StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article

Want To Be A Great Team Leader? Look On The Bright Side

Some entrepreneurs are great at managing their money or developing new deals with clients. But sometimes, they lack skills in the leadership department, mainly because they’ve not had time to practice them elsewhere in their lives. Some people believe that you’ve either got leadership skills or you haven’t. But, as it turns out, there are plenty of ways to improve your leadership skills that don’t require you to totally change your character. Here’s how.

Be An Optimist

It’s hard being a great leader while believing that the world is getting worse. It kind of takes a bit of the joy out of running a team of people and striving for a better life in the future. As a result, great leaders tend to be optimists in general, and this helps to keep their staff upbeat and on track. Positive thinking tends to go hand-in-glove with higher team output and individual productivity.

Get To Know The People Working For You

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Photo courtesy of Chris Potter at via flickr

With the rise of internet working, it’s becoming more and more difficult for managers to get the know the people who work for them. But just because a lot of your interactions are digital, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Even if you’re just employing contractors on a temporary basis, ask them how their lives are going, whether they’re enjoying their work and what they want to achieve in the future. All these questions can help bring a team together even if they seem unimportant at the time.

Get Excited About Going To Work

In every job, there’s something worth getting excited about. That’s because all jobs are fundamentally about serving other people and helping to meet their needs. Even if your business does something mundane, like clean out septic tanks, it’s still possible to get enthused about what you do. After all, who wants a malfunctioning septic tank? It’s funny: the longer you work at something, the more passionate you tend to become about it. The best way to really get into a management role is to embrace it and make it an important part of your life.

Update Your Skills

The science of management has come along a long way since you last went to school and a lot has been learned. As a result, it might be a good idea to head back to school temporarily to update your skills. Thanks to things like FPU online degrees, there’s no longer any need to go to a physical college or school to learn more about the craft. It can now all be done over the internet meaning that you can organize your training around your day job.

Find A Mentor

Leading a team is never easy or a process because people are complex creatures. As a result, it can sometimes help to get a mentor to help you through the harder times – and there will be tougher times. Mentors are great for giving advice and well as sharing stories about the leadership trials they faced and how they got through them.

How a Sales Manager Can Think Like a Leader

Almost every sales manager was, at one point in their career, a peak-performing sales professional, top dog on the team. When promoted, everything changed—except, perhaps, them.

This presents a problem because managing and leading a sales team requires a completely different mindset from selling. Yet what sales managers have to rely on are the instincts and competencies they developed when they were selling.

That’s why, above and beyond any specific techniques they learn, every sales manager needs to re-frame their thinking around leadership mindsets so their decisions will be driven by what’s good for the team not what’s good from a salesperson’s perspective. Here are some examples of what that means.

War #1: Player vs. Observer

Every great salesperson I’ve known wanted to be in on the action, down on the field, making the plays. That strong drive is what made them great and brought them stellar results.

But sales managers are not put in the job to keep selling. They are put into the job so they can help others become the best salespeople they can be. Great sales managers see themselves as observers and coaches, not players.

This switch is perhaps the hardest of all. But it’s only by observing that a sales manager can properly evaluate what the problem is and offer suggestions to a rep that will lead to lasting improvements.

War #2: Results vs. Inputs

Sales is a results-oriented profession. Every month you and your salespeople get judged and paid on sales results. So a company culture that is focused on results is healthy and necessary.

The irony for sales managers is that a constant push to reach a sales number can keep them and their teams so focused on end goals that they miss opportunities to identify problems with skills and processes and improve future results.

To do the latter, they have to focus on the inputs that produce sales process results, such as:

  • How well reps identify customer needs and prioritizing the customer’s solution criteria
  • How well reps understand and can explain your solution’s competitive advantages and weaknesses
  • Whether reps can shape a proposal or presentation that presents the best possible case to the customer

War #3: Tasks vs. People

Effective salespeople have high energy. They like to do stuff, they like to complete tasks. It’s what contributed to their success as salespeople. “Getting things done” sounds like a good attribute for a manager too, doesn’t it?

Not so fast. A sales manager who is overly task oriented can spend too much time making sure mundane To Dos get done while ignoring the development needs of their salespeople.

Sales management is a contact sport. It’s about the relationships you develop with your sales reps. So instead of focusing only on completing tasks, focus on your people. That means filling your time with coaching and helping your reps create their personal development plans. It means figuring out what motivates and demotivates each of your reps.

Developing Your Leadership Mindsets

How many of these instinct wars did you identify with? I’ve met very few sales managers who had problems with all of them, but have also met almost no one who has none of these issues. As the classic cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So the secret is finding out which sales instincts pose the biggest problem for you and developing a better leadership mindset.

About the Author

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: Ten Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top (Greenleaf Book Group, March 2017). Kevin is President of TopLine Leadership, Inc., a leading sales and sales management training company.

Better Productivity: When Lethal Work Drives People Berserk

In a world which demands more and more of us on both a personal and a business-based level, it’s no wonder that stress levels are so high and health issues are arising in numbers we’ve never encountered before. The problem is that we try to function into a mechanical and robotic way within business, but the machinery on which we depend is very much alive and very much human.

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Mental health care is important. That’s something we forget all too easily, and your company might be suffering because of it. Neglecting your employees is a certified way to decrease your organisation’s level of productivity, even if you don’t realise the potential for increased efficiency. Your business can be productive, but it depends on your workers being viewed as more than cogs in the system. Here’s some advice on ensuring your employees feel a little less overwhelmed by their workload and actually end up working more productively.

Value your employees.

This sentence can mean so many different things, but it all comes down to the same core piece of advice: treat your employees well, and they’ll treat the company well. It’s quite a simple technique, but it’s one which could have countless benefits for your organisation, if you truly do learn how to communicate and reward your workers.

For one, you could learn to hone in on people’s individual or collective strengths. Different people want different things from a workplace, and the sooner you realise that, the sooner you can start to make better workers of the people you employ. As an example, you could do something to which so many businesses within so many industries fall foul and stop devaluing the female employees within your organisation.

A smart machine uses its components to the best of their ability, so the machine which is your business needs to do the same. Women and men within your company may have different strengths, so utilise those skills. Workplace studies have shown male workers to be very competitively aggressive, whereas female workers often opted for collaborative and communicative approaches. Of course, some employees will always fall into one side or the other, so understand how each worker thrives within your company – or delegate that task to management.

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Play an active role in safeguarding the mental wellbeing of your employees.

Mindfulness is a technique that we should all be practicing, but I think this becomes more relevant than ever in a high-stress, fast-paced workplace. Simple meditation and breathing exercises are concepts that you could suggest to your employees, as they can calm an anxious, overactive mind.

You could also get CISM help from Health Assured, and you’ll not only be caring for your employees, but you’ll be showing them that you care about their wellbeing too. On-site counselling could completely change the mindsets of your workers. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to. Perhaps, as a business owner, you do too. Thinking of the minds of all those working within a company offers nothing but upsides, as a level business head can only be achieved through a level head in general. Remember, you hired people and not robots.

Make the workplace fun.

It’s no secret that our surroundings greatly affect our mood. The final thing I can suggest to create healthy minds is to foster them in a healthy office environment. Ditch the blindingly-bright white lighting and the dull, dreary grey that may have swept across your office. Offer something interesting (it could be something as a simple as a TV or as crazy as an ice cream stand) for employees to sink their teeth into during breaks, add a little colour to the office, and create a clear divide between work and relaxation time.

How Project Management Apps Are Fostering Remote Working

The inclusion of remote workers into your team is as advantageous as it is challenging; perhaps what we can find particularly interesting is that this trend is not just restricted to successful conglomerates with international interests but early stage companies who are still trying to find their feet. The inter-connectivity of computers worldwide and the advent of project management apps and time-tracking software has made this possible.

It’s also pertinent to note that remote working not only solves the problem of access to highly skilled personnel but it has come to be seen as the perfect solution for employees who have to brave the long-hour drives to work, thereby reducing their stress levels. They are less exposed to the drama that comes with working in a “traditional” workspace, leading to greater productivity on the long run.

The benefits for telecommuters also include a significantly lower monthly gas bill, the opportunity to keep an eye on the kids, job satisfaction, peace of mind etc. To buttress this point, The New York Times, reports on an experiment carried out by a Stanford Economic Professor – Nicholas Bloom; with results that should not be ignored by the H.R department. The experiment showed that remote workers worked 9.5% longer than their office colleagues but that’s not all. There was also a 13% increase in productivity from the virtual team. As you can clearly see, it’s not just workers who get to enjoy the benefits, corporations have a lot to gain by instigating work-from-home policies.

The obvious benefit for companies would, of course, be the significantly reduced cost because they are no longer limited by distance in sourcing for skilled workers. The internet has made it possible for managers to recruit workers at an affordable rate. John Meyer, in a Forbes article, puts the total savings for companies at 30%.The job of the human resource manager becomes a lot easier as employee turnover rates are down and the constant battle with absentee employees becomes a non-issue.

As the years go by, the tradition of working from brick and mortar offices seems less and less attractive to millennials especially but like was stated in the opening paragraph, the remote-working trend also brings with it, its set of challenges.

Project managers want to be able to keep tabs on the progress of all team members, they want to know where everyone is at with respect to tasks assigned to them and if you are managing a team of 30-50 people, that’s no mean feat. They owe a depth of gratitude to apps that have made the process of managing virtual teams less complex. Project management software helps keep the entire process not just organized but ultimately promotes greater efficiency. What’s not to love about collaborative software that allows you send and receive documents from team members, or time tracking software that helps you stay on schedule?

Collaborative management tools have gone further to shorten the distance between virtual team members in addition to fostering productivity and efficiency.

Infographic courtesy of

7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

William A. Schiemann

The Three Keys to Employee and Company Fulfillment

Who wouldn’t like to be more fulfilled? If you’re not feeling totally fulfilled, you’re not alone. Even if you are fulfilled, the odds are that many of your managers and employees are not, according to new study conducted by Metrus Institute. In fact, few Millennials and only some Gen Xers describe their lives as fulfilled.

In the study, life fulfillment is defined as achieving one’s dreams and creating a lifestyle that brings exceptional happiness and inner peace. The good news is that you can control a good deal of this, and even more importantly, you can positively influence the fulfillment, productivity and retention of people in your organization. Bottom line, there are three big factors that drive fulfillment: actions aligned with vision; the right capabilities and engagement or passion.

Aligned Vision

First, do your employees see a vision and a sense of purpose for your organization, and most importantly, is it synced with their own vision and values? Fulfilled people not only have a purpose or vision of the future, but it is also aligned with their job and employer. They have a clear sense of where they are headed (or would like to head) in life, and how their current job fits into that broader framework. Unfulfilled people struggle with misalignment between who they are and what they do every day. People who are not aligned with your organization’s purpose or vision are either biding their time or actually working at cross-purposes.

Most people I have coached can actually articulate such a vision when they take a little time out of busy, programmed lives to think about it. Goals could include discovering the next great drug, having a large loving family, becoming a vice president, achieving financial security, having great friendships, finding a life partner, and yes, even becoming a CEO. When those goals are aligned with the organization, we see higher productivity and business results.

Leaders do themselves a disservice when they don’t understand people’s personal vision and values and how they jibe with the company’s vision and core values or culture. When the two are highly aligned, we see that spark where employees are rowing hard in the same direction to execute the business strategies quickly and effectively. When that happens, you don’t need a lot of rules because people make judgments that are in sync with what the business needs and how the business operates to get there.

In hiring talent at any level, especially senior managers and executives, this ‘fit’ is critical. When fit is low, it is like a rowing team in which every person in rowing at a different pace or even in a different direction. A good test of this is to ask about priorities. In survey research that we do at the Metrus Institute, one of the telling questions is how people view different priorities. Highly aligned organizations execute their strategies rapidly, with little waste, while others look like they are rowing in gelatin.


The second key ingredient is Capabilities. It asks the question, who are you and what do you need to succeed? What are your skills, experiences, knowledge and abilities? And, are those capabilities sufficient to succeed in your current and desired roles? While it is great having life goals, without the building blocks, they are unlikely to be achieved. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had skills and interests in both piano and political science. Despite an ability that allowed her, later in life, to play on stage with Yo-Yo Ma at a televised event in Washington, she realized early on that she could not make a career as a virtuoso pianist. But she could be a virtuoso political figure. She had all the building blocks for that with the right education, credentials and experience.
Amazingly, one of the paradoxes of the corporate world is that mature organizations often choke off the capabilities needed to succeed. Today, the most important resource for most organizations is the right talent to get the job done. And yet over four-fifths of CEOs I talk to decry their talent pipeline—they don’t have the people in place for succession or critical backup for key roles.

Talent fit is also important. Here is where fulfillment becomes important. People who are being asked to learn new skills or knowledge in areas that are not very interesting to them or don’t fit into their life or career plan will find excuses to avoid the training or not absorb it in a meaningful way. It you are not a technology geek, picture being asked to sit in a software class. You could do it if you were being pushed to do it, but you wouldn’t love it or retain much. The same holds for great leadership skills. People who accept promotions to managers primarily for pay or position, but not because they like bringing out the best in people, usually fail in the long run. They need to be good leaders that others will follow, not just because they have a title.


The third component of fulfillment is Engagement. Have you ever met a successful person who didn’t seem to be totally absorbed in what he or she does? All of the highly fulfilled people that I researched had a passion for their mission and purpose in life, along with the actions needed to get there. They loved what they did and continuously learned from it.

What doesn’t work is having a dream, but not enjoying the journey. I interviewed a Millennial who said he wanted to be rich and that he could have taken a job on Wall Street. I asked why he didn’t and he said he didn’t want to work 90 hours a week. He was still looking (unsuccessfully) for other ways to “get rich”. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers quotes the research of Anders Ericsson that shows that many of the champions we admire have become successful through hours and hours of practice – 10,000 in fact. That’s a lot of time invested in something if you don’t enjoy it. It’s hard to picture tennis great Roger Federer or Olympian gold medalist Michael Phelps being successful if they didn’t enjoy tennis or swimming and were just doing it to be famous.

Optimizing Your Talent Investments

One of the continuing gaps for most companies is strong people optimization skills—obtaining the most benefit from the investments in finding and developing people and their talent. In tests we do of leadership, fewer than 20% of leaders have highly aligned, capable and engaged employees, resulting in not only sub-par performance, but often poorer quality, lower customer satisfaction and higher turnover. And, this finding occurs in nearly every organization. The best managers hire people with goals and values that are aligned with the organization, help them develop skills that are in sync with both career and organizational needs, and bringing out the passion in their people. Keep in mind that most new talent in your organization is 100% engaged on the day they are hired, but if you are like most businesses, engagement drops significantly in the first two years, often sooner. Managers who cannot optimize the people investments they are given need to be retooled or replaced.

Here are a couple of things you can do to find out if your people are being fulfilled and as a result performing at their best in your organization:

  • Conduct a survey or audit of all of your managerial units on alignment, capabilities and engagement. Engagement alone is not enough if people’s priorities, values and capabilities are not aligned.
  • Do a quick check survey or pulse across your organization to see how many people understand the 2-4 key business priorities or imperative. You may be shocked at gaps in this understanding, even at very senior levels.
  • Invest in hiring the right people—those capable of being aligned and engaged in your culture in addition to having the right skills. It is better to wait longer to hire someone who meets these criteria than to spend your life correcting misfits.

Now go optimize your talent — it’s the engine that drives strategy execution. And don’t forget about your own fulfillment!

About the Author

William A. SchiemannWilliam A. Schiemann, Ph.D. is CEO of Metrus Group. He is a thought leader in human resources, employee engagement, and fulfillment and author of Fulfilled! Critical Choices: Work, Home, Life, scheduled to be released October 1, 2016. For more information follow Dr. Schiemann on Twitter, @wschiemann and connect with him on LinkedIn at