July 30, 2008

Sales Leadership Advice: Stop Selling!

Attended the Worcester Business Journal Sales Awards Breakfast today where 20 top sales people from Central Massachusetts received awards for their Sales Success.

Much of the focus on Sales Success was attributed to what some may call "psychological factors", notably: listening more "selling" less; More focus on the customer/client, less on your own products or services; More emphasis on developing relationships less on "closing technique"; More on managing people less on managing metrics.

Of course, the bottom line in sales is sales, i.e. making the numbers. But the critical question is: What, exactly, is the best way to get there? In most cases, it is by developing the art of communication, building sound relationships, understanding the needs and wants of your customers, demonstrating integrity and developing trust that you will deliver as promised.

Sounds rather personal, if you ask me.

July 25, 2008

Why I love technology (and you should too!)

Standing in the Apple line at the Burlington Mall waiting for the "privilege" to buy my new iphone, I had the time to reflect upon my relationship to technology.

As a consultant, I am a change agent. I help organizations and their leaders develop, grow, expand their capabilities and be more effective in achieving their business results. Which is why I love technology: its all about change.

Other reasons:

-Its fun
-It saves time
-Its challenging
-Your kids can't make fun of you for being non-tech savvy (don't worry, they'll find something else!).

Too many people resist change, innovation and new technology which is unfortunate. Is it fear, frustration, general resistance to change or progress? Nostalgia and a desire for the good old days when things were simpler? True, technology can be used for good or evil, and we can become slaves to our new fancy applications.....like the need to check your emails 24/7...why? Because you can!

Nonetheless, we are in a world of fast moving new technological apps and if you want to stay ahead of the game, you need to embrace change rather than resist it.

Meanwhile, I need to go find out if my iphone is going to sync with my Mac desktop. What a pain!

July 18, 2008

Leadership in Healthcare

Our healthcare system is in trouble. Does anyone negate this point?

OK, we are likely in agreement here, the question is what to do about it. There are simple and not-so-simple answers. One payor system, more insurance options, greater consumer responsibility, pay for performance, six sigma and lean quality programs, improved technology, more primary care physicians, innovative primary care solutions, increase in nurses and technicians, streamlined payment systems, and more.

Healthcare is an excellent case study for examining what is needed in leadership today. The system is so complex and multi-faceted that it demands leadership that is equally complex. No one person is going to solve this problem. There are too many players involved and unfortunately they sometimes have competing interests. These include: pharmaceutical companies, insurers, medical device companies, physicians and other healthcare providers, hospitals, businesses, governmental agencies, oh and least we forget: patients.

Solving the healthcare crisis requires leadership that will help us achieve what we all want: good quality, accessible care that is affordable. It requires leaders who can see the big picture, understand the complexities, communicate effectively and involve the key stakeholders to arrive at innovative solutions.

Are we preparing today's leaders to meet these challenges?

July 11, 2008

Flip-Flopping vs. Obstinance: A Leader's Dilemma

We find ourselves disappointed in our leaders for flip-flopping. We don't want to think they will change their minds on a whim...or for political advantage. Obama is getting some heat for this now, especially on his recent vote on FISA and his position on campaign financing. McCain has also done his share of changing positions, most recently regarding immigration law.

So, when is changing one's position "Flip-flopping" and when is it "evolution of thinking"? Is flip-flopping worse than stubbornly holding on to a perspective that upon reflection has no merit? Is it OK for leaders to admit errors and change their minds?

During a heated political campaign it is near impossible for a candidate to make a shift in position without it being seen as politically motivated. What about business, however? Are the internal politics of the corporate world the same?

There are times when flip-flopping can be a virtue in business and, yes, even in politics. Today's world is complex; sound decisions require information from a variety of sources. Leaders must be open to new perspectives, which may result in a change in position.

Historically, we have valued leaders that were strong, decisive and unwavering, dare I say also at times obstinate? Yet there is increasing evidence that real leadership comes from being reflective, collaborative and having the ability to use the creative energies of others. This sometimes necessitates a "flip-flop" and can present a real challenge for today's leaders.

July 3, 2008

Liberty, Personal Freedom and Business

On the eve of July 4th, 2008, it is worth reflecting on the state of freedom in the US. I am thinking particularly of how it relates to the world of work and business.

Our country is founded on the notion of personal freedom and liberty for all. As a nation in our daily practices, we are getting closer to reaching the goal of "liberty for all", though we aren't quite there yet.

I find myself curious about the existence, or curtailment, of personal freedom in our work world. Upon entering an organization, we endure drug tests, reviews of our criminal background, credit checks and reference checks. Some companies are checking the weight of their employees and deducting money from their paychecks if they are overweight--why not, health care costs are increasing exponentially?

Sometimes these invasions of privacy make sense--like when safety is a factor or for high stakes positions. But all too often, they aren't necessary and can be counterproductive. For example, I recently heard of a situation in which a background check pulled up a criminal charge that was an error---the individual had been arrested but charges were dropped when it was determined the arrest was without merit. The charges were supposed to be cleared from the record, but they weren't. The individual was not hired for a job for which he had been considered a perfect fit.

How often do these events occur? We have no way of knowing, really. But one must wonder why it is acceptable to curtail our individual freedom in such a significant way when it comes to business settings. The usual response to this issue is---"You don't have to work there, if you don't agree with the policy". True, we do have the freedom to walk away; but what happens when those policies become pervasive ? Where does one "walk away" to?

Liberty is always a balance between individual freedom and the greater good. And LEADERSHIP means having the courage to ask the difficult questions and challenge the status quo, even when it is unpopular.