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Sep 9 20

The “New” Onboarding

by David Brock

I was speaking with a niece who’s a school teacher. She is entering the school year with a challenge she hasn’t faced. Her school district will, through at least several months, be teaching virtually. We talked about her biggest concerns:

“Last year, when we shut down classrooms in March, I had been working with my students for the entire school year. I knew each of them, I knew how to reach out and engage them, so the challenge of remote teaching wasn’t that bad. This year, I have 120 new kids. I don’t know them, I don’t know their strengths and weaknesses, I don’t know how to engage each one–and I won’t be able to connect with them F2F for at least several months…..”

I reflected on my conversation with Lindsey, thinking about new people we are onboarding in a “virtual environment.” Perhaps the most important part of the onboarding process is not teaching them about our products, tools, processes, markets. Perhaps the most important part of onboarding, often done informally, is understanding what it means to be part of the company/organization. What are the values and beliefs? How do we hold each other and our customers? How do we get things done? Who can people reach out to for help?

So much of what happens in onboarding is not what we formally train people on, but it’s what happens to make them feel “connected” with the company, it’s values, beliefs, and others who work at the company. This seldom happens in training workshops, but happens in the “spaces in between.” The breaks, the side discussions, the social interactions that surround the formal onboarding process. It’s the informal relationships that are formed that are so important to

Feeling “connected” with the company is perhaps the biggest challenge everyone faces in the world of WFH. Those that have worked “in the office,” or have had the opportunity to connect in various ways with their peers, company leadership, struggle with remaining connected.

But how to we “connect” the people who are new, who don’t have those informal mechanisms to become part of the organization. I think we are still figuring this out, but some ideas:

  1. Managers will have to reach out more frequently for loosely structured 1 on 1’s with new people to make them feel more connected and engaged.
  2. More frequent, informal team meetings to build relationships with their peers.
  3. Executives need to be engaged with all groups, reinforcing the values, vision, mission, beliefs, with Q and A sessions. Periodic “all hands meetings,” can help everyone be more connected and engaged.
  4. Connecting new people with people outside their teams, for example, marketing, customer experience, even product managers so they can begin to know other people. The agendas for these meetings should be relatively loose, but helping the onboarding people know other people and their roles in the organization and how they might help.
  5. Assigning a peer mentor to help them better understand how to get things done and how to become “connected” within the organization.

What other ideas do you have that help onboard and connect new people in this new world?

Sep 8 20

Coaching The Uncoachable

by David Brock

Today, I had the honor of participating in a webcast on coaching, with Lori Richardson, Jason Jordan, and Mike Kunkle. A question that rarely comes up was, “What do you do if a person is uncoachable?”

This is one area of coaching where I tend to be pretty hard-nosed, but I believe the following:

If a person is uncoachable, it is not a question of IF that individual is terminated, only When!

Let me explain myself.

The uncoachable person has made the decision to stop learning and growing. We’ve all encountered people like this. They refuse to take feedback (or at least smile, nod, then ignore it.) They believe they have learned everything they can, they have mastered their jobs. They say, “Just leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Recently, I encountered a couple of sales people who were uncoachable. We were doing a number of deal reviews. Their attitudes clearly showed how much the resented spending the time with their CRO, their manager, and me. They said things like:

  • “Trust me, I’ll make my numbers…..” when I asked them, “You are less than 25% YTD and you don’t have anything in your pipelines, how are you going to make your numbers? What help do you need?” (we were in Q3)
  • “You don’t understand our markets….” I may not have, but clearly the CRO and their manager did.
  • “Cold calling and most prospecting doesn’t work anymore…..” Hmmmm, that’s interesting, then how do you and millions of other sales people find opportunities.
  • “You don’t understand this customer or this deal…..” To which I respond, “OK, tell me about it, what are they trying to do, what is their need to buy, what happens if they don’t make a decision by the date you claim?”
  • In one discussion, a key issue with a partner arose. One of the participants had just been recruited from the partner. That individual offered to help, “I know how they work, I still have great relationships with senior management, perhaps I can help….” To which the sales person responded, “You don’t understand anything, you are new, you can’t help, stay out of this deal!”
  • “Do you realize how much you are distracting from my ‘selling time…?'” I thought, “This is the only review in 30 days and it is only 45 minutes, and you are only 25% YTD…..I’m not sure I’m wasting anyone’s time, except perhaps mine.”

I could go on, there were many more examples of their unwillingness to be coached, to ask for and accept help.

You’ve probably encountered these types of people before. They are uncoachable.

Some of them may actually be doing OK, they might be making their numbers, but they believe they know everything and don’t need to learn any more, to change, or adapt.

The problem with the uncoachable is they have made the decision to stop learning, to stop growing, to stop changing. Even if they are a top performer today, they will quickly become dinosaurs. No one can afford to adopt that mindset in today’s fast changing world.

Research on sustained top performers shows that the are obsessive in their learning and relentless in execution. The constantly change, grow, and seek to improve. They recognize to be a top performer, they can never stop learning.

So the uncoachable have decided there is no more to learn, grow, and improve. They’ve decided they know everything.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a mindset focused on failure. Perhaps not today, but certainly for tomorrow.

What do we do with these people? We have to terminate them–perhaps not today, but probably soon. They will not be able to meet their performance expectations. They are likely to be–or become–toxic to the organization, dragging down the performance of others in the organization.

As I mentioned at the beginning, with the uncoachable, it’s not a question of If we terminate them, only When.

Now for the one caveat. We have to make sure the person is truly uncoachable. Perhaps our own efforts to coach them are rebuffed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t uncoachable, we may just be the wrong coaches. Before we decide a person is uncoachable, we need to give them the opportunity to be coached, not just by us, but by others in the organization. If no one can connect with them, then they are, likely uncoachable.

Sep 1 20

“Do As I Say, Not As I Do!”

by David Brock

My parents were core in establishing my values and helping me grow as an individual (my Mom still teaches me lessons every day). They were phenomenal role models for my sisters and me. But I was a bit of a “challenge” to them, particularly to my father. I was very precocious–actually I was an ass.

My father would talk to me about some critical behaviors and what I should do. Every once in a while, I’d catch him, I’d say, “But Dad, you aren’t doing the things you are telling me to do……”

Finally, after whining about a bunch of things, in frustration, my father said, “Do as I say, not as I do!” Dad didn’t believe that, subsequently, he went overboard in setting the example of the behaviors he was trying to instill in me.

Fast forward to today. Every organization has a culture, a set of values and beliefs. We know these because they are always prominent at the web sites, in annual reports, in analyst presentations, and in speeches delivered by executives.

Most of the time they espouse values about creating great customer and employee experiences, maximizing value and customer satisfaction, valuing their people. They glibly announce, “people are our most valuable assets….” or “we create delightful customer experiences….”

But, somehow, the behaviors don’t align with what they say. What they do, how they behave differs significantly from what they say. Too often, they create toxic cultures that don’t value people, treating them as commodities that can be replaced. They talk about culture, empowerment, collaboration, and respect for the individual, but their behaviors are completely different.

A customer is a vehicle for generating revenue, not a relationship to be treasured and to learn from.

But this isn’t just the behaviors we see from executives, it’s the behaviors we see from virtually everyone in the organization. If top executives talk about respect and collaboration, but don’t role model it, the same behaviors are cascaded through the organization. People don’t respect each other, the don’t collaborate, they don’t trust each other.

If top executives don’t really value customers, no one in the organization will value customers.

Leaders must talk the talk, walk the walk, role model the values and behaviors they expect of everyone in the organization. If they can’t do this consistently, no one in the organization can be expected to model those behaviors.

It turns out, we don’t care what people say, we care about what they do, how they act, how they behave, how they demonstrate their values through that behavior.

In reality, it’ s not “Do as I say,” it’s “Do as I do.”

What example are you setting, every day, for your people, your customers, your suppliers, and your community?

Sep 1 20

Experience Does(nt) Matter

by David Brock

Experience is an interesting thing. It is, sometimes, very helpful. But, too often it limits us.

Experience can be helpful. As we do our work, our past experience in similar situations shapes how we address current situations. We know how to respond to customers that ask certain questions, or when certain things happen, we know certain responses/actions enable us to successfully deal with them.

Experience enables us to make sense of the things we encounter and to be able to respond in a way that produces the results and outcomes we want.

Without learning from our experiences, it would be virtually impossible to grow and make progress. In virtually everything we do, we rely on our past experience in shaping what we do today.

Ideally, we take those experiences, refine them to constantly improve.

But experience is often limiting, it prevents us from recognizing there may be better ways of doing something. That there are better ways of accomplishing a task or achieving a goal.

Experience, often, blinds us. We robotically execute, failing to recognize that situations have changed–even subtly We see those things that we have always done, based on our experience, not working as well as they have in the past.

Experience can often make us lazy or complacent. We get so used to doing the same things every day, that we stop paying attention.

Sometimes, when we recognize our past experience is no longer working, we struggle to change, we become prisoners of our experience. We look in the places that we’ve always looked for answers, we rely on the same people, organizations, and groups, yet they are prisoners of their experiences. We struggle to change and innovate.

Often, we suffer from group-think. The phenomena of relying on people that are similar to us, who’ve had similar experiences. We are attracted to people who have had similar experiences, who think like we do, who look like we do. But because we are so similar, we struggle to innovate and be different, to change, to innovate.

Sometimes, we have to look completely outside our experience. We have to look in different places for answers, we have to engage different people, with more diverse experience, to help us figure things out.

We can look at people who have had experiences in completely different industries, who have very different backgrounds, who have experience–but experience that is different than ours.

They help us see things we may not see because of the blinders of our own experience, as we help them see things differently. Together, we think of new things, we innovate, we consider things we might never have considered before.

When we face very difficult situations, when we face things that we have never encountered before, when what we do is not longer working, when we are looking to change (or when we are blind to the need to change), our experience limits us. We need to engage people who have different experiences, different points of view, different attitudes, different backgrounds. Together, we can respond to what we face and learn how to move forward most effectively.