leaning back, hand in pocket.
Stress Relief:  Rest time/sleep. Hot baths.
Talk on the Phone:  Warm conversationalist, friendly and concerned.
Talk to others:  Warm, not pushy. Will listen before talking.
Walk:  Steady, easy pace.
Writing:  Long form giving lots of information.
Color noticed first:  Blue.
 

Communicating with the High S

  • Start with personal comments. Break the ice.  Don't rush headlong into business or agenda.
  • Show sincere interest in them as people.  Don't stick coldly or harshly to business.
  • Patiently draw out their personal goals and ideas. Listen and be responsive.  Don't force a quick response to your objectives.
  • Move casually, informally.  Don't be abrupt and rapid.
  • Provide personal assurances and guarantees.  Don't promise something you can't deliver.
     

Managing the High S

  • Clearly explain upcoming changes in order to prepare them.
  • Make an effort to get to know them and their needs.
  • Assign them fewer, larger projects.
  • Encourage their contribution in meetings.
  • Work to stretch them carefully to new heights.
     

Potential Limitations of the High S

  • Take criticism of work as personal affront.
  • Resist change just for change sake.
  • Need help getting started on new assignment.
  • Have difficulty establishing priorities.
  • Not project a sense of urgency.

The High S is a strong selling style for extended, relationship sales.  The S has a natural ability to hang in there even during long periods of time.  They are people-oriented like the High I, but they are quieter in dealing with others.  High S's are introverted and enjoy predictable days and established routines.  Leading the High S requires a boss who can see the strengths they bring to the team, and the realization that there are times when you will have to put the spurs to them.

Source: Target Training International