Did you know that leaders spend 80% of their time in communication either written or verbal? Unfortunately, communication is a very important area in selling that is becoming a lost art. Barney Kramer is on the show today to share with us insightful tips to help improve your communication as a seller.
It’s a skill as old as the ages and sets you apart from those who fail to perform it. It’s also one that far too many fail to meet a minimum competency test. For those who develop this skill it is likely to become one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. It will build trust and relationships, it will help you build an engaged workforce and virtually any willing participant can learn this skill. Leaders who develop proficiency with this are on their way to mastering perhaps the most powerful of all skills-Good Communications! And for the record companies with leaders who are good communicators can be as much as 47% more profitable. It is a human skill that will be a difference maker for those who master it or even become just “good” at it. If you haven’t guessed by now it’s listening.
As the quantity of information has ramped up in the last decade or two listening has failed to keep up and in fact is beginning to become a lost skill for most. Information flies at us from every direction and quicker and quicker speeds and at the end of the day the volume and pace of it seems to leave us with the sense of “what just happened”? And for good reason. Researchers have found that the human brain can only take in information for about 14 to 16 seconds before it begins processing it and loses the ability to retain information beyond that. This has got to be a crisis for the “speed talkers” of the world who don’t understand that the whole point of talking is to communicate or connect with others instead of a competition to see how many words they can spew in a given time frame without taking a breath. But give them credit nothing seems to deter them once you get them started. Maybe someday this will become an Olympic competition. Personally I’ve found the terms’ wait-wait-wait and or stop-stop-stop and a raised stop sign to be the only way to possibly control them. And from there on out yes and no questions is about the only way to decipher there runaway tongue throttles.
Talking is the most common form of communications in a business and effective conversations begin with good listening skills. And this means internally and externally. The better you get a listening the better you will be as a leader. The same is true in sales. Your customer knows everything you need to know to provide the right product and right service and the only way you can efficiently learn that is to stop talking and start listening.
The best of companies today employ techniques that engage their employees in conversation and not lecturers and their prospects in a solution oriented dialogue built around what the challenges of the customer and are what the solutions might be.
A Harvard Business Review article, referred to this exchange as an organizational conversation. In that article they stated that: Leaders who take organizational conversation seriously know when to stop talking and start listening. Few behaviors enhance conversational intimacy as much as attending to what people say. True attentiveness signals respect for people of all ranks and roles, a sense of curiosity, and even a degree of humility.”
This is what I call engaged or authentic listening. It is the ability to understand what the speaker is trying to say or the idea that is being communicated.
Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Authentic listeners have uncanny ability to listen intuitively to the other person’s story, searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding with the other person’s needs in mind.
Employee research indicates that a leader’s failure to listen is usually the biggest mistake that is made. When you aren’t listened to the takeaway will be “what I say, think, or know doesn’t matter. Absent an unusual level of wisdom and maturity prepare for the worst and if it continues you can expect the listener to rebel or run as circumstances dictate. An employee will vote with their feet by diminishing effort and a customer or prospect will eliminate you from the possible selections.
Listen to Feedback Like a Leader!
Research indicates that as much as 80% of a leaders’ time is spent in communications and improving them is a great way to find a whole bucket of extra time and a better running operation when you learn to listen and become a better communicator as a result.
1. Listen without interruption, objections, or defensiveness to the content, the emotions and the feelings of the speaker.
2. Clarify. Hear the speaker out and when they are done ask questions to clarify what was said.
3. Thoughtful. Seek to understand the effects and consequences of your behavior.
4. Hold Still. Be relaxed, breath. Assume a comfortable body posture. Be aware of your own emotional reactions.
5. Be Explicit. Make it clear what kind of feedback you are seeking, and why it is important to you. Offer a structure for the feedback — questions, rating scales, stories.
6. Quiet. Refrain from making or preparing to make a response. Do not be distracted by the need to explain, defend, or fix.
7. Clear with your commitment. Describe how you have benefited from the feedback and what specific steps you will take toward improvement.
As you move forward, embrace relating to others with more curiosity and intent about those you serve. Treat listening like a human experiment in your professional development journey. The best listeners hear what others don’t and because they do their decisions become increasingly better for all concerned.
MILLENNIALS ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK!
WHEN I HEAR PEOPLE GO OFF ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION AND THEN VENT THEIR ANGST TOWARD IT—I’M REMINDED OF A CARTOON I ONCE SAW THAT READ-“IF YOU ARE GOING TO TRAIN A DOG YOU MUST BE SMARTER THAN THE DOG”.
With the “Greatest generation” mostly gone from the work force, there are three left. The Boomers-Gen X and The Millennials. If for no other reason that the fact that millennials are the largest and growing segment of the workforce it is incumbent that leaders learn how to work with and accomplishment the results needed through them.
Sadly they are often stereotyped as the entitled generation. They are portrayed as being obsessed with themselves, proven by their passion for taking selfies and being self employed. So why would companies want such needy, self-obsessed, tech-savvy, career-driven, creative, knowledge-hungry Millennials working for them? Well, it’s pretty simple. Nothing is more complex than a human being and characterizing them as all the same is both ignorant and fatal to a leaders chances of success. So let’s look at why you MUST learn how to lead them!!!
1. Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce today!
2. Millennials are the most engaged workers today when the conditions are right. But they do like to work on different terms. Up to 60% of them will bring work home with them to get it done and even work while on vacation.
3. They are creative and very good at conceiving new ideas.
4. They are so tech savvy and that often gives them the ability to be much faster where the work involves the use of technology than the other generations who generally possess far fewer skills in the use of technology tools.
5. They have less fear of learning new ways and means as they grew up with something new all the time as a way of life.
Millennials have learned to challenge the status quo and like to ask the question, “Why?” Because “I said so” is not an acceptable answer to them and often means “I don’t know” to them and your opinion doesn’t count. They want to know the value upfront of the projects they are working on and the vision of the companies they work for. They won’t waste time on things they don’t believe in, and won’t give up on the things that they do.
So let’s look at some solutions to getting them to achieve the goals and needs of a business.
1. Autonomy: The ability to achieve one’s own way, as long as the goal is reached.
Millennials want independence. They want the ability to work from home and manage their own time. When done well, offering Millennials autonomy can result in: Higher output due to motivation from responsibility; truly creative problem-solving; lower turnover over time from higher engagement with projects; and stronger employer-employee relationships.
One thing to be aware of: Avoid promoting a lack of quality control and freedom without direction. Make sure you hold Millennials accountable for their actions and work to make sure quality doesn’t suffer.
2. Social Connectivity: An environment where Millennials connect with each other in such a way that fosters greater business results.
Millennials don’t see a line separating work relationships from personal ones. Offering Millennials social connectivity in the workplace can lead to enhanced collaboration derived from stronger relationships, greater tenure due to personal investment in company, and higher levels of peer accountability. Regardless, you must make sure the work environment is still first and the social environment second. A leader will know how to communicate this in an acceptable way that get’s their cooperation.
3. Growth Opportunities: Opportunities that expand the production capacity of the employee in a way that benefits the Millennial and the company.
Millennials are more concerned with their career growth that most of the prior generation. And after this last generation opportunities for growth are a huge factor in retention. Loyalty alone is no longer sufficient since they grew up in a world where corporations and companies treated people as line items on the balance sheets and no longer rewarded tenure and loyalty. Tenure is seen as a thing of the past; Millennials believe that if they work hard enough, they can start moving up the corporate ladder immediately and allowing this in smaller increments is a great solution. Sort this issue out before you hire and make certain their desire’s to grow are not unreasonable and that they understand growth requires achievement and than spell out what that means before you hire.
Motivating Millennials with professional development opportunities can lead to: Faster learning, as long as there is a mutual understanding of growth requirements; a results-oriented culture that promotes a fast growth of skills; and increased ambition, as Millennials don’t “wait around” for their turns.
4. Company Perks & Benefits.
The best of companies understand that small conveniences can be huge rewards. The tech industry and companies like google have mastered this through small perks that make life more enjoyable by having things like a laundry or day care or various types of food and so and so on available during lunch, break time, etc. When they feel valued by their employers, they work harder. At best, they will become an employer brand champion. Offering Millennials meaningful, everyday lifestyle conveniences will make their everyday lives much easier, make employees see the employer as key to that ease, and encourage Millennials to spend more time at work because she/he won’t have to do as many mundane tasks. However, do not pamper to spoil your employees. Providing lifestyle conveniences is about demonstrating that you value employees, not fostering a sense of entitlement.
5. Purposeful Work: Work that clearly relates to the ultimate output of the company and matters to the individual.
Millennials want to believe in their company’s vision and mission. Simon Sinek spoke to the Vision issue in a book entitled, Start’s with the Why and explains the power of Vision. It is innate in most of us to want to believe in a purpose or cause and when that is tied to the gifts and skills so unique in each of us we will excel. In fact this is far more important to them than it has been to any other generation. Not only does a company have to make its corporate vision known to the team, but it must communicate how each employee is helping to reach it. By offering Millennials purposeful work, employees will know exactly how their work relates to larger business outcomes. They’ll unite around a clear, powerful company vision, and company core values will be seen as exciting and not boilerplate.
Be careful not to encourage the “It’s all about me” syndrome. This is when employees think their personal interests override business goals. When this happens, employees aren’t committed to the company’s long-term goals. In fact, they are more likely to make decisions that make themselves feel better even if it means trumping sound business decisions. Getting this right begins with the recruiting and hiring and not through change that comes after an employment agreement is entered into.
Learn to master these few items and you will quickly ascend to the top in your ability to develop and retain high performance teams that lead to success! And because they are people just like us in many ways it’s important to treat them right because it is the right thing to do.
So the question remains-WILL YOU CHOOSE TO BE SMARTER THAN THE DOG? YOUR ANSWER WILL DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS!
Two Stockton Leadership class participant give their views on what they are learning. The first is Denney McCoy, with Performance Mechanical and the second participant is Alexander Von Gimbut, Danville Trader.
Barney Kramer talks about the leadership vacuum and how businesses can solve the problem in this exclusive Central Valley Business Times audio interview.
Annie Jennings, of JenningsWire Online Magazine, talks with Barney Kramer about today’s biggest business challenges and the questions they raise:
- What is the most daunting challenge businesses face today?
- What can they do to overcome this?
- How are challenges a reflection of leadership skills?
- How do managers decide on training for employees?
- Are testimonials really that important?
Strategic Management Resource Associates President Barney Kramer sat down with the Central Valley Business Times to talk about some of the common mistakes in hiring, including the most fundamental one that is often overlooked.
Of course once an issue is recognized, then the next step is to bring about the change that solves the issue. In fact, the ability to Negotiate Change is another of the core Leadership competencies and maybe one of the toughest to master. The best leaders know how and when change is necessary and how to proceed with bringing it about. But all too often most of us have had little help in learning how and when to tackle change. The word negotiate itself stirs the pot of personal emotions as much or more than most. And given our own life experiences it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. All too often we end up having to “negotiate” many of the largest and most expensive decisions in our life (homes and cars) with a seller who has us at a competitive disadvantage because they have so many facts that we don’t. Or so it appears anyway. Thank goodness that has changed to some extent with the info available online although the playing field is anything but even.
A common example can illustrate the anxiety the mere thought of negotiating can trigger in most of us. Anyone who has ever bought a car will understand what the emotional battlefield is like. No is always an out but when you need a car it isn’t except as to the car you are thinking of buying. So you burn up hours trying to decide which one or ones would be right for you. And in the middle of that process you will eventually have to “negotiate” a price and terms for the car. And that process takes place with a business who can’t exist without selling cars to people like you and their agents are trained to get you to buy their car and not someone else’s. You know but a little through your research about the pluses and minuses of the cars you are looking at and opinions are endless about the best, the worst, the value and all the rest of the detail that you would ideally know before you make the right decision. They know their cars, the competitions cars, and what they need to focus on to get you to buy theirs because that is what is in their best interest. I personally so despised the process that I was determined to make nearly all of the decisions without interacting with a dealer or their representative until it was buy time and my decisions had been made. In fact, the rule was if they called me after I filled out their online request for quotes and the promise that they wouldn’t, which I naively believed, that I eliminated them from my search. I chose to refuse to engage in the battle because I felt that my time should be spent in a more productive manner than negotiating with someone who past experience taught me they would put their best interest in front of mine. I just didn’t want to pay the price of engagement with them. The time and place for that is in my business where the stakes are higher and of far greater value.
The ability to negotiate change is one of the most powerful skills a leader can have. Without it we are stuck in the status quo, no matter how bad it is and even if it’s good now it won’t be forever. Change is perpetual and those that know how will evolve and grow and those that don’t will eventually go. It is that simple and a glance at the behemoths of business that are gone should make the point. But understanding and agreeing with that concept is just the starting point and doesn’t make change any easier for the unskilled.
An understanding of why people change is essential to even beginning to bring about change. A great deal of your ability to do this should have begun with the hiring process and that starts with you. As a company you have a strategy, values and beliefs, and objectives you wish to accomplish as a business or should have. They should be real and genuine. If you can’t clearly express those that you actually observe then your chances of getting employee engagement is going to be very poor. Engagement occurs when the goals of the business are aligned with the employee’s goals and how the employee spends his or her time. And the continued alignment necessary to bring about change has to be continuously worked on through honest and open communications. Employees have to know and understand how and why what they do in their job each day means to the company’s objectives. When the stage is set in this manner and the benefits of change to them and the company should be synonymous and thus mutually beneficial.
And that’s where the real work begins. Whether the change is small or large there are a number of other steps to work through that will facilitate continuing change and growth to the business and the employee’s. Lots to understand and but good leaders are willing to do the work necessary to bring it about.
Lack of time is a reflection of your leadership skills.
Of all the challenges facing leaders today the most daunting of all is the “Lack of Time”. Arguably, it is also the oldest of challenges we face. Ask any frazzled and frustrated leader what their greatest challenge is and they are likely to go through a litany of problems. But when challenged as to why they haven’t been able to solve them at least part if not all the assignment of blame will include the “lack of time”. And when that happens I’m always reminded of hearing a speaker years ago say that “The problem is never the problem, the issue is never the issue.” And while the context was completely different, my own examination and application of the idea over the subsequent years has revealed the wisdom of this comment. And it is particularly true in business.
What probably drove the point home to me was the application to my own circumstances at the time coupled with my own perspectives on time and its impact on me. As long as I can remember, time has been a lion chasing me. And the pressure it creates can bring out the worst of my behaviors. There has never been enough of it and I’m certain my time here is going to run out long before I accomplish all that I want. Even more troubling is that it can blind me to the “real issues”. Many years ago when frustrated with my own inability to get my team to follow my lead and carping about it, I was reminded that by definition it was my responsibility as a leader to do just that. Point well taken and made it clear to me that I had more to learn in my quest to be a good leader.
If I was going to have any serious impact on the use of my time I realized I had to examine my own actions first. And that means taking a good look at what my job as a leader is and whether that is how I’m spending my time or not. If not why not? And what do I need to change to free up my time so that I can do my job? While the process is true regardless of the size of your business, it becomes even more critical with smaller organizations. The more hats we have to wear but it’s easy to get caught in the trap of doing it yourself because it ”doesn’t take that long”. As someone that has started more than one company as a one person organization, I speak from my own experience and from the observations of many others I’ve seen over the years. If what you are doing isn’t what makes you money and there is another way to get it done, then that’s what you should be doing. Simple as that. More often than not I find that when a Leader or owner is doing work that isn’t his core responsibility then the likelihood is that he/she simply hasn’t asked the question “why am I doing this job?” But there can be other reasons that aren’t as obvious and can be major problems for the future health of an organization. The most common for an entrepreneur is the belief that no one does it as well as he/she does and that he/she has to be the one doing that. Even if that is true, it is imperative to work toward another model where your talents can be focused on where your real gifts are and not on the minor talents. More often than not the real challenge is the inability to delegate responsibilities and structure KPI’s to measure the performance of those who are doing the delegated work. The ability to do just that is one of the skills that defines leadership.
All the talent in the world can be meaningless to a leader if they can’t lead. In today’s world the lack of leadership has become an axiom in many businesses and it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the biggest limiting obstacles to a growing business is a founder with a great idea and/or talent who has no idea how to operate the business. Those are the people I wrote about last month that are struggling to keep their sanity and to keep their employees from driving them crazy. Learning to face the facts and then making decisions based on them instead of frustration or wishful thinking will frequently turn a nightmare into a success. In short a lack of time is more about facing life and its circumstances straight on and then learning how to change the situation for the better.
The latest in a series of audio interviews with SMRA President Barney Kramer, by the Central Valley Business Times.
In all too many organizations, what I find is they know what the person is supposed to do but they really don’t know how to set up a structure to determine whether that direct report is actually doing what’s necessary to accomplish the tasks they were hired to do.