Manage Smarter 04 — Deb Calvert: Building Organizational Strength by Putting PEOPLE First

Featured image for “Manage Smarter 04 — Deb Calvert: Building Organizational Strength by Putting PEOPLE First”

Deb Calvert is the co-​author of the book Stop Selling & Start Leading and author of DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected — one of the "Top 20 Most Highly-​Rated Sales Books of All Time," according to HubSpot.

She is also the President of People First Productivity Solutions and has been named one of the "65 Most Influential Women in Business" by Treeline.

In this episode, Audrey, Lee and Deb discuss:

  • Management sets the culture, and smart management includes making deliberate decisions about the culture
  • Generation Z entering the workforce
  • Sales: making connections with buyers
  • Leadership development
  • Engagement of buyers and followers

Key Takeaways:

  • To build a business, build the people
  • Too many managers are doing the work of front-​line technicians. Too many directors are doing the work of managers. And too many executives are focused on director work, managing functions instead of strategically building for the future.
  • If people are being developed but are not engaged in the work they do, that's only benefiting the competitors they go to work for next. 

Connect with Deb Calvert:

Manage Smarter 04 — Deb Calvert: Building Organizational Strength by Putting PEOPLE First Transcription

­04. Building Organizational Strength by Putting PEOPLE First


Thank you for listening to the Manage Smarter Podcast. Your hosts C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong navigate new ways to hire, develop, and retain talent, helping your team soar at a higher performance. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey:  Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast. We're so pleased that you joined in for this episode. I'm Audrey Strong, Director of Communications for SalesFuel.

Lee:  And I'm C. Lee Smith, the President and CEO of SalesFuel.

Audrey:  We are so pleased today to welcome Deb Calvert to the podcast. Deb, thank you for joining us today.

Lee:  Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. I love what you're doing on the podcast and pretty much everything you do at SalesFuel.

Audrey:  Well, it's a pleasure to have you. You are the president of People First Productivity Solutions, which is a company that embodies everything that you do, people first, yes.

Lee:  People First, I love it, love it.

Audrey:  And co-​author of Stop Selling and Start Leading. And you and Lee have known each other for a long time.

Lee:  A long time.

Deb:  Yeah, decades maybe.

Lee:  And she still speaks to me.

Deb:  It's been a while. We had a little gap and getting reacquainted with you, seeing you speak a couple of times last year, highlight, absolutely.

Lee:  I'm delighted that you are also able to speak at the Leadership and Talent Development Summit in San Diego this year. Fantastic.

Deb:  Me too, nice to be here.

Audrey:  So the two of you really share a lot of the same concepts but I think the most prominent two are people first and culture, and how those two things work for or against each other. Can you expand what you've been working on lately, Deb, in that arena?

Deb:  You bet. So I came out of a Fortune 500 background corporate. And when I founded my business 12 years ago, I knew I didn't want it to be all about profits and stakeholders, and didn't want it to be about processes and programs. Those things matter but if you're thinking about those first, you're forgetting about people, and you don't get any of them without people. So it's been very important to me to help organizations build their strength by putting people first. And that has a lot to do with employee engagement, with thinking about the needs of people, the development needs, especially, and looking at the long term as opposed to the short term. And that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to workplace culture because people feel that they are important, they feel ennobled in an organization like that

Lee:  What makes employee engagement culture so much more important now? I mean, you feel like your message is gaining momentum now, maybe more so than ever, because some things have changed. And if so, what?

Deb:  I think one thing that's changed is that there's research to back up what some of us have known for a very long time intuitively. And that research is powerful in terms of what you get when you have true employee engagement and all the benefits that come directly from it. So research like Kouzes and Posner and Great Workplaces, and the work that Jennifer Robbins' done, that helps to make the business case and make it more visible. So businesses know, "Hey, there's something really here." But I think millennials might have something to do with it and I think just awareness of the fact that we're losing people out the back door, we have to keep them somehow. And companies are getting smarter.

Lee:  And it's a profitability play too because right, because you don't really generate a profit off of new employee until, what, 3, 4, 6 months in most companies?

Deb:  At least.

Lee:  Yeah. So it's like if you're bringing them in but you're not keeping them engaged or whatever and they're going elsewhere, you're starting back at square one. All you're doing is you're throwing money away, you're really not getting any return from that.

Deb:  And what's worse is when you have high potential employees, people who are top performers and they're not engaged, and then they go to your competition.

Lee:  Oh, yeah, that's absolutely because all you're doing is you're doing the hard work for them.

Deb:  Yes.

Lee:  Oh, my, yeah.

Audrey:   You talked a little bit about bottom line and revenues and the cost of turnover. Can we talk about that a little bit, because some of the leaders listening to this podcast may be like, "Well, I know that I'm going to have some turnover." But do you have any advice for when you really have crossed some sort of line that it's almost like red alert, you know, whoop, whoop?

Deb:  I think it depends on the industry to some extent and the type of job. But let me go ahead and define employee engagement just so people have a sense of what it's all about. So employee engagement really has two factors. The first is that employees have an emotional commitment to the organization, keyword 'emotional' because you get more bang out of emotional than rational commitment. And when they have that emotional commitment, they apply additional discretionary effort to the work they do.

See, employees always have a choice about how hard they're going to work, how much they're going to put themselves into their work. Well, what you get when you have emotional commitment is you get retention. Of course, we're going to stay at the place we want to be. And when you have that emotional commitment and retention of employees, and now this additional discretionary effort, research tells us that you get several things. You get improved productivity levels, significantly improved productivity levels measured in any way possible. You get improved customer satisfaction. Why wouldn't you if you have increased productivity? And you get both top line revenue impact and bottom line profitability because of your more productive employees and your happier customers. So the implications are huge. Retention is just one of them because that, of course, is costing people a lot of money, just the time spent.

Lee:  What is the number one deterrent that you see to employee engagement, the thing that really gets in the way at a lot of companies these days?

Deb:  I'm sorry to say but it's managers who don't know how to engage employees.

Audrey:  What's the number one advice you give or methodology that you give to engage employees or improve employee engagement?

Deb:  Well, actually, there are 30 very specific behaviors.

Audrey:  All right, number 1 to 30. How much time do we have?

Lee:  Yeah, okay. We can go as long as you want.

Deb:  What's interesting is that any one of these 30 does a better job of increasing engagement than any demographic variable. In fact, than 10 different demographic variables combined. So that's always surprises people. It's not type of work you do. It's not your age. It's not how long you've been with the company. But it's when your manager exhibits these leadership behaviors, things like treating others with dignity and respect.

Lee:  Always.

Deb:  Yeah. Things like encouraging and celebrating and modeling the way and just following through, simple things but they are typically classified as leadership behaviors.

Lee:  And what would you say then to a leader or a leader not even a leader, actually, they wouldn't be a leader, but to a manager because, you know, that soft squishy stuff and everything like that, I'm not sure I buy into all that?

Deb:  Yeah, soft skills are still something that companies find it hard to invest in, and managers find it hard to really dedicate themselves to. But you know, if we're going to have an emotional commitment, I think we're going to have to get squishy.

Lee:  You have to have some emotion, right?

Deb:  Yes.

Audrey:  Get squishy, that's like the new brand tagline. I love that, get squishy.

Lee:  Get squishy, people first.

Audrey:  In the questionnaire before the podcast, you saw we asked you about gen Z, which is sort of what they're calling it. So gen X'ers, many are living in their 50s, millennials are starting to have kids, and gen Z is entering the workforce. So we're starting this podcast sort of on the cusp of a whole new wave entering the workforce. What have you learned about that, and if you've done any research into it?

Deb:  Absolutely, yes. Think about what happens in school and on sports teams. Gen Z is taught to think for themselves as leaders wherever they go. To prepare for college, they better have done something in leadership during high school or sooner, volunteer work. And leadership, I don't mean the position of management or senior management. I mean that they have been influential, that they've been able to guide others, that they have learned what it means to step into a role even if it's not a hierarchical role, but a role where they know themselves and they position themselves and they stand by their beliefs. So that's how they think of themselves. And that means in the workplace, that we have to think of them as being able to lead for any role that they might be in. And it means they want to be continually developed as leaders too.

Audrey:  That's interesting. So they're different than millennials in that they're not hoppers and short attention span and more likely to stray quickly, or is that what you're saying?

Deb:  I don't know. I think it's actually too early to tell.

Lee:  Time will tell, right, yeah.

Audrey:  Yeah, time will tell.

Lee:  Well, the other thing is, I wonder, though, will there be some frustration there with the gen Z's that that think of themselves as leaders, when they get to an organization and they have somebody as their leader who doesn't really exhibit leadership skills, what will happen then you wonder?

Deb:  I think it's already happening. I think we see it in high schools, where teachers aren't leaders and there's just chaos in classrooms when teachers aren't effective in that way.

Audrey:  It's really interesting.

Lee:  Very much so.

Audrey:  So what is your number one tip for manage smarter, since it's the name of the podcast? You can embody it in one or two sentences. What would your best advice be for our listeners?

Deb:  Softball question for me. It's put people first.

Audrey:  Yeah, right, of course.

Lee:  Of course. Should’ve seen that one coming?

Audrey:  Yeah, I know.

Lee:  So you've got a new book coming out?

Deb:  I do.

Lee:  Tell me about it.

Deb:  Okay, so it is called Stop Selling and Start Leading. It's the same 30 behaviors that make people leaders make others choose to willingly want to follow them. And in the world of selling, we know because of research with buyers, that when sellers exhibit these 30 behaviors in higher degrees of frequency, buyers are more likely to meet with them, more likely to buy from them. And we even have a rank order from our research about which one ones of those behaviors are most effective.

Audrey:  Well, we're so glad that you were here to join us and social media, websites? Yeah, where can everybody find you?

Deb:  Absolutely. Find me on social media, my handle peoplefirstps, which stands for productivity solutions. For the book, it's stopssellingstartleading​.com. And I'm Deb Calvert, you'll find me.

Lee:  I had one more question before we end is that you're doing something really interesting. One of the hardest things to do these days is to find good salespeople. And you put together sort of like a traveling roadshow, where there's a sales expert then that is helping people who want to learn more about sales and learn more about their craft, to come and listen, but it has a very fantastic payoff for the sponsor in that particular market that you're in. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Deb:  So for a company that needs to recruit salespeople, if they will host an event and bring me in as a speaker, I'll draw salespeople from their marketplace into the event. They'll purchase books, Stop Selling and Start Leading, and that will also draw people into the event. They'll give those books away. I'll do a presentation and they'll capture all the names and contact information for these best and brightest motivated salespeople in their marketplace, and be able to treat this as a recruiting event.

Audrey:  Wow. And so how could I book that if I'm listening and I want to get a hold of you?

Deb:  Email address, deb.​calvert@​peoplefirstps.​com.

Lee:  I love that idea. I think that's got some legs.

Audrey:  Thanks, Deb.

Deb:  You bet. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Lee:  It's good to see you again.

Deb:  You too.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also get more great information at SalesFuel​.com.

This podcast is a part of the C‑Suite Radio Network. For more top business podcasts, visit c‑