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Rules and traditions…

Did you watch the U.S. Open golf tournament recently?  It was on Father’s Day and on Father’s Day I enjoy watching golf.  Years ago, I used to play instead of watching.  It’s a tradition my father taught his sons.  I passed that tradition down to my older son and he is continuing it with my grandson.  Golf can sometimes be painful even though traditional:

A golfer, searching for a ball lost deep in the rough, asked the caddie, “Why do you keep looking at that pocket watch?  It isn’t a watch”, the caddie said.  “It’s a compass.”

Unknown Sage

Like most major golf tournaments, the U.S. Open had its share of post-tournament commentary and debate.  Do you remember the hype?  What was the loudest; that the course was set up unfairly; that 28-year-old Brooks Koepka won for the second year in a row (a feat last accomplished 29 years ago); that Phil Mickelson broke USGA Rule 14-5?

Oh, you’re not familiar with USGA Rule 14-5?  You know – it’s that hitting-a-moving-ball rule golfers must abide by.  Golf has plenty of rules and traditions whether there is a title on the line or not.  Many of these traditions are passed down from generation to generation:

Golfer Tommy Bolt is known for his sweet swing and foul temper.  While giving a clinic to a group of amateurs, Bolt tried to show his softer side by involving his 14-year old son in the lesson.  “Show the nice folks what I taught you”, said Bolt.  His son obediently took a 9-iron, cursed, and hurled it into the sky. 

Thomas Roswell

Yes, losing one’s cool is considered a golfing tradition.  Even Phil Mickelson can succumb.  And when a golf celebrity, or any celebrity for that matter, loses their cool in public, the media must highlight it; debate it; and rerun it over and over again.  It’s a rule.

When it comes to golf; rules and traditions take on an even more powerful role – they almost become laws:

Keiko’s Law of Golf

The only way to avoid hitting a tree is to aim at it. 

Unknown Sage

When I used to play, I remember hitting more than my share of trees.  I guess Keiko’s Law was among all of the other rules I traditionally ignored.

Of course, sitting down for four hours to watch golf on TV can ruffle a few feathers on the home front.  Fortunately, I’m a modern man; I DVD’ed that tournament.  We had the kids and grandkids over for a BBQ – a Father’s Day celebration.  There’s a rule in our household that weekends, and celebrations start with work.  My sons and granddaughter helped install new handles on our kitchen cabinets.  Afterwards we ate, drank, and celebrated.

When you own an old ranch house with horses in the back yard, there is always work to be done.  No matter what weekend, whether a birthday party or a holiday celebration, we invite the family over and … get to work.  It’s our tradition more so than golf.

I believe in hard work.  It keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit. 

Helena Rubinstein

I enjoyed the chance to follow the Father’s Day tradition of golf that my father taught me.  It was also a day of celebration – and work – a tradition I have taught my children and grandchildren.  Next year I’ll vote for the golf part again; but everyone knows we will wind up working too.  I’m not sure if that’s a tradition or a rule.

GAP

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Documentation…

I write a lot in my professional life (in my personal life too – Thank you in advance for reading today’s little ditty!).  I wonder how long “writing” will continue in our society what with voice recognition technology advancing the way it is.

They say to be effective at writing; you have to “grab” your reader quickly.  Otherwise, short attention spans take over.  I even attended a Training and Development seminar recently where the focus was on “micro-training”; 180 to 300 second training pieces to match the short attention spans that dominate – maybe even “control” – people today.  I guess writers of User Manuals didn’t get the memo about this “grab them quickly” concept.

But being “trained” 3 to 5 minutes at a time, WOW! Add in “machine learning” and it makes me wonder who’s doing the learning; us or the machines?

Documentation goes well beyond the Training and Development field.  Just about everything in our world can be improved when it’s properly documented.  However, there is “meaningful” documentation and then there’s “fluff”:

The bad news about formal proposals is that most are poorly composed, poorly written, include a lot of unnecessary information, are hard to comprehend, and are usually much too long.  The good news?  Nobody reads them anyway. 

Mahan Khalsa

I believe documenting what you do makes you better at doing it.  Remember the almost fanatical commitment to documenting step-by-step procedures in the movie Apollo 13?  No place for “fluff” on the way to the moon and back.

I recognize not every task we do at work carries equal importance.  In fact, according to our favorite Unknown Sage:

Cohn’s Law

The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing.

That’s one way to reach stability I suppose.

Nonetheless, the VPs at my company are committed to meaningful documentation.  My program (and my colleagues’) must be properly documented whether we believe anyone actually reads it or not. That’s OK by me; I don’t mind doing the work.  But I confess that sometimes I wonder:

Written reports have purpose only if read by the King. 

Wess Roberts

How hard would you work at documenting your job if you thought the King wasn’t reading your reports?  Assuming you don’t work for NASA, of course.  Said differently by Charles Kingsley:

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

I know I should do the best job I’m capable of doing regardless of inspection by others.  And as I stated above, documenting what I do makes me better at doing it.  I will know, as will my clients, whether I deliver quality work or not.  Pride in that quality should be motivation enough.

Yet I confess when it comes to documentation that Unknown Sage has me worried:

Arnold’s First Law of Documentation

If it should exist, it doesn’t.

Arnold’s Second Law of Documentation

If it does exist, it’s out of date.

Arnold’s Third Law of Documentation

Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.

Especially, that Third Law!

So, I’m documenting for you today the details behind my personal and professional documentation activities.  In so doing, I hope it improves the quality of my work.  And thankfully, someone took the time to document all those laws for us kings to read and contemplate today.

GAP

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“That Guy”, again…

I have written about this side of me before (see http://thequoteguys.com/2014/04/that-man/).  Not the proudest time in my personal or professional life.  In a competitive world when there is seemingly a lot at stake; sometimes we feel it is OK if we “have to do what we have to do”:

David didn’t beat Goliath with a whiteboard. 

Brad Feld

Here’s the good news:  If we have demonstrated behaviors we are ashamed of in the business world (or any other part of the world for that matter), those behaviors, embarrassments or failures don’t have to define us forever.

Life is change…

Growth is optional…

Choose wisely.

Karen Kaiser Clark

Still, those tendencies may lurk underneath; I know mine do and recently did – again, not my proudest moment.

I am on a cross-functional team working to support a strategic initiative at my company (which I have also written about  http://thequoteguys.com/2018/03/strategic-direction/ ).  One member on the team, from another department, has several different views than I on both the initiative and how we should work together.  OK, we have our differences; happens every day in your world too.

Normally, our disagreements are tempered by the fact that we live in different cities and communicate via phone and email.  When “that guy” begins to surface during a disagreement, I can put my phone on mute and vent; or I can write my scathing email reply and then push “delete” instead of “send”.

But recently, he was in my office and came over to my desk for a visit.  I appreciated the gesture and told him so.  The conversation started with customary pleasantries… the weather, his flight, sports.  Then the topic turned to our strategic initiative.  He wanted an argument.  Argument?  Count me in!

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

Unknown Sage

I don’t know, maybe this is a result of our generational gap; he a millennial (e.g. a bright young man with little real-world experience) me a baby boomer (e.g. a grumpy old man with plenty of real-world experience).  Maybe I could blame it on the horses as in the opening to Chapter Two of my book:

Dedicated to those business professionals who know the difference between the smell of horse manure in the barn vs. the “sound” of horse manure in the office.  Not everyone can do this for a living.

Maybe I just like a good argument once in a while.  Regardless, when my boss called and asked about the encounter I knew “that guy” was sited – again.  No honey in sight.

Coincidentally, my colleague’s manager works on my floor.  In fact, she walks past me many mornings on the way to her office.  I don’t really know her – just an occasional exchange of “good mornings”.  She wanted to see for herself if I was the ogre her direct report said I was. We had a very pleasant conversation – “that guy” was gone.

Today, the cross-functional team is back on track.  My young colleague and I are communicating on a professional even pleasant level.  And I’ll be more careful with any future, in-person encounters:

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. 

The second-best time is today. 

Chinese Proverb

Oh, I still bite.  But when it comes to horse manure at the office, I have enough real-world experience to “choose wisely” and seek growth.  After all, there’s not much time left in my professional career to grow that tree.

GAP

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Breaking the rules…

This little ditty breaks several of my rules.  First, it contains some profanity – please stop if that will offend you.  Second, it continues beyond my “standard 600 words”.  For those of you who are new – welcome to my world LoL!  (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/07/a-peek-inside/)

Staying with me?  Thank you!

I attended my company’s women in business lunch ‘n learn recently.  The topic was, “Gender equality in the workplace is good for everyone – including men.”  The presenter was a male millennial from our sales department.  He assigned us to small groups and facilitated an excellent and provocative discussion on our respective career views from our gender perspectives.

There are lots of “rules” in the workplace these days about roles men and women play.  Lots of terms like “glass ceiling”; “gender equality”; “women in the workplace”.  A general theme is today’s rules seem to have been written by men for the advantage of men and the disadvantage of women.

When our meeting facilitator played a TED Talk video clip featuring a prominent professor of social studies from an east coast institution (I apologize, I don’t remember his name), the professor offered this position for us to contemplate:

Privilege is invisible to those who possess it.

That caused me pause; I’m privileged.  Perhaps not always and in everything.  Like so many others, I’ve experienced my share of failure and even tragedy.  But perhaps because I’m a man; with a college degree; and a successful sales career; I would now be considered by others as “privileged”.  And if that is their view, I could not argue.

I never thought comparatively about my privilege from the perspective of women who do not feel they share equally.  This was the topic of our small group discussion.  The women in my group each said they do not feel they carry the same amount of respect as their male counterparts in the eyes of their managers or their clients – just because they are women.

Truth be told, I don’t give gender privilege in the workplace much thought.  Maybe because privilege is invisible to me.  Maybe, because my life has been largely influenced by women.  My wife and my mother are the two most prominent people who have helped make me the man I am.

In my first role as a technology sales “hunter”, my (pre-sales) Systems Consultant, Donna Provost, was my guide.  When I worked at Integral Systems and hit my first “Million Dollar Seller” recognition, Barb Sadtler was the sales rep in my office I looked up to.  Debbie Fritchman and Kathy Garvin were my pre-sales teammates every step of the way.

In my first sales manager role, Sheila McDonald, Lisa Kwicien, and Joy Cox were my top reps.  In my first divisional role, Patty Manvelichvili was the first person I recruited for my team of subject matter experts.  When I started my own company Teah Bennett was my mentor.  Today, an experienced, successful, and female executive leads my department.

I don’t believe my criteria for success in the workplace is gender-based.  I respect excellence; performance; results; and anyone that helps me win – male or female.

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

Bill Gates

I hope the women in my life know how much I appreciate their help in not losing.

We are approaching my 600-word rule.  But today, I thought I’d continue with the wisdom from one of my favorite comedians (or is it comedienne?) – profane; provocative; professionally successful…

Feel free to stop here if you’re not a fan of Joan Rivers.  OK, that’s my 600.

Here’s what Joan Rivers told Penn’s graduating seniors in 1989

When they asked me to speak at graduation, I thought they meant GRADUATION. I’d been looking forward to quaffing champagne and wearing a black cap and gown – to match my roots. And I thought I’d be receiving a degree! They said I wasn’t going to get the degree, then they said I was going to get the degree, then they said I wasn’t going to get the degree. It became a situation I’m sure some of these seniors can easily relate to!

It seems like yesterday my late husband and I were talking to our daughter Melissa about choosing a college. The choice was made more difficult by our California standards. There, higher education is anything above crayons; the only culture you find out there is in yogurt. The idea of a really deep, philosophical, existentialist question is, “How tan am I?” We went to Bennington, where I was shocked at tuition – you could support South Korea for one year on it. And we went to Williams, where the most popular course was “How To Speak To Your Servants Without Using Your Facial Muscles.” We went to Brown and we sat in on a philosophy class where they discussed, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, who gives a shit?”

[At the first Penn football game I went to], Melissa had bet on Penn, and I bet on the number of cheerleaders who didn’t have nose jobs.

I’d like to tell you one thing, which is the truth as I see it. Please, everyone, look to your right, and look to your left, and look all around you – because right now, this is as good as it’s gonna get for a long, long time.

I hope all of you learn to fail, and plan to fail, and fail early on. Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. Not only did each failure in my life teach me something, it made me stronger. And moved me one step closer to success.

Don’t be proud. If you think the world is waiting for you now that you’ve graduated, you’re wrong. You think you’re hot. You think you graduated from Penn and Wharton: big deal. Nobody’s waiting for you. Try any path you can, go through any door that opens. Don’t wait for the right moment, because right moments come out of wrong moments.

Barbra Streisand is probably one of the biggest stars in the world, right? But if you think of her as unknown – she was no beauty: ug-o nose, stupid-looking crossed eyes, great voice, but nobody cared. She would go from audition to audition to audition. Nobody wanted her. Finally, in desperation, she sneaked into [an] audition for The Sound of Music. The call was for a 16-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed, young, very pretty Aryan. They’re looking for a Nazi. Perfect for Barbra! And she has the nerve to sing for them. [Someone told her], try nightclubs, which she did, and [eventually], she was discovered. She became a major, major star. And from that day on, I haven’t heard from the bitch.

If you don’t think [love and money] are related, spend a week in Hollywood. John Paul Getty once said – and I agree – “If you know how much money you have, you haven’t got enough.” Get out there, work hard, and thank God we’re living in a country where the sky is still the limit. And the stores are open late. And you can even shop from your bed, thanks to television!

I was one who, for about a minute and a half, went around saying, “Money doesn’t make you happy.” Yes, you can be happy without it. But it opens a lot of doors…From money, I turned to love, which is money’s first cousin. Look for love, and when you find it, grab it with both hands. And if it isn’t there at the moment, don’t be discouraged, because believe it or not, love comes to everybody. Even ug-os.

When love arrives, you have to make a choice: should I buy a real sofa or a sectional? A sectional is good because then you can split it up if it doesn’t work out, but I’m saying to you all, please get the sofa. Go for the gold. Don’t live together. Get married. It sounds dull, but marriage is just like living together – except you get presents.

Success doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love you. Forget that. Success is short-lived, and you never want to trust success. Enjoy it for the moment, then, for God’s sake, go back to work. Never forget that work is the reason you became successful.

You think your childhood is over, but as long as you’ve a parent left, all you graduates will always be a child to somebody. Always remember, no matter how old you are, a light will always be in the window at your parents’ home for you. You can always come home. You can come for two days, for two weeks, for two years – even though that’s kind of pushing it a little bit.

I was asked to speak her today because I’m funny and I’m caustic and I’m cheap. That’s not the reason I accepted. I came because I wanted to pay tribute publicly to my daughter and to her friends and to the institution which has supported them and nurtured them and, please God, educated them. And what I mean by “educated”: I think that means that Penn has taught all of you to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch.

You’re college graduates now. Use your education. Remember, it’s not who you know…It’s WHOM.

From Under The Button ©

GAP

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The boss…

I have written about bosses and their/our quirks periodically.  Today, I often run into people who say their career aspiration is to, “move into management.”  My response?   “Be careful what you ask for!”

Recently I listened to radio commercials sponsored by the Denver Women’s Chamber of Commerce celebrating the “25 Most Powerful Women in Denver” (see http://www.cwcc.org/media-release/colorado-womens-chamber-commerce-announces-colorados-2018-top-25-powerful-women/ ).  Is that what being the boss is all about; power?

When I perused their list I saw big companies, big titles, and statements about overcoming big, bad, male-dominance.  Is that what being the boss is all about?

When I interact with “the boss”, that’s not what I’m usually thinking about.  However, truth be told I may have had those traits back in the day when I was the boss.  Only my direct reports would know.  (Maybe they’ll share their opinion?)

Permit me to share a few excerpts from my list on the topic of “being the boss”.

First, am I grounded?  Do I emulate Gandhi; or Attila the Hun?  I mean, if the boss is a whacko, how effective can he or she be managing/leading people?

There is both peace and power in knowing and understanding who you are, where you’re from and where you’re going. 

Doug Burgum

Second on my list:  How fun as the boss am I to work for?  Many people have jobs today with a degree of tedium.  Many people struggle getting everything done that every day demands both personally and professionally.  If we cringe when caller ID shows it’s the boss, how likely are we truly doing our best and contributing at our highest level?

Hey boss, how about this one:  Describe how you empower your people…  Do you readily and continuously share information with your team?  Or do you believe information is power, and withhold all/many/some of the key details?  Getting the job done through your people is your responsibility, isn’t it?  Here’s what Peter F. Drucker said:

Finally – and perhaps the most important lesson – the professional manager is a servant.  Rank does not confer privilege.  It does not give power.  It imposes responsibility.

Next up – as the boss, how well do you adapt to your people?  Or, are you of the mindset that your people must adapt to you?  Which approach do your people think works the best?  I learned this management principle the hard way.

The first day of my first time being “the boss”, was the beginning of our fiscal year.  Our annual ritual was to inform each sales rep of their new quota (which was higher); their new territory (which was smaller); and their new compensation plan (take a guess).

My team was comprised of three women; and one man.  The man complained; the women cried!  I wasn’t prepared for the latter – I hadn’t yet learned that as the boss.  My people helped me adapt – if I was going to be their boss, I better have a box of tissue in my office LoL!  And believe me, this event wasn’t about male-dominance; it was about behavior.  My job was to adapt my behavior to that of my people if I expected them to excel vs. exit.

So I repeat; if you’re committed to becoming “the boss”, beware!

Listening is the most potent talent of a leader, especially to what may be unsaid. 

Cal Turner, Jr.

Did I already list listening as a key attribute on my list?  Go ahead; double check; you probably weren’t listening.  No worries – I’m not the boss.

GAP

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I’m Gonna…

Annual planning; boat-floating; achievement drive; creating memories; we’re one month into 2018… now what?

If we don’t intervene, the start of each New Year can look a lot like the end of the previous calendar year, don’t you agree?  Many of us have great intentions each New Year; some of us even make New Year resolutions.  That’s a boon for health clubs.  Weight loss goals, along with many other popular resolutions, recycle this time of year for many of us.

Resolutions recycle because of the high failure rate.  Here’s what the Google Machine says:

Only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic. There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures.

Count me in on the list of those with great intentions.  The problem is intentions don’t count:

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do. 

Henry Ford

Nonetheless, I will try and re-try and re-re-try in 2018.  I bet you will too.  We vow not to get derailed by small failures; nor will we postpone our effort:

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Donald Robert

This year – we’re gonna!  This year, we will join those 8 percenters.  Of course, the odds are not on our side.

It’s curious why there are so many of us that share this dilemma.  I mean, we are capable; intelligent; even successful in our fields of endeavor.  But when it comes to self-improvement or self-discipline, we often perform worse for ourselves than we do for our companies, our clients, and our careers.  Disappointing.

I have spoken about the “Principle of Disappointment” before, meaning: Every day I know I’m going to disappoint someone.  Every day I know I won’t be able to complete every task on my task list.  Every day I start the day with determination to do it all, get everything done, disappoint no one.  And at the end of every day I fail – someone was disappointed today.  Every day.

It’s inevitable for me and I believe it’s inevitable for us all.  The better and more capable we are, the more we pile on to our daily To Do List; inevitably setting ourselves up for small failures.

If you believe (as I do) that we cannot avoid disappointing someone today, then the only question remaining is, “Who will we not disappoint today?”  Ironically, we rarely put ourselves at the top of that list.  (Google suggests 92 out of 100 of us don’t.)  And inevitably, we become the very ones we disappoint… especially as it relates to our self-improvement and personal development goals.  It’s a common trap

Life is what happens when we’ve made other plans. 

Susan Jeffers

No, we can’t “plan” our way around it.  And, we can’t avoid the Principle of Disappointment.  If we will achieve our self-improvement goals it will take focus; it will take a new way of prioritizing; it will take acceptance that we will inevitably disappoint some one today; and every day; but today, it will not be us!

This year I will try and re-try to put myself on the list of those who succeed with their resolutions.  This year, if I accomplish my self-improvement goals then I will become an even better resource for my company, my clients and my career.  A healthier, better balanced “me” is good for all those I care about.  You too?

This year – I’m gonna!

GAP

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Gray area? – Probably not…

Occasionally, I come across a written piece that really impacts me – think sledge hammer impact.  I’ve referenced such a piece I read recently in its entirety; hoping it impacts you, too.

Mark’s piece speaks directly to the point:  Do you and I have integrity?  Yes or no?

We will forget and forgive any judgment error that you make, but integrity mistakes are forever. 

David Cottrell

Regardless of our professions (but absolutely in the sales profession) skilled, intelligent, ambitious people have great power.  The question becomes how does one use one’s power?  IMHO, the most evil weapons turned inwardly upon the American people of our generation has been a PC and a spreadsheet operated by an ambitious, Wall Street, MBA.  Even Warren Buffett chimes in (followed by the sledge hammer):

In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.  

Warren Buffett

The phrase “Eight is Great” was a mantra for Wells Fargo from the CEO on down.  The targets were daunting. Every customer was to have 8 bank products.  Wall Street and shareholders were transfixed and came to expect even more impossible results quarter after quarter.

The controversy upended lives, shook the bank, and destroyed trust.  Leadership looked the other way, management pushed too hard, and reps took short cuts.  Short cuts led to deceit.  Deceit led to fraud.

Sales is as exciting as it is dangerous.  You negotiate the deals, bring in the revenue, and own the relationship.  Sales is also the most high risk and high stress of professions because it boils down to the number.  The expectation for earnings drives the revenue number which sets the quota at every tier of the sales organization.

Incentives drive behavior.  It starts with revenue goals and quotas.  That can lead to activities that live in the ethical gray area.  When you mix intelligence and ambition in an environment with no boundaries, the gray area takes over the culture.  Think Enron, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the litany of past corporate scandals.

Integrity is the cornerstone and foundation of professionalism. That is especially true in sales where trust is our currency and credibility can be fleeting.  Even small lies or misstatements can create huge rifts.

Integrity begins with you and your actions.  We all have that voice inside our head that causes us to pause when we come to an ethical dilemma.  Listen to it, pause, and think about the consequences.  If you are still unsure, talk it out with someone.  But in my experience, when the question pops up in your mind, it is a clear sign.

Even if you do right, what about the company you are employed?  The environment matters.  If your company signs deals at the “35th of the month”, if harassment goes unchecked, if “customer first” is more a punchline than practice, you do not want to be guilty by association.  You are better off working somewhere that respects ethics.

Live a life of integrity, all good things in life & sales starts with that one principle.

Mark Birch

Our favorite, Unknown Sage offers reinforcement:

Conscious – is when you are aware of something.

Conscience – is when you wish you weren’t.

And Emily Jong brings us home with this advice:

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.

When it comes to integrity – there really aren’t gray areas, are there?

GAP

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Force multipliers…

I enjoy coaching sales managers.  IMHO, it’s the toughest role in the business; part super-sales-rep; part leader; part administrator; part trainer.  Lots of parts to being a front-line manager (sales or otherwise), true?

In the sales department, companies like to promote top sales reps.  Despite all the research stating almost universally those top sales reps don’t have the requisite skill set to be effective sales managers; companies promote them anyway, yes?

In, “Critical Ways Managers Motivate and Demotivate Employees”, Dr. Bradberry offers:

Organizations know how important it is to have motivated, engaged employees, but most fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen… When they don’t, the bottom line suffers… Gallop research shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her managers.  It’s no wonder employees don’t leave jobs; the leave managers.

When in doubt – blame it on the manager – but that might actually be accurate.

I get it; I’ve been one.  And like all managers, I enjoyed some success; endured some failure.  Some of my direct reports thrived under my management; some hated me; a few I had to fire.

I too wanted to learn the answer to the question I was recently asked by an Oracle Sales Manager, “Gary, what is my job?”  He continued, “Should it be the super-sales-closer”?

Coming in at the end of a sales process; offering your pen to sign the order; leading the close, the win, the “kill of the hunt”… that’s the glory part of selling.  Do sales managers think their people like them stealing the lime light?  Does the manager understand the damage she is doing to her own credibility?

Damage you say?  How does closing deals damage manager credibility?  After all, the sales rep still gets the commission.  Going back to the question at hand, deal-closing is not the sales manager’s job.

Each time the sales manager steps in and “takes control” she delivers the message to the sales rep, “You’re not capable.”  Oh yes, I’ve heard the justifications…  “Gary, I’m just helping my reps until they become self-sufficient.”   Really?  IMHO – it doesn’t work that way:

Call it a universal law… You are exactly as credible (as a sales manager) as (your sales rep) is with you… Recognize him for what he is – a mirror of you. 

Barry Trailer

No, I don’t believe the front-line sales manager should be the “super-sales-closer” and in so doing damage their own credibility.  Jump in on one deal, and managers tend to jump in on all deals.  The lime light is addicting.  The sales manager role must scale to much greater heights above just deals.

Managers must focus on getting the job done through their team; they must build-up their team’s credibility.  And that takes great skill when dealing with rep diversity.  For example:

Treating everyone equally shows your top performers that no matter how high they perform… they will be treated the same as the bozo who does nothing more than punch the clock.

Dr. Bradberry

OK, OK, let’s lighten up on Bozo – it’s not easy being a clown.

But managers must encourage each person to believe he is the super-sales-closer.  Managers must get the most from each person on their team – regardless of diverse experience and skills.  Each sales rep must believe she will kill her quota; is unstoppable; is totally credible:

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. 

Colin Powell

Yep – the sales manager has so much more to accomplish than merely closing deals.  Don’t you think?

GAP

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Leadership (again)…

Let’s go again…  Whether at work; within our family; on a sports team; in the classroom; by our government; in every relationship; can you think of any area of our lives that is not impacted (positively or negatively) by leadership?

We’ve all worked for “that” boss, true?  You know, the good one; or the bad one; the one that inspired us; the terror; the young one, the old one…  I bet you can remember that boss that impacted your life, yes?

What makes a good boss tick?  John Maxwell offers:

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.

His viewpoint was included in a post by one of my favorite thought leaders, Dr. Travis Bradberry in “Why Nice Bosses Finish First”. (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-nice-bosses-finish-first-dr-travis-bradberry )

Is that the key?  To be effective as a boss do we have to be nice?  When we work for a nice boss, does she command our respect; inspire us to perform; prevent us from quitting?  Dr. Brad summarized a survey from Randstad Consulting that found,

… most employees would trade in their bosses for better ones rather than receive a $5,000 pay raise.

Hmmm… assigning a trade value for a good boss; $5,000 per year.  I think one challenge in comparing the trade to a raise is what our Unknown Sage taught us:

The Salary Axiom:

The pay raise is just large enough to increase your taxes and just small enough to have no effect on your take-home pay.

Makes me think that being the boss; especially an effective boss; is situational.

I was the nice boss once – my people trampled on me!  I had no credibility, they gave me no respect, my department was a mess, but everyone would say, “That Gary, what a nice guy.”

I started thinking about turning to the dark side.  We’ve all read about those tyrannical leaders.  Steve Jobs was legendary in his manner of berating employees.  Is your boss a screamer?    We never know for sure if they’re truly a horse’s ass, or if this is their way of motivating employees.

Stanley Gault CEO of Rubbermaid:

He responds to the accusation of being a tyrant with the statement, “Yes, but I’m a sincere tyrant.”

I wonder who Stanley followed to develop his leadership style.  What do I know?  Back in the day when I took my second go-round as the boss, I was cautious.  Thankfully, my sales people were patient.  They helped me trip across a foundational leadership principle I believe in to this day.

Back then when our new fiscal year rolled around I was tasked with raising quotas; shrinking territories; and tweaking comp plans; 3 things that anger sales reps almost universally.  In my case, each of my reps came into my office individually and complained about how unfair the changes were.

Walking that fine line between being too nice of a boss (aka pushover) vs. a tyrant; I patiently listened to each person’s complaints but held firm on the changes.  And that’s when it dawned on me!

The Principle of Equal Unfairness

When everyone on my team believes I am being unfair, then that means I am being equally unfair; and being equally unfair is fair.

I’m not sure that made me the “nice boss”, but I can tell you my sales teams always got over the annual ritual and excelled.  Hmmm… equal unfairness… maybe I’m on to something?

GAP

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Losing you…

I’ve been working with a friend of mine over the past year or so – mentoring him as best I can.  When he was promoted from an individual contributor to a front line, sales manager he felt he could use a little help.  We connected through the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (see https://aa-isp.org/ ) where I’m a volunteer mentor.

Over his past two fiscal years we have convened regularly to chat about the challenges of being a front line, sales manager – IMHO – one of the toughest jobs in the profession.  I remember back to my very first days in that role.  I was assigned to lead a team of 4 of our company’s highest and most successful quota achievers; 3 women and 1 man.  Arriving home one evening my wife inquired about my day, “What did you learn today?”

What I learned, I had never given much previous thought to – women, even top selling women – cry.  There I was in my new sales manager role; coming to it after being the top sales rep in the office; thinking I already knew everything; and BOOM!  Tears.  Worse, I didn’t have a box of tissue in my office.  No one gave me a heads up on that necessity.

So when I started mentoring my friend as he settled in to his new sales management role, he permitted me to offer guidance on many of those little things, easily overlooked, that make a big difference in the eye of our followers.

Throughout our conversations I have tried to shed light on the underlying principles successful sales management is grounded on.  I’m a big believer in principles.  One of my mentors authored Principled Based Leadership © which I refer to managers and leaders at any level in their organization.

Principles plus the little things plus a box of tissue make a big difference for front line sales managers.  The most important little thing?  We’re being watched:

One more word about your time:  If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar. 

Andy Grove

The mentoring meetings with my young protégé have been a tremendously fulfilling experience for me.  Just recently, we came upon one of my favorite leadership principles he is now personally being impacted by.  It sounds like this from his up-line, “Matt, we hate to lose you.”

No, he’s not leaving the company; just the opposite.  He’s seeking (aka competing for) his next promotion.  His main competitor?  His boss doesn’t want to “lose him.”

It’s easy for leaders to proclaim the importance of career development and advancement at their company, true?  But when it comes time to move one of your key people off your team and advance them to next assignment – well – we don’t want to “lose them”.

Actually, when you have earned a promotion your manager is not “losing you”.  And everyone in the organization is watching:

Gary, your people are not permanent.  Enjoy them while they are on your team; develop them; promote them; then bring in the next ones.

Tom McSweeney

Does your company operate on the principle of, “enjoy them; develop them; and promote them”?  Or do your top people have to literally quit and take a job with another company in order to get the role and/or promotion they’ve earned?

GAP

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