When Strategy Aligns Behavior
A clear, well understood strategy aligns employee behavior within the priorities of the business. Just as a coxswain guides his crew to pull together in the same direction in a coordinated way, a great strategy guides everyone in the organization to make the right strategic choices and behave in a way that makes sense.

Great leaders know is difficult to cross the finish line ahead of your competition if you do not work cohesively together toward a well-defined target.

When Strategy Does Not Align Behavior
Just think what can happen when the strategy is unclear, unsupported or too far-fetched. You can have:

  • Leaders giving conflicting advice and investing in different priorities
  • Marketing promoting services that do not match your roadmap
  • Sales selling solutions that cannot be serviced or delivered
  • R&D developing products that target customers do not value
  • Legal and finance stalling sales with pricing and term issues

Four Elements to Ensure Strategy Aligns Behavior
What you need is a strategy statement that is clear, succinct, easily understood, achievable and implementable…one that employees can internalize and adapt to their specific jobs.  Our organizational alignment research found strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performance.

#1.  The What = Goal
What specifically do you want to achieve and in what time frame?

You need to define a goal that is specific, time-bound and measurable. The strategy statement needs to articulate the ultimate objective that will guide the business over the next twelve to thirty-six months. You want every employee to know exactly what success looks like.

#2.  The Where = Domain
Where will you operate, who are your customers, and what is the scope of your business?

This is the part of the statement where you define the boundaries, both where you will and where you will not compete. It is a combination of focusing on the ideal target customers you want and the geography and verticals in which you will operate. It is your business “sweet spot” where you expect to win gracefully the majority of the time.

You want every employee to stay within this “sweet spot” and to avoid out-of-bounds investments, initiatives and projects that do not fit.

#3.  The Why = Value
What is your value proposition and competitive edge?

You need to be clear about what sets your product or service apart from the competition in the eyes of your target buyer. Think through all the possibilities…pricing, quality, convenience, selection, customer service, to name just a few.

You want every employee to be able to succinctly describe your unique value proposition.

#4.  The How = Plan
How will people get from the current state to the desired state in a way that makes sense?

In order to execute your strategy in a way that makes sense, people need a road map that provides a clear and reasonable idea of how they are going to get to where they need to go.  Make sure people know their specific role, how much input they can have into the plan, how you expect them to contribute and the support you will provide to make it happen.

You want every employee to be able to apply the “how” to their job so that they operate according to the same principles as their leaders, managers and co-workers.

The Bottom Line
When it comes to strategies and plans, the simpler the better. A sentence or two that can be cascaded throughout the organization will impact the behavior of the workforce far faster than a complicated paragraph.

You know you have succeeded in cascading your strategy when your employees can clearly articulate the what, where, why and how and are making decisions accordingly.

To learn if your strategy is clear enough to cascade across your organization, download 7 Strategic Clarity Warning Signs to Pay Attention To

The Art of Effective Sales Questions
The best sales people typically ask the most effective sales questions.  Being able to ask good questions is an art. Asking effective questions is a necessary skill for journalists, a developmental skill for salespeople and a desirable skill for conversationalists.

Insightful Sales Questions = Insightful Customer Conversations
As far as sales is concerned, good questioning skills are essential, value selling training experts say, for success. It is the basis for learning (and teaching) just exactly what your customers want and need.  Unfortunately, too many buyers report that sales professionals asked them a canned list of questions trying to close the deal.

Poor Sales Questions = Poor Customer Conversations
Anyone who has ever been on the other end of a high pressured sales conversation can attest that teh approach does not build trust, credibility or revenue.  In fact, poor sales questions typically lead to unqualified leads, missed opportunities and wasted effort.

Four Steps to Help Master the Art of Effective Sales Questions
If you want to have meaningful and insightful sales conversations with your target buyers:

#1.  Start with Open-Ended Questions
The most effective sales questions are open-ended.  Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple (and unhelpful) “yes” or “no.” They require a more thoughtful answer.  Try to always begin with the big six open-ended questions – Who?  What?  Where?  When?  How?  And our favorite – Why?

The best solution sellers are curious about how they can truly help their clients to succeed.   It seems simple enough, but open-ended questions promote a meaningful and client-centered conversation.  Without them, it is difficult to uncover customer goals, problems, needs, objections, risks and next steps in a way that makes sense.

#2.  Be Clear and Concise
Get right to the point. Don’t ramble. You will lose focus and your target will be confused.

#3.  Actively Listen and Embrace Silence
Do not interrupt.  Actively listen.  And be patient with silence by accepting the pause.

Sometimes counting to 10 before speaking again can help you become more comfortable.  Your listener will soon fill it…hopefully with the answer you were looking for.

#4.  Be Authentic and Client-Centered
First, have your client’s best interests at heart.  Second, ask follow-up or clarifying questions if you do not understand what they are talking about…especially if it gives them a chance to be the expert and keep talking.

The Bottom Line
The better you become at listening and asking effective sales questions, the more you help your customers to succeed.  The more you help your customers to succeed, the more you will sell.

Want to learn more? Download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget When Selling Solutions

Great New Managers Are Accountable
Some new managers are so focused on making sure their team members do everything right, they neglect to take a close look at their own behavior. When things go wrong, they blame the team. But, guess what, new managers?   Great new managers are accountable.

Management Accountability Matters
Great managers manage themselves before managing others. New manager training talks a lot about accountability…taking responsibility for one’s actions and owning the tasks you have been assigned. When leaders are not accountable, everything slips…delivery schedules, project deadlines, and, eventually, the trust of colleagues and team morale.

Are You a Good Role Model?
New managers need to make sure they are both setting the right example and also demanding that team members do what they say they will do.   That means everyone being responsible for their actions, feelings, decisions, opinions, and all the ensuing results .Responsibility is at the top of the Manager “wordcloud” above.

It matters a lot that managers set the example. If you struggle with accountability, you can bet your team members will struggle as well. You certainly do not want your leaders to undermine the production of their teams.

Five Steps to Improve Personal and Team Accountability
Take these steps to improve individual and team accountability…

  1. Admit the Problem
    Think through the last six months and list the times you reneged on a promise or did not deliver as agreed. Pledge to honor commitments without fail for the next three months and share your progress.
  2. Under-promise So You Can Over-deliver
    Be thoughtful about the commitments you make to be sure you have enough time and resources to deliver as promised.
  3. Track Promises and Results
    Set up a system whereby you keep track of the commitments you make. Review and monitor progress regularly. Check them off when completed.
  4. Share Your Progress and Goals with Your Team
    Show the team that you are making a sincere (and successful) effort to be 100% accountable. New managers are often afraid of appearing vulnerable. However, the fact that you are human and making an effort to improve your behavior makes you more approachable and worthy of respect.
  5. Require the Same of Your Team
    Set clear performance and behavior expectations for individuals and the team as a whole. Then establish accountability as a necessary and required attribute for team success. Make it clear that there will be consequences for those who don’t deliver.

The Bottom Line
The best managers understand that they can’t ask more of their team than they ask of themselves. Want accountability on your team? Make sure you model and require individual and team accountability.

To learn more about being an effective new manager, download The Six Management Best Practices that Make the Difference Between Effective and Extraordinary

Increasing Employee Engagement Through Recognition
Experts in employee engagement agree, recognizing the accomplishments and extra discretionary effort of employees is a critical key to establishing a high performance culture.

Make Sure Employees Are Recognized When They Contribute to the Organization’s Success
Everyone wants to be appreciated for the work they do and to understand the value of their contribution to the overall enterprise. It is an important part of a manager’s job to acknowledge excellent work and appreciate extraordinary employees.

What Recognition Matters Most?
So many managers either fail to recognize their team members effectively and appropriately or they fail to recognize them at all. It’s important to recognize employees “right.”  The above cartoon illustrates some of the negatives of doing it wrong.

Three Employee Attributes to Increase Employee Engagement Through Recognition
Recognizing employees the “right” way requires that employees:

#1.  Are Deserving
The Employee of the Month in the cartoon shows surprise.  She may not know why she’s being singled out (the boss gives no specifics) or she may not feel she deserves the reward.   Effective rewards and recognition are clear, upfront, timely, meaningful, fair, proportionate and consistent.

#2.  Understand Why
Without clear reasons for the recognition, her colleagues are upset and feel diminished. For rewards and recognition to be effective, the standards of high performance should be clear, transparent and trusted.

#3.  Find the Recognition Meaningful
The reward itself seems intended only to inconvenience and anger others. Rewards should be tailored to the situation and to the recipient.  Add meaning to your rewards by ensuring they are linked to “why people want to stay and perform.”

Five Leadership Excuses to Not Increase Employee Engagement Though Recognition
And then there are the managers who neglect to reward and recognize employees at all. Here are some of their excuses. You might hear them claim they are:

  • Too Busy to Notice High Performance
    These are managers who don’t get that work gets done through people. With too much focus on the tasks to be done, they neglect the human needs of the team members who are executing the tasks.
  • Uncertain of How to Reward and Recognize
    Managers should be trained on how to reward and recognize high performance as part of their training in performance management and giving effective feedback.
  • Not Convinced Rewards and Recognition Matter
    Some managers feel that employees shouldn’t need a pat on the back…they think the paycheck is enough. But we know that whether an employee feels valued is highly correlated with their engagement. And engaged workers are over 40% more productive and effective than their unengaged counterparts.
  • Afraid of Playing Favorites
    Treating different talent differently is the hallmark of an effective talent management strategy. If only a few are deserving of recognition and you are clear about why you reward their contributions, other team members should not feel overlooked.  Just be sure to recognize individuals when their work was on their own and teams when the effort was collaborative.
  • Worried About the Expectation of a Raise
    Well recognized employees may ask for a raise. The manager needs to determine if that’s possible. Surely top talent should be fairly compensated. But there may be ways other than a salary hike to reward “A” players.

The Bottom Line
If you are the type of manager who does not recognize deserving employees for their extra efforts and contributions, what’s your excuse?

To learn more about engaging and retaining top talent, download the 3 Key Top Talent Retention Strategies You Need to Know Before it is Too Late

Tips for First Time Managers to Start Off on the Right Foot
Does becoming a first time manager make you feel as if you are leaping off a cliff without a safety net?

Spend a Moment to Take Stock
If you are being promoted to a management position, you have most likely succeeded as an individual contributor. You are perceived to have the leadership competencies required to manage others. Hopefully, you have also been through a proven training program for first time managers to help you achieve the mindset of leadership.

What’s to fear?  You just need to do it!

Three Practical Tips to Think about Becoming a First Time Manager
The time for management and leadership theory is over. The proof is in the pudding.

#1.  Evaluate Your Own Behavior
The best new supervisors know leading others is less about theoretical leadership competencies and more about practical application.  To get started, new managers should think about their habits at work.  How do you spend your time?  What beliefs and assumptions drive your behavior?  How do you treat others?

#2.  Observe Others
First time managers should find a trusted mentor and closely watch leaders they admire to promote continuous learning and improvement.

  • What does their day look like?
  • How much time do they spend planning? Thinking?  Interacting?  Discussing?  Managing?  Listening?  Learning?
  • What are their routines?
  • How do they structure their time?
  • How do they behave with customers? With Leaders?  In Groups?  Leading Meetings?

Ask them what works best for them. And then apply those lessons to your own daily activities.

#3.  Strive for Effectiveness, Not Perfection
As you practice more effective ways of working your routines as a new supervisor, focus on getting better every day. Strive to find ways that work most effectively for you and your team. Focus on balancing:

  • The results you and your team achieve
  • The processes you use to achieve those results
  • The relationships you create and build along the way

The objective should be to learn continuously. Your performance on the job as a new manager impacts your team. High performing leaders set an example and inspire high performing teams.

The Bottom Line
Leadership cannot be learned from a book. It’s the on-the-ground experience and a continual effort to improve that makes the difference. Be that kind of new manager!

To learn more about being an effective new manager, download The Six Management Best Practices that Make the Difference Between Effective and Extraordinary

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