Leadership Job #1: Finding, Shaping and Promoting Talent

I was recently asked to write an article focused on the Private Equity industry. The following is that article. I hope you will find elements that can help you in your business as well.

Do you remember when you first entered the Private Equity business? Maybe it was quite a while ago, maybe just a few years. One constant is that Private Equity is a daunting field. And while the pressures are great for senior executives and managers, they are equally so for those just entering the business. Sure, the situations are different but, well, you probably remember the intensity you experienced when you first got into the game.

Remembering that time as you began your career is an important element as you coach new associates, who present a lot of challenges for you. But when I coach managers, I ask them to first consider the challenges new team members face. From there, you can manage their activities, expectations and interactions from a place of understanding and compassion. Let me explain why that is important, not just for them but for your career as a leader.

What’s On Their Mind?

New employees have a lot on their minds. But a few key questions they ask themselves are:

·       How will I handle the pressure?

·       Will my boss help me or orphan me?

·       Am I just an analyst?

·       Will I have a development plan?

You’ll notice none of those questions have to do with salary/money. Ok, maybe they have that on their minds too, which is not a bad thing. But the questions above point to a mindset that says “I want to do well but, I need help getting there. I hope I’m not just left alone to figure out how.” That’s where you come in as a good manager.

Six Skills to Observe and Coach

Here’s the good news: people at all levels desire and appreciate coaching. Consistent coaching says; “I care about you, I believe in you.” Employees fail for a number of reasons but, I have found in my years as a leadership coach that the lack of coaching and direction is a big one. Avoid it at your, and the company’s, peril. Outlined below are six essential skills/behavior milestones to understand and coach so that you can transform your associates into a highly productive, cohesive, profitable team:

I. Provide Fast, Accurate Analysis

An associate’s world must initially focus on this. What’s important to observe at this time is your associate’s ability to capture what you’ve requested in the right spirit. Ask yourself this question as you analyze their potential:

·       Are they focused?

·       Do they accept the marching order with the right attitude?

·       Is their work product correct and clear?

II. Communicate Clearly and Concisely

Mission critical is an associate’s ability to clearly communicate their analysis. Many associates are challenged here. A great skill of any PE executive is his/her ability to teach their analysis to others. This teaching fosters dialogue amongst the team which is essential to lifting the team’s awareness of an issue. Notice an associate’s ease of communication.

·       Is their physical delivery strong?

·       Do they look at you and others when speaking?

·       Are they halting in their delivery?

·       Are they verbose when delivering a piece of analysis?

·       Do they self-edit too often?

·       Are they engaged or disengaged from their communication?

The answers to these questions are important to measure an associate’s propensity to develop as a PE executive. Essentially they need to represent you and your organization professionally and consistently. In your interactions with them, are they at ease? If they’re not comfortable speaking to you, how comfortable will they be with a portfolio company they are assigned to collaborate with?

III. Time Management

Notice how effectively your associates manage their time. Are they locked into doing A+ work at the expense of other analysis they need to produce? Being a perfectionist is detrimental to you and your company’s overall mission. It is possible that an associate driven to perfectionism only relies on the numbers not the overall strategy you’ve forged.

IV. Observe Without Prejudice

An important measure of an associate’s ability to develop into a senior associate/vice president is their degree of maturity and forbearance. By forbearance, I mean the ability to patiently restrain themselves when their opinion of an issue differs from others they must persuade.

An associate needs to develop relationships of trust, not silo themselves. They need to socialize ideas amongst their team to create a shared understanding of the direction the team will head. Much of an associate’s success here lies in how well they organize their thoughts, either informatively or persuasively. The more successful they are at this, the more people they will involve.

V. Being Self-Aware

Having self-awareness is critical to an associate’s growth. Doing a 360° Feedback Review is important along with establishing a clear development plan from this review for every associate you employ. This communicates to your associates you want certain behaviors to transform. It is here that you need to acknowledge inappropriate behavior and its impact on others. If an associate cannot observe/act without prejudice, they become a thorn in people’s side versus an approachable balanced resource.

Associates need to challenge people of different opinions to forward the strategy you’ve established. They must do this in a relational manner, not a condescending one. PE has always had this reputation. Realize that from the first “getting to know you” dinner the management team is skeptical of you. Once you’ve mutually set the strategic course of their company that management team may still alter what you’ve agreed to.

It is your associates who will need to see this “iceberg” first and relationally communicate it to the management  team. Notice the pattern of an associate not “getting along” with others. It’s a sign that he/she may not ever succeed collaborating with people.

VI. Framing and Delivering a Recommendation

A sure sign of an associate’s growth and readiness for promotion is their ability to frame and deliver a recommendation to varied listeners. This is an important skill. Finding the correct aperture of a person takes maturity and humility. An associate’s ability to correctly synthesize an analysis is mission critical to their development. From this skill they then must hold a management team accountable for their direction and strategic plan. This is the skill of persuasion. Can they forge a relational climate where they deliver their recommendation in such a way that it’s understood and accepted? Succeeding at this illustrates insight and maturity.

In summary, people buy people first, product/analysis second. Your firm rises and lowers from this realization. Every person on your team represents you and needs to comport themselves accordingly. Your challenge is to define and operationalize this.

Ten Behaviors that Shape a Private Equity Champion

Recently, I was asked to pen an article focused on the Private Equity industry. The following is that article. I hope you will find some useful tips for YOUR industry.

Becoming, and remaining, successful in Private Equity presents many challenges. Champions figure out how to overcome them so that they can stay ahead of the always-changing trends and triumph over their competition. Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with many top-level PE executives and observed key behaviors that lead to their success. Here are ten that can help you achieve your goals while developing teams of champions:

#1 Listen Without Bias

From investors to management teams to lenders, having the ability to listen without bias or agenda is essential.
Listening to understand a person’s frame of reference, values and beliefs is key to communicating your position into the aperture your listener can appreciate.
Too often executives communicate in too declarative a fashion versus a relational one.

#2 Communicate Effectively

Being clear, concise and engaged are essential behaviors of a leader. Many times, we communicate to people as though they were us rather than the person they actually are. We forget they have a completely different frame of reference and ability to grasp what we are putting forth.
Tailoring how we deliver our recommendations is critical to being understood and accepted.

#3 Team Player

Stop the siloing. People have a tendency to hoard their information, believing they have an edge over their peers in a discussion. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The more transparent you are, the more powerful you are.
Acting as a team and being in one-voice with your message is mission critical to an investor. Your team must be aligned and clear-of-communication or your idea/recommendation will be lost in translation.

#4 Trust Others

Always assume positive intent. It’s important to share your knowledge of an issue and your desire for people’s opinion. Everyone must drop their “righteous” behavior; it serves no one. The more a team trusts one another the more aligned and cohesive their message will be to a management team.

#5 Groundedness

The ability to remain focused during a reactivating situation is the mark of a professional. Manifesting a high degree of forbearance in these situations illustrates your maturity and balance. Remember, everyone on your team is watching you. Don’t obsess over this, just be responsible for your behavior.

#6 Debate Cleanly & Objectively

Discussions and debates are essential in PE. When done correctly, they lift everyone’s understanding of an issue.
What’s important is to facilitate the conversation in a relational, structured way. This means tying down issues and presenting other issues in a chronological fashion that makes sense to all participants. What it doesn’t mean is forcing your will on people.

#7 Investment Maturity

Great executives maintain a level of maturity and patience. At times these two behaviors are tested by portfolio companies. Management teams often do what they want versus the strategic plan you’ve created with them. Remaining mature and resolute with your plan illustrates your confidence in the plan and consistency as a leader. Management teams and direct reports need to observe and emulate this comportment.

#8 Delegate Work

What is the highest and best use of YOUR time? Be maniacal about this. When you do others’ work you do not affirm them, rather you stunt them. Direct reports need to experiment and discover their abilities through the work streams you create for them. This is essential for their growth and you as a leader.

#9 Develop Others

Followership is important along with retention. The more you develop your direct reports the more they will follow you and think like you going forward. You need this.
Being involved in a direct’s development says “I care about you and I’m formalizing your development.” Way too often executives manage on an ad hoc basis versus a formalized one.

#10 Have Alacrity

Definition: a cheerful willingness to engage with people. You either have this quality or you don’t. Do your best to be enthusiastic when you meet, greet, engage and lead others. They will emulate you going forward from this behavior. You will set a tone of confidence and positive engagement throughout your organization.

Review these ten behaviors and determine which you are currently excelling in and those which need more attention. Come back to this list often as you check in to see how you are doing. If you are constantly looking for ways to develop your skills that align with this list, you will be, and stay, a PE champion!


Insight.  That’s what Steve Giglio provides his clients.  He delivers it in many forms.  One of them is a newsletter.  Click the links below for past editions.  Better yet, if you aren’t on Steve’s mailing list, please register.  Newsletter are sent out about once a month…and that’s it.  No spam!

February 2010 “Stay in the Pain”

December 2009 “Stay Close in 2010”

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Steve Giglio featured in the New York Times

Steve travels frequently.  The New York Times caught up with him stateside to discuss lessons he’s learned on the road:

For the article, click here:  New York Times Frequent Flier Column or read below:

When in Rome, an Executive Coach Learns How It’s Done in Italy


I spend so much time in airports I think I should be paying rent. For 23 years I have hopscotched around the globe as an independent sales and executive development coach, teaching the staff of large multinationals how to sharpen their professional talents and realize their full potential.

Before I can be a good teacher, however, I must first be a good student. Once I’m in the boardroom, the language of sales is the same no matter if I’m in Albuquerque or Zurich.


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Steve Giglio Authors Article in Sales & Marketing Managment

Steve penned an article recently for Sales and Marketing Management, providing tips for “Selling in a Recession.”  His insights include advice such as, “Re-underwrite your business in a recession scenario,” and “Overcommunicate with your clients and employees.”

To view the article, please click HERE.