Building a Sales Team: Part 2 – Be Positive About Feedback

When you hear “feedback,” do you automatically think of it as a negative? Do your employees?

It’s time for a change of attitude. You can and should enjoy delivering feedback. The secret to it is how you hold it.

Be Positive About Feedback

It’s natural to hold feedback as a critical act. It’s not! It’s a contribution to someone’s life and their future. Therefore, you need to change your frame of reference to it. Coaching contributes to someone who can’t develop without you or your wisdom.

Do you think employees don’t want feedback? That’s where you’re wrong. According to a recent PwC study, 60 percent of respondents said they want feedback daily or weekly. That number jumps to more than 70 percent for people under 30. And yet, the same study found that less than 30 percent say they get regular feedback. As you can see, there is an opportunity here for you as a leader.

But just knowing that your team wants feedback is just part of taking a positive attitude toward it. You also have to know why you’re giving it, how to deliver it, and perhaps most importantly, who you are giving it to.

Why Give Feedback

The answer to that, as noted above, is easy…because they want it! But there are underlying motivations for you to provide feedback. First, you are showing you care. Does that matter to employees? Well, ask yourself, does it matter to you whether your supervisor cares? Of course it does. Secondly, you are getting as much as you are giving. Listen to what your employees say. Ask probing questions. Be open to their feedback as much as you want them to be open to yours. Learning what your employees need to succeed is critically important and you can gain that information with feedback sessions. And lastly, you can nip things in the bud if they start going off the rails. People make mistakes. They misinterpret directions. They have a bad day/week. Whatever the reason, when you are regularly delivering (and getting) feedback, you’ll be able to address issues as they arise and not find out about them at the end of the quarter/year.

And speaking of giving feedback regularly…

How to Give Feedback Effectively

There are a LOT of resources you can find that will help improve your feedback skills. But what I’ve found to be most important is that you give it regularly. It is not enough to simply give quarterly reviews where you go over sales goals, tactics, and results. That’s reporting, not feedback.

Start with weekly check-ins. These short one-on-one meetings/calls are an opportunity to learn more about your team members, the challenges they are facing, and what you can do to help. These sessions should very much be a back-and-forth conversation. It’s during these times you will really demonstrate a level of caring that they will appreciate. That appreciation should lead to a degree of loyalty you may not have experienced previously. Stick to these weekly meetings…don’t let them lapse! And if you have to miss one, reschedule it. Don’t just put it off to next week. Again, this shows how important your direct report is to you.

You should still do quarterly meetings with your team. However, there shouldn’t be any surprises since you’ve met weekly. Now you can really dive into their annual goals, their professional desires, and your insight into how they can achieve both. Take these seriously and prepare for them like you would a client meeting. They are that important!

Again, the point is that you are meeting with them on a regular basis as a priority. That will go far toward improving your team’s overall performance and job satisfaction.

Who Is Getting the Feedback

In sales, knowing your audience is critical when delivering your recommendations. The same is true for delivering feedback to your team. My surgeon father always said, “never treat one patient the same as the next. Every person has their own DNA and their own unique protocol to cure.” Apply this to your behavior.

You are dealing with a human life here. A person whose lifeline to growth is in your hands. Get to know your employees so that you can relate to them wherever they are in their lives. Outside pressures can have a big impact on how they conduct themselves at work. Find out what’s going on and how they are handling it.

Direct reports, especially Gen X through Z, want to understand how they can get better. Knowing how each of them “ticks” and what type of feedback will resonate best with them is important. You will determine that over time via the weekly check-ins. Some will want a direct approach…just tell them where they are excelling and where they can improve. Others may want a softer touch. And so many other varieties in between. Keep in mind…it is your job to deliver the feedback so that they receive and respond to it. Be as specific as you can so that the feedback is relatable. Stories/specific examples teach people what their developmental behavior is. From this acknowledgment, you can mutually create a new scorecard of development you and your direct can use constructively going forward.

Can you be positive about feedback? Yes…and so can your team, eventually. As you continue moving your team towards transformational salespeople, transform your attitude about feedback and see what happens!

Changing is Hard; Not Changing is Worse

As a leadership development coach, I’ve found that the strongest leaders don’t resist change, they embrace it. But they also know that changing their own behavior can be a monumental challenge. They realize that if they don’t change/adapt they will become “stuck in their ways.” And you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who considers that a positive attribute of a leader!

Being Ready to Change

In a recent article in the New Yorker magazine, I came across a great article by Joshua Rothman entitled “Are You the Same Person You Used to Be?” He states that “becoming you in some cases means embracing a drama of vulnerability, decision, and transformation; it may also involve a refusal to accept the finitude that’s the flip side of individuality.”

This struck me by its simplicity and truth. Evolving means being vulnerable enough to realize that a current behavior doesn’t serve you anymore. You have to be ready to change. In contrast, being dogmatic and stubborn so that you hold onto this behavior usually doesn’t work out well in the long run.

Determining Why You Need to Change

But changing is not for the lighthearted. Not only does it take time but it requires that you look at things, and yourself, differently. You may need to lean on those around you for honest feedback…and be ready to receive it, even when they reveal something about yourself you don’t want to admit.

I’ve realized this through my own transformation.

Some twenty years ago, seven of my closest friends vehemently said that I often talked too much. If memory serves, I balked at this notion! I believed myself to be an excellent and effective communicator. But they were insistent. And that was the crucial moment…right then, I had to decide if I was going act on their feedback or disregard it and remain the way I was. There was something in their passion for my growth that drove me to accept their direction. I recall saying to myself, “Well, if enough people call you a horse, buy a saddle!”

Since then, I’ve concentrated on being concise in my speaking and writing. I’ve also enjoyed the transformed state I’ve gotten to from this advice as it has allowed me to listen more intently and purposely. And as you know…I am consistently stressing that my clients  listen first before they start selling or convincing.

So my advice to you is this…reflect on something you’d like to change.  Begin your transformative journey by sharing your desire with a few committed friends (and me, if you wish!). Listen to how they respond. And then get into action so that you have a plan that will make this change permanent. Ultimately, you will have to work at it and it may not come easy. But as they say, most good things in life never are.

Enjoy your journey.

Acknowledging Employees Is More Than Just “Atta-boys”

On the shoulders of a recent blog post focused on caring about your employees, to really develop people you must pinpoint positive behavior and let your direct reports know you saw, respected and valued their exact behavior in that moment. Eliminate “atta-boys” from your repertoire…and replace them with heartfelt, genuine acknowledgement. Read more

Managing Summer Time

Summer is a season of vacations, beaches, time with family and other distractions. However, you’ve still got business to manage and clients to satisfy. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, summer presents time management challenges for you and your team. It’s up to you to make sure work gets done. Here are some time management tips to help.

Read more

Two Sure-Fire Leadership Killers

I have been coaching and developing leaders for many years and during that time, I have found two behaviors that are “leadership killers.” They are acts that consistently, no matter who the leader is, weaken their position in the eyes of their reports and lessen their ability to lead. These leadership killers are: wanting to be a friend and orphaning instead of confronting.

Friendly But Not Friends

It’s important to realize/accept the responsibility you have as a leader that you must convey your observations, especially those that are focused on areas where employees can improve. But many times, I see the leader’s desire to be accepted by the direct report, to be considered a comrade and a friend, as something that stands in the way of delivering those observations. I counsel my clients that while it is perfectly fine to be friendly, you cannot act as their friend or they will not take your input seriously. You are the leader they are following into battle and as such, you must separate yourself so that they count on you for honest, direct input that isn’t mired in emotion.

Don’t Leave Them Orphaned

Providing the input described above can be difficult.  And so, some leaders will avoid the “tough” conversation with a direct report. Avoiding this conversation sets a precedent; it says it’s okay to keep doing what you are doing, it’s fine…when it’s really not. In a sense, you are orphaning your direct report by not interceding and letting them continue on a path towards failure without your guidance.

People you coach can be just as skeptical, jaded and fearful of being led as you are to lead them. takes courage to lead! But the big question is will you deliver frank, constructive input that will eventually help them achieve their goals, and those of your department, or will you simply set them to sea without a compass?  If you constantly choose the latter, you can expect to develop a team that will not take your orders/input to heart and will time and time again blaze their own trail.  That’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Keep interceding. Give them what they need, even if it’s not what they want. You will become a stronger leader and people with thank you for it.


Seven Reasons to Change!

As you grow as a leader, you will change, whether you like it or not! How you change and the impact that has on your development, your team and you future is up to you. Sometimes, the changes are requested by others who see your potential, even if you don’t. I work with many people in this capacity. Here’s a quick video where I explain why YOU wanting to change is the first, most important step:

7 Reasons to Change

There are a lot of reasons to change. Here are seven that I’ve found can be strong motivators:

  1. Someone, or some people believe in you: you’ve got a team of people who see more in you than you might see.
  2. Trust people who care about you, beyond your own opinion: the person who desires this program for you wants to contribute to you, don’t get in their way.
  3. Be grateful versus critical with this opportunity: WAY too many of us are not grateful often enough. An executive development program is an investment in your growth, not a scarlet letter, ever.
  4. Think about how many executives and potential peers of yours will never will get this chance/investment in them?: think about this, there are people around you who may have plateaued and have been passed by, don’t let this happen to you.
  5. You can’t do it alone: it takes a village to demonstrably change behaviors. It must be done carefully and professionally.
  6. It’s not about being right with your current behavior, its about being effective as an executive who can lead others.
  7. It’s healthy to stretch yourself: there will always be something to get better at, seize the opportunity now.

Use these reasons to be straight with yourself regarding what might be thwarting your adventure and how these could impact your growth as a leader.

Want to discuss changes you want to make? Contact me at 

Barriers to Achieving Objectives, aka No Client Left Behind

Recently, a client lamented that he and his firm lost a multi-million dollar order. The CEO, who had not been involved in the process, stopped the expected transaction…after my client had invested a year’s worth of relationship building with the two execs that reported to the CEO. Hence the phrase; no client left behind!

I felt terrible for my client when I heard the news. As we deconstructed the crime, we realized there were THREE other executives who factored into the decision making process that were not met with, let alone tucked in. We’ve all heard and respected the phrase, “Selling starts at ‘No.'” My client didn’t get a chance to hear “No” from many decision makes until it was too late. A great client once said to me “In business, it’s always good to be a little paranoid.” He’s not wrong. In fact, this needs to be an operating principle.

The Money Guy Does The Talking

When you operate from the idea that something can always go wrong, you naturally understand it’s mission critical to determine early on in the process who the decision makers are who will factor into choosing, or not, your product or service. As I explain in the video below, it’s paramount not only to know who these people are but, to meet with them separately. Otherwise, you’ll only hear from the person in the room who makes the most money!

Do not only meet with people in a group. As you meet/vet each decision maker,  you will uncover what’s core to them relative to your recommendation. This will move you closer to a “Yes” and further away from the “No.” The executive will start to get a feeling that their individual wants and goals are being considered, giving them a vested interest in the outcome…not just a group mentality.

Understand Everyone’s Barriers

Many years ago, my first sales manager, Nick, once said to me “You’ve got five minutes to understand what the barriers are to your recommendation…and it’s the first five minutes.” That’s a little too abrupt, but he was correct in that as you initiate relationships with these four to six decision makers, you must understand what barriers could block you early on in the process. As Nick also said, “If you get the objection when you’re closing, it’s too late.” Give yourself a chance early to discover roadblocks and determine how to resolve them.

You’ve got to endear yourself first, then your recommendation, to each decision maker. You will do that by listening first, selling second.  The deeper you understand what’s important to each decision maker the clearer you’ll be in how to communicate and compel them.

Ever get blind-sided by a “silent” decision maker…the person you never knew about who holds the strings? Tell me about it in the comments. – SG

Eight Tips for Calming Warring Teams

“I’ve got to have these two teams work together in harmony but, they’re at each other’s throats now!”

While companies strive for internal harmony among associates, often that’s not realty.  Teams feeling territorial, threatened or jealous take aim at the source of this stress which could be another team. And a power battle ensues.

As a leader, it’s your job to mollify the teams and get them focused on the whole, not just their area. But how do you do that?  I’m glad you asked…

Here are eight essential steps for calming warring teams:

1. Know the compelling challenge

Too often leaders will put their teams together to brainstorm what needs to get fixed. Generally, this is done as a band-aid that often backfires. You must know the core issue that is bifurcating your teams.

2. Know the politics involved

There are always politics. It’s important to read the tea leaves on who is doing what to whom. Who is the leader? Who is the muck-raker? If you can neutralize their efforts, you have made great strides.

3. Meet with each team leader

You do this to establish trust and a clear understanding of their “side” of the issue. This communicates a nice level of empathy and respect. And give you some inside information to stem the tide of confrontation.

4. Is integration possible?

This is not an easy question to ask, but ask it you must. You’ve got to honest with yourself and see the possibility before you can facilitate it in this plenary session. If these teams are just not going to blend well together, find another way to impact the way they work with each other.

5. Prioritize the issues

You won’t solve all the issues at once. So, which of them are having the greatest impact on the teams involved and preventing collaboration. Address those first. As you move further down the list, others may be willing to take on the smaller issues.

6. Determine what issues need to be vented

Politically through this diligence you’ll discover what issues need to be vented to clear the way to a new normal

7. Present clear behaviors that each team must accept

A debate is healthy provided each team understands the ground rules for successful communication. Rule #1: Listen without bias. Rule #2: Do not interrupt someone. Rule #3: Stay open to new ideas and trust each other.

8. Create the “New Normal” with joint authorship

Each team member wants to feel they made a difference and contributed  to the solution. Nothing works better than for each side to co-author how they will operate going forward. Once they realize that they’ve created it, they’ll own it. LET THEM. It’s their show, not yours. Co-authoring is a great action to facilitate to show the entire team how concerned you are for their buy-in and homeostasis.

Is there a ninth…or tenth…tip that has worked for you? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!


It’s Not Me…The Problem Is The Job

Of course it’s not you. The job…that’s the real issue, right? If only your skills were being put to use in a more productive way.

Oh really?

As you develop as an executive, and coach others as well, you will discover that leadership is more about the courage and desire to change than it is about finding blame.

You Have to Want It

To develop yourself, you have to want it. Doesn’t work any other way! Believe me…I’ve seen too many people go through the motions of development but not be fully committed to learning/changing. It’s not worth going through a 360 review or collaborating with a coach unless you TRUST your superior genuinely wants you to grow and advance in your organization.

Trust Them…and You

You also need to TRUST yourself. You need to trust that a part of you knows you need to develop and your boss sees this nascent behavior in you already, they just want to accelerate it for you.

The value of the 360 when done in person, with tailored questions to pinpoint behaviors to strengthen, is a gift of awareness that many executives never get the chance to realize. Hold this feedback as a gift, not a jail sentence.

Are You a Horse?

If enough people call you a horse…buy a saddle. What I mean is, when you get feedback that points to behavior trends, it is the objective evidence you can either a) reject because they just don’t know you well or, b) use to develop yourself. I bet you can guess which option I recommend.

Face it, fifteen people can’t be all wrong, nor can the “job” have done this to you.

Your management team is providing you with your first road map with which to shape into a development plan. Try it, you’ll like it.

Seven Leadership Questions That Show You Care

When a new leader takes over a team, the assessment period begins…on both sides! As a leader, it’s essential to understand this and accept it. Your new team is looking at how YOU act, react and lead to see how much trust they are going to put into you for the long-term. So, before you unpack all your boxes and set up photos around your office, start planning to get to know your team by asking some key questions!

Patience and Interest

Being the “new leader on-the-block” requires patience and the ability to be truly interested in each person’s direction and understanding of where they see the organization going. What is THEIR vision for the future? Taking time to assess this will not only give you some insight but, show that you care about their opinion as you create YOUR vision.

Ask these questions to show your desire to understand and align with your directs:

Seven Questions to Ask Your New Team

  1. What is the next step for our organization?
  2. What’s your opinion of our lead products/services?
  3. What’s our future from this?
  4. Developmentally, where do you see yourself now relative to our company?
  5. Where do you want to be next year at this time?
  6. What would be exciting for you to focus on?
  7. In retrospect, what would you have altered from last year?

These questions give you insight into your direct’s knowledge of the organization and how connected they are to it. Do you have a favorite question you ask?

Try these and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Thanks!