Archives for February 2007

Are Your Salespeople Biased?

Of course they are!  They're human.  All humans are biased to think and act in certain ways.  We offer biased opinions.  Our reactions are biased, to a degree, upon our experiences and environment.  However, if you are a salesperson – or you employ salespeople – your bias is costing you money and profit!

How?  And how do I correct this?

OK – before you get concerned – I am not talking about discrimination or other odious practices.  I want to draw your attention, in particular, to how your salespeople behave when they are not on the floor selling.  Or when they are not out in the field selling.  Why?

Because they way that they behave when they themselves are shopping or making decisions has a direct connection to the way that they sell  and the manner in which they relate to customers.  For example:

1) What kind of shopper are they?  Where do they shop for personal items?  Do they brag about the great deal that they got on XYZ?  Do they only shop at “huge discount stores?”  Do they dress and look like they just came from the bargain basement?

2) How about the ability to make decisions?  Do they say, “I'll have to think about this some more before I can make a decision?”  Do they give this response more times than not?  Many more times?

Well then, there is a high probability that they will respond in a similar manner during a sales call.  They will show their bias.  They will project their own preferences onto the customer.  How?

“Serial Bargain Buyers” place a high value on a low price sticker.  For many, this is the only thing that they value – the lowest price possible.  Do you employ any “serial bargain buyers?”  If so, do they project their bias onto your customers?  Just because they shop for bargains, they may presume that everyone shops for bargains – i.e. they are biased to believe that everyone wants the lowest possible price – all the time – or else they will not buy.

Does this happen in your store or place of business?  Do you have some salespeople who constantly complain about losing sales to the competitor down the block who has a lower price?  If so … I would start to do a background check – on their attitudes and shopping habits.  If you find that they are a “serial bargain buyer,” I would suggest that you encourage them to seek employment at another business that offers lower prices than you do.  They are beyond redemption.  You can not train them to change their attitude.

This is an extreme example made to illustrate a point.  It is natural that each of us tend to think that people that we meet or work with share the same outlook on the world that we do.  When you do your training – and I sincerely hope that you do train your staff – try to spot these natural tendencies towards bias.  Sometimes just pointing the reaction out – making them aware of their words, actions and non-verbal responses will be sufficient.

Last year, I made a few presentations to musical instrument dealers on “How To Compete with Internet Pricing:  Lose the Sale?  Or Lose the Profit?”  I have attached a sample page from that presentation as a file for you to access or download.  You can get the entire slide show on my website –

I asked the retailers to visualize their staff.  How many of their salespeople were “gigging” musicians?”  How many of these salespeople / “giggers” had any money?  How many of them actually knew anybody who had money?  How many of them – really – thought thought that your store's prices were too high?  How many of these salespeople / “giggers” actually purchased any equipment from your store – or did they go to the Internet or a competitor to get a lower price for themselves?

Unfortunately, many of the retailers in my audience nodded in agreement – I had just painted a picture of their sales staff.  And … they had a sales staff that was biased!  And they projected that bias onto their customers.

That is the real key – projecting your bias onto the customer.  Frankly, I don't care how you shop for yourself and your family – that is your decision.  Nor do I care how you make decisions at home.  As long as … you do not bring your bias to work.  Do not assume that everyone is your identical twin.

Successful salespeople ask question and listen to the answers their customers give to determine the best product or service for each individual customer.  Successful supervisors make a real effort to discover the factors that motivate each employee.  And they coach and communicate with the employee accordingly.  They do not show their bias. 

How Well Do You Communicate? I Don’t Hear You

“It is the recipient who communicates. The so-called communicator, the person who emits the communication does not communicate. He utters. Unless there is someone who hears, there is no communication. There is only noise.”

– Peter Drucker

As always, the late, great Peter Drucker put his finger on the key issue. Unfortunately, too many speakers, salespeople, marketers, supervisors and spouses ignore this point – at their peril!

Communication is a two-way process.

Speakers may speak, but they are only words … unless the words that they speak reflect the experience of their audience. Salespeople may try to sell, but there will be no sale … unless their prospective customer perceives that there is a value for them. Marketers market everywhere everyday … but unless they market the right product to a receptive audience, it is just a waste of advertising dollars. Supervisors try to supervise daily … but most of the time their employees fail to respond in the way the supervisor hoped they would. Why? We know that spouses and significant other talk past each other on a regular basis … and to what result? The divorce rate is at an all-time high.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate!” This is a famous line from the movie, “Cool Hand Luke.” And it comes back to Peter Drucker’s observation:

“Before we can communicate, we must, therefore, know what the recipient expects to see and hear.”

No one can move an individual or an audience from Point “A” to Point “B” unless they really know the audience’s definition of Point “A.” It’s exact geographic and emotional location!

And this may vary from individual to individual in each audience and from audience to audience. If you want to be successful in sales (and who doesn’t?), you should spend more time asking questions of your potential customers than practicing your (one-size-fits-all) “spiel.” Successful marketers spend a considerable amount of time identifying – and locating – a “target” audience – one that has a high likelihood of being receptive to a (personalized) message. When the “communication” is “on-target” a demand is made – that the consumer makes a purchase or, at a minimum, asks for more information.

I am reminded of a book in my library by John Wooden – “You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned.” It’s the same principle at work here (as per Peter Drucker): Continue reading “How Well Do You Communicate? I Don’t Hear You” »

Start Strong with Your Ending in Mind

“By your entrances and exits shall ye be known.”

– William Shakespeare

When you deliver a presentation – or make a sales call – the two most important segments are:

Grab the audience's attention with a strong opening.

Make your closing statement memorable and actionable.

It's really that easy.  However, most presenters flub both segments.  Why?  Perhaps it is stage fright that causes them to stumble at the start.  They have not taken the time to “mingle” with the audience ahead of time – which helps a speaker to relax and relate to their audience.  Or they put too much faith in their ability to “just wing it” or worse, “tell a little joke.”  Never attempt either of these beginnings!  It is the rare – and gifted, and practiced – professional comedian who can deliver a good joke with exquisite timing and a perfect sense of the audience.  You are not that comedian.  Don't start your presentation with a joke.  You can't afford to “just wing it.”  You can't afford to blow your opportunity to make a strong first impression.

You could start off with:  an interesting statistic, a current (and pertinent) event, a (relevant) story, a question, a quotation or even … a dramatic pause.  These techniques will work – if you put the effort into crafting their content and delivery.  Even if your delivery is less than perfect it is preferable to “It's great to be here in Cleveland tonight,  How are you?”  You never know how many people in the audience hate being in Cleveland – or wherever – that night, so don't start out this way!

Start out with a purpose!  Start with the end in mind!

“A speech without a purpose is like a journey without a destination.” – Ralph C. Smedley

What is the purpose of your presentation?  If you can't (succinctly) answer that question … then don't make the presentation!  If you don't know your purpose, how do you expect your audience to know it?  What do you want your audience to do?  To think?  To feel?  You have to tell them.  They have to get it.  They have to want it.

But first … you must  know the purpose of your presentation – right from the start!

You can end your presentations with some of the same techniques I suggested you use when you start to speak:

1) An interesting statistic. – that relates to your topic and captures the attention of your audience.

2) A current (pertinent) event – these could relate directly to your speech or the conference.

3) A (relevant) story – that will reinforce your message.

4) A question – in this case, a rhetorical question would be effective.

5) A quotation – that relates to your message and is memorable.  Also memorize-able!

6) A dramatic pause…

But don't … ever… end with “Well, my time is up, so I guess that that is all I have to say.”

Learn to be know – practice your entrances and exits.  It worked for Shakespeare.  It will work for you.  And you will get more work – or sales, or gain more influence.  Simply because you have learned how to start – with your ending in mind!




How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

The New York Times has published two remarkable stories about young musicians in the past few days.  The first, in the Sunday edition, is “Face-the-Music Academy” and it is the story of the young music fellows in the New World Symphony based in Miami, FL.  In today's edition, we learn how “In New Orleans, Bands Struggle to Regain Footing.”  This is a story about High School Band Musicians from the New Orleans public schools and their indomitable will to keep the music playing and the bands marching.

The young musicians profiled in each story come from very different backgrounds – in Miami, extremely talented graduates from leading conservatories studying with the finest music instructors.  Thanks to a generous donor, they live rent-free in a Miami Beach Hotel converted for the exclusive use of the New World Symphony fellows.  In New Orleans, we read about 17-year old Montreal A. Givens, a trombonist and drum major who lives by himself in a FEMA trailer so that he can finish out his Senior year with the band.  He is an honors student and his father, also a musician, lives in Houston, TX.  He says,

“I came back here (to New Orleans) for the music.  I took a hard hit, but I couldn't stop my life because of the hurricane.”

I am not writing to point out seeming inequities or different social situations.  I am drawing your attention to these two articles so that you can discover the personal stories of individual musicians as they struggle to keep the music playing.  And to point out the important role that music plays in defining a city's life force.

The late Ted Arison, the founder of Carnival Cruise Lines, and his wife donated over $62 million to found the New World Symphony as a training opportunity to help talented musicians make the transition from conservatory to a career as a working musician in a symphony orchestra.  Hi generosity and vision are paying multiple dividends – to the music fellows in the symphony and to the music and arts community in South Florida.  Early in his life Mr. Arison had hoped to make his living as a pianist.  He founded and operated a cruise line instead.  But he left a tremendous legacy and his program has helped to launch some major musical careers.  Bravo!

The donor base for helping to restore music programs in New Orleans is much more modest – but no less sincere.  NAMM, the International Music Products Association partnered with the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation to donate instruments and other materials.  The Tipitina's Foundation gave over $500,000 worth of instruments to the schools in 2006.  One band director, Paul Batiste, had his band practicing on what he could afford from his own pocket – just the mouthpieces for trumpets and clarinets – until the donated instruments arrived.

In the words of 3rd year music student Joshua Phipps we get a glimpse of what musical discovery means:

“At my first band practice, I just fell in love with the sound.  I practiced a whole lot, every day, and it was like a hidden talent I didn't know I had.  I want to be a band teacher.”

How does a band teacher help to restore a city's spirit?  Virgil Tiller, the band director of the St. Augustine High School Purple Knights said:

“This band is the city's band.  When we march, it's amazing to me how many people say: 'Thank you for coming back.  If St. Aug's back, the city is coming back.'”

In Miami, Naomi Gray – a cellist with the New World Symphony said:

“There's very few things more exciting than being part of a hughe machine, part of a huge effot.  The power of music is monumental, and the more I play here, the more I realize that.”

That is why we keep the music playing!  Do what you can to help, please.

Crisis Management

I hope that you were not among the thousands of passengers who were affected by the JetBlue Airways flight cancellations during the past week.  What a fiasco!  The front page story of today's New York Times says that the C.E.O. of Jet Blue Airways – David Neeleman – is “mortified and humiliated” by these events. (Click here for the story)

I wonder what the stranded passengers and frustrated vacationers are feeling?  I'll bet that it is not “mortification and humiliation.”  It is more likely to be “lawsuits and boycotts.”

As I have written in the past, I admire David Neeleman's leadership style – he helps to load planes, picks up trash and aggressively seeks out direct customer feedback.  The current crisis will greatly test his leadership and challenge the management, employees and systems of Jet Blue Airways.

Neeleman has frankly admitted that due to the “low cost” operating structure of his discount airline, they did not have nearly enough resources trained and available to handle the communications required to locate pilots and flight attendants and to get them to the proper  locations.  I addition, because they rely on part-time reservations agents working out of their homes (in Salt Lake City) they did not have enough staff on hand to re-route passengers, refund tickets or answer angry customer calls.  So. it was not just angry customers who were placed on indefinite telephone hold – JetBlue's pilots, flight attendants and ground crews were in the same situation – they could not phone into central operations to report their location and availability!  What a mess!  A complete boondoggle!

There is still another part of the story that I suspect will surface shortly.  Jet Blue gambled and lost – badly – hoping that the storm would pass and that their passengers would not miss their vacations.  And… that JetBlue would also not miss the (much needed) revenue stream that those flights generate.  Canceled flights do not generate cash.

Could a sudden unexpected crisis affect your business?  What would you do?  How would you react?  Is your staff trained in crisis management procedures?  Are you prepared to to answer angry customer calls?  Can you business survive if the revenue (cash) suddenly stops coming in?  What is your plan for getting customers back?  What lessons can you learn from the crisis?  How do you restructure your operations to present a repeat of a total systems melt-down?

Let's watch David Neeleman and JetBlue Airways over the next few days.  Let's see how they handle this crisis.  Let's see what angry and frustrated passengers say.  Let's observe how competitors try to take advantage of a wounded Jet Blue to regain passengers that they lost to the discount airline.

If history is our guide, David Neeleman will have to take quick, decisive actions over the next few days in order to start to regain of his customers and employees.  He should study the case history of Johnson & Johnson's “Tylenol Recall” or Intel's “1994 Pentium Chip miscalculation” problem. 

According to Mark Walton (former CNN correspondent) writing in “Generating Buy-In: Mastering the Language of Leadership,” this is the path to follow:

“The best way out of bad news, crisis, and controversy, is to generate buy-in for a positive future, rather than dwell on the problems of the past.”

Customer do not want excuses or technical analysis of what went wrong.  They want to know that their future travel needs, wants and goals will be met – unequivocally!

Customers really don't care that the C.E.O. – David Neeleman – is “humiliated and mortified” by this system failure.  They just want to be able to get to their business or vacation destination on-time for a cheap fare.  And if JetBlue can not assure them that they can do this… then they will book their trip on another airline that can – or stay home.

This is what the well respected Gordon Bethune, former C.E.O. of Continental Airlines had to say in the concluding remarks of today's NY Times article:

“… little other than low fares would do much to win back customers, but is an airline makes a bad judgment call, 'you better be good at recovery no matter what.”  He called last week's JetBlue meltdown “a byproduct of their past and their growth.'”

Quite an astute observation, Mr. Bethune.

It's one thing to be a great leader when things are running smoothly.  Customers and employees admire a C.E.O. who helps them get the plane out on time by pitching in and loading bags, etc.  But when things go bad… They still expect the leader to be out front pitching in to make sure the planes will fly on time in the future.  But now – in this crisis – the stakes are very high indeed.

Mr. Neeleman – we will be watching you carefully.  I truly hope that you succeed in restoring faith in your innovative airline.  And I hope that you can teach us a lesson in leadership.  Go beyond “humiliation and mortification” – quickly!  Make things right!  Show us how to lead.



Do you recognize This?

How do you recognize good customer service?  I know – it is so rare to experience good, let alone exceptional customer service, that we may have forgotten that good customer service ever existed.  Perhaps it got lost while it was being outsourced – like lost luggage!

The problem isn't that we can't find good customer service.  The problem is that we don't recognize it – or rather we don't recognize and reward our employees when they provide good or exceptional customer service.  Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.  We learn this as children.  Why is it that we suddenly forget this basic principle when we become managers?

Far too many managers are quick to criticize but slow or ineffective in their praise.  When they do offer praise, it tends to be generic (“Good Job, Al!”) and non-specific (“Way to go, team!”) 

While these attempts at praise and recognition are probably well-intentioned, they are meaningless.  What (specific) job did Al do well?  Where (specifically) did the team go to warrant your half-hearted praise?  As a manager, you should be setting concrete measurements and praising (publicly and privately) your employees who meet and beat these measurements:

“Al – I appreciate you arranging to have our UPS driver come an hour later today to pick up our shipments.  We were able to get an extra 200 Valentine's Day gift boxes out the door because of your effort.  I thank you – and our customers thank you.  Good job!”

“I want to publicly recognize our production team's extra efforts during January.  Because of their hard work and ingenuity, we were able to get 3 new products delivered to our trade show booth.  Because we were able to show and demonstrate these 3 products during the show we added an extra $300,000 in sales. Way to go team!” 

A quick search on the Internet will bring up numerous sources of tips, quotes and best practices for motivation and recognizing your employees.  Here is one site that I found this morning (Click here.)

It costs so little to reward and recognize good behavior – a handwritten note, an email, a handshake accompanied by a sincere expression of thanks for a (specific) job well done.  But it is so rare to see managers – or owners – employing this practice.  And their employees recognize – that they are not being recognized.

“There are two things want more than sex and money – recognition and praise.”

– Mary Kay Ash

Thousands of Pink Cadillacs confirm that Mary Kay knew how to motivate her independent sales force.  We can all learn a lesson from her.  Try it.  Pick up a couple of dozen “Thank You” notes and start using them at work – this tip works like a charm when your put it to work.  Just be specific, sincere and timely when you hand out your “thank you” notes.

I Hear You – But I Am Not Listening to You

It has been said that you will make more sales if you spend more time listening (to your customer) than talking (to the customer.)  But there is listening – and then there is “active listening.”  Active listening is not just accurately hearing all of the words that you customer speaks.  No… it is much more.  It is doing whatever it takes to fully understand what the customer is “intending” to communicate.

I was reading “The Truth About Managing People,” by Stephen P. Robbins the other day.  In Truth #36 he neatly details eight behaviors that will lead to effective active listening:

1) Make eye contact.

2) Exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions.

3) Avoid distracting actions or gestures.

4) Ask questions.

5) Paraphrase.

6) Avoid interrupting the speaker.

7) Don't over-talk.

8) Make smooth transitions between the roles of speaker and listener.

This is rock-solid advice for anyone who wants to gather more sales or generally improve business relationships – with customers or with you peers and staff.  Here are a few of my own comments and observations:

Even when you are talking on the phone, it is possible to establish “eye contact” with the other party.  You establish eye contact by being “present and engaged” in the conversation – you are truly interested in what is being said.  You are listening for the nuances in the other person's voice – their words, their tone of voice, their pauses.

I don't care how busy you are.  If you have an “open door” policy then it is imperative that you stay fully engaged when an employee or a customer approaches you with a question or a comment – AMEN!  Put away your Blackberry, stop shuffling papers on your desk, don't glance over when your computer “pings” that a new message has arrived.  If you can't fully engage in the conversation either close your door (and do your emailing or shuffling papers)  or ask your employee if you can schedule a time to listen to them – because it really matters – to both of you.

And don't think that people can't “see” you multi-taking over the phone.  They can – and they do – and they don't like it!  So don't do it.  If you can't afford the time to actively listen to your customer … well…. what can you afford?

You ask questions to seek clarification, ensure that you understand correctly and also to assure your customer that you are truly listening.  If you just follow these three guidelines your sales and your relationships will improve immediately.

Be careful not to “parody” when you “paraphrase.”  Don't simply “parrot” back the actual words your customer speaks.  Ask for confirmation that you have heard them correctly; and do this with sincerity.

Never, ever interrupt the speaker.  Do not attempt to complete their sentences for them.  Learn to wait for your speaker to end his or her thought before you offer your comments or ask another question.  When you do this your customers and your staff will gain a new respect for your professional conduct.  You will stand out from the crowd when you learn not to “crowd the conversation.”

Finally, try not to be thinking about your response or your next question while your customer is still talking.  Always be engaged (actively listening) when someone is talking to you.  Then pause.  And then talk.  Trust me.  When you follow this advice, your questions and comments will flow naturally.  And they will be much more effective that the questions or comments you were planning to ask (while your customer was still speaking.)

Do you have any special techniques that you use to improve your listening skills?  If so, please share them with our readers.  Or just drop me an email

Thank you for listening!

Questions that Require Answers

The Question & Answer (Q & A) part of your presentation is either an opportunity for you to really “connect” with your audience or… it is a “trap door” that can make both you and your message quickly disappear.

Many inexperienced speakers fear Q & A.  Even if they don't fear it, they usually mishandle the opportunity that it presents – to demonstrate that you are truly there to meet and answer their needs.  As a presenter, your credibility will either rise or fall depending on how you handle Q & A.

Audiences are tired of “scripted” presentations.  They want you to go beyond your 300 bullet points.  They want to probe and will not settle for merely being told.  Q & A offers the perfect opportunity for you to have a “conversation” with your audience.

I found a very amusing – and useful – post on Seth Godin's Blog (Click here)  Seth tells the story of a presentation made without PowerPoint; actually without any formal presentation  – it is 100% Q & A.  In the right hands and with the right audience that just might work.  Of course, as Seth suggests, you should have a “plant” in the audience to ask the first question and get the dialog rolling.

Personally, I encourage Q & A whenever I present.  Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to help make your Q & A opportunities complement your presentations and strengthen your message:

1) Always have one question in mind to get things started (should no one volunteer)  e.g. “Frequently, my audiences ask me for more examples of…

2) There is nothing wrong with having a “plant” in the audience to ask the first question.  This is merely opening up the dialog.

3) Always anticipate the possible questions that might be asked – and… prepare your considered response ahead of time.

4) Always repeat the question so that everyone in the audience can hear it.  This also serves to give you some extra time to think about your response.

5) Answer the question – and then move on!  Don't offer additional information.  Save that for another question from the audience – or offer to respond in more detail after the session has concluded.

6) Give your response to the entire audience – resist the temptation to direct your answer exclusively to the person who asked the question.  This is a mistake that many presenters make – and they risk losing the attention of the (rest of the ) audience when they do so.

7) Be especially aware of your body language during Q & A!  If you are not “stuck” behind a podium make every effort to move forward toward the question.  Maintain eye contact even when being asked tough questions.  Do not let your eyes roam (to the floor or to the ceiling) or your attention level drop when you are being asked a question.  More than any one gesture, your ability to maintain eye contact reflects your level of confidence!

8) Always signal that Q & A is coming to and end – “We have time for one final question.”  And then conclude with a strong restatement of your main message and / or your call to action.  Make sure that this is the last thing that your audience hears before they leave.  Do not end on a whimper , “Well, if there are no more questions… Thank You.”

In another post I will discuss techniques for handling “trouble makers” or “wind bags” who threaten to hijack your Q & A sessions.

I'll conclude by reminding you to include Q & A opportunities in all of your presentations.  They are a terrific way to gauge the level of understanding that your audience has as a result of your presentation.  Or, as Coach John Wooden says, “You haven't taught until they have learned!”

The Power of the Pause

I developed a new training program to help clients improve their public speaking techniques. Its called “Make Your Presentations Sing!” Earlier this week I presented it for members of the Long Beach Nonprofit Partnership. As part of the training, I have my audience listen to several musical examples to clarify my point. Points include: story telling, vocal range, timbre, emphasis, breathing, phrasing, etc.

One of the most overlooked presentation techniques is – The Pause. As in “The Sound of Silence.” – You remember that Simon & Garfunkel’s classic song – “Listen to the sound… of silence.”

Far too many speakers talk too much and they lose the attention of their audience because they forget to pause.

Far too many writers use too many words – their text is too dense. They forget to pause – to use the “white-space” on the page to give more power their prose.

Far too many sales opportunities are lost because the salesperson talks too much – they neglect to use the power of the pause.

We are all guilty of this – to a greater or lesser degree. When is the last time you heard someone pause during a television interview or “debate?” Anyone who dares to pause for effect will never regain the opportunity to get another word in during that segment!

Salespeople are their own worst enemy. The can not stand to hear silence! So, rather than pay attention to their customers’ reactions and observe their body language, they barge ahead and fill the vacuum of silence – with their own voice. To what result? Frequently, they end up talking themselves out of the sale!

The same thing can happen during presentations. Inexperienced speakers “panic” during periods of silence. They worry that they are having a memory lapse. In their mind, the silence lasts for minutes – not seconds. They dare not look out at the audience for fear that they will see boredom – or people leaving. And so it gets worse. The speaker is now panicked – and they speed up, And, as a result, they lose more of their audience!

“A wise person once said that there is, in any good speech, a greater message in the pauses than in the words that surround them”

– Excepted from “The Articulate Executive” by Granville N. Toogood

To illustrate this point during my training, I play Tony Bennett’s interpretation of the Irving Berlin song, “When I Lost You.” I could not find it at the i tunes store. But it is from Tony’s 1987 Album “Bennett / Berlin” and it is sung “a cappella” which means singing without instrumental accompaniment. It is a great example of “The Power of the Pause” to establish a mood, to emphasize your point, to impart a memorable message. Try to locate this track. If you are not moved by the power of this performance, … Trust me, this is worth worth your time and money!

In Timothy Koegel’s book, “The Exceptional Presenter,” he cites a UCLA Study by Dr. Albert Mahrabian that revealed: Continue reading “The Power of the Pause” »

Motivational Skills are in High Demand

I recently came across the results of a study conducted by Right Management Consultants that should be of interest to any manager, executive or business owner.  What traits are you looking for the most as you make succession plans for your senior staff?  And remember… the “baby boomers” who hold many of these key positions are starting to retire now – and the rate of retirement will accelerate quickly. 

Have you started to “groom” your internal staff to succeed your present leaders and managers?  If you are looking outside of your company to attract top talent, what traits are you looking for?

As usual, I found a summary of the Right Management Consultants survey in the April 1006 issue of “The Motivational Manager.”  168 U.S. firms responded to the survey and they ranked these traits as most desirable:

62% – Ability to motivate and engage others.

58% – Ability to effectively communicate both strategically and inter personally.

52% – Ability to think strategically.

51% – Ability to lead change.

47% – Ability to create a performance organization.

45% – Commitment to developing people.

43% – Honesty and trustworthiness.

42% – Ability to develop an inspiring vision.

34% – Decisiveness.

Most telling, on 43% of the 168 firms said that they are providing the necessary development training.  So much for the pablum of many companies who proudly say, “Our employees are our most valuable asset.”  If that is how you value your assets… well, I would hate to be your client – but would enjoy being your competitor.

Can you train people to be effective motivators?  Can you train the next generation of leaders to effectively engage your staff and clients?  Can you improve the overall quality of communication skills within your company?  “Yes, yes and yes!”

I find it interesting that in this study, 45% of the firms value the “commitment to developing people” when searching for future leaders.  Well, why not eat your own cooking?  Encourage your current crop of (soon to be retiring) leaders to groom, mentor and coach your younger staff members?

Does your company employ either a formal or an informal mentoring program?  Is your company committed to continuous training and career development?  If not, why not?  What is your philosophy of leadership?  If you don't have one, you might consider these words from John Quincy Adams:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

So my advice to the 57% of these firms who are not presently providing career development training is simply – start developing your own skills to motivate and engage others.  If you are having trouble motivating and engaging your present staff, you will never be able to hire leaders to fill this role.  It starts with you!