In this episode, we’re taking a good look at the Development section of the latest Talent Magazine from The Center for Sales Strategy. Here to help Matt determine the best ways to go about developing your people are Stephanie Downs and Kelly George.
Together, Stephanie and Kelly highlight some amazing points to think about, like:
- Why employees want to be coached rather than managed.
- How AI tools may soon be helping leaders build personalized learning paths through the identification of employee skill gaps.
- And, finally, why you should never assume that development is solely for new hires alone.
Employees Want to Be Coached NOT Managed
“So, Kelly,” Matt says, kicking off the conversation. “What are some of the biggest trends when it comes to development? In other words, are there any major areas of focus right now that you're seeing or that you're passionate about?”
“Absolutely, Matt,” Kelly says. “I am passionate about a couple of things that we're seeing. For me personally, it's all about feedback and recognition right now, and this is for both leaders and their teams.
“So, one of the development trends that we saw in our research this past year is that employees really want to be coached rather than managed, and recognition and feedback are really becoming the top priority they should be.
“Another thing I'm super excited about is the increasing number of organizations who are encouraging peer-to-peer feedback and recognition, providing that culture where there's support and collaboration. And we know what that does to support teamwork.
“Just here at The Center for Sales Strategy, our High Five Fridays are such a big hit each week. That’s where we give and receive shoutouts with our peers to appreciate and acknowledge all the things that we've done that week.”
“Yeah, that's a great one,” Matt says. “And I'm glad that you brought up leaders as being just as important. Because I sometimes think that leaders get the short end of the stick when it comes to development.
“It's like the leaders make sure everyone else is getting developed, and don’t focus enough on themselves.”
Exploring Leadership Mindset
“Stephanie, you have a piece in the new Talent Magazine dedicated to exploring what we call the leadership mindset,” Matt says. “Could you explain what we mean when we talk about the ‘leadership mindset,’ maybe even give a few tips that might help the leaders that are listening better assess how they can adapt or evolve or change based on the challenges that they're facing these days?”
“For sure,” Stephanie says. “Let me give a little setup first, and then I'll give a couple of suggestions or tips.
“We know that leaders are busy, right? I mean, they have a lot going on. They're managing a lot of complex scenarios, there's a lot coming at them at any given day. And it’s really important that leaders have the right mindset in each of those situations they're facing or that their organizations are facing.
“When you think about leadership mindset, there's really two key components to that there's talent, and then there's a mindset, and both of those work together.
“As they work together, they determine how leaders really see and interpret different situations. So, think about it this way:
- Mindset is really the instructions that you give yourself to handle the situation.
- Talent is the natural ability to actually succeed or to achieve or that you use in those scenarios.
“Having the right mindset, but also having the right talent, is really important.
“When you think about a situation that you may be facing as a sales leader, maybe it's something like you want to be a more of a people-first organization. Something that you could think about is, ‘Okay, what is one of your top talents that you naturally have that’s related to people, and how can you use that talent as you're developing that mindset?’
“And you would want to ask yourself a few key questions. You would want to ask yourself:
- What is the mindset that you want to be known for in this people-first scenario?
- What are the instructions that you could give yourself that are most essential to ensuring that you're constantly or consistently demonstrating that mindset?
- And then, what is the impact on performance that you should see if you succeed?
“As I said, it's really important that, when you're thinking about establishing the right leadership mindset, that you're also pulling from an area of a top talent as you're trying to execute or succeed in that area.”
“That's excellent,” Matt says. “I love the instructions that you give yourself. That's such a descriptive way of making it real.”
The Current (and Future) Impact of AI on Development
“We can't talk about any subject these days without mentioning the impact of AI,” Matt says. “That's no different here.
“When it comes to development, how do you see AI being included or folded into the development of employees? Is there anything that you're either seeing happening now or hearing about?”
“When I think about this, it may be a little bit of a twist on what you're asking,” Stephanie says. “This is obviously such a big topic, but when you think about the learning and development of people, what I see happening, or what I see even what we're doing as a company, is thinking about how do we help salespeople sell smarter, how do we help salespeople sell faster, how do we help develop them in their roles and coach and train?
“And one of the things that we're doing at The Center for Sales Strategy, a little bit of a teaser, is to have a tool on our website that really helps salespeople make connections with prospects better, more efficiently, faster.
“There's a lot of benefits when it comes to getting better at the sales process. It really is more about themselves taking ownership and learning and developing in their role. But it also helps leaders coach their people better at that part of the process.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” Matt says. “Kelly? Anything to add?”
“Like Stephanie said, we are only getting started” Kelly says. “It's just such baby steps right now.
“But I was working with a seller the other day, their organization, a national media company, is using AI to help empower their proposals, making sure that there is a piece for every service and offering that they have...and it's been a huge help to all of those new sellers.
“One other cool thing I've been seeing too, regarding development with AI, is how to help measure or check in on employee sentiment. So, what that could look like is there's a chat box or a virtual assistant that's offering guidance to employees on training materials or how to connect with a learning resource or just making sure that they are supported in navigating all of the different platforms.
“I think, also just helping identify skill gaps and using AI for personalized learning paths is going to be another powerful way that we'll see AI come in the play with development as well.”
Matt says, “I read an article, I don't remember where, but it was talking about how you might think about AI as just being your full-time coach, your full-time assistant, your full-time extra set of hands.
“If I wanted to get better at swimming and I had a swim coach that could constantly be looking at my swimming and telling me how I could be more efficient and more effective in the water, then I would get better because of that, right? The AI wouldn't do it for me, but the AI would be able to give me coaching on how I could get better.
“I think that that is one of the areas of development. Imagine if someone hired a coach, a sales coach or a leadership coach that was always available. Now, you’ve got to make sure the AI is good and you got to make sure the AI is giving you good coaching.
“But, if you did have confidence in it, then there's a lot of benefits that could come. I think we're early days, as they say. It's only going to get better than it is now.”
The Many Benefits of Strengths-Based Coaching
“So, Kelly,” Matt says. “In the recent Talent Magazine, you talked about strength coaching. Speaking of coaching, can you briefly explain what that is, why organizations should explore talent-based feedback in general as well as sales coaching?”
Kelly says, “Strength-based coaching is really focusing first on identifying and understanding our strengths, and then how we leverage those strengths to increase performance.
“We're looking at our innate strengths rather than solely focusing on weaknesses or areas that we want to improve.
“So, Matt, in the case study that you mentioned, our client, who is a director of sales at a national media company, uses talent assessments to identify the top talents of their new hires and then creates a customized onboarding plan with strength development coaching.
“From the outset, their new hires are set up for success. They have clarity about their talents. They also have these very actionable strategies to play to those strengths immediately as they're onboarding, so they can achieve their goals and overcome challenges and obstacles.
“I think talent-based feedback is a game changer for so many reasons, but some of my favorites are that it has a positive focus, it's very empowering, and it's very goal-directed.
“So, when we use talent-based feedback and strength coaching, we're helping individuals take ownership of their strengths and use those effectively to achieve their goals.
“In a nutshell, we're basically shifting the feedback mindset from problem-oriented thinking to a growth focus, and that's what I love about it.
“It was really fun doing that case study.”
Talent + Fit x Investment = Growth
“One of the things that we know through research is that too many people, way too many people, are not receiving regular feedback,” Matt says. “I can't imagine what that is like having to do your job and not knowing if you're doing it well.
“But what we learned from the article in the Talent Magazine is only one in four receive meaningful feedback, at most four times a year and, in many cases, less than four times a year. Three out of four aren't receiving feedback hardly at all.
“How do you square that? What's going on? What are the most dangerous ramifications of not doing that?
“Yeah, what a missed opportunity,” Stephanie says. “One of the things we talk about a lot at The Center for Sales Strategy is the growth formula, really understanding that ‘talent, plus fit, times investment equals growth.’
“And when you break those down they are:
- Talent: the innate abilities for the role that you're hiring
- Fit: fit for the position, for the role, for the organization
- Investment: coaching and development
“Providing feedback is part of the investment piece! And when all of that's done well, there's growth in the individual and the organization.
“So, a couple of thoughts on the actual feedback part of the development piece. When it's not happening, you risk a lot of things.
“You risk the lack of loyalty in the work, in the person not being loyal to the organization. You risk the perception of not being cared about, and we all know that when people feel that way, they're more likely to leave an organization. And it impacts culture; it impacts employee engagement.
“Ultimately, that all impacts revenue performance.
“So, find those opportunities, maybe it's in one-on-ones each week. A great opportunity for feedback is being in the field with salespeople and watching what they're doing when they're in front of clients or on Zoom calls or whatever the case is.
“When you get the opportunity for the feedback make sure that it's specific, that it's in the moment, and that you're providing it on a consistent and frequent basis.
“And always follow the cadence of a five to one ratio of providing feedback: five positives to one constructive feedback.
It's shocking to me that there are many leaders who are not providing feedback on a regular basis. You're missing that investment piece in the growth formula in a big way.
“Yeah, it was so shocking to me as well,” Kelly says. “It's just difficult to even wrap our mind around, if I had anything to say, I would just say, ‘Just do it.’
“Whatever you have to do, just do it. Get it on your calendar, make a note of it. Do that in the moment, on the spot coaching. We know that if the feedback is vague or it's delayed, it's not going to be as impactful. So, make it happen.”