Employee turnover continues to be at an all-time high. Unfortunately, there is a loyalty problem on both sides of the table. But turnover is a huge problem for companies, as illustrated by a Hewlett-Packard study conducted a few years ago, which confirmed that the cost to recruit, hire, and train an employee was found to be 9 times greater than the cost of retaining a worker in the first place.
Building and retaining a high performing talent pool is crucial to business success. In sales, the stakes are even higher. If you do not have the right people with the right sales skills, or your A-players walk away because you don’t have your internal act together, your ability to keep pace with revenue goals becomes even harder.
Making the critical investment in hiring the right talent to fill those sales shoes is only the first step. Instead of viewing employee development as an expense to be cut from the budget when times are tight, you must view this as an investment that ensures your people’s sales skills remain top notch. When employees feel that their employer is investing in their success, they are less likely to defect to the competition.
What’s this got to do with dogs?
Hanging out with my favorite gal pal, Lily is without question one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve always loved animals; dogs claim a special place in my heart. In good times and bad, our dogs stand by us. They don’t judge, always listen, give us space when we need it, they make plenty of time to play and take the lead when they need to. Corporations need a new brand of sales leader and here are just a few of the leadership lessons I’ve learned from all of my wise and furry friends.
Sometimes it’s better to listen with a concerned look on your face.
Faced with a challenging problem or frustrated after a tough day, I know I can count on Lily to hear me out. With soulful eyes and a sympathetic look on her face, Lily listens patiently to my tale of woe and her silent communication lets me know she’s there for me. She doesn’t need to solve my problems; she’s confident I can handle them myself. What Lily knows is that I need to be heard and sales leaders (actually, all leaders) can learn a lot from Lily’s wisdom.
Critically lacking in corporate America is the focus on the human connection. Employees are desperate to make their own unique contribution, so give them a chance. They want to be heard, they want to feel that their contributions are valued and they want to learn. Help your employees solve their own problems by adopting a coaching versus telling style.
When management wonders why productivity is down, morale is low, or employee turnover is high, they might due well to consider the obvious…that most well intentioned leaders never take the time to listen to what their employees have to say. Or, they are to busy telling people what to do versus giving them the guidance they need to figure it out on their own.
Dedicate yourself to listening when one of your employees brings an issue to your doorstep. Stop doing e-mail, shuffling through your papers and ignore the phones. When your employees are trying to talk to you, it’s rude to be doing something else. Learn how and when to ask powerful questions to encourage creating thinking and problem solving. Far too often management wants to fix things when all that’s truly needed is a willing ear.
There are times to lead and times to follow.
Recently, I was at a networking event and several of us were talking about successful teamwork and why we thought teams often failed miserably. It boils down to this notion of knowing when to lead and when to follow. Dogs are absolutely brilliant when it comes to this concept! They know that sometimes they have free rein to lead the way, but they also know when it is time to follow the pack leader. Lily knows exactly when she gets to lead or when it’s time to follow me. She does so faithfully recognizing that there is an ebb and flow to successful teamwork.
For all the money spent on team building seminars and activities, it’s ironic that teams continue to fail more than they succeed. We can talk about setting clear expectations or aligning compensation to the same performance metrics, but all that matters little when team members don’t respect the roles of others and generally spend more time competing with each other than working together.
And always remember to play in your own sandbox…
If I’ve been tasked with a particular role on a team, I don’t take kindly to other people butting in trying to do my job. It’s rude and disrespectful. Don’t you have your own job to do? If you are like me, you also don’t appreciate your manager “telling you what to do”. That’s the entire point of hiring the right talent. Train people well, set clear objectives, give your folks the tools they need, then get out of the way and let them do their job.
Occasionally you’ve got to make some noise to be taken seriously.
One of the things I’ve learned living with dogs is that they all communicate in different ways. Lily isn’t much of a barker, but she’s got the “I’m ready to chase those squirrels racing through the yard” signal that I easily recognize. She also works the heck out of her squeaky toys when she is ready to play. But there is this low growl that she uses to lets me know that danger may be imminent. Want to take a guess which communication I really pay attention to?
Frankly, I think people operate much the same way. We have different barks reserved for different situations. The trick is learning when to make noise and at a level appropriate for the situation. A former co-worker of mine used to make noise constantly. She saw it as survival tool, a way to prove her mettle in relation to our male counterparts. This incredibly talented, intelligent and articulate woman never understood that over time, using the same bark for every single situation worked against her. No one listened even when it may have been prudent to do so.
What’s the lesson? An occasional, well timed bark or growl will cause people to sit up and take notice. Reserve it for the big stuff, because once you’ve developed a reputation for making constant noise even a legitimate danger signal will be ignored.
What we need are leaders.
There is a true lack of leadership in most companies today. Sales, in particular, needs a management makeover. I see few sales leaders lead with vision and purpose. Telling your people to smile and dial and pitch, pitch, pitch isn’t leading your team forward, it is simply keeping them stuck in the past. Times have changed. Are you leading or just in the way?