The Art of Great Delegation

This week I had the privilege of making a presentation to fellow members of the Institute of Directors in Manchester, UK. I was asked to share how Directors could approach delegation in their business to be more effective in their role.

What fascinates me about working as a leadership coach and trainer is that despite everyone in the room being a Director, each person came with a different expectation of what they needed to explore around delegation. My professional challenge - and the fun part of our work - was to take my prepared presentation and weave the audience’s expectations into the hour. I managed to reference the legal issues, leadership styles, change management, making time, devolving authority, sharing responsibility, harnessing technology and dealing with growth; all the questions they were interested in!

Underlying, the techniques I shared to improve daily delegation I referenced two guiding principles. This was because having access to a technique to use is only one part of effectively deploying a skill; knowing the principles behind it allow you as a leader to adapt, develop and contextualize the technique. The two principles behind great delegation are:

  1. Know the purpose. Delegation deals with the ‘What’ of business, the things that need to get done. However, starting with the what is not a leadership perspective it is fulfilling a management duty. Leaders need to be clear on ‘Why’ something is happening and ‘How’ it is delivered. So, if a Director were to ask me or my Know+Do colleagues to help them solve a problem around delegation we’d want to know the purpose of the business, its mission, its key targets, its values. Those why factors that drive behaviour, decision making and define success. Then we check out the how of a company - its key strategies and processes, its ways of organising itself and its 'internal ‘rules’. This is so we can place the delegation issue in context and how we solve that must reference why the business exists and connect with how it operates.

  2. Leadership is a daily practice not a one time event. By this we mean everyday the people in, or connected to your business, will need you to lead them. People are not static, they change, evolve and grow. Businesses are dynamic, new sales arrive, the economy changes, the competition gets better. Delegation is therefore not something we do once and forget about; it is something we do and repeat. Finding ways to ensure we have sufficient energy, the right attitude and sustained motivation is crucial to leading a team, whatever its size or context.

In the presentation a great deal more was shared. Techniques on quick planning for delegation. Principles to measure a delegation strategy. Language in differentiating delegation levels. How to ask questions in the right format. But the principles to great delegation underpinned the practice: Know why your business exists and work hard on your skills as a leader. After all, as a Managing Director I know well shared with me just last week:

“Delegation only works well, if the one delegating works!”

For both principles I shared a template to map and assess the business and the leader. If you want to find out about these contact me on bernard@knowanddo.com and I can share the templates with you.

Teaching Sales to a Sales business

Teaching Sales to a Sales business

I recently ran a sales workshop for a Know and Do client who runs a sales business providing outsourced sales for other businesses. I was sharing this with a friend who asked “Why does a sales business need sales training - surely they should know this stuff?”. The answer is that we all need to be life-long learners.

This short post explores how businesses engage with sales and sales training.

Are you a sales person or a sales professional?

For the last 5 years I’ve had the pleasure of delivering regular sales masterclasses for GC Business Growth Hub aimed at Greater Manchester SME’s wanting to grow their businesses. Around 12 different businesses participate in each masterclass.

One of the key learning objectives is to help each business owner understand how ‘sales’ is viewed and more importantly, used within their business. I always start by asking a simple question “Do you like, love or loath sales?” An overwhelming majority admit to loathing sales and the sales process. One participant recently described how they viewed sales as “a bit grubby”. A statement that many others agreed with.

Further questioning reveals that as these owners describe 'sales' they tend to focus in on examples where they, or someone they know, has experienced some form of dodgy sales practice. For example: They’ve been overpromised and under delivered. The stated price had risen dramatically with additional add-ons. They been trapped in a pressured sales environment or pestered constantly with unsolicited telephone calls. This is the domain of what I call the sales person.

These less than honest or trustworthy practices sit in stark contrast to the domain of the sales professional. Here, the sales professional takes pride in their undertaking and engaging with customers to discover and serve their needs in a way which makes repeat business highly likely. The sales professional works hard at their craft and is always learning and developing their skills.

When I started my first proper sales role (selling facsimile machines) my business card carried the title - Sales Executive. The two brothers who owned the firm and trained me were described by those who met them as ‘natural born sales people’. They looked and acted the part to me as a naïve sales novice. Suited, booted and driving nice cars they seemed to have the gift of the gab and fulfilled a stereotype of what I thought sales was. However, during my 6 week long sales induction programme I realised that these two were anything but natural born sales people. They were sales professionals with a clear plan. Like good magicians or actors they worked hard at their craft behind the scenes and thus, when they performed they made it seem natural.

Every time I was with them they had a book, magazine or audio on the go. They recommended different books across a wide range of subjects to me to read in order to develop my sales skills. I learnt some important basic concepts from them about sales and the need to develop my skills, knowledge and attitude towards sales. Sales, they taught should always be a win-win situation if you want sustained customers. Sales was a worthy profession if done right and they believed in doing it right.

They taught me that profitable sales are the key to a successful business. Figuring out the difference between ‘a profitable sale’ and just ‘a sale’ required a little more effort and a different pitch. A sales professional doesn’t look for the short cut but will help the client understand their needs and wants and put a proposal in that suits the client and themselves.

When I teach sales, I ask business owners to think about building sales practices that reflect a professional approach to sales. This goes right across the business from developing and training the right skills, knowledge and sales attitude. Without this you’ll likely have sales people and not sales professionals in your business.

A knock on impact of people not loving sales is that they tend to avoid reading books or attending courses on sales. This further compounds their issue with sales as if they don’t develop their skills and knowledge they won’t be very good at the subject.  Sales is a broad subject with a huge array of books available some useful some not so. Many attendees simply don’t know where to start their sales skills journey.

Reframing ‘sales’ as a positive and core component of a business helps attendees to shift their thinking about sales. From this new perspective, it’s much easier for people to reengage with sales and develop their specific knowledge to understand how to serve their clients better. Employing professional sales practices and developing a new sales strategy helps owners and staff to love sales and enjoy a more profitable business.

I’m passionate about good sales practices and helping customers to buy the right product as often as they need. Professional sales practices will help you and your business stand out in a crowd of sales amateurs. Profitable sales helps to sustain your business and serve your clients more effectively.

If you want to develop the sales skills in your business contact Know+Do today and ask for our advice.

I’d welcome your thoughts or comments on this important area.

Does 'Why' Really Matter?

I came across the above diagram in Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders East Last. It is a very simple picture but one that helps me explain to leaders the importance of having a ‘Why’ in their business. When my colleagues and I at Know+Do are asked to work on a problem a client has in their business - whether that is about the performance of people or their processes or strategies - we often get puzzled looks when we ask a question like:

  • Tell me about the vision of the business, what is it aiming to achieve?

  • What is the purpose of the company and why does it exist?

  • How do your values help you achieve your mission?

The normal response is along the lines of, ‘that is not important right now, so can we get back to looking at the problem?’ However, our interest in the ‘why’ is because it is usually the best starting point to solving the problem.

In his book, Simon Sinek is referencing the challenge of bringing others with you and expanding the capacity of a business. If too few people have the authority to make the right decisions at the right time, performance will suffer; customer satisfaction will drop; employee motivation and confidence cannot rise, and so on. But if the leader sets out a vision and articulates why the company exists, they can share authority with those who are closest to the daily information in its context; they can expand their influence and empower their people within the framework of a vision.

That is why if a company has a senior management team that is not functioning as well as it should, we ask about the mission, vision and values of the business. These terms set the tone for how the business operates and provide the guide to what makes a decision appropriate or not. Knowing these gives an objective perspective to reference, which is needed to re-set a team’s goals and behaviour.

When a business is struggling to organise its key processes effectively, we ask about the core purpose of the company to ascertain what should be the common thread of motivation for all systems and procedures. Then when we look at the detail of a process, the blocks present or missing steps, we can focus everyone upon the task of achieving the bigger purpose. This puts the everyday challenges into the right perspective and gives a common language everyone can use to work together.

If a leader feels they need to micromanage their team because things are never done right or to their standards, we’d check how the leader is using the company’s goals and values to develop their team. Are they sharing and promoting a mission that enables others to deliver on the company’s goals or are they just trying to make subordinates act in their own image? The values give descriptions for behaviour and mindset that can go beyond one leader and be embraced by all if the conditions are correctly set.

Even when we run training courses and open events for leaders we start with the purpose. Get the purpose clear and a high performing business can follow. To help frame this thinking we have a tried and tested tool we use with leaders to map their company purpose and confirm how it influences their planning and performance.

This is the reason that ‘why’ does really matter. It is the foundation upon which a business can build success. Thus, to solve a problem it always starts with the question, ‘Why?’

So, my question to a business leader reading this post today is: What is your organisation’s purpose and how does it drive performance? If you know what it is that is great, well done; now try looking at how you are using it every day. Do you see the values explicitly expressed by people? If you are not sure about the purpose, then it is time to start searching for one. Either way, Know+Do enjoy sharing ideas and inspiration so contact us today to ask how we can ensure your why really does matter!

A Leap of Faith

The phrase leap of faith came to mind recently on my walk along the canal path, a canal boat called leap of faith gently passed me by as I headed for my train to work. I’ve heard this phrase used frequently in business and often about start-ups, e.g. when someone takes that first step from whatever work they had before into founding a business; this is right, it is a leap of faith. However, I’m interested in this post to consider the future ‘leaps of faith’ we make as business leaders.

In our company we get to talk one-to-one with business leaders and these sessions often reveal fears, worries or concerns that leaders have. Our role is to work with that leader and leave them in a place where they have a plan to move beyond the concerns and can see the steps to success. One frequent fear for founders is that their company is getting too successful and as a consequence they worry about keeping pace with the business.

One young tech-entrepreneur shared this week that they realised after a few years that running a company they founded that had grown to nearly 200 people was boring. They did not want to develop it, they wanted to start another; so, they made a leap of faith and handed over to a CEO and developed a spin-off company from scratch once again. That was brave, leaving financial security yes but also recognising their limits and then pursuing their passion accordingly before they damaged their first business.

Another entrepreneur shared in the middle of a leadership course that she realised she must change to be the right type of leader her company now needed. She was nervous, uncertain and worried she could not do it in that moment but she saw that her business had changed and so she needed to stop being the ‘start-up’ leader and be a leader who had the skills to build a business and a management team around her.

Running a business is rarely a destination, it is a constantly evolving journey. Humans are a species that likes habit and routine; therefore, a leader can find it comfortable to rely on the skill-set that got them to where  they are now and no more. The thinking that a business needs to stay successful next year, is not necessarily what it needed last year. A courageous leader frequently re-assesses their strengths and weaknesses and how they set new goals to evolve. By definition the leader will have to initiate this change for themselves – no grown up is going to drop by and order it!

So, my takeaway question is:

When was the last time you took an objective look at your skills, knowledge, experience or influence on your business and set yourself the target to change once more?

If you want an idea on how to do this give me a call and I will share some tools we’d recommend. Supporting leaders to change is something my colleagues and I enjoy doing and sharing ways to achieve success if part of our reason for operating.

Have fun in your leap of faith and enjoy setting yourself a new challenge today!