Beware of Time Mongers

As business owners, executives and professionals we are very busy people.  Many of us wish we had more time to get everything done.  The unfortunate truth is that it wouldn’t matter if we had more time –  we would simply keep creating too much to do!  Instead, make time work for you.

To use the time you do have more effectively, change your attitude:

Multi-Tasking is a Myth. Thinking or doing something in addition to listening or working on a task creates mediocre results. And, more work in the long run due to customer dissatisfaction. Stay solely focused on the task at hand and you’ll get it done faster and better. This also works wonders when listening to others. It’s amazing what we miss when we’re not focused!

Pay Now or Pay Later. We use our busy-ness as an excuse for not taking the extra minute or half-hour now (or scheduling it for the near future) to hear what someone has to say, fully! Because we are poor listeners, it takes us longer to resolve an issue or get to where we are going. Unfortunately, it often takes us hours, days, months, and even years to resolve something that we could have resolved now.

Prioritize. Many of us wish we didn’t have to handle certain projects or handle sensitive employee issues. We’re late for meetings, or fail to ask for and receive needed direction.

As a boss or leader, you need to handle the toughest parts first! Being the boss doesn’t allow you to impede productivity of others because of your own inability to handle issues. The biggest obstacle? Not being prepared. Take time to break issues into smaller pieces. If you are unable to handle people issues or conflicts, appoint someone else to handle them for you. Talk with your coach if you don’t know how to break issues into smaller do-able pieces.

20 minute rule. Tackling anything unpleasant, but necessary? Set aside 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to handle tasks or issues (hint: shut the door and turn off voicemail or email).  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short period of time.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Multiply Your Effectiveness

You are having a great day. Everything is going well. Projects are done on time and within budget. Disruptive conflict is non-existent. A new idea has saved the company (and client) money and time. It’s solidified your reputation as an effective boss and your employees are happy. 

Wouldn’t it be great to have more days like this one? You can when you have the right person in the right job.

1)     Hire for Success: 
Use objective and scientifically validated pre-hire assessment tools to assess accurately for job fit, including: thinking style, core behaviors and occupational motivation/interests.  (http://SmartHiringMadeEasy.wordpress.com)

2)     Coach for Results: 
Many times managers lament that they can’t get things done on time because of their employee’s unwillingness to do it correctly. Or, they are too busy firefighting urgent customer needs. Focus on results, not busy work. Clarify your expectations and the results required. Teach your employees how to cost-justify possible solutions. Provide learning moments when they make mistakes. Use tools that provide insights to more effectively communicate and manage each employee.

3)     Walk the talk:
Don’t expect employees to do things you wouldn’t do.  For example, if you’re not willing to manage your own time to attend meetings on time and be prepared, it is counter-productive to expect others to do so.  Clarify your expectations of others, and then be a great role-model.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Seven Basic Requirements for Working Effectively with Anyone!

Successful business relationships stem from mutual respect and a sincere desire to create win/win situations regularly.  Here are some simple but highly effective requirements to ensure your success.

1. Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it. Apologize when you “drop the ball.”

2. Take an interest in the company, people, product, financials, safety, community, etc. Be knowledgeable about what interests or concerns others and be able to converse appropriately.

3. Respect everyone on the team regardless of his/her opinions and/or personality. Make it a habit to not to judge anyone regardless of their manner of dress, organizational style, or position in a company.

4. Acknowledge others easily and often. Make it a habit to say “Please” & “Thank You.”

5. Keep confidences. Don’t talk negatively about other people – that’s commonly called gossiping.

6. Understand by truly listening. Be aware if you normally listen, as most people do, you will simultaneously form a comment or opinion. This is not listening. Too often we really don’t want to hear what a person is saying because we think we already know what they’re going to say. Remember your non-verbal actions speak much louder than your words.

7. Take into account other people’s ideas and concerns when developing a solution. Be easily understood by using KISS:  Keep Ideas Simple & Smart

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Got Sales Smarts?

While many companies are busy blaming the economy for their reduction in sales, smart companies are reassessing their sales teams and focusing their money and attention on top performers. Why? They often sell more – exponentially – than others. 

For the past decade, many products and services were sold to non-discriminating buyers.  Sales people did not need to learn the art of selling to make sales. Buyers often bought without first validating the functionality, legality, integration or longevity of their purchase.  (Think electronics, mortgages, bank loans, lease-options, etc.) They relied upon the sales person to tell them what they wanted to hear. Now, limited budgets are spawning much more selective consumers.

Successful sales people first learn how to deal with a buyer’s first impression, and effectively handle fear of new products or services. They understand how to work with busy people who rely upon yesterday’s experiences and overlook the value of today’s new products or services.

These top performers sell up to six times more than average sales people who do not incorporate objective data into their repertoire to facilitate the buyer’s decision making process. 

What does it take to sell more?

First and foremost: Get real about who is a top performer. We hire for job skills and fire for poor job fit. Many sales executives and business owners still rely upon their gut and other antiquated methods for determining one’s ability to sell their product or service.  Unfortunately, they falsely believe that a person’s verbal ability to talk the talk will ensure sales ability. As a result, they miss out on hiring top performers who could have made the difference between an adequate bottom line and a great financial outcome.

Use scientifically qualified assessment products and it will make all the difference in hiring the right person who can sell. You cannot fix and change someone who does not possess the right job fit skills for your sales requirements. Thinking style accounts for over 50% of a person’s success; core behaviors (can they close?) and occupational interests (do they possess up-to-date info?) round out the other 50%.

Another falsehood: We believe that high energy type people make better sales people. This myth can create many problems. 

  1. High energy is not just “younger employees”
  2. This type person can actually deter potential buyers, particularly in a long sales cycle or in developing a long-term relationship
  3. This belief is discriminatory and focuses on personality issues that statistically don’t make a difference!

Focus on sales results.  Traditionally, poor sales people have relied upon brochures, websites, credentials or social network data to sell their products or services. For many products and services, this didn’t work then, and certainly does not work now, even with the increase in web-based purchases. Buyers have become more selective, and rely upon their “relationship” with their sales rep. 

Pay attention to your sales team’s communication style. 

  • Will the person listen to the buyer’s needs and provide value-add solutions?
  • Can they quantify the product or service details vs. their competition?
  • Will they close the sale? Can they up-sell and cross-sell to address future needs?

Additional communications basics that are often missed:

  • Say please and thank you – still works. 
  • Learn proper email etiquette – it’s not hard.
  • Follow-up and follow-through — still required to get and keep customers.
  • Greet someone with the proper handshake — makes a difference.
  • Talk voice-to-voice — still required for many purchases.
  • Pronounce people’s names correctly — it’s still a must!

Do it now. Objectively assess your sales team’s ability to sell. Focus your attention and money on your top performers. Train those who have the potential, based upon the right job fit. Sales will naturally – and exponentially – escalate. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Superstar Clashes Getting You Down?

As a boss, it’s challenging to manage high performers. Most of these superstars know they know their stuff.   Since they believe others are less knowledgeable and less capable than they are, it sometimes taxes them to listen to others. Even their boss! 

If they’re causing you sleepless nights, most likely you aren’t the only one. As their boss, it’s up to you to manage them and their egos, to keep them engaged and growing with your company.

Look beneath the surface.  We falsely believe that if a top performer does well in one area, s/he will do superbly in other areas, too. Unfortunately, if you’re not using scientifically validated assessment products to ascertain their thinking style, core behavioral traits, and occupational interests, you may lose them. Superstars hate to fail. Provide them challenges, not to be confused with busy work, which they are quick to spot and resent.

Manage their expectations.  While you may believe your top performers are flawless, it’s not the reality. When they make mistakes, hold them accountable, just as you would any other employee. Have a come down to reality conversation focused on 2-2-2:

  • Two things they do well
  • Two very specific areas for improvements
  • Wrap-up by acknowledging two of their best contributions

Expect good people skills. Too often as bosses, we overlook our superstars’ interpersonal skills. When we step into a dispute to resolve it for them too soon, it creates more animosity between the superstar and co-workers (or clients). Instead, expect them to work it out themselves.  Wait until a situation is brought to your attention, or others complain. Then it’s appropriate for you to act.  Set a time and place for them to create a solution and work it out. Conflict resolution can be made easier when you use scientifically validated assessment products (e.g., 360-degree feedback tools focused on the job traits and not whether someone is likeable, or not) that help others see themselves objectively in relationship to others.

Money is not a motivator. While your superstars may demand more and more money, higher salaries will not provide the incentive necessary for them to continue to excel. Find other ways of compensating them based upon results (e.g., perks, vacations, gift certificates, etc.). 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Got client loyalty?

Many of us falsely believe that once we have a client they are ours for life. We stop doing the little things that differentiate us from our competition. Perhaps we rank order our clients in order of revenues received, and respond to them accordingly.  Or we fail to form strong relationships that will get us through any “bumps in the road.”

Be a great advocate.  People are looking for quality and service not just a good price.  Most clients are willing to pay extra for the right connection, service and knowledge.  Clients love to do business with people they like and enjoy, particularly vendors who share their products and services with their own clients. 

Connections.  Treat these clients as “gold” and look for the “little things” that  make the difference.  For example, if you enjoy researching family genealogy, share resources.  If you love stock car racing, pics of nature, or a particular sport, connect with them on FaceBook and post your pics or other activities.

Responsiveness.  Minimizing the importance of others’ requests will not keep them as your client. What may seem obvious to you, will not be readily apparent to others.  If there are complaints, handle them as quickly as possible.  If there is a constant nay-sayer, or you repeatedly receive the same or similar requests, provide these clients free training, either one-on-one or in a webinar.

Customer Service Blitz.  Conduct a Customer Service Blitz designed to get your staff on the same page.  This will allow them to do what they do best: 

  • Sales people focusing on selling
  • Customer service advocates handling the details. 

Train your staff in the nuances of client management, share legacy knowledge with them of client issues and situations.  Encourage and enable them to continually cultivate client loyalty.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

What is your capacity? Planning & Growth

What is your capacity to handle new clients without reducing what you deliver? The focus of small business owners everywhere tends to be the same: Making money, paying bills–not building systems and people, not planning capacity.

As entrepreneurs, we usually believe we can handle an increase in sales volume. It’s what we seek, it’s the holy grail of growth—right? Unfortunately, unplanned rapid growth can send any business to an early grave. Often, only after the fact of rapid growth do we discover we didn’t have systems and people to meet our growing needs.  Customers have little patience for trial and error. Waiting until necessity drives development of systems and people, we miss the opportunity to proactively increase capacity.  Ultimately, we damage profitability, and our reputation. So, how do we dodge the bullet?

Hire the Right People. Hiring the best can be a slow process. We must answer three questions:”Can they do the job?” (capacity); “How will they do the job?” (behavior); and, “Will they do the job?” (occupational interest—is this what they want to do?) All three questions must also be context-specific: “Can they do this job here?” If the questions are asked properly and answered clearly, the probability of hiring someone who fits the job increases. Research confirms it: people who fit their jobs produce more, stay longer, and create happier, more profitable workplaces!

Clarify strengths and weaknesses. When your capacity doesn’t change much, employees stagnate!  Those who might have handled new challenges have left for new opportunities, usually with your competition.  Current employees may have effectively departed while still on your payroll—a problem Harvard Business School calls “presenteeism.” A clear view of each of each employee’s “true” interests is critical. Remember, it’s an ongoing process: A wise entrepreneur once said, “When you think you have it all handled, you’ve set yourself up for failure.” Our working systems are often created by employees for their own convenience, not necessarily for your customers. Worse, we rarely know what our systems really are, and employees modify them continuously.

Customers have their own, private opinions about your business. Ask them questions, directly and indirectly:  What works for you, our customer? What do we do that does not work?  Allow them to clarify. What do they need from you? What else would they like from you?

Develop accountability and responsibility in your employees, managers and yourself.   Simply having feedback is one thing, acting productively on it is another—and acting is harder!  Measure skills in your managers, and plan to improve them. Make sure everyone realizes it’s an ongoing process: “Perfection is a direction, not a place.” Handle problem employees now! If you have an employee unable to do the job, be fair and let them go.  Hire slowly, fire quickly.

One manager put it very well: “The most expensive employee time I have is the interval between when I realize they have to go, and when I actually make it happen.” An effective manager must concentrate on, and measure, results.  ”Working hard” is a valuable part of the systems producing your total results, but is rarely sufficient. Focus on these fundamentals of business, and you will soon see new opportunities for growth in your business, based on planned increases in your capacity!

Copyright © Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2004-2010

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo, LLC takes your company to the next level by creating leaders, success and results. Whether it be generating your next million, making a strategic difference or resolving people issues, SeibCo, LLC is your partner in causing unprecedented results and impacting your bottomline.

John W. Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers. 

Attitude Transformation Brings Satisfaction

Do you hear an internal mantra, “I should not have to do this!” over and over?

Unfortunately, there will always be job duties or activities that must be accomplished for your continued employment or to run your business successfully. If these hated tasks constitute more than 20% of your job, you are probably in the wrong line of work.

Truly successful people learn how to get the hated job activities over and done with minimal stress. They are good at delegating to others who are competent to do them. Yes – there are people who actually enjoy doing the work you hate to do!

There are certain business practices and standards must be adhered to, no excuses are acceptable. Customers, employees, the IRS, a judge or plaintiff attorney are not interested in excuses; they do not care “why.”

We all must follow the laws and common expected business practices (e.g., following standard accounting practices, refunds, EEO/Equal Employment Opportunity, DOL/Department of Labor, etc.) Failure to follow your own business policies and practices can provide irreversible consequences, personally and professionally.

Swish. When there is something you hate doing, create a new attitude or visual picture. For example, if you work in retail and hate it when people walk in the door, “swish” to see the people walking in the door as “new money.” Or, if you hate working with accounting details, “swish” and see QuickBooks as the pathway to your million dollar success.

Be selective when saying “yes.” Learn to say “no” instead of taking on job duties or activities that are not your forte.

  • If there is a legal issue, give it to the attorney.
  • If you have an accounts issue, delegate it to your customer service rep.
  • If you have a sales or customer service person who won’t return calls, replace them!

Realize you are setting the tone for your future. Then you are free to say “yes” to legitimate requests from your customers, boss, Board of Directors, or business partners.

Create your future. You were hired, and you accepted the job. Now you need to adhere to getting the job done in a manner that positively supports the company. Customers truly don’t care how you feel about your job duties. As the business owner or executive, you created the current business model. Even though it may have worked well at one time, if it no longer meets your business goals, it’s time to strategically create the future. If you are no longer energized in your business or job, hire a coach and find a job or business the “fits” your thinking style, core behaviors and occupational interests. Set yourself up for satisfaction and success.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

The Critical Manager

  • Do you always find fault with whatever someone does?
  • Do you believe your way is the only right way?
  • Do you praise privately but rebuke openly?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a critical manager. You attitude and behavior can make it difficult to work with you and nearly impossible to learn from you.

How do you transform your ability to lead a high functioning group?

Look for opportunities to praise.  Acknowledge others for a job well done, even if it’s a small step or contribution.  Consider ideas that may initially seem off-the-wall, or inappropriate, and acknowledge contributions in a positive manner.  Your openness will encourage everyone to stretch their thinking and behavior to improve their skills.

Learn from their mistakes.  Every mistake can be turned into a learning moment. It’s important to understand the difference between a Zero Tolerance Policy for unacceptable behaviors, versus, a tolerance for mistakes. Employees will inevitably make some mistakes when they learn a new task, take on a new project, or work with new clients.  Ensure your systems are up-to-date, and all your employees are well-trained to minimize errors at repetitive tasks. Develop an infrastructure for creating and executing non-repetitive opportunities.

Make 2-2-2 your paradigm. Acknowledge two positive things they have done well.  Then, share very specific areas for improvement, no more than two. Wrap-up with two positives they have done well. This makes feedback easier to give, and receive!

Hire a coach. It’s important for your own career and business development that you learn to effectively work with and through people to get the job done. Effective management produces win/wins on a regular basis.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are your customers never happy?

Recently a customer service manager had received several complaints about a new system that they had implemented. The feedback from clients was not positive. There appeared to be errors in the system design, and it was difficult to use. The product developers had not asked for input from end-users before creating and launching it. The product manager deflected these valid complaints by saying, “They’ll never be happy, regardless of what we do.” The problem has now escalated to the point where major clients are ready to leave.

Customers are the lifelines for most businesses.  Vendors and suppliers do not have the luxury of sticking their collective heads in the sand (think “ostrich”). There is always a solution, but it may require setting aside egos.

Listen and Learn!

Then, listen some more. Frequent complaints indicate there is a problem, whether or not you agree about the significance of the issue. Unfortunately, product or service designers may not have directly worked with the end-users (aka their specific target market). Customer service people may not have an adequate understanding of how to resolve glitches due to limited work experience. Regardless, everyone’s lack of understanding can be costly. Learn first hand from actual end-users about the use-ability of your products or services.

Solution-Focused Task Force.  

A simple concern can quickly escalate into a major problem when your customers do not feel heard. What’s the key? Put together a structured task force with both customers and people responsible for the design of a product or service (or, use your account executives or sales reps to elicit invaluable consumer information). Be sure everyone has the opportunity to voice concerns. When this process is handled properly, it reduces emotionally charged dissatisfaction, weeds out inflated egos, and unites the task force toward a common goal. Come prepared to impartially state the facts for both sides. Brainstorm possible solutions. Learn how to ask questions that elicit clarity instead of defensiveness.

Resolve it now!

Your failure to act quickly or to effectively resolve issues objectively can make a significant difference in the longevity of your company. Or even your own career. The solution can be very simple (e.g., clearer instructions). Other times it may actually require costly re-engineering with more adequate beta testing this time. Your clients’ eyes are watching you. In the meantime, they are assessing the perceived value of any of your services or products. The goal is to create a win-win outcome for everyone.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010