In this podcast, Scott discusses the hidden leaders that are often not given credit within an organization. He also talks about the 4 characteristics of leadership behavior that all employees can exhibit and why it’s so important that employees understand what it means to really act as a business owner.
In a survey I conducted a few years ago at a Fortune 100 telecommunications company, I found an interesting contrast:
- Sales leaders report that they provide considerable coaching to employees and score themselves high.
- Sales leader direct reports responded by saying that they receive little to no coaching from their leaders and score them low in this area.
This is not just the front line. It’s from managers, directors, and vice presidents, too. And the higher up the data went in the structure, the worse the discrepancy.
Coaching is about improving performance—improving performance by developing ability. It is not entirely different from the way a coach in athletics or the arts does it. They provide a model or a standard of performance, and then they carefully analyze the performance in order to make necessary changes. Sometimes they participate; other times they simply provide guidance and direction. But the focus is always on improving the ability of the person being coached.
In sales, requesting forecasts, reviewing pipelines together, revising forecasts, and asking if there is anything else that can be done to close business in this quarter—among other activities—isn’t coaching. Those things may be part of the job, but they aren’t coaching, and that is why my survey data showed those outcomes. Too often, management interactions are more about requesting information and discussing results instead of coaching to improve performance.
So, no matter the role, if you want people to perform better, you have to dedicate time, effort, and energy to coaching. And if you manage a sales team, it is useful to be clear on which of the following tactics you’ll employ. (As an aside, the same tactics hold true for sales leaders coaching their direct reports, though these examples are for coaching sales professionals.)
4 Sales Coaching Tactics
1. Role Model: You manage the sales call
There are plenty of reasons why you may choose to run the sales cycle or a sales call entirely, especially if you are working with new salespeople. You may want to illustrate a certain skill set, such as asking strategic questions, or you may want to demonstrate how to manage a particular kind of client.
When you set the example, it is important to discuss the specific behaviors you will be modeling prior to the call. That way you can draw attention and reference the approaches that you used and to what effect during a post-call debrief.
Demonstrating different approaches to client interactions can be effective even with senior sales professionals because it can highlight subtle adjustments that can lead to greater effectiveness.
2. Active Observer: You watch the sales call, paying attention to specific behaviors
It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to be a seller and a coach at the same time. So, if you are going to coach, then as much as possible you ought to be in the observer role and allow your salesperson to manage the entire client interaction. Do that even if it means your salesperson makes mistakes or manages the call differently from how you would like to see it handled.
There is nothing harder than watching someone struggle with something you know how to do, but allowing your seller to do so will enable him to learn and grow. There is one giant caveat here, and that is I’d never suggest being an observer on a high-profile call that has a great deal of business at stake. Do observation calls with low-risk clients or with accounts that don’t represent a significant opportunity. This is practice, and you need to actively identify areas to build on, as well as address weak points.
3. Teammate: You actively participate in the sales call with a clearly defined area of focus
When manager and seller are both in selling mode, it is crucial to be clear on who is responsible for what topics, what questions each of you will ask, and what issues each of you plans to handle.
Team selling is powerful when both members of the team are coordinated, but without the appropriate pre-call planning, you run the risk of stepping on each other’s toes and looking unprofessional in front of potential clients.
Think of a kayak with the rowers in sync and the velocity they achieve compared with a kayak in which both rowers are out of rhythm. The latter can be counterproductive, so take time to carefully plan your calls.
4. Strategist: You support the sales call with guidance and advice in planning and in debriefing
You can’t go on every sales call, nor should you. In those cases, your coaching involves providing strategic input on an account or client situation. You provide guidance and coaching before client interactions and after them to help your team advance opportunities.
A few ways you can help without actually going on the sales call:
- Help your sellers plan calls effectively
- Develop strategies to move prospects through the pipeline
- Get clear on how your sellers intend to create value and uncover needs
When you are coaching your people, odds are you are fulfilling one of the above roles. If you aren’t, then you ought to ask yourself if what you are doing is really coaching.
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
Everybody recognizes the importance of leadership in the C-suite, but we don’t always give it the attention it deserves in the trenches—where execution is the name of the game. Nevertheless, there are lots of so-called “hidden leaders” on the front lines, and supervisors and middle managers who know how to find and nurture them can enhance performance in their teams and provide a great boon to their companies.
Who are these hidden leaders? “They are the people who are putting your organization’s strategy into practice, carrying out your quarterly plans, and bringing the value of your organization to life for customers every day,” says Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group. “They are the employees who make the engine run.”
In Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness within Your Company (AMACOM, 2015), Edinger, along with co-author Laurie Sain, explains that these often unrecognized and, thus, underutilized employees can set the standards for performance excellence and bring energy to their teams; they serve as trustworthy sounding boards for supervisors and peers alike and are the go-to guys and gals for critical assignments. Edinger generously agreed to answer a few questions to help you harness the power of the hidden leaders on your teams.
Safari: How can supervisors and managers identify hidden leaders?
Edinger: The simplistic answer, which I often hear from CEOs and division leaders, is to look for employees who “act like owners.” This made perfect sense to me until one day, when I suggested that a group of call center employees should act like owners and one of the operators snapped back, “Does that mean I get to drive a nicer car, come in late, and do whatever I feel like?”
He got a good laugh, but it struck me that the vast majority of people don’t have ownership stakes in their companies, and as a result, they have no idea what it means to act like an owner. So I started to talk to executives about what it really means and their answers led me to the four facets that characterize the behaviors of hidden leaders:
- Focus on results: Hidden leaders are not simply trading time for money. They are focused on outcomes and the achievement of goals.
- Demonstrate integrity: Hidden leaders can be counted on to do what they say they will do. They follow through on their commitments, speak up when something is not working, and give clear feedback.
- Lead through relationships: Hidden leaders establish relationships to get work done. They promote teamwork and collaboration within and across organizational silos.
- Customer purposed: Hidden leaders understand how their companies create value for customers and they are able to get beyond everyday process and tasks to ensure that value gets delivered.
Safari: What if no one on my team clearly demonstrates all four facets? Does that mean that I have no hidden leaders?
Edinger: Not necessarily, although it does mean that you’re going to have to do some coaching and mentoring. Remember, we aren’t looking for people who are perfect in each of these areas—people like that don’t exist. We’re looking for people who are good or really good in terms of the four facets, and then, we’re building on that foundation by helping them cultivate good performance into profound strengths.
Safari: Can we create an organizational environment that stimulates the emergence of hidden leaders?
Edinger: Yes, and the formal leaders in a company should do exactly that. What if you could raise the number of hidden leaders on your 12-member team from one or two to six or seven? Think about the tremendous effect would that have on the performance of the team.
That said, there isn’t a silver bullet – there is no one training program or compensation plan that will make this happen. It’s really the culture of an organization that enables hidden leaders to flourish—and that is the responsibility of formal leaders, particularly senior leaders. We’ve found that cultures that emphasize open communication, shared understanding and alignment vis-à-vis strategy and goals, teamwork and collaboration, organizational learning, customer focus, innovation, and a clearly-defined set of values are ideal for unearthing hidden leaders.
The Hidden Leader, by Scott K. Edinger and Laurie Sain, is being featured on IEDP’s blog this month. IEDP is the UK’s Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners which offers advisory services to leaders and professionals.
Moe Abdou and Scott Edinger discuss ways for managers to discover their secret saviors and enable them to deliver even greater value to customers.
A summary of things you should know about The Hidden Leader according to Scott Edinger:
In this episode Scott Edinger takes a deep dive into his and Laurie Sain’s book, The Hidden Leader, where they reveal a unique way to develop greatness within a company.
In their book Edinger and Sain provide a systematic blueprint of a new style of leadership called Reverser Mentoring where senior leaders are mentored by their employees. The goal of the book is to show you how to recognize true leaders within your company, effectively utilize highly talented employees, and build valuable, long-lasting relationships with any employee.
This book is perfect for entrepreneurs who lead their organizations with a creative mindset and are looking for a way to effectively make the most of under-utilized employees.
The Book’s Unique Quality (3:36)
There are thousands of books on leadership but the majority of them all seem directed at people who are in positions of leadership but there are very little directed at people who are your average citizen.
The Best Way To Engage (4:45)
I designed the book to be read from front to back but if you want to cherry-pick information along the way you can do that too.
The Reader’s Takeaway (13:59)
I want the reader to know that leadership has nothing to do with position or title; it’s what your actions are.
A Deep Dive Into The Book (5:47)
Hidden leaders look for what the outcome is or how success is defined in any given endeavor and then they figure out how they are going to do something. I am not saying they are renegades to the process but they are willing and able to look for the result that we are seeking and understand it. Another thing I see a lot of from hidden leaders is that they lead through relationships. They can’t boss anyone around or tell people what to do so they are really good at leading through relationships and that does not mean they are the popular person. Usually these hidden leaders have some kind of great technical expertise. They secondly understand the organization broadly and know way more than just their function and are able to knit teams together when they need to get things done. Thirdly, they are able to make a connection with people. The last thing that I wanted to share that I think is the heart of everything is the idea that hidden leaders demonstrate integrity.
NOTE: That was just a summary. To get the full deep dive, play the audio clip at 05:47
Notable Quotes From The Book (14:26)
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and become more you are a leader. “ – John Quincy Adams.
The Credibility/Inspiration Of The Author (0:35)
Companies like AT&T, Lenovo, and Los Angeles Times hire me to work with their senior leaders. I start with senior leaders because as the senior leaders go so goes the organization. I work with them on creating growth strategies and how to create differentiation in their business as well as how to lead effectively.
A few years ago I was talking with a former colleague of mine and he was telling me about a project he was working on called Reverse Mentoring. The notion here was that instead of senior partners mentoring, the associates would mentor the senior partners. And those senior partners learned a great deal not only about technology but also about client services and some new ways to approach that. I thought that was such an interesting idea and then the next day I read an article about reverse innovation. I ended up thinking about it all when the hidden leader concept was born and then I found my publisher.
Other Books Recommended By The Author (15:45)
High Performance Sales Organizations by Darlene Coker and Ed Gaizo
More Information About This Book and The Author
Buy The Hidden Leader by Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain on Amazon today
Visit EdingerGroup.com to learn more about Scott and his exclusive content
Visit TheHiddenLeader.com to learn more about the book
Follow Scott Edinger on Facebook and Twitter
Every time I’ve worked with a senior team in the strategy formulation process, we’ve succeeded. Of course, I’ve never heard any group of executives say their strategy failed when it was created. It is in the implementation or execution that strategies falter, because most strategies rely on people in the organization taking action in new or different ways. That doesn’t happen by declaration. And it doesn’t happen when people are sent to training programs, though it is popular to pitch this to HR or Talent Management. If you want your strategy to work, it is up to the CEO and senior leaders of the business to drive it and you’ll need the help of what I call Hidden Leaders to be your exemplars and role models.
Hidden Leaders are the individual contributors, front line supervisors, and middle managers that bring your strategy to life everyday. They are the employees who go the extra mile for your customers, the ones who can be counted on to deliver great results, the ones whose opinions are trusted by colleagues; they are your go to people at every level of the business. I wrote the book The Hidden Leader because we don’t often think of leaders occupying these kinds of roles. Leadership has come to mean position or title in most companies, but there is a tremendous amount of leadership in places we don’t typically look that is lying fallow.
So while it is necessary to have good leadership in the senor management ranks, it’s not sufficient to achieve the growth many CEO’s desire. But, you’ll have few Hidden Leaders if the very visible leaders don’t establish the kind of culture that cultivates leadership at all levels. Since culture is really about the mindset or beliefs that guide behaviors, that is your starting point.
- Can you identify the people who have the greatest influence on how people in your company, division, or office behave?
- Does your business provide reinforcement for the behaviors you desire, separate from results achieved? (e.g. Rewards for innovative efforts that don’t work out.)
- Are there consequences for behaviors that are counterproductive, even if the outcome is a win?
I’ve seen very sound strategies fail, and average strategies achieve strong objectives. The difference in the CEO’s was the creation of an environment that allowed them to rely on leaders at all levels to power the implementation.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of The United States said it best close to 200 years ago. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and become more, you are a leader.” The sentiment expressed in that sentence succinctly describes one of the primary messages in my new book The Hidden Leader, which is that leadership in organizations, is not tied only to positions of authority and titles. Rather, that leadership can exist anywhere in a company, from individual contributors, front-line supervisors, or middle management—places we don’t tend to look for leaders. Yet harnessing the power of those employees may be your best opportunity to create a competitive advantage in an environment where what you offer, (products or services) is becoming less important than how you offer it. The linchpin for that elusive, but unfair advantage over the competition is your Hidden Leaders.
I’ve analyzed and published performance data on tens of thousands of leaders and had the chance to work personally with hundreds more. Through that experience I’ve learned that leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There is no bright-line test or rule for what makes exceptional leadership. No universal standard or unambiguous objective factors. But the common thread in that tapestry of leadership is that leaders believe that what they do matters. They make a difference. And that has nothing to do with titles, positions, or authority.
In my work with companies from the largest in the Fortune 500 to venture backed start-ups, I’ve been fortunate to see many of these Hidden Leaders in action, committed to making a difference, and this is what I’ve observed.
1. They lead through relationships. With no position or title to wield, the Hidden Leaders rely on their relationships to influence action. Relationships that aren’t just niceness or likeability (though it doesn’t hurt), but those that are built on confidence in their capability or expertise. Relationships that develop trust in decision making, and prioritizing what is in the best interest of the customer or the company. These relationships also create some kind of a connection—that is, they interact as people—not just doing tasks and performing jobs. That connection can include excitement and engagement, or frustration and a desire work together to improve something.
2. They demonstrate integrity. The kind of integrity that has the courage to give feedback or express truthful opinions instead of clouding real issues with corporate speak. The integrity of keeping commitments, and being accountable for their actions. Integrity that shows when someone is willing to speak up when something goes against the grain of cultural values or isn’t consistent with stated objectives. Of course, they don’t lie, cheat, or steal, but that is no great feat, and frankly is just meeting expectations. This kind of demonstration of integrity includes a texture of being reliable, dependable, and consistent. They can be counted on.
3. They focus on outcomes and results. Instead of getting bogged down in checking off tasks or blindly going about their work, Hidden Leaders will take a look to the horizon to understand what the end result is. That desired result could be the completion of a project, resolution of an issue, or implementation of some kind. Whatever it is, they understand what your business needs to accomplish, and allow those objectives and results to guide their actions. Sometimes that means doing something different and setting a standard for new best practices. Other times, times it may mean following the chain of command to get an exception made. Whatever it is, they focus on achieving your goals, not simply trading time for money.
4. They get it when it comes to your customer. Hidden Leaders understand what your customers (the ones that pay the bills), are trying to accomplish. They help to identify unintended consequences, or problems that haven’t been considered. They reveal opportunities that haven’t been considered. They are able to marshal resources across your business—not only in their department, to help in addressing customer needs or desires. I call this being customer purposed, recognizing that these employees had a deep understanding of what customers were trying to accomplish with a companies products and services, versus simply performing their functional role in delivery.
While it is necessary to have strong leaders in senior management roles to create a great business, I contend it is not sufficient. If you want to have a great business, you’ll need to cultivate leaders at all levels of your organization—especially in the places where you haven’t been traditionally looking for them. If you do it well, think of the value you create for your business—with virtually no capital investment at all.
Scott Edinger works with senior leaders of companies like AT&T, Lenovo, and The Los Angeles Times. He is recognized as an expert in helping organizations achieve top and bottom line growth. In addition to The Hidden Leader, Scott has co-authored The Inspiring Leader (McGraw- Hill) and the Harvard Business Review article Making Yourself Indispensable, called by HBR a “classic in the making”. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes and the Harvard Business Review. As founder of Edinger Consulting Group, Scott has worked with leaders in nearly every industry sector, helping them formulate and implement growth strategies, increase revenue and profit, develop leadership capacity, drive employee engagement, and attract and retain talent.
Too often leaders rely on usual suspects—the people they repeatedly turn to for the most important work. Consequently good team members go overlooked. They’re hidden. This episode of Work That Matters looks at this phenomenon, the four facets of hidden leadership, and its impact to the business and people.