The political pages are full of talk of sibling rivalry, inter-family conflict and the psychological damage that family members can do to each other in work situations. Ed winning the Labour Party leadership over his older brother David looked unlikely back in the spring, but it’s a reality now.
The big decision the brothers’ face now is whether David will stay on as a cabinet member and support his brother using his experience, influence and intellect on his behalf, or step back from the shadow cabinet to defuse any speculation about conflict and set about developing a new career of his own away from that particular limelight.
Thousands of miles away Kim Jong-il has just appointed his son Kim Jong-un as a general, a move that’s probably designed to signpost a transfer of power. There are other disappointed (and possibly embittered) sons, sisters and brothers-in-law in the background, but without a free press we won’t see hundreds of pictures of them and be invited to interpret their facial expressions.
When family members work together there’s plenty more going on psychologically than in ordinary working relationships. The emotions in play can be far more intense and the stakes are different.One family member who maybe doesn’t work as hard as others is no big deal in a family who have different professions in different organisations, there may be some grumblings about a lazy kid sister but it has no major impact on the day to day lives of all the family members. If one sister is focused on amassing a fortune ready for an early retirement to a Florida villa, whilst another is busy creating a nice nest egg to help her children gain a good education and get on the housing ladder, and a brother is busy spending everything he earns (and a little more) to enjoy the life he has right now then there may be a few snide remarks at Christmas, but they’ll likely get along fine.
When those different objectives exist within a family business, and family members have varying visions of where that business is going and what the key objective is, then emotions tend to run high and the resultant conflict is just as likely to be destructive as positive.
Predaptive has worked with a wide range of family businesses over the last decade, helping them to be clear about the business goals and work more effectively together as a committed team as well as a functional family.
Every business would like to improve its sales performance. That being the case, why do most sales organisations struggle to do anything more than just exhort their sales people to do better? The fundamental problem lies with a lack of rigour and understanding around the relationship of cause and effect.
What are the inputs that directly correlate to achieving the desired output? It’s not effective to say ‘we want more sales’, or ‘go out and close more orders’, or mandating sales people to make a minimum number of visits/phone calls etc. These kinds of actions make sales managers feel better because they are direct and action orientated, but have limited performance impact.
What about really changing your sales organisation to create a significant, sustainable and appropriate performance uplift?
To do that you need answers around five key, inter-related questions:
- What are the key buying motives/decision points of our target customer group?
- What are the compelling points of difference in our sales offer?
- What are the sales Critical Success Factors?
- How motivated are our salespeople to perform?
- Do we have a high ownership sales culture?
When these five questions can be aligned around a set of compelling answers you will see sales performance improve. The sales organisation moves from being a passive reactor to events and circumstance and begins to drive its own performance agenda.
We thought this was an opportune time to look at the current market-place, two years after Lehman Brothers collapsed and we entered near economic meltdown.
The businesses that are still here have grouped around three different realities.
Group 1 – The Going Gangbusters Group
These companies (and there are more than you might think) are doing great business and making more profit than ever before. They have found a particular sweet spot, sometimes by circumstance sometimes by making some very clever decisions. In working with some of these businesses the reasons for their success are down to one or more of the following:
- Competitors have either gone bust or exited the market, creating a demand bubble.
- They are selling something that is distinctive and compelling and great value for money, which lots of consumers/businesses want to buy.
- They have gone deep rather than wide, really specialising in a particular field, which competitors can’t easily replicate.
- They are lucky to be selling into overseas markets that are in growth mode.
- Their strong relationships with a small group of customers have strengthened during the recession and as those customer markets have picked up so their preferred suppliers have benefited.
- They are unburdened with debt or/and have access to growth capital.
- They have a visionary leadership team who have been prepared to call the market and make some brave decisions.
Group 2 – The Buried Talents Group
These companies are basically waiting. They are waiting for the market to come back so their customers can ‘get going’ again. Their profits are at best flat or at worst none existent. Instead of using their resources and intellectual capital, like the lazy servant from the parable, they have taken the ‘risk free’ option. Except this is where the analogy breaks down. Waiting decreases their competitive advantage. The business environment is dynamic; it changes, adapts, reforms and moves on. Going defensive for the first six months of the recession was probably OK, but given the occluded horizon, there are no clear signals of recovery, only businesses that either do something or have something (see above), and those that don’t.
Group 3 – The Deeply Conflicted Group
These companies are doing OK, not great, but OK. Things look fine, however when you get behind reception and into the Boardroom you find something different; a battle for the future direction of the company. Sometimes it’s between individuals; sometimes it’s going on privately in the mind of the CEO, his/her directors perhaps being part of the problem/challenge. It is an argument, constructive or otherwise, about risk, investment, diversifying, their offering, the strategic direction of the company. And because of the lack of clear market signals (see Group 2) it’s tempting to procrastinate, to postpone, to rationalise and to justify (to themselves) why now is not the right time.
Which group is your company a member of?
With Tony Blair’s book just published there has been renewed focus on what kind of leader he was. We thought it was timely to allow you to judge Blair as a leader against our model of leadership. Have a read through the overview of the four dimensions below and make your own judgement.
We examined 16 success input drivers grouped under the four headings of:
‘Point of View’, ‘Drive’, ‘Integrity’ and ‘Empathy’
Point of View
Effective leaders know what they are trying to do and can contextualise the environment in which they are trying to do it. This gives others a compass bearing in deciding whether their leader is offering them a compelling sense of direction.
Effective leaders make things happen. They cause movement through their energy and focus in getting things done.
Effective leaders are trusted. They behave consistently and are values driven. They have clear ‘lines in the sand’ which they will not cross. They are reliable in their support and clear about what they stand for.
Effective leaders connect with people. They give people time and communicate in ways that others can relate to. They have a genuine interest in others views and are good listeners.
What do you think? How many out of ten would you give Tony Blair on each of the four criteria?
Often we find when looking at famous leaders they do well on one dimension but less well on others. Or they have three out of four but have a fundamental weakness on one dimension which really undermines their efficacy as a leader.
How would you compare Brown to Blair on the four dimensions?
Another conviction politician was Margaret Thatcher, how would she rate on against the four criteria and what about more pragmatic Prime Ministers like John Major or David Cameron?
If you are able to put your political/personal preferences to one side, the rating of them relative to each other is a really interesting pub or dinner table discussion.
Which is most important for sales people
today; is it What you know – or Who you know? Knowledge = Power has always been a critical maxim in the world of selling; but in which direction should sales people invest their efforts and energy towards more effective knowledge acquisition?
We use the ‘Networking Compass’ to ensure sales people build and maintain an appropriately balanced network to maximise the potentially insightful connections that need to be made for profitable business relationships:
Upwards and Downwards: some sales people find it much easier to build customer connections with ‘users’ and ‘technical’ people because they have a background in those sorts of roles themselves or only deal with those levels on a daily basis. As a consequence they neglect to build relationships with the decision makers; senior managers, purchasers/buyers – who may appear distant or intimidating – and then they wonder why they can’t get a decision made.
Forwards and Backwards: past contacts and historical relationships need just as much attention as newly-developed connections. Sometimes the new opportunities seem more exciting than the on-going ones which can get taken for granted. Focusing on future prospects and target customers is vital for sales activity but not at the cost of allowing old relationships to become stale and unproductive.
Outwards and Inwards: there are so many external network opportunities today both on-line (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook plus the specialist/technical groups and forums etc) and off-line (conferences, exhibitions, trade-fairs, professional/industry bodies etc) – that many sales people neglect their internal networking opportunities across their own organisation. This is where real service delivery happens. Building and maintaining the right connections within your own company; ensuring that internal customer (and supplier) relationships have been nurtured and developed with as much care and attention as is invested in external customer relationships. When was the last time you conducted an internal customer satisfaction survey – as compared with your external customers?
Improve your network equity and build more profitable connections with the ‘Networking Compass’
Take a minute to consider how many of the following pain points relate to your management population:
- Managers are promoted on their technical rather than managerial ability
- Some managers become irrelevant with people working around rather than through them
- Some are great people managers, some really deliver results, but few managers actually do both, consistently
- The management team offers very little creativity to the organisation
- Managers are great in the day to day but don’t seem capable of communicating and contributing to the overall vision.
Addressing these issues leads to greater success, helps you to retain and develop better people, ensures that poor performance is tackled promptly and does not become endemic, and increases overall motivation and contribution.
Your organisation needs a management population which will really support your business aspirations.