Are You Developing Your Emerging Leaders?

BY C. Lee Smith
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Do you have emerging leaders in your organization? Do you know what aspects you should be looking for in order to identify and coach these individuals? In a recent Manage Smarter podcast, we tapped into the expertise of Eddie Turner, author and leadership coach, to learn more about this topic.

How to Identify Emerging Leaders

Without great leaders, an organization is doomed. We need these folks to develop product ideas, create brilliant strategies, and energize team members. In the past, members of the C‑suite focused on how smart team members seemed when they selected individuals to groom for leadership posts. With a high IQ, Turner says, people are fast tracked into the best education. They get rewarded for generating great ideas and developing products.

Some employees may be naturally skilled in a particular area. They might also have a huge interest in developing that talent through formal and informal education. And they’ll quickly attract attention in an organization.

The innovative nature of Steve Jobs is a perfect example. This completely brilliant person would not compromise when it came to product design. His refusal to compromise and his attention to the smallest details resulted in some of the most beautiful and easy-​to-​use products ever developed.

If you’ve read any of the biographies of the man, you also know he wasn’t easy to work with or for. Leaders who come across as tyrants these days will have trouble holding onto employees. These aren’t the kind of folks you want to move into a management position.

Organizational Disconnect

When leaders sometimes lose touch with how well they are doing in helping team members, a disconnect in the organization develops. In our Voice of the Sales Manager survey, 45% of sales managers say their company has a personalized coaching program in place. However, 60% of reps told us, in our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, that they only have coaching twice a month, and 30% of the meeting time involves reviewing their sales numbers. These activities don’t translate into personalized coaching. And they don’t indicate the kind of emerging leaders' practices that will help organizations move into hyper-​growth mode.

Four Ways to Improve Communications

We can probably all agree that effective leaders excel at communicating. Too many of us think this communication is one-​sided: from the leader to the team members. To truly engage and motivate your employees, communication must be a two-​way street. Your team members are not robots. They want to be heard. They want to express their ideas.

Eddie Turner tells us that you must be able to listen well. If you’re having trouble with this skill, consider how it works on the four levels Turner has identified.

The first level of listening is how many of us behave when we’re overloaded. We hear the sound of the other person talking. But we’re not paying attention. If they asked us what they just said, we’d have no clue.

The second level of listening is very common in the sales profession. Your reps have been trained to deliver a message. During a prospect meeting, they wait for a gap in the conversation. At that point, they interject what they’ve been wanting to say, without thinking about whether their comment fits with what the prospect is saying. 

In the third level of listening, you may be paying attention for all of the wrong reasons. That’s because you’re trying to make the conversation all about you. If a team member talks about the great dinner they had at the new restaurant in town, a manager might respond by saying they’d eaten there over a month ago and got the best table in the place because they know the owner. This is the art of one-​upmanship. When you engage in conversation like this, you’re insinuating that you are better than the person you’re talking with. Team members will quickly peg you as a snob or a know-it-all.

When you use all of your senses in a meeting, you’ve reached the fourth level of listening. Remember that your mission, as a leader and manager, in most conversations, is to gather information. Sure, you may have had the same restaurant experience as a team member or prospect who is currently telling you their story. Keep that to yourself.

When the person is done talking, ask another question, instead of offering your opinion. The person might offer up information you wanted to get out of them. By letting them speak, you’ve empowered, instead of irritated them.

Real World Application

We asked Turner how emerging sales leaders can get the most out of their team. First, he says, they should know your product in and out. With that knowledge, they’ll understand how it will serve every prospect their reps work with. The other aspect that sales professionals must master is customer service. Sure, you might have an entire department dedicated to that task. However, every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to delight them. Today, consumers have grown accustomed to grumpy customer service agents. They brace themselves for the hour-​long wait time they’ll endure on the phone before they get a chance to speak with a real person. With outstanding customer service, you’ll differentiate yourself. Remember that the motto of Amazon has long been to delight every customer through every transaction. That attitude contributes to why customers return to the site.

As you coach your emerging leaders and their reps to adopt a similar attitude, your organization will benefit in the same way.