#127-Where’s Your Feedback Coming From?
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host on a magical February beautiful sunny day here in North Carolina. Hopefully, it is not snowing by you, although we are supposed to get snow tomorrow. It’s crazy, in February in North Carolina, I was told it would be 70, 75 degrees, not 30, 35 with snow, but that’s OK. That’s all right. It’s better than 30 inches. I’ll take it. Probably an inch, maybe at most.
John: So I wanted to share with you, I had a conversation with a top leader, somebody who I respect a lot, who is in the medical device industry, who had brought up a question that I thought was a great question. And he was dealing with a situation that his basic question was, how do you know when you need to retract a decision versus you just keep going with it in light of negative feedback and lack of support? I said, wow, that’s such a great question.
John: Because I know I’ve faced that many times. Many, many leaders, all leaders, I think face that at some point. Sometimes as a leader, you’ve got to make tough decisions that are not going to be very popular. And that’s OK. Most of the time when you go into a situation like that, you know, especially a tough decision is not going to be received well by everybody across the board and in many cases might not be received well by even most people. But what I’ve always felt is that if I make a decision that’s in alignment with the values and the philosophies and the principle and the vision of the organization, that I may not get everybody’s agreement, but I will get everybody’s support. And that’s what I ultimately wanted. You may not agree with it, but I want to explain the rationale. I want you to understand the decision, how I came about that decision or we came about that decision and at least understand the reasons behind it, the why. And you may not like it, but I would ask and expect your support.
John: In this case, this leader shared that their company had rolled out a major change to the compensation plan for all of their salespeople. And they had done it at the beginning of the year. And it was done in a really admittedly by him. It was done in a very abrupt fashion. It was without notice and it was done for, as he felt legitimate reasons. They needed to restructure the financial side. They need to restructure the compensation. And it had been long in coming. So it was one of these things. It was kind of overdue. So they made a major change. Now, what they did was they made some changes that were ultimately what it meant to the salespeople that were out there where they would need to do more in order to earn the same amount of income that they had been previously earning, which is not uncommon.
John: Most sales organizations, at some point you’re going to keep raising that bar and that’s expected. I think salespeople in general ultimately know that that bar is going to
continue to be raised. But what they did is they I think by his own admission, they moved it a little too far, too fast. And they ultimately got major pushback. And he was faced with major pushback from his organization. And his question was, OK, at what point do you just say, all right, here it is, what it is, deal with it, and let’s learn how to still reach your goals and figure out how to reach your goals under this new compensation plan? Or is there ever a case where you retract or change based on the feedback in the input?
John: Great question again. Now you can imagine a large company like that, you go through all the efforts to make that change, communicate that change your lineup, you know, it changes that have been made and everything just everything needs to be re-coded. I mean, a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be changed to align with this new compensation plan. So it’s a lot of behind-the-scenes. And I asked this person, I said, well, where is the feedback coming from? Who’s giving it to you, who is negative and who is buying in, and who’s in support? And his response was it’s pretty much all across the board that everybody is feeling really frustrated and demotivated by this. I said, OK, what about your top people? Are your top people feeling that way? And his reaction was, yes. I said, OK, well, did you prior to this, did you have, did you invite any of the top salespeople into maybe a meeting, a closed-door session to just bounce some ideas off of them to get their feedback before you rolled it out to the rest of the field?
John: Here is the problem. No, the answer was no. They had not done this. This was done entirely behind closed doors with senior executives and people in the home office and the finance team and everything like that without consulting anybody. Now, I think that’s a big mistake because ultimately, when you’re making a change like this, now, I’ve been part of organizations where you change the compensation and sometimes you take it from the people at the bottom and you add it to the people at the top and there’s a net-zero, net-gain, or loss. There’s no new change. It’s just where the money is going like that. In other words, the people at the top are happy. People at the bottom may not be as much. I think, as an organization. If you’re really trying to grow, you’re trying to raise the bar. That’s a smart decision.
John: You have to do that at times. In this case, they were decreasing the size of the overall comp pot of money, compensation, pot of money, and they were penalizing everybody across the board. And even the top producers were really taking a big cut. And when I say big cut and we’re talking about 30%, maybe even 40% drop in compensation, which is a major, if they did the same that they did the prior year, that’s a major, major cut. Now, I can understand some people, but your top people, that’s enough where they’re going to ultimately be really frustrated, really unhappy, and not only because the change was made, but because they were not part of the change at all. They weren’t invited in to weigh in on this. And ultimately, that could cause your top people to leave.
John: So in that case, yeah, this might be a time to rethink this. OK, the cost of staying with that might be to lose top people. Maybe as an organization that’s OK with you. And you’re looking at just a complete overhaul. And that might mean, OK, we’re willing to lose top people, but most organizations, including this one, did not want to do so. What I find the biggest mistake a lot of companies make and tends to be larger companies as well, probably more so even than smaller companies, as they do not take the pulse or take input or feedback from people in the field or the people that might be affected by this. And I’m not
saying everybody, but take some of your best people and ask their thoughts, ask them to weigh in. If nothing else, you’re going to get somebody that’s more supportive of the change simply because they were invited into the process of coming up with solutions. So they were actually part of it. So it’s hard for them to feel totally left out or soured if they were part if they were invited to give input and feedback.
John: Now, it’s one thing if you’ve invited them to give feedback and you don’t listen and was more of just a kind of a gesture to check the box. And that’s different. But if you’re genuine and you truly are looking for their input, well, then they can actually be part of your solution and rolling this out to the rest of the organization. OK, so I’ve always looked at my top people that might not be in a formal leadership position, but, you know, the people. They’re on a team and they tend to be the one that everybody looks at when, you know, they’re looking for people’s reaction. They’re kind of everybody’s kind of taking their cue as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Those are the people that you want to kind of bring into the tent. They want to be part, you want them to be part of your inner circle. Because when you get big changes like this, not only will they not be an obstacle, they’ll be an advocate if they believe that your genuine interest was to involve them in the process, and especially if you get their input in the incorporated. And now the solution is they own part of that solution. Smart companies do that.
John: I see companies you know, there was one point and I see companies that operate very top-down, and everything is done within that, you know, confines of the senior senior senior executive team and not really understanding how it impacts everybody across the
organization and really not in touch with what’s really going on. I remember at a point in my career I was asked to give a presentation at a national conference, and it was about how our branch was training to develop newer advisors. We had very high results with our first and second and third-year advisor program. So we were being asked to talk, or I was being asked to talk, on a stage in front of a few hundred of my colleagues across the country about what we were doing.
John:And I remember having a call with the home office and the home office team was going to be helping to assemble the presentation, the PowerPoint slides or whatever was going to basically assist. And they were going to be handling the logistics. And this call was to learn about, you know what, or at least this is what I thought it was, was to learn about what it was that I was going to share, and then they’d create the slides or whatnot or help me build this presentation out. Instead, I got on the call and they said, OK, John, we appreciate you doing this presentation. This is great. We want it. We want to share the slides with you and just get your feedback on this and that. And I’m thinking, what slides? What slides are you talking about? They pulled up slides that they had actually created.
John: They literally created the entire presentation and included a script almost verbatim of all my talking points. Now, this was like I forgot what was maybe half an hour, an hour. It wasn’t like a five-minute thing. It was like a legit, you know, presentation. And they had created the whole thing. Now, this was not a team of people that were in touch and close and working with the field. And even if that was the case, I’d have a major problem with this. This is you’re asking me to speak on a stage. This is my presentation. I’m not just delivering talking points that you’re handing to me, which is in essence what they wanted me to do. They had created a presentation around something they knew nothing about. I mean,
literally nothing about. It would be like me asking my friend who’s in the medical device business to come and give a presentation on finance and financial planning. That doesn’t work. It doesn’t make any sense. And me or him, I’m doing this wrong, backward, whatever. But anyway, you get my point. You know, him creating the presentation for me to do on financial planning, that would be a better way to say it. So it doesn’t make any sense.
John: The bottom line is they had created the whole presentation for me. So not only was it ridiculously almost offensive, it was something I totally didn’t want to do at this point. It was just baffling that they would think that that’s OK, that they’re going to come up with this in the confines of the home office that here’s how the field is having success when they didn’t even bother to find out the answer to how and why we’re having such success. There was a whole point of me doing a presentation. I bring this up only because a lot of organizations run that way. The company is run very tightly and communication even doesn’t get around the way that it should because everything is kind of within a small office or within a small room.
John:Everything is done, decisions are made, strategy everything plans are made, everything within the small confines of this room that only holds a few people. I mean that literally and figuratively. And then the rest of the organization just has to adjust, adapt, accept and deal with it. Well, you know what? That can work for some organizations and some size organizations, especially small ones that might be growing. But when you talk about an organization that’s already kind of a good size big and you’ve got organizations with a lot of talent and they’re talented, people don’t want to be part of an organization that runs that way. It’s just the fact of the matter.
John: They want to be empowered. They want to feel like they’re part of the solution and the creative process to come up with ideas. They want to feel like they, in essence, have ownership in the company. That’s part of it. They want to feel like they’re making an impact on that company and they’re actually part of the design team, so to speak. They don’t want to just be, you know, taking orders. And I find a lot of companies work that way. So I want to share that. My friend brought up a great question.
John: I think what’s most important is as a leader, who are you getting feedback from? You know, who are you soliciting feedback from? And I’m talking about all kinds of stuff. I’m talking about how you’re doing as a leader. When was the last time as a leader you asked somebody, hey, how am I doing as a leader? How am I doing for you? Is there anything I can do differently? How am I supporting you? If I could stop doing one thing, what would it be? If I could start doing one thing that I’m not doing? What would it be? Asked people for feedback.
John: Ask your top people for feedback and build an advisory committee. You know, a trusted, trusted advisory board of clients, of customers, of your top people in the organization, get input, get feedback on ideas and decisions. And believe it or not, many of the best ideas, not many, but most of the best ideas that we’ve had when I was running organizations came from other people, didn’t come from me. They came from other people. And if a leader is counting on him or herself to come up with all the ideas and all the content and all the, you know, the products and everything like that, well, you’re limiting yourself. You’re limiting your organization. And ultimately you’re limiting the ability to grow as fast as you can, grow those top people in your organization and you’re not going to stay with you.
John: So quick thoughts. Great conversation with my friend. I figured I’d share with all of you because I think it can be beneficial. So food for thought. Who is giving you your feedback? Who were you tapping into for advice, guidance, and just, you know, their thoughts and opinions on stuff? You’ve got to build your trusted inner circle and your advisory board. Think about it that way. So hope you enjoyed today. I hope this is valuable until next time. Make sure you share my comment. All that kind of good stuff. Go down below, give a five-star rating, give your comments in the review section, appreciate it greatly and have a great day.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at email@example.com Once again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! Lead on!