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These articles by Michele Alperin, Kathleen McGinn Spring, and Karen Hodges Miller were prepared for the May 10, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Let’s face it, businesses don’t like to spend money on something unless they get a return on their investment. But sometimes if the monetary value is not immediately obvious, corporate managers may nix something that could substantially improve their businesses. Although research has shown that executive coaching can yield a 5:1 or 6:1 return, according to executive coach Susan Battley, many business people are just not interested – but usually for the wrong reasons.
Battley, whose training is in psychology, has thought carefully about why the corporate executives, small business people, entrepreneurs, technical professionals, public school administrators, and nonprofit directors to whom she markets too often try to usher her out the door, offering a slew of reasons. They may call them "justifications," but Battley calls them "myths," and her marketing strategy is to shoot them down, one by one.
Battley speaks on "Next Generation Coaching" to the Institute of Management Consultants New Jersey on Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal. Cost: $60. Register atimcnewjersey.org. For more information, call Leonard Steinberg at 609-443-0469.
Many decision-makers have never been coached themselves, and they are often leery of new management fads. "They are `prove-it-to-me’ people," says Battley, "and that skepticism is healthy."
Others – the high achievers of Generations X and Y – are more receptive to coaching because they’ve seen their supervisors coached and because they’re interested in any tools that will help them advance their careers.
Battley herself has a foot in both worlds. She’s in her 50s and very much a self-made woman, and she has great insight into what it takes to function effectively in businesses and organizations. "I have had several sequential careers," she says. She started as an academic. After getting a bachelor’s degree in political science and secondary education from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued on for a Ph.D. in economic history, which she then taught for a decade.
When she moved from teaching to administration, becoming an associate clinical professor in Stony Brook’s Health Technology and Management program, she decided to study clinical psychology – to develop the subject-matter expertise she needed for her new responsibilities. While working and teaching, she completed a full-time graduate program for a Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Long Island University.
Battley believes that her career has followed a logical evolution. The business consulting she does now is not so different from what she researched years ago: business communities in 16th-century England "that have been dead for 500 years." When she decided that she was more interested in changing how business leaders achieve their goals today, she says, it meant a change from working in the past to the present: "The biggest change from 500 years ago," she says, half seriously, "is that the people aren’t dead."
Because Battley believes in executive coaching and its ability to help many people to perform more effectively, she opens up her marketing to executives with what she calls "myth-busting." She has found misconceptions about executive coaching to be widespread among organizational decision-makers, and she has written a book "Coaching Power: Ten Myths and New Realities; Is Executive Coaching Right For You." She talks about several of these myths:
Myth of the individual. Business people are, after all, self-made, or at least they like to view themselves that way. Many glorify individual achievement and have the attitude that "successful people don’t need coaches." Battley counters with examples from sports and the performing arts. Golf pro Phil Mickelson, for example, has two swing coaches, one for his short swing and another for his long one. "The more successful people are, the more incremental gains can make a big difference," she says.
Dependency myth. The same guys who believe that they’ve done it all themselves and will continue to do so also harbor some fear that coaching fosters unhealthy dependency on others. Research tells us, says Battley, that today the greatest users of coaching are senior executives, and the more successful, the more likely that a leader will use a coach and use one for a longer period of time. "Would the Yankees say, `We’ve won the World Series several times, so we don’t need Joe Torre anymore?’" she asks. "That’s faulty thinking. You need support to keep performing at a high level."
A related myth is the "crutch" myth, which says that coaching should only be short-term. Battley counters that coaching will evolve from regular, directed meetings to "as needed" contacts with a trusted advisor.
Jaded myth. Sometimes people feel that they already have all the feedback they can handle, especially in large companies with performance management systems. True, executives get a lot of advice, but, says Battley, "often they don’t know how to use it." A coach can help identify what changes will make the biggest difference going forward.
Suppose, for example, that an individual receives a comment in an annual review that employees are having a difficult time contacting him or her. Is the person overscheduled? Does he need to focus on better time management? Or does he choose avoidance because he is not good at conflict resolution. "A coach gets beyond the symptoms to the root cause," says Battley.
"Many CEOs and senior leaders don’t get as much accurate feedback as they think," she continues. Direct reports often don’t communicate directly, thinking that they are protecting the leader from bad news. As people rise in an organization, the information they get becomes more filtered.
"A coach is an independent, objective, neutral party who can get beyond the protective layer and provide valuable information they need to hear," says Battley. Today’s leaders need not only to be able to hear bad news, but to ask for it. "If you don’t know what’s going on with your customers, employees, and investors, you’re at a disadvantage compared to the competition," says Battley.
"Shrink" myth. Because so many coaches come from the helping professions, many executives believe that coaching is the same as psychotherapy or counseling. "It is not the same, because we have different goals and orientations," says Battley. Coaching focuses primarily on a person’s workplace and professional performance, not on lifestyle or mental health issues. Coaching focuses on the present and future, while therapy can spend a lot of time looking to the past to make sense of present.
Emergency room myth. Then there are those people who believe that executive coaching should be reserved only for last-ditch efforts to fix a problem. Battley believes a wellness model is more appropriate, with coaching helping to overcome a performance gap or improve a situation before it reaches a crisis. Otherwise, she says, "it may be too late for a coach to help the person. If relations with the team are adversely impacted, it may be too late to resolve."
"Walk in my shoes" myth. Some executives believe that a coach must share their background and experience to be useful. But that can be problematic. First of all, such a person may not have the skills necessary to help another person achieve. They may also have the same blind spots because of the shared experience. Although coaches certainly need to understand what constitutes success in a particular field, their expertise is in teaching skills like team building, effective communication, motivation, conflict resolution, and time and priority management.
Battley also dispels other confusions. She emphasizes that a coach is not a mentor, because the coaching relationship is formal, fee-based, and focuses on very specific goals – either acquiring new skills or changing certain behaviors. Although mentors also help with career building, the relationship is informal and open ended, involving sharing networks and contacts, and opening doors for people. And, finally, she says coaching is not necessarily for everyone. A good coaching candidate is a motivated person who is looking for an important benefit from coaching.
Battley’s interest in helping people acquire leadership skills was probably predictable from elements in her past. First of all, Brooklyn-born Battley was the oldest of seven children, and she observes, "from the point of view of formative experiences, nothing comes from nowhere. I had all the aspects of being the oldest in a busy family."
But it went beyond that. Her years at Hunter College High School in Manhattan also played an important role. While there, she served as president of Red Cross Youth in Manhattan. She says the chance to observe Red Cross leaders being "effective in roles of influence in which they could positively affect the organization’s mission" were invaluable. She is equally enthusiastic about Hunter’s "wonderful, supportive teachers, constantly encouraging us to achieve and allowing us to try out new things."
Battley says that both her academic and volunteer experiences contributed to her love for practical learning – "how I can take this information and use it." And that pragmatism is the basis for the whole field of executive coaching, she says, defining her profession’s work as "just-in-time advice that helps someone in a decisive role be more effective."
– Michele Alperin
Fifty-three women mathematicians from throughout the United States will gather at the Institute for Advanced Study from Monday, May 15 to Friday, May 26, to study zeta functions. This 11-day Program for Women and Mathematics is meant to encourage women to pursue careers in mathematics by emphasizing learning and research, mentoring, and peer relations. For information call 609-734-8118.
Zeta functions are, according to a press release, "extremely special functions of mathematics and physics that are intimately related to the prime number theorem. Primes are whole numbers that can only be divided evenly by themselves and one. Because large prime numbers are important for cryptography and the security of Internet transactions, many people (including those at the National Security Administration or those involved with the TV show Numbers) are interested in the mysteries of zeta functions."
Among the five organizers is Sun-Yung Alice Chang of Princeton University. Also on the committee are Katherine Bold and Ingrid Daubechies of Princeton University, Nancy Hingston of the College of New Jersey, Rhonda Hughes and Lisa Traynor of Bryn Mawr College, and Robert MacPherson of the Institute’s School of Mathematics.
Routine, repetitive work has been stripped from the American economy. "You’d be hard pressed to find a company of any size doing accounts payable by hand," says Andrew Longman, a vice president at management consulting firm Kepner Tregoe. Software has replaced humans who just a decade or so ago were counting inventory, taking notes, conducting clinical trials, and routing phone calls. Meanwhile, manufacturing has moved offshore – along with customer helplines. McDonald’s is even experimenting with having its drive-through orders processed through call centers. They’re in Idaho now, but may soon be in India.
So what work is left for the tens of millions of American workers?
Longman answers that question when he presents "Your Business Has Changed: Ten Things HR Managers Must Do About It" on Tuesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the New Jersey affiliate of the National Human Resources Association at the Old Orchard Manor in Eatontown. Call 732-938-2421 for more information.
Longman estimates that some 80 percent of all repetitive work has been cut out of the American economy within the past 20 years – and the pace at which the rest is going the way of the hand-typed letter is only accelerating.
"What’s left? Project-based work," says Longman. "Each time you want to put in technology, it creates a project." Skilled workers must come together to install and test the technology. New hardware may have to be installed. Users manuals have to be written. There needs to be training.
The new business model calls for finely honed teams, able to come together from different departments at a moment’s notice, and able to speak a common language.
Longman throws out a hypothetical to illustrate this way of doing business. "A candy company gets a call from Wal-Mart saying `We want a 30 ounce chocolate bunny in a green box, what can you do? Oh, and we want an answer in 24 to 48 hours – and we’re talking to three other companies.’" This candy company had better have cross functional groups of people – from legal, marketing, design, packaging, transportation, and more – ready to come up with a competitive proposal. "They have to work together to produce a display that is a win for them, for Wal-Mart, and for the customer," he says. "In the whole retail sector, that’s how it’s done."
The same is true in other industries. Take software, for instance. "It’s not just a product," says Longman, "but services wrapped around it. You’re not just selling software. You’re training people, and you’re reorganizing the structure of the organization."
The 10 key things HR managers need to manage in this environment, says Longman, are leadership, strategy, goals, business processes, team structure, information systems, issue resolution systems, human capabilities, culture and performance systems, and external factors. The list, he says, is not wholly his own, but rather has been drawn up by Kepner-Tregoe, and is based on research its founders conducted nearly 50 years ago. This research found that given the same set of information, different people come to different conclusions. "In fact," says Longman, "the same person, shown the information at two different times, will come to different conclusions. The variability is not in the system, it’s in the person."
Given this finding, it is not surprising that Longman singles out team structure as the most important element in the success of any project – or any company. The best teams, says Longman, hold themselves and each other accountable, and they are not afraid to confront one another when something is not going well. Each and every one of them is committed to the project. They are heading in the same direction, but are able to adapt.
"When people evaluate teams they typically look at lagging indicators," says Longman. "They look at whether the project was on time and on budget. But when you’re late, you’re late." He says that a good manager looks at the team way before a project is late or has defects. "If you can see good teamwork, you can be pretty sure the project will turn out well," he says.
On teams, "people who are effective follow a common cognitive process," says Longman. This process includes:
Making a choice. This involves weighing alternatives, but doing so is not the way to start. "You don’t think of alternatives until you think of what you want to accomplish," says Longman. "You don’t decide between makes of cars before you establish that what you want to do is get to work." With that fact established, the best choice might be walking, or carpooling, or even telecommuting. Be sure of the big objective before moving on to one class of solutions.
Solving a problem. "This is more forensic," says Longman. "Something has happened. You expected the car to start, but it doesn’t." Getting to the bottom of the problem calls for critical thinking skills.
Future thinking. "This is expecting something to happen," says Longman, "managing risk."
Sorting out. "In lots of situations, you don’t know if it’s a choice or what," says Longman. "What are my threats and opportunities? It’s a sorting process. What kind of business should this be in five years? What’s the right portfolio of projects?"
Teams think in all of these arenas – and do so quickly, calling upon a common language developed during the course of other projects. Longman, who has been with Kepner Tregoe for 21 years, teaches these thinking skills to individuals, but mostly he works on them with companies.
A graduate of Northern Michigan University (Class of 1980), Longman wanted to study animal behavior and live on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he could "just throw on a backpack, cross the road, and go hiking." Instead the Frenchtown resident, who is married to artist and craftsperson Chrysanthe Longman and is the father of three, found himself working in the Princeton area, where he had lived since he was in the seventh grade and his father, Kenneth Longman, who was in advertising, moved here to be equi-distant from Philadelphia and New York. His mother, Mary Longman, ran the University League Nursery School for many years.
Longman left Michigan when he realized that the unemployment rate in the area where he wanted to live – 35 percent – did not bode well for any chance at gainful employment. After spending time as a marketer, he went into graphic arts. One of his clients was Kepner Tregoe, an international firm with offices in Skillman and Princeton. He liked the work the company was doing, and switched his career goal from studying animal behavior to forming human behavior.
He says that, next to team formation, setting clear goals is the most important job of any organization and of every project. These goals must be understood by all, but aren’t necessarily stated overtly. "In 1963 Kennedy said we would send a man to the moon and get him back safely within 10 years," he gives as an example. Ten billion dollars was allotted to the project, which was accomplished in eight-and-a-half-years at a cost of $19 billion.
"The project was a success," says Longman. That is so because the real goal did not lie in the time frame or in the cost, but rather in the fact that the feat was accomplished by the United States before its Cold War rival, Russia, could pull it off. "If we had done it in five years, but Russia had beaten us," he says, "it would have been a failure."
No longer involved in making sure that 1,000 bolts an hour are turned on car frames or even that drive-through customer number five gets a strawberry shake rather than a chocolate shake, managers, says Longman, "now have to understand the true goal."
– Kathleen McGinn Spring
No tube of lipstick, crystal vase, or toy truck travels alone. Items of all kinds – and of every imaginable size, shape, and material – travel from manufacturer to distributor to retailer packed together. Surprisingly complex is the science of making sure that lipsticks aren’t accidently discarded with their packing materials, vases aren’t shattered by inadequate packing materials, and toy trucks don’t lose their little wheels if their box happens to be dropped from a loading platform.
Each year Hughes Enterprises, a packaging company with offices at 2 Industrial Drive in Trenton, holds an expo to show manufacturers and shippers the very latest in technology to get all sorts of goods to their destinations in one piece – and with the least labor and the least expense possible. This year’s three-day Shipping and Packaging Expo begins on Tuesday, May 16, at 9 a.m. at the company’s headquarters. For more information and to register, visit www.hughesent.com/expo2006 .
Based on feedback from last year’s event, emphasis will be on executive networking, equipment demos, and discussion with the manufacturers’ representatives. New this year is a talk on innovations in hiring and retaining the right workers by Herb Greenberg, founder and CEO of employment consulting company Caliper, who speaks at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16.
"The theme for this year’s expo is innovation," Clay Hardy, vice president of sales for Hughes, said in a prepared statement. "Eighty percent of the products and equipment that the manufacturers are showcasing this year are either brand new or significant enhancements to existing lines. We had so many people commenting on the new machines they got to see before our big industry conference, East Pack, last time, that we expanded our focus on innovative offerings this time around."
If you are in business, you will at some point need to telemarket. We usually think of telemarketing as a person sitting in a room making hundreds of calls to sell siding or vacations in the Poconos. The reality, says Amanda Puppo, is that any time you contact a prospect by phone, you are telemarketing.
Puppo is the founder of five-year-old Hightstown-based MarketReach, a company that "makes the cold calls you don’t want to make." Puppo discusses "Killer Benefit Statements and Engaging Questions: Getting to the Decision Maker," on Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 a.m. at the "Business Before Business" meeting sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Nassau Club. Call 609-924-1776.
"Just about every business owner and salesperson today must use the phone to bring in more business," says Puppo. Voicemail can make getting to the right person even more difficult. To be successful in making sales calls you must "grab the person’s attention in the first 10 to 20 seconds," she says.
This is much more difficult to do in a phone call than in person, she says, because the callers have only their voices to work with. The person on the other side of the telephone cannot see body language or facial expressions, a big part of human communication, which is immediately lost over the phone.
Whether the phone call to a prospect is "cold" or "warm," to be successful the caller must quickly make it clear to the person at the other end of the phone exactly what sets him apart from his competitors. "What about you makes me want to listen to you as opposed to the 15 other phone callers I’ve had today?" asks Puppo. "What about you makes me want to put down my tuna sandwich or stop what I’m working on and listen to you?"
Most of us, she adds, "don’t have the immediate brand recognition of Merrill Lynch. So if you aren’t Merrill Lynch or Nike or McDonalds, why should someone listen?" The best strategy is to be succinct, to-the-point, interesting, and compelling. A tall order for most of us!
Useless insincerity. One of Puppo’s first rules of telemarketing is to "just get on with it. Don’t ask useless, insincere questions like, `How are you today?’ Instead, start by asking the right questions."
Explain exactly why you are calling and what you can do for the person on the other end of the line. "I want to talk to you about lead generating opportunities," is the example she uses from her own sales script.
Don’t let them say no. "Never ask if they have the time to talk," is Puppo’s second telemarketing commandment. "Asking if they have time just gives them the opportunity to say no," she explains. "Explain your business in 30 seconds or less. If after that time they are interested, but don’t have time to talk to you right then, they’ll let you know." This, she adds, is actually a very good thing. You can now get permission to call back at a later date. And when you make the next call, it will be to a "warmer" lead.
Objections and rebuttals. Once you’ve passed the first few seconds and have begun to discuss your business with the prospect, you must be prepared to answer objections with your own rebuttals. Puppo actually welcomes objections, she says, because "they often bring you closer to making a sale or getting an appointment."
Learning how to interpret the objections and handle them is a large part of learning to successfully telemarket.
"I’m too busy right now," is one of the most common objections Puppo receives. "Ask when there is a better time to call. Would after a holiday be better?" Or suggest that taking "just 15 to 20 minutes" of their time for an appointment may help them in their business.
The second most common objection, Puppo says, is that the prospect states that he is happy with his current vendor. Don’t just let the conversation drop there, she warns. Ask a question. Try "that’s great. What is it about your vendor that you like?"
Now, she says, is the time to listen closely. "If they say, `Well the price is okay, or the service okay,’ you can tell that you’ve found a hot button." A good follow-up is, "It sounds like there may be room for improvement." Mention that you can meet the price or give better service, and again, ask if it worth just 15 or 20 minutes of their time to save money or get more for their dollar.
The key, she says, is to always handle an objection with a rebuttal, and then follow-up with another question. "Questions are a way of taking control of the conversation and distracting the person from their objections."
Remember your goal. The goal of a call is always to either make a sale or get a personal appointment. Make sure that you ask specifically for that sale or appointment before ending the call.
Make yourself an expert. One of the biggest challenges in telemarketing, says Puppo, is targeting your market. "Not everyone or every business is your target market. When I ask a client who their market is a lot of times they say every business. That is just not so. You have to have a specific target so that your message is compelling enough that the person on the other end of the phone finds it immediately relevant."
Finding your business niche will make it a lot easier for you to give a specific, targeted benefit statement, says Puppo. Web designers, for example, may specialize in designing for a specific industry. "There are a lot of web designers out there. If you make a call and say, `I’m a web designer,’ the person on the other end is going to ask why he should work with you."
Puppo suggests targeting your call to your prospect’s business. For example, "I’m a web designer specializing in websites for accountants. I’d like to tell you about the benefits some of my accounting clients have received from my websites." You have now "positioned yourself as an expert in websites for accountants," she says.
Puppo did not originally plan a career in telemarketing. She majored in English at SUNY Albany and had thought about a career in law, but she put off law school for a few years and took a corporate position in New Jersey. After a few years in the corporate world she discovered several things: She didn’t want to go to law school, she didn’t like corporate America, and she had a specific talent.
She recognized that she was really good at something most people dreaded doing. She could easily "build rapport with people over the telephone." She took this skill and started her company by making calls at her kitchen table. She then went to her first chamber of commerce meeting, walked away with her first client, and never looked back.
She now has seven employees whom she has trained in her method of cold calling. And while she spends most of her time developing her business, she "keeps her hand in" by making cold calls to generate new business for herself.
Telemarketing, says Puppo, is just one of a combination of techniques that any business owner or professional should use to gain new clients.
"Networking, public speaking, telemarketing, advertising, should all be part of the plan," she says. "We can’t always network with our target niche. We may have to call them. And results from direct mail campaigns always go up when they are coupled with a phone call."
E-mail, too, has its place in the business world, but only if it is combined with other ways of getting in front of people, she says. A follow-up E-mail outlining the phone conversation can be helpful. But E-mail, she says, is an unreliable way of contacting someone. "We get so many E-mails these days and so much spam. With spam filters you can’t know if your E-mail actually reaches the person or if it does, if they will open it."
In the age of voice mails one of the biggest difficulties with telemarketing can be actually getting the person on the phone.
"Have a system of follow-up," says Puppo. If your message is not returned in a few days, try again. If you still get no response, try again in a week. "You have to decide if the person is really busy or is just blowing you off," she says. If you are particularly interested in contacting the prospect, you may want to put him on an "expanding rotation." Two weeks later, one month after that, three months later.
The two most important rules of telemarketing, says Puppo, are not to take rejection personally, and to commit to spending a specific amount of time making calls each week. "Telemarketing takes time. There is no instant gratification," she says. "If you are only going to make a few phone calls each week, don’t bother." She suggests an "absolute minimum" of 30 phone calls per week.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t try telemarketing? "If you absolutely hate it, you will put it off and then feel guilty for not making the calls. It isn’t worth it. If you are going to feel guilty about not telemarketing, outsource it."
– Karen Hodges Miller
The Princeton SCORE Chapter, which is made up of more than two dozen working and retired local business executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs, is seeking qualified volunteers to help meet the rapidly growing demand from potential entrepreneurs who need help starting a new small business. Princeton SCORE’s counseling volume has increased by more than 50 percent in the past year. This increase in counseling sessions is driving the need for more volunteers with business experience.
SCORE needs business professionals who have experience as a small business owner, or expertise in marketing, sales, finance, human resources, retail, and/or consumer services. The ideal candidates will be able to volunteer 10 to 15 hours per month, weekdays or evenings. Princeton SCORE counsels small business clients at the Princeton Public Library, the Small Business Development Center in Trenton, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in Monmouth Junction, the Monroe Library, and will soon expand into Hamilton.
Women and minority candidates are especially welcome. Contact Lou DeLauro at 609-393-0505.
Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart has received primary sponsorship for its 2006 Summer STARS Program from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company has supported the program for 15 years. This year’s $50,000 contribution from BMS makes possible the continuation of this academic enrichment program for children from Trenton’s inner city.
Each year more than 100 children from grades two to six participate in the four-week program. The program is primarily focused on academics, with the children spending much of the day in the classroom improving on science, math, reading, and writing skills. It also includes swimming lessons, field trips, and nature walks, choral and instrumental music, a hands-on art component, and leadership training.
The program offers volunteer opportunities to youngsters from Stuart and other schools. Each volunteer is assigned to a teacher and age group and acts as a chaperone and role model for the younger children. Former STARS participants often return to the program as volunteers.
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