What do you do with THAT employee?

“He’s my best sales guy. He makes his numbers quarter after quarter! But everyone dreads it when he comes into the office.” My friend was on the verge of tears – it was clear that he was going to have to do something about his sales guy, if he didn’t want others to quit. But he was worried about his star salesman would react and he was not looking forward to it.

We’ve all faced this issue of what to do with that employee – the trustworthy finance guy, who upsets your team members often over trivial amounts; the brilliant technologist who cheeses everybody off with his superior attitude, or the HR manager, who despite the many years she’s been with you, who’s not pulling her weight any more. The timing is rarely right to confront them and the longer you put it off the worse it’s likely to get. We also worry about how we got here and how best to handle it so we retain them without too high an emotional cost. If you are like me, then you put it off for a better time, which rarely comes.

Hiring people is always one of the top 3 problems I hear managers or founders talk about. Implicit in this of course is that matter of hiring the right people. Yet, even after we’ve hired the right people, as neither organizations nor the people stay constant, we run into all kinds of issues. Gil Amelio, who was an inspiring leader (and CEO) at my first employer National Semiconductor, taught me a very simple framework to both talk about this and to aid action.

Effective vs Attitude

Attitude and Effectiveness Successful organisations look at not just at proven capabilities and experience that would make a prospective employee effective, but also their attitude and fit with your organisational culture. He used the familiar four quadrant framework, with effectiveness along the y-axis and attitude (or cultural fit) along the x-axis as shown in the figure below.

Quadrant 1 – Neither the right attitude nor effective  These are the easiest folks to deal with – they are basically hiring mistakes you’ve made. Ideally you’d not have anyone in this quadrant or if you do, you’d fix your hiring process to minimize recurrence.  Lou Adler, author and CEO of the Adler group in his recent article titled “There Are Only Four Types of People — Are You Hiring The Right Ones?” terms these folks Type 1: Those you should never hire!

Quadrant 2 – Have the right attitude but are not effective Usually this is a sign that these folks are in the wrong job. They may have been effective, even in the same job, but no longer are, because the jobs requirements have evolved or they haven’t. Or you’ve placed them in the wrong role. The ineffective sales guy may bloom in a business development role or inside sales job. The trick is to find them a role that they can be effective in. If your organisation is big enough, you may have one or more such roles – sometimes the right role may not be within your department or even company, in which case its best to help them find the right role, whether inside or outside your company.

Quadrant 3 – Have the right attitude and are effective These are your stars – the people who perform consistently and lead from the front. The trick with these folks is to ensure that they are constantly learning and growing. Folks in Quandrant 3 can fall into Quandrant 2, when your company and your needs grow fast and they don’t grow as fast. These are the folks you want to be hiring and your company and its processes should be geared to finding, attracting, retaining and growing Quadrant 3 folks.

Quadrant 4 – Don’t have the right attitude but are effective This is the hardest group to deal with. The obnoxious sales person my friend had to deal with, the supercilious technologist or rude finance guy we met all fall into this quadrant. Two things make it difficult to effect change with these folks -

  • they are deemed successful and have been rewarded in the past, despite their interpersonal shortcomings.
  • They are often positions deemed critical, that make change not just unpalatable but downright scary. “What’ll happen to my sales, if this guy leaves?” or “Will I find another trusthworthy finance guy?”

Organizations suffer the most, because most of us don’t know how best to handle Quadrant 4 folks. The first step is to recognize not only the existence of these four quadrants but that people can move within the quadrants. This is most commonly seen from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 3 (more effective) through skilling and occasionally to Quadrant 2 from Quadrant 3 (less effective) when the job needs grow and person doesn’t.

Effectiveness v Attitude

I’ve found talking about the four quadrants and even mutually agreeing with your team members where they see themselves and where their peers or you see them helps immensely. This way when it is time to have the hard conversation, you both have a framework and vocabulary that can help keep the conversation professional. In my experience, almost always folks in the Quadrant 2 will have to be let go. We’ve had the occasional technical person build out their interpersonal skills and make the move from Quadrant 4 to Quadrant 3.

Let me know how this works for you.

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Can we take a 2×2 matrix too far?

Decision making

3 Steps to Becoming an Effective Listener

Listening intentlyHow often have you found yourself tapping your feet impatiently, as you waited for the another person who as speaking to either pause or wrap, before jumping in with your own point of view? if you are like me, you may even end up interrupting the other person. Never mind, if we fully heard let alone understood what the other person was saying, before we are countering or questioning, what we think they said. This can be very frustrating for both the speaker and the listener (or interrupter).

Being a good listener, somehow seems a hard trait to come by and with so many of us struggling with it, is it a surprise that few of us are effective listeners? Brian Tracy – sales trainer, inspirational speaker and successful entrepreneur talks of three steps to becoming an effective listener. In the video at the bottom of this post, you can hear him speak on the subject. For those of you who’s rather get the gist of what he says, here it is.

Pause Once the other person has stopped speaking, pause before you speak. This ensures, that you don’t interrupt the other person, in case they are just taking a breath. It shows that you are giving consideration to their words and you’ll actually hear the other person better! So pause first.

Ask Questions to achieve clarity. Open ended questions help the other person expand on their responses and this will help you in turn understand better, what is it that they are saying.

Paraphrase In your words, state what is it you heard them say. Usually a statement such as “What you are saying is _______”,  helps demonstrate that you are paying attention and working at understanding what it is they are saying.

Brian also answers the question Why bother with effective listening?

It makes the speaker, be relaxed and happy which in turn will make them want to be around you.  Listening builds trust and self-esteem in the speaker. It also helps the listener (you) achieve greater self-worth through the practice of self-discipline. Watch the video below to hear this in Brian’s own words.

4 Secrets to Better Sales

Recently LinkedIn opened up their blog post functionality to me – given the larger business audience there, I’d shared 4 Sales Lessons I Gained in Losing 20 Kilos and realized that it might be particularly relevant to startups trying gain traction. Here’s the short abstract.

  • Make every day count – sales is one activity, that you can’t turn on and off, but have to pursue, doggedly, determinedly, daily. No ifs, ands or buts!
  • Plan & start your day early As Brian Tracy says, Eat that Frog – get it done first thing in the morning. An early start will set the tone right for each day – planning makes sure that early start is productive.
  • Measure but in moderation Have specific goals and targets and measure them diligently. Only what gets measured will improve. Don’t go overboard, results are what count, not just the counting
  • Teams make it fun Sales is hard enough with rejections and hang ups – make it easier by working with teams, including partners, customers and competitors and don’t roe a lonely road.

Happy hunting. You can read the full piece here.

10 Non-business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Given how popular 10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read has been, I reckoned it would be good to share 10 non-business books that every entrepreneur will do well to read. So here it is.

 

So what would be your favorite non-business book? Join in with your thoughts.

5 steps of a startup

Originally posted on Om Malik:

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures says startups are like climbing up a flight of stairs and it is a essentially a five step process.  

  1. The first step you need to climb is building a product, getting it into the market, and finding product market fit.  [Seed financing stage]
  2. The second step you need to climb is to hire a small team that can help you operate and grow the business you have now birthed by virtue of finding product market fit. [Series A stage]
  3. The third step you need to climb is to scale that team and ramp revenues and take the market. [Series B stage]
  4. The fourth step you need to climb is to get to profitability so that your cash flow after all expenses can sustain and grow the business. [Series C stage]
  5. The fifth step is generating liquidity for you, your team, and your investors…

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Video

5 Lessons from 40 Years of Entrepreneurship

Romesh Wadhwani, founder and Chairman of the Symphony Technology group, shared five lessons about entrepreneurship that he’s garnered from his 40 years of being one at the recent TiECon 2014 Conference.

His five lessons were:

  1. Creativity Entrepreneurship is about creativity – whether in products, business models, companies. And entrepreneurs need to be creative, passionate and tenacious.
  2. Learning particularly from failures. As he puts it “inside every failure, there are the seeds of future success”
  3. Renewal Even when successful, its important to constant renew and reinvent, to grow and to succeed personally & professionally
  4. Building great companies – entrepreneurship is not (only) about exits. As he puts it “When you build great companies, great outcomes will happen.”
  5. Celebrating success particularly – can be done in a number of ways. Some focused on yourself – whether in things you acquire or do but a better way is to help others – impact the world positively, in whatever manner, big or small. Your legacy is the impact you have on others.

Enjoy the video Romesh’s speech begins at 17m50s !

 

Arista, Uber, Silicon Valley

ksrikrishna:

If as @om says this is bad in the Valley, its 100x worse in India. Our definition of a tech startup leaves much to be desired.

Originally posted on Om Malik:

Last week, at least, to me was perfect illustration of how and what media perceives as technology. Everywhere you looked, you saw coverage of Uber and its ability to raise money at a jaw-dropping valuation ($1.4 billion at a valuation of $18.4 billion) and on the flipside was the miserly amount of attention accorded to Arista Networks, an old fashion, honest-to-god technology company that took no money* from venture capitalists and was co-founded by one of living legends of Silicon Valley that went public earlier this week.

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3 Things To Look for in a Co-founder

Co-founders

Photo: MyTudut

Almost soon as I made the case why you need a co-founder, a friend responded with the question “What should I look for in a co-founder?” While we’ve asked this question of both entrepreneurs and angels, here’s my take on what you need to look for in a co-founder.

Vision Match Building a business is often a long hard journey, and you want to make your that your partner or co-founder shares your vision. As setbacks occur (which they will) or when money seems hard to come by, customers leave, milestones slip or worse yet when things work, and especially when you seem to be making more money than you can keep track of, having a shared vision will ensure that things stay on even keel. If there isn’t a shared vision of why you are running your business and what it is you seek, as a company and as individuals, it will be difficult to survive every fork in the road that you’ll encounter. And you will encounter far more than you can imagine. So make sure your visions match.

Complementary Skills All too often we end up hiring or connecting with people who are just like us. While that’s nice, its far more important to find someone who has complementary skills – someone who’s comfortable talking to prospective customers or selling, if you are building a product. Someone who can manage projects or money, if you are out there focused on selling; someone who’s comfortable writing or documenting while you are out there hustling or building. Usually startups require everyone to be as hands on as they can, especially co-founders and it can really help, if they can do things you can’t or do them better than you can. So make sure that they not only have shared vision but can do things you can’t!

Honest & Open Communication The nature of startups is such that you will screw up. Heck so will your co-founder and more than once. So it’s important that your co-founder and you share a healthy interpersonal relationship – one not just based on mutual trust and but on honest and open communication. If you walk around each other, either too polite to raise uncomfortable topics or avoid conflict or confrontation at all costs, lots of important issues will not get sorted out in a timely manner and that’s something no startup can afford. So it’s really important that you feel comfortable around you co-founder that either one of you can raise issues that bother you and can be talked through to resolution. Only with honest and open communication can you keep one another honest, not to mention your business out of trouble.

Here is Sanjay Anandram’s take on what to look for in a co-founder

Meanwhile to make sure that  your prospective co-founder & you are aligned on

  • a shared vision of the company and its raison d’etre
  • what complementary value each of you bring to the table
  • talking openly and resolving matters through timely and effective communication

So go out there and find that co-founder. Good luck!

3 Reasons Startups Need PR

Public RelationsEvery startup should engage in Public Relations (PR) from day one. Does this mean you hire a PR firm? Absolutely NOT! When you talk about your start up at your local college, a Meetup or a friend’s wedding, you are doing PR.

Of course, as with all such activities, if you do it in a systematic and smart manner it can pay off in a big way. It’s easy (and wrong) to imagine public relations to be a matter of hiring a PR firm and talking to the media. It’s really about letting your stakeholder community know that you exist and shaping their perception of you.

As all-knowing Wikipedia quotes

“The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.”

With that said, here are three reasons for a start up to do PR.

Customers If customer’s haven’t heard of you or know that you exist, it’s hard to get them to buy from you. A well thought-out PR plan, even if executed by one person, usually the founder, can do wonders. This is particularly true for anyone in the B2B business. It’s nice if customers have heard of you before you show up at their doorstep. This can be done in any number of creative and no-money-spent ways from blog posts, contributed articles or op-ed pieces in your local paper, talks at industry bodies or local associations, or newsletters. A side benefit of such PR activity is that you get to practice and refine your company’s story, which is always a good thing. It’s also a great way to figure what resonates with your target audience and in some instances, even refine who your target audience really is!

Employees If you grow, or land that first or tenth customer, you’ll find you’ll want to be attracting employees. Even more importantly, if you’ve hired folks, you’d want to retain them and keep them motivated. Nothing works like seeing your company’s name in the paper, a poster, on the TV or in social media, to both attract and inspire folks. If like most start ups you’re asking them to work hard and make sacrifices then such inspiration is not an option. In time, you can get your team to do the PR, which will help build their own personal brands and bring goodwill and repute to your business.

Investors At some point if you wish to raise money, whether from friends, family or other fools, or professional investors, it helps – much like with customers – if they’ve heard of you. While a lot of ink offers no certainty of raising money, it provides folks the comfort that you’ve been around, survived and hopefully thrived by the time you approach them. The beauty about PR done well is that it allows you to drive the conversation about what your company stands for and sets context, so that you are really not an unknown or worse yet, a . Imisunderstood quantity to prospective investors.

So darn right, as long as you spend a finite amount of time and constantly measure the effectiveness of your activities, I’d assert every start up should invest in public relations from day one!

This post was inspired by a question on Quora