I just finished interviewing Tom Drucker for my new book The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press). Tom orchestrated a life-changing training I had while a young executive in the staffing industry.
When the United States relaxed trade tariffs, our country was flooded with cheap photocopiers as well as machines with an array of new features. Up until that time, Xerox had a monopolistic hold on the market. In response to this crisis, Xerox made a commitment to study the selling process. One of Tom’s responsibilities was running the Xerox Learning Institute. Their industrial psychologists developed a science around sales psychology. They opened their revolutionary consultative sales training to other organizations and my company sent me with the expectation that I would redesign our sales process.
The one finding that stayed with me throughout my professional life?
Humans are capable of thinking about something other than themselves for a maximum of fifteen seconds.
The finding indicated that people are not interested in pitches, resumes, commercials or you. They want fulfilled expectations. This one fact turned pitch selling on its head. Remember that old chestnut? We make a pitch and overcome objections. Also, we got business through having the most winning personality and sheer persistence. Collectively, this was exhausting work for both the salesperson and the prospect.
Xerox introduced question-driven sales. The process not only changed selling but it also influenced how we lead and manage people. When I introduced our leadership training at Disney Consumer Products, most 360 interviews were conducted by expensive consultants. We fostered this notion that leaders were too fragile to hear the truth and that stakeholders could get damaged if they told the truth. This was in 2001. In a world where change is becoming more rapid every single day, isn’t truth becoming more rather than less important?. In our program, we design thoroughly customized 360s. But, the leaders conduct the interviews. As a result, they gain valuable insights into what makes each stakeholder tick, how they would like to improve their relationship with the executive, what they need to be their best as well as candid feedback in how the leader can improve his or her performance.
The reason many employees don’t listen to us is because we are not listening to them. The most disengaged environments I’ve observed are ones where the general driver is, “Do your job or leave.” This is particularly problematic as the world of work moves towards more right brain empathetic and creative work.
If you want to get your employees to listen to your every word, become gifted at asking the right questions and listening to their answers. Become an expert in their needs, their desired career paths, their needs for education and support. Nourish them. Listen to them. Make it safe for them to tell the whole truth.
Without that basic nourishment, what do we get? Well, how many people do you know that have become experts at “going through the motions?”
Success isn’t derived in what we tell people to do.
Today, success begins with the quality of the questions we ask of people. It moves to the next level in how carefully we listen to them and how effectively we pay attention. It ends in how creatively and accurately we respond.
Some of us would call that love.