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Archive for July, 2009

Building Long-Term Relationships

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 28, 2009 NO COMMENTS

longterm_relationshipsRelationships are the foundations to all business success” my father would constantly drum into me. He would give me constant examples of how services (products) were sold, wherein the difference between the winning vendor and the losing one was not product specific, but relationship related.

If relationships are so important, why do so many firms downplay the development of tools and methodologies that develop this skill?

In the business world, we often refer to building relationships as ‘networking’. The traditional method for networking revolves around meetings and events with the sole purpose of business card collecting. This system of collection falls short of the true method of networking. It is a similar to what occurs on many social networking sites, collecting friends without really developing those friendships. Far to many business relationships have the shallow basis that exists in most of these social sites. We attempt to collect friends and business cards, believing that having lots of them confirms our popularity and value. The sad reality is that most of those business cards will not even get your phone call, or email, returned. The reason for this is that you have not offered any value to these people.

Networking and relationship-building requires work. Based on my experience, there are five steps to making your networking more effective:

1. Stay engaged with those you seek to have a relationship. Listen to what they have to say, especially if it is not business related. Networking with others increases solution opportunities.

2. Develop yourself as a source as a knowledgeable resource. As the old says goes, “”Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” you must give to the relationship prior to withdrawing from it.

3. Create a positive experience. When we go on our first date with someone, we always put our best face/foot forward. In business, we call that best-practices. What are you doing to both develop and nurture your business relationships by employing best-practices?

4. Creating sustainability in these relationships. Effective networking only succeeds if there is an element of sustainability in them. It is not what you can offer me today that is of value, but what can you offer to me over time this has a high correlation to sustainability. Do your efforts increase confidence? Do you promote others for the benefit of of those you want to build these relationship with? Have you done anything to assist them in expediting solutions for them?

5. Resolve to making the relationship value to them. It is already understood that they represent something of value to you. But, what is your value to them? When approaching your networking efforts, be specific about what you want and expect. Share with them your self as well as your products.

Be original, no one likes a copy, but everyone loves the original. Allow for yourself to be engaged, articulate, selfless and original. These are the things that will make your networking and relationship building more effective.

This all may sound like a lot of work and it is. Like most things in life, the value of what we work on is only reveled in the time and energy we deliver to it. At that point, the real value unfolds in front of us, and those relationships become long term and valuable.


Death spiral!

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 22, 2009 NO COMMENTS

thumbnailAfter reading this blog in the Seth Godin’s website, I could do nothing more than to share it with you. It has so many applications to training, leadership and every aspect of talent management. How many of you are working for companies in the death spiril? Enjoy.

| You’ve probably seen it. The fish monger sees a decline in business, so they have less money to spend on upkeep and inventory, so they keep the fish a bit longer and don’t clean up as often, so of course, business declines and then they have even less money… Eventually, you have an empty, smelly fish store that’s out of business.

The doctor has fewer patients so he doesn’t invest as much in training or staff and so some other patients choose to leave which means that there are even fewer patients…

The newspaper has fewer advertisers, so they can’t invest as much in running stories, so people stop reading it, which means advertisers have less reason to advertise which leaves less money for stories…

As Tom Peters says, “You can’t shrink your way to greatness,” and yet that’s what so many dying businesses try to do. They hunker down and wait for things to get better, but they don’t. This isn’t a dip, it’s a cul de sac. It’s over.

Right this minute, you still have some cash, some customers, some momentum… Instead of squandering it in a long, slow, death spiral, do something else. Buy a new platform. Move. Find new products for the customers that still trust you.

Change is a bear, but it’s better than death.


Leading High Performance Teams

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 16, 2009 NO COMMENTS

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General leadership is always a task that moves an organization forward. But creating and leading a high performance team may increase retention, efficiency, and even profit. In an age when buzz words sometimes get more notice, let’s look at high performance teams and determine how to make that team a reality instead of simply a popular term.

First, leaders must define what high performance really is. There are general leadership attributes that can be reached and exceeded by leaders at all levels and in all types of organizations. But the true definition of high performance leadership is going to center on the organization, its needs, and the way it will become a leader in its field. For example, simply providing customer service is not a high performance attribute. But providing 100% customer satisfaction in every customer interaction is a high performance standard, especially when that standard is measured and is part of accountability. So to begin creating a high performance team, determine what attributes create high performance at the individual, group, and organizational level.

Once you have defined high performance, you must create a structure to achieve it. As we mentioned, high performance goals are not valuable if leaders are not held accountable to them. So the question becomes how to hold leaders accountable. One way to do this is to create a “stretch” environment, where reaching a goal is great but stretching beyond it is high performance. For example, the 100% customer satisfaction measurement may be impossible to achieve. But is 95% customer satisfaction impossible? Given the right situations, effective training, and consistent coaching, it probably isn’t. To stretch this high performance goal, make 95% the point where the team meets the goal, and 96% where the team begins to excel the goal. High performance teams are always looking to excel their previous performance, so by creating this structure you’re paving the way for excellence.

In line with stretch goals, leaders must create incentive to reach goals – and excel them. There are numerous ways to create incentive. Obviously bonuses or profit sharing are great ways to draw high performance. But the way the cash incentive program is created will keep the high performance team in stretch mode. For example, pay 1% profit when the team reaches the 95% customer satisfaction goal, 2% at 96%, and so on. Bonus and profit sharing programs create high performance and retain those high performers. But what about non-cash incentives, especially when the organization may be operating in economic uncertainty? One way to avoid up-front cash is to consider making team members eligible for promotion as they achieve various levels of stretch goals. Obviously there will be a cost involved, but salary is typically not going to be an “off the top expense”. Also, consider products or services offered by the organization as rewards for achieving stretch goals, or consider reallocating funds for reward. For example, if executives are accustomed to a trip to a seminar or something similar, consider using those funds to reward the top performer.

Outside of the realm of incentive comes the sense of spirit you, as a leader, must create. As high performers are identified, bring them together to brainstorm organizational problems and create solutions. Have the groups meet once a month for a network event, especially if the team members aren’t geographically located with one another. Let the high performance teams know that they are the future of the organization, and that it is their responsibility to solve problems and lead others in the organization to their levels. As this type of environment begins to emerge, you’ll see a team spirit begin to take shape amongst the high performers. They will “recruit” other high performers and send the message down the line.

Finally, coach, teach, mentor, and hire for high performance. Coaching and training in leadership and advanced operational topics should always exist for high performance teams. This provides yet another incentive for high performers, who are always interested in learning and improvement. Assign coaches or mentors to the high performers as they emerge – this way, you’ll consistently have a support system that ensures the continuance of high performance behavior. If the budget allows, offer leadership training for the high performers at various levels. As they learn and improve, they will begin to create other high performers simply because of their every day behavior.

But perhaps the most important aspect of creating and leading high performance teams is to hire for high performance. As you define high performance at individual job levels, you will begin to define ideal candidates for every position in the organization. When this occurs, even entry-level employees are leaders in their own rights. Organizations have the tendency to hire in order to get a “warm body”. When this practice is replaced with a search for the person with the high performance attributes, leadership begins at all levels.

Creating the high performance team is a process, but follow these basics and you’ll see results quickly.


Training the Generations

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 9, 2009 NO COMMENTS

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We all know that our workforces are changing. But we do have the ability to reach out to all generations with our training and development. The Baby Boomers are not accepting retirement, Generation X is in full swing, and Generation Y is just entering the workforce. Before we talk about how to effectively train each group, let’s determine who’s who. Baby Boomer’s were generally born between 1946 and 1965 – in many organizations they are the executives. But many Boomer’s may have taken early retirement and want to reenter the workforce. Generation X comprises the group that was born between 1966 and 1982 – they are now creeping into the senior and executive levels in some organizations, but as we’ll discuss, Gen Xers are not the ones who stay in one place for life. Finally, Generation Y’s members were born from 1983 and going forward. What are their learning styles, and more importantly, how can you reach these three major groups?

The Baby Boomer’s have been shackled to their desks for many years – the common worry among them is that the company may drop of the face of the earth if they are not around. This group has had to learn and unlearn many things over the years, but they never stop learning. Boomer’s are networkers and transformers who are adept at taking in new technology and using it effectively. In the classroom, Boomer’s will be attracted to group activities where they can practice networking. But don’t stray away from using technology in the classroom because of the presence of the Boomers – with a little direction, they will be able to apply technology just as their children (and grandchildren) do.

Generation X, in direct opposition to the Boomers, does not want to stay at a company for a lifetime. Gen Xer’s careers are fluid – they are motivated by their own satisfaction with the job and have no problem leaving if they don’t find that satisfaction. Generation X loves technology and wants to learn new things while expanding in their current positions. Members of this generation like to practice what they’ve learned in a friendly work environment – where feedback is a constant. For training, Gen Xers can use a combination of online and classroom learning, as well as self-directed learning. Since they look for career satisfaction, tie their learning to a well-defined career path. And don’t forget to provide feedback on their performance.

Generation Y was born with technology – most members of this generation don’t remember what it was like to make phone calls on a land line at all times. But, Gen Yers are group-oriented, even socially. They are able to multitask but expect you to provide a structure and the resources to get the job done. This group expects respect for opinions and knowledge, but will give it freely in the right circumstances. When you train this group, anything technical is a plus, since this generation is the most highly technically proficient. Consider online training as a good way to reach Generation Y. But since they are group oriented and collaborative, this generation can come into the classroom and will react well to team exercises and more than one assignment at a time – as long as the structure is there. Discussion is also big for this group provided that individuals’ contributions are acknowledged.

Obviously the perfect training world would be the one where each generation is in its own learning environment. Since that will never happen, we have to approach training in a way that will accommodate all generations without alienating them. In general terms, a mixed training approach will work. For example, approach online learning as a supplement or addition to a classroom piece. Short, self-directed content can be solely online – as long as there is a live resource to go to if learners have a problem. All three of these generations will enjoy being in a room together to learn – and your organization can benefit from the cross-generational collaboration.

Since our training worlds are far from perfect, mix your development across media and always keep in mind that the workforce is now comprised of different generations. When you move forward with this mindset, you’ll be able to effectively reach and train Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

Copyright 2009 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Director of Learning & Development – offers 20+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a trainer, business & leadership coach, and strategic planner for many sales organizations. Bryant’s 27 year business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering.

Subscribe to his blog at: http://www.BryantNielson.com

Bryant Nielson – EzineArticles Expert Author


Dare to be Different

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 2, 2009 NO COMMENTS

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Why be just one of the crowd? Why suffer in silence because your voice is unable to be heard? Following the herd is the most sure fire way to be lost. Why is it then, that most of us are trapped in the herd of mediocrity. Why do we continue to conform to being average. Is there something that causes us to cluster toward the average, instead of stepping out into greatness?

I believe that many of us, individually and corporate, just don’t know how to break out and distinguish ourselves. Most of us are also fearful that if we do ‘dare to be different’ that we will appear to be foolish or weird.

What steps, both small and large, can you take to breakout and start out on the path less traveled. Here are a few steps that you can take that can point you in a new direction:

1. Dream a little. Most often, people have dreams and aspirations that we fail to act on. There was an credit card advertisement that once ran a list of dozen of things that people should do in their life. Why not extend that ideal to us personally. If you had the opportunity to be or do something different, what would you be or do if money, time, and all constraints were removed. Take the time to dream and write down what you want deep down.

For the corporate citizens, you can do this too. If you could move your company in to new directions, without fear of failure or cost or loss, what business or product would you wish to be in or produce.

2. Stop doing things that you don’t want to do. If you find that you are unhappy working at what you do, or are in a job or situation that is not leading you to personal fulfillment, just stop it. Change it. Do everything to eliminate this millstone around your neck.

3. Decide what is important. Does being accepted by others or stepping out into new light motivate you? This could be the most difficult thing. Deciding what’s important, really important, could be what you need to do to making a spectacular life vs. an ordinary life.

4. Take Action. Once you have dreamed of a life that you desire, eliminated efforts that are preventing your success, focusing on what is really important, execute your plan! Purposeful action is all that is usually required. It is not an overnight solution, but it will make your life the life you have envisioned.

Copyright 2009 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Director of Learning & Development – offers 20+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a trainer, business & leadership coach, and strategic planner for many sales organizations. Bryant’s 27 year business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering.

Subscribe to his blog at: http://www.BryantNielson.com

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author