If your culture were shared on the front page of your local newspaper or national news, would you be proud?
Unfortunately, the staff and faculty at Rutgers University are not too proud at the moment following the firing of men's basketball coach Mike Rice after video was exposed showing him shoving, kicking, and throwing basketballs at players.
This incident really got me thinking about how highly ineffective this type of aggressive leadership is. Considering his losing record at Rutgers, I would say this type of coaching is the worst possible approach.
Rice has not always used this type of leadership. When past players and colleagues were interviewed, some defended him by pointing out positive qualities. So what is it that compelled Rice to behave the way he did?
Rice was hired at Rutgers to revive the program and make a Division I presence for the team. In Division I basketball, a coach’s performance is measured by one thing - his wins. For Rice, a winning program is all that mattered, and he became so wrapped up in trying to win Division I basketball that he lost control of himself.
Unfortunately, this destructive behavior in an attempt to win happens within companies and in leadership often. Although Rice’s destructive behavior is extreme, leaders often do what it takes to win and destroy themselves, their culture, and team members along the way.
In my experience as a management consultant, I have observed some of the most self-obsessed human beings - those who live in a world of their own grandeur. They become so consumed by their own agenda that they forget that other human beings may be affected and do not see that they can or need to improve. Ultimately, they do not win, as can be seen by the sequence of events that have occurred with Rice.
Furthermore, those who allow this to happen, even subordinates, do not win. The team members that took "the beating" from Rice probably did so because they wanted to win, play the game, and, likely, did see Rice as a good person and coach. For the administration that allowed this to happen, they will or have lost their jobs. They are not winning, but they attempted to do so by keeping Rice onboard because, although he was out-of-line, they believed he would improve their program.
For Rice, the incident is a chance to grow, to learn from his mistake, and become a better person. For most who get wrapped up in winning, their careers will also have a catastrophic ending before they realize how self-destructive they are being. Take this opportunity to identify behaviors that you can or need to improve before it is too late.
You may also want to check out Worst Possible Approach to Coaching Employees
Are you TOO focused on winning? The Rainmaker Group can help you gain awareness of your strengths and weaknesses by taking a sample TriMetrix® HD assessment.
Years ago, in college, I was introduced to an organizational metaphor developed by Dr. Gareth Morgan suggesting that organizations can act as and become psychic prisons.
If you have not heard the term "psychic prison" before, your first reaction is probably a negative one that invokes images of worker drones toiling away mindlessly in a dimly lit factory for as far as the eye can see. I guess I cannot blame you as that was the first thing I thought of when I was exposed to the idea that an organization can be a psychic prison.
Rather than being fodder for a proletariat labor revolution, the purpose of the psychic prison metaphor is to illustrate how an organization can become trapped in a favored way of thinking to keep peace, which restricts creativity, prohibits change, and limits its ability to progress into the future.
Organizations which have become trapped in a psychic prison often share a common set of the following traits:
Group think is pervasive – Humans have a natural tendency to conform. When team members conform and do not deviate from what the rest of the group thinks, ideas or processes are never challenged. Group think occurs to keep the peace, but keeping the peace is not always productive, which leads to the next trait of a psychic prison.
Conflict is avoided - Conflict in the workplace has got a really bad rap in recent years, and the avoidance of workplace conflict has had some pretty negative consequences. The truth is that productive conflict in the workplace is critical to the success of any business and helps prevents bad ideas from being implemented without serious discussion and consideration.
"We've Never Done it like that Before" – If these seven deadly words frequently find their way into the corporate board room, there is a good chance your organization could be trapped in a psychic prison. If this is the case any attempts to create meaningful change are typically devoured with incredible voracity.
The "You're Gooder" Syndrome – This ties closely to group think and the first sign, but differs in an important way. Rather than consensus based on the avoidance of conflict, ideas are implemented as a result of a culture of brown nosers that lacks candor, honesty, and the courage to say what one really thinks. It sounds something like this:
"Your idea is good" "No, yours is good" "No, yours is gooder"
Bad grammar aside, I think you get my point. The truth is that both ideas were probably flawed, but nobody had the internal fortitude to say so.
An inbred culture – It's great to promote from within as a means to motivate and reward stellar performance. However, when promotions are given based on loyalty and years of service rather than a record of exceptional performance big problems arise. This results in a leadership team rank with incompetence that only serves to breed more incompetence. Click here for five signs that your culture could be inbred.
Arbitrary is the word of the day… everyday – Key directives and policies are determined by top management with unrelenting randomness and absence of reason. This is often a clear sign that the leadership of an organization has become disconnected and lost touch with what is really happening within the organization. For better or worse, the orders of top management are usually carried out. If an organization is trapped in a psychic prison, this is almost always to the detriment of the company. Like it or not, the culture of an organization is usually determined by those who lead it.
Have you ever worked for an organization trapped in a psychic prison? How did it manifest itself?
Not being satisfied has been part of my existence as far back as I can remember. In high school, I had paper routes, a lawn mowing service, painted houses and fences, and went to class. I had this insatiable desire to be productive and to evolve - to get better. The status quo (whatever it was at the time) was never, ever enough.
It is difficult emotionally at times to come up against others who are on the opposite end of the thought process that I am. It seems the "challengers of the status quo" are few and far between, and it has been extremely difficult for me to communicate and help others understand my desire to overcome the status quo.
Then, I see Conan O' Brien's interview with White Stripe's Jack White and I am thinking, "that's it." That is what I am trying to say. This is a beautiful example of the kind of thinking that I have. That is me. My vision. My passion. My struggle.
Jack White is passionate about his craft. He knows exactly who he is and does not care if you like him or not. Jack does not take the easy way. He takes the challenging way and savors the struggle. He does not care if you want his music because he knows he appeals to a select few. Jack White is a seeker - seeking to experience - the truth - but on his terms. There are ways he could do things easily and no one would know except for him. And he cannot live with that because the struggle is part of the journey.
There are a few things that Jack said that rung in my ears. A few things that are critical to challenging the status quo and making your company and self successful.
Here they are:
"What good can come from comfort?"
Being comfortable is great. Your couch is very comfortable, and, at times, you would love to hang out on it all day. However, you are not a couch potato, so you go to work. Why should life be any different? When you get comfortable in your job or in life, you become a couch potato. You are not growing, you are not improving, and you are not an asset to your company. I absolutely 100% agree that no good can come from comfort. If you are alright with being comfortable, you are probably not fit to be a leader. Many people are unaware that they are getting comfortable, which is why you must take a careful look at the areas in life and work where you can "get off the couch."
"I could do it the easy way, but . . ."
White could easily use engineers and technology to make a song better, but he cannot let himself do that. He emphasizes this point by saying you can get to the top of the mountain by climbing or by taking a helicopter, but once your at the top no one will know how you got there. White goes on to say that you should "want to create something under circumstances you can be proud of . . ." Someone once told me that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. You have to ask yourself, "If the world could see me doing this, would I still do it in this particular way?"
As a leader, it is important to be able to identify what you can do to make life and work simpler. Now, I am not saying you need to identify the "easiest" way, but the simplest way. White says that he thinks about one particular image almost weekly - the three staples used to hold a piece of upholstery to furniture. He explains that the three staples were the minimum number of staples that could be used to hold the upholstery on the furniture. White has built his entire life around this concept -this image- of minimalism, which puts him in the mindset he needs to be creative, but he says you have to be careful about not taking this concept too far. He is not taking the "easy" way but forces himself to free himself to be creative. As a leader, you have to pare down to free yourself for the things you have to get done.
"I work with people who are cooking and making themselves."
When White was asked by Conan why he works so well with women, White explains that he does not discriminate based on any factors. He simply works with people "who are cooking and making themselves." I find this one very important. You have to work with people who have the same values as you and work collaboratively with you. In White's mind, he believes he works well with women, whether it be Loretta Lynn or Meg White, because they get straight down to work. There is no competition or ego at play with women. Like White, you have to work with those who fit the culture to create something great.
There is beauty in not knowing why it worked.
Jack is creating everyday, and when you do create everyday, you do not get to always know why it worked. He finds beauty in not knowing and says this is why science fascinates him. In some cases, knowing the "why" behind things is important, but you also have to appreciate the unknown sometimes. As someone who is constantly bombarded with the "why's" of life, you need to realize that sometimes not knowing is beautiful.
Being never satisfied can be a lonely existence. It can be hard when your thoughts never "resonate" with those around you. There are very few that are constantly dissatsified with the status quo as Jack White is, but Jack is proof that this dissatisfaction can create something beautiful.
Do you know what your employee team members value?
You should! Why? A team member is motivated by what he or she values.
If you want to emotionally connect with them and improve employee engagement, you will make the effort to know what team members value. You will not "guess" what your employee team members value, you will actually know definitively. The only way you can possibly know what your employee team members value is if you measure their values using a personality profile like the TriMetrix(R) HD.
It is my passion to honor the greatness in those I work with by communicating and relating to them in a manner that serves their needs, which is why I was greatly disappointed in myself when I recently realized I was communicating to a team member in a way that conflicted with her values. I will share more about this recent experience, but first let's find out more about values.
In Types of Men, Eduard Spranger, a German philosopher and psychologist, shares his "value attitudes" model. They include:
- Theoretical - The discovery of truth.
- Utilitarian - The interest in what is useful. The Utilitarian is interested in gaining a return on investment of time, energy, and money.
- Aesthetic - The value of "form and harmony". Higher Aesthetics are more interested in self-actualization and may have an increased interest in the "finer things" in life as well as the outdoors, their surroundings, and creativity.
- Social - The love of people - helping others. The high Social has a strong desire to invest themselves in helping others without expectations of a return.
- Individualistic - The interest in power. A high Individualistic seeks to shape their own lives and that of others.
- Traditional - The value of unity or living life in a particular manner or system. A high Traditional seeks a higher meaning in life through a system of living.
A person will have a combination of these values but can have one or a few values that are dominant.
In my particular case, I have a high Utilitarian, Individualistic, Traditional value combination. I seek to do well financially, be in control of my future, and leave the world in a better place. Many, not all, CEOs share the Utilitarian and Individualistic values that I have.
On the other hand, there will be definite times where employee team members may have completely different values relative to the leadership of the company and team. Following are some ways a dominant value may "collide" with others.
- A high Utilitarian speaking about seeking a "return on investment" or discussing finances in general may impact someone who is a high Social. At a team meeting, the high Social may begin by asking how everyone's weekend was, while the high Utilitarian is irritated by this because she would like to use her time wisely and "get on with it."
- A high Traditional team member communicating their strong beliefs about a particular subject to someone who does not share these beliefs may be offended. For example, I firmly believe Apple is the only place to go for all my tech devices. However, a team member may be offended by this if he or she is, unfortunately, a Microsoft user.
- A team member with a high Individualistic may offend others with his or her power and the need to reassure this power. This is what occurred with the team member I mentioned above. I would share with her the amount of success I have achieved recently and in the past but found out this actually "ground her gears."
Offended employee team members are less focused on taking care of Customers and over time are more likely to become disengaged.
The key is to understand what your employee team members value and to communicate properly with those values. The good news is it is actually easy to learn and understand. Following are three steps we recommend to ensure you do not destroy employee morale.
- Measure your employee team member values using the TriMetrix(R) HD. Identify what I call their "value's gateways" - the values the employee team member is inspired or motivated by.
- Make time to discuss with your employee team member their values and share yours.
- Consciously "flex" your communication. If you are trying to enroll your employee team members to your vision - communicate as consistently as possible through their "values gateways" not yours.
If you are seeking to better connect, to increase employee engagement, this is potentially a powerful way to do so. It takes time, energy, and commitment yet the rewards are well worth the effort.
When it comes to conflict in teams, two things concern me greatly. Conflict that is unresolved and conflict that is avoided.
Most teams and companies handle conflict poorly. The result of failing to handle conflict effectively is predictable and unfortunately all-too-common. When conflict is not managed properly, negative emotions arise, employee engagement is reduced, ideas are hindered, important discussions are avoided, and execution is poor.
The consequences a company faces go well beyond the repercussions just listed, especially in the long-run. Long-term, conflict results in reduced profits, employee engagement, and commitment.
From my experience, I have found that understanding team member's behavioral styles and your own can improve conflict interactions.
- Behavior style - Some people are predisposed to run towards conflict while others are more likely to avoid conflict. Failure to know and understand the behavior style of team members is akin to trying to drive a car while blindfolded.
- Values - Some people are more predisposed to engaging in conflict if they have a strong value that is violated. We recommend the Spranger-based assessment instrument to measure values/motivators.
- Position power - If you are "the boss", subordinates are less likely to bring you the bad news as well as challenge your ideas.
- The home environment a person grew up in - Some people get plenty of practice growing up in how to handle conflict while others do not.
- Current / prior working environments / cultures - Current and prior work environments can condition people to use a different contact style.
- Region of the country - Some areas of the country more readily engage in conflict while in other areas - conflict is more often avoided.
Following are five conflict strategies that can make a significant difference in how your team and organization handles conflict:
There must be a commitment to making "constructive conflict" a required part of your culture. Every employee team member and member of management must be enrolled in having constructive conflict. Engaging in constructive conflict does not occur overnight. It takes time and commitment of leadership / management AND each team member on the team. There are ways to speed up a commitment to constructive conflict.
Continuously build trust. Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team calls for "Vulnerability-based Trust" to be created in order to have effective conflict. I agree wholeheartedly. Vulnerability-based trust can only be created through commitment, awareness of behavior styles of oneself and team members, and knowledge of the personal histories of fellow team members. This is not a one time event, but rather - a continuous effort.
Establish and periodically review your own expected conflict behaviors. Every team has their unique combination of attributes that should be addressed through their own customized conflict norms. The common conflict norms include:
- Keep the conversation about the issue - not the person.
- No "kitchen sink fighting" - talk about one issue at a time.
- Each person on the team or in the meeting is heard on the issue.
- Be honest.
- Do not "dance around the issue" - get to the point.
Have meetings that purposefully engage in "constructive conflict". Unfortunately, most meetings are boring. Teams that effectively use conflict engage in meetings where issues get discussed in a purposeful manner. Problems need to be on the agenda and addressed involving each team member's feedback. It is beneficial to have a "problem owner" - the person bringing the issue to the team; a scribe - the person recording the activity; and a "conflict miner" - the person committed to ensuring each meeting participant is being engaged in a purposeful manner. Having meetings of this type can be unnerving at first but with practice, they can be quite effective.
The good news... By engaging in constructive conflict, you can improve employee morale, team performance, and the bottom line. But you and your team must decide. Improving how your team engages in constructive conflict takes time, commitment, and awareness. Fortunately, the process can be sped up.
Contact The Rainmaker Group today to learn how you can help your team improve how they handle conflict.
There are several ways to increase revenues including:
- Raise prices.
- Increase your sales team headcount.
- Increase your revenues per salesperson.
The most effective way to increase sales is to increase revenuesby optimizing your sales talent headcount.
At a minimum, a strong job fit salesperson will outsell a low job fit salesperson by 2:1 and often by more than 20:1. It is not uncommon to see a high job fit salesperson sell more than ten salespeople combined.
Pause for a moment and consider your existing sales team’s performance.
- What does your top performer produce? Your bottom performer? What is the revenue spread between the two?
- How many low performers does it take to cover the sales production of a high job fit salesperson?
- What would you do with two or three additional top sales performers on your team? How much would revenues increase?
- How much time have you lost trying to “raise the dead” – trying to coach a poor sales performer?
- How committed are you to identifying top sales talent?
When I built and ran a sales team for an online learning company in 2000, I quickly learned the joys and frustrations of sales management. I built the sales team from scratch and in doing so - interviewed, checked references, and ultimately hired from my gut. I did not know any better.
Hiring from my gut was emotional and painful. I had ownership in each salesperson I hired. If they did well or not – their performance was a direct reflection on me. Unfortunately several of my hires performed poorly and it was my fault.
My greatest frustration was translating the promises of high performance made during the interview process and reference checks into real action and real results. I quickly learned that most candidates will sell themselves in an interview while few can actually sell.
Today, when I speak with a sales manager / sales VP, I always review the sales numbers to identify their top and bottom performers. It is fascinating to watch the facial expressions of the sales manager as they share the data.
- High performers create a facial expression of happiness and pride. Sometimes I see a “far away look” in the eye of the sales manager as they share success stories of a particular high performer.
- Low performers typically cause an entirely different facial expression of pain, frustration, and hopelessness.
Thirteen years later, I have come to appreciate the power of a valid sales personality assessment, the TriMetrix® HD. There is real value in understanding the potential of a sales candidate before they are hired.
What mindset or beliefs can get in the way of hiring the best salespeople? Here are several hiring mindsets that can get in the way:
- Accepting “good enough” job fit. Also known as “It takes too long to find talent”. Whatever time you may think you are saving by hiring someone who is “good enough” will end up costing you far more time later in management and coaching time. Hire right the first time.
- A sales recruiter costs too much. Those who believe a sales recruiter costs too much do not know the value of their own time nor the value of a high job fit salesperson. A good sales recruiter can save you an incredible amount of time and energy and is an investment in the future of your business. Always use a valid sales personality assessment like the TriMetrix® HD to ensure your sales recruiter is proving strong candidates.
- Hire sales people only when needed. High job fit salespeople can be difficult to find. We recommend an “Always Be Hiring” strategy. Every sales team can always use a high job fit future sales performer. Starting and stopping the hiring process increases the potential of missing out on the best salespeople.
Your future is yours to create. Take a few minutes to consider the sales performance spreads between your top and bottom performers. Review the four mindsets that get in the way of hiring the best sales people. Which do you have? What are you going to do about it?
How serious are you about employee retention? What are you doing to ensure your best talent does not leave for greener pastures?
Now more than ever, employee retention is something that leaders must channel their energy on. In a recent survey by Right Management, 86% of employees said they plan to look for a new job in 2013. This is an alarming number of employees that plan to leave the workplace.
If so many employees are leaving the workplace, what can be done to keep them onboard?
Here are the top five ways to retain the employee team members you want to keep.
Look in the mirror.
All problems start at the head...
In a past article, we highlighted a study conducted by Florida State University that suggested employees leave bosses not jobs. Often times, managers pool all the information possible about employee retention without taking time to say, "What can I do differently to help retain employees?" I find that management has a hard time accepting some of their management faults because it may make them look weak or they may be completely ambivilent to the way they are contributing to low retention rates.
The best way to find out how you can improve your management style is to ask current team members. Obviously, very few team members will truly tell you what they think, so this needs to be done in an anonymous way. One way to collect employee feedback anonymously is to hire a third party like the Rainmaker Group.
Hire the best people.
All problems walk on two feet...
The single most important determinant of employee retention is employee job fit. Every job has a unique combination of behaviors, values, and attributes necessary to do the job well. When an employee's behaviors, values, and attributes are not aligned with the job and culture of the company, he or she will not fit the job. If a team member does not fit the job, he or she is most likely unhappy with work. Unhappy employees leave for greener pastures.
The problem with job fit is most employers do not utilize the resources available to identify a candidate's job fit. Instead, they rely on the typical interview process that gives little insight into a candidate's behaviors, values, and attributes and also relies on "gut instinct." Both companies and employees alike pay dearly for the "gut instinct" hiring method.
To hire the best people, you must use a valid assessment tool that measures multiple components of job fit. The TriMetrix® HD is one assessment tool that can accurately predict job fit and also be used to make the onboarding process more efficient.
Keep the DNA pure.
Employee team members need to know the answer to, "why are we here?" They also need to be clear about what your company does. More importantly, they need to BELIEVE in it.
Keeping only those who believe is key to employee retention and morale. It may seem paradoxial to remove team members when you are trying to retain them, but it is essential.
Mixing believers and non-believers leads to little productivity. More importantly, the non-believers destroy new team member's beliefs and cause great team members to jump ship.
John Miller said it best... "Believe or leave." If an employee team member does not believe in what you do - they need to seek a better place for them.
Honor the greatness in every employee team member.
Technically - the people I work with are my employees. However, I do not like that word - "employee". It is a cheap, subserviant word. It suggests ownership. It suggests putting people in "their place."
Several years ago, I read Robert K. Cooper's The Other 90%. It changed my life and how I look at other people. After reading his book, I cannot call the people I work with "employees". Every human being is sacred and is to be cherished the way they are. I refer to employees as "team members."
Do your best to know and advocate for the hopes and dreams of those you partner with. Honor the greatness in each by praising them in the unique manner they appreciate. Identify and honor their unique idiosyncracies - what they enjoy - and avoid what they do not enjoy.
Pay team members what they are worth.
Compensation is very personal. You have the power to share the rewards so do so. Pay your people the way you would hope to be compensated. Be more than fair. When you give - you will get back in spade. You will not regret it and you will get their attention.
Just do not over pay low performers believing their performance will improve because it will not.
What can you do right now to get started?
First - decide to take action. Then review the five strategies we have shared in this post and score yourself. How are you doing? What should you improve? Create an action plan for the next several weeks. Remember... Intention only goes so far. Commit yourself to improving these five areas and your employee retention will improve.
It sounds like JCPenny is into colors... Kim Bhasin shares in her article JCPenney Has Color-Coded Employees to Prepare for Future Firings that JCPenney is categorizing employee performance into a color system. In January, stores were instructed to categorize their associates into one of three categories:
- Red - Remove from company
- Yellow - Coach up or out
- Green - Go forward
I took a minute to color code our team members at The Rainmaker Group. Only the green ones are left. No red and no yellow.
I would hire each of them again and again and again and again and again. The partners we have... All green. I would partner with them again as well.
How quickly you remove "red" employees and coach "yellow" employees says a lot about your Culture and your future. While we have had people who did not fit our culture in the past - they no longer work here. They are pursuing their hopes and dreams elsewhere.
Do not wait for the right moment to remove "red" employees. Remove them as soon as you identify they are low performers.
It truly says a lot about a company's future performance when there is the actual possibility that there are "red" employees walking around. What kind of company keeps employees that should be removed? What do "red" employees do to Customers, the Culture, and the morale of the "green" employees?
Can you imagine what employee engagement is like right now at JCPenney? I am sure their employees would say, "Employee morale is lousy because someone categorized us and instilled fear that some people are going to be let go."
I would argue that employee morale had to be lousy in the first place.
"Red" employees diminish possibility. "Yellow" employees can destroy potential as well if you fail to take action.
"Yellow" employees - those who need to be coached up or out - are a statistical fact. Yet "yellow" employees should not be "yellow" for prolonged periods of time. They are either in or they are out.
Here is some free advice to JCPenney and companies with "red" and "yellow" employees. Do something about it right now. Keeping "red" employees is a powerful indicator as to why your company is performing poorly.
Just get on with it and do so quickly.
And if you have any commitment to excellence whatsoever - commit to removing "red" employees as soon as you identify they are "red".
I just have to wonder... What kind of company would JCPenney actually be if they had primarily "green" employees? What would be possible?
As the founder and CEO of a company, I know how frustrating it can be when an employee does not do what he or she is hired to do. While it is important to provide an environment where employee autonomy occurs, it can backfire when an employee evolves the job into something somewhat or completely different than what the employee was hired to do. We call this “employee scope creep”.
In project management, "scope creep" is a term that describes changes in a plan or project that leads to other changes which in turn leads to even more changes.
“Employee scope creep” occurs when an employee slowly makes changes in their job accountability's and eventually changes their role within a company. It is not always a bad thing, but more often than not has a negative impact on the company because what needs to normally done in the employee's job is not getting done.
Let’s be clear. Employee scope creep occurs because you, the CEO / manager, allows it to happen.
Following is an actual example of how employee scope creep occurred with a client's team member.
Several months ago, we advised that a client bring in a seasoned sales manager. When a candidate came along that had impeccable experience, our client was quick to hire. Unfortunately, the candidate lacked the proper job fit.
Six months after the hire, it is clear a mistake was made. The new “sales manager” is doing everything but managing sales. The new sales manager is doing exactly what we expected him to be doing based upon his assessment results, and he is not focused on sales. Instead he is putting out “fires” when he should be holding low sales performers accountable for sales performance.
Why does employee scope creep happen?
- Poor Job Fit.
- Expectations for the job are not clearly defined.
- Performance is not measured or reviewed often enough.
- Team members are not held accountable.
I have walked into many companies and asked people what they do and then looked at their job titles and job descriptions only to find that what they are actually doing is far outside of what they are supposed to be doing.
Here is what you can do to prevent employee scope creep:
- Maximize Job Fit – Hire the right employee team member in the first place. If you are not using a Job Benchmark in combination with a valid pre-employment personality assessment like the TriMetrix® HD - you gambling and the risk of employee scope creep increases tremendously.
- Set expectations and measure employee performance. Create and use an employee performance scorecard. Make sure the employee team member is held accountable for doing what is on their "dashboard".
- Provide Fast Feedback Loops – Meet with employee team members monthly (Rainmaker 331) to review employee performance - particularly the actions leading to results.
High performing companies hire the best talent possible, ensure they know what they are supposed to be doing, and provide periodic performance feedback. Do this, and you will ensure that your employees – especially managers are doing what they were hired to do.
Having the right salespeople on your team is critical to increasing profits. Some companies believe hiring someone with experience is the key to having the right salespeople. Some companies, who are incredibly smart, hire based on common characteristics of salespeople. While some companies haphazardly hire salespeople based on "good vibes."
Companies who hire salespeople based on experience aren't always going to find great salespeople because every company has a different culture where a person may or may not mesh with the sales process. People with experience may also have the "skills" to do the job but not necessarily the "attitude," and we know that "skills" can be taught while "attitude" or characteristics are extremely difficult to influence, change, or teach.
Steve Martin, in his article "Are Top Salespeople Born or Made," claims that most sales people are born. Trying to teach a person how to sell when they do not possess the attitude results in little chance for success. Here are his findings:
Based upon my research, experience, and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with "natural" instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made — meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average (These figures vary by industry and the complexity of products sold).
Do I agree that great salespeople are born? I recently had a baby - he is seven-months-old. Although his handsome smile could probably sell snow to an Eskimo, I doubt he or any other baby is "born" with natural selling ability. To answer the question, most likely great salespeople are not born, but some personalities or attitudes are a natural fit for sales. However, personality develops throughout a person's life, mostly in the earliest years when the brain is still developing. Thus, they probably do have a certain personality or attitude, they just weren't "born" with it.
Martin is not completely off the mark though. However, his generalizations are a bit extreme. This is a big problem with data now days - people draw inaccurate conclusions. What Martin found is not that salespeople have "natural" instincts, but he found that 70% of top salespeople are naturals at selling when they first begin a sales job. Keep in mind, most salespeople begin sales jobs when they are probably in their 20's, possibly earlier or later. This means they have had about 20 years to develop their personality - to develop that "attitude for sales." They were not "born" with an instinctual selling attitude - it was developed.
Some salespeople may enter a selling job with the attitude for selling, but they certainly were not born with it or, at least, learned most of it throughout development. For those salespeople that are "self-made," they are probably lacking the "attitude for sales" when they enter a sales job. Since a lot of a person's personality is developed in early years, it is very difficult for "self-made" people to acquire this certain "attitude to sell" once their personality is well-defined.
My conclusion on all this is that salespeople are 'made', but they are not made quickly or in a short period of time. It takes years of development to acquire that "certain something" for sales, and although it can be acquired once a person enters a sales job, it is extremely difficult to do so.
This leads me to an even more important question. If top salespeople have a "certain something," what is that "something?"
It is known as a "Utilitarian" attitude. A study conducted by Target Training International found that 71% of U.S. salesperson participants had a Utilitarian attitude.
The person with a high Utilitarian attitude:
- Wants to see a return on investment for his or her actions.
- Uses resources wisely to accomplish results.
- Wants to compete for resources - beat out the competition.
- Wants to be paid based on performance.
- May be considered a "workaholic."
- Is easily stressed by little to no return on investment or wasted resources.
- Mr. or Mrs. "Practical"
Teaching someone the Utilitarian attitude is difficult, which makes it important for companies to hire based on this attitude rather than try to make a person develop this attitude. Companies can accurately hire based on this attitude and other factors. Find out how to hire top salespeople in the "Sale's Managers Guide to Hiring Top Sales Performers."
For those salespeople who do not have the Utilitarian attitude, they are not hopeless. Their chances for success in sales is much smaller than those with the Utilitarian attitude. Salespeople can dramatically improve performance by understanding their behavioral style and others. You can read more about this in "Selling with Style . . .Behavioral Style" by Ashley Bowers.