Archive for November, 2011

How do I bring my team to life?

A friend asked me yesterday: “How do I bring my team to life?”.

He’s setting up a new business team for a new product and wanted to discuss how he could enthuse them. After talking about culture, alignment to the task and mission critical outcomes  we then looked at the team from the employees point of view.

I shared with him a three point strategy for team building that I often find team leaders find interesting and here are some of the expectations we discussed but from a team member’s point of view:

To be a good team leader you need to “Discover me”

  • Recruit for my strengths but understand my weaknesses
  • Find out how I learn best
  • Discover what interests me
  • Understand my aspirations                        

To gain my enthusiasm you need to “Steer Me”

  • Show me the course we will be sailing and the points we’ll see on the way
  • Describe to me what end of the journey (success) looks like
  • Provide coaching and mentor me
  • Protect me along the journey so I don’t fall overboard                  

Support me

  • Be my biggest fan
  • Celebrate with me my successes and tell everyone else
  • Challenge me to do better and bigger than even I thought I could
  • Commit yourself to my success as an individual part of this team


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The gap between expectation and delivery

I read with interest in People Management that
of the changes that leaders and managers think are most important for
success are currently not being delivered by their organisations.

In a survey by the Centre for Educational Leadership
at the University of Manchester delegates at the latest CIPD Conference were asked their opinions on the importance of
various aspects of business performance. They were then asked which
aspects their organisations were currently delivering effectively. The
gaps between expectation and delivery were marked.

  • Effective
    HR business partnering was identified by 65 per cent as important to
    achieve, yet only 33 per cent said they had it in place
  • Harnessing the
    ideas of employees was cited as a priority for 69 per cent, but only 35
    per cent said they already did it well
  • Performance management processes
    were seen as important by 62 per cent, but just 21 per cent were
    confident with what they had in place.
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We’re no longer willing to listen to…

Yesterday I had an interesting meeting with my good friend Warren Cass, the founder of Business Scene, discussing what type of speakers audiences were wanting to hear at networking events and business conferences.

My contribution, as a business speaker, was that I’ve noticed that audiences have changed what they are wanting to hear from the stage. I’ve detected that audiences are no longer willing to listen to the motivational speaker
encouraging the audience to “Do it like I did” or the “How to
improve…” talk or even worse the “I’ve written a book you’ll love to
buy” talk. Instead they are wanting information that’ll help them, and their business teams, survive and even prosper in the future and through these difficult times.

The future of speaker’s keynotes
I predict that the during 2012 people will be wanting to hear speakers offer an opinion on what the future holds, practical tips on how to survive the economic downturn and how teams can be made more efficient and profitable. That’s not to say that people want to be bored to death or filled with statistics, they won’t put up with that either! The talks will have to be entertaining, energetic and full of information. An interesting time for the future of the conference speaker and for those booking them for their audiences.

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2 ways to increase sales

I was delighted yesterday when I had an email asking if I would speak to a team of retail shop assistants on ways to increase their sales. Apparently I was contacted after one of the team had seen this film on YouTube and discussed it at their sales team meeting.

So here’s the film for you to see for yourself and if you have any ideas for another film on retail sales teams then give me a shout

2 ways to Increase Retail Sales

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25% of my team’s predicted sales end in “No Decision”

“Currently 25% of my team’s predicted sales stall in a NO DECISION”

Was the opening statement of a Skype call I had with a friend last month. He’s a sales manager with a large national firm and was asking me how to restructure his sales team’s working to increase effectiveness, increase sales funnel size and, despite the recession, meet increased revenue targets.

Main problem
With the economy becoming more difficult prospects have learned to distrust sales calls. In addition the prospect has become better informed and will use the internet to check the sales facts or even make the sale on-line. The conclusion we came to was that the sales team was pressing for a fast buying decision and this was a major contribution to a “No decision”.

Solution and result
One of the three solutions we discussed and implemented was that the next team briefing should discuss “time taken to sale”. The discussion produced a realistic expectation of the time taken to make a sale in various circumstances. The effect was to reduce the pressure felt by the sales team to make quick sales. The result was that the team prospected wider whilst ensuring that “No decision prospects” were kept warm for longer. The result is that overall sales have grown. New sales are being made with many of the predicted sales that previously ended in “No decision” and forgotten about being converted later rather than sooner! 

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Essential ingredients to building a strong team

I’ve been asked to forward my reply to a question posed on LinkedIn on team building to a few of my friends, so thought I would republish it here.

Building a team is like building a good restaurant team
I often make the analogy that building a successful
business team is similar to opening a restaurant to serve great food. It
needs a capable, stable and motivated brigade in the kitchen as well as
a team of people to serve the food and make the eating experience

The ingredients good or bad are often immediately noticeable by
customers. If the team, in both the kitchen and front-of-house areas
can’t work together then either the food or service will suffer and
customers will IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves.

The first task is to have a stable team. Staff turnover is a universal
problem, and not just in the catering sector.

Each new appointment seems
to carry with it a high risk of failure. Let’s explore why this is …

There seems to be three common mistakes that team leaders can make. The
first is failing to communicate the results that are required from the
team. Job descriptions provide an indication of the required results but
success in a job depends upon the boss’s assessment. The team,
therefore, needs to understand what constitutes a success in the boss’
eyes and how such success will be measured.

Gaining a clear understanding of what success looks like can be achieved
by holding a series of meetings with the the team. As such they are
best undertaken as formal 1:1 discussions, as opposed to short
conversations over the coffee machine or at a team meeting.

The types of questions that need to be asked include:

· How has the current situation reached this point?
· What problems have been identified if the situation is not improved?
· What actions the leader expects in the short and medium term?
· What would constitute success in the leaders’ eyes?
· How and when will performance be measured?

The second mistake is failing to communicate the boss’s management
style. This means understanding how the leader likes to be communicated
with and how often? What decisions the leader likes to make personally
and what decisions are clearly delegated to individuals in the team?

Don’t ignore culture
A big mistake a leader can make is to ignore the culture of the business
or not to consciously develop a culture for a new team. To ignore
culture makes introducing change more difficult. In addition the leader
needs to consider that all change will have an affect on other people,
particularly in other areas in the organisation, so prior to making
changes it’s important to consider the consequences both upstream and

Then there’s the aspect of training. A leader wanting to build a strong
team needs to ensure that the team can deliver what’s expected. One of
the lessons from Restaurants is that there’s little point in placing
Duck a la Normande on the menu if the kitchen brigade haven’t the
ability to cook it properly and restaurant team don’t know how to serve
it. (Or what it is).

Now, isn’t that a recipe for business success?”

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Great Business Show at Earls Court

Yesterday I was at the Great British Business Show at Earls Court and saw loads of friends. However, despite so many people attending the show it was not a success for me and, from the feedback I received, wasn’t a success for many other people as well.

What went wrong:

  • To start with I had to queue for twenty minutes to get into the show and when I arrived at the check-in desk was told that I was in the wrong queue and had to join another. (I left the queue and walked in without registering!)
  • Once inside I found that there was no show guide. So finding information on the location of exhibitors, seminar presentations was more difficult than it needed to have been.
  • Too many of those exhibiting seemed unsure how to engage with visitors to their stands.
  • More than one exhibitor was handing out very heavy (300 page) catalogues that were dumped at the exhibition because I didn’t want to carry them around London for the rest of the day
  • Two events were being held in the same hall, despite being marketed separately “Great British Business Show” and the “Business Start-up Earls Court”. Very confusing for attendees

This is the second event that I’ve recently attended that I thought poorly organised, an HR event a month ago at Olympia, that had so few visitors to it that I was probably one of a couple of hundred people in the hall. Naturally the exhibitors were packing up early and I gather were “Meeting with the organisers” to complain.

I’m interested in the experience of other exhibition visitors

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Becoming Business Savvy

Did you read that the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel development) conference discussed how HR should become more business savvy to increase their impact.

Too little influence
For years the CIPD have been moaning that HR has too little influence at senior levels in so many businesses. One solution given to the conference was to “Discuss business challenges as opposed to HR Issues”.

Changing attitudes
The problem with this strategy is to persuade CEO’s, Directors and other Executives that HR is able to discuss “Business issues” when they have been used to discussing only HR and as a reaction to events as opposed to a developer of strategy.

In my experience such a change in emphasis would be easier for a “New Hire” HR Director or manager rather than a current incumbent!

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How To Succeed… Start A Small War!

I was having a Skype video call to a good friend of mine today about the best way to unite a team. “Start a small war” I suggested.

I explained the objective was to focus the team on on threats, dangers, enemies and rivals that exist outside the team. In this instance suggesting that survival of the team might be at stake from an external threat meant that internal disputes would seem less significant as the team focussed on defeating the external enemy. (Think how united countries become when invaded, even when they don’t like the leader)

Sales team rivalry
It’s similar to increasing sales within a team: Split the salespeople into rival teams and have them compete against each other.

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Don’t blame salespeople for poor sales.

With sales margins being pushed south I was reminded, yesterday, by a sales Director of a statement that I made from a conference stage a few years ago “Sales teams are often blamed for poor sales when it’s not their fault”.

So who or what is to blame?
Too often sales teams limp along with undiagnosed problems when a “new process” is implemented in the hope that it will have immediate improvements. In my experience there are a number of issues that need to be considered before rushing into another and potentially expensive new sales process. These include:

  • There is little understanding how departments such as legal, accounts and IT impact on sales
  • Senior managers don’t appreciate how the existing sales process works
  • People don’t understand why the business makes sales and more importantly loses sales
  • Too few of the sales team contribute too much of the sales result
  • Sales forecasting is based on “Gut feeling” and “Hope”
  • Sales forecast is made on a short term basis (This month or next)

Take time
There are many actions that can be taken to solve the above list but “blaming the sales team” isn’t always one of them. Instead correctly diagnose where the business needs to look for improvements in the sales cycle. The other thing to remember is that there’s no pill that will provide instantaneous results. Time, good analysis and correct implementation needs to be taken when delivering sales improvements.

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