Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

Plan Your Race

Marathon runners know that the only way to successfully finish a race is to have a plan…and stick to it. Too many times, inexperienced runners go out at a pace much faster than normal only to lose steam in the grueling last few miles. As a leader, whether in sales, marketing, business development, private equity, etc., it is essential that you run your race relative to a yearly strategic plan. I’ve seen many executives enter a situation aiming to make a big splash and then not have a plan that continues the momentum of the initial success achieved.

Parallel to this, you must take others with you during this process. Your direct reports are your support team and they need to be there with you as you enact your vision. I’ve spoken about never orphaning your CEO or whomever you report to but it’s also imperative not to orphan your team that is executing your strategy.

A smart guidepost to actioning this is to create your dashboard, a collective of goals, metrics, execution tactics, and measurement methods that outline your path to success. It must be designed so that it brings you solace and comfort. The dashboard is how you can communicate your vision to your CEO and get your team on board. Never assume you are in perfect alignment with them or your team without sufficient objective evidence.

I recently accomplished this with a client who inherited a team with a mission that will dramatically raise his profile throughout his organization. In this process, we realized that much of the data he needed only existed in the outgoing executive’s head. My client would have to create his dashboard from scratch. But what’s refreshing about this is that he can start fresh by shaping the organization in his image!

We began with my client scheduling a listening tour. He met each region’s representative from Maine to LA and asked questions about them! If you’ve worked with me, you know how much I stress the importance of being interested first, interesting second. Then, he asked them about the organization, what they’ve observed relative to their previous leadership, and what their commercial projection was for the balance of the year. This was his first level of knowledge, which was essential to crafting his national go-to-market plan.

The next step was customer meetings, which each representative ran. These gave my client great intel about what they were saying about the organization, its vision, and its value proposition.

He was now able to provide constructive criticism of each representative, tailored to the goals each rep shared with him months ago.

The result is that fifteen aligned business development people realize they are now working with a player/coach, not an absent leader!



Yikes, My Boss Confuses Me!

I hate to say this, but I hear this a lot.

Leadership confusion comes in many forms. But most often, it boils down to one thing: inconsistency. Teams respond to leaders who comport themselves with consistent behavior they can count on and trust. Alternatively, if the leadership behavior varies based on mood, pressure, or just the day of the week…people start to feel orphaned.

Orphaning your direct reports means you are not providing guidance and not acting as a resource as they work through their day-to-day issues. Instead of feeling backed by your leadership, they have a sense that they must figure things out on their own, alone. Is that the feeling you want your team to have?

It comes down to being empathetic and relational… consistently. What a leader cannot do is act empathetically in one moment and then be distant in another. That leads to confusion. A client of mine recently experienced this situation.

He observed that his Sr. Vice President ostensibly declared that he cares deeply about the team’s development. However, when urgent client work arrived, he would introduce the work and then leave his team to figure out most of the details without any guidance. His defense for this orphaning was that he was testing them to see if they could figure out what needed to be accomplished.

Please don’t do this as a leader.

If you do, you sabotage all your initial efforts of empathy and care. You are in a leadership position for a reason. Someone believed that you were the best person to guide your team towards success AND that they could learn from your experience. If you aren’t sharing that with your team, they will likely make it up as they go along, making mistakes you could have helped them avoid.

It is better to guide your team socraticly with tailored questions that allow them discover what needs to occur from your observation vs. abruptly orphaning them in the heat of the moment.

Ultimately, you want your team to feel like you have their back and not that you’ve turned your back!

Remaining Vital in a Hybrid Workplace

Our world now bifurcates into a hybrid environment and an office environment. As I wrote about earlier this year, many of you had a choice…work from home or at the office. What did you choose…the kitchen table or the office table?

For those of you who have chosen to work more virtually rather than physically, you have extra work to do. Even though companies went through a long stretch where nearly ALL employees had to work remotely, the old mindset is starting to creep back into the C-Suite: Out of sight, out of mind. And that presents a real challenge for you.

A client of mine highlighted this realization. The executive who has guided her throughout her time at this organization left the firm. He had accepted her remote working situation because he knew her value. So…yikes! Now what? Many in the firm realized that she made meaningful contributions. However, they were not so intimately aware of her work that would make her physical absence a non-issue. We had some work to do!

We focused on her new boss. She needed to quickly gain trust and prove her worth to the firm so that he could be comfortable with her working outside the office. Like a lot of the work I do…that says easy, does hard. Here are a few steps we took to establish that trust and re

Step #1: Demonstrate value. She needed to get in front of the new boss ASAP with the correct, concise update of her 2023-2024 accomplishments. This step set the table and established her value over time.

Step #2: Learn about the boss’ priorities and challenges. It was not enough to have the new supervisor learn about her and her work. We developed several probing questions that would foster a conversation through which she could learn about the new boss. Armed with that information, she can ensure she addresses these issues with the work she does.

Step #3: Agree on direction. It was important that she understand his perceived value of what she had been working on and then mutually determine whether to continue her current work or make a 180-degree turn from this direction to her superior’s new vision.

Step #4: Be interested first! Throughout the process, it would be critical that she remain interested in her new superior…..and THEN be interesting to him/her.

Have you been struggling with your work identity because you are working remotely? It’s never too late to implement these steps to right your course, stay connected to your supervisor, and demonstrate value. Really…you can do that from anywhere!

Replace Hesitation with Inspiration

Second-guessing oneself is normal and will always haunt us when delivering an idea or recommendation we’re asked to provide. Try replacing hesitation with inspiration!

Taking Risks Makes a Difference

Too often, many of my clients hesitate when tasked with finding a new direction or solution to an organization’s problem. Here’s the thing: your leadership wants and needs your idea or they wouldn’t have asked you. Don’t let them down because you want to be 110% sure. That level of surety is not realistic; it’s only an ideal.

You can’t make a difference or help your team with this behavior. You make a difference by taking a risk and declaring your solution.

Recently, I’ve been coaching a smart, insightful client to accomplish just this. Through multiple videos and reviews of his presentation material, we realized he was sabotaging his message by being too cautious with his idea. From our work together, my client began to enjoy collaborating with his international team, discovered the fun of listening to others and then offering his ideas. Currently, he heads up a team of professionals to whom he’s taught these skills!

If you’re tentative or cautious about your idea, your listeners will be skeptical and will avoid making a decision. Is this the result you want?

It’s better to forge a climate of certainty with your idea. This will motivate your listeners to either endorse or question it, giving you the opportunity to defend it confidently! It requires self-trust and a commitment to making a difference because you said so. That declaration alone will move others.

My client did just that and his idea was heartily welcomed!

So, next time you present an idea, do it with the confidence that it will make a difference with whatever issue is at hand. That confidence will build trust and trust builds leadership. Let me know how it goes!

Give It to Them Straight

Throughout my career as a leadership development professional, I’ve learned much about myself and others. One of the essential competencies I’ve developed is to be straight with people, especially as a coach. Here’s an example of it in practice…

Resistance to the Truth

Several years ago, I coached an executive in charge of the mergers and acquisitions of a large organization. As we reviewed his 360 Feedback Report, the executive remarked that it was the job that produced this bad report, not him.

Being straight with him, I proposed a bet where we go to an ATM and both withdraw $800 and have my assistant hold it until the bet was over. I proffered that he would quit this job and encounter the same problem six months from now at his new company. To which my client paused and said, “Let me think about this.” I gave him a week, adding “We also don’t have to work together. We can quit now if you’d like.”

Two days later, he emailed me saying he’d like to work together. I asked why. He said, “Because there are some issues I need to fix.” That acknowledgment was fine by me, we canceled the bet and got to work.

Commitment to the Truth

My point here is that I was immediately placed at a crossroads when my prospective client said it was the job, not him, that created the results and situation. As you might imagine, this was not the first time I had encountered such resistance to the truth from a client. So, I had to be straight with him, even if it cost me a client (and $800!). I knew that I had learned enough about him to counsel him about his actions. But I also knew he had to see those actions as detrimental first before any positive change was going to take place. So, I was straight with him, allowing him to make the next move. Had I danced around the issue, which was that he was responsible for the negative report, he might not have been so ready to concede. Straight talk got his attention, his trust, and his determination to move forward.

The lessons for you, as a leader, to take away from this are:

  1. Never sugarcoat the truth about someone’s incorrect behavior or comportment. All it does is perpetuate the behavior you want to transform.
  2. Remain committed/resolute to the person’s transformation of the behavior you’ve acknowledged. It’s only through your tenacity that the direct report realizes the requirement of their change.

As you go forward as a leader, be straight with direct reports. If you don’t trust them, or believe in them, or feel they’re not up to the job, share this with them. Then, probe them to determine what’s important to them from your empathetic candor. It will create a groundwork of transformation that starts from an honest, direct place which, in my experience, is always the best place to begin.

Kitchen Table or Work Table?

You’ll realize my vote as you read on…

I’ve been working with many pre- and post-COVID clients who primarily work from home. To be clear, they work for organizations/companies that have physical offices. But they have chosen to remain remote for whatever reasons they have…professional or personal.

Here’s the rub: while many now realize the importance and value of mutual in-person collaboration, remote workers remain on an island.

One client I’ll discuss represents my point here: an over-devotion to working at the kitchen table, not the office table.

As we worked together throughout 2023, we focused on being seen and heard more than he had been. This was especially urgent given how his company has changed its direction and how valuable his participation in this shift could be. However, he began to lose his vision and the purpose of his contributions. This contributed to his decision not to join his peers in the office.

Here’s the killer: being too out of sight was also too out of mind. He was thwarting his value and contributions but also the manifestation of it to move his peers forward with his judgment and valuable intelligence. Simply because he wasn’t there to demonstrate the strength of his resolve. That point resonated with him.

Through my recommendation, I added that he would influence the direction the company was taking by being able to motivate the team he very much wanted to be a part of the new plans. Doing that in person was going to be far more effective and would bring added urgency. There’s no substitute for spontaneous collaboration, strategic direction-setting, and team interaction.

He’s now arranged a formalized schedule of office participation re-invigorated with his purpose and contribution. It has reinvigorated his team, too!

Take Control of Your Happiness

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be

-Abraham Lincoln

Happy, Healthy New Year!

Please repeat Abe’s adage to yourself throughout this year…I know I will.

I’ve found that to maintain my hope, engagement, and positivity, I need to be happy each day. I assume most people do. Essentially, we’re all “at choice” whether we enter our day happy and positive or skeptical and jaded.

It’s generally easy to be super positive and happy at the start of a new year.  Then the work week begins, tasks pile on, schedules get full and all of a sudden, we’re back at it. Do you find it hard to maintain the new year positivity? You’re not alone.

Turn frustration Into Action

Here’s an example.

One of my coaching sessions last week took me to an executive who I could tell was resigned to this year being a slog, an uphill battle with the board of directors he needed to influence.

As I heard his resignation, I called him on it and asked why he felt this way. From his explanation, I discerned he’d given up the fight, the fight he was hired to promulgate!

After hearing all his reasoning for this, I asked him how he felt about this condition, He answered that it was awful and he was upset. Acknowledging where he was, I said that we could now start to transform this condition from his anger. Being frustrated or angry is a great place to be! It’s a great place because right after it is ACTION.

We then determined where HE was responsible for this uphill battle (which he was) and then proceeded to create a set of critical steps to neutralize this challenge. As a result of being in action and taking control of the situation, guess what? He was back to being happy and engaged.

Three Questions to Help Stay Positive

We completed our session with three questions I recommended he ask himself when issues like this surface:

  1. How can I grow from this?
  2. Who can I influence?
  3. How would I feel once I’ve accomplished it?

Life throws a lot a you. Not all of it good (by contract, not all of it bad, either!). Addressing your challenges while maintaining a positive demeanor and attitude is tough. But as my partner Ellen always reminds me, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

So, how is your year shaping up so far? Drop me a note and let me know!

Two Leadership Tips for 2024

And that’s a wrap on 2023! What a year, right? My work saw clients struggle with and overcome many obstacles. But the work is not done! As we look to 2024, I want to give you two key recommendations from my many observations and development engagements this year.

Don’t Focus on Nice and Polite

Stop initiating and cultivating relationships by being polite and nice. Usually what this translates to is saying YES to everything. I’d rather see you start a relationship by being fair and objective. I’m not saying you should avoid being polite or friendly. But you must be realistic and expect that they will be, too. Are their goals out of line with their budget? Does the scope of the work exceed your team’s capabilities? Approach relationships objectively and fairly to determine what matters most to your client’s business AS WELL AS YOUR BUSINESS. Hey, you are not a non-profit…you are in business to drive revenue just like they are.

Therefore, in the New Year, finding what is most important to your client/team and the impact of not achieving it is critical. Then, and only then, can you be fair, objective, and urgent with your solutions.

Here is a tactical tip to make sure that when you are speaking with a client (current or potential), you are keeping them focused on their main goals. When responding to them, start with “As you said…” and then remind them about what they said was critical. You can then base your recommendation on that. You’ll keep their attention, let them know you’ve been paying attention, and structure the conversation about the most important issues they are facing rather than getting into the weeds with every little problem.

Trust Yet Verify

Trust yet verify what clients say. Trusting a client is okay, provided they’ve earned that trust. Often, they’re evasive and peripheral. You must discover why and move them to a place of discomfort. Yes, you read that right…discomfort. This is an art. An art I enjoy teaching. It’s not like a lawyer cross-examining, but it is a heartfelt interest in defining a client’s CORE problems. And many times, they want to hide those core issues, not wanting to admit they exist.

Example: Your client might say “Our last agency didn’t get the work done we needed. They spent way too much time on small projects that didn’t move the needle.” To which you might say, “Who was giving them instructions on what to do? Oh…I see. Everyone had access and could direct them. Do you see that they were only doing what they were told? The lack of leadership on your team seems to have created an ‘every man for himself’ environment. Is that what you wanted?”

Sure, that’s an uncomfortable thing to say to a client. But it gets to the truth. From there, you can have an honest conversation about real issues from which you can make a well-informed recommendation.

In 2024, I’m looking forward to more and more people experimenting with the above from my coaching and facilitation, along with being more commercially candid. As long as you prove you care, you can lead people and sell anything.

Thank you for all your trust and followership this year. It means the world to me. Happy New Year!

‘Tis the Season of Juggling!

Managing the holiday season, both professionally and personally, can be challenging and stressful. Here’s something I read recently that hit home…

You CAN do it all, but first, you must decide what “all” includes.

Over the past decade, much attention has been directed toward helping people create a work/life balance. Perhaps no time during the year is this more relevant than the holiday season. It can be daunting between family, holiday events, business time management, and getting 2024 business plans approved. There is always a lot of “all” to get done!

The best way to remain sane and productive is to manage your energy accordingly and avoid over-committing. Prioritizing your workstreams is important. To do it “all,” this prioritization will be a good exercise in defining what “all” really is. You may be surprised that you have less to do between now and the end of the year when some goals are tabled for later.

Prioritize Your “To-Do” List

Here is the way I organize my workload. It has helped ensure I get the most important, time-critical tasks done while allowing me to re-categorize others for later completion. Incredibly helpful is to include personal tasks/objectives in this process.

Essential To-Do’s

You have a lot to do. But is everything mission critical? Probably not…at least, not today. Each day, factor in the time you have, meetings you must attend, and then prioritize your To-Do List so that what you have to get done today is at the top. For your business tasks, follow the money. Determine what is most accretive to you and your work. These are tasks you will be disappointed you did not address by dinner time. You will likely have To-Do’s that don’t merit being on the essential list. That’s OK. We’ll deal with in a bit.

Actioning process

Saying you have to get things done is one thing. Actually doing them is another. Create an action list for each essential task today. What are the physical efforts you have to put forth to accomplish each one. This sounds basic but it’s given me a critical lens into how my day is ordered.

Set Deadlines

So important! You must set deadlines for each task. And what you might find is that, once you allocate time for each task, you don’t have enough time to get everything done! You can either lessen the time on certain tasks…but be realistic. If you can’t get something done in 30 minutes versus an hour, don’t change it. Instead, repeat the first two steps I’ve listed, re-ordering the priority list and then creating action steps. The expression “There are only so many hours in a day” applies here so, something might have to be moved to a different day.

Manage Desired Tasks

Remember those tasks that you are not going to get done today? Put them on a Desired list. First, it will ensure you don’t forget about them. Second, if you’ve managed your time exceedingly well, you may have time to get to a few of these (make sure you prioritize this list, too!). Third, you will be set up for the next day when you start this process again, using the Desired List as a starting point for creating your Essential To-Do List.

Be Honest…and Watch Out for Murphy

You must make a distinction between essential and desired endeavors. You also have to be straight with yourself relative to accomplishing your list. Realize that Murphy’s Law comes into play here. Meaning if something can go wrong/derail, it probably will. Therefore, factor in a time buffer so you’re not squeezed into completing an endeavor when more time is required.

And, Oh, yes…Ask For Help when You Need To! Being vulnerable is okay in business. It shows that you’re human, that you know your limitations, and that you’re open to having others make a difference by partnering with you.

My best to you as you close out 2023 and begin your action endeavors for 2024!

This Thanksgiving…Be Grateful, Then Insightful

This is a wonderful time of year! It’s a time for family, fun, cuisine, and insightfulness…if you allow it.

Each year at this time, I like to take stock of what is important to me. I look at three different areas and note what stands out:

What I enjoyed
Seeing clients shine during their annual investor/stakeholder meetings by being articulate, conversational, and approachable

What I created
Specific, tailored recommendations that addressed behavioral hindrances and then seeing clients’ succeed based on the work we did

What I am grateful for
My clients’ followership and the enjoyment we share on our development journey together

Looking back is a fine and worthy endeavor. But now is also the time for insightfulness as you consider the upcoming year. When working with clients, I ask them, “What do you want to be known for next year?” and “How do you want to manifest that so that it happens?”

Here’s an example:

This year, I had a client whose direct report was not sufficiently participating in the team’s success. She respected him and valued him on the team. However, she wanted him to realize on his own that he needed to up his game. She was frustrated that he did not seem inclined to have that self-awareness.

We wanted to allow him time to address what she saw as essential commercial challenges that he was not addressing. We created a series of questions that had the potential to have him understand that his participation was unacceptable. His responses illustrated his resignation to the marketplace and jadedness to it. After the second round of questions and insufficient responses, he asked her if she had lost faith in him. She said yes. Interestingly, he admitted he had lost faith in himself. As a result, she recommended a lesser role in which she believed he could succeed in 2024. He willingly agreed and everyone was satisfied that he was setup for success in the coming year.

My purpose in relating this situation is that now is the time to impart YOUR insightfulness to your team, acknowledge them for this year’s contributions, and establish a future with each person to create a fast start in 2024 that you both own.

And as you do that, take some time for introspection. What did you enjoy this year? What did you create? And for what are you grateful? Write your answers down and look at them from time to time as you plan for the coming year.

As always, I wish you much success. In addition, may your family, friends, co-workers, and you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!