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How New Managers Can Send the Right Leadership Signals

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One of the most exciting and — sometimes anxiety-producing transitions in a career — comes when you move from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager. At this juncture, what you think, what you say, and how you show up — in effect, your leadership presence — can have a direct impact on those you are now leading and managing for the first time. So, as a new manager, how do you build an authentic and connected leadership presence that has a positive impact on your team and colleagues?

Set a leadership values-based goal. An authentic and connected presence begins from the inside-out. How you define the role and what you value will “telegraph” out to those you work with. As a new manager, spend time to consider the kind of leader you are and hope to be. Set an aspirational goal to serve as a guiding compass. As one new manager shared recently, “my professional leadership goal is to be a genuine and emotionally intelligent manager who inspires others to excellence.”

You and Your Team Series

Becoming a Manager

As Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel describe in their book, The Leadership Pipeline, “Though this might seem like an easy, natural leadership passage, it’s often one where people trip…they make the job transition from individual contribution to manager without making a behavioral or values-based transition…They must believe that making time for others, planning, [and] coaching…are necessary tasks and their responsibility. More than that, they must view this other-directed work as mission-critical to their success.”

Increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. As the job now shifts to getting more work done through others, recognize that what motivates or influences you may not be how others are motivated or influenced. In advance of important interactions or meetings, ask yourself:

  • Who is the other person or audience?
  • What might their perspective on this topic be?
  • How are they best motivated or influenced?
  • What does the situation at hand call for?
  • What are the optimal outcomes and tone?

These questions remind us that leadership presence is not about finding a one-size-fits-all solution. Leadership presence is therefore an “and/both” versus an “either/or.” On the one hand, having an effective leadership presence includes being authentic, genuine, and clear on your guiding compass, core values and convictions. And, on the other hand, it includes being adaptive and agile, demonstrating an ability to connect with different kinds of people through many different communication platforms and technologies.

Be clear and direct, always with respect. As your new role will likely increase your interactions with people of many different styles, having an effective leadership presence includes continually building and practicing the skills of being clear and direct while finding ways of making connections and showing respect. Leadership presence is dynamic and fluid, and encourages a two-way dialogue where we can give authentic voice to our views while staying open to the views and perspectives of others as we work towards a common goal, best outcome, or solution. A few examples of things that can help cultivate your own voice and listen to the voices of others:

  • Know what you think. If you are naturally strong at listening and hearing other’s opinions, flex your muscles in getting to your own convictions and thoughts more quickly.  Before important meetings or interactions, jot down a few bullet points to yourself: what are the 3-5 things I believe about this topic or issue?
  • Ask, listen, and acknowledge: Conversely, if you are naturally strong at having your own opinions, settle into a greater patience, so that you can make space to hear others. Show you are really listening by asking great questions, clarifying what you’ve heard, or acknowledging how you’re processing the information. In some cases, you might share: “With this new information, I am experiencing this quite differently. My view has changed.” In other cases, you might end up saying: “In digesting what you have shared, I am finding I just can’t get myself comfortable with that direction. Ultimately, this is coming down to a difference of opinion.”
  • Share the WHY: As a new manager, it’s also critical to share the WHY behind your vision, priorities, expectations, feedback, or requests. Don’t dilute your message. Instead, make it more powerful by sharing more about the context. Help connect work deliverables or professional development to what’s happening at the organizational level. For example, in giving developmental feedback to someone, you could include additional context such as: Because the organization is growing so fast, there is opportunity for each member of the team to stretch and step up in the following ways. I’d love to see you take on….” Or, you can strengthen the message by painting the picture of the aspiration: “I’d love to see us become best in class at this, and here’s what will be required.”

Bring a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. The reality is that most of us can exude an effective presence, especially when business is going well or when we are having a good day. As a new manager, however, it’s equally important to ask yourself: What do people experience when I’m stressed out, tired, under deadline, or when someone is bringing me bad news?

Recognize that what may feel like a passing or fleeting moment of anger, impatience, or hurried insincerity may end up negatively impacting your team and its overall morale and engagement. As author Daniel Goleman writes in his book Primal Leadership: “Quite simply, in any human group, the leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions…how well leaders manage their moods affects everyone else’s moods, which becomes not just a private matter, but a factor in how well a business will do.”

Maintaining a stable and grounded presence increases the likelihood that your team will feel comfortable bringing you important information, even if it’s bad news, so that you can help to remove obstacles, reset priorities, or get the team back on track. Professor Amy Edmundson’s research finds that teams can optimize their learning and performance when there is an environment or culture — most often set by the manager — that promotes both psychological safety and accountability.

To help maintain and sustain a more stable and grounded presence, be sure that you are setting the right priorities for yourself, and that you have strategies for managing the workload of being a leader, as you take on this larger role and responsibility as a new manager.

Becoming a new manager is an important leadership passage in your career. Step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend. Set a values-based leadership goal, increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness, be direct with respect, and find strategies to maintain and sustain a stable and grounded presence. It’s easy in our humbleness to underestimate the impact we have on other’s lives as managers.

As professor Clayton Christensen writes in his classic HBR article, “How Will You Measure Your Life?”: “In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then, I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem — feeling that she had learned a lot, had been recognized for achieving valuable things, and had played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives.  I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent.  My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility, be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”

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whkoh
71 days ago
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Analytics Training Isn’t Enough to Create a Data-Driven Workforce

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Vincent Tsui for HBR

When it comes to creating a more data-and-analytics-driven workforce, many companies make the mistake of conflating analytics training with data adoption. While training is indeed critical, having an adoption plan in place is even more essential.

Any good adoption plan should focus on continual learning. This might include online or recorded refresher sessions; mentors; online resources for questions, feedback, and new ideas; or a certification process. It might even mean rethinking your organization’s structure or core technologies. Based on my experience, here are three ways leaders can shift a company culture from a one-and-done focus on “training” employees in analytics to an “always on” focus on analytics adoption:

Form competency centers. At a high level, a competency center is a collection of domain experts who are given a goal to improve agility, foster innovation, establish best practices, provide training (and mentoring), and be a communications engine. These centers should be “owned and operated” by highly competent individual contributors with relevant expertise. Competency centers can be established by any type of focus area and require a lead, members, and a sponsor. As part of their mission, competency centers should be answering the “why” questions instead of the “what” questions. For example: Why do we analyze data? Why is data quality important? “Why” questions are about establishing a purpose and direction that will help guide focus and priorities. “What” questions (What are the results? What reports do we need? What data is missing?), in contrast, are about the details, and shouldn’t be the main focus of a competency center.

Create a leadership and development portal. Think about creating a leadership and development portal to house your company’s knowledge and to enable your team to easily share and learn from each other. Ask team members to identify their development needs around topics such as digital platforms, analytical and customer journey marketing, industry-specific training, leadership skills, presentation skills, and product training. Then ask them to create a personal development plan. It shouldn’t end there, because as a leader you need to regularly communicate that developing and learning are a priority. Expect team members to not only use the information in the portal but also contribute their expertise and experience to it. Set an expectation that team members regularly review development plans with their managers to instill an understanding that their ongoing development is a collaboration and a shared responsibility. Our development portal resides in Microsoft SharePoint, which provides instant, easy access from all of our offices across the globe. From the portal, team members can browse information on a wide range of topics, including analytical marketing, customer journey marketing, and product training, in a variety of formats (webcasts, online certification programs, white papers, how-to guides, and more).

Build certification into your training. Just as it’s important to provide different learning formats for different types of learners, it is equally important to provide employees with regular acknowledgement and praise. Certification is an important part of recognition as well as assessment. Your certification program should test for both basic and advanced proficiency in topics such as analytics and data stewardship. For example, marketers can design go-to marketing plans with an integrated channel strategy, and continually monitor and measure results by incorporating test plans that encourage a level of agility where changes can be made based on the performance of the campaigns.

Let’s not kid ourselves — change is a difficult journey, and leading change requires a plan. Consider training a starting point. Adoption requires ongoing vigilance and refining your course to keep you from straying from your goals.

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whkoh
74 days ago
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Are Sales Incentives Becoming Obsolete?

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To motivate, manage, and reward B2B salespeople, many companies use sales incentive plans that link large commissions or bonuses to individual results metrics, such as territory quota achievement. As digital channels continue to reduce and redefine salespeople’s role in customer buying, these traditional sales incentive plans are becoming less effective at driving sales outcomes.

The right sales incentive plan creates a double win. Salespeople win because they are rewarded for their hard work and good performance. The company wins through a better-motivated sales team that produces short-term results and is more likely to achieve company goals.

For a sales incentive plan to produce this double win, there are two necessary conditions:

  • Salespeople must have a large impact on sales results by focusing on activities that add value and directly influence customer buying decisions.
  • The company must have the ability to measure individual results by separating out each salesperson’s contribution and determining how much an individual’s actions affect the outcome.

Today’s multichannel world increasingly challenges both of these conditions.

Before the proliferation of digital information and buying channels, buyers usually relied on field salespeople’s help and expertise when purchasing. Salespeople “owned” relationships with customers, and had considerable impact on purchase decisions. This made it easy to measure individual sales results. In many cases, incentives linked to sales performance were an effective way to motivate and reward individual salespeople.

Today digital channels make buyers more informed, connected, and socially influenced. Buyers no longer view salespeople as their primary connection to companies they want to do business with. For simple product purchases such as office supplies, many buyers are self-sufficient. They get information online and purchase through websites supported by inside sales and service. Field salespeople no longer have impact on buying decisions. The first necessary condition is no longer true.

For complex solution purchases such as customized manufacturing equipment, buyers usually rely on a combination of digital channels and salespeople. The internet allows buyers to easily gather preliminary information about solution alternatives. But when solutions are complex and expensive, digital channels are usually not enough. Buyers want to collaborate with salespeople to reduce uncertainty. Often, they want input from multiple salespeople and technical specialists from the solution provider, in addition to help from digital channels. Salespeople have impact on purchase decisions. But because that impact is shared with multiple sales roles and digital channels, the company’s ability to measure impact and attribute it to a specific salesperson is limited. The second necessary condition is no longer true.

More and more selling situations today are failing to meet one or both necessary conditions for traditional sales incentives to work. Multiple influences on buying reduce individual salespeople’s impact and the ability to measure it. This blurs the connection between individual effort, results, and incentive pay in the minds of salespeople. Incentives become fuzzy and are no longer effective at rewarding and motivating individuals.

New Sales Management and Culture

Companies can no longer rely on large, individual, short-term sales incentives as a primary means of managing salespeople. Instead, they must change their sales compensation plans while emphasizing other ways to direct salespeople and shape sales culture.

Sales leaders must change compensation plans to look more like management bonus plans, designed to encourage people to work together to make the company and its customers more competitive and prosperous in the long run. Changes include:

  • Changing the metrics for determining incentive pay. Instead of short-term individual results (for example, quarterly territory sales), the metrics that determine pay should reflect annual company and team performance, along with individual effort contributing to team results (for example, going above and beyond to meet with key decision makers or to engage product specialists to help customers).
  • Shifting the pay mix more toward salary. Companies should also provide a smaller (but still reasonable) incentive opportunity for salespeople.

In addition to changing sales compensation, sales leaders and managers must take a more active role in managing salespeople. This involves changes such as:

  • Deploying new sales team structures. They must work alongside other channels (internet, inside sales) to meet customer needs.
  • Hiring salespeople with new capabilities. In addition to having solution sales skills, they should be comfortable using digital communication (email, video calls, social media) with customers, appreciate the value of analytics for enhancing the sales process, and be able to orchestrate customer buying across multiple channels.
  • Using performance management, coaching, training, and sales data and tools. Guide salespeople instead of relying on incentives as a primary means of controlling sales activity.
  • Establishing a new sales culture. It should be focused on teamwork and customer success.

Incentives are embedded in the culture of many sales forces, and changing that culture may be difficult. Yet change is necessary for companies to affect sales force behavior and drive results in today’s multichannel sales environment.

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whkoh
74 days ago
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How to Get Your Team to Use Their Vacation Time

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Photo by Vicko Mozara

Evidence is piling up that vacations are good for business. Not only does taking vacation contribute to enhanced productivity but it also immunizes our teams against the toxic negative attitudes that can be contagious in the workplace. So if vacation has such a good ROI, why are people taking less and less of it? In one study, researchers found that employees fear that their manager will think less of them for taking vacation. Yup, they are blaming you (what’s new?). To change this worrisome trajectory, you need to get creative about how to get your team members to take vacation.

First, make the business case. Use a few minutes in a team meeting to share some of the research on the benefits of vacation. A 2015 HBR article by Ron Friedman is a treasure trove of facts about the benefits to reaction time, creativity, and engagement. The article also highlights the risks of foregoing vacation in terms of impulsiveness, poor concentration, and negativity. Hearing these statistics will help disabuse your team of the notion that you’ll think poorly of them for taking their full vacation.

As with anything that matters in the workplace, the key to vacation compliance is to measure it and manage it. Keep track of how many vacation days employees have taken, and give periodic updates. Ideally, work it into performance planning at the beginning of the year. (Research has shown that vacations planned more than a month in advance are restorative, whereas the stress of vacations booked at the last minute can negate the positive impacts of the time off.) If getting employees to use their full vacation allotment is going to be a challenge, make the tracking public to increase the positive peer pressure. You can even use visible symbols (such as stars or checkmarks) to subtly associate completed vacation with success.

You and Your Team Series

Time Off

For some people, not taking vacation is actually a selfish move. They find it incredibly arduous to prepare everything for their absence and conclude that it’s just not worth it. It’s your role to make preparing for vacation as smooth and seamless as possible. Over the long term, establishing backups for each role and codifying processes through knowledge management make it easier for any one person to be away with the confidence that their job will be in good hands. In the short term, provide a template that allows the person to document their ongoing activities or projects and assign someone to cover each aspect. Start this conversation a couple of weeks before vacation so that as many tasks as possible can be wrapped up before the vacation begins. A smooth getaway this year will increase the likelihood that the person will take more vacation next year.

But what you do to encourage people to take vacation can all be for naught if you reinforce the wrong behavior during vacation. Be explicit with your team about what you mean when you say “vacation.” Make it clear before the employee leaves that you don’t want them checking email or voicemail. Where possible, exclude them from email recipient lists. Instead, save a list of things that came up during the vacation that you want to cover when they return. If you want to get tough, don’t allow a day to be used as vacation if they’re in contact with the office.

Although it makes sense to unplug while on vacation, many employees fear the avalanche of emails that awaits them when they return. Another secret to increasing the use and quality of vacation time is to make returning from vacation much less painful. Ideally, schedule a day or a half day for the person to catch up. Leave the other employees covering the role in place as though the vacation were one day longer. (If you use out-of-office auto-replies, set the return date to the next business day to give yourself one day of slack.) If you have flexibility as a manager, allow the person to work from home on the first day back to assist with overcoming jet lag or tackling mountains of laundry. Small gestures that create a little breathing room at the end of a vacation will ensure that you don’t erode the vacation’s benefits by noon on the first day back.

One of those benefits that you’ll want to capitalize on is the time for the brain to focus on other things. This resting phase allows for consolidation of all the information that has been packed in over the year. Changing gears also promotes insight and creativity. Take advantage of that creativity by scheduling an extra-long meeting with the person a few days after vacation. Lavishing them with some attention will reinforce their choice to take vacation and will also provide a chance to have a unique kind of conversation. This meeting is an opportune time to talk about process improvements, challenging stakeholder issues, or career development, all of which will feel more manageable after a vacation.

Even if you try all the proactive strategies in the world, some of your team might still be leaving vacation unused. Don’t ignore it. Make missed vacation a subject for feedback and a topic in development discussions. Try something like, “I notice you have seven unused vacation days. I checked, and this is the third year in a row you haven’t taken all of your vacation. I’m concerned about your ability to bring your best if you’re not getting an opportunity to fully unplug. When are you going to schedule those days?” If that doesn’t work, up the ante: “This is now affecting how I think about your performance and your promotion potential.”

Now, before you start implementing any of these strategies with your team, stop and check your own vacation balance. If you aren’t modeling the use of real, full, disconnected vacations, you can’t expect it from anyone who works for you. If you’re one of the vacation violators, be honest about it. Opening up about why you haven’t been taking vacation and what you’re going to do to change that might help others get there with you.

Vacations are good for your people, for your team, and for your organization, but somehow vacations have become counter-cultural within our hyper-busy workplaces. You have a responsibility to reverse this disturbing trend before it does real damage to your business and your people.

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whkoh
74 days ago
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What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” To Every Email I Got For A Week

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After forcing himself to become more “phone-prone,” this CEO finds that empathy sometimes equals efficiency.

The sound of descending chimes. Funky MIDI elevator music. Ughhhhhh–why is my phone ringing? Can’t they just text!?

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whkoh
76 days ago
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77 days ago
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Hmmmmmm.
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What Every Brand Needs To Connect Better With Audiences Right Now

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Brand advisor Christina Cubeta breaks down key elements of marketing communication and the brands doing it right.

Whatever you think–about anything–you’re not the only one. That’s what happens when you’re one of seven billion. There’s a lot of other people just like you.

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