Managers Can Make Better Decisions
One of the most important, and yet one of the most challenging skills for new managers, is the ability to make effective decisions.  New managers, especially, often struggle with making decisions because their decisions now affect other people, are more visible and are often more complex.  The good news is that managers can make better decisions.

Which Is the Right Way?
Often the “right way” is not at all clear.  Decision making can be fraught with obstacles.  Yet, managers can make better decisions if they learn to avoid the following five decision-making traps:

1. Short- versus Long-term
New managers report being so anxious to appear decisive that they often chose a course of action without properly weighing the potential long-term consequences. While a quick decision may feel good initially, it can have significantly negative ramifications in the future. Good decision makers carefully consider both the present and the future before determining the best path forward.

2. Predisposition
Having an unacknowledged preference, or confirmation bias, can lead you astray. Many new managers are apt to interpret information in a way that supports their current beliefs rather than analyzing things objectively.  Managers who are good decision makers solicit input from a variety of perspectives, are open to different options, and consider multiple aspects.

3. Arrogance
Even new managers can occasionally be guilty of over confidence. They remember only the good decisions they made and tend forget the bad. Those caught in this trap need to seek input from others – especially those who have different opinions and perspectives. To make better decisions, new managers need to check their egos at the door and be open to diverse thoughts and points of view.

4. Over Reliance on a Single Factor
Placing too much importance on one piece of information, a decision making anchor, can send managers off in the wrong direction. Let’s say you are to select a team member to lead a major project.  You might be tempted to choose the person who led the last project successfully.  But there should be many other factors considered before you make the decision.  What is the nature of the project?  What competencies will be needed to achieve the project objectives?  Who has the time and the commitment?  The key is to look at the whole picture.

5. Following the “Tried and True” Path
Solving problems well requires a broad viewpoint. Doing something just because that’s the way it’s always been done does not always pay dividends.  Norms are meant to be challenged; alternatives meant to be offered; opinions and new ideas freely put forth.  Don’t be afraid of including your team in brain storming sessions. Who knows what creative solutions might be shared?

The Bottom Line
If you want to succeed at management, you need to hone your decision making skills.  Broaden your thinking, slow down, and avoid traps that negatively narrow your choices.

To learn more about how managers can make better decisions, download 3 Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions

Grow Existing Accounts Faster
If you want to increase revenue, go first to your existing customers.  According to research by Bain & Company, retaining current customers is almost 7 times less costly than acquiring new ones and repeat customers spend 67% more on average than new customers.  Do you have a strategy to grow existing accounts faster?

What Does It Take to Grow Existing Accounts Faster?
True customer loyalty, and their willingness to buy more from you, does not come without consistent effort.  A salesperson’s relationship by itself is not enough.  You need to prove that you and your entire organization are focused on the priorities of your current customers and are fully devoted to their personal and professional success.

4 Ways to Begin to Grow Existing Accounts Faster
If you are truly committed to building customer loyalty and selling more to existing customers, you need to be sure that you:

1. Identify and Focus on Ideal Target Accounts
High performing sales reps ruthlessly focus on target customers where they know they will win the majority of the time.  Ideal target accounts don’t just buy your stuff; they passionately buy and use what you have to offer.  Start by making sure that you are not chasing or serving the wrong accounts.

2. Know Exactly What Your Target Accounts Need and Want
Once you know your ideal target accounts, make sure your team always understands your customer’s top priorities and articulates how you can help them to succeed in a way that makes sense for their unique situation. Chances are you that your sales team understood what mattered most to your customers when you first won their business.  But are you sure that you have kept up to date and know how to best address your customer’s changing needs?

3. Align Frontline Staff to Your Target Accounts
Your customer service and delivery teams are responsible for living your brand promise. Can you guarantee that your team is well trained in how to keep customers satisfied?  Your frontline personnel are critical to keeping existing customers satisfied, to uncovering new opportunities, and to increasing the likelihood that existing customers will continue to buy from you.

Your desire and ability to consistently do what you say you will do is a clear indication of your commitment to ensuring customer success.

4. Never Take a Customer for Granted
You can’t retain and grow current customer accounts without consistently adding value and having timely touch points. Just picture your competition waiting in the wings to grab your spot on the stage.  Customers need stroking and attention on a regular basis – not just quick check-in calls, but actual value-added conversations.

The Bottom Line
How can you grow existing accounts faster?  By delivering world-class solutions and support for your ideal target accounts each and every day.  Do not rest on your laurels.  Keep current on your customers’ needs, follow through on commitments, and continue to invest in adding customer value.

To learn more about how to grow existing accounts faster, download 4 Steps to Ideal Target Client Definition

Prepare for Organizational Change
While most leaders understand that organizational change can be complicated, few seem to invest the time required to change due to shifts in strategies, markets, cultures, leaders, solutions, systems, people or organizational structures.  Especially in the context of a large company, change can evoke emotions that range from delight to outright fear.  Similar to the importance of preparing soil for good growing conditions, how you prepare for organizational change will have a direct impact on the conditions for good performance during change.

Whenever the status quo is at risk, employees often worry about how the change will affect them and whether or not they will be able to be successful in the new environment.

Five Essentials to Prepare for Organizational Change
Executive teams typically make extensive investments in setting their company’s strategic direction, but place relatively little emphasis on how to handle the transition from the old way to the new way.  This lack of emphasis on how to implement change from a people perspective often creates confusion, anxiety, misalignment and decreased performance.  We believe it is the job of leaders to help lead teams through change in the smoothest way possible.

1. Prepare Your Employees
Let employees know what is happening ahead of time. While communicating about change too far ahead of time is not always better, you do not want to have change come as a shock because people were not properly consulted or informed early on.

2. Describe the Change as Completely as You Can
How do you see the change affecting individual employees and the work group as a whole?  Identify who will be most affected and approach them first.  Let people know what you know, what you do not know and when you can fill in the gaps.

3. Research What Happened During the Last Change
Does your group have a positive history of their ability to manage change or was the last change traumatic?  Learn from past experience and let this background influence your current actions regarding what works and what does not work in your unique workplace culture.

4. Assess the Organizational Readiness of Your Team
Are they ready to undertake the desired changes?  Each change is unique and requires a specialized approach to ensure positive outcomes.  An organization or team that isn’t mentally and emotionally prepared will tend to stay in denial, rather than accept the change and move on.  Assess your change readiness.

5. Don’t Make Additional Changes that Aren’t Critical
People need all the stability they can get during change.  Don’t change the payroll dates, the working hours or office layout when you are making large scale organizational changes.  Change the most important things only, one at a time.

The Bottom Line
You may not always know when a change is in the works, but when it happens you are far from helpless.  While there may be much beyond your control, many aspects of implementing change can be anticipated and influenced.  Begin change management by being prepared and actively involving your key stakeholders as soon as possible.

To learn more about how to prepare for organizational change, download The 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

Learn New Skills Faster|
Being able to learn new skills faster can help both individuals and organizations to outperform their peers.  Whether it is learning new sales skills faster to sell new solutions to executive buyers or learning new management skills to lead a team for the first time, the ability to learn and apply new skills quickly can make or break a strategy.

How You Practice Matters
While most learning practitioners are getting better at breaking learning objectives into smaller components to help learn new skills faster, we find that how you practice makes the biggest difference.  Recent memory reconsolidation studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine on recalling previous memories found that, if you alter your practice just a bit, you can reduce the time to recall and learn a new skill by almost 50%.  The key is in varying the practice sessions only slightly.

If you were trying to improve your tennis serve, for example, you could practice with different rackets, or by tossing the ball at different heights, or aiming for different parts of the court.  Josh Waitzkin, chess whiz, martial arts expert and author of The Art of Learning, puts it this way, “The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, the operating table, the big stage.”

The more present you are when you practice a new skill a little differently each time rather than mindlessly repeating it, the more quickly you will achieve mastery.

Learn New Skills Faster In the Workplace
How can this knowledge be adapted to the workplace?  Let’s say you need to improve your skills at presenting to executive audiences.  Once you understand the basic tenets of effective executive presentations, you need to start applying them.  When it comes to presentations, the most basic skills start with being able to understand your target audience and organize your ideas in a way to effectively address what matters most to them.  Once your ideas are organized in a way that makes sense, it is time to vary the way you practice presenting them.  For example:

  • Present into a video and then critique yourself.
  • Present to a colleague and get feedback.
  • Present to another colleague in a different order. Try this a few times and change the order each time.
  • Present to a group of colleagues and have them randomly select different portions of the presentation for you to share.

Each method practices your executive presentation skills but in a slightly different way to accelerate learning.

The Bottom Line
If you are responsible for talent management and development, doesn’t it make sense to build new skills as efficiently and effectively as possible?  Try changing up how people practice and they’ll be on their way to learning new skills 50% faster.

To learn more about helping people to learn faster, download Top 10 Training Best Practices for Effective Learning

To Change Corporate Culture, Change Behaviors
Change behaviors to change corporate culture.  Difficult as it may be to change corporate behavior across the workplace, it can be done.  Follow a few principles of human psychology, stick with the program and make sure all structures, processes and systems support the cultural changes that you seek.

Choose the Behaviors that Strategically Matter
First of all, be ruthlessly selective.  You can’t change too many ingrained behaviors at once.  Start with one or two behaviors that are most critical to achieve your organization’s strategy – the critical few behavioral priorities that will allow your company to achieve the strategic objectives you have identified as fundamental to current and future desired business outcomes.

Clear, Compelling and Urgent
It is not enough for employees to understand how their behavior should change.  They must also fully buy into the need for change as an urgent priority to help ensure both individual and team success.  In our experience, if the desired behavior changes are not seen as necessary and urgent, employees will quickly retreat to the status quo.

A Powerful Driver of Behavior Change
One of the most effective drivers of activating and spreading behavior change is peer performance pressure.  We naturally look to our peers for defining what is acceptable behavior.  This is the power of an organizational culture where performance expectations are clear and aligned behavioral norms prevail.  Workers tend to do what they see other leaders and high performers doing that bring them success.

Identify Behavior Champions
Look around your organization and find those employees who both exhibit the desired behaviors and have influence, not necessarily hierarchical, over others.  These culture champions and role models naturally motivate others to adopt the desired new behaviors.  Find a few key influencers to adopt and model the behaviors and the behaviors will tend to go viral before you know it.

And make sure all key executives are fully on board.  Your leadership team is in position to take some very visible steps to support the new behaviors by virtue of their positional power.  Their actions are watched carefully for clues on what the priorities really are.  Executive words matter, but executive actions matter more.

Remove Barriers to Cultural Change
Make sure that the desired new behaviors are not sabotaged or limited by any people, processes or systems.  If, for instance, you want the workplace to reflect more collaboration, do not reward employees who hoard information or resources.  Be ready and willing to adjust anything that conflicts with the changes you need.

The Bottom Line
As you begin to see things shift in the desired direction, keep up the positive pressure by reinforcing and rewarding what you desire and by applying consequences for behaviors and outcomes that go against the grain.  Focus on having a clear direction, active employee involvement and high levels of accountability.

To learn more about how to change behaviors to change corporate culture, download The 3 Levels of Culture to Pay Attention To

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