Posted by Kristi Shoemaker, EcSELL Institute
I read a great article the other day in my SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter. As an executive sales manager, do you really have a pulse on what your people think? Do you know what is actually going on in your sales department? Do you know how engaged your team really is? This article provides research on this subject and offers ideas on how to get reconnected.
In addition to the ideas presented in this article, please be aware EcSELL Institute's spring Sales Coaching Summit has a session focused on employee engagement- how to identify when a team member is becoming disengaged and strategies on how to re-engage them. You and/or your sales management team should consider attending this event! We also offer a powerful research tool called "Through the Eyes of The Rep" which provides specific feedback to a Sales Manager on his/her sales coaching, leadership, and management effectiveness. Have your sales reps take it!
CEOs — and others in the C-Suite — can find themselves in a bubble, an alternate reality, detached from what’s really happening in the business.
Here is how you can figure out if you’re in a bubble like that, and how you can get out. And if you’re not a CEO, here’s what you can learn from this phenomenon.
CEOs are almost always overly optimistic — reliably two to four times as much as their own employees who are closer to the underlying reality. It’s as if the C-Suite comes with mandatory rose-colored glasses.
Think you’re special — you don’t have this problem?
Think again. For example, the survey “Re-engaging with engagement” by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found C-Suite executives consistently out of touch with what others in the firm experienced — biased in an overly positive direction (emphasis added):
The C-suite displays a consistently “rose-tinted” view of engagement that is not shared lower down the ranks. One important revelation from our survey is the huge disparity between the views of many in the C-suite and those of less senior directors, including just a single rung below board level. For example, 47% of C-suite executives believe that they themselves have determined levels of employee engagement, a view shared by only 16% of senior directors outside the C-suite. More than one in five in the C-suite believe that employees are “much more engaged” than those in rival firms, compared with only 7% of respondents outside the C-suite.
Even if you are that special CEO who isn’t out-of-step, it’ll cost you almost nothing to set up a system for correcting your perceptions.
This system will help you get the other C-suite executives better grounded, and will keep your eventual successor out of trouble:
- Collect anonymous data on a regular schedule – build into your management calendar a regular set of anonymous surveys of clients, prospects, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders, no less than annually. This is what Shakespeare’s Henry V does just before his famous “Band of Brothers” speech — walks through his own camp disguised as a common soldier, to understand their true concerns
- Whenever things look good, look twice – ask yourself and your team where your plans have built in assumptions, especially positive ones. Then at your next management offsite, ‘war game’ with them using what-if scenarios. It’s a great way to build both teamwork and the mental flexibility you’ll need when the unexpected does happen
- Don’t treat warning signs as loyalty tests. Coors’ leadership famously dismissed customer dissatisfaction of a redesigned beer can with “we have the best beer in the world and we’re confident people will figure out how to get to it.” Sales plummeted while everyone outside the bubble was afraid to bring bad news. Build a dashboard or balanced scorecard with leading indicators — by the time sales fall, it’s too late to do more than react.
- Get a professional 360-degree evaluation of yourself and everyone else in top management at least every two years — and act on the findings.
Finally, when you do suddenly learn the bad news, keep your head on straight. My client David sent out an employee survey, and emailed me the results with a cover note reading “I want to quit and open a solo practice.” The “new” bad news has probably been around a while, so this may not be a crisis. And people are testing you to see how you handle what they’ve told you — because often they’re holding back even worse news, waiting to see if they can trust you to honestly address what they’ve already shared.
Treat every revelation of bad news as a gift. Would you rather know, or not know? Reward the bringer of bad news, praise them, and act without ego to fix the problem.
That’s good advice for all of us, in the C-Suite or not.