As a VP or Director of Sales, chances are, you got your position because you were a really good seller. You knew how to connect with buyers and you got people to say yes. You crushed targets, you made a good amount of money and you felt good about yourself as a superstar. So you got promoted and then you found yourself with a team. Now, here you are with a team of people who call you their boss, or their boss’s boss; people who want to do a good job to get your approval; people for whom you’re responsible.
Research shows that employees are happier when their boss is technically competent, and it actually drives good performance. Knowing your way around the block is great, but it takes so much more than that to be an effective leader.
Being a good boss isn’t a chance occurrence, according to The McQuaig Institute. It’s a result of systemic planning. In a 2016 survey, the talent development organization discovered that in companies where leaders are “very effective,” 79% of new leaders receive leadership training.
But, wait—maybe you never got that training, so you don’t how to be a good boss. Or maybe you did get leadership training, but you still aren’t sure how to be a good boss. Or perhaps you just want to hone in on what great leaders are doing, so you can do right by your team. Regardless, here are some best practices to consider – some more obvious than others, but all proven to make your life and your work (and the lives and work of your team members) better:
As a leader, you’re inevitably going to have to deliver constructive criticism to your team members. When doing so, take a note from Sheryl Sandberg, and just be honest.
Kim Scott, co-founder of Candor, Inc. and former Google employee, shared a perfect example of how her former boss, Sheryl Sandberg, successfully delivered honest feedback after a presentation. Kim now says that “radical candor” is the secret to being a good boss.
If someone is not performing or if they make a mistake, use it as a learning opportunity and tell them. If someone has excuses as the day is long, call them out on it. Now to be clear, I’m not talking about being a dick. Don’t be a dick. But during a one-on-one, when asking about the status of an account, if things are not where they need to be, discuss it. And name the excuses for what they are. It will not be easy, but it’s your job and it’s the right thing to do. Avoiding the truth doesn’t make it go away.
2.Don’t publicly shame.
This one should be obvious, I know, but some of the smartest and most extraordinary people I have worked with and for repeatedly threw team members under the bus in open settings. And here’s the thing: It didn’t work. Ever. Even if you are really angry because someone didn’t know something that you figured was totally and completely obvious, or even if they royally screwed up something that could have resulted in your next million dollar contract and now requires the team to start over with the next lead, shaming an employee is never the answer. Check yourself. Bite your tongue. Hold back. Repeat after me: Do not shame. It makes people feel stupid and it doesn’t inspire change nor does it get you the results that you want.
Fire someone if you must – it needs to happen sometimes – but don’t publicly shame anyone because you’re angry.
3.Align compensation with great performance.
This is a good one. How often have things happened and you just wanted to throw some money at the problem, or not throw money at the problem? Me too.
But the truth is that you have a quota, you likely have a board (or a boss who is a stressed-out CEO), and you need to hit your numbers. Think about what it will take to get there and create the incentives to make your team work harder and, more importantly, smarter.
Make sure rewards are in line with what you want them to do. In my experience, creating tailored compensation plans works really well. Want more deals to close?
- Pay more for SQLs set up by sales development reps.
- Have a price sensitive customer profile? Give your reps the ability to offer 10% off if the deal is signed by X date, assuming certain deal criterion are met.
- Create accelerators for your account execs so they’re further motivated to crush their numbers.
Notice the little things. I have to admit, I’m bad at this, but I have learned from others how important it is to hone in on what matters to your team. Ask your team members how they’re doing during your one-on-ones, and actually listen to the answers. Did they get a new puppy? Did they move? Do they have a sick family member? Is their birthday coming up? Note when it is, and take them out to lunch.
It’s nice to be noticed, and a little emotional relationship investment can be helpful to have in the bank. When an opportunity arises that requires working late, or taking one for the team, you’re likely to get more from people who feel heard, valued and noticed.
5.Set them up for success.
Don’t expect your team to be mind readers. Tell them what a good job looks like, and then set them up to do it. Don’t tell them that activities need to be tracked without a CRM system to track them in. Acknowledge good work publicly. Remember their work-anniversary dates (they will) and acknowledge them. When they have a sick child at home, tell them to work from home.
You’re going to get more out of them with these small gestures than you think.
I recently had a transition with my nanny who was the longtime caretaker for my young daughter and the only one she had known outside of family. My boss, our CEO Jake Dunlap, told me to work from home until things were settled. It turns out I didn’t need to work from home, but you can bet that he got my increased loyalty because he took two seconds to tell me that it was okay to deal with what was going on.
6.Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Taking care of you is a great way to be equipped to take care of others. Don’t know where to start? See our blog post on “Three Ways to Make 2017 Your Least Stressful and Most Fulfilling Year.”
Learn how to connect with your team
If you’re still struggling to connect with your team on a deeper level, it’s crucial that you take action. Studies have shown time and time again that poor leadership results in less-than-stellar performance, as well as low employee retention. Want to learn more about how Skaled can help? Let’s talk!
Deb Berman is a Principal at Skaled. She has spent the last 10+ years working for hyper-growth SaaS startups including Buddy Media and Curalate. She can be reached at [email protected]