1. Want a Loyal Team? Choose Kindness Over Toughness

    June 11, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Linkedin by Daniel Goleman

    Say one of your direct reports “blows it” in some way – maybe does something dumb that loses a sale, or alienates a client or colleague – and you get upset.

    How you handle that moment makes a huge difference for you, your employee – and your very ability to manage.

    You can either come down hard, reprimanding or punishing the person. Or you can use the mistake as a learning opportunity. This doesn’t mean you accept or condone the screw-up. You can say what was wrong and why it matters for the business, and add how that might have been handled differently.

    If you do this without losing it yourself, it boosts an employee’s loyalty to you enormously – and he or she just might learn something about doing better next time around. It’s even better if you can deliver your reaction with a supportive tone, not a judgmental one.

    Bonus: any other employees who see you react with understanding rather than out of anger or frustration also become more loyal to you. A feeling of positivity toward your boss turns out to be a bigger factor in loyalty than the size of a paycheck.

    Manage with Compassion

    Call it managing with compassion. And despite its soft ring, research finds that compassion has better results than a tough-guy stance. For starters, people like and trust bosses who show kindness – and that in turn boosts their performance.

    This may not come easily. After all, there’s a certain self-satisfaction that comes from venting your anger, plus the hope that a reprimand will teach that employee not to repeat the mistake. And maybe it will keep everyone on their toes.

    But that is not what the data tells us. Research on how employees feel about bosses who are often angry reveals that they see that manager as less effective.

    Besides, being able to suspend your negative judgments and show how to better handle the situation creates a more positive atmosphere, one where employees feel safe to take smart risks. If employees are fearful it kills creative thinking and the innovations that can keep a company competitive.

    But frustration naturally moves us to react with anger. How can we change that knee-jerk response?

    • Pause before you react. Taking a mindful moment – or a longer pause to cool down – when you notice you’re getting angry can give you the window you need to calm down before you respond. And a calmer state makes you more clear, so you can be more reasonable. Better self-awareness gives you more emotional self-control.
    • Take the bigger view, beyond this particular moment. Remember everyone has the potential to improve. If you simply dismiss a person as faulty because they screwed up, you destroy a chance for them to learn and grow more effective.
    • Empathize. Try to see the situation from your employee’s perspective. You might see reasons he or she acted as they did – things you would not notice if you just had your knee-jerk reaction. This allows you to nod to their viewpoint, even as you offer your own alternative.

  2. Workplace Stress as a Trigger for Addiction

    May 6, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Steps to Recovery

    Workplace Stress as a Trigger for Addiction

    For many people the stereotypical image they have of an addict is someone who is unemployed and homeless. However, Government figures show that this is far from the case. Indeed, a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that while the incidence of substance abuse is higher among people who are not in employment, overall the majority of people abusing alcohol or drugs are working(1).

    Which Sectors Are Most Prone to Addiction in the Workplace?

    Their data shows that of the 19.6 million adults of working age with a substance misuse disorder 72% are employed compared to 11% who are seeking work and 17% who are not in the labor market. Although many factors can trigger substance abuse and dependency, stress is a known contributor to heavy drinking and drug taking, so work related stress may help to explain why so many employees suffer from addictions to ecstasy. While reliance on alcohol abuse and drugs can have serious implications for workers and their employers, learning to manage stress and the availability of workplace interventions can reduce the risks of substance abuse.

    Workplace strees

    Although the reasons behind substance dependency are multi-factorial, it is plausible that in some of the industries above there is a link between stress and substance abuse in the workplace, as work related stress is highly prevalent with the CDC reporting that 40% of workers feel very or extremely stressed(3). For instance, heavy workloads and long hours are known to contribute to job stress, which are potentially applicable in any sector, particularly when staff shortages and poor management are an issue. Shift work is also a recognized stressor, which is often a requirement when working in hospitality, support services and heavy industries. Job security and concerns about career progression is additionally a widespread problem, but this is sometimes felt most among the creative industries, and can add to work stress. Employment that doesn’t utilize someone’s range of skills can lead to frustration and in an administrative position with little chance for flexibility or self-initiative this can result in a different type of stress.

    Even though substance abuse is less prevalent among other industries, it is still an issue, even among those that you might least expect. For example, around 6% of those working in health and social care take drugs for recreational purposes and 4% abuse alcohol. Understanding of the dangers of substance abuse among these employees is high, but is not sufficient to deter them from these destructive behaviors when under pressure at work, and the nature of their work means they are more likely to misuse prescription drugs. This is possible via self-prescription by physicians and for those nurses involved in administering drugs to patients(4). Professionals working in the legal sector are also at risk of substance dependency, with extensive hours and intensive work contributing to stress and its associated drinking and drug taking(5).

    Work Stress Symptoms and Substance Abuse

    Any form of stress induces an immediate reaction within the body, which subside once the issue resolves. However, long-term occupational stress can impact on your physical and mental health(6), which may lead to a long battle with heroin addiction. Among the initial physical effects of stress are headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, digestive upset, insomnia and increased susceptibility to infections, as well as an increased risk of chronic health problems such as raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Taking over-the-counter painkillers to relieve aches and pains may prove ineffective to manage discomfort when the underlying trigger is not managed and may lead to pursuit of stronger prescription painkillers, opening the door to possible opiate dependence. Similarly, stress and alcohol abuse may be connected when drink is used as a muscle relaxant to relieve pain from tense muscles. However, the psychological impact of workplace stress has an even greater link with substance misuse. Anxiety and depression commonly accompany occupational stress, and when using alcohol and drugs to self-medicate and escape from work-related problems, it is easy to understand how with stressaddiction to meth can arise.

    Effects of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

    Besides the risk that substance misuse poses to health, when employees attend work after drinking or drug taking, they risk their own safety in other ways, as well as that of other workers. For instance, staff members are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident on their way to work when under the influence, as well as in adverse events related to use of equipment or machinery(7). This can result in greater absence, medical care and worker compensation costs. Besides the costs related to injury, critical errors are more likely when concentration is impaired, which can have serious implications for business, as can reduced productivity of employees suffering from substance dependency. As work stress also increases absenteeism, while reducing productivity, when stress and addiction co-occur the impact for employers is even greater.

    Workplace Stress Management for Employees

    If you find yourself taking drugs or drinking to relieve stress related to your employment, it is a clear sign that you are struggling to manage the pressures related to work. While your employer has a role to play in ensuring that your working conditions are not contributing to stress and adjusting the nature of your work if it is adversely affecting your health, there are effective steps you can take yourself for managing stress at work. Among the measures you can take are(8):

    • Learning to manage your time and prioritize your work. Make a list of all the tasks you need to do, phone calls you need to make and emails you need to send at the start of every day, prioritizing those that are essential, identifying those that you want to do and the remainder that can wait. When timetabling these in, remain realistic about what you can achieve and always factor in time for those inevitable interruptions.
    • Only taking on as much work as you can physically handle. Learn to politely turn down extra work when your current workload doesn’t allow for it. If persistently heavy workloads are an issue, this is an issue you will need to raise with your manager.
    • Checking you are not adding to your own stress. Examine the situation and ask yourself whether you are being realistic about the importance you are placing on it and its outcome.
    • Taking up new opportunities. If concerns about promotion are an issue for you or the mundane nature of your work is contributing to the way you feel, discussing opportunities for additional training or adapting your role may help as long as this does not add to any other pressure you might be under.
    • Taking a mini break. Each hour let yourself stretch out your back, neck and shoulders to relieve physical tension, which can itself improve mental stress. However, you must also make sure that you take your full entitlement to lunch and any other breaks you are allowed.
    • Discussing your worries with family and friends. Their distance from work may help to place your concerns into perspective, but they are ideally placed to encourage you to speak to your employer about issues that only your workplace can address, such as unmanageable workloads.
    • Learning breathing, relaxation and visualization exercises can all help.
    • Adopting a healthy diet that is rich in unprocessed foods and limits sugar and caffeine places you in a better position to manage stress, as does taking regular exercise. If you are a shift worker these healthy practices may slip, particularly if you find yourself reaching for a coffee or sugary snack bar to help you keep awake, but these habits will only see your stress levels rise as hydrocodone addiction is on the rise as well.

    When alcohol or drug abuse in the workplace have arisen as a result of stress, it is essential that you seek professional help to overcome your reliance on these substances and learn less destructive coping mechanisms. While you may have concerns about the disruption this may cause for your employment, flexible outpatient programs can fit around your working commitments.

    How to Reduce Stress at Work for Your Employees

    As an employer you have a duty of care to protect the health of your workers, which includes protecting them from stress that can adversely affect their physical and mental well-being. Assessing the risks that stress poses to your workers and acting on this assessment is therefore vital(9). This involves a five step process:

    • Identifying possible stress and the risk that these pose
    • Developing an action plan to minimize the risks of stress in the workplace
    • Implementing this action plan
    • Evaluating the success of the intervention
    • Taking further action as informed by the results of the audit

    Although the specific measures you will need to take to prevent work stress among your employees will depend on the sector in which you operate, there are key aspects relevant to all industries that can help to protect staff from stress. These include:

    • Ensuring the organization and management are well structured
    • Providing a safe and comfortable working environment
    • Employees’ skills and knowledge should match the needs of their role as closely as possible and additional training provided wherever necessary, with supervision and guidance also available
    • All employees should have a clear job description that is adhered to
    • Managers need to talk to employees, listen to their concerns and act on these, providing clear communication throughout
    • Adopting an environment that promotes teamworking and socialization
    • Providing occupational health services for employees

    How Employers Can Help an Addict

    If you use drug testing in the workplace and it identifies an employee is abusing illegal (such as being effected by bath salts or prescription drugs, or an employee’s behavior indicates they are misusing alcohol or drugs, terminating their contract is not your only option. When you help your employees with substance misuse disorders to get treatment, you both benefit. While your workers achieve better health, a lower risk of work related accidents and a better employment record, you benefit from lower healthcare costs, worker compensation, corporate liability and absentee rates, as well as improved work performance. Your business may already offer a comprehensive health program that can help employees suffering from stress and drug abuse for instance. However, Employee Assistance Programs are also available that screen for substance abuse, refer workers for treatment, allow employees to access help themselves and make sure that they receive ongoing support. While most employers have these programs in place, data shows that just 23% of admissions for treatment are for employees and only 2.4% of referrals come from employers or their assistance programs(10). Improving awareness of the EAP programs you provide your employees in relation to drug abuse and alcohol abuse is essential, along with information about how your employees can access these services and that their use is completely confidential.

    1. “10.8 million full time workers have a substance use disorder,” SAMHSA, accessed September 22 2014
    2. “Worker substance use by industry category,” SAMHSA, accessed September 22 2014
    3. “Stress at work,” CDC, accessed September 22 2014
    4. “Physicians and nurses with substance use disorders,” Dartmouth College, accessed September 22 2014
    5. “Substance abuse within the legal profession: a symptom of a greater malaise,” University of Notre Dame, accessed September 22 2014
    6. “Occupational stress fact-sheet,” University of West Florida, accessed September 22 2014
    7. “Opioid prescription painkillers‘ impact on employers and their employees,” Kentucky Personnel Cabinet, accessed September 22 2014
    8. “Managing workplace stress,” University of Rochester, accessed September 22 2014
    9. “Work organization and stress,” WHO, accessed September 22 2014
    10. “Few substance abuse treatment admissions are referred by employers,” SAMHSA, accessed September 22 2014
    Is Job Stress Eroding Your Health? by Judith Albright

  3. Hiring the right person

    May 1, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Jim Gilchrist

    This post addresses the important subject of recruitment. The BPIR website contains many case studies and expert opinion articles covering this subject. BPIR membership will provide you with unlimited access to these valuable resources. All topics are conveniently summarized into concise snippets that are linked to the original and printable article

    Whether handled by internal recruiters or external recruitment organizations, identifying and hiring talented personnel is never easy. Companies that are reliant on assistance from external recruiters are often frustrated by the consistent failure of these organizations to bring them the level of quality in candidates that they require. The quality of the recruitment organization, and specific recruiters within, should always be factored into any success / failure analysis. But we also need to understand the impact of the underlying hiring company – recruitment organization relationship to fully understand how consistent success or failure can occur.

    When recruiting personnel, what do you really want to accomplish?

    Organizations should want to hire the right person at a reasonable cost-of-hire in a reasonable time frame. There is no more sense in hiring the wrong person faster than there is in hiring the wrong person cheaper. It should be obvious that hiring the wrong person will always cost you and your company in numerous ways.

    The basic formula for hiring the right person involves;

    • identifying all of the technical skills, work experience, educational requirements and work personality characteristics (motivation, decision making, problem solving, leadership, communication etc.) that the successful candidate should possess, and then not settling for anything less,
    • choosing the correct search methodology / firm that will be a suitable match to fulfilling the level of your requirements,
    • ensuring that internal and external search personnel are accountable for success, and
    • establishing reasonable progression benchmarks to ensure that the search process moves forward.

    When is it appropriate to utilize the services of a third party recruitment firm?

    When your current internal search methodology is not successful in finding the right candidate for a specific position you should be open to alternative candidate search methodologies. It helps to understand that different candidate search methodologies will be more successful depending on the type of vacancy that needs to be filled. Unfortunately, some organizations try to use the same search methods for all of their available positions, which is often doomed to failure because “one shoe does not fit all”. In any event, if your current process is not being successful you would be wise to investigate alternative external recruitment approaches.

    What are the different company – third party recruitment search arrangements?

    There are a number of different search relationship formats that can exist between a company and an external recruitment organization, but the two main types are called contingency search and retained search. Contingency search, the most common format, typically involves the payment of 100% of the search fee upon the successful placement of the candidate in the client company. This payment is often made at a predetermined time period (15 days / 30 days) after the candidate formally commences employment.

    Retained search involves the provision of a deposit to the search firm, as a percentage of the total fee, at the outset of the search with the balance to be paid at a predetermined time period after the candidate formally commences employment. The overall cost to the client company is exactly the same as on a contingency search, the only difference is that a small amount of the fee is paid up front in order to engage the search firm.

    When is it appropriate to use each search arrangement?

    Contingency search would tend to be more successful on mass hires or for low impact positions where quality of hire is not an important issue. Candidates for these positions are readily available, easy to find and easily recruited. Companies may use contingency recruiters in instances where they do not have the internal resources to process large scale hiring programs. Retained search is more appropriate for high quality hard-to-find candidates that will fill high impact positions in your organization. These people are not readily available in the market, nor are they easy to find, and therefore require a more sophisticated and intensive search, identification, assessment and recruitment process. Companies may use retained recruiters in instances where there do not have the internal resources necessary to conduct focused targeted “headhunting” activities.

    Why does contingency search typically fail on “high impact” positions?

    The contingency search format often fails because there is a lack of commitment and obligation by both the hiring company and the contingency search firm. Contingency search firms have a very low success rate on high impact positions because they do not fully commit to the search assignment. Without financial support (retainer deposit) from the hiring company they are expected to absorb all initial search costs with no guarantee of recovery, or final payment, for any number of reasons. Rather than spend the required time, effort and funds to properly research, identify, assess and recruit candidates, contingency firms try to quickly “skim the surface” expending minimal effort and cost and hoping for an easy find. The problem is that quality personnel are difficult to find, and not typically available by the traditional contingency methodology of searching their own database, or promoting to the “active” candidate market through internet job boards, job fairs or newspaper ads.

    In addition, without financial obligation, hiring companies utilizing a contingency approach will often mistakenly utilize a number of firms simultaneously (and continue to search themselves) under the theory that more searchers will increase the odds of finding the right candidate. Knowing this, contingency firms will be even more reluctant to put in the necessary time and effort in order to minimize their risk. After all, they are not financially obligated to their client either. And while there will be occasional wins, the dismal results that are typically experienced from this approach simply supports the concept that a number of people doing the wrong thing simultaneously will not get the right result.

    The key to success

    Focus on results. Determine the level of candidate quality required, and the level of impact that the position will have on your organization, and then take the time to choose the right search firm, with the right search methodology, for your specific requirements.

    For high impact positions, consider a retained search firm that will commit to the successful completion of your search assignment. Whether on a retained or contingency search format, the total fee for a successful search will be the same. The difference comes in the results that are achieved through a committed search.

    Jim Gilchrist B.E.S.
    CEO, CAES Career Advancement Employment Services

  4. Instill a culture of happiness and quality will follow

    April 4, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Biztorming by Luciana Paulise

    Google, Zappos and Virgin are convinced that happiness can change the world by improving profitability and employee performance at the same time. Do you want to know how?

    The quality culture of happiness

    In the 80’s Edwards Deming used to say that to achieve continuous improvement: “Management obligations include the following ingredient, I believe: Create a climate in which everyone may take pride and joy in his work”. When he was working for Ford, a cultural model of 14 principles based on three main goals was designed at the company. One of those goals was “Provide Employees an environment that encourages full use of their potential”, which would include 8 of the 14 principles.
    Nowadays, Companies like Google, Zappos or Virgin showcase that whether you are an entrepreneur managing a startup, or a corporate executive with thousands of employees, if you keep your team members happy at work, they are better collaborators, work to common goals, and are more innovative. A Harvard Business Review research shows an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, with creativity three times higher, which confirms Google, Zappos, Virgin and Deming are right.

    On the other hand, according to the Forbes insights on Culture of Quality, instilling a culture of quality is “essential to the success of any quality program.”

    The challenge is to find the best way to keep everyone on your team happy, productive and quality oriented.
    Even though each company already have their own culture set up, no matter the size or industry, a new culture can be instilled in the long term if the day to day behaviors are changed accordingly. Tony Hsieh, Zappo’s CEO states that “Culture will happen regardless of whether you want it to or not, you just need to formalize and organize it. You just have to analyze what makes you unique, what you want to be known for, and what your ideal employee looks like.”
    I found there are five basic decisions that can guide company owners in the right direction towards a “happiness culture”. It’s up to the owners to decide which way to go!
    The five decisions are:

    1. Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation: Extrinsic motivators are usually money incentives based on performance. They lead an individual to act mainly for an external reward (pay). On the other hand, intrinsic motivation drives an individual to act (such as work or study) because it generates joy, self-satisfaction and happiness. Edwards Deming would say that extrinsic motivators like money rewards and carrot and stick incentives were not enough to motivate employees to work at their best. He insisted that intrinsic motivation was the key, and that people should be given a purpose to satisfy their psychological needs based on Abraham Maslow theory. Richard Branson at Virgin said in his blog What employees wellbeing means to me that “Flexible working encourages our staff to find a better balance between their work and private lives, and through this balance they become happier and more productive. At Pluralsight, a training company that applied Deming philosophies, they used to have only 10 days off on holidays. Now employees can take as many days off a year as they need, as vacation time is not tracked. There are only two rules: “be respectful” and “always act in Pluralsight’s best interest”. They eliminated extrinsic motivators like incentive pay for managers and commissions for salespeople, to focus on creating an environment where everybody wins.
    2. Long term vs. short term profit thinking: Companies that want to transform their culture undoubtedly need to have a long term view because cultural changes are slow. Management commitment is crucial to allocate resources through a sustained period of time even when changes will become evident later on. Thinking long term help employees prioritize quality, when fore example in the case of small business, employees tend to be always thinking in what needs to be done now, no matter how.
    3. Win-win mindset vs. win-lose: A Win – win scheme is perfect for a culture of happiness. Competence and rivalry brings sub optimization and frustration. In an “I win you lose” scheme everybody is losing, like in a divorce. Companies don’t have to focus on keeping happy only a few excellent employees, but making sure all the employees are happy because they can excel in what they do. In a win-win approach you don’t beat out a rival. He is doing his best, you’re doing yours, and you can all work together.
    4. We vs. Me organization: WE organizations promote more cooperation, less individualism and remove barriers to teamwork (like individual incentives). Everybody work as a unit to accomplish objectives rather than everybody off doing the very best they can do at whatever they do and not paying much attention to what the objectives are. Rewards will be greater for everyone, not just in money but in self-esteem and intrinsic motivation.For example, If I cut a piece of wood and it is too short or too long, others have to do more work. I may save a dollar to make it easier for me but it would be costing you 10 dollars. In a ME organization I should work to minimize loss for the system, I should spend 1 hour to make you save three hours. Toyota for example focus on team working and the evaluation is based on the group performance, so people want to share everything they know, they want to make sure everything they do is great to increase the total shared.
    5. Small continuous improvements from bottom up vs. breakthrough changes from top down: Psychologist Ron Friedman in his book “The best place to work” states that “smaller frequent positive feedback and rewards will keep people happy longer than a single large infrequent happy event. The small continuous improvement approach is not also good for employee’s motivation but also for dealing with a changing environment. For a small business, conducting small experiments without making massive investments is much more flexible and allows to deal with uncertainty and lack of resources, minimizing the expenditure of time, money and effort. It also generates an environment of experimentation without fear. At Toyota for example, the responsibility of the daily kaizen is led by those who are responsible for operations, instead of being the responsibility of a “quality department”. This is what I call “improvements from bottom up”, because employees are the ones proposing the changes.

    Believe it or not, it is possible for employees in business, as well as entrepreneurs, to be both happy and productive. It is difficult to change a big organization but you can start small, in small continuous batches. Managers and directors are the first ones to change their minds. If they do, they will change their habits, and the rest of the employees will us follow their examples. Start up and entrepreneurial organizations can pick-up these new ideas naturally.
    Happy employees lead to success, more than success leads to happiness. If you want to emulate Google’s success as a great place to work, and as a successful company, maybe it’s time to adopt a culture of happiness.

    A quick piece of advice to start delivering a culture of happiness? Replace the “Employee of the month” award with a “Thank you” note.

  5. High Performing Salespeople

    April 2, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Jim Gilchrist

    This post addresses the subject of employee motivation. The BPIR website contains case studies and expert opinion articles relating to this subject and BPIR membership will provide you with unlimited access to these valuable resources. All topics are conveniently summarized into concise snippets that are linked to the original and printable article

    I have recently begun two new search assignments that are related to the sales function – the first for a Technical Salesperson and the second for a Director of Business Development. While working with the hiring managers to determine the performance requirements for each position, I was reminded of some common characteristics that I typically see in high-performing people. I firmly believe that, in any profession, 20% of the people are above average performers and 80% are average, or below average, performers. And this certainly holds true for the sales profession where 20% of the salespeople make 80% of the sales. Here are three reasons why:

    They are Internally Motivated
    Average, or below average, salespeople are most often ‘fueled’ by external motivation – not all, but most. They tend to be more influenced by their external environment, and the people that they interact with, than they are by their own personal values and standards. Often adept talkers and strong presenters, their listening capability is usually limited to assessing prospective client objections and to determining what their prospect wants to hear. Typically believing that ‘the customer is always right’, once they know what the prospect wants to hear, they will feed it back to them in order to win the sale.

    “The customer is not always right, 80% of the time they just think that they are”.

    We all run into this ‘I know best’ thinking from prospective clients. Rather than being open to sometimes contrary input, too often prospect decision-makers, who are very good at what they do, will fool themselves into thinking that they are very good at everything. (Nobody is). Internal organizational ‘yes people’, and external salespeople, who agree with this thinking are only supporting their misconception. After all, if everyone is always telling them that they are right – it must be true!

    Thinking that they ‘already know’, can cause these decision-makers to more readily assume that any new, and unfamiliar, products and services are questionable or likely inadequate. As a result they are more closed to input and reluctant to conduct a proper investigation into whether some different approaches may actually help them. Playing into this, the externally motivated, short-sighted salesperson employs techniques that are more focused on agreeing with the prospect simply to close the sale – regardless of quality of the potential outcome. As a result, the evaluative focus shifts away from quality and towards best price, rather than where it should be – on actual value obtained through effective problem solving. And in the event that the salesperson actually wins the sale, but fails to deliver, the ‘right thinking’ prospect will simply blame the salesperson for their poor decision, and become even more closed to future sales approaches.

    In contrast, exceptional salespeople are typically internally motivated. This means that they are primarily motivated by their own internal values and standards, and they obtain support for their opinions via input from the outside world. Wanting to build trust and an ongoing business relationship with their prospect, internally motivated salespeople are focused on doing the right thing, whether the prospect initially agrees or not. When allowed to, they will take the time to educate their prospect about effective solutions to their specific issue, and if they cannot solve the prospect’s problem, they are more likely to possess the integrity to recommend a solution that can be found elsewhere. To them, developing a long-term relationship is more important than making a fast, questionable sale.

    Hint: When developing business, look for decision-makers who are true leaders. These people tend to have an open, growth-oriented mindset which causes then to want to do the right thing rather than to personally be right.

    They are Adaptable Communicators

    Effective communicators present a message in the way that the recipient wants to receive it.

    Effective communication goes well beyond simply being a good speaker or a capable presenter. High performing salespeople use their superior listening capability to first fully understand all of the aspects of their prospect’s specific issue so that they can then evaluate the effectiveness of their specific solution. Then they will also use their listening skills to understand the communication requirements of their prospect so that they can then present their specific solution in a way that helps the prospect to understand, to envision its application, and to eventually accept it. In other words, high performing salespeople adapt their message delivery so that it is aligned with their prospect’s specific communication needs.

    By first understanding various forms of communication, the salesperson can then recognize, and categorize, both their own personal communication preferences as well as the communication preferences of their prospect. When they can see that their personal communication delivery preferences are incongruent with their prospect’s communication receipt preferences they can then make the necessary adjustments in order to more effectively get their message across.

    For example, let’s say that Salesperson A prefers to present information randomly through auditory means (speaking), yet Prospect B prefers to receive information serially via visual means (charts, graphs etc.). It does not matter how Salesperson A prefers to present their information, because if they fail to adapt their delivery to prospect B’s receipt requirements a communication ‘disconnect’ will occur. By listening to prospect B, and obtaining a greater awareness of their communication preferences, Salesperson A can then adapt their message delivery to present a visual, step by step solution that will be optimally received by Prospect B.

    As well as evaluating their prospect’s more overt communication preferences, developing a greater awareness of people and their environment can help effective communicators to also accurately identify, interpret and integrate subtle environmental cues (ie: body language) into their communication process in order to create commonality, rapport and trust. Doing so will enable the salesperson to help increase their prospects comfort and to reduce their biases toward change resistance, self-protection, and the justification of the status quo. And once the prospect is more open to considering alternatives, they will be motivated to put in the effort to carefully consider and evaluate the right solutions to their issue.

    They are Cognitively Matched to the Product or Service

    Since not all products and services are the same, neither are the skills required to sell them.
    Some products are relatively simple and can be sold immediately, while others are more complex (and expensive) and therefore require a significant time frame (sales cycle) before the sale is closed. It is only logical that the skillsets required to be successful are very different, and are dependent upon where the product or service resides on the ‘complexity scale’. A big part of achieving high-performance sales results will be the presence of a match between the relative complexity of the product or service and the salesperson’s ability to cope with it. We refer to this as a salespersons cognitive capability, or problem solving skills.

    For me, cognitive capability involves a person’s ability to organize and evaluate complex information (sometimes seemingly unrelated) in order to develop effective solutions to problems within a given time horizon. The farther into the future that a person has to contemplate, and plan for, the greater will be the complexity of the information involved, the strategies to be developed, the solutions to be formulated and the contingencies to be considered. The immediate sale of simple products and services will require a much lower cognitive capability than what is required for more sophisticated and complex longer-cycle sales.

    Salespeople with higher than needed cognitive capability will be bored and uninterested with the simple product or service, and similarly, people who are required to sell more complex products and services will be overwhelmed and incapable when their cognitive capability is below what is required to be effective. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, there is no such thing as a salesperson who can ‘sell anything to anybody’. If the salesperson is not cognitively matched to what is required for their product or service, and thus are overwhelmed or bored, they will simply fail to perform effectively and they will not meet their sales expectations. This is a big reason why 20% of the salespeople make 80% of the sales.

    It is also important to understand that, as young adults, we all develop various levels of cognitive capability, but we do not all start out at the same cognitive ‘level’ – some people begin at a more advanced level than others. As well, everyone’s cognitive capability will grow, at various rates, as they mature over time. Knowing this, we could make the assumption that it is more likely for more mature salespeople to have developed the level of cognitive capability (as well as the technical familiarity and industry knowledge) that is necessary to successfully sell more complex, longer-cycle products and services than their younger counterparts.

    But we should not assume that, just because a person is mature, they will have developed the necessary cognitive capability to perform – obviously many have not. Again, people will be different because everyone begins at a different cognitive levels and their capability will grow at different rates. Similarly, just because a salesperson is young, does not mean that they cannot be a rare sales ‘superstar’, as some young people will have developed more advanced cognitive capability which will enable them to surpass their peer group. The critical thing to remember is that, whether young or mature, it is essential for an exact cognitive match to exist between the salesperson’s capability and the complexity of their product or service – otherwise poor performance will result. In all cases, they key is to go beyond basic assumptions about age and personality types, and to know what to look for.

    What about Directors of Business Development?
    This discussion about skillsets is applicable to various levels of sales managers as well. Effective managers are more often both internally motivated and adaptable communicators. But, in the great majority of instances, their cognitive capabilities need to be beyond those of their respective salespeople. The nature of their role requires them to manage a greater volume of even more complex information than their individual team members, since they are now responsible for multiple interdependent resources. To be effective in their leadership role, and to add value to their team, sales managers have to be more strategic, they have to possess greater scope, and they need to be capable of planning within longer time horizons. Possessing these cognitive capabilities enables them to create a practical vision of the direction of their sales department as a whole, and to create supportive and productive followers within their sales team.

    Sales managers that have the same level of cognitive capability as their team members, or a level below, are not seen to add value to them. When employees do not see value in their managers they tend to grow dissatisfied and the truly talented ones will most likely leave (poor manager = poor retention). All the more reason for organizations to ensure that the right sales manager is placed in the role. But too often, organizations mistakenly promote the high-performing internal salesperson only to see poor resultant managerial performance. This occurs simply because they failed to realize that the skillset, specifically the cognitive requirements, of the sales manager role is different than that of the salespersons’.

    Well intentioned educational opportunities, such as management and leadership training, mentorship and other developmental activities, all of which are provided in order to help the promoted salesperson to be successful, will be ineffective when that person’s cognitive capability is mismatched to what is required for success in their new role. There is a big difference between knowing what to do, and actually having the skills that are required to successfully apply any gained knowledge. While 20% of the salespeople make 80% of the sales, only 20% of the sales managers are capable of helping them to be successful.

    If you want to employ high-performing salespeople and managers, look for people who are internally motivated, who are adaptable communicators and who are cognitively matched to their role and to the complexity of their product or service.

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    And if you are an experienced energy or industrial sales person / account manager / business development professional or sales manager, you may be interested in looking at these available positions, both of which can be found at:
    www.careeradvancement.on.ca – Career Candidates – Career Opportunities, or via this Direct Link