How Much Do You Know About Onboarding? Setting Your New Hire Up for Success

Setting Up Your New Hire For Success

This is a Gust Blog post from Sales expert Chris Tully.

You have just hired an A-Player for your sales team – someone you’re looking to perform at a high level and crush your company goals. Are you assuming your newest employee will continue to be a sales powerhouse in your company environment? Don’t count on it! Owners and Sales Leaders can’t take a backseat just yet in the hiring process. They must create and provide a robust Sales Onboarding Plan to usher the new player into their new setting and set them up for success.  

Welcome to Part II of our two-part blog series about Sales Hiring. If you missed Part I about how to define, seek-out, screen and secure top sales performers, take a moment and read it first: How Much Do You Know About Sales Hiring?: Three Steps to Hiring A-Players for Your Business

Have you ever experienced a terrible first day on the job? In years prior, a terrible first day might begin at arrival to find no one knew you were coming and your new desk was a mess, filled with junk left behind from your predecessor. But today’s new hires are often fully remote, and probably have never met anyone at their new employer in person, creating far different issues in culture setting, training and relationship building. Starting your first day from home without a computer, no access to company IT systems, and little direction will lead to stumbling around to track down login information, figuring out who is who, and self-guiding yourself through HR orientation. This is NOT how anyone wants to start a new job, especially when so much is expected. 

This is not a fairytale!

Bad first impressions on the job happen all the time and can leave a new hire, especially an A-Player, second guessing their career decision. It raises a red flag indicating that a sloppy approach is an acceptable way to operate within the company. A disorganized and chaotic first day or week muddles job goals, processes, and company culture for the negative and slows down the ability for a salesperson at any level to produce results due to lack of organization and clarity.

An effective Sales Onboarding Plan is critical to a new hire’s retention and can help them gain momentum stepping into their new position.

If done properly from inception, the plan will have these positive effects on your sales team’s newest addition:

  • Reinforces the salesperson’s decision to join your company.
  • Provides the candidate with necessary tools and training to be successful in their role.
  • Sets clear expectations for accountability from the very beginning.

The onboarding process is not a static event that ends after a few weeks

It’s a common misconception that an onboarding process fully trains and integrates your new hire after a week or two. On the contrary, effective onboarding is a continuous process that takes place over several months and involves key members of other departments, including the leadership team. Laying out the process as milestones on a calendar will help keep everyone on track to achieve a well-rounded onboarding outcome.

Here are the essential components to account for when building a best practices Sales Onboarding Plan:

1. Lay out the key milestones as the framework of your Onboarding Plan. The milestones are best applied to a high-level list of goals and dates. This list should include things like:

  • Preparation of tasks before the start date
  • First Day
  • First Week
  • Monthly Activities
  • Month 3 Check-in
  • Month 6 Check-in

2. Next, create activity categories to organize the process of generating a thorough list of action items that fully represent each category. Here’s a sample category structure:

  • Meeting objectives, job duties, and expectations
  • Socialization
  • Work environment
  • Technology set-up and access
  • Training and development

3. Now it’s time to assign internal resources to the action items you created. It’s ideal to spread out the onboarding process to a variety of teammates and departments. This will provide the new hire exposure to different areas of the company to gain insights into how all departments function together. It also helps reduce time strain on any one person throughout the training process.

4. Lastly, replicate your activity category structure under each milestone and allocate all the underlying action items appropriately to the timeline. Task your new salesperson to reach out to the assigned internal resources to schedule each training session with the objective to keep predetermined completion target dates on track.

Just as important as starting your salesperson off on the right foot within your organization is having an established sales infrastructure to place them into. Pairing well laid out onboarding with the necessary structure, processes, and resources will help your new salesperson be effective and successful in their new role.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How Much Do You Know About Sales Hiring? Three Steps to Hiring A-Players for Your Business

Three Steps to Hiring A Players

This is a Guest blog post from sales expert Chris Tully.

If you’re looking to add a top sales performer to your team that has the skills, knowledge, leadership, drive, values, and forward-thinking to help take your business to the next level, there are measures you can take to make sure you avoid common hiring pitfalls. Believe it or not, interviewing and hiring, especially at this level, is one of the biggest risks your company can take.
I have broken down preparations to hire into three foundational steps to ensure you effectively define, seek-out, screen and secure top sales performers.

These measures will be essential at any time, but especially going into 2021 when there are many unknowns possibly instore for market conditions. Be careful not to shortcut these best practices or you risk paying for it 10-fold in the form of costly sales turn-over and just as importantly, loss of precious time. This is a time for honest reflection on your previous sales hiring track record.

Step 1: Refine the Position Description & Develop an Ideal Candidate ProfileStep-back and review how well your current position description reflects the new selling environment that has revealed itself since the pandemic hit. What are you anticipating will happen in 2021, in 2022, and beyond? For example, there may have been positions that previously required 80% travel but converted into roles that were just as effective with limited outside activity and increased inside phone or video conferencing, or perhaps a more equal balance of outside and inside sales activity. Which model seems to be the most sustainable it the long run? Will your next hire be open to additional travel if needed down the line? 

Another area to carefully evaluate are duties that involve team interaction. Be sure there are clear lines of accountability on expected outcomes. This crucial step in the process is to bring complete clarity to what you’re truly looking for in your candidate and what role they will play in your business. Next, build out an Ideal Candidate Profile, which differs from the position description you just refined. The position description identifies the role’s purpose, essential duties and responsibilities, and a laundry list of qualification requirements including education and experience.

The ideal candidate profile is laser focused on key accountabilities and non-negotiable requirements necessary to ensure the candidate is qualified. Done properly, this is a thought-provoking exercise concentrated on defining ideal mind-set, prior experience, and skill set.

Step 2: Develop a Recruiting Plan

The next step is to create a plan to bring candidates through a diligent Sales Recruiting Process. To effectively navigate each stage, factors to consider are expertise, budget and time. Recruiting top sales talent requires the expertise to identify the best players. Using a professional recruiter or inside resources will drive the budget. A time commitment from all those involved is a requirement that cannot be avoided.

Attracting Top Talent

A-Players are typically already successful in their current roles, with 90% currently employed. They are likely only willing to make a career move for the right opportunity. Hiring those who are already delivering results means a high probability of success throughout your sales team. A big pitfall is posting ads with an expectation that top-tier talent will respond. A variety of tactics need to be deployed to draw out leading talent including direct sourcing (recruiters), social networking, creative advertising, and professional networking. 

Screening Interview

Think of this stage as an opportunity for candidates to “audition” for a face-to-face meeting or furthering along in the recruiting funnel. The objective of this first interaction is to weed out those that do not fit your ideal candidate profile and non-negotiable requirements before moving on. 

Behavioral Interviews

This series of interviews should take place with the hiring manager and then separately with other team members – either individually or as a group. Here, the objective is to move past the resume and focus on demonstrated skills and abilities. The hiring manager can focus on specific sales skills while each of the team members can be assigned specific behavioral traits to probe. The result should be a 360-degree view of the candidate. 

Objective Assessment

There are a wide range of assessment tools available that can provide an objective analysis of the candidate. Depending on need, this analysis can measure skill, culture and personality against both position requirements and external benchmarks. Adding this element to the process provides insurance that what was heard in the other interviews is real.

Final Interview

Once the finalist has been identified, the last interview ties up any remaining issues and allows an opportunity for a discussion of the terms of employment. This last phase is often helpful in confirming the candidate’s motivations and desire to move forward. 

Step 3: Be Prepared to “Sell” the Opportunity

It is important to understand that A-level Players will be screening you as much as you are screening them. That is just how their mindset works. To keep them engaged, be sure to keep a balance of assessing them while also selling them on your company, your product’s value proposition, career path potential, etc. Once you get a few steps into the recruiting process, you should know what makes the candidate tick, what they are looking for next in their career, and what it will take for them to make a move.

A-Players want to be amongst winners so it is entirely possible that you may need to showcase the company’s vision and leadership team to help them visualize where the company going, its readiness to do so, and the critical role they’d fill to help make it happen. Recruiting and hiring an A-Player is the right move for any business, but in order to get the right person into the right seat, there are several steps you need to take to ensure proper alignment. Our next blog will focus on defining your company’s onboarding process to make sure your A-Players thrive and flourish within your organization. 


Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Make the Move to a Virtual Sales Force

This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully

Tips for Hiring a Virtual Sales Team | Lucidchart Blog

 

As we start our sixth month of quarantine across America, it is time to come to grips with the fact that some version of “virtual selling” is here to stay. What this means for leadership is that just adapting in-person techniques to digital/virtual sales will no longer get the job done.
Instead, teach your team how to make the move to a virtual sales force.

Leaders are preparing for a greater virtual sales presence than anticipated earlier in the pandemic. A recently released Gartner study reports that in June, “a remarkable 23% of CSOs reported plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual sales roles” with another 36% unsure whether or not to do the same.

The study provides a framework for leadership to enable virtual selling. Here are key skills and tools to help your team effectively sell from remote settings.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Tools

High-speed Internet – This is mandatory for smooth virtual communications and presentations. You should consider funding team members’ Internet access upgrades since they are working from home by necessity. Salespeople represent your company – do you want potential clients to equate poor quality audio/video with the quality of your products or services? Spend the money, and upgrade those plans to gigabit internet, where possible.

High-end wired or wireless headsets
 – Salespeople are keen observers of body language. Without the advantage of being in the room with clients, it’s even more important for them to be able to hear the nuances of everything that’s said.

A reliable meeting platform
 – Zoom, MSFT Teams, Mitel MiCollab, GoToMeeting, Cisco Enable, Google Meet, and more: these are what companies are using and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Standardize the best solution for your company based on your existing technology stack. Be prepared to train your sales people on several platforms – they’ll need to be nimble enough to navigate clients’ preferred platforms, too.

Get your CFO onboard that these are all essential purchases right now and for the foreseeable future.

Tightly Integrate Sales and Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital B2B buying and selling. A McKinsey & Company survey report and infographic highlight the shift from in-person to digital, and what B2B sellers need to do to adapt.

Integrate sales and marketing processes
 – You need a demand generation strategy across platforms. The strategy should have well thought out social media, email, and outbound telesales support, and well-defined sales processes once a lead arrives. Make sure all your sales channels are incentivized to collaborate.

Optimize your e-commerce channel
 – For buyers’ ease and convenience, re-design to address top buyer frustrations with company websites. These are difficulty finding products, a long ordering process, hard-to-find contact information, and technical glitches.

Utilize online sales-enablement functions that intersect with buyers
 – AI-based conversational analytics help manage the full sales pipeline. Solutions such as sales chat bots, which reach back into your product database and answer questions, are becoming quite popular. These tools exist to improve customer experience and aid client problem-solving. They also improve the leads you capture from site visitors and help build your knowledge about their buying preferences.

Provide a robust CRM solution – 
Make sure both sales and marketing can access the same data. Customer relationship management (CRM) software should give your teams access to a full sales and marketing mix such as contacts, accounts, opportunity management, and campaigns, so both teams can work seamlessly toward increasing your revenue.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Training and Readiness

Sales people have limited attention spans (just like clients). So here are some hints for re-thinking sales training.

Deliver virtual training in tight 60-minute sessions
 – Break each session down into two parts: 50% presentation and 50% interaction (case studies, conversation, and questions). Limit training content to only the most valuable information, with a focus on understanding the client’s perspective.

Record and digitally archive sessions
 so they’re accessible to the team – This will be valuable for those who miss a session, need a refresher, and for future team members.

Role-play behaviors
 – How you talk with clients and how they respond is different virtually than in person. Role play across all stages of a sale, from first introduction to close. Have team members take turns being the sales person and the client; their calls will be more effective as a result.

Practice using presentation tools
 – Because everyone will be training from different remote locations, practice using multiple presentational tools and platforms with each other. This also helps people find the tools that are the most comfortable for them, which will support their ease and confidence in front of clients.

Changing to a virtual sales force also changes the way you think about and manage your sales team. Be prepared to reallocate your investments, and rethink sales strategies and performance metrics.

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Leadership Transformation in 2020 – Change is inevitable. Transformation is by conscious choice.

This is a Guest blog post by Bei Ma, Founder and CEO of The Pinea Group

Leadership Transformation in 2020

Change is inevitable. Transformation is by conscious choice.

 

lighted brown lighthouse beside body of water

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

 

As Bill Gates recommended 5 summer books in his recent Gates Notes on May 18, 2020, he wrote: “The Ride of a Lifetime, by Bob Iger. This is one of the best business books I’ve read in several years. Iger does a terrific job explaining what it’s really like to be the CEO of a large company. Whether you’re looking for business insights or just an entertaining read, I think anyone would enjoy his stories about overseeing Disney during one of the most transformative times in its history.”1

Yes, indeed. Robert Iger, in his 2019 book “The Ride of a Lifetime”, shares in great detail on how the ten principles that strike him as necessary to true leadership have transformed Disney. And the ten principles are: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity.

While each of these ten principles speaks the truth of leadership, we need more, we need more for an unprecedented year we are in at this very moment. The year of 2020 perhaps manifests every aspect you can imagine that life does not always go the way you expect it will.

We are still in the middle of the global pandemic. Period. The director of National  Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci spoke at BIO Digital virtual healthcare conference on June 10 that the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be his “worst nightmare” and warned that it’s not over yet.2

Millions of people still have no jobs or steady income despite an optimistic labor report of May by the Department of Labor. According to Business Insider, US jobless claims totaled 44 million, meaning more than one in four American workers have lost a job during the pandemic.3

Social reform is well likely underway with the “Black Lives Matter” movement amid nationwide protests. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo says he intends to sign the package of bills passed by New York legislators for comprehensive police reform.4

In the business context, CEOs have been facing an ultimate leadership test. While business executives shall absolutely continue to incorporate and implement in their daily business life the ten principles of true leadership by Robert Iger: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity, leadership transformation is imperative. CEOs must make conscious choices for leadership transformation facing one crisis after another in the year of 2020 and onward.

In this article, we explore two actions, accompanying mindset and qualities that can help executives navigate such perfect storms and future crises and consciously make leadership transformation.

Leading with Compassion

Numerous studies show that in a business-as-usual environment, compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement by their teams.5 However, compassion becomes especially critical during a crisis.6

Four months into the pandemic, the nation is seeing a historic wave of widespread psychological trauma driven by fear, isolation, uncertainty, anger, and distress. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.7

To an organization, collective fears and existential threats triggered by the crises call for a compassionate, empathetic, caring and highly visible leadership. If executives demonstrate that everything is under control with business-as-usual meetings and overconfident emails with an  upbeat tone, afraid of showing the genuine vulnerability, empathy to connect and compassion to support their people, reduce their stress and burden, absurdly, this might backfire and will certainly not create the confidence, innovation and creativity from people to enable them navigate through the crises and recover the business.

       “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people

       will never forget how you made them feel.”

       – Maya Angelou –

People feel it and will never forget when leaders act with genuine compassion, especially during the crises.

 

     Leading with Rooted Power

In routine emergencies, experience is perhaps the most valuable quality that leaders bring. But in novel, landscape-scale crises, character is of the utmost importance.8 Deliberate calm is the ability to detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how one will navigate it.9

Crisis-resistant leaders, as the captains of their ships during a perfect storm, will be able to unify the teams with deliberate calm, clarity, and stableness, making a positive difference in people’s lives. The calmness comes from well-grounded individuals who possess rooted power of humility, hope, and tenacity.

Crisis-resistant leaders return to their roots, core values, beliefs, and principles during a perfect storm. They pose questions to themselves and teams about what the organization stands for, what the purpose is, and what should continue to do or stop doing, what need to be created as new practices or ways of working, new norms that are emerging.10

The rooted power of crisis-resistant leaders is originated from physical health providing energy and stamina; mental health providing optimistic and positive view; intellectual health providing acute decisiveness and clarity; and social health providing the trust and transparency.

Only grounded leaders with such rooted power can beat landscape-scale crises.

………………………………..

The crises and overwhelming consequences ask for leadership transformation. Besides the ten principles to true leadership1, business leaders who make conscious transformation: leading with compassion and leading with rooted power, can support their organizations and communities, navigating through the perfect storms.

 

Reference

  1. https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Summer-Books-2020
  2. https://www.today.com/health/dr-anthony-fauci-says-coronavirus-his-worst-nightmare-isn-t-t183838
  3. https://www.businessinsider.com/us-weekly-jobless-claims-coronavirus-layoffs-unemployment-filings-economy-recession-2020-6
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/10/us/new-york-passes-police-reform-bills/index.html
  5. Jane E. Dutton, Ashley E. Hardin, and Kristina M. Workman, “Compassion at work,” Annual Review Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Volume 1, Number 1, 2014, pp. 277–304; Jacoba M. Lilius, et al, “Understanding compassion capability,” Human Relations, Volume 64, Number 7, 2011, pp. 873–99; Paquita C. De Zulueta, “Developing Compassionate Leadership in Health Care: An Integrative Review,” Journal of Healthcare Leadership, Volume 8, 2016, pp. 1–10.
  6. Jane E. Dutton, et al, “Leading in times of trauma,” Harvard Business Review, Volume 80, Number 1, 2002, pp. 54–61; Edward H. Powley and Sandy Kristin Piderit, “Tending wounds: Elements of the organizational healing process,” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Volume 44, Number 1, 2008, pp. 134–49.
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/04/mental-health-coronavirus/
  8. Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet, McKinsey & Company, Organizational Practice, “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges”, 2020.
  9. Helio Fred Garcia, “Effective leadership response to crisis,” Strategy & Leadership, 2006, Volume 34, Number 1, pp. 4–10.
  10. Adapted from Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, “Leadership in a (permanent) crisis,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2009, hbr.com

 

About the Author

Event Registration (EVENT: 796935 - SESSION: 1)

 

Bei Ma is the founder and CEO of the Pinea Group (Pinea). Pinea serves as a trusted partner specialized in cross-border fund raising, market access, clinical studies, regulatory pathway, licensing, and distribution to help medical devices, diagnostics, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical organizations to achieve the best patient outcomes and commercial success.  Previously, Bei Ma served as Vice President of Global Healthcare Business Development at British Standards Institution (BSI) Group. Bei can be reached at 410.271.7267 and beimalong7@gmail.com; her LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/beima/

How to Build a Company Culture That’s Sustainable in Any Market

This is a Guest blog post from Ines LeBow.

10 Quotes on Organizational Change To Inspire Teams | Change ...

 

Herodotus, the ancient Greek intellectual who became known as “The Father of History” coined the phrase “Culture is King”. Companies rise and fall based on their culture, and challenging situations like we’ve faced here in 2020 test company culture to determine if it’s real or just a façade. In a recent article, I gave advice on how to “Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck”, but as an entrepreneur, are you really able to pandemic-proof your company culture? The answer is a resounding “yes”! In fact, you can create a culture that thrives in any market situation, including Covid and beyond.

 

Leadership-Driven Culture

 

How you, the entrepreneur, and the executive team lead at the outset of your business and through “normal” times sets the tone for your culture that will carry you through times that are trying. As Frances Hesselbein so succinctly put it, “Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”

 

For the leadership team that truly prioritizes the culture of their organization, there are a few core values that will be emphasized down the management ranks to the front-line employees and a call to have the actions of all personnel align with these values. The top core values include:

 

  • Two-Way Communication – Consistent and ongoing opportunities for the executive team to interact with staff (both speaking and listening) and for all team members to interact with customers (again, both speaking and listening)
  • Engagement – Fostering a sense of ownership and a common purpose throughout the organization to energize all employees and get them working toward a uniting vision
  • Wellness and Balance – Setting policies that value employees’ work-life balance, mental and physical health, and general wellness
  • Programs and Tools – Enacting programs and implementing tools that allow employees to thrive in personal and professional development, workplace collaboration, idea innovation, mobile and remote work setups, knowledge sharing, and more

 

 

The combination of forced and voluntary business shutdowns that occurred nearly overnight as a result of the Coronavirus response quickly led to 88% of companies that either required or encouraged their employees to work from home, according to a Gartner survey. Some companies were ill-prepared for this rapid shift. Many of the companies with the technical capabilities for hosting a truly remote workforce, however, lacked the type of culture that would keep employees engaged, communicating, and thriving when not in an in-person environment.

 

Having a great framework in place is essential and must include employees who come to a physical office location as well as employees who work from home, in the field, or from a remote office. As companies return to work, executives and board members are going to re-imaging how the company operates. The old approach of leasing large office spaces may alter significantly, causing companies to adopt a more aggressive mobile and remote work model. Re-thinking how these core values that contribute to the corporate culture can be dealt with is just as important to strategize over.

 

To learn more about creating an engaging culture or how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

 

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at http://www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

Smart People Might Be Killing Your Strategy

This is a Guest blog post from Mark Haas, CEO of the Association for Enterprise Growth. He helps boards and executives create powerful strategies to help them make decisions with greater confidence, impact and pride.

 

Fotolia_60434083_SCorporate restructuring, M&A, competitive intelligence, strategy, new product development, and process reengineering.   One thing required for success that they all share is the need for the best and brightest. The smartest person in the room. World class minds to solve world class problems. Top grads from the best schools.

I disagree. While intellect has its place in business, being smart is no replacement for creativity, agility, innovation or insight. Yes, sometimes these capabilities are rolled into one person, but rarely.  Several decades helping clients create strategy has led to some insight into where smart is a help and where it can be deadly.

You wouldn’t want only the “smartest” surgeons, engineers, artists or teachers wholly responsible for your welfare. You’d want the right team of individuals, each bringing appropriate skills for the task. Creativity is about being able to see alternatives. Agility requires anticipation. Innovation is more about flawless execution than the up-front ideas. Insight needs, well, a lot more than intellectual horsepower.

The Risks From Being Smart

Being smart has a huge downside for humans. It derives from how we were raised, trained, rewarded and placed in corporations. As children, most of us were rewarded for being on time, orderly and respectful of adult norms. In school, being smart was equated with getting the “right” answer, quickly. Most professions promote a body of knowledge that implies adherence to widely accepted professional standards. Our advancement in most business settings is a result of knowing the right people, performing well on tasks and knowing the rules of promotion. All this seems appropriate because it is so familiar.

In strategy formation, high intellect can be a hindrance; in a team of only “the smartest of the smart,” it can be a disaster. Especially in an increasingly VUCA world, there is no single answer and the first answer is often not the best answer. For the highly intelligent person, the learned (both personally and socially) rigidity and linearity of problem solving to reach an elegant, perfect solution gets in the way of seeing the possibilities of which powerful strategies are made.

Use Smart, But Leverage It

The solution is not to ban smart people from the strategy team. Rather, recognize that the skills you need for a powerful strategy team go far beyond intellect. A high-horsepower car engine is great in theory but is useless without fuel injectors, cooling system and brakes. Fill your team with staff (this also applies to external advisors) who can turn off their brains for a bit and participate more fully in the other essential parts of the strategy process.

 

Mark Haas is CEO of the Association for Enterprise Growth. He helps boards and executives create powerful strategies to help them make decisions with greater confidence, impact and pride. He works with companies and nonprofits to develop strategies, create and validate business models, and execute with discipline. Mark is also an international trainer, facilitator and speaker in ethics, strategy and performance management. He can be reached at  mhaas@enterprisegrowth.org and (301) 442-5889.