Smart Boss

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Laser-focused and timely distillations of what's working now in leadership.

Are you leading by consensus? What's that costing you?

As a consultant who goes from company to company helping to build sales results and improve executives’ leadership skills, I am seeing more and more organizations that are stuck. The leaders want at least the senior executive team – if not everyone – to agree with the company’s direction … and when they don’t have a consensus, they may take no big actions at all!

That’s a shame.

business man signing contract

As a leader, it’s part of your job to make decisions, and it may or may not make sense for you to be completely transparent about the basis for every decision you make.

In a detailed examination of this important topic, McKinsey Quarterly’s “The dark side of transparency” points out that while both buyers and sellers giving each other ratings may work well for Airbnb or Uber, transparency inside organizations may overload your employees, and create endless debate with no real resolution. I’ve personally experienced “analysis paralysis” in action as individual salespeople spend as much time “gaming” compensation plans as they seem to spend in real selling activities.

You have to be careful what you incentivize people to do because they’ll probably do it. If you empower everyone to comment on everything, everyone will have an opinion, and many will seek to share theirs. That’s not the same as real forward momentum in the business. 

Here's the reasoned examination of the risks of transparency from McKinsey & Company that I mentioned earlier. Especially valuable: the story of a Canadian company that worked for a year, trying to create “a fair bonus system based on pre-established KPIs,” only to find that employees reported seeing the new system as less fair than the CEO’s previous practice of awarding bonuses on the basis of his personal beliefs about the value of each employee’s contributions to the business! 

The CEO sought something that sounds like a no-brainer: a rational and transparent process for determining how bonus money would be allocated. The problem, in the end, was that although employees acknowledged the increased transparency, their perceptions of the fairness of their bonuses under the new bonus program was significantly worse. Even the employees who got as much or more bonus money than they’d received the previous year reported that they were significantly less satisfied with the new bonus system.

The data collected by the company tells us the employees felt the new bonus process was a critical evaluation, rather than an unexpected gift --- and the new transparency highlighted those who got bigger bonuses, triggering envy!

So what did the Canadian company do? Senior management put in a lot of additional work, meeting with employees to explain how the new bonus system worked. Looking back, executives say they wished they’d run the new bonus system as a “phantom” for the first year, telling employees what they would’ve earned under the new plan, and collecting their feedback.

The bottom line: get clear on the change you want to see and work through how you might achieve the change. Test the best options by running some “what if”-type scenarios. Realize that you don’t have to rush the decision – don’t decide just to be rid of the project. But don’t be afraid to make a decision. Consensus is an impossible ideal, and waiting for it can stop your organization in its tracks.



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Are you confident?
It’s a simple question.

And, it matters BIG TIME, especially if you’re a woman, or if you lead women, or if you want your organization to succeed.

According to recent research, companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability.

And, while men overestimate their abilities and performance, women underestimate both.

Yet, their performances do not differ in quality.

Confidence MATTERS.

This recent research by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, two journalists, set me back on my heels.

In an article titled “The Confidence Gap,” they write that women, specifically, lack confidence in important aspects of their professional lives.

So if you ARE a woman, or if you seek to LEAD women,

or if you are a living breathing professional in today’s world,

the article’s major points are worth keeping in mind.

Here is a small sample of the many points made in the research:

“Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.”

“A review of personnel records found that women working at Hewlett Packard applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60% of the job requirements.”

“Lack of confidence informs a number of familiar female habits. Take the penchant many women have for assuming the blame when things go wrong while crediting circumstance – or other people – for their successes.”

If you subscribe to my Smart Boss e-newsletter, you’ll know that leaders count on me to distill what’s working now in Leadership and frame the most important data into ideas that can be put straight to work. I’ve distilled some of the most pertinent, actionable details from the Kay/Shipman research—19 points in all—in this LinkedIn publication,  "Are You Confident?".

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Leaders: Do You Calendar Your Follow-Ups?

Half my consulting practice involves improving people’s selling efforts. And in that work I warn everyone:

Systematic, methodical and timely follow-up is key to success in selling.

Research tells us that people who don’t know you, don’t know your services, and don’t care will often say “no” as many as 5 to 7 times before they say yes to your offer. So you’ll often have to find reasons to reconnect, to keep yourself and your offering top-of-mind without being irritating, giving yourself the best chance that your prospect will act.

The same advice is key for leaders – for the best shot at success, timely follow-up on your requests is key.

Sure, your efforts to motivate your team members are different than selling efforts -- these people work with you, and should care about you getting what you want and need.

But they're operating in the same busy workday world you are, and, in that environment some things always seem to fall through the cracks. Don’t let that happen to your requests!

When you make a request of anyone, put it on your calendar to follow-up a few days before the due date you set – or, if you didn’t set a due date, at a reasonable interval after you’ve made the request. Put that follow-up activity right on your calendar for a few days (or even a few hours) before you need the work to be done, and then do the follow-up.

How to follow-up? An email with the Subject line “(first name), URGENT!” and body copy reminding the team member of your request (or forwarding the original request, if it was emailed) should be enough to catch the eye of even the busiest person – and if there’s still time to meet the deadline, you have the greatest chance of getting their best effort right then and there, rather than their best excuse.

When you make a request of someone on your team, in theory you’ve off-loaded that work, and can turn your attention to other things. But remember that the recipient of your request may be busy, otherwise engaged, out of the office or overwhelmed when it arrives; by calendaring your follow-ups and then making an effort to reconnect with the person before the deadline, you have the best chance of getting even the busiest person to act on your request.

And if your team members are slow to respond, or your request is a big or complex one, try setting milestones on the way to completing the project and then putting follow-up activities onto your calendar for each milestone. As one very senior executive told me, “When I ask, they usually say they’re 80% complete. My experience is that it’s usually the reverse – they’re 20% complete and still have 80% of the work to do.” Building in milestones and follow-ups keeps you in the loop as to your team members’ actual progress, and can enable you, when necessary, to share your observation that progress seems slow relative to a looming due date. You can then ask what else the team member needs to do the work, and address the issue of priorities that may need to be adjusted for a favorable on-time delivery of the work.
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Do You Need Someone Who Doesn’t Have a Dog in the Race?

(In other words, could you benefit from Executive Coaching?)

Would it benefit you, in your leadership responsibilities, to

  • have an unbiased confidante who understands the business situation you face,
  • talk with an experienced executive who’s been successful in growing several businesses—who will support you, maintaining complete confidentiality about anything you discuss,
  • and who has the experience to offer you ideas to help you improve?

If so, you may be in the market for an Executive Coach – someone who doesn’t have a dog in the race you’re running and will focus completely on YOU.

"I'm an Executive Coach." Is that just another way to say “EATS MONEY?” No. But with a little work, YOU might get to! Listen to my latest radio interview to learn a little more about that!

Executive Coaching is a catch-all term for a variety of activities that support executives, one-to-one, in achieving goals they have for themselves.  It is also, sometimes, recommended for executives who experience challenges in one or more areas of their work lives.  But even if you come to Coaching because it was recommended to you, it will be important that you choose to pursue it, or not, and, if you do, that you think hard about the Goals you will have for it.

Here are some Goals for Executive Coaching that have been chosen by my clients recently:

  • To build teamwork among the people who report to me.
  • To achieve a better work/life balance.
  • To improve my confidence – particularly in public speaking and presentations.
  • To feel less nervous when there’s bad news to deliver.
  • To move toward more of a big-picture focus, and to make time for thinking about and planning for profit improvement.
  • To define my purpose – both at work, and outside it, “rather than just letting things happen to me.”
  • To reevaluate my approach to work, to be more strategic, and to be better at delegating.
  • To be better at identifying what’s most important, and to let go of things that aren’t.
  • To make progress in dealing effectively with colleagues who aren’t efficient/organized.
  • To be better at coaching my staff and direct reports.
  • To learn how to be a role model for others.
  • To establish professional relationships with key corporate staff.
  • To serve as a positive change leader/communicator for my organization.
  • To implement performance excellence principles.
  • To accurately assess my skills and strengths for this job, and to create a personal development plan that focuses on my strengths.
  • To get assistance in identifying and developing a plan for the long-term health of the company.
  • To get support in envisioning where the organization should go.
  • To get assistance in becoming more effective in dealing with verbal and written communications challenges.
  • To get help in balancing the upside and downside risk of change, by predicting and managing personal leadership challenges.
  • To get support in avoiding reverting to easy, old behaviors!

Do one or several of those resonate with you?  If so, why not make a plan to DO something about it?  A commitment to speak with an Executive Coach once a week, or twice a month, assures that this time, you won’t just give lip service to your Goals.  A good Coach is invested in your achieving the Goals you have for yourself, and will hold your feet to the fire so you don’t forget to pursue the goal, week after week, even if you only spend 1% of your working hours on it!

How might all this work for YOU, given the specifics of your job and your life?  That’s a subject for a conversation.  Reach me at 505.828.1788, or send me a note here.

What would it mean for you to challenge yourself to make this your best year ever?

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Click the logos below for testimonials.

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I just landed $300K in funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Human Factors Group – historically a very difficult customer. The customer actually gave me $75K more than what I'd asked for. Since then, I have developed a trusted advisor position with this PM. She asks my opinion on program ideas and continues to send money almost without my asking for it. I attribute this success directly … specifically to the coaching I have been getting from Lenann.”

Dr. Ann Speed
Cognitive Psychologist, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Observing the positive effects of Lenann's executive coaching with a colleague, I reached out. I was impressed after our first conversation with how well she listened -- not just to the concept I was trying to convey, but also the words I chose to describe situations. As she reflected those words back to me with insightful questioning, I began to fundamentally understand myself better and what communication tools were needed to be more effective in management and leadership. What reinforced my learnings from our sessions further were the reflections and readings after our sessions. As Lenann heard about my interest in analytics she provided me with a very detailed overview of specific degree programs that were exactly what I was interested in pursuing. This again is evidence of how carefully and deliberately Lenann listens and invests in her clients. Furthermore, dedicated to her clients, Lenann was extremely responsive and always available. I have benefitted immensely from my time with Lenann and recommend her highly for anyone who finds themselves wondering how they can grow or improve themselves professionally. I use the tools and techniques I developed with Lenann's assistance regularly. My only regret is that I could have met Lenann sooner!”

Dr. Irene Krokos
Senior Regional Medical Director, Molina Healthcare (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you’ve been a GREAT help!  Thanks for reminding me of so many important points for my work introducing new, bleeding-edge technologies to senior banking officials.  During my days as Managing Director, Head Trader and Head of Structured Trading for a leading global securities firm, my challenge was introducing new technologies internally; now that I am introducing them to organizations of which I am not an employee, the challenges are different, and I am happy to let you know that, just today, I have been asked to represent to some high-level banking contacts the technology of a Canadian firm whose work is exemplary!  I appreciate your Executive Coaching, communications and meeting strategy advice, and specifically your advice on communications with my newest client that enabled me to secure this monthly-retainer-plus-success-fee arrangement.”

Gary W.
Gary W., Ph.D. and Senior Technology Professional, London, U.K.

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My partners share my high evaluation of your program and recognition of your skills. Thank you for the excellent program to help our leaders.”

Igor Rodin
(Former) Vice Chairman, Deloitte Central Europe

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Closed 5 deals last week!! Thanks, Lenann, for your support, guidance and belief. The Game On Sales Coaching program we are doing with you keeps me sharp on the follow ups, value estimation and most importantly the closing rates!”

Jase P. Choenni
Head of Sales & Marketing, TMF GROUP BRAZIL

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thanks so much for the quick follow-up to our meeting today.  I was extremely pleased and excited to see how well your work was received.  It was a beautiful thing!  Yes, I believe your calculations are correct as to the additional revenue my team has committed to bringing in!  I am thrilled that we did this, and feel we’re all excited about achieving our goals for growing our business.  I do think my change in how I am approaching leading our business went over well – I am glad I was able to vocalize that, so now I have to do it.  It was good for me to put that goal out there!”

Karen Cooper
Owner, MedCare Senior Insurance Solutions

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I was amazed at how perceptive Lenann is about issues (both personal and professional) that were impediments to my reaching sales goals. She helped me to understand that selling is first understanding the client's frame of reference, positioning through powerful, provocative statements, and a process of gaining agreement to next steps. Lenann demonstrated specifically how this is done in both verbal and written communications. In our consulting session, she distilled all the latest research and what's working in today's environment. What she taught me should become basic to my approach with all prospective clients. Lenann is brilliant, enthusiastic, and above all, very personable. The experience of working with Lenann was surprisingly pleasant, and gave me the confidence that I could also improve my selling abilities by following her recommendations. She is truly inspirational. I look forward to continuing my work with Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The Coaching I received from Lenann was invaluable to me. My takeaways included: Learning how to understand your client as opposed to 'knowing your client' – this has made me a far better listener and more empathetic to my clients' REAL needs; Being the 'trusted advisor' as opposed to a service provider – I had an interesting experience that I would like to share with you. I was asked by a potential client to assist with a matter that I knew we did not have the 'firepower' to assist them with. In the profession, it is unheard of to admit that your competitors are ahead of you but I tried it with the client and it worked. Today, he FIRST talks to me about any assistance that he may need and does not even ask for competitor bids; Handling difficult clients. Lenann has been a great help in honing my skills in this area. I have found myself more prepared to 'walk the road' during the client's time of difficulty than before. In my business, we are supposed to be transaction-oriented since we deal with clients on a project-by-project basis. However, where I have invested the time to deal with a client's unhappiness instead of handing the matter over to my colleagues, to my surprise, the client has 'come around' to even admitting that his/her organization was the place where the fault lies – that is a major 'coup' for us since it is very seldom that a client does that. We have managed to build a sustainable business (revenues and earnings is way up on last years' and, most importantly, we have built an impressive team) under fairly trying circumstances – Lenann has played a role in enabling me to do this.”

Neven Hendricks
(Former) Partner Deloitte, United Arab Emirates

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I can’t wait to start having meetings with our techs about the daily Sales Tips you’ve been creating and sending me daily. I really like today’s in particular because I think our techs might believe that sales is a nasty word. This will help me get the dialogue started and hopefully help them see it in a more positive light! Again, thank you!”

Rhonda Stewart
Rhonda Stewart, Owner, RotoRooter, Victorville, California

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Here are some key things I learned from working with Lenann: 1. I like the concept of a “Challenger Salesperson.” The more interesting, engaging and informative we can be in a useful way to the client, the better. 2. I don’t spend as much time selling as I think I do. 3. The way people do business continues to change and evolve – and I have to keep my selling skills current to keep up with those changes. 4. Treat others the way they want to be treated (not necessarily how I would want to be treated if I were them). A big company we haven’t done meaningful business with in about 5 years is about to come back in a very meaningful and multi-million dollar way…”

Russ Conser
Key Account Manager, Oberthur Technologies

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you've been great, as always. You put me in the right direction every time we speak - you tell me to focus on the right stuff and 'build it right.' Thanks!”

Scott Price
Regional Director - Americas, Custom House Fund Services, Chicago

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann has been my coach for over 8 years now. The coaching conversations we have are worthwhile because they give me the opportunity to speak freely and honestly about the leadership challenges I am facing without fear of retaliation or negative thoughts from superiors within my organization. Her advice has often put me back on track to achieve my goals and career ambitions. The focus and accountability she provides has been extremely valuable for my success and advancement. Another unique aspect of Lenann’s coaching for me has been the female role model perspective. There are very few women throughout my career who have advanced their careers as far as Lenann has. The respect I have for her as a role model and as a professional businesswoman with a family has given me hope that I can do it all, too!”

Tina Sampson
(Former) Vice President Sales and Marketing, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I am glad that, in addition to our Sales Training, I chose to have you sit down, one-to-one, with four of our key people. The observations you sent me about each of them are perfect and helpful, especially in cases and/or aspects which I could not put in words before, but had a feeling about.

Two of the professionals with whom you spoke continue to develop well, they are thoughtful, have considered the feedback received, and learned from it. Both have sold new engagements for us, and they are going out to sell more and more. It is nice to see how their level of confidence has increased!

Thank you again for helping me in this matter.”

Julia Varga
(Former) Managing Director, TMF Group, Hungary

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The coaching I had with Lenann is paying off in SPADES. I’m pulling in money for other people, now. Recently I spent two hours with a prospective funder (who approached me), and followed Lenann’s selling approach (i.e., we took NO slides to the meeting and let the customer talk 95% of the time, only talking to ask questions – not to tell the customer anything about what we do). At the end of that time, I said, ‘What’s the next step?’, and the customer replied, ‘How do we send you money?’ You have to know how to conduct a conversation to make that happen – it’s 95% listening (literally!), 4% asking questions, and only 1% discussion about your content and capabilities.”

Dr. Ann Speed
PMTS, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is a very accomplished and experienced Coach, who builds her advice and coaching based on her own Executive experience. She understands the daily pressure of high level executives and through her advice is an excellent catalyst for increased productivity of her client – ultimately to the benefit of the company. She provides real value for the money, and I would any day again participate in a coaching program with Lenann given the chance.”

Claus Vorreiter Jensen
Chief Commercial Officer, Svendborg Brakes, Denmark

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, your influence has been so positive for my career! I will never forget you. I keep close to my heart people that contribute to my growth, and you have definitely been part of my growth professionally. I hope we can always keep in touch.”

Elena Montiel
(Former) Executive of Global Business Development, TMF USA, Inc., Miami

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann was terrific! After her ‘Trust and Respect in the Workplace’ learning experience, we had the most absolute pleasant best day at work in a very long time!”

Ellen Diamond
Mark Diamond's Jewelers, Albuquerque

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thank you for your Sales and Closing Skills Class and follow-up program for our global team. I appreciate your response to my request for your thoughts on the

  • Selling Strengths you observed on our team
  • Selling Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Leadership Strengths you observed on our team
  • Leadership Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Implications of all of the above for the future of our firm, and recommendations.

I found your 5-page analysis to be succinct and immediately useful and I’ve applied the lessons there. Very valuable input!”

Koen van Weezel
(Former) Group Director, Global Sales & Marketing, TMF Group, The Netherlands

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My prospect chose to invest $2 million today – and I say ‘Thank YOU a million, Lenann!’ I couldn’t have done it without your good sales coaching yesterday! This was especially sweet because the client had expressed an interest in a discounted up-front fee, had access to plenty of managers who don't charge those fees, and yet when I took the approach you recommended, the fee wasn’t a problem. I could not have gotten that result without your guidance, Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Global Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is absolutely the best there is! I've heard Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, all the gurus, but I felt 'Yeah, I've heard all this before.' Lenann changes people's lives – the way they work, think and are motivated. She makes a very real, and quite incredible, difference!”

Patti Roland
(Former) Vice President Sales & Marketing, Stonebridge Homes

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My Executive Coaching experience with Lenann has helped me considerably. My judgment of the value of Lenann’s Coaching can best be seen in the fact that I have encouraged other members of my staff to work with her, and they have. I have seen improvement in them as well! I particularly appreciate all the ‘homework’ Lenann had me complete to get me to look at my leadership behaviors, and see ways in which I can improve. I find myself sharing materials Lenann gives me with members of my senior staff, so the learning is shared in our organization. Lenann is always the first person I mention when others ask about Coaching.”

Patty Kehoe
CEO, Molina Healthcare of NM (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, I am proud to say that our volume is up – this is very, very positive. And the growth is interesting; there are no signs of slowing down in the trend of huge sales increases we have seen. The key executive whom you are coaching is making strong progress! Thank you for the monthly Coaching Report you provide – it is an extremely useful, clear picture of where we are.
Looking forward to continuing to work with you”

Roberto Schianchi
Chief Executive Officer, ZOBELE HOLDING S.P.A

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I enjoyed Sales Coaching with Lenann so much! Lenann is very good at assessing the situation -- with a couple of simple questions she gets to the bottom of things. The one-on-one nature of Lenann’s Coaching means there’s no way you can hide (as can happen in a classroom). I was continually intrigued by Lenann’s questions and constant feedback on performance…”

Wouter Plantenga
Senior VP, Head of International Structuring Americas, TMF USA, Inc., New York

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“(Lenann’s) coaching activities are very thorough, and are a part of a modern approach which makes a lot of sense. Our sales team had a great performance in this month, and I am convinced that Lenann’s (coaching) had a big influence on this result.”

Thierry Montfort
(Former) President and CEO, Heel USA

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I feel very good about the coaching that you provided to a professional on our team. Your coaching made a critical difference. His performance was much improved after his session with you. In fact, it contributed substantially to our success last year. Thank you!”

Dr. Will Swearingen
Executive Director, TechLink

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I attribute, easily, $10 MILLION in sales directly to learning with, and coaching from, Lenann.”

Mark Walton
(Former) Partner and Global Head of Operations Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, London

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I worked with Lenann about 5 years ago. Just this month, I once again applied what she taught me, and closed 4 of 5 proposals – over $300,000! Lenann Gardner is a combination of blazing intelligence and electrifying enthusiasm!”

Pat Davis
Vice President and Director of Consulting Services, Marketing Insights Practice, KantarHealth

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The demands on consultants these days are immense and it's so easy to end up in a 'feast or famine' situation. When you're working an engagement with a client, it can become all encompassing. I am happy to serve as a reference for Lenann McGookey Gardner, who helped me with a Coaching program. Lenann has a very engaging personality, a person never to be forgotten. I consider the materials Lenann provided to be very useful. Most of all, Lenann's advice and tips are straightforward and readily implementable when you're engaged in demanding client engagements.”

John Corr
Director AlixPartners (A global firm of senior business and consulting professionals), Somerset, United Kingdom

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