Two Degrees to Success: Engaging All Employees in New Business Methodologies

By: Pamela Walters, October 23, 2014

Most US companies have adopted structured processes aimed at becoming more efficient, eliminating waste and increasing profitability. These new processes require trained experts, commitment from executives and a solid plan.

The change management aspects of these undertakings are often grossly underestimated, however, and they are often implemented using a one-size-fits-all template. People in customer-facing roles, such as Sales and Service Professionals, often find these new methodologies foreign and daunting.

As a performance consultant to managers and leaders, I have had countless conversations involving the limitations of skilled employees to achieve stepped-up quotas using structured methodologies. The problem lies not in the well-intentioned objectives of increasing value while minimizing waste; rather, the issue is that the new practices don’t account for the attributes and motives that enable Sales and Service Professionals to excel.

Let’s take a look at specific skill sets and how these employees perceive the new “stepped-up” requirements.

PWTable3

Relationship Management, Customer Service & Sales Positions

Some ideas that contribute to these perceptions:

  • Building trust is not a mathematical formula. It requires listening, understanding, vision casting and sincere persuasion to convince a prospect how a solution can meet his or her needs.
  • There’s too much focus on metrics as the only path to achieving results. It is difficult for these professionals to reconcile the required structure with personal integrity and goodwill. Proficient relationship management professionals must believe in the purity of their own motives and actions in order to invest in helping the individual customers and organizations they serve. Otherwise, the effort feels mechanical, impersonal and dishonest.
  • Customer-focused professionals take joy in making a difference. They use their minds, hearts and communication savvy to help people, for instance, by showcasing a top-of-line product to buyers. It gives them a sense of control and autonomy in achieving outcomes. They have difficulty connecting how additional structure, which challenges their pacing and time to deliver, will lead to a significantly better outcome.
  • Employees need to feel like their opinion and input matters. Often, the “new structured process” becomes the Holy Grail within a company. Employees feel that in order to find favor with senior management or investors, they must demonstrate trust in the new strategies, which is shown through compliant behaviors. But customer-facing employees often have difficulty reconciling in their own hearts and minds how this new rhythm of work will help them be successful.

Finding a Solution

What will it take to optimize business outcomes while fully engaging the treasured relationship-management skills of your people? I encourage executive teams to take a close look at customer-facing roles and ways to customize success factors…

  1. Seek feedback from the frontline on customer trends, ease of winning new accounts, and any new obstacles experienced with the new approach. Note their energy and level of optimism as they go about their workdays.
  2. Understand the talent of your customer-facing professionals and the environment that best supports the execution of those attributes. Winning customer loyalties cannot be accomplished through linear thought and step-by-step processes; it requires skillful agility and fortitude.
  3. Institute a collaborative approach by asking representatives to participate in modifying the process to improve its rhythms and pace.

Overall, work with your sales/service employees to create a more nuanced path toward success. Integrate their keen relationship skills into a structure that fully utilizes and acknowledges their ability to win the hearts and minds of customers. You might discover the strategy and practice is only two degrees from the sweet spot of success for your business.

The World Will Pass You By, Oh MY!

By: Darby Fazekas, October 16, 2014

Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” His view was a bit more optimistic than that of American social writer and philosopher, Eric Hoffer, who warns, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Whether you embrace the motivation of Dr. Seuss or the caution of Eric Hoffer, the message is clear — continue learning.

A common reason for failure in leaders is the inability to adapt to change, but the major underlying issue in failing to adapt is failing to learn. An effective leader spends 30-60 minutes a day learning about his or her market, clients, role and work force.

advice dr seuss gave us

Dr. Seuss says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Hoffer echoes this with: “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.”

Adaptable leaders use a practical approach to dealing with unexpected challenges and circumstances. This includes identifying the innovations and progress they wish to see, as well as being aware of any threats to their organization.

Some companies choose to engage in an annual SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to understand where their strengths lie and where they are exposed in their market. Learning goals are often derived from this SWOT data. A less formal analysis can be performed within your team simply by answering the following questions:

  • What technology or innovation will improve performance or efficiency?
  • What process improvement will alleviate employee stress?
  • What synergistic relationships can be built with other providers who offer complementary (non-competing) products and services?
  • Is your business at risk to a competitor because your clients are asking for a solution that your company isn’t currently offering?

It is absolutely the responsibility of the leadership team to continue to learn and grow in order to improve its organization and remain adaptable. However, in top performing organizations, everyone takes on this responsibility. Many of the best ideas come from a company’s front line employees. They are the ones who understand what Dr. Seuss was taking about when he asked, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Travel and the Healthy Mind

By: Lynée Miller, October 9, 2014

There is a lot of truth to that old adage: ‘All work and no play…’ Workers at every level must take time off to rejuvenate. In addition to the needed intermission from the daily grind, vacationing broadens perspectives and encourages intellectual growth.

We live our lives not only within particular physical climates, but also within particular mental climates. Traveling to a different geographical location breaks the mental monotony caused by familiarity. It expands the mind, allowing people to literally “see” the world in a new way.

Commercial Airliner in Flight

Benefits of travel

Life coaches have concluded that the correlations between travel and mental health provide great insights. Travel actually “interrupts your assumptions and habitual patterns.”

The type of travel that includes visiting a new country, for example, incites curiosity and hones problem-solving skills. People are challenged simply by grocery shopping, obtaining a cup of coffee, taking public transport, or walking around to get their bearings.

Another virtue that international travel teaches is patience. Unfamiliar customs and language barriers force us to slow down. And when communication is difficult, people tend to be more tolerant. Even if you don’t go outside of the country, vacationing at any new locale will interrupt your normal thought patterns and stimulate diverse thinking.

Travel highlights the differences of new environments, but it also emphasizes the similarities between human beings. Whether your vacation surroundings are extremely different from your home base, with or without a language barrier, costly or modestly priced, you will find that new places are populated by people who want to connect with others…people just like us.

New perspectives

Most vacationers typically plan the details of their excursions, yet it’s also important to appreciate the need for flexibility and the unpredictable components that travel may bring.

One such component is the opportunity to put worries into proper perspective. Witnessing others’ challenges first-hand helps us re-examine our own problems. When we view others in similar or worse situations, we often realize that our challenges are no longer as daunting as we thought. This realization reduces stress, depression, and negativity that may be lingering in our subconscious.

So when you are tempted to skip that next vacation in lieu of getting ahead at work, remember the importance of clearing and refreshing your mind. Experience a new adventure; you just may find doors opening, gain unique insights, and see your world fill with endless possibilities.

Awareness: The First Step on the Path to Health Success

By: Julie Johnson, October 2, 2014

One of the reasons I enjoy my position at The Devine Group is because I know that in order to be successful, you need to be self-aware. I’m sure you know this, too, but how often do we dedicate time to discovering more about ourselves or actually examining why we make certain decisions? In a study reported by Forbes, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success in 72 executives running $50M to $5B companies. That is why The Devine Group’s behavioral assessments help company executives and employees increase their self-awareness and examine their behaviors in the workplace.

In exactly the same way that self-awareness is important to business success, health awareness is important to life success. How often do you dedicate time to discovering how the health decisions you make today may impact you long-term? Health problems have always been a hot topic of conversation in the workplace, but more prevalent now is a person’s health wellness.

Benefits for Businesses

Employers today are focused on far more than just which medical benefits to provide for their employees. Why? The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company.

There are huge financial repercussions for businesses when employees aren’t well. Plus, business-sponsored wellness programs provide the company with strategic advantages. By investing money in health education and services, executives are able to lower health care costs, have better performing workers, and lower absenteeism. They also improve employees’ job satisfaction and raise retention rates.

Benefits for Employees

Why should employees take advantage of a workplace wellness program? Every person has some sort of health risk, whether it’s unhealthy eating, lack of exercise or sleep, drinking, smoking, or even something genetic. Participating in a program can initiate positive change. Not only will workers be more competent in their job responsibilities, but they will have more energy and vigor to give to family and friends when they get home.

Get Inspired

So how do you become more health-aware? There are many online, print and video resources for corporations as well as individuals. It’s time to examine your lifestyle starting with these simple questions:

  • Do I have enough energy throughout the day?
  • Do I crave unhealthy foods all the time?
  • How do my habits impact my ability to be productive at work?
  • What are the consequences if I do nothing, and why does that matter?

One of my favorite quotes from a Corporate Wellness provider is this:

“Remember, if you ignore your health, it will go away.”

Looking to Make a Hire? Not So Fast…

By: Steve Schaffer, September 4, 2014

Business-minded people have worked hard to help stabilize the economy over the last several years, and now many organizations are looking at their workforces and realizing that it might be time to build bench strength.

It is easy to get caught in the upswing of the market. When this happens and business is tracking in the right direction, it’s only natural to say, “I think now’s the time to get some fresh faces on the sales team” or “I think we should ‘beef up’ our marketing department.”

When you start to consider making those hires… pause, take a deep breath and slow down. This is the perfect time to heed the advice: “Hire slow and fire fast.”

Consider the costs and hire smart – 

In this day and age, the cost of making the wrong hire can be an astronomical mistake. Between recruiting, advertising, salary and training costs, hiring a new employee is an intimidating financial venture and one that should not be rushed into.

When things are going well, managers sometimes get excited and bring in the first person that they like during the interview process. Instead, take your time. Know exactly what roles you are looking to fill, be aware of the behaviors and skills your candidates will need, and be sure to ask a variety of structured interview questions—both in a phone screening and a face-to-face meeting. Develop your hiring process and stick to it.

Finding your next top performer rarely happens overnight. If you don’t take your time, consider what the alternative will cost you. And when deciding on your next hire, remember that slow and steady will win this race.