Category Archives: sales management

There is more to life than job hopping

I often see in interviews young people who have quite a history of skipping from one job to another. The rational explanations are often that the previous employer was not able to provide any development, that the job was seen as repetitive, and that they wanted to try something new.

If we put it bluntly, we can say that some of these moves are motivated by boredom. I myself as a sales manager have on occasions lost people for these same reasons and I try to understand the mechanism of this problematic attitude for the employee and the employer. After a couple of years, many think they have nothing more to gain, while, they have simply finished the first chapter of a book that will remain only partially read.

Skipping from one job to another is not gaining experience: experience comes from fully assimilating the required skills to be successful at it. Experience does not come from being a beginner countless times.

But I do believe that those leaving an employer (including my own organization) are very sincere. From what comes this feeling of boredom at work? The manager has also a responsibility in solving these problems.

 

Play the game to win

Think of a job as a game we would play. There are two types of games that can generate a feeling of boredom and turn us away:  the ones that we win too easily, and those that we lose most of the time. There is however a strong difference in these two types of boredom: the games we lose generate no satisfaction. In fact, they make us feel bad about ourselves. For that reason, when we lose some games often, we tend to put the blame in the game itself and not how we play it.

The game we always lose becomes a pointless, stupid game that no one should invest any time in. And we stop playing such a game.

On the other hand, success generates the will to continue, to improve, and more importantly make the job fun.

There is no easy recipe to be successful, but there is an ingredient that is always there: commitment to the mission: doing it in the best way we know and to improve always.

 

Being committed means doing the job with a positive attitude

To illustrate this, think about someone working behind a counter at the post office with customers lining up. One can do everything very mechanically or change what is a very repetitive job into an experience where one makes the most of the opportunity to see many different people and to engage with them with a greeting and a smile. There is no gain in pay, or rank, or working conditions, only the social gain. That gain however can make all the difference when one comes home after the work day with the recognition given in return by some of the customers.

 

Commitment means self-improvement and leaving one’s comfort zone.

Team members should be trained, but most successful people also train themselves. When not reaching a goal, they focus on what they can change to make that goal reachable next time. You can complain on the organization, the price too high…or too low…or the season, or anything. But commitment means also taking in account what you could you do differently. The problem is not doing something wrong but always attributing a failure to external factors you have no control over. And if you convince yourself hard enough, you can spin yourself into your own little depression by feeling so powerless over your future. And you quit your job…because it is pointless…because you are missing some wins…although you never really gave your full potential.

 

Commitment means being focused on the mission

Managers need to encourage that while at work, team members do the job fully, be productive, communicative, eager to learn or to ask. Not to mention fight against poor workmanship by being distracted by the demons of today: social networks and smartphones.

It is amazing to me as the smartphones have introduced a new type of social behavior: People are distracted by their smartphones and do everything at 50%: their job, and their personal life. By giving such a huge place to electronic communication, day or night, during work hours or not, people mix their private life with their professional life and risk being unsuccessful at both. The smartphone is a „plus “, but if by using it we lose the ability to concentrate a couple of hours on the events we are presently and physically engaged in, whether that be at work or with others, that advantage becomes a disability.

 

Commitment should be inspired by exemplarity

Commitment cannot be ordered, but can be inspired. To help team members get committed in their jobs, it is not only to tell team members that their job is important, it is also to act as such.

Managers should not disengage from pointing out attitude issues and workmanship. On the contrary. Let us all be reminded that the manager’s job is not to be popular. If popularity is achieved at the price of people failing in their jobs because not committed, stuck in a comfort zone and losing faith in their abilities, the manager has failed.

Motivation is not given but found

But the manager can only do so much. The team member must also understand that motivation is not given but found. If one wants to be successful, much of the effort comes from oneself. People tend to expect that their employers take completely care of them in all their needs for the future: training, food, leisure, health, and even motivation. A good management can make the environment better for being motivated, but motivation is not a company benefit. One finds motivation internally…Anything else is artificial.

As an individual, you need to take care of the development of your own skills: learn English, improve IT skills, put an extra hour because needed…take care of your body and health. If you do not know how to do a task, you ask, or you learn alone…because you are doing it for yourself, not to please your management.

 

Make career moves, do not job hop

Does all the above mean you should be doing the same job for 40 years? Of course not. Comes a time to move on after reaching ambitious objectives, and having learned the skills you could acquire in the present position. By moving on, I mean doing a job that will bring you complementary skills or that will take you towards the position you wish to have in a couple of years.

 

It is a life lived fully that in the end brings happiness

Perhaps to conclude, I would say that instead of just getting by, one should cherish, commit, and try to outperform oneself in anything one does. I believe that happiness is not found in life when doing things not fully. On the contrary it is winning that makes us satisfied, it is doing something useful to others that provide comfort, it is the feeling of being part of a community that gives meaning to what we do. This attitude applies to all the aspects of our lives we are engaged in: at home, with family, with friends, and at work.

 

I wish all of you a very happy New Year.

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The AI manager on the far horizon

 

 

If anyone was a teenager like me in the 1980’s, they probably remember the movie „wargames“ and the ending of the film in which the computer learns through repeated games of tic-tac-toe that some games are not to be started as they cannot be won.

That was fiction. At that time, and up to now, the most powerful computers we built, with ever-increasing power and speed were prisoners of the functions we assigned them. However, I read recently that „DeepMind“, the AI entity tested by Google is programmed and continuously improved to learn: not only does it not forget previously learned skills, it also finds a way to use them in new activities it undertakes.

And only recently, „DeepMind“ has been in the news for playing video games, and given the circumstances, it chose either to cooperate or to be aggressive in order to win.

So human: choosing aggressiveness in times of stress, or ready to share when it reserves the best outcome. A very interesting turn of events, because I am not sure when we are discussing about the breakthroughs of artificial intelligence that we really foresee the capacity of the entity to develop traits close to those of human beings.

When we read about the new technologies enriched by AI, I find that we mostly focus on the benefits of a more powerful tool that will make better decisions based on its ability to process much more data.

We hear about the activities that could be replaced by AI: salespeople, front-office bank clerks, customer assistance. It is even happening now on stock markets as more and more decisions are algorithm-based and less based on the intuitive human approach of traders. That is what a tool does, but with the latest developments, are we still talking about a tool?

We rarely think of a technology that could one day match the human mind and interact socially with others. We can easily imagine AI organizing tasks, providing leads to salespeople, measuring performance, and identifying high-potential assets. In a more complex approach, if the entity would go beyond these tasks, could it learn enough about the human mind and find how to communicate with members of the team, how to motivate them, to encourage them to grow? The jobs replaced might not be the only ones we think about today.

Of course, we are not there yet by far. More generally, it is in my opinion a vivid question that need to be taken in account in the communities in which we live. If we develop artificial intelligence with a learning curve, it will grow by definition, it will learn many skills but also it will also learn to know us. What we are going to do with this technology will be linked to how we choose to live as a society.

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„Fly me to the moon“: achieving dream objectives

11185799 - united states, 1969, postage stamp issued to commemorate first moon landing

The passing of Gene Cernan a couple of weeks ago brought back to me the sheer greatness of the Apollo program.

In 1961, American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy announces that he ambitions for the USA to fly a man to the moon and back before then end of the decade. At that time, America had not even managed to put a man in orbit, and only one American had technically been in space, and only for a few minutes. As motivating as such an ambition might be, it seemed extremely far from the tiny capabilities of the space program as it was.

One can expect various reactions ranging from incredulity to broad enthusiasm. Yet even the latter needs at least one more ingredient for men and women to carry the project through successfully.

When managing teams, we want and need to achieve dream objectives as well. And although not as breath taking as the sight of a man walking on the moon, reaching these targets make a big difference, especially for those involved in achieving them.

But the skepticism or even the over-enthusiasm can hamper the achievement of dream objectives. There are some ingredients that have to be part of the plan.

 

A dream objective has a challenging yet easily understandable finish line

People need to be able to focus on what constitutes the finishing line. This should not be like running on a treadmill without a watch and km counter, but a fixed line to cross. Kennedy had stated the finishing line: it was to put a man on the moon and to bring him back.

 

A dream objective is something rare, big and something clear.

An ambition too small misses the capacity to generate enthusiasm. If an objective seems easy, then it´s just another day at the office. It´s not changing the world, it´s changing the settings. Only crossing a real finish line that required work and dedication can deliver the satisfaction of a job well done and personal barriers having been breached.

Imagine if JFK had only set a goal of going to orbit and launching some probe to monitor space data…No, the moon was big, the moon was simple, the moon was something you get on your feet for.

 

A dream objective needs little win´s on the way.

Going from a 15-minute flight on a cannonball trajectory to a controlled flight to the moon does not happen without stages.

This is probably the most overlooked ingredient of success, and yet an ingredient that can reconcile the sceptics and the over-enthusiasts. The first see the objective too far away, the others sometimes cannot figure out how to get there and lose motivation along the way.

In the Apollo project, thousands of people combining a vast array of skills (sometimes too much as the Apollo program was very difficult to manage) started to evaluate what separated them from achieving the objective, and sketching out the sub-projects that needed to be undertaken for all of it to come together:  making a powerful rocket, mastering orbital flight, designing the craft to land on the moon, learn to fly it learn to dock in space, and of course calculate required trajectories, approach modes and speeds. And much more.

Each of these project step stones are win´s. The sceptics see that when looking at the concrete steps, the project becomes more realistic, and the over-enthusiastic see that the finish line is closing, and that their energy is not lost.

 

A dream objective is an ambitious goal made into a dream

I know, in companies, the objectives are not always as shiny and magical as going to the moon. Yet it is essential to always point out the difference crossing the finish line will make.

What can be considered a „bean counter“ objective can be understood as an ambition to make the organization stronger and capable of providing better jobs and further opportunities fr those involved.

It should also be said that everyone should be involved and invited to join just for the sake of individual growth and accomplishment. There can be no motivation if a dream objective does not fit in the personal plan of each and every participant. It´s the manager´s job to make it fit and to deliver to the participant the prospect of being a winner as an individual and not only through the collective.

 

A dream objective gets people on their feet, and the realization of it will deliver self-confidence, pride and a sense of fulfillment to all. A gift really. If you did not receive dream objectives from your own management…make your own.

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Do things „by the book “but be prepared to change the ending

41720000 - two pilots in aircraft with a checklist

If you have not seen the film „Sully” yet and plan to, don´t continue reading because I´ve got some spoilers (although the outcome is known to most)

The film dramatizes the investigation following the successful ditching of an airbus 320 shortly after take-off from LaGuardia airport in New York due to loss of both engines after a bird strike.

The investigation undermines the captain´s decision to choose to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson river, a choice presenting many risks, rather than returning to the departure airport after following through procedures for such an incident.

Pushing forward this reasoning, they show that computer simulations demonstrated that the crew could have returned safely to the airport. Simulations done at the airbus factory seem to point to the same result.

Yes, it was possible to return to the airport. The pilots in the simulators did it…after 16 unsuccessful attempts, and by taking immediately the required actions to perform a return to the airport successfully.

There are three ideas on leadership we can push on with this example.

Leaders do not indulge in wishful thinking

We always want a situation to end well. Turning around, landing at the airport and going for drinks is the ideal option, but it is not the best one. Character is not only understanding things will not go down as you would wish, but also the strength to choose a solution you find realistic, and being able to cope with the responsibility afterwards.

It should be noted that you do not always need an emergency to indulge in wishful thinking: a manager with a full hands off attitude indulges in wishful thinking by believing that everything in the end will work out regardless of how you steer the ship.

Leaders gather information, process it and act

In the film, the simulations of return to the airport are successful because the crews in the simulators know exactly the situation and immediately take all necessary steps knowing their status perfectly before even starting. In reality, any person needs time to assess the situation and process the options. In the film, the captain asks the simulations to be redone with a 35 second waiting time for the investigators to evaluate his decision fairly.

A leader will never know beforehand the consequences of actions taken and must rely on processing skills to decide a course of action.  The situation is evaluated with all the info at hand, including opinion of others, and a plan is sketched out. Comes a time when to stop calculating and speculating, and taking control of events….with the risk of being wrong.

You cannot rewrite the ending of the book without having read it first

All that being said, there is one very important element not to be forgotten. The captain took a very risky decision, but it wasn’t a reckless one: his training, his flight experience, his knowledge of the aircraft was paramount in the success.

Rewriting the ending of the book is about being able to adapt to new situations that were not planned by senior managers, senior marketing or financial officers. It does not translate into a “no-knowledge bravado” attitude that is more reckless than inspiring.

Changing the ending of a book requires the book to have been read and reread first. Understanding situations, knowing your people, knowing your field of business, reading up on past experience of people who were in the chair before, are essential tasks and aptitudes to gain the experience and the depth that empowers to see when the book needs to be somewhat interpreted differently.

Agree, disagree, get in touch.

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„What we think we become“ Feeling too much and not thinking enough?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSXYHqs0KPo

When I first saw the movie “The iron lady”, I fell in love with that part.

It is so well put that there is nothing to add to the meaning of what we hear. I don´t know if Margaret Thatcher really said that in her later years, but these could clearly the words of people having forged a place in history. Clairvoyance, action, persistence, values shape what a person is to become.

This message is for everyone. In leadership or not. It invites to be „in charge of“ and not simply a passenger in your life journey.

And we certainly live in a world today that invites us to share our feelings to others, whether it is about the emotions that we bear inside, and the emotions that we feel while watching, listening and reading trivial and non-trivial news and opinions on social media.

Feelings can most certainly be barriers to action by inciting people to self-pity, to lack of objectivity, to blame guilt on others for one´s difficulties. All this leading to decisions based on opinions that are not fully thought through. On the other hand, thinking develops an analytic view of the situation, and provides the essence of better decisions.

Does that mean that there is very little to gain from feelings? If they are negative feelings and blocking one´s ability to bounce back, most certainly. But as those feelings exist, they need to be acknowledged. In management, we value highly one´s capacity to emotional Intelligence to better understand the people they work with, and find out how to obtain the best from them. A speech based on objectivity alone does not go through to someone whose emotions hinder their capacity to reason.

And then of course, we must also acknowledge that enthusiasm, thirst for innovation and intuition are feelings as well. A young person starting a career feeling motivated and believing in himself does not reach that state through an algorithm, but through something immaterial. If those feelings can be so strong and so stimulating, we must take in account that feelings are just as necessary as clear thinking.

We often say that in dire situations, fear is not your enemy because it leads you to be cautious. You just need to be able to control it. The same goes with other feelings, we have to learn how they benefit us, and use them at our advantage.

As I said in the beginning, when I saw that line in the movie “Iron Lady”, I fell in love with this affirmation, I did’nt run it through a computer program to find it inspiring or accurate.

Agree, disagree, get in touch.

43607229 - hand drawn faces on sticky notes with on that stands out in a positive way

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Support decisions from your firm: an objective on which there are disagreements is better than no objective at all.

61423859 - trust text on blackboard with businessman holding umbrella and suitcase

 

We have all seen it. Whether we participated or not in the discussion, upper management takes a decision we don´t agree with it and that we know will be unpopular within our own managed team. We fought well but in the end, the decision was not the one we recommended.

Disappointed, worried about losing the bond with the team, no one can dismiss the temptation, especially young managers, to distance themselves from such decisions.

This is a very dangerous road that one should avoid travelling on. One of them being that manager might not have all the information to judge, but that is only part of the reason.

You may think implementing an unpopular decision weakens your influence on the team members as they will not see you as the ally you wanted to be. And sometimes the friend you wanted to be. Nothing good will come from that.

One of the TV series that I am never tired of watching is „Band of Brothers“. In the episode „Breaking point“, the soldiers are awaiting orders in a place called „Bois Jacques“ in the bulge. German soldiers are well equipped and bombard the American lines with artillery barrages that take a human and psychological toll on the men. There are casualties and wounded men every day. It’s a harsh winter, food is cold, and the situation seems stuck.

To make matters worse, they are under the command of a very poor superior officer appointed by the higher-ups in the military staff: lieutenant Dyke. Morale is low, and some of the men fight their stress and dissatisfaction by mocking their commanding officer. At that point, one of the platoon leaders, Lipton, overhears the imitation done by George Luz . He tells him that although the imitation is immensely funny, he asks him to stop doing it as “it does no good to anyone”.

In short, it is worse to have no leader to travel with than a leader who takes you on a dangerous road. Immobility is a much greater demotivation factor than a non-unanimous goal. Immobility, feeling of abandonment, creates restlessness, loss of confidence, loss of purpose.

And what good will come to your team from standing out as „rebels without a cause“? Will they grow in the organization because they refuse to do something considered unwise? Will they make management change their decision? No, they are making the situation worse for themselves, and the manager is not leading them to a better reasoning.

And what will they think of a manager that is neither capable of being convincing when discussing with the higher-ups nor capable of action within his own team.

Now most certainly, nothing is more ridiculous than blind propaganda when beginning to travel on a path that seems so unappealing to the people you work with, that is a question of communication. But keep the lines moving.

Agree, disagree, get in touch!

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Management: do what´s right even if it costs popularity in the short term

12432625 - stand out from the crowd concept

 

Beyond the corporate culture clichés, dazzling videos of teams cooperating hand in hand for the victory of their firm and themselves, reality is much more complicated when it comes to developing a working organization.

And with the new generations of young people, highly individualistic and defiant, the job of making teams functional and expansive is even greater.

Teams are strong, and the stronger the collective, the more the manager feels alone during conflicts.

Personally, I have always viewed my job as to encourage the development of strong collectives. The cooperation between members gives much more business through faster growth of the new employees, and customer satisfaction. But I am always aware that there is a price.

Because the good working atmosphere is not the goal, but the means, and the real objective is reaching targets set for the team. On occasions, you will need to do things that are right for the organization, even if those actions are viewed as unpopular.

If the thought of being unpopular worries you, remind yourself that:

  • Change, extra work, new methods is always disruptive to comfort, and many people value their comfort. Some to the point that it might threaten their results. Negativity is to be expected.
  • You are doing it for the greater good. How many leaders have been dragged in the mud during their reign to be rediscovered later as long-term thinking individuals? Take Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the U.K. from 1979 to 1990 for instance. She was not after popularity, she knew what was right, and she gave back a job and a future to millions of Britons. Things might not be so dramatic where you are (it is not where I am), but that´s the confidence you need to feel.
  • The team is not your family, you have no moral obligation to defend them in all circumstances. There´s a line, everyone´s interpretation differs to where it is when it comes to work habits and the relationship with the manager, but you have to let go of someone if that person cannot be put on the right track, even after trying to reason him or her. You did what you could.

 

I won´t go into the communication aspects with the team because that´s a whole chapter, but I need to emphasize one thing: do it with confidence and resolve.

Agree, disagree? Get in touch!

 

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