By Keith E. Smith
Every business owner, CEO, and manager has encountered roadblocks; something that holds the business back and prevents it from growing. They know they must figure it out, and fix it, as soon as possible. That is usually when they realize that figuring out the problem is, at least at times, more difficult than fixing it. The key is to pinpoint the exact cause, and not waste time addressing the symptoms. If the exact cause is repaired, the symptoms no longer exist.
I spent nearly two decades in the automotive world, most of that time as a certified technician. I was trained to pinpoint the root cause of a concern based on the symptom. A symptom is a sign or indication that a problem exists, but is not necessarily the problem itself.
For example: Let’s say your car’s radio stops working. Your initial thought may be that the radio is at fault. That is not an unreasonable guess, but until you investigate further it is still just a guess. After looking into it further, you discover that the electrical connector on the back of the radio had come loose because it had not been properly installed. You correct the connector issue and voila’-the radio starts working. The root cause of the concern was not the radio, even though the radio is what exhibited the symptom. Every vehicle is a combination of many different systems. In order to properly diagnose any individual system of a vehicle, the vehicle has to be viewed as a whole. This same concept is true in a business.
To illustrate how this concept is as applicable to business as it is to a vehicle, let’s use another example. This time, the symptom is that sales are down in your business. Everything had been moving along just fine, but within a few months’ time the amount of sales being made by your salespeople plummeted. Initially, you may think that more sales training is needed. After all, the salespeople are not selling so that must be the problem, right? Not necessarily. If you begin to dig deeper, perhaps by individually interviewing your salespeople, you may find that the root cause goes deeper. It could be that morale is low, and that the overall culture of the business is affecting their performance. Or it could be something else, but the point is that the root cause of the symptom was not immediately obvious.
There will be times when the cause of a problem is plainly visible, but more often than not you will have to dig deeper to find the root cause. Just like the vehicle example above, a business is made up of several different systems, and you have to understand how each individual system affects the business as a whole before you break it down into its individual systems. The only way to fix a problem is to pinpoint exactly what is causing it. Learn to do this and your business, and career, will soar.
by Keith E. Smith
If you Google the title of this article you will find a plethora of articles that have been written in an attempt to answer the question. Many of those articles offer information that, if applied, can certainly help you retain your most talented employees. However, there is something you can do that will have more impact than almost anything else, and that is becoming involved in the personal development of your people.
You may be thinking that personal development is just that, personal. You may ask, “Isn’t this something that should be left up to the individuals themselves?” Well, yes and no. It is certainly the responsibility of each person to adopt a mindset that makes them coachable, willing to learn, and change when necessary. But, as a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that encourages growth, both professionally and personally. I say both because, let’s face it, you cannot separate personal life from professional life. It is all life, no matter how many times we recite the mantra, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
Your business is only as strong as the people working in it, and this is why you must provide more than just professional development. Professional development is great, and necessary, but it only addresses one area of a person’s life. In order to be fulfilled, a person needs to feel they are growing and progressing in all areas of their life. For example, if a person is happy with their work life, but feel as though their creativity has no outlet, then their overall happiness will suffer. If a person is succeeding at work, but feel like their personal relationships are in shambles, there is little chance they will experience the feeling of fulfillment. Now, I know you may be thinking, “How can I be responsible for the personal lives of everyone on my team?” Good news, you are not responsible for their personal lives. But, as a leader you are responsible for creating a workplace environment that encourages growth, and you do that by recognizing the fact that work is only one facet of a person’ life. People need to feel enriched, and have meaningful work outside of just their jobs.
When you help your staff develop outside of their jobs, they will not only be fulfilled personally, they will also be more successful and productive in their job roles. You will help them to become the person they know they are capable of becoming, but were not sure how to get there. By now, you may be wondering how assisting your people with their personal development will benefit you as a business owner. Here are just a few ways you and your business will benefit:
Loyalty: When your people realize that you care enough about them to invest in them personally, they will be more willing to do the same for you.
Self-motivated: Happy employees who feel fulfilled, and see that you are interested in their fulfillment, will not need to be externally motivated by managers. They will be internally driven to succeed, thus requiring less oversight, which allows you and your management team to focus on higher level tasks.
Productivity & Engagement: When you invest in the personal development of your team, you will notice that they become more engaged, and proactive in their roles. You will also notice they they do more, without being asked, and many will even do more than they are being paid to do.
Top Talent Retention: Some believe that by training and improving their people, that they run the risk of losing them to a competitor. That is a valid concern, but the truth of the matter is that it creates in them the desire to stay. Rare is the employer that takes a genuine interest in the personal development of their people, and your people know that. Besides, employees who are not happy, engaged and fulfilled are not going to be loyal to you or your company anyway.
How can you incorporate personal development into your company? There are many ways, and that may be the topic of another article, but here are a few examples:
Of course, there are many ways to make personal development a part of your company’s culture. The important thing to remember is that personal development and career development are not the same thing. You need to both, but recognize the differences. Know that work life and personal life is connected, not separate. Addressing all facets of your team’s lives will yield amazing benefits for everyone, including you and your business.
Below is an excerpt from our new book. You can find it here!
Of all the lessons in this book, this is the most important one. Without a proper mindset, no amount of training or coaching will make someone a success. The challenge with this particular lesson is that no one can instill a winning mindset into another person. We all, as individuals, must make this choice on our own. However, once we have made the choice to shift our mindset, we can then seek outside guidance and help. This is why, as a business owner or manager, it is important to have a hiring process (more on this in lesson two) that helps you identify individuals who have a mindset conducive to learning, growth, and an overall positive view of life.
In order for your business to become successful, every person on the team must possess a winning mindset. That means the owners, managers, and employees must all share a similar attitude, and a desire to win. It is especially important for the management team to possess these qualities. At some point, there will be new people joining your team, and they will need to be trained by a person already equipped with the correct mindset. This is how you build a team of high performers.
There are two types of mindsets: Limiting and liberating. An individual who possesses a limiting mindset will see goals as difficult, or impossible, to reach. The person who possesses a liberating mindset will view a goal as a challenge and will search for ways to make it happen. You see the difference? One person sees the problem, the other sees the possibility. You can see why this the most important lesson. Everything else builds upon the mindset of the individuals involved.
Once, when we were both co-managing a particular business, we were tasked with growing the membership to a certain level. We both knew it was possible, and we both knew we were going to make it happen. We chased that goal for two years, and we tried everything. We had the best scripts, role played continuously, had meetings, tracked performance, and even tried huge bonus programs. Nothing worked, and we nearly lost our minds. Finally, we began researching the psychology behind winning sales teams, and realized what had been holding us back. Our team did not have a winning mindset, and overall morale was low. We set out to change that, and we did. Soon, we began breaking down barriers and reaching goal after goal. We built the membership of that business to a level higher than ever before, and the business had been operating for nine years.
Shifting the Mindset
You may find yourself in this situation: You have hired a team of people who have great attitudes and really want to do the best job possible. They are teachable and want to succeed, but they still have difficulty reaching their goals. So, what do you do when you have good people, but are stuck anyway? You shift their mindset.
If you are certain that you have hired the right team, but they still are not reaching sales goals, then it is likely your team members have differing views, low morale, or both. It could be that they have different ideas of what the goals are, how to achieve them, or what their role is in helping the team succeed. When the team is aware that they are not meeting expectations their morale will suffer (remember, how everyone feels, as individuals and as a team, will win out over everything else). To correct this you will have to shift the mindset of the team, as well as each individual. This may sound like a challenging task, but it is simpler than you may realize. In order to shift their mindset, you will have to shift their focus.
By Keith E. Smith
Like many of you reading this, We have had the responsibility of coaching a small sales team. We have learned a lot, but the most important thing we have learned is to never stop looking for ways to encourage, support and strengthen my team. We also learned that there is only so much one person can do when it comes to coaching a group of people. This is where peer coaching comes in. In fact, we have seen this take a team member who was having a less-than-stellar month, and within two weeks they had turned it around. By “turned it around” we mean that team member more than doubled their closing ratio in less than fourteen days.
Let’s face it, after a while they expect to hear certain things from you because you’re the manager, and your coaching can begin to have less of an impact. There are several ways to prevent that from happening, or at least limit it to a certain extent. Changing up the location where you coach and the topics you coach about are a couple of ways that have worked for me. However, the most effective method we have found so far is to have the team coach each other.
*It is important to pause here a moment and make an important point. In order for your team to be in the right headspace to coach a fellow team mate, you must have already created a culture in which encouragement, support and good will thrives. There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of books written about business culture, and I cannot even begin to touch on that topic in this short post. We encourage you to read up on it, study it intensely, and intentionally create the culture of your business. If you need some suggestions on where to start, just ask and we can help you out.
If you have been in management for any length of time,, then you know that you can’t do it all. Often, when you begin to be overwhelmed with responsibilities, coaching the team is one of the first things that gets put on the back burner. Here’s some good news: You don’t have to be the only one coaching your team!
If you have successfully created a work environment like we described above, then you have a team of knowledgeable coaches already on staff. Your sales team are on the front lines every day. They know what is working and what is not working. Put that knowledge and experience to use! Tap into their team mentality, encourage each team member to reach out and lift up anyone they see struggling. Remind them that a rising tide lifts all boats. We did this, both individually and as a group, and stood back and let it happen. The results began to show up in a matter of days.
You see, we all are influenced by our peers, and often more so than by those who lead us. It’s simple psychology, but it works. Another great thing about your team reaching out and helping one another is that they become a tighter-knit group. They will come to work knowing that their coworker has their back and will help them when they need it. When you have a team that thinks and operates like that, everyone will reap the benefits.
by Keith E. Smith
We toss around the word “coaching” frequently these days, but how you define it and the way you actually do it matters. It matters a lot.
Do you use any of these methods to coach your team?
• Threats- i.e. their. job, pay, etc.
• Humiliation- calling them out in front of their peers.
If you are using any of the above methods, you are not coaching. You are controlling, or are at least attempting to control, your people. This method will never produce positive, long-term change. You can manage performance to a certain extent, but people need to be coached.
The problem is that most managers, and business owners, only focus on the performance side of the coaching coin. Coaching for performance is important, but the only way lasting change ever takes place is to coach for development. Coaching for performance addresses an individual’s skill and technique, while coaching for development addresses the individual.
When you focus only on the performance issue, you are putting all of your attention on the negative results. You can hammer that home till your blue in the face, but it will seldom be effective in bringing about the desired change. This does not mean you ignore poor performance, but rather you seek to correct it by going straight to the source; the individual.
Remember, your personnel roster is filled with “persons”. Each person is unique and cannot be reprogrammed like a machine. This is where coaching for development comes in to play. Poor performance can almost always be traced to poor habits. If an individual has poor work habits you can teach them new skills, but those skills will not be utilized until their habits have changed.
You will have to tap into the learning style of each person on your team. Developmental coaching focuses on helping a person learn in ways that will keep them growing. It is asking them questions rather than giving them orders, and getting them to think instead of giving them step-by-step directions. It is giving them clear goals and holding them accountable for those goals. You want to make them aware of their strengths, and areas in which you can help them grow.
Coaching For Development
• In order to coach someone in a way that will help them to grow, you must first develop a relationship built on trust, support, and patience. They must know that you genuinely care about them. If you do not have this kind of relationship with your team, then that is your starting point. Skipping this, or downplaying the importance of it, will make you come across as fake and insincere.
• Help them become self-aware. Ask open-ended questions that cause them to think about their intentions, performance and habits. Help them to discover inconsistencies, rather than pointing them out yourself.
• Encourage them to make progress and recognize their successes.
• Have them set their own goals, and then hold them accountable to their goals.
• Listen to their concerns and allow them to share their feelings.
• Know that change you seek will come, but it won’t be overnight.
Remember, both sides of the coin are important. You must coach performance and development. Do both, do it consistently, and you will see significant change that will last.
by Keith E. Smith
You own, or manage, a small to medium-sized business. You have staffed your front desk with individuals whose responsibilities go beyond just answering phones and making appointments; they have to sell.
Congratulations on finding people to work at your front desk! It is a challenge to find people that you feel are qualified to be on the front lines of your business. Now comes your real challenge; turning a group of people into a team. Notice we did not say your challenge was to train them to become salespeople. That is important, and hopefully your onboarding process landed you some individuals who have at least some previous sales experience.
Here’s the thing: Individual skills are important, but they will become useless, or at least underutilized if your people are not operating as a team. That is why the title of this post includes the words “Sales Team.”
Here are three keys that we have found to be crucial when turning a group of people into a sales team. There is a lot that goes into getting a group of people to work together in harmony, but this list offers three building blocks that are essential for success. Implementing these three keys transformed the team we used to manage from a closing ratio of 17% to 35% in just three months. It works.
1) Leaders don’t just delegate, they participate: You can boss people around or you can train by example. You can guess which method is more effective. When you are training your people you should be right in there with them doing the same job. You don’t have to have regularly scheduled shifts, but you should be able to demonstrate to your team that you know how to do the job and do it well. Otherwise, your words and training will lack power because no one will take seriously advice from someone who cannot themselves do what they are advising.
2) Mindset Training: This is almost always overlooked, but the importance of this cannot be overemphasized. Without a proper mindset, no amount of training will make someone a success. Here is where any weaknesses in your hiring and onboarding process will show up first. Your goal when hiring is to weed out, as much as possible, those people who have a predominately negative outlook on life. Any person who has such a mindset will not be receptive to coaching and will drag down the rest of the team. When training on mindset with my team, we take a twofold approach. First, we train on creating an overall positive mindset about life in general, and then we apply those same techniques to the specific job we are training them for.
The technique is really quite simple. Achieving any goal, dream, or objective is dependent upon the decisions you make. The quality of the decisions you make are influenced by your state of mind. Your state of mind is determined by how you feel (emotions etc). How you feel is determined by the thoughts that dominate your mind. The thoughts that dominate your mind are determined by your focus (what is receiving all of your attention). As you can see, what you focus on is the foundation of it all, and will determine whether or not you achieve your goal. It is not difficult to see how this teaching method can be applied to one’s life or occupation. It works the same.
3) Implement a structured training program: We created a four-week training program for our new team members. Four weeks works for what we want to accomplish, but the length of your program is not as important as the content. I said that we created our program for new hires, but we transformed the team that was already in place by using this same training. The point is to create a program with crystal clear goals in mind. Know what it is you want to accomplish before you even start. Once you know exactly what you want to achieve, you can design your training.
We will share with you what we have done in the past. Perhaps these examples will give you ideas on your own training strategy. Remember, we stretch this out over four weeks, and the first few items on the list we do off-site.
We hope you found this post useful!